The final day of our trip to Extremadura and Castilla–la Mancha dawned to showers, some rather heavy, but a Golden Oriole sang as we left the car park at our hotel at Lagunas de Ruidera. We made our way uneventfully eastwards past Albacete to Pétrola, where the number of Greater Flamingos assembled to breed on the lagoon was impressive – probably around 3,000. Little Ringed Plover and Glossy Ibis were seen there and a nice Gull-billed Tern flew past before we headed off to the plains, where, despite the rains, the tracks were surprisingly dry. Stephan’s sharp eyes soon located a Black-bellied Sandgrouse, and we had good views of plenty of Calandra Larks, then some majestic Great Bustards, as we drove around to Corral Rubio.
From there we made the considerable drive towards home, and stopped for lunch at the reliable Restaurante Lengüetera, at Caudete, where we were treated to a royal feast. From there we made for the ZEPA (Zona especial de protección de aves) of Yecla. We paused to look at the specially adapted farm-building’s roof, where a colony of Lesser Kestrels are housed, and added the ubiquitous Thekla Larks to our list, as well as seeing plenty of Calandra Larks – which seemed to have accompanied our entire trip. A pair of Black-bellied Sandgrouse flew off high. Then Els spotted a party of well-camouflaged Pin-tailed Sandgrouse, which gave us excellent views as they flew off over rough stone walls. This was the species everybody had been hoping for, to put the icing on the cake’ for the trip, which, by general consent, had been a successful one. As we drove down through Yecla, the town was virtually under water, but we had been, once more, quite fortunate. More good fortune was had by Barrie and Jan, who saw a Barn Owl on their way home to Mazarrón! By my reckoning, we saw (or heard) some 133 species altogether – for a five day trip, not at all a bad score, and one that included some pretty rare birds, notably – for me at least – my very first Spanish record of White-rumped Swift, some fine views of Spanish Imperial Eagle, Black and Egyptian Vultures, both species of Sandgrouse, plenty of Rollers and Tawny Pipit.
Species list – Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Black-necked Grebe, Great Cormorant, Grey Heron, Purple Heron, Great Egret, Little Egret, Squacco Heron, Cattle Egret, Black-crowned Night-Heron, Little Bittern, Black Stork, White Stork, Greater Flamingo, Greylag Goose, Common Shelduck, Gadwall, Eurasian Teal, Mallard, Shoveler, Red-crested Pochard, Common Pochard, White-headed Duck, Honey Buzzard, Red Kite, Black Kite, Egyptian Vulture, Griffon Vulture, Short-toed Eagle, Marsh Harrier, Montagu’s Harrier, Sparrowhawk, Buzzard, Spanish Imperial Eagle, Golden Eagle, Booted Eagle, Lesser Kestrel, Kestrel, Red-legged Partridge, Quail, Purple Swamphen, Moorhen, Coot, Great Bustard, Black-winged Stilt, Avocet, Stone Curlew, Lapwing, Grey Plover, Ringed Plover, Little Ringed Plover, Kentish Plover, Black-tailed Godwit, Redshank, Common Sandpiper, Dunlin, Ruff, Yellow-legged Gull, Black-headed Gull, Gull-billed Tern, Whiskered Tern, Pin-tailed Sandgrouse, Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Rock Dove, Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Great Spotted Cuckoo, Cuckoo, Barn Owl, Scops Owl, Little Owl, Alpine Swift, Common Swift, White-rumped Swift, Kingfisher, Bee-eater, Roller, Hoopoe, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Iberian Green Woodpecker, Calandra Lark, Greater Short-toed Lark, Crested Lark, Thekla Lark, Skylark, Crag Martin, Swallow, Red-rumped Swallow, House Martin, White Wagtail, Tawny Pipit, Wren, Blue Rock-Thrush, Blackbird, Mistle Thrush, Zitting Cisticola, Cetti’s Warbler, Reed Warbler, Great Reed-Warbler, Melodious Warbler, Blackcap, Sardinian Warbler, Pied Flycatcher, Nightingale, Black Redstart, Whinchat, Stonechat, Bearded Reedling/Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Short-toed Treecreeper, Golden Oriole, Southern Grey Shrike, Woodchat Shrike, Jay, Azure-winged Magpie, Magpie, Jackdaw, Carrion Crow, Raven, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Spanish Sparrow, Tree Sparrow, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Linnet, Serin, Cirl Bunting, Rock Bunting, Corn Bunting.