16 April : Sierra de María

I've got an entry iof my own from yesterday top do and put in but that will be online tomorrow. Therefore, herewith the Arboleas Group's entry with a a photo of the very generous donation of the bird identification posters the La Piza restaurant.
At Alan's request as he's heading back to the UK till September, we're going to one of my favourite locations, the Sierra de Maria. Gilly and I picked up Kevin and headed for Maria seeing only a few birds on the way to the Garage cafe at the far end of the town. There we met up with 12 other members for a coffee and chat before making our way to the Chapel. Colin spotted a Black Redstart as we left.
On the drive up we saw Goldfinch, Chaffinch, Serin and Great Tit. I spotted a departing pair of Rock Sparrows as we pulled into the chapel car park. Someone spotted "big birds" over the ridge to the right. There were about twenty odd Griffon Vultures soaring on a thermal. Checking the mountain ridge above us we could see another 9 perched up there. Alan then spotted an eagle gliding left to right along the ridge....an adult Golden Eagle. We then wandered over towards the water trough, hearing a Nightingale as we approached, but never saw or heard it again. Things didn't look good at the trough as two cats were hanging around, but they soon departed. A warbler was seen in the small trees. I thought it might be a Willow and Alan thought a Bonelli's and he was proved right. Birds then started to come to the trough to drink. We had both Cirl and Rock Buntings. A wonderful male Pied Flycatcher was hunting from the poplar tree. 
We carried on up towards the botanical gardens, seeing nothing new. A Crossbill was perched atop one of the pines. Alan identified a singing Woodlark. Walking round the medium walk we had good views of Short-toed Treecreeper and Firecrest. Not so good views of Subalpine and Bonelli's Warblers. They definitely hadn't arrived in numbers and there was no sign yet of Orphean or Melodious Warblers. Brian meanwhile had spotted a Raven and the Golden Eagle had returned, circling high above us. Also seen were Jay, Woodpigeon, Long-tailed and Coal Tits. John thought he heard a distant Great Spotted Cuckoo. Heading back down towards the vehicles Gilly spotted a Sparrowhawk near the trough.
We then convoyed down towards the plain stopping at the ruined farm buildings. None of the usual Crossbills waiting to drink, only Chaffinch and Serin. A Carrion Crow was seen and a pair of Hoopoes.
poster presentation, Dave in centre
Moving on to the farm trough area we only added Linnet to the list. On the plain, birds were few and far between. Crested Lark, then a Short-toed Lark. At the ruined buildings near the end were a pair of Wheatears. I thought they were Black-eared but looking at the photos proved them to be  ... apologies Alan and John! A Hoopoe also appeared. At the hamlet there were about 6 Lesser Kestrels seen as well as another Northern Wheatear.
It was then back to La Piza for lunch, watching feeding Hawfinch above us and Crossbill, Great, Crested and Blue Tits using the feeding station. Whilst in Extremadura Gilly and I picked up a couple of bird posters, one on Spanish raptors, the other on woodland birds. We framed them and donated them to the cafe for display. It was very much appreciated.
A great days birding I'm sure everyone would agree. 44 species in the end.

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