Sixteen members of the Costa Blanca Bird Club met just outside Yecla for their February outing on a pleasant, sunny morning.
As is our custom, we made for the ‘steppe’ area which lies between Yecla and Almansa, straddling the provinces of Murcia and Albacete, and enjoys a certain degree of protection, due to its status as a ‘ZEPA’ (Zona Especial de Protección de las Aves)
We immediately started to see Thekla Larks in good numbers, and there was no lack of small birds, with flocks of Linnets and Goldfinches, as well as many Eurasian Starlings present. The big, impressive Calandra Larks were soon in evidence, and it was also clear that numbers of Black Redstarts were unusually high. The absence of any raptors was noted, especially in view of the abundance of Rabbits, and only solitary Kestrels and Buzzards were seen. A few Red-legged Partridges were spotted, but as we approached some more wooded areas, we noted an unusual number of thrushes. Timid Song Thrushes gave little opportunity of investigation – there being always the possibility of a Redwing amongst them – but the larger Mistle Thrushes were easier to see. A small number of Tree Sparrows were also found.
Further on and two huge Ravens were added to our list, as well as their smaller relatives, the Carrion Crow. But then, as we thought we may have failed completely, and while some of the party were busy watching a Little Owl, six Black-bellied Sandgrouse rose from a field near our track and flew off high to the east, whilst simultaneously, four Pin-tailed Sandgrouse rose from the some field and flew off in the opposite direction, calling loudly. A feeding party of some 16 Red-billed Chough were nearby – things were definitely looking up!
As we made our way to lunch at Caudete, the trend continued, at least for the two lead cars – as after a Buzzard had flown close overhead, a Merlin whizzed across the road in front of us (they always seem to be travelling at Mach2!). Lunch was a pleasant, sociable affair at La Lengüetera, after which some of us retraced our steppes (pun intended) and were lucky enough to add a Corn Bunting to our list, as well as seeing more Chough. It had been a largely successful day.