29 April : Sierra de María

From Dave E-B and the Arboleas group. Congratuations to them on the initiative of the posters.
It was brilliant sunshine when Gilly and I headed for the Sierra de Maria, but outside the car it was windy with a chilly bite to it. On the approach to Maria the only bird seen of note was a Linnet on a telegraph pole. We met up with nine other members including Jacky Reany, new to the group. We first headed up to the chapel where Colin managed to see Goldfinch, Chaffinch and Greenfinch. Les spotted a Great Tit and a Mistle Thrush was seen. I managed to find a distant Booted Eagle with more unidentifiable raptors even further away. As the others began to walk towards the Information Centre of the Botanical Gardens, I drove up there. We handed over two framed posters of forest birds and Spanish raptors to the rangers for them to put on display. 
handing over the posters
Red-billed Chough
The garden area had a couple of groups of reasonably behaved school children so the majority of us headed at speed to the lower walk. The walking wounded stayed behind. Birds were few and far between, but eventually we had good views of Bonelli's Warbler. I found a Short-toed Treecreeper.  A steady stream of Griffon Vultures flew over. As well as a few Subalpine Warblers, Alan and I were lucky enough to have a glimpse of a Western Orphean Warbler. I spotted a Red-billed Chough flying along the mountain ridge. Also seen were Robin and Cirl Bunting. As we headed back to the gardens we could hear a Great Spotted Woodpecker drumming and we also heard a Raven. We mentioned it to the walking wounded who pointed skywards to show us the bird! They had also seen Bonelli's and Subalpine Warblers, Jay, Crossbill and Serin. Walking back to the cars, Les saw another Western Orphean Warbler and everybody saw the pair of Cirl Buntings.
The stop at the farm buildings only added a Corn Bunting to the list, so we motored to the water trough area. Alan and I saw our first Turtle Dove of the year. Numerous Rock Sparrows and Linnets were seen, as were a Rock Bunting and Goldfinches. Les spotted a Red-billed Chough on one of the buildings. We convoyed along the plain seeing the odd Crested Lark and a few Northern Wheatears. At the hamlet there were only a few Lesser Kestrels and we possibly saw Short-toed Larks.
Heading back to the La Piza forest cafe, we were delighted that Colin spotted a Hawfinch in the trees as we ate our lunch. Also seen were Crossbill, Chaffinch, Crested and Blue Tits.
A very enjoyable day which we hope Jacky enjoyed. She saw 4 or 5 lifers which can't be bad! 41 species in all.

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