The sudden downpour that greeted members when we sallied forth from the roadside stop near Almansa didn’t augur well for the day’s birding for some twenty intrepid members of the Costa Blanca Bird Club who had made the longish journey. Neither did the intensely black sky as we climbed to the plateau where we convened at Bonete. We went ahead, however, cutting down on the number of cars as much as possible, before setting off in the rain towards Pétrola.
The weather abated as we reached the lagoon, and two Ringed Plovers and a Common Sandpiper were on the shore, whilst Gadwall and Spotted Redshank were seen way over the other side. On a pylon back across the fields, an eagle perched, and some debate ensued as to its identity, but when it flew, it was clearly a sub-adult Golden Eagle. A nice Tree Sparrow perched on a wall as we headed back to the road.
We then took surprisingly well-kept tracks – unaffected by the huge amount of recent rain – to a vantage point, where, although Black-bellied Sandgrouse were heard, we saw none, but the big prize was there, in the form of two good flocks of Great Bustard, affording excellent views, and even a chance for some photography. A few Northern Wheatears were about, and a Buzzard flew over, then another Golden Eagle was glimpsed as we returned to Bonete, near where a Southern Grey Shrike was seen.
We took the motorway down to Caudete, for a very good lunch at the reliable restaurante Lengüetera, then Stephan and Els took over to lead us onto the Yecla plains.
Initially rather disappointing, despite much-improved weather, with nothing more than the odd Wheatear and a few Thekla Larks, we were pleased to run across another biggish flock of Great Bustards – around thirty there must have been – which gave us good views as they flew.
Returning towards the road, Stephan screeched to a halt and pointed out a male Peregrine, busy plucking a pigeon in the middle of a field – he was later joined by his mate. A big mixed flock of Calandra Larks and Skylarks put a nice finish to the day’s proceedings. It had been, by common consent, a successful day.