Sunday, 21 April 2013

Heron species and so much more !

The weather was overcast this morning but that didn't stop us getting out and about.   The first field we stopped at held an impressive count of 160+ displaying Collared Pratincole.   They kept us entertained for a good half hour and we were able to get some great photographs. 

Collared Pratincole 

Come on ladies look at me ! 

Seems his display did the trick 

This male was not so lucky ! 

Collared Pratincole 

Mid morning saw us walking along the canal to the hide at El Hondo from the Vistabella Road. In the reed beds and from he hide we recorded 8 different species of Heron; Squacco, Grey, Purple, Black-crowned Night, Cattle Egret, Little, Great White and Little Bittern. 

The boardwalk to the hide had obviously not been used recently because as we walked down it we were covered in spiders webs and mosquitoes lovely !! Luckily the spiders had trapped most of the mossies so we didn't get bitten too much. Great Reed Warbler, Reed Warbler, Little Grebe, Pochard and Moustache Warbler were also recorded en route. 

Once in the hide we had excellent views of the Osprey on the nest and the White-headed Duck, the two birds we had primarily visited the hide to see. The water level was high as was the bird count; Flamingos (250+), White-headed Duck (20+), Pochard (50+) and Black-necked Grebe (50+). Whiskered Tern, Black Tern, Little Tern, Marbled Teal (2), Little Grebe and Great Crested Grebe - a great start to the day.

Little Bittern 

Little Bittern 

Great Crested Grebe

Black-necked Grebe

Whiskered Tern 

White-headed Duck 

Purple Heron 

Cattle Egret 

Great Reed Warbler 

The cloud soon cleared and although the temperature did not break 20 degrees it was still pleasant enough to sit outside our favourite Tapas bar and enjoy a light lunch of Russian Salad, Breaded Chicken, Paella and Potato skins drizzled in olive oil and coated in salt & pepper - wonderful authentic food rounded off with some strong black coffee. 
Once our bellies were refuelled we headed back out for our regular weekend round-up of the local fields.  Amongst all the usual suspects we also recorded Yellow Wagtail (2), Glossy Ibis (3) and both Marsh and Montagu's Harrier.  We saw several flooded fields but there still doesn't appear to be many migrant waders about, there has been a large movement of hirundines in the the last 24 hours and we had two seperate sightings of Alpine Swift. 
Last stop, the place all men take their wives to during a weekend drive - the local tip ! Hundreds of birds fight over the spoils despite there being more than enough to go around. We watched Med Gull, Black-headed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Cattle Egret, Stock Dove and Spotless Starling in vast numbers along with 2 Grey Heron and a White Stork pick through the debris, seemingly unaffected by the refuse vehicles regularly driving past them. Viewing is limited to one or two spots at this sight but if you want to polish up your Gull ID skills then this is place to be. On the other hand if you want to impress your other half - it definitely is not ! The smell is non too fresh and depending on the wind/ heat factor can be unbearable. Not even the promise of an expensive bottle of Chanel is enough brownie points to class this venue as acceptable on a date ! 

Talking of White Storks, last night we added it to our garden list - about 6pm a White Stork flew over the villa. Quite comical really, not the Stork, Mark, running from the shower room up to the solarium, with the camera in one hand and a firm hold of the towel he was wearing in the other ! And they tell me that bird watching is a hobby for the more discerning amongst us !

White Stork going over the villa at Quesada 

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Yecla 18th April 2013 - Black-bellied Sandgrouse

Although we are a little earlier at this site than last year we had hope for both Pin-tailed and Black-bellied Sandgrouse without too much trouble.  This did not prove to be the case.  If our quarry had been Larks and Wheatear we would have "bagged up" with 3 species of Wheatear and 5 species of Lark in plentiful numbers.  The Sandgrouse however, did not want to play, and stayed well hidden even though we could hear them around us.  It occurred to us that looking for the Sandgrouse today had become a bit like fishing when you are not getting a bite - you get "sinking float syndrome" ie:  you begin to imagine your float has gone under, just as we thought every "big blob" in the distance looked like a Sandgrouse !  We had the usual "Stone Bird", "Stick Bird" and "Black Bin Bag Bird" even a "Water Hydrant Tap Bird"!   Determined to locate at least one flock of the real thing, we persevered and were rewarded with a flock of 8 Pin-tailed and 13 Black-bellied Sandgrouse with 2 Little Bustard some distance from the track.  What a relief, not just for us, but because they are still there as over the years we have been visiting this site the landscape has changed considerably and it would be shame for the birds to lose their habitat completely.

It was very hot out here today the temperature reaching a high of 28 degrees, and the heat haze made it difficult to photograph the Sandgrouse, but we have included a few of the better pictures even though they are quite distant.

The track we always use has become very rough and at a couple of points is almost too pot-holed to travel along, so we decided to explore the area a little further afield and see if we could find an alternative route. Just before where we get off the main road to this site there is a small camino (service road), which proved to be perfect.  It still takes us around the same site, but it is much more comfortable and a lot kinder to our car !

