21/09 : Sierra de María

The weather is slightly cooler and the Arboleas Group ventured to the heights of the Sierra de María with pretty good results. Don't forget that the Griffon Vulture migration will start very soon and large numbers could turn up along any suitable sierra and it's worthwhile watching carefully for something really good amongst them, like a wandering juvenile Bearded Vulture which is not unknown. I must say, Dave, that I've not seen/heard the old expression 'titmice' for donkeys years, this must be a sign of something, but I suppose it's better than saying 'a full complement of tits' - perhaps I should shut up!

Today we were joined by Brian, Mary, Helen and Adrian on this birding trip to the Sierra de Maria. I've got to say that the weather was perfect. Clear blue skies, sunny and not too hot, even with no breeze.
On the approach to Maria and the chapel we saw very few birds which was a bad sign, but we needn't have worried. On the smallholding between the chapel and the water trough we saw at least 4 Spotted Flycatchers and one Pied Flycatcher. A Chaffinch and some Rock Buntings were taking the waters. A Black Redstart was in the car park. A Cirl Bunting and a Robin were in the shrubs.
The walk round the Botanical Garden was very fruitful.
A steady stream of Griffon Vultures was flying over from the plain towards Velez Blanco. Didn't count them, but I would've thought at least 50 went over. A Short-toed Eagle soared above us and as we we heading back towards the chapel a Booted Eagle was also seen. Back in the pines we saw the full complement of Titmice....Blue, Great, Crested, Coal and Long-tailed Tits.
At least 4 Firecrests made an appearance. Also there in some number were Chiffchaffs. The summer warblers had apparently left, but a Sardinian Warbler was seen. I checked out the small flocks of hirundines amongst the vultures. Saw both Barn and Red-rumped Swallows, numerous House Martins, a Crag Martin and, probably a first for Maria, a Sand Martin. Also saw possibly my last Pallid Swift of the summer. Also seen were Short-toed Treecreepers, Jays and Crossbills.
After a short refreshment break at La Piza, where we saw more Crossbills, Brian, Mary, Gilly & myself headed onto the plains. At the farm buildings we added Blue Rock Thrush to the list. At the water trough we had Woodlark and Crested Lark. There were 3-4 Northern Wheatears on the rocky field dividers. At the hamlet there was no sign of any Kestrels, but we did see at least 15-20 Short-toed Larks on a small ploughed area.
Ended up with 40 species for the day. Dave and Myrtle were sorely missed.

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