Thursday, 2 June 2011

Sierra De Espuna / Guadalentin Valley

Today we left Quesada at 08.45am to visit the Parque Regional Sierra Espuna, arriving at approx. 10.00am to bright sunshine, a light breeze and a temperature of 24 degrees. The road climbs slowly winding around the forest with several safe and purpose built pull in spots; however, we have found the best way to properly appreciate the spectacular surroundings and impressive mountain views, is to avoid the temptation of stopping on the way up and start from the top. The landscape at the top is bare compared with the terrain further down which is dominated by pinewoods planted at the beginning of the 19thcentury. A perfect setting for our main targetbirds of Tawny Pipit, Rock Bunting and Wood Lark - all of which have been reported at this site previously. Tawny Pipit more recently, but less frequently, is on our “most wanted” list.

We were hardly out of the car at the top of the Parque when we were treated to the unmistakeable song of Red-billed Chough circling above us in good numbers of 50+ - a great start to our onsite bird list. There is very little human activity at this height and we were hopeful of the Tawny Pipit here. A short wait rewarded us with good views of Thekla Lark, Mistle Thrush & Rock Bunting.

Rock Bunting

Amid the rocks the wild flowers were abundant and numerous species provide a display of colour in this varied habitat. Whilst admiring the flora we heard the distinct call of the male Tawny Pipit. Three birds were chasing each other across the road just above where we were standing. We watched them through the scope and binoculars for some time before deciding to get settled into place and wait in the hope of getting a good photograph. Our patience paid off - what a beautifully marked little bird!

Tawny Pipit

With our “most wanted” bird spectacularly recorded we started our descent to the nearby visitor café/bar. A cup of coffee was on the menu – what we actually got was a lot more than we bargained for! The café/bar was closed (we have since learnt that it is only open at the weekends), but there at the top of the steps was a very dis”grunt”led wild boar! Without upsetting him and his feeding family we were able to get some good shots of the group – from a very safe distance and the security of our car.

As we slowly made our way down the mountain, birding as we went and pulling in to scan the habitat and enjoy the views, we recorded Iberian Grey Shrike, Serin, Sardinian Warbler, Red-rumped Swallow, Short-toed Treecreeper, Great Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Crossbill, Coal Tit, Firecrest, Crested Tit and Stonechat before pulling over to enjoy lunch 'Al Fresco'.
Song Thrush, Magpie and Robin were added to the days sightings as we enjoyed our lunch looking out across the mountains with the pine trees behind us. We continued down the mountain and stopped at the visitor centre, where environmental and conservation information is readily available in English and Spanish. Toilet facilities are available here and are open every day.
At the next viewing point we were entertained by a particularly active Ardillas (Squirrel) and a very vocal Tree Pipit. One of which (the squirrel) was definitely not shy and showed off to its admiring audience whilst the other (Tree Pipit) stayed well and truly hidden in the mature trees in front of us. Short-toed Treecreeper, Wren, Jay and Blackbird were all added to the days total as we approached the exit to the Parque and the perfect habitat for Wood Lark. The familiar songs of the Wood Lark rang out loud and clear for us to enjoy whilst we scanned the trees ever hopeful of completing our target list for the day. A single bird completed our treble and we left the site to the sound of the Rana Perezei Frog which is present in the small springs which represent a small part of this interesting and varied habitat. It should be noted that there was a distinct lack of the expected Raptors at this site, with only Kestrel being recorded. A full species list for this site (incl. enroute) can be found at the end of this report.

Short-toed Treecreeper

Guadalentin Valley

The Guadalentin Valley is a river valley which is surrounded by agricultural land and numerous small reservoirs used for irrigation during the summer. We had no target birds here as this site regularly produces a wealth of birdlife and is guaranteed to satisfy all levels of birder. We arrived on site at approx. 14.30 – the temperature had risen to 30 degrees enroute. There was some activity in the fields today as the land owners were harvesting and we wondered if it would affect our enjoyment of the area. In fact that couldn’t be further from the truth, we were entertained by Rollers, Bee-eaters, Greater-spotted Cuckoo and Kestrel within the first half hour of arriving. Tree Sparrow showed well as did a Montagu’s Harrier hunting in the afternoon sun.
One of the reservoirs held nesting Little Grebe, a small cluster of Trees above the dry river bed held the Cuckoo and the Rollers put in a star performance.

Roller - What a stunning bird to round off our day !

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