Thursday, October 13, 2011

This year, October is proving to be a summer month! Each day has peaked at around 30 degrees so far. With that in mind, I ventured into one of my favourite mountain valleys in the province of Alicante to spend a couple of hours in the shade and to see what was around.
The summer theme continued as the first bird that I saw upon leaving the car was a male Whinchat perched in a nearby bush. There were still quite a few Swallows passing by too.
As I made my way into the gorge, I enjoyed close views of Black Redstart, Sardinian Warbler, Chiffchaff, Blackcap and Coal Tits.
As I sat in the shade, the silence of the gorge was wonderful – only interrupted by the occasional call of a Wren.

I decided to take the easy way out and to sit and wait for the birds to come to me! Within 10 minutes I was fortunate to watch closely as up to 7 Black Wheatears worked their way down the cliffs, the flash of white tail feathers betraying their presence.

I also spotted a Short Toed Treecreeper methodically working up the trunk of an old pine tree. A few Golfinches passed by as did a Grey Wagtail.
I then made my way further up into the gorge. The effort was rewarded by great views of hundreds of Crag Martins and a pair of Ravens high on the cliffs.

Griffon Vultures
My target bird then came into view, followed by another, and another until I could count up to 17 Griffon Vultures. The sheer size of them dwarfed anything else in sight, and to sit there in the shade of the cliffs watching such magnificent birds majestically soaring through the crystal clear blue skies was magical.
Unfortunately, time was pressing on and other engagements meant that I had to leave the peace of this beautiful spot…but for sure I´ll return. What a great way to pass a couple of hours.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

 Having enjoyed the Valencian Coastal Wetlands Trip, Christine & Nick were keen to spend another day´s birding. Their preferred option was the Steppe & Lagoon Trip as Great Bustard and Little Bustard were targets for their Life List.
We arrived on the plains of Castilla de la Mancha in glorious sunshine despite a cooling early morning breeze. Having enjoyed a breakfast of coffee and toast in a local cafĂ© we explored an area of reed bed and marsh adjoining some cereal fields.  Our first bird of the morning was a Corn Bunting, which was followed by an Iberian Grey Shrike and then a Whinchat. Having spent a while scanning the fields, we saw Crested Lark in good numbers plus a steady stream of passing Swallows.

We then set off across the plains in search of the target birds of the day. Kestrels were plentiful as were Wheatear. Patience was eventually rewarded with close-up views of a female Little Bustard. However, despite our optimism, we failed to find the Great Bustards.
Lunch time was approaching so we decided to picnic by a favourite lagoon. During a leisurely lunch we were able to enjoy great views of Flamingo, Wood Sandpiper, Black Necked Grebe, Shelduck, Avocet and one of my personal favourites, White Headed Duck. A little later, a Snipe dropped in as did Ringed Plover, Black Redstart and Black Winged Stilt. We also had good views of a Marsh Harrier.

After lunch, a gentle walk across the high plains gave good views of Buzzard, Mistle Thrush, Lapwing and more Crested Larks. Not wishing to give up on the Great Bustard, we returned to the Steppe for further searching. Our efforts were rewarded by close views of Red Legged Partridge, more Wheatear and a flock of 12-15 Dotterel. Having apparently failed yet again to find the Great Bustards we conceded that we´d had a great day and that it was time to head for home.
Having driven for 10 minutes back towards the motorway, something caught my eye in the roadside fields. What a superb ending to a great day – right beside us was a group of 14 Great Bustards, calmly feeding amongst the stubble. We parked safely off the road and got ourselves into an inconspicuous position to enjoy them without disturbing them. We remained there for a further 20 minutes, watching these huge birds as they proudly roamed around the field before they took flight and moved off across the plains. What a great way to end the day.

The list for the day totaled 32 species and comprised…
Crow, House Sparrow, Swallow, Magpie, Kestrel, Crested Lark, Whinchat, Corn Bunting, Iberian Grey Shrike, Black Redstart, Wood Sandpiper, Goldfinch, Wheatear, Little Bustard, Buzzard, Lapwing, Greater Flamingo, Black Necked Grebe, Shelduck, Dotterel, Great Bustard, Mallard, Coot, White Headed Duck, Shoveler, Ringed Plover, Black Winged Stilt, Snipe, Avocet, Marsh Harrier, Mistle Thrush, Red Legged Partridge.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

 Together with Nick & Christine from Barnsley, South Yorkshire we spent a full day walking around the coastal wetlands of Valencia.  Despite being into October, the weather was still hot and dry so we were all interested to see what was still lingering and what new visitors had arrived.
The day proved to be very interesting.  Our first sightings of note included a Reed Warbler and Marsh Harrier.  As we sat overlooking one of my favourite lagoons, our patience was rewarded with excellent views of White Headed Duck, Purple Gallinule, Fan Tailed Warbler and Little Ringed Plover.
We walked across the reedbeds and enjoyed Whinchat, Wheatear, Sardinian Warbler, Stonechat, Redstart and Bluethroat.  Our picnic lunch by another body of water was complimented by super views of the usually elusive Water Rail.  A Glossy Ibis flew over as did a Lapwing plus hundreds of Barn Swallows, in amongst which were a few Red Rumped Swallows.

As we continued the walk across the reserve, we had great views of Iberian Grey Shrike, and watched as the movements of Swifts, Sand Martins and Swallows continued.  We were fortunate enough to pick out a handful of Pallid Swifts in amongs them too.
The final stop at another lake provided a great ending to the day with super views of Ringed Plover, Dunlin, Shelduck, Sandpiper, Greater Flamingo and Kingfisher.
The list for the day totalled 50 species.  We were all pretty tired and hot but had enjoyed a great day´s birding.  The complete list for the day comprised…
Coot, Moorhen, Little Grebe, Kingfisher, Herring Gull, Marsh Harrier, White Headed Duck, Black Winged Stilt, Little Egret, Shoveler, Black Headed Gull, Purple Gallinule, Fan Tailed Warbler, Grey Heron, Water Rail, Little Ringed Plover, Redshank, Whinchat, House Sparrow, Wheatear, Flamingo, Sardinian Warbler, Stonechat, Redstart, magpie, Wood Pigeon, Glossy Ibis, Kestrel, Bluethroat, Stock Dove, Swift Swallow, Iberian Grey Shrike, Red Rumped Swallow, Palid Swift, Goldfinch, Hoopoe, Cattle Egret, Spotless Starling, Mallard, Ringed Plover, Lapwing, Sand Martin, Reed Warbler, Dunlin, Shelduck, Snipe, Pied Wagtail, Sandpiper, Collared Dove.