11/07 : Sierra de María

The last field trip until September of the Arboleas Group with Dave and Gilly  as they disperse to cooler (and very possibly wetter) climes. Note that the Yorkshire Show has had to be cancelled for the first time in its long career. Let's hope it doesn't happen to the Rutland Bird Fair! So, Arboleas Birders, have a jolly good summer, lots of good birding and preferably dry before coming back to sunny Spain in the early autumn!
This being our ultimate trip before September, it seemed like the last day of term and everybody was bomb happy as we met up in the garage cafe in María. We being Gilly and I, Brian and Mary, Dave and Myrtle, Colin and Sandra and Adrian. We'd already bagged Bee-eaters, Woodchat Shrike and Jay before we headed up towards the Chapel. Leading the convoy, Gilly and I disturbed a Woodlark before getting to the car park. We were greeted by a huge flume of at least 55 Griffon Vultures swirling above the mountain ridge. Also amongst the melee was a single Short-toed Eagle. There wasn't much round the chapel and water trough. We did see Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Chaffinch and Rock Bunting. There were hundreds of honey bees taking water from the trough, but that didn't deter the local goat dog from jumping in to cool off.
     We sauntered up to the Botanical Garden. Diego, the boss, showed me a nest in one of the bushes. A Rock Sparrow sitting tight on 3 eggs apparently. Birds were few and far between, but we did see Coal, Crested and Blue Tit. Crossbills noisily flew over and some Bonelli's Warblers came to check us out. As we reached the end of the lower walk, we had excellent views of a Western Orphean Warbler (R) and shortly thereafter a Melodious Warbler (below) and a Subalpine Warbler. Brian, Mary and Adrian left the car park after us as they were collecting water and we delighted to see a pair of Short-toed Eagles.
     We then headed towards the plain, stopping first at the ruined farm buildings. We could hear Green Woodpeckers down below us and eventually two were seen flying. A dishevelled looking Black-eared Wheatear was still present on the buildings. Driving down and along the plain the only birds we saw were Crested Larks, Carrion Crows and Northern Wheatears. At the hamlet it was good to see at least 6 Lesser Kestrels were present. One was delivering locusts to a nest set under the roof tiles of a barn.
     We all ended up at the La Piza recreation area for an end of term picnic. We saw at least 3 Short-toed Trecreepers as we ate our sandwiches.  34 species for the day. No sign of any Golden Orioles.
 Will miss these days out, the friends we go with and the banter! See you all in September.
P.S. Our intrepid cyclists have reached Budapest and are due home in France shortly.
       Congratulations, Val and Tony !

Dave & Gilly

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