Monday, 27 January 2014

The northwest of the Region of Murcia

Hi all,

After having to be close to home for the last couple of weekends, this last weekend (25th January 2014) I decided it was finally time to finish off my ‘birdrace’ of the 1st of January, and head for some woodlands.  Normally I would go to Sierra Espuña for my woodland birds, but as today I had no time restrictions, I decided to go further out, to the highest point in Murcia, Revolcadores, near to Caravaca de la Cruz.  But I would call in ‘en route’ at Inazares, a small village at the head of a valley where it’s quite often possible to see winter thrushes.

So, setting off at just before 8 a.m., I arrived at Inazares just before 10 a.m. (just short of a 2 hour drive to do around 180 kilometers).  The weather forecast had said that it would be a clear blue-sky day with light to moderate winds.  What do they know!!  It was overcast (at least to start with), and I would estimate the wind to have been about force 4 to 5, high up in the mountains in January, so bitterly cold – certainly not what I’m used to!  Still, after all that driving, a walk was in order (even if it was just to answer the call of nature), and I walked up the valley at the side of the village.  This is a valley that’s dry in the summer, but in wintertime, can often have at least standing water in it if not a full flowing river, and on the banks of this river are many tall poplar trees plus almond trees in small fields and bramble and rose-hip bushes.  Obviously, this is like a magnet to some birds, although today I didn’t see any Redwings, Fieldfares or Ring Ouzels.  What I did see however, were large groups of buntings, mainly Cirl Buntings, but with quite a few Rock Buntings mixed in, and eventually the bird I particularly wanted to see, Yellowhammer.  I thought I had one female in the first group of around 15 buntings I came across, but I was never 100% sure as the wind was blowing both me and the birds about, and the females can be tricky to differentiate from female Cirls.  But my next sighting was absolutely 100% - a male in breeding plumage – it almost glowed yellow!  Just what the doctor ordered.  And to add to things, there was a pair of Great Spotted Woodpeckers chasing around calling each other.  Another bird you don’t see in the coastal area of Murcia.

 Great Spotted Woodpecker that was calling and flying through the area

Just a record shot, but obvious what it is, male Yellowhammer

I left there at about 11:30 with 6 new birds for the yearlist (the three buntings, plus G.S.Woodpecker, Mistle Thrush and Great Tit!) and made my way to Cañada de la Cruz and up into the hills to Revolcadores.  Last year when I came here, I found a great location for Nuthatch, so I decided to go there and have a sandwich, and see if they were still around.  Well, I had to wait all of 5 minutes before I heard one calling, only to be joined by a second.  I spent about half an hour there trying to get photos, and then came down the hillside to another good area for birds, which has running water in water troughs for the sheep and goats, which the birds make good use of.  I spent the rest of the afternoon here just wandering around, picking up Coal Tit, Firecrest, Crested Tit, Woodlark, Crossbill, and, BLUE TIT!  Thank goodness for that – I don’t have to worry any more about where I might pick up Blue Tit.  And I heard a couple of Ring Ouzels, although I didn’t catch up with them.

 The long straight road leading to Andalucia

 In this, the highest part of the Region of Murcia, snow could be seen on the hilltops

 Principally pine woods, there are a few deciduous trees around

To the delight of many birds, many of the trees are festooned in mistletoe

 In the arable fields on the way, several Carrion Crows

 Stopping along the way for a sandwich 'brunch'...

... this Nuthatch showed itself

 Lower down in the woods, a Crested Tit ...

... together with Coal Tit ...

... and in the shadows, a pair of Firecrests showed themselves

So, back home again at 5 p.m., arriving back just under 2 hours later, a round trip of 390 km. a good day out (even if it was cold), and 14 new woodland birds for the year.


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