San Pedro del Pinatar and Sierra Altaona

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22march-01Today we planned to explore a new area of mountains to the south of the Sierra Escalona but decided to call at San Pedro del Pinatar on the way. We arrived at the salinas and drove to the car park by the beach. I had heard that Black eared Wheatear had been seen here a few days ago and was keen to add that species to my year list. We walked along the boardwalk to the beach where a pair of Audouin’s Gulls were resting on the shore line. A survey of the scrubby area found a male and female Sardinian Warbler and a Skylark but little else. We walked back towards the car park and had a look at the lagoon and the water channel, whilst keeping an eye on the scrub. After a while John spotted a bird on the fence which on closer inspection turned out to be a Northern Wheatear, which would have been a good bird for us if we hadn’t seen lots of them at Petrola just a few days before! We moved on to the next car park and had a walk round the boardwalk adding Southern Grey Shrike, Serin and Greenfinch to the list. On the way back along the track we found a few Sanderlings, a Little Stint and a Turnstone at the edge of the water. We stopped once more along the road and saw most of the regulars on the lagoon, namely Greater Flamingo, Avocet, Black winged Stilt, Shelduck, Black headed Gull, Slender billed Gull, Redshank, Black necked Grebe, and Yellow legged Gull. Our final stop was at the end of the road by the water channel. We were looking for the Dowitcher that had been seen here recently but sadly we didn’t find it. We did, however, see a Kingfisher perched on an overhanging Palm branch which stayed there allowing us to see it well through the scope.

22march-02Next we set off inland, past the town of Sucina and got a bit lost! After a brief ‘heated discussion’ we decided to head for Cabezo de la Plata and work back. Once in this village it was easy to find the F48 road which goes over the mountain. This proved to be a very pretty route with great views. The road was narrow and winding but generally not too bad. After a while we saw a pull in at the side of the road, and there was a small bird on the fence. John pulled in and we got the bins on the bird. Would you believe it? It was only the sought after Black eared Wheatear! The bird was not where we had expected to see it, although I know they like mountains and rocky places so it was probably not that unusual, it was just that, not having seen it at San Pedro I thought we had missed out. Happy Days! We got the chairs out of the car boot and had our picnic lunch here, watching Jackdaws flying over and listening to a Cuckoo calling somewhere down below us but keeping well hidden as always. After lunch we continued along the mountain road, stopping periodically to look for the birds we could hear calling, but finding them proved to be an impossible task in all the pine trees. As we started to descend the other side of the mountain we passed a large meadow where two large black birds were on the ground. I nearly didn’t say anything but decided they could be of interest so asked John to stop the car in a gateway. We got out to examine the birds and, sure enough they were Chough another bird that had been on my wishlist. We left the mountain and continued on our route. At one point we saw a couple of birds on a wire and stopped to have a look. One was a House Sparrow but the other turned out to be a Woodchat Shrike, another summer visitor to add to my year list. From here we went to find a small gorge a bit further on but didn’t stay long, promising to re-visit the area again sometime in the future. We headed home, tired but happy, after another great day out.

22march-03Species List – Little Grebe, Black necked Grebe, Cormorant, Little Egret, Cattle Egret, Grey Heron, Greater Flamingo, Shelduck, Mallard, Kestrel, Red legged Partridge, Moorhen, Black winged Stilt, Avocet, Sanderling, Little Stint, Turnstone, Redshank, Black headed gull, Slender billed Gull, Yellow legged Gull, Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Cuckoo (HO), Pallid Swift, Kingfisher, Hoopoe, Skylark, Crested Lark, Sand Martin, Swallow, White Wagtail, Black Redstart, Black eared Wheatear, Wheatear, Blackbird, Sardinian Warbler, Southern Grey Shrike, Woodchat Shrike, Spotless Starling, Chough, Jackdaw, House Sparrow, Greenfinch, Serin, Goldfinch.