Monday, 4 June 2012

Saturday, 2nd June 2012 – a day in the steppes

Pétrola, Albacete (Lat. 38.840626; Lon. -1.565283)
Weather: Sky: High light cloud, wind NE F1; temp.25ºC.  11:50 – 13:50.

For a change of scenery, I decided to have a look around the neighboring province of Albacete.
Having spent the morning mooching around the south-eastern area, at midday I went further west to the lagoon at Pétrola.  There, like in most other places at the moment, there was not an awful lot to look at, but at least some of the birds were different to what I’m used to seeing locally.  Since my last visit at the beginning of May, nearly all the migrant had gone, apart from a few Ringed Plovers, leaving just the breeding birds.  There were a number of breeding Greater Flamingos, and on the pools to the east of the main lake were several Whiskered and Gull-billed Terns.  Also Black-headed Gulls, Black Winged Stilts, Ringed, Little Ringed and Kentish Plovers.  On the main lake were many Coots, Common Pochard (mainly males), Red-crested Pochards, White-headed Ducks, Black-necked and Little Grebes, and Greater Flamingos.  Singing from the reeds were both Reed and Great Reed Warblers.  Surprise birds were a couple of Squacco Herons, one at the western side of the lake and another in a small farm reservoir on the eastern side.  Raptors were represented by a single adult male Marsh Harrier and a Common Buzzard.

View of the main lagoon at Pétrola

 One of a couple of Squacco Herons seen

 A bird I normally only see in the winter, but which breed here, a Lapwing

The second Squacco Heron of the day, on the other (eastern) side of the lagoon

Another presumed breeding species, Little Ringed Plover
Species seen/heard
Little Grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis)
Black-necked Grebe (Podiceps nigricollis)
Greater Flamingo (Phoenicopterus roseus)
European Pochard (Aythya ferina)
Red-Crested Pochard (Netta rufina)
Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)
White-headed Duck (Oxyura leucocephala)
Squacco Heron (Ardeola ralloides)
Coot (Fulica atra)
Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo)
Marsh Harrier (Circus aeruginosus)
Black Winged Stilt (Himantopus himantopus)
Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus)
Ringed Plover (Charadrius hiaticula)
Little Ringed Plover (Charadrius dubius)
Kentish Plover (Charadrius alexandrinus)
Whiskered Tern Chlidonias hybrida)
Gull-billed Tern (Gelochelidon nilotica)
Black-headed Gull (Larus ridibundus)
Collared Dove (Streptopelia decaocto)
Woodpigeon (Columba palumbus)
Bee-eater (Merops apiaster)
Swift /Pallid Swift (Apus apus/palidus)
Hoopoe (Upupa epops)
Crested Lark (Galerida cristata)
Short-toed Lark (Calandrella brachydactyla)
Swallow (Hirundo rustica)
House Martin (Delichon urbicum)
Blackbird (Turdus merula)
Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus scirpaceus)
Great Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus arundinaceus)
Sardinian Warbler (Sylvia melanocephala)
House Sparrow (Passer domesticus)
Linnet (Carduelis cannabina)
Greenfinch (Carduelis chloris)
Serin (Serinus serinus)
Corn Bunting (Miliaria calandra)

ZEPA de Yecla, Murcia (Lat. 38.678505; Lon. -1.116653)
Weather: Sky High light cloud, wind NE F1-3; temp.27 - 23ºC.  14:30 – 18:45

Leaving Pétrola around 2pm, I came back into the province of Murcia, to the ZEPA (“Zona Especial de Protección de Aves”) of Yecla which is just inside the northern border of the province.  This is the only place in the province to see Pin-tailed Sandgrouse, a species that I was particularly looking for.  However, it was not to be – I found a couple of its close relation, the Black-bellied Sandgrouse, but of the Pin-tailed nothing.

A record shot of one of two Black-bellied Sandgrouse
This was the first time I’ve ever gone to this area in the afternoon – normally I go first thing in the morning to see the birds as this is when they are most active.  However, I was surprised to see just how many birds were showing themselves as the afternoon got later, and they didn’t seem to be anywhere near as flighty as when I see them in the morning.

Driving around some of the mud tracks, I was surprised at the number in particular of Short-toed and Calandra Larks, and going past a field with a number of vertical watering pipes and diffusers, six of them had male Black-eared Wheatears on them.  On the fences of many properties there, Rock Sparrows were noisily making their presence known.

One of many Short-toed Larks showing themselves

Relatively less frequent (at the moment), Crested Lark

 One of six male Black-eared Wheatears seen in the same field

Also numerous, Calandra Larks

And another

And yet another

Guess what...

Driving around, I had to move on quickly when this S.T.Lark dropped in front of me - it obviously was on a mission to feed its young

Later in the afternoon, the Lesser Kestrels showed themselves, or at least 4 of them did – all females and on studying the photos I took, it appears they are going through a full remiges and retrices moult.

One of four female Lesser Kestrels seen - where were all the males?
Species seen/heard
Red-legged Partridge (Alectoris rufa)
Black-bellied Sandgrouse (Pterocles orientalis)
Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo)
Lesser Kestrel (Falco naumanni)
Stone Curlew (Burhinus oedicnemus)
Little Owl (Athene noctua)
Turtle Dove (Streptopelia turtur)
Woodpigeon (Columba palumbus)
Bee-eater (Merops apiaster)
Swift /Pallid Swift (Apus apus/palidus)
Hoopoe (Upupa epops)
Calandra Lark (Melanocorypha calandra)
Crested Lark (Galerida cristata)
Short-toed Lark (Calandrella brachydactyla)
Swallow (Hirundo rustica)
Black-eared Wheatear (Oenanthe hispanica)
Black Wheatear (Oenabthe leucura)
Southern Grey Shrike (Lanius meridionalis)
House Sparrow (Passer domesticus)
Rock Sparrow (Petronia petronia)
Linnet (Carduelis cannabina)
Serin (Serinus serinus)
Corn Bunting (Miliaria calandra)

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