Petrola/Corral Rubio Field Trip – Malcolm Palmer

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Thursday 11th May

The morning looked distinctly unpromising when thirteen members of the Costa Blanca Bird Club met near Almansa for their May outing. The sky was grey, light rain was falling, and it was remarkably chilly. Undaunted, we set out, after attending to caffeine levels, and made our way to Corral Rubio, where we were able to leave two cars – always a good idea when you are negotiating minor roads and tracks. The weather was improving.

Our first destination was the lagoon of Pétrola, where water levels were very low, but this seemed not to affect the many Gull-billed Terns that flew around. At a distance, we saw Ringed Plover, Avocet, Glossy Ibis, Flamingo and Black-winged Stilt, whilst on the water were Black-necked Grebe and Gadwall. A large raptor proved impossible to identify.

Moving off into dry ‘steppe’ country we saw several Corn Buntings and many Crested Larks, a few of the larger and impressive Calandra Larks, then a solitary Whinchat perched obligingly on a post. We found our way to an area of tamarisk bushes, which produced some of the day’s best birding – several Spotted Flycatchers and Yellow Wagtails flew busily in and out of the bushes, and I managed to get a brief look at one Pied Flycatcher too. A Greater Short-toed Lark gave excellent views as it perched beside the track. But our attention soon moved skywards, and first a fine male Montagu’s Harrier flew by, but was then intercepted by a male Marsh Harrier. A Buzzard was also seen.

We took lunch at the splendid Rincón de Blas, in Corral Rubio, which everyone voted a success, then we headed north, under the motorway and out into the agricultural areas. Corn Buntings were everywhere, and we soon saw a nice Tree Sparrow on the roadside fence. But When I called a halt because I saw a distant Cuckoo perched on a fence, eyes were not on that bird, but peering northwards as a fine Golden Eagle came into view, followed by another………and another……and eventually we counted five Golden Eagles, one of which caught a Rabbit, flew up with it, dropped it, flew down to retrieve it and was frightened off – by a Magpie! Several Griffon Vultures also sailed over and another Buzzard was seen. Altogether a great day for raptors.

Golden Eagle by Bryan Thomas©