Villena, Yecla, Petrola – Malcolm Palmer

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An Eventful Day – It started with Barry getting held up in a massive traffic jam, then we set off in thick fog! It soon cleared, however, and when we reached Villena, and drove out on a rather dodgy track, we surprised what was for me a new species for Alicante Province – Pin-tailed Sandgrouse – 33 of them! There was also a pair of Calandra Larks – another bird which is hard to find in these parts. We moved on to the ZEPA (bird protection zone) at Yecla and soon saw several pairs of newly arrived Lesser Kestrels, occupying the nestboxes set for them on a farmhouse. More Calandra Larks were present, and there was also a Lesser Short-toed Lark – now quite scarce in our region. Skylarks and Mistle Thrush were also there. A nice Black Wheatear posed as we left the area and drove onwards to the lonely plains of Albacete.

Once there, we struggled to find a restaurant open, it being a Monday, so we had to retrace our steps a little, but ate well once we found a roadside eatery. Back at the lagoon, little stirred in the strong wind that now blew, so we moved out across the plain, seeing a Marsh Harrier and several Common Cranes. As we continued along the stony track, I heard an ominous noise – a puncture! We had more than a little ‘fun’ and help from two very decent local guys changing the wheel, then had to take a slow run to Almansa on a temporary wheel. We arrived home somewhat late. But during our ‘entertainment’ with the wheel, Barry had counted no less than 115 Cranes!