Thursday 16 June
Happy birthday to my youngest son up in Valencia as I start my long car journey back to the UK with three days of Spanish birding long the way. With the car packed to the roof and just the passenger seat for my travel needs and birding equipment I was away from Velez de Benaudalla at 7.30 and off via Granada to Ciudad Real for my first of three overnight stops.
Reaching the far north of Jaen province and Andalucia, I left the motorway just north of Sant Elena to take the A6200 mountain road to Aldeaquemada. This a mere 21 km drive that was to take almost an hour as the narrow road twisted and turned as it sneaked its way up the mountain through continuous pine woods and the occasional panoramic view over the valley below before dropping down to my destination. Fortunately, just three vehicles past me on the opposite direction - and always, it seemed, on a bend! On the other hand, this was the best road surface I have travelled on anywhere in the past few years; it had obviously been completely resurfaced in the very recent past. With the sun blazing down, clear blue skies and the temperature already in the mid-thirties I did wonder whether I would see any birds at all.
Approaching the summit a Carrion Crow flew over the road in front of me and on the opposite side a foraging Rock Bunting. A couple op Wood Pigeon as I reached the summit and then a pair of Booted Eagles circling overhead. Working my way down I had a couple of Goldfinches and once in the village Pallid Swifts, House Martins, Collared Doves, Spotless Starlings and House Sparrows.
Passing through the village in the hope that I might find a bar open so that I could stop for a coffee, I found myself heading on towards Ciudad Real (according to the SatNav) but the road, whilst still very narrow was no longer the [pristine affair I had been used to . Coming to a bridge across a small stream before a right-angle turn to the right I stopped to check the water and was rewarded with a couple of Jays flying up stream to an old tree and the first Blackbird of the morning.
No sooner had I continued than the road turned into a solid, wide track but easily drivable and the SatNav telling me I am going in the correct direction and 40kms to my destination. About 6km on as I crossed a small shaded river I cam to a sudden stop as I was confronted by a pair of locked gates across the track. Obviously not to the way to Amarillo nevermind Ciudad Real! But nothing ventured, nothing gained as I reversed the car and then took my binoculars (when will I ever learn to also take the camera with me?) to check the river below. A dark shape disappeared upstream and a another Blackbird on the bank taking a drink at the water's edge. Wondering if the river held a Dipper or two I patiently waited and scanned and was then rewarded when a most handsome male Golden Oriole landed at the water's edge to the right and quickly flew up a metre to rest on an exposed branch. What a magnificent view but no camera again! A walk with the camera along the river bank did not produce the bird.
So, a hazardous multi-point turn on a narrow track with sheer drop on either side and back to the village and take the correct road, still the A6200, towards Ciudad Real and, yes, once more a beautiful surface. Ere long I was across the border into Castille La Mancha and sitting on the wires a Turtle Dove to complete my day's sightings and the temperature now determined to hit the 40C mark as I arrived at my hotel.
Booted Eagle, Pallid Swift, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Turtle Dove, Barn Swallow, House Martin, Blackbird, Golden Oriole, Jay, Carrion Crow, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Goldfinch, Rock Bunting.
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