Petrola, Ruidera and the Tablas de Daimiel – 17th to 20th May

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Last week we had a few days away in Ruidera, staying in the excellent Apartmentos Las Panchos. On the way there on Tueday we detoured around the tracks from Corral Rubio to Petrola but we saw very few birds, partly because the grass is quite high at this time of year. We put a few birds on our trip list though, including Bee eater, Red crested Pochard, Skylark, Calandra Lark, Corn Bunting, and a new bird for us in the form of a Gull billed Tern, of which there were many. At the Petrola lagoons there were, amongst other things, numerous Greater Flamingo along with  Common Sandpiper, Redshank, Great Reed Warbler and two Grey Wagtails.

After a picnic lunch by the lagoon we continued our journey towards Ruidera seeing a few birds along the road, such as, Buzzard, Crested Lark and a Black eared Wheatear. We arrived at Ruidera a little early to get into our apartment so we parked by the cemetery and walked along the path to the Hundimiento (waterfall). As soon as we arrived at the falls John started yelling (quietly) and pointing at a Golden Oriole perched on top of a small tree to the right of the falls. What a great view, it was just a pity we had both left our cameras in the car! We first stayed in Ruidera in November and had discussed the fact that the river here being lined with Poplar trees, in a relatively undisturbed area, would be an obvious habitat for Golden Orioles. It turned out we were right! We set off for our apartment agreeing to re-visit this place again on Thursday.

On Wednesday we drove the one hour journey to the Tablas de Daimiel nature reserve. We parked at the visitor centre and walked along the blue route to the big viewing tower, stopping at various hides along the way. In one hide there were many Swallow’s nests and several Swallows tried to enter the hide while we were there, only to fly away again when they saw us. We got very close views of the birds perched on a nearby branch before we left so that they could get back into their nests. The lagoons didn’t hold many birds apart from a few ducks and grebes. Walking along the paths we heard plenty of bird song, including Great Reed Warblers, Reed Warblers and lots of Cetti’s Warblers which seemed to be everywhere. Other birds appearing in good numbers were Corn Buntings and Stonechats. The reserve itself looked lovely with many fields of poppies and other wild flowers. We arrived at the viewing tower and climbed to the top from where we saw two Great White Egrets, a Purple Heron and several Marsh Harriers, both male and female. We returned along the path seeing and hearing the same species already seen. We ate lunch by the visitor centre adding Tree Sparrow and a few other small birds to our list.

After lunch we walked along the yellow route which took us across some boardwalks and over to an island in the lagoon. On the way a couple of Greylag Geese, a Purple Heron and a Night Heron, flew over. No other new species were seen but Stonechats, Cetti’s Warblers, Reed Warblers and Great Reed Wablers were in evidence once again. we drove back and parked in the first car park in the reserve so that we could look a the White Storks. There were several of the birds nesting in the trees, some with young in the nest. It was great to watch these birds as they flew around the area and to listen to their noisy bill clacking. We set off back to Ruidera having enjoyed a great visit to the reserve. On route a Stone Curlew and two Golden Oriole flew over the road in front of us.

On Thursday we were having a day around Ruidera and the lagoons. We set off to the cemetery again and walked along the path past the waterfall, seeing a Blackcap and a Nightingale in the trees. We were looking and listening all the time for our target bird the Golden Oriole. We could soon hear several of the birds calling and when we reached a bend in the path we saw two fly across the trees and one landed at the top of a dead tree giving us the best views we had ever had. Amazing! When the bird flew away we continued our walk and could hear them calling all along our route. Another Golden Oriole was spotted near to an old building as it flew away and landed on a small tree on top of the hill, perching there for several minutes so that we were able to admire it. We walked along a bit further meeting a party of noisy school children coming the other way, so much for this place being undisturbed! When the children had passed we could hear a Cuckoo calling continuously but we didn’t manage to see it. We returned the same way, stopping several times to enjoy more views of Golden Orioles along the way. We must have had at least 10 sightings of maybe 6 birds in total. On the way back a large bird in the air some way away was identified as a Griffon Vulture.

We left the cemetery and drove along the edge of the lagoons until we found a place to eat our picnic lunch. It was a lovely wooded area next to one of the many lagoons. We could again hear Golden Orioles calling along with many other woodland species. After lunch we continued our drive by the lagoons, stopping on the way for photos and finishing up at a dead end where we stopped for a rest. On the way back I remarked that we hadn’t seen an Azure winged Magpie yet and I was getting worried. Not long after we saw one land in a tree at the roadside and I was able to get a close up photo from the car as the bird peered through the leaves. Another good bird for the list.

We left Ruidera on Friday morning and headed back towards home. We stopped in Petrola for a coffee before setting off back across the tracks to see what we could find. As it turned out not a lot, although we did manage to see a single Great Bustard which was less than we usually see but I suppose we only needed one! As we passed the small lagoon on our way back to the road we saw the small colony of Gull billed Terns again, along with Lapwing, Red crested Pochard, Shelduck, Coot, Black winged Stilt, Mallard, Great Reed Warbler and Marsh Harrier. We headed back to the road and along through Corral Rubio and towards Bonete. We decided to continue to Higuerella. On the way we stopped by the railway bridge where we saw a large raptor being mopped by crows and were able to identify it, by the pale underwing patches and the white band on the tail, as a young Golden Eagle. We we ate lunch under some trees listening to yet another Golden Oriole. After lunch we drove across the track to Petrola where there was a distinct absence of birds, other than the odd Lark, Crow and Hoopoe. Finally we headed home having had a great few days away, with our Pyrenees trip still to look forward to.

Species list – Great Crested Grebe, Little Grebe, Cormorant, Night Heron, Great White Egret, Little Egret, Cattle Egret, Purple Heron, Grey Heron, White Stork, Greater Flamingo, Greylag Goose, Shelduck, Mallard, Pochard, Red crested Pochard, Griffon Vulture, Marsh Harrier, Buzzard, Golden Eagle, Kestrel, Red legged Partridge, Coot, Moorhen, Great Bustard, Stone Curlew, Black winged Stilt, Avocet, Common Sandpiper, Redshank, Lapwing, Black headed Gull, Gull billed Tern, Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Cuckoo (HO), Little Owl, Swift, Bee eater, Hoopoe, Skylark, Crested Lark, Calandra Lark, Swallow, Red rumped Swallow, House Martin, Grey Wagtail, White Wagtail, Nightingale, Stonechat, Black eared Wheatear, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Cetti’s Warbler, Reed Warbler, Great Reed Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Blackcap, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Southern Grey Shrike, Spotless Starling, Golden Oriole, Magpie, Azure winged Magpie, Crow, House Sparrow, Tree Sparrow, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Serin, Goldfinch, Corn Bunting.