09 September, Sierra de María (Almería)

What can I add to Dave's introduction about the long, hot summer? Not a lot except that according to one evening news met. report, July was the hottest since records began with temperatures of 2.5ºC above the average and as far as I can see the same occurred in August, which was hotter than the gates of hell at times. All this made birding somewhere between extremely uncomfortable and bloody impossible, especially when rounded off by the heavy rain and, in Almería and Granada, heavy rainfall and flooding this week. So, off we jolly well go on another year of birding with Dave and the Arboleas Group. Thanks, Dave! 
After  two and a bit months off due to the excessive heat, we returned to birdwatching, following serious thunderstorms, heavy rains and flash floods, to a lovely day up at the Sierra de Maria. Approaching the town I spotted a "big bird" perched on a pylon, some 1,000 metres away. After zooming in with the camera it turned out to be a Short-toed Eagle (culebrera europea). Combined with a Kestrel (cernicalo vulgar) sitting on another pylon nearby, it was a good start! We met up with Trevor and Ann, Phil and Jen and new member Jim at the cafe bar in Maria. Whilst having a coffee we saw the House Martins (aviones comunes) were still hanging around. Also seen were Spotless Starlings (estornino pinto) and a Blue Tit (herrerillo común). 
We headed up to the chapel. Spotted 6 Magpies (urracas) (could do with some gold!) and some Wood Pigeons (paloma torcaz). Phil spotted a dark bird flying along the cliff face of the mountain ridge. I think it was a Raven (cuervo). The water trough was dry so no birds there. 
By the Information Centre we spent some time trying to ID some warblers flitting around in the middle of a holm oak and ended up with Chiffchaff (mosquitero común) and Subalpine Warbler (curruca carrasqueña). By the small pools we added Chaffinch (pinzón vulgar), Coal Tit (carbonero garrapinos), another Blue Tit (herrerillo común), Willow Warbler (mosquitero musical) and a Serin (verdecillo). Gilly and Ann hung around the gardens as the rest of us wandered round the lower walk. Here we saw our first Griffon Vulture (buitre leonado) of the day as well as a Blackbird (mirlo) and a flock of 60 migrating Bee-eaters (abejarucos). I spotted a small flock of Red-billed Choughs (chova piquirroja) floating along the mountain ridge. Returning to the Information Centre we added Goldfinch (jilguero).  
An impressive 24 Griffon Vultures (buitres leonados) were using the cliff face to gain height. I was just saying to Jim the commonest eagles up here were Booted (aguila calzada) when one flew past. Gilly and Ann were entertained by a couple of young Iberian Squirrels (ardilla ibérica) playing tag round a pine tree. 
Trevor and Ann saw a Jay (arrendajo) as we were heading to the farm buildings. Only added a Carrion Crow (corneja común) there. Nothing at all at the sheep's water trough so we motored along the plain. Birds few and far between with only Crested Lark (cogujada común) and about four Northern Wheatears (collalba gris). 
We stopped briefly at the hamlet and were met by another Booted Eagle (aguila calzada) soaring above us. The Lesser Kestrels (cernicalo primilla) presumably well gone. As we made our way back, Gilly spotted a raptor flying slowly over the ploughed fields. A Black Kite (milano negro), uncommon to us up here. Our first for Maria?
We ate our lunch at the La Piza forest cafe watching Jays (arrendajos), Crossbills (piquituertos) and Long-tailed Tits (mitos) either taking the waters or the cheesy wotsits sprinkled by the small pool. Gilly and I also had a Great Tit (carbonero común) after the others had left.
A really enjoyable day. Ended up with 31 species. Birdspotter of the day...Phil !

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