Yecla – Malcolm Palmer

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On the 9th April, six members of the Costa Blanca Bird Club met at Yecla for an unofficial field trip. After several days of murky brown, misty sky, with everything covered in dust, it was pleasing to see sharp outlines of the surrounding hills, against a clear blue sky. When we disembarked for a first scan across the plains of the ZEPA, (Zona especial de protección de aves – bird protection zone) it was distinctly chilly – quite a shock in this ridiculously warm spring. 

We moved out onto the stoney tracks, and immediately had a view of the famous barn. This old stone building has been designated as ‘home’ for a growing colony of Lesser Kestrels – and they were everywhere! Feeding on the grassy field, among growing crops, perched on stones beside the track, going in and out of the nestboxes provided just below the eaves, and flying around in typical fashion, chasing insects. These were the birds we had come to see.

On we went, and soon we had views of the impressively large Calandra Larks, plentiful on these plains, as well as a good many Thekla Larks and, David’s ‘Merlin app’ insisted, Crested Larks as well. Carrion Crows – almost absent from Alicante, so something of an annual novelty for some of us, were feeding on the fields, but we had to search for a while before we saw another of our ‘target’ species – a pair of Pin-tailed Sandgrouse, which gave us good views.

There was a dearth of migrants in general – I think we were a shade early for several species, and it was a while before we  came across  no less than five Northern Wheatears perched on a bank of stones. A little further on Barry’s sharp eyes spotted a Black-eared Wheatear, but only about half of us shared his good fortune. A little Owl was also spotted, as well as a considerable movement of Common Swifts, including at least one Pallid Swift.

We headed for lunch at the faithful La Langüetera restaurant in Caudete – and very nice too!