An unexpected journey
I hadn't planned to go there, but as John had never seen Ring Ouzel in Spain and we fail to see the Thrush on our two visit in 2018 to Sierra Espuña, now with Trevor here on a birding visit it made no sense not to try again.
The Birding Buddies (minus one) of Birding Costa Blanca were out early on Tuesday 15th and meeting on the AP7 at Santamera before investigating for one more time the Saladares de Guadalentin. For those that have never visited this expansive flat area of agriculture/horticulture and ‘resting’ areas of the uncultivated parts it is huge. There were people working here, but the birds don’t seem to mind. Solitary individuals were organizing the flow of water as fields were being irrigated.
It can be a frustrating place for any birder, but today our efforts paid us back as the eagle eyed searched and listened. Spectacled Warblers are resident here and they popped up and disappeared on several occasions.
We took our time and on a sunny unkempt corner there was a lot of activity. A few obvious Cattle Egrets fed, but our attention was drawn to the number of small birds flying around and returning to feed. We were checking the field out and among House Sparrows were two Spanish Sparrows. These birds were not easy to spot amongst all the activity, and a bit distant for the camera with a little heat diffraction, but all three of us got onto them. I managed a few record shots proved it. It was a ‘tick’ for us in this location.
Goldfinches and Greenfinches in good colour showed well. White Wagtails were everywhere and we saw the occasional Black Redstarts, Chiffs with Crested Larks and Reed Bunting and Meadow Pipits calling and flying around. Calandra Larks were heard, but we know where to see them elsewhere. Skylarks were evident, their calls were all round us and watch them feeding in the stony furrowed fields
We were pleased and it proves that it is not good to be negative about an area as any area can have a bad day.
By that time we had seen a pale morph Booted Eagle, a Common Buzzard and a distant Marsh Harrier. Both species of Bustard have been seen before, but not today. Then three Sandgrouse were seen to drop into a field and then flushed again and circled closely around us. It the best close fly past of Black Bellied Sandgrouse, I've ever had ! shame I didn't have the camera ready John called another two and watch them fly past, and drop into small field close to us. joining a few others on the ground It was our great to see Black Bellied Sandgrouse calmly feeding, showing their iridescent plumage.
This morning we covered less area than we normally do and with such good sightings there was no hurry to move on. However, we wanted to be up in Sierra Espuñas for our target bird. This was john third attempt at seeing Ring Ouzels with the two previous efforts being too late or two early. On the way up we usually see Golden Eagles and we did and then during the afternoon we had five different sightings with at least two different birds.
We parked and headed up to the area of ruins that were used to store ice. There is a water source there and once we were able to see the small enclosure there they were.
A first for John and if anyone is going to see these birds this has to be the best way of doing it. In the rose bushes I counted into double figures as they perched, flew away to return a little later. The white fronts of the males showed well and so did the bronzy/browner plumage of the female and younger birds.
On our arrival here John and Trevor set the scopes up before I walked down to get some photos. There was one Cirl Bunting, two Redwings, also a Song Thrush showing.
Goldfinches and Great Tit, Mistle Thrush, Robin and a Blackbird also present . The Ouzels were flying in and out of the pines and there calls were unmistakable.
This is a terrific place set up high in the mountains with ranges and peaks around us. Today it was perfect. We were in full sun and only a breeze. We could feel the chill in the air, but this is January! What a setting! And we had three more brief views of Golden Eagles.
At Mirador del Collado Bermejo, on the way back down we stopped at the view point where there is a water source. And to finish off our birding day we had close views of both female and male Crossbills and a Cole Tit and Crested Tit obliged too.
What a great day it was and to add to it we saw groups of Mouflon during the ascent and on our way down. Just half a dozen to start with and with over twenty in one group. They are very ‘photographical’ and this species of wild sheep seems to attract attention with their horns and ‘chest beards’. Originally only indigenous to Corsica and Sardinia, the Western European variety were introduced to other countries. Of course, the reason for this would have been for hunting and a food source, but these animals today were not easily spooked although obviously wary.
Thanks for taking time to visit my blog
have a great day
cheers Bryan Thomas