30/12 : Sierra de María

This from Dave E-B on their last visit of the year will also be my last entry for this year. A big thanks to Dave for his reports from Almería which have done a lot to keep this blog going. By the by, Dave, the red squirrels down here are often rather blackish and when they had some in the Retiro Park in the centre of Madrid some years ago some of them were just about black.
Thank you too for reading this blog, all you unknown readers out there, and I trust you will continue to do so in 2012. So, leaving you with Dave's report of the visit to the Sierra de María with the hardy souls of the Arboleas Birding Group, I wish you all a good new year, good health and enough time to get out birding and enjoy it!


It's all my fault. I decided it would be a good idea to go to the Sierra de Maria to clear the Christmas cobwebs!
I persuaded Brian, Mary, Helen, Adrian, Rod and Linda to join Gilly and myself. As we passed through Velez Rubio the towns temperature gauge displayed zero degrees. Yes, it was at least two degrees colder at Maria, but us here in Eastern Andalusia aren't put off by that! (Bet "they" wouldn't have come if they'd known!) After a warming coffee at the local cafe we headed up to the chapel. A few Jays flew around as did a flock of Woodpigeons. A small number of Crossbills were waiting high in the trees for the water trough to de-ice. Walking up to the botanical garden, still in the shadow of the mountains, we didn't see a lot. I think we only added a Mistle Thrush to the list.
We entered the garden as it opened. The tongue in cheek request for 8 cafés con leche was laughed at by the ranger. We kept to the lower path, frost still on the ground. Saw Great Tit, Chaffinch and a Robin.Things didn't look promising so headed back to the cars. Once we got into sunshine the birds appeared. We saw a small flock of Cirl Buntings and Chaffinches. At the La Piza recreation area we heard a Green Woodpecker hammering its presence and the usual Crossbills were perched above us. An obliging squirrel (are they supposed to be red?) sunned itself. A small flock of Woodlarks flew over.
Down on the plain birds were few and far between. Saw about a dozen Carrion Crows and a large flock of Linnets. At the hamlet managed to see the first Black Redstart of the day and a Thekla Lark. On the way back along the plain saw an obliging Little Owl which the occupants of the other vehicle had seen on the way down. Also a Southern Grey Shrike. As we headed towards Velez Blanco a soaring group of 20 odd Griffon Vultures made the day worth it.
Only 20 species for the day. 2012 beckons. Best wishes and good birding from all of us in the Arboleas Birding Group.
Dave & Gilly
PS. Special thanks to Brian & Mary for inviting us all to their Chirivel house for a hot Chilli meal after the days birding.

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