30 March : Sierra de María

Gawd, where does the time go? 'When you're retired you'll have lots of free time,' someone said. Wrong! There seems to be less and less and being domesticated, shopping and walking my canine monster and other distractions into which I shall not enter take their toll of time. I haven't even got the photos and report of Dave and Gilly's trip to Morocco done as I had vainly hoped. And now another from Dave!
Before putting that in, here in Torremolinos we had a big entry of Common Swifts on 26 March and on 27, in my own garden here, 2 Redstarts, one a smashing male, plus a female Black Redstart but she's been around all winter, and also a Spotted Flycatcher. On 28 March, at the third attempt, I managed to see the 1W Franklin's Gull that has been hanging around La Caleta de Vélez (in the east of the province,one earlier fruitless trip giving a Great White Egret flying along the shore line! I'm not sure if it was a twitch or not as it's only ten minutes from my girlfriend's, more or less on the doorstep. On 29 March, going in towards Málaga, a Honey Buzzard flew in front of the car between Plaza Mayor and Decathlon. Tomorrow, I am down at Tarifa and beyond to La Janda with Ron, as although he has been studying the North Yorkshire Honey Buzzards for over 30 years, he's never seen one in Spain, so we live in hope, especially as a Rüppell's Vulture was seen to fly in today.
And a last bit before I forget. There were 'plenty' of Citril Finches at the Puerto de la Ragua (Almería/Granada border) earlier this week, an elusive Dupont's Lark was heard at Las Almoladeras (Almería). Which is why I am now on with Dave's report if the visit.
Spring has sprung. The sun was shining and there was a slight breeze as Gilly and I headed to the Sierra de Maria. As we approached the town we saw a male Blue Rock Thrush atop a telegraph pole and a Woodchat Shrike on a power line. Gilly thought she might have seen a Spotted Flycatcher as well. We met up with 11 other members at the Repsol Garage cafe, including Ann, Trevor, Jen and Phil who'd spotted a Booted Eagle on their way in. House Martins were making nests under the garage canopy.  After a coffee we made our way to the chapel where Kevin had spent the night in his camper van being "serenaded" by a nearby Scops Owl. Les immediately saw a Corn Bunting
Over by the trough in the tall poplar tree there were some feeding Serins and a male Blackcap. Blue Tits were also observed. Heading up to the Botanical Gardens, nothing was seen until we arrived there. There we had Coal Tit, Great Tit and a Jay. Gilly, Adrian and Les hung around there hearing Great Spotted Woodpecker and Carrion Crow. They also had a Crested Tit. The rest of us carried onto the low walk. We added Long-tailed Tit, Cirl and Rock Buntings before we split from the intrepid John, Charlie Roger and his grandson, Theo who did the medium walk. They added Robin and Short-toed Treecreeper to the list. We all met up at the information centre before returning to the vehicles. John spotted a Red-rumped Swallow as we left.
We made our way to the farm buildings where Les first spotted a Rock Sparrow and then some Mistle Thrushes. I happened to look up and saw our first Griffon Vulture of the day. Another 5 arrived soon after. Kev had a Hoopoe and Trevor spotted a Raven.
Moving to the farm yard trough further down the road, I found a male Black-eared Wheatear, first of the year, on a distant chimney stack. Another male and a female were seen. Another Raven started to circle above us and I also spotted a pair of distant Red-billed Choughs identified by their wide wings.
We then convoyed slowly along the plain straight. We added Short-toed Lark and a pair of Little Owls. At the hamlet there were at least 4 Lesser Kestrels. John was first to spot the Northern Wheatear atop a barn's roof. John and Les combined to track down a Linnet. On the way back to the La Piza forest cafe I had a probable Calandra Lark perched on a speed limit sign. We ate our lunch observing Crossbill, Chaffinch and various titmice drinking from the small pool.
We had hoped to have seen a few migrant warblers but alas no. We ended up with 45 species. Lovely location, birding and company.


23 March : Almanzora and Vera

Dave and Gilly are back after their fruitful trip to Morocco and I shall publish Dave's long (3 part with photos) in a day or three. The Solitary Sandpiper remains in residence and has been amply twitched and there is also a Franklin's Gull at La Caleta de Vélez (MA) which I may try and see today. A lot of the action is further west but Quirri is seeing a lot along the río Vélez area. Swifts of both spp. are arriving in small numbers and I have seen the first few screaming parties in Torremolinos on Tuesday pm. but none since, and heard one or two overflying flocks of Bee-eaters.

MESSAGE FOR ROGER MORRIS: Apologies for not replying, but I forget to check comments. Please write to me at andy.birds(at) gmail.com and I shall forward your request to Dave.
Water Pipit
After an amazing trip to Morocco, it was back to our local patch for Gilly and I, the Rambla de Almanzora. Having picked up Steve, we made our way to the ford . There we had good views of Snipe, Redshank, Moorhen and a Common Sandpiper before parking up awaiting the rest of the gang. Just as the first arrived, Barrie, a Marsh Harrier flew by. Once Kevin, Val, Richard, Trevor, Ann and new members, Roger and daughter, Louise had arrived we convoyed further up the rambla to where the Solitary Sandpiper had been seen. It must have been a bit of a shock to the two birders there as numerous cars parked up and deposited the crowd of us. I apologise. The Solitary Sandpiper was nearby in the first pool, showing well but a rear view. When it turned its head, the white eye ring was clearly seen. It then flew further to the left out of view. 
Having been joined by Jacky, Gilly spotted another wader. It was one of two Temminck's Stints, their yellow legs showing well. A flight of seven Ruff then flew in. Also seen were Wood Sandpiper and Water Pipit. Despite the wind we walked along the top of the Rambla seeing Green Sandpiper, Snipe, Little Ringed Plover, a Kestrel and both Grey and Yellow Wagtails. Barn Swallows, Sand and House Martins were added to the list.
After a refreshing cuppa in Villaricos village we made our way to the beach. There was only a Yellow-legged Gull and a couple of Cormorants on the harbour entrance rocks. We walked over to the estuary where the water level was, or appeared to be, higher than sea level. A gravel bank separated the two. I spotted a pair of Common Pochard and Barrie had a Little Grebe. There was only a few Cormorants and a small raft of Black-headed Gulls. I found a flying Mediterranean Gull and a distant Sandwich Tern fishing over the sea. A Grey Heron was found lurking in the reeds.
 A Black Redstart flew by. Closer to the beach we found a number of Black-winged Stilts and a small array of little waders: Little Stint, Dunlin, Sanderling and Kentish Plover. There was no sign of the long staying Whimbrel, but we did see a Little Egret on the rocks.
Some of us then moved to the dual carriageway overlooking the large pools opposite the Consum supermarket at Vera. There were loads of Black-winged Stilts and about four Greater Flamingos. I spotted some Teal, whilst Gilly found a female Red-crested Pochard and we also added an Avocet.
We all split up then. Barrie, after lunch, checked out the pool by the Millionaire's bar. Had good views of gulls: Yellow-legged, Audouin's, Black-headed, Lesser Black-Backed and Mediterranean.
All together we ended up with 53 species for the day.