Sunday, 16 June 2013

Spanish journey: 10 - 11 June

With only jut over a week in Spain during June and having reached the hundred bar two species thanks to the previous week's five days in Extremadura, I decided to call in at the old railway track at Ventas de Zafarrya on our journey north as we set out for the drive to Dunkirk and onward ferry to Dover.  After all, you could guarantee that you would record both Chough and Black Wheatear almost as soon as you got out of the car so job done.  Or so I thought!  But first, no sooner had I left the house to drive down the mountain than we had first a Great Tit and then a female Red-legged Partridge with a handful of chicks in toe.  Thekla Larks were all over the place along with Serins and a pair of Ravens passed overhead before we encountered the Barn Swallows once into Los Romanes.

Arriving at the mirador above Ventas de Zafrarraya I was welcomed by a most handsome Black Redstart but then the bird life, just after 9.30 in the morning, seemed to dry up.  Approaching the tunnel I had a quartet of Rock Sparrows (one new for the month) and then, just on the other side, a Subalpine Warbler.  Not many Crag Martins about so, complying with strict instructions, I started to make my way back to the car so that we could continue on with our long journey.  However, re-emerging from the tunnel it soon became obvious that the Alpine Swifts were once again in residence in the nearby large cave and totalled at least a score.  A female Blue Rock Thrush put in an appearance followed by a Goldfinch.

One of many Red Kite Milvus milvus seen on the journey north
So on with the journey following the back road towards Granada and then the motorways north, picking up the A4 to the outskirts of Madrid followed by the A1 to Burgos and  just beyond Vitoria where we found a hostal for the night at Alsasua.  On the way, apart from Hoopoe and Jackdaw, we had regular sightings of Wood Pigeon and even an Azure-winged magpie before encountering the regular sightings of both Black Kite and Buzzard.  Similarly, there were regular sightings of both Blackbirds and Corn Buntings along the way.  Finally, east of Burgos, we had our first Carrion Crows (100) and a Red Kite.  Soon we had also added both Booted Eagle and Griffon Vulture and one or two of the villages on the old N1 between Burgos and Miranda del Ebro had White Storks nesting on church towers.  We also noted more Common Kestrels than we had the previous week in Extremadura.  Alsasua had its resident Common Swifts in town for the breeding season and the last bird of the day was a single Grey Heron making its way down river to its overnight roost and/or nest.

Mute Swan Cygnus olor with Gadwall Anas strepera
The following morning, Tuesday, was calm and still with dampness in the air following the very heavy rain that had recently fallen and a walk alongside the river produced a lone Red Kite drying itself out in the top of a dead tree before setting off on the hunt for breakfast.  Then it was on to the Spanish border arriving in time at Irun to spend and hour at the last Reserve before leaving the country.  The monthly count increased as we picked up some norther Rooks on the way and increased again by the time we had left the reserve.  The water levels were very high so very few waders to be seen though we did encounter a couple of Little Ringed Plovers and two pairs of Whimbel were seen on the estuary "woodwork" and a pair of Curlews seemed to be nesting on a small grassy island.

A pair of "nesting" Curlew Numenius arquata our on the marshy estuary
How lovely to listen to the song of the Melodious Warbler Hippolais icterina

On the pools themselves we recorded both Mallard and Gadwall plus Moorhen and Coot along with Mute SwanMelodious Warblers were singing and showing themselves next to the path and everywhere feeding Blackbirds with, no doubt, chicks in the nest waiting for food.  We even had a very busy Song Thrush on the athletics field with a beak full of worms to feed its young somewhere in the immediate vicinity.  Nearer the river's edge we picked up Little Egret, Grey Heron and Cetti's Warbler along with House Sparrow, Spotless Starling and Greenfinch.

And then a single Squacco Heron Ardeola ralloides dropped in to feed

Visiting the last hide overlooking a very sheltered pool we came across three Grey Herons and then a Squacco Heron flew in to pay us a visit.  Meanwhile, the "black lump" sleeping on a gravel island in the centre did eventually wake up and stretch itself long enough for a better photograph and reveal itself as a Black Swan.  So ended our journey  through Spain and now all must be put aside until we once more re-enter the country and start the southern journey back to Casa Collado.  But at least I did get my June total well over the hundred mark in just eleven days.

A lone Black Swan Cygnus atratus sleeping on the lagoon

Birds seen in Spain:
Gadwall, Mallard, Mute Swan, Black Swan, Red-legged Partridge, Little Egret, Squacco Heron, Grey Heron, White Stork, Griffon Vulture, Red Kite, Black Kite, Booted Eagle, Buzzard, Kestrel, Moorhen, Coot, Little Ringed Plover, Curlew,  Whimbrel, Yellow-legged Gull, Rock Dove, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Common Swift, Hoopoe, Thekla Lark, Crag Martin, Barn Swallow, Black Redstart, Blue Rock Thrush, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Cetti's Warbler, Melodious Warbler, Subalpine Warbler, Great Tit, Azure-winged magpie, magpie, Jackdaw, Crow, Rook, Raven, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Rock Sparrow, Chaffinch, Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Corn Bunting.

Check out the accompanying website at for the latest sightings, photographs and additional information

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