27/03 : Sierra de María

Although I have three morning's birding to write up as my sister is out from the UK and this will get done Saturday after she's departed to the land of the long white snow, it's easier to put in Dave's at 07.40 this Thursday morning, especially after hearing a large flock of Bee-eaters passing over at 07.15 whilst out with my aging spaniel. 
Dave, my sister is enchanted by your photo of the Crested Tit and wants one for her birthday as she is still severely traumatised by not getting a water rat (vole) for her fourth birthday and '...getting a b****y red scooter' instead. She takes a long time to get over things and blames our mother for reading 'Wind in the Willows' to her at too young an age. Sad, isn't it?.
Gilly and I left home with Barn Swallows on the power line, resting from their nest building in next doors house (R). We met up with Carolyn and her mum, Ros, north of Huercal Overa and carried on to a cafe this side of Velez Rubio where we were joined by 12 other members. The intention was to have a recce around Adrian's local patch, but as the lanes were not suitable for normal cars after the floods, a change of plan was needed. We headed off to the Vulture Feeding Station beyond Velez Blanco. 
As we arrived a Thekla Lark (L) obligingly sat on a rock where we parked up. Although we were some distance from the feeding compound we could see that at least 10 Griffon Vultures were sitting inside awaiting a meal. Others could be seen over the top of the "Grandmother's Molar" mountain. I would suggest we saw at least 40 Griffons during our stay. Also seen were distant Red-billed Chough doing aerobatics by that mountain and a Peregrine Falcon. I also spotted a Green Woodpecker flying into the pine forest.
     We then headed through María and down on to the plain. There wasn't much on the way down to the hamlet, only some Linnets and Carrion Crows. There was only one female Kestrel, whether it was a Lesser couldn't be confirmed. On the way back we had a Hoopoe and another car saw a Northern Wheatear.

     We then popped into the new refurbished La Piza cafe. Here we had good views out of the window of Crossbill and Long-tailed Tit. After a coffee we headed to the chapel where we added Coal and Crested Tit (R). Brian and Mary spotted a Booted Eagle. We then saw a pair of large raptors flying near the top of the ridge....two Golden Eagles. There was a steady stream of Griffon Vultures passing overhead. We then did the short walk round the Botanical Garden, adding Serin, Blue Tit and Rock Bunting to the list. We ended with a picnic lunch by the chapel which finished prematurely as we got sprayed by a passing shower.

     A slightly disappointing day, but we ended up with 29 species. Weather could've been better. Did add our first Short-toed Eagle of the year as we approached Huercal Overa on the way home.

(Photo of Crested Tit from a previous visit to La Piza.)

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