Sunday, 6 September 2015

Birding the Steppes...

Left Casa Boletas at the ungodly time of 5am and headed some 90 minutes down to the steppes where we were fortunate to find that it was very chilly here for most of the morning. A White Stork breeding colony was seen on the drive but not a lot else. However, our arrival in this different habitat of dry steppes and rocky outcrops couldn’t have been better timed as our first stop along the road shortly after sunrise set the tone with a cracking Calandra Lark on the road in front of us, followed by a Southern Grey Shrike, our first of many Thekla Larks and Black-eared Wheatears, Woodchat Shrike and Little Owl.

Then our first European Roller was spotted before we came across a field full of Calandra Larks, Spotless Starlings and Eurasian Skylarks which were all scoped. There were a few distant Marsh Harriers and Common Buzzards, and a Hoopoe was also seen. Lots of distant Kestrels were probably Lessers although only a couple were positively identified, but there were probably hundreds in the area. It was just a shame that both Pin-tailed and Black-bellied Sandgrouse were only seen at great distance, although the distinctive flight calls could be heard.

Steppe habitat

This vast area is criss-crossed with numerous tracks and its easy to get lost, which we did frequently but this didn’t matter as we were having fun exploring the area. A Great Spotted Cuckoo was seen flying next to the bus as we headed in a different direction and we watched this for a while, then a Montagu’s Harrier flew by, and a Spectacled Warbler was found, with a Sardinian Warbler appearing nearby. Then a covey of Red-legged Partridge scurried across a dry field, and we also saw Spotless Starlings, Peregrine, Cattle Egret and a female Hen Harrier, as well as lots of European Bee-eaters throughout the morning. Some Greater Short-toed Larks were found in a ploughed field and were joined by a Woodlark.  At a small pond we had Common Coot, Little Grebe and Common Moorhen (woohoo..!!),  and then the first of 2 Golden Eagles were seen showing really well. As the day finally got very hot we also came across a flock of Red-billed Choughs and some Jackdaws.

Golden Eagle

At lunch we watched a few Rollers and an adult Golden Eagle from our vantage point at the top of an escarpment overlooking a wide area. So it was really hot by now and we decided to head back to the hotel and after doing battle with the satnav which was no help whatsoever in this maze of unmarked tracks in the middle of nowhere, we got lucky and final found a paved road and made our way out of there.

We enjoyed great views of these White Storks

During the drive back we stopped to photograph a colony of White Storks on some buildings at the edge of a village and then we found a pair of Black Wheatears and a male Blue Rock Thrush to round off a great trip and our birding in Spain for another year.

We found Black Wheatear here...

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