It may not have been the longest day but it still seemed pretty long! We left Gran Alacant at 6am, not returning until 8.30pm. Our aim was to cover the Yecla area before heading off to the Bonete and Petrola area for Bustards etc.
Birding was thin at first as we headed along the track to the left of the main road. What we did see however were hundreds of rabbits and we did wonder why there seemed to be no predators around. Within 30 or so minutes we got our answer. A Buzzard was seen carrying off a young rabbit and then a fox also trotting away with a rabbit for breakfast. A little further along the track a pair of Stone Curlew were seen gathering food for the two youngsters they had in tow. Great to see such birds in such a tranquil setting.
After crossing back over the main road we were still not hearing or seeing much. Pin tailed Sandgrouse were around but always flying high with a call that was far reaching. A large raptor was then seen rising above a stony field, soon identified as a Golden Eagle. Barely had this bird gained height and moved away when another took to the air from the same place. A real treat to see these fine birds at such close range. The same track led us to the farm where the Lesser Kestrels were still in residence. Surprisingly few Calandra Larks were showing around here but there were good numbers of Greater Short-toed Larks and Rock Sparrows with a few Tree Sparrows. As we headed out away from Yecla we picked up Black and Black-eared Wheatears and Woodchat Shrikes.
Rather later than anticipated we re-joined the motorway at Caudete to head up to Bonete. At the Golden Oriole site on the Higueruela road, things again seemed to have quietened down from just 10 days ago when Bryan last visited. No sightings and only limited calls from these brilliant but elusive birds. We did however find at least 4 Bonelli’s Warblers amongst the pines. Excellent views but always short-lived, the birds repeatedly calling to each other. Photography however was not made easy by the fact that the birds were rapidly flitting about.
By 3’o clock we had parked up in the shade under the pine trees for 30 minutes of ‘down time’. On stirring from my passive state I became aware of two small birds walking about on the track just in front of the car. Clearly they were Woodlarks. Sometimes taking a break can have its rewards. Shortly afterwards the birds walked off into the vegetation never to be seen again.
The lagoons at Petrola had shrunk somewhat with the recent warm weather and as a result the waders were all in close proximity. Birds Identified here included a Green Sandpiper, a breeding plumage Ruff, a Black-tailed Godwit, Redshank, Lapwing and a fine Little-ringed Plover seen in fabulous light. Also seen here was a Great Reed Warbler and at least 60 Gull-billed Terns actively feeding amongst the waders. An unusual sight here was a whirlwind some 100 metres or so away. Dust was being lifted hundreds of feet into the air in a column which was well defined with a funnel shape at the top. A fast moving helical spiral around the outside seemed to flow like a liquid. After a minute or so the column broke down and disappeared very rapidly. Neither of us had ever seen anything quite like this before. Raptors were not particularly numerous around here but we did see a Marsh Harrier and a Red Kite.
Eventually we did get to the Great Bustard hotspots but on this occasion only 2 birds were seen. The track by the lagoon at Coral Rubrio was still impassable which meant some backtracking. As for the lagoon itself it was a magnet for water loving birds such as Whiskered Tern and Black-necked Grebes.
All in all a good list of birds for the time of year but nevertheless one that we had to work quite hard for. The journey back to the coast was undertaken with the help of a can of Red Bull as by this stage tiredness was becoming an issue.
Species list – Black-necked Grebe, Little Egret, Greater Flamingo, Shelduck, Gadwall, Mallard, Red-crested Pochard, Red Kite, Marsh Harrier, Buzzard, Golden Eagle, Kestrel, Lesser Kestrel, Moorhen, Coot, Great Bustard, Avocet, Black-winged Stilt, Stone Curlew, Little-ringed Plover, Kentish Plover, Lapwing, Ruff, Black-tailed Godwit, Redshank, Green Sandpiper, Black-headed Gull, Gull-billed Tern, Whiskered Tern, Pin-tailed Sandgrouse, Rock Dove, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Little Owl, Swift, Pallid Swift, Hoopoe, Bee-eater, Iberian Green Woodpecker, Woodlark, Crested Lark, Calandra Lark, Greater Short-toed Lark, Swallow, Red-rumped Swallow, Yellow Wagtail, White Wagtail, Black Wheatear, Black-eared Wheatear, Blackbird, Mistle Thrush, Great Reed Warbler, Bonelli’s Warbler, Magpie, Woodchat Shrike, Jackdaw, Carrion Crow, Spotless Starling, Golden Oriole, House Sparrow, Tree Sparrow, Rock Sparrow, Serin, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch and Linnet.