21 March : Sierra de María

This should actually be entitled 'What's an ark?' after all the rain that has fallen these past few days. Readers with memories will rember that at the beginning of the last post on Thursday I made a comment about there being an awful lot of clag on the radar down in the Strait. That clag in fact resulted in no less than more than 120 litres of rain per square meter at Tarifa. Here in Torremolinos it was pretty damp and continues to be so and is due to continue until Tuesday and there is a lot of water coming down the river. Yesterday morning (21 March) I saw my first Willow Warbler of the spring, along with the 2 Chiffs in the same tree and in the afternoon my first 3 or 4 Pallid Swifts m whilst this morning I have already seen 5 or 6 Pallid Swifts come in off the sea. However, Dave braved the elements and as Gilly is still away, the mouse played whilst the cat was away.

Yes, you've guessed correctly! Gilly is still in England. After all the rain and thunderstorm in Arboleas yesterday this morning started with bright sunshine. So off I went to the Sierra de Maria. The closer I got, the greyer the clouds got. As it was only 08.30 by the time I got to Maria I headed straight to the plains as the Botanical Garden doesn't open till 10.00. I'd already logged Woodpigeon and Woodlark by the time I got to the old farm buildings. Unusually there were no Crossbills waiting by the water deposit, but thinking about it, there are puddles all over place for them to drink from. I could hear Rock Sparrows from the buildings. I also heard Raven and shortly a pair came into view.
Also seen were Hoopoe, White Wagtail, Mistle Thrush, Chaffinch and Crested Lark. I didn't hang around at the next stop, the water trough, as the farmer had just let out his flock of sheep and the aggressive and loud dogs. I made my way, very slowly, along the plain. I managed to see 5 Little Owls on various rocky banks. Calandra Larks were few and far between. I did see my first Short-toed Lark of the year with some Crested Larks. At the hamlet there was a pair of Lesser Kestrels.
I then headed back to the Botanical Gardens. I got a Serin by the car park and a Short-toed Treecreeper on the poplar tree. There was nothing at the water trough. Walking up to the Information Centre I added Robin and Great Tit. There wasn't a lot of activity round the garden. Just aat the start of the lower walk I saw a male Cirl Bunting and a pair of Crested Tits. Further along I heard a Great Spotted Woodpecker. It eventually flew passed. A Coal Tit posed very nicely for me. Another two pairs of Ravens flew over at height.
I headed for a brunch at the La Piza forest cafe. I heard, but didn't see the Crossbill. For a change I took the track over the mountains towards Chirivel. I managed to see Corn Bunting, Rock Bunting, StonechatGoldfinch and Barn Swallow.   No sign of any migratory warblers yet. Barrie Avis reported seeing a Subalpine Warbler at
El Fondo earlier in the week.....And he saw the Great Spotted Eagle as well.

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