Another 7 am start for what was likely to be a long day in the field. Once in the valley our first stop was at the roundabout on the service road. This produced Crested Larks and a single Stone Curlew. The ruin at the junction of tracks saw the first Roller but not a lot else. The corner where the road swings round to the left was the next stop. Turtle Dove and Little Owl were sat in a tree across the river course while the small reservoir held Black winged Stilts and a Little ringed Plover. Further along this road proved the most productive area. A number of Bee eaters and Rollers were pleasing but the two adult Great Spotted Cuckoos stole the show. These birds seemed to like the cabbage fields (after being harvested) where they could, rather surprisingly, hide away. At one stage a bird flew only to land about 20 feet behind the car, the only place where it could not be photographed without getting out of the car. Rather like fishermen’s tales, the one that got away would always be the best! Also at this location a very obliging Little Owl seemed unbothered by our close proximity in the car. Our final stop was near to the rusty old bridge where a couple of Booted Eagles put in an appearance. By now it was beginning to warm up so we headed back towards Alhama and the higher ground of Sierra Espuna.
First stop here was the wild boar feeding site. A Jay provided a good photo opportunity but not a lot else was showing. A quick bite to eat and it was on to the top. Near the summit a few small birds were found, such as, Stonechat, Black Redstart, Dartford Warbler and Rock Bunting. Choughs could be seen tumbling around the crags in the distance. At about this time a car passed us and seemed to drive to the very top. Three obvious ‘tourists’ got out and wandered around. This was intriguing since we have been turned round in the past since this is a closed military area. The signs make this very clear and in the past I have been reminded by armed military personnel that this is the case. However, we decided to ‘boldly go’. As we arrived, unmolested, at the top a small bird was noticed perching within a wire fence. It could not be viewed well and so it’s identity was uncertain. We both knew that Alpine Accentor was a possibility so Bryan got out of the car to approach it. At this point a megaphone voice blared out that we should leave the area. Bryan ignored it; the bird was important! He approached closer and the warning blared out again. Bryan suggested it was a pre-recorded message triggered by a motion sensor. Certainly there were no troops rushing forward with guns but my recollections of British plane spotters who, a few years back, fell foul of the military in Greece, crossed my mind. At this point I decided we should exit left and so we headed down to the main car park near the ice caves. Later study of the photograph of the bird in question showed it to be a Rock Bunting.
We had barely arrived at the car park when a young Golden Eagle appeared flying low in front of the hillside beyond. Very soon there were four Golden Eagles drifting upwards above the hillside in front of us. Within minutes there seemed to be more birds, seven or eight high up. It became clear that some of them were Griffon Vultures (the first I’ve seen here in about 10 years of visiting). Eventually six Griffon Vultures descended and drifted off into the distance. Hardly had they gone when a Peregrine appeared directly above us, circled round for a while before disappearing into the distance. Great birding! Heading down the mountain we stopped again to see people feeding the wild boar, some actually taking food from the hand! We counted 16 young and at least 11 adults, Jays were again making their presence known and a Rock Bunting posed for the photographer. A stunning bird close up. Crossbills were heard and seen overflying now and then. On a Sunday in June you might expect a few visitors but we more or less had the place to ourselves. Even if there were no birds this would still be a great place to be. We got back to Gran Alacant at about 8.20pm. A long day, but a very rewarding day.
Species list – Guadalentin – Mallard, Little Grebe, Kestrel, Booted Eagle, Coot, Black winged Stilt, Stone Curlew, Little ringed Plover, Rock Dove, Wood Pigeon, Turtle Dove, Great Spotted Cuckoo, Little Owl, Bee eater, Roller, Crested Lark, Swallow, Red rumped Swallow, White Wagtail, Sardinian Warbler, Magpie, Jackdaw, House Sparrow, Tree Sparrow, Goldfinch, Serin. Sierra Espuna – Griffon Vulture, Golden Eagle, Kestrel, Peregrine Falcon, Pallid Swift, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Blackbird, Dartford Warbler, Coal Tit, Jay, Chough, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Rock Bunting, Crossbill.