02 October : Sierra de María

The thought of Dave playing 'mummy' - frilly apron and all - is beyond my imagination! The mind really does boggle.  What a good day you all had, I'm quite envious.

Before I start I have got to say what a great days birding we had today at the Sierra de Maria. Maybe not quantity, but quality. I won't go through the list of who was with Gilly and I, suffice to say there were 19 having coffee at the cafe before we headed towards the chapel. I logged a Black Redstart on the approach. Then, having sorted ourselves out, we began birding. Not a lot round the chapel itself, but we could see, despite the sun against us, that there were numerous birds hanging around the water trough. Sure enough there was a Spotted Flycatcher, Chaffinches, Rock and Cirl Bunting, Crossbill, a Jay and Blackcaps. I looked up into the poplar tree. I saw a perched chunky bird which I assumed, before I got my bins on it, to be a Crossbill, but no. It was a Hawfinch. As I, as silently as I could do, tried to attract the others attention, it flew, some catching a glimpse of it. We continued to observe the water trough. A Robin appeared as did a Serin. Just as I spotted a Pied Flycatcher, the shout went up that the Hawfinch was on the water trough hassling the Chaffinches, so everybody had good views.
We then made our way towards the Botanical Gardens only adding a solitary Griffon Vulture and a vocal Blackbird to the list.
juvenile Golden Eagle
Due to numbers the group was strung out over about 100 metres so I can only report the sequence us at the front saw birds and add other reports after. Small birds were few and far between, but we did see a Coal Tit and a Chiffchaff. Luckily another small group of Griffons passed overhead or we wouldn't have seen the Alpine Swifts flying near to them. We saw the odd Barn Swallow, but there were many House Martins high up above the ridge. Someone spotted a pair of smaller raptors soaring and basically mucking about at the far end of the ridge. A discussion took place regarding the ID, which was confirmed later.......We saw more Griffons. There were other raptors soaring above us. The Short-toed Eagle was easy to spot. I said the other one was a dark phase Booted Eagle. A couple of the others said no it was definitely a Golden Eagle. Anyway the Short-toed and Booted came close together and you could easily tell the size difference. But the what should appear flying past but a Golden Eagle.....two different birds. And what was also above. Those two smaller raptors....Sparrowhawks! On a high we headed back towards the information centre. Mary, who'd been trying to do some photography, had seen Great, Blue, Crested and Long-tailed Tits as well as a Short-toed Treecreeper and Firecrests. Adrian had added a Common Redstart.

It was then off to the La Piza forest cafe for a coffee and a piece of Chocolate cake. Gilly and I had won it at the Macmillan Coffee morning and decided to share it with the group. Whilst I was being "mummy" cutting it it up, numerous Crossbills were seen and another Hawfinch turned up for a drink in the fuente.

Garden Warbler
We then convoyed down towards the plain, only adding a Carrion Crow at the farm buildings. We added Rock Sparrow and a Green Woodpecker near the watering hole. On the plain itself we only had Crested Lark and Northern Wheatear.

     It was then back to the La Piza for lunch. As we ate a call went up for an unusually marked bird. It turned out to be a Crossbill with a shadow across it. As I was checking it out I saw movement. A warbler: short stubby bill - a Garden Warbler that was surprisingly obliging, eventually coming down to the fuente for a drink. The bird took our list to 41 species.

     Still not 100% happy with my camera/lens but did manage to get some shots today. Going to spend the evening looking through the manual! The group photo below is from last week's trip to the garnets taken by Ros Perkins. I'm sure the group would also like to pass on our best wishes to Tony and Kas Scott who are heading Malaga way in a few weeks time.
the Arboleas garnet hunters

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