We collected Bryan and set off for our annual visit to Petrola. This time we decided to take a look at the Yecla area on the way so we left the motorway just after the Villena tunnel and followed the signs towards Yecla, seeing a Mistle Thrush on the way. Just outside Yecla we followed signs for Almansa and joined the RM426. Driving along this road we saw Corn Buntings, Goldfinches and Crested Larks. About 5km along this road, by a yellow house, we turned right onto a track. There were 8 -10 Calandra Larks in the fields giving us the occasional great view as they sat up for a while. We continued along until we were level with a farm building on our left where we could see several birds in the air. We had a good look at them through binoculars and Bryan took a few photos which helped us to decide they were all Lesser Kestrels, a great bird to see. We continued along the track seeing and hearing many Corn Buntings, and a Green Woodpecker called, and was then spotted against the trunk of a tree.
Serin and Magpie joined the list and we examined several Crested Larks to see if they could be Thekla Larks, which Bryan thought some probably were. We saw a Black Wheatear perched on top of a rock and further along the track we saw a Little Owl in a small copse of trees. We continued along this track for several kilometres until we eventually re-joined the motorway towards Albacete, taking the Bonete turn-off.
When we left the motorway we turned left towards Higueruela and had a short stop on top of the railway bridge to scan for birds, but all was quiet. Just before the village we turned left onto a track. As we drove along I spotted a bird on a log and we were all pretty pleased to see it was a Black eared Wheatear and it was posing nicely for photos! We continued up to our usual track towards Petrola seeing a Great tit, and another Green Woodpecker on a tree trunk. We continued along this track for a while before we spotted a Northern Wheatear giving us three types of Wheatear for the day. As we arrived above the lagoon near the end of the road we watched several Marsh Harriers hunting over the reeds. The lagoon held Mallard, Pochard, Shelduck and Black winged Stilt and a few Lapwings flew around nearby. From here we headed to the Petrola lagoons where we ate our lunch and saw very few birds.
The final part of our trip took us from Petrola along a track we always follow towards Corral Rubio. John pointed out 2 Little Owls sitting on some rocks near the road side and we could hear various Larks on the fields. Just as Bryan was saying that we hadn’t ‘had a sniff’ of a Great Bustard, John spotted two on the ground up ahead and a few more flew over the track to join the others. Brilliant! I was also beginning to worry we might not see my main target bird. As we got out of the car and scanned around we counted two separate groups of ten Great Bustards, including a male which appeared to be displaying. In the past we have seen groups of over 60 Great Bustards so I hope they are not in trouble.
We continued along the track towards the water at the end where we found a few Pochards, Red crested Pochards, Shovelers, Avocets and Flamingos along with some Lapwings, a Snipe and a Marsh Harrier. We weren’t able to follow this track to the road as it was flooded so we turned round and headed back past the Great Bustards and up onto the road to Corral Rubio. We passed through the village towards Bonete seeing good numbers of Rock Sparrow sitting on the wires near to some farm buildings on the way. From there we headed back to the motorway, and after a short coffee stop set off for home. It had been a great day with lovely weather, a good variety of species and some top quality birds. Well worth the journey of around 200 miles for the round trip.