It may have been the distance, but it certainly wasn’t the weather – whatever the reason, there was only a sparse attendance of eleven for the Costa Blanca Bird Club’s November field trip to the steppes of Yecla. We met at Caudete on a crisp, sunny morning and drove in three cars to the border of Murcia province. (the distinct deterioration in the road surface announces your arrival there!) As we turned off onto the stony tracks a pair of Carrion Crows showed up, then David and one or two others saw a distant Great Bustard flying, then landing somewhere beyond a copse. We sought another view in vain!
Two Common Buzzards gave distant views, and when we arrived on the more agricultural plain, a huge flock of Calandra Larks, accompanied by a few Skylarks, gave good views. At least two Little Owls were seen on piles of rocks, and Black Redstarts were not difficult to find. I was pleased to see a Wren on another jumbled heap of stones, but there was no sign of the hoped-for sandgrouse. A little further on a Meadow Pipit, then a Lesser Short-toed Lark put in an appearance, but meanwhile Karsten was busy taking a good flight shot of an adult Golden Eagle! We turned onto the track leading to Caudete, and were instantly rewarded by the sight of a huge flock of Red-billed Chough – we reckoned there must have been 150 in all, with a few Jackdaws mixed in. we made our way to Caudete then, for a good lunch at El Lengüetero.
Afterwards some members made their way home, whilst the rest of us headed back to the fringes of the ZEPA. (That stands for zona especial de protección de las aves – bird protection area, by the way). Our persistence was rewarded. First of all David spotted a Black Wheatear, perched on the fence, then Gary found a well-camouflaged group of Rock Sparrows feeding nearby. Never a predictable species, they can be quite hard to find, so this was a nice way to wind up what had been a pleasant, if not particularly productive day.