Corral-Rubio Field Trip – Malcolm Palmer

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Again blessed with a fine morning, members of the Costa Blanca Bird Club met just outside Almansa to attend to caffeine levels before heading for Corral Rubio, on the rolling plains of Albacete. There we managed to leave a couple of cars before making for Pétrola’s ‘theoretical’ lagoon, which this year has dried up to the point where it consists of a few small salty puddles!

We were, however, lucky enough to see Kentish and Ringed Plover there, as well as Lapwing, Shelduck and Avocet, whilst nearby, a lovely pair of Yellow Wagtails gave good views. A hunting Golden Eagle, with half of its tail missing came into view, and we had brief views of a Montagu’s Harrier too before we headed off to try our luck on the plains.

At first we saw very little, but then water provided by sprinklers changed all that, and we watched a nice Whinchat, then a Northern Wheatear, as well as Corn Buntings and several Calandra Larks.  

Usually on such trips, the people in the front car see birds that those behind miss. On this occasion, Greta, some way behind our leading car, was fortunate to get a splendid view of some eight Great Bustards, whilst we in the ‘lead car’ had to be content with a single male, strutting across a field further on.  

We did have a further glimpse of just the head of one Great Bustard as we made our way to Corral Rubio, but nearby, our attention was diverted to a wheeling bird we thought was a Honey Buzzard overhead. Photos proved it to be no more than a Marsh Harrier! More Calandra Larks were seen, this time giving good, close views.

We enjoyed an excellent lunch at ‘inland prices’ at the Rincón de Blas, in Corral Rubio, then most of us set off to drive past Bonete, and along narrow lanes to the north of the motorway, where last year we had seen several Golden Eagles and various other birds. No such luck, so we headed for the rudimentary ‘railway station,’ from where we watched a male Marsh Harrier hunting, but then someone’s sharp eyes spotted a head protruding above some weeds. Discussion ensued as to whether this was a Little or a Great Bustard – at first it looked too small for the latter, but then the whole bird emerged, then another – two more Great Bustards! Quite a day!