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13dec-02Today at 9.30, we left for the road and over an hour later we arrived at Petrola in the province of Castilla la Mancha. The first village we hit was Bonete. It was bitter, with a cold strong wind, and we found a large flock of Rock Sparrow, over 200. A few miles out along the N430, we stopped and had a scan for our target species. Within seconds, I picked up 16 Great Bustard in the distance. We drove a little closer and scope views were had by all. However, they were too far for the camera. Nevertheless, I was very happy, but we both had no idea what would happen later in the day. We continued on the main road, stopping off to scan the many pools at the side of the road along the way, and then pulled into a farm. Here there were Black Redstarts, Corn Buntings and good numbers of Crested Lark with 50+ being the largest flock. At the end of the day we must have seen well over 300 birds. At Laguna de Petrola, one of the largest lakes, there was 1 male Pintail, 4 Water Pipit, 21 Pochard, 150+ Teal, 30 Lapwing, 2 Ruff and Green Sandpiper, 7 Marsh Harrier and well over 700 Shoveler. The most that I’ve ever seen. All the ducks were distant, but when we looked out from the hide, there directly in front of us were, 4 White headed Duck, including a cracking male.

Everything was going well and when we took a dirt track nearby towards Correl Rubio, we were rewarded with over 200 Calandra Lark. They were very mobile and only flight shots were taken. A few miles up the track and aBlack bellied Sandgrouse flew SW overhead. Magic! We thought that it was a good idea to return and see if the bustards were feeding closer to the road. They were, but now there were 35 in total! As we drove away from the bustards, I spotted a Ring tailed Hen Harrier flying away from us. Back at Bonete we took another dirt track. For five minutes it was all quiet, until Bryan shouted, “Great Bustards”! I think that’s what he said. Just 150 yards in front of us were 11 birds looking very wary. Sure enough, they slowly lifted from the ground and gracefully flew across the fields, showing off the large amount of white in their wings. Double Magic! ‘Oh there’s a Hoopoe,’ well we couldn’t go through the day without seeing one. As we drove past the bird, 11 of these birds got up and flew further down the road! A flock of Hoopoe! It just couldn’t get any better. We also saw 2 Merlin, 3 Mistle Thrush,large flocks of Magpie, 3 Buzzard and lots of Kestrel. It was a great day out, despite it being bloody freezing. Bar the Pin tailed Sandgrouse, we got all the other target birds we were after and might return to try again in the next few days.