02 December : Sierra de María

Dave and Gilly are back from 7 weeks in the UK!! Welcome back! I would have thought that a visit to the UK in late October-November is more of a penance! However, each to his ownas the old woman said when she kissed the bull. Their first  visit - to the Sierra de María with the Arboleas group. 
Well done Gilly on spotting the Northern Starling (or even Spotty Starling) (estornino pinto). Most folks don't bother having a look to separate the two species and it is a much more common winter visitor than most realise, yet it is often overlooked. 
Gilly and  I returned from our seven week pre-Xmas break to the United Kingdom last week, so we were keen to get back to some sun, warmth and birdwatching. Going to María today could provide at least two of our requests, but maybe not the middle one! It was a little bit on the chilly side as we arrived at the Repsol Garage cafe on the outskirts of Maria town, our meeting up place. Altogether there were 15 members of the group on parade for this probably last visit before early spring time. We'd already spotted Black Redstart (colirrojo tizón), Stonechat (tarabilla) and Wood Pigeon (paloma torcaz)before we headed up to the chapel.
Crossbill (female)
We were greeted by two or three female Ibex, silhouetted against the sky as they wandered along the mountain ridge. From in front of the chapel we scanned over towards the water trough. We had views of Crossbill (piquituerto), a Cirl Bunting (escribano soteño),Chaffinch (pinzón vulgar), Great Tit (carbonero común) and Mistle Thrush (zorzal charlo). However by the time we had walked closer a patrolling cat had scattered all visible birdlife! A Robin (petirrojo) made a brief appearance before we headed up towards the Botanical Garden Information Centre.  A flight of three Woodlarks (totavías) flew over. A Jay (arrendajo)and a Blackbird (mirlo) were seen.
The majority of the group "did" the lower walk. We saw a small flock of Long-tailed Tits (mitos). Alan spotted a Blackcap (curruca capirotada) . Apart from a few high flying Wood Pigeons (paloma torcaz) and hearing the alarm calls of Blackbirds (mirlo) and Jays (arrendajo) that was about it unfortunately.
Rock Sparrows
Convoying towards the plains, we added a Magpie (urraca). At the farm buildings we saw a couple of Black Redstarts, a Stonechat and some Carrion Crows. On the field adjacent to the buildings I found a group of 6 Meadow Pipits (bisbita pratense).
We next stopped at the farmyard water trough. Here we did well, seeing small flocks of Rock Sparrows (gorrión chillón), Linnets (pardillo) and Goldfinches (jilgueros). I spotted a Corn Bunting (triguero). Jan was the first to spot the Hoopoe (abubilla). Also seen were Carrion Crow (corneja común), White Wagtail (lavandera blanca) and Crested Lark (cogujada común). Gilly thought she saw a Northern Starling (estornino pinto).
Little Owl
The cruise along the straight road of the plain only added a Little Owl (mochuelo). At the hamlet, just over the Granada border, we are pretty certain we had Thekla Lark (cogujada montesina) atop one of the buildings.
It was then back to the La Piza for lunch. The tree tops were alive with Crossbills (piquituertos) waiting to drink at the fuente or at the water deposit. A Great Tit (carbonero común) also visited.
The birding was not so brilliant, but we had a good day catching up and being out in the sunshine! A total of 30 bird species seen.

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