Field Trip – Sierra Espuña to Cabo de Gata – Malcolm Palmer

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CBBC Four Day Trip – Part One – It was, although I say it who shouldn’t, a not inconsiderable feat to assemble fourteen souls at Alhama de Murcia at precisely ten o’clock on a gorgeous February morning for the start of our five-car journey. We set off up the treacherous hairpins of the Sierra Espuña, stopping at the Visitor Centre, where we were lucky enough to get great views of the often-elusive Firecrests, and also ‘tick off’ Crested Tit. Rather higher up, Crossbill obliged, then we drove to the highest areas, and set off on the long walk to the ice-houses. A good number of Griffon Vultures sailed over. A Mistle Thrush was soon seen, but the walk proved too much for some old bones (including mine) – so some of us missed out on the Ring Ouzels, a Redwing, and the glimpse of a Hawfinch that Kathy obtained. Those of us who remained behind had some compensation in the form of a couple of Chough and a Raven.

We dropped down to Totana, and took the motorway south towards Almería, lunching en route. When we arrived at the coast, a northerly breeze suggested a seawatch, and the Cabo de Gata was duly visited. A Black Wheatear flew up and down the cliff, but most eyes were on the sea, where Audouin’s Gulls flew past, and the odd adult Gannet was seen some way out. More interesting were quite good numbers of Balearic Shearwaters, heading northwards, quite close under the cliff, in flocks sometimes numbering up to twenty. We checked the nearby barranco for any sign of migrants, then headed for the Salinas. To be continued…………