It was touch and go whether we would manage to go on our planned three day trip as John had really bad toothache during the weekend. We set off, however, on the motorway towards Albacete, seeing Southern Grey Shrike, Buzzard and Spotless Starlings along the A31. After a short coffee stop near Bonete, we passed through Corral Rubio and drove on towards Petrola. A little way out of Corral Rubio we pulled onto a track to check out some shapes in a field. They were Great Bustards, about 14 of them and a good start.
On a small lagoon on our left we saw lots of Coot, a few Mallard and Pochard and a Lesser Black backed Gull. We arrived at the crossroads for Petrola and turned left and immediately left again onto our usual track. There was nothing around until we reached the place where we normally turn left again, when I spotted more Great Bustards up ahead. We turned right so we could see the birds better and I counted 24 initially, and then saw another group which meant there were up to 40 birds in total. John reversed the car and we went along our planned route, eventually joining up with the road to Petrola again, seeing a Kestrel and a few Crows on the way.
At the crossroads this time we turned right and then turned onto the track along the right hand side of the Petrola lagoon. This can sometimes be very productive for waders, but sadly not today, with Reed Bunting and Water Pipit being the only sightings. We turned round and headed for the track along the other side of the lagoon where our first bird was a single Lapwing, quickly followed by a Common Snipe. Further along the road we could see the lagoon where there were 7 Greater Flamingo and a few Shelduck. We stopped along this track to eat our picnic lunch while Goldfinches and other small birds flew around.
After lunch we set off towards Chinchilla where we passed a small lagoon holding more Coot plus plenty of Shoveler and a few Gadwall. A Marsh Harrier was hunting over the water. As we continued along towards Ruidera, a Booted Eagle flew overhead and another unidentified raptor was flying nearby. Near to Munera I spotted a Red Kite, and a Red legged Partridge ran across the road in front of us, nearly getting run over in the process!
We arrived in Ruidera where we were staying for two nights. After locating our apartment we followed the sign to Lagunas de Ruidera, a road which took us along the side of the Laguna de Rey. As we drove along we flushed a bird from the ground which John said looked blue and I saw a white front. Could it have been an Azure winged Magpie? We had seen one when we drove along the road that passes through Ruidera on our way back from Extremadura in May. We thought then that this must be about the furthest east that these birds go, apart from the small colony in Torrevieja. Later we came back along the same bit of road and flushed several birds which were indeed Azure winged Magpies, more than 10 of them.
Still exploring the area we drove across the bridge and turned down a track by the cemetery where we found a Grey Wagtail in a large puddle. We took a short walk along this track and could hear fast flowing water and eventually came to a viewpoint for a quite impressive waterfall. We retraced our steps to visit a mirador which gave great views over the lagoons and turned out to be right next to our apartment. Finally we checked in and settled into our comfortable accommodation for the evening.