21 April : Sierra de María

This is the second day of Dave's week.

Two days in a row! Yes, I'm out again to the Sierra de María with Steve. Gilly had to work. As we made our way to the town we passed the "starting point" on the Vélez Blanco bypass and began logging the birds. Our best bird was a Hoopoe. We were joined at the Repsol Garage cafe by John, Les, his son Tom with girlfriend Holly. The sun was out but there was a chilly wind coming from the Sierra Nevada. We made our way to the chapel. John spotted some distant "corvids" which, with the help of Les's scope proved to be Ravens. Steve spotted a Little Owl, but it disappeared before being seen by anyone else. We were joined by Jacky. We also saw Goldfinch, Blackbird, Magpie, Serin, Cirl Bunting and both Blue and Crested Tit.
Moving towards the Botanical Garden, "hawkeye" Tom spotted an adult Booted Eagle  way up by the mountain ridge. I found a Bonelli's Warbler and in the garden itself we had good views of a pair of Subalpine Warblers. Also seen were Coal Tit and Black Redstart. Leaving Les there, the rest of us "did" the medium walk. We heard but didn't see more Bonelli's Warblers, Short-toed Treecreeper and an European Cuckoo. Jacky thought she heard a Jay. We heard then saw a Great Spotted Woodpecker. More Subalpine Warblers were seen. and Tom spotted a Kestrel high up. We managed to see at least three Griffon Vultures and some Crag Martins. Jacky spotted a Robin. Getting back to Les at the garden, he'd seen more of the same including a Great Tit and a pair of Short-toed Treecreepers
Fitness fanatic Jacky decided she now wanted to do the high walk, so we left her there to meet up at La Piza forest cafe later. We made our way to the ruined farm buildings. Les immediately saw a Rock Sparrowand John and I heard a Turtle Dove. We knew which tree the sound was coming from but could we see it? No! Luckily it flew off.
We then carried on to the farm trough. We saw a displaying Northern Wheatear and a pair of Hoopoes. Les got his scope focused on a pair of Red-billed Choughs. I spotted a distant Woodchat Shrike and we also saw Linnet and more Rock Sparrows.
Driving slowly along the plain we managed to see Short-toed and Calandra Lark plus another couple of Northern Wheatears. Les saw a Carrion Crow. At the hamlet called Pozo de la Rueda which is just in Granada province we saw 8 Lesser Kestrels (info for Helen Commandeur for the Lesser Kestrel survey). They breed under the roof tiles on one of the farm barns.
Heading back to the La Piza forest cafe, who should be sitting there upon our arrival but Jacky. She said " I think there are a pair of Hawfinches in that tree". She was dead right. A first for her, John and Steve. A number of Crossbills were also seen coming down to the small pool. Also seen were Chaffinches, Blue Tits and a Crested Tit, nesting in a box only metres from us but which defied any attempt by me to photograph it!. Jacky had seen Jay up the high walk.
We ended with 43 species. Star bird was obviously the Hawfinch.

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