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Sunday, 18 December 2011

Plains of Alcanara

1 of the 30 Little Bustards that we observed

  After a disappointing visit to Fuerrta Alamo, on Friday, Bryan and I thought we would give it another shot and try to get all the target species at Alcanara Plains, Murcia Province. We arrived just after 09.00 and spent all day in the area. Using the car, we criss-crossed, did the dirt tracks, the circults, across the plains and it paid off. The light was perfect and we had our minds on Little Bustard, Black-bellied Sandgrouse and Lesser Short-toed lark.
  While scanningg the many small reserviors, dotted all over the shop on the plains, I noticed a single Stone Curlew in a ploughed field nearby. On closer inspection we discovered there were a few more. When the whole lot got up, we were stunned to see that there were well over 200 birds in the air! Water Pipit, Black Redstart, Stonechat and Cattle Egret were in small numbers, while Crested and Skylark and White Wagtail were in the hundreds.

Well over 200 Stone Curlew were on the plains

  I looked to the skies and picked up a distant Golden Eagle. Later we got 2 birds together a lot closer and the odd Buzzaed popped up. As we approached a large stubble field, Bryan commented that this looked good for sandgrouse and within seconds of him saying that, we could see 11 Black-bellied Sandgrouse. They didn't stick around and were off with the other 36 sandgrouse that we didn't see until they started flying. Fortunately, they came down two fields away and from here we got cracking views. It was too short and they were off again, this time to the far end of the plains. After seeing that brief flyby of a single bird overhead at Petrola last week, today I could really appreciate these top quality birds. Inflight, showing off their deep black bellies with pale upperparts and jesus, could they motor.

The 40 Black-bellied Sandgrouse were very flighty

  We moved on and cut through the plains on one of the many central dirt tracks. We ended up on the road near to where we started and as I turned left, a female Marsh Harrier flew low overhead. This was followed by a small party of medium sized birds. We were looking directly into the sun and it was not until I could get my bins on them, that I shouted 'LITTLE BUSTARD' Bryan was out of the car and onto them within seconds! At very close range, the 30 bustards circled us twice before settling down, not too far away, on the plains. We guessed that the passing harrier put them up. The bustards were also a new species for Bryan and we both wanted to see them on the deck. Seaching for nearly an hour in the area where we thought they had come down, resulted in seeing the Stone Curlews again and the female Hen Harrier that we saw here a few days ago.

Cracking flght views of the Little Bustards

The female Hen Harrier was still present from two days ago 

  Later, we came across more sandgrouse and then with a mixed flock of finches and larks, I could see that there were 6 Lesser Short-toed Lark feeding with them. We had done it! All three target species were in the bag and it was only 13.00. The next few hours and we had more superb views of the sandgrouse and found a flock of 60+Stone Curlew on the otherside of the plains. However, these could of easily been part of the 200+birds we had earlier on during the day. Out of all the small reservoirs on the plains, 25-30 maybe, we only looked at 6-7 and got 15+Black-winged Stilt, 5 Green Sandpiper, 1 Greenshank and Little-ringed Plover, 2 Snipe and at least 20 Little Grebe.
  Over all, this has got to be one of the best days so far with superb views of every species that we came across. Also, Bryan was very happy with a tick.

6 Lesser Short-toed Lark were feeding with Crested and Skylark 

Up to 15 Black-winged Stilt were on the numberous small resveroirs that were scattered all over the plains

This ones for Bryan. Well they are a welsh bad. Manic Street Preachers with 'The Love of Richard Nixon' There trying to say in this song, that it was not all of Nixon's fault. Death without assassination and people forget China. Who's coats that jacket!

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