Species recorded:  Bee-eater, Nightingale (1), Turtle Dove (1), Spotless Starling, House Martin, Pallid Swift, Collared Dove, Hoopoe, Magpie, Corn Bunting, Carrion Crow, Calandra Lark, Thekla Lark, Crested Lark, Short-toed Lark, Lesser Short-toed Lark, Goldfinch, Spotted Flycatcher (1), House Sparrow, Swallow, Common Swift, Woodchat Shrike (1), Iberian Green Woodpecker (1), Red-legged Partridge, Greenfinch, Little Bittern, Sardinian Warbler, Black-bellied Sandgrouse (13), Little Bustard (2 in flight) , Black-eared Wheatear, Northern Wheatear, Black Wheatear and Kestrel

Calandra Lark 


Black-bellied Sandgrouse 

Sardinian Warbler

Spanish Swallowtail

Spanish Swallowtail

Tiger Swallowtail

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Great Bustard - no Trouble !! Part two

Around 4pm we arrived at the Laguna de Petrola, a short drive from the small town of Higueruela.  As I said in part one, the water level was high making it impossible to drive around the lagoon. The frogs were in fine voice and could be heard above the birdsong.

Around the lagoon, on the flooded plain were several pools of rain water holding Mallard Duck, Coot, Black-winged Stilt and Avocet. We watched a Marsh Harrier fly across the field and get everything up in its wake.  Other birds recorded on the lagoon and on the surrounding farm land:  Corn Bunting, Collared Dove, Yellow Wagtail, Gadwall (pr), Black-headed Gull, Kentish Plover, Ruff,  Lapwings, Black-winged Stilt, Red Shank, Little Egret, Pochard, Red-crested Pochard, Moorhen, Gull-billed Tern, Whiskered Tern, Black Tern, Black-necked Grebe, Little Grebe, Red-rumped Swallow,  Barn Swallow, House Martin, Flamingo, Pallid Swift, Common Swift, Avocet, Northern Wheatear, Rock Sparrow, Kestrel, Woodchat Shrike, Great Reed Warbler and Reed Warbler.

Marsh Harrier 

 Gull-billed Tern

Black Tern 

Coral Rubio was our next point of call.  On previous trips this area has provided us with good views of both Black-bellied and Sandgrouse as well as both Great and Little Bustard.  So full of high expectations of adding to our already excellent days birding we stopped at the flood plains first.  Wildfowl was abundant as were the fantastic Bustards that we parked up and watched on both sides of the road for about an hour.  We have selected some of the better shots to show you.

Until now the Sandgrouse has eluded us but just as we were about to leave Mark spotted a pair of Pintails on the hill, following 3 male Great Bustard in flight. Although no further different species were recorded at this sight, the sheer amount of Bustard and the fact that we were able to get so close to them without disturbing them made the stop a pleasure.

What a day of birding - more to come from our stay in Spain. Also news from Ashley on the Aquila Bird Tours Scottish Highlands trip which started today - watch this space !

Monday, 15 April 2013

Great Bustard - no trouble !! Part one

We had a bit of a late start this morning after last nights celebrations when Manchester City beat Chelsea and secured their place in FA Cup final. As we have Ryan and Jane with us today, it was nice to have a lie in and breakfast "al fresco" before heading out to do some birding a little further afield. The weather here is glorious, by 11am we were well on the way and the temperature had already reached 22degrees. 

From Quesada we took the AP7 towards Alicante airport exiting at the AP7/E15 signposted Albacete. Staying on this road until we reached the exit clearly marked Albacete/Madrid A-31.

The site we visited today is approximately 175km from Quesada which, unlike in the UK, is a pleasurable hour and a half drive from our villa. The motorways here are modern, well maintained and move freely, burying any thoughts of the dreaded M6 deep into the back of our minds.

Within a few minutes of leaving the motorway at Bonete we had seen our first of many Great Bustard. The males were displaying to the females in full view - a fantastic start to our day.  

Here are a few of the photographs of both Little and Great Bustard that we took throughout the day.  We have some of mixed male and female groups and will post them tomorrow. 


The classic steppe habitat here is perfect for the Bustard and Sandgrouse.  When the new railway link was built it was thought that it may affect the Bustards adversely but I think this picture we took today maybe disproves this theory. 

Along with a very impressive 70+ Great Bustard (30 female) and 7 Little Bustard (5 female) at this site we also recorded an abundance of Magpie (more than we have ever seen here before) and Lesser Kestrel which was a first for us at this site.  The Kestrel were actively mating on a telegraph pylon. 
Other birds recorded: Kestrel, Rock Sparrow, Corn Bunting (everywhere !), Booted Eagle (2), Great Spotted Cuckoo (2), Stone Curlew (2), Iberian Grey Shrike, Spotless Starling, Rock Dove, House Sparrow, Calandra Lark, Short-toed Lark, Red-legged Partridge, Linnet, Goldfinch, Serin.

 Rock Sparrow

 Great Spotted Cuckoo

 Stone Curlew

 Corn Bunting 

Moving towards Petrola we passed through the village of Higueruela it was so quiet here it was like a ghost town.  Not a single car was on the road and we saw just one person carrying a model aeroplane and one farmer in his field. It was 3pm and very hot - you know what they say about mad dogs and English men.  

Along the road we recorded both Northern Wheatear and Black-eared Wheatear, Swallow, Carrion Crow, Red-rumped Swallow, Crested Lark, Wood Pigeon and Golden Eagle (1)

Next stop Laguna de Petrola - Water levels were high and there had been an obvious movement of Yellow Wagtail as they were on all the fences and on the edge of all the flood water which had formed temporary pools on the farm land, there were even Flamingos near the farm house barn.

 Black-necked Grebe

 Yellow Wagtail 

 Black-winged Stilt

 Black Tern 

 "Little and Large" 

 The ever growing Flamingo colony at Petrola Lagoon


Going to leave it there for today. We have had such an amazing days birding we still have a lot more to record on the blog, including some photographs of small groups of Great Bustard we saw later in the day - Part two tomorrow.