These giants, when crossing the plains of Petrola, were something special!
With the Costa Blanca Bird Club http://www.costablancabirdclub.com/ John and Mary Brazier picked Bryan and myself up and then we teamed up with nearly 30 birders at the local supermarket. We all set off to visit San Felipe and our guide was Malcolm Palmer. Malcolm told me that he was involved in the tapping of the first Blackpoll Warbler to be recorded in Britain on St Agnes, October '68! If that wasn't enough, he went to visit Bardsey Island a few days later and was there when they trapped the second British record of Blackpoll Warbler!! What's the chances of that happening?
We arrived at San Felipe just after 10.00 and started seeing the same species that Bryan and I saw on our last visit, 5 Booted Eagle, 7 Marsh Harrier, Penduline Tit, heard only, Cetti's, Fan-tailed, Dartford and Sardinain warbler. It wasn't till later that we got species that we didn't get last time includeding, ring-tailed Hen Harrier, 2 Little-ringed Plover, Bluethroat and the highlight was a very showy Temminck's Stint feeding with 6 Little Stint. The stints weren't on the muddy margins of a pool or flooded field, but in a small puddle in a garden! There was also a Water Pipit here with 2 more birds just up the road.
A Temminnk's Stint feeding with 6 Little Stint was a good record for this time of year.
I finished off the evening at Clot and the first bird that I saw, was a Hoopoe. The only one of the day. I could hear Long-tailed Tits coming towards me and as they flew passed I counted 5 birds. The trill call was more abrubt and harsher than the ones I hear at home. Instead of a single Song Thrush, I had 4 birds and on the pool was my first Water Rail of the trip. Since I arrived in Spain, I've heard and seen them only in flight, daily, but today I got cracking views of an Iberian Green Woodpecker. I stayed at the reserve to almost dark and as a result I got up to 5 Little Owl
Here is Mary's blog http://www.costablancabirdclub.com/blogmary.htm
Yesterday at 9.30, we left for the road and over an hour later we arrived at Petrola in the province of Valencia. The first village we hit was Bonete. It was bitter with a cold strong wind, and we found a large flock of Rock Sparrow, over 200. A few miles out along the N430, we stpped and had a scan for one of our target species. With in seconds, I picked up a 16 Great Bustard in the distance. We drove a little closer and scope views were had by all. However, they were too far for the camera. Never the less, I was very happy, but we both had no idea what would happen later in the day. We continued on the main road, stopping off to scan the many pools at the side of the road along the way, and then pulled into a farm. Here there were Black Redstarts, Corn Buntings and good numbers of Crested Lark with 50+ being the largest flock. At the end of the day we must of seen well over 300 birds.
These Great Bustards werre a long way off
Good numbers of Corn Bunting were in the area
Well over 300 Crested Lark were seen all over the shop
At Laguna de Perrola, one of the largest lakes, there were 1 male Pintail, 4 Water Pipit, 21 Pochard, 150+Teal, 30 Lapwing, 2 Ruff and Green Sandpiper, 7 Marsh Harrier and well over 700 Shoveler. The most that I've ever seen. All the ducks were distant, but when we looked from out the hide, there directly in front of us were, 4 White-headed Duck, including a cracking male. Altogether there were 11 birds present on the lake. Everything was going well and when we took a dirt track nearby towards Correl Rubio, we were rewarded with over 200 Calandra Lark. They were very mobile and only fight shots were taken. A few miles up the track and a Black-bellied Sandgrouse flew SW overhead. Magic!
There were up to 11 White-headed Duck on the lake
4 Water Pipit were feeding on the waters edge
This 1st winter Greater Flamingo was 1 of 6 that were also on the lake
There were two large mobile flocks of 100 Calandra Lark.
We thought that it was a good idea to return and see if the bustards were feeding closer to the road. They were, but now there were 35 in total! As we drov away from the bustards, I spotted a ring-tail Hen Harrier flying away from us. Back at Bonete we took another dirt track. For five minutes it was all quiet, until Bryan shounted, Great Bustards! I think that's what he said. Just 150 yards in front of us were 11 birds looking very wary. Sure enough, they slowly lifted from the ground and gracefully flew across the fields, showing off the large amount of white in their wings. Double Magic! 'Oh there's a Hoopoe' Well we couldn't go throughout the day without seeing one. As we drove past the bird, 11 birds got up and flew further down the road! A flock of Hoopoe! It just couldn't get any better. We also saw 2 Merlin, 3 Mistle Thrush, large flocks of Magpie, 3 Buzzard and lots of Kestrel. It was a great day out, despite it being bloody freezing. Bar the Pin-tailed Sandgrouse, we got all the other target birds we were after and might return to try again in the next few days
Nearing the end of our visit, once more we drove up another dirt track and 150 yards ahead of us were 11 Great Bustards.
Shortly after the bustards flew off we flushed 11 Hoopoe at very close range and observed them all flying together down the track.
Mixed flocks of Spotless Starlings and Starlings
Over 200 Rock Sparrow were feeding in this field
I've been to Melbourne three times, unfortunatly the Aussie 12 stringer, John Butler wasn't singing at Flinders Street live 'Funky Tonight' when I was there and I just missed him in 2005 when he was playing at Hotel Cafe in California