21 May : Sierra de María

Returning birders, Barrie and Beryl, requested we visit the Sierra de Maria this week. No objections from me! Gilly and I picked up Spyros and Pat and we headed for our usual meeting point in Maria. We were met there by ten other members. After a coffee we made our way to the chapel. Almost immediately we could hear Golden Orioles calling from around the tall poplar tree but alas no sighting. A family group of Woodchat Shrikes were hanging around one of the large bushes. I spotted a male Golden Oriole flying towards the trees to the right. We walked slowly towards the Botanical Garden checking the mountain ridge for Griffon Vultures. Eventually we managed to see at least 6 individuals. The weather was changeable. Sun, clouds and a stiff breeze.
Gilly and Adrian, both with dodgy knees decided they'd stay near the information centre as the rest of us trundled round the medium walk. Birds were few and far between, but we managed to get Bonelli's, Subalpine and good views of Melodious Warblers. We heard but unfortunately didn't see Western Orphean Warbler. Barrie saw a Firecrest. Also seen were Rock Bunting, Blackbird and Robin. We got back to Gilly and Adrian and discovered they'd seen almost as much as us including a Short-toed Treecreeper, Coal and Great Tit and Serin. They stationed themselves near a little man-made pool and both got good photos. As we were leaving a coachload of school children shouted their arrival.
Dark clouds were coming in from the west. As we drove towards it began to rain. We aborted the farm building stop and drove to the water trough area. Here we disturbed a Northern Wheatear on arrival. In the trees we spotted a single Turtle Dove and some Rock Sparrows. We convoyed down the plain seeing Carrion Crow, Calandra, Crested and Short-toed Larks. A Little Owl showed well. A Hoopoe was also seen. At the hamlet 4 or 5 Lesser Kestrels were seen.
It was then back to the La Piza forest cafe for lunch. Sitting inside we did see Chaffinch, Blue Tit and Jay through the windows. One of the owners showed us a photo on his phone of a Hawfinch in the hand. It had collided with one of the windows and thankfully had flown off with no ill effects. The arrival of three coachloads of kids ended a reasonable days birding. 40 species in total......my secretary failed to count properly but her photography's getting better!

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