Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Spain - La Serena to Vegas Altas - I've never Avadavat!!

Monday I drove into Caceres and bought supplies and then I went in search of Bonelli’s Eagle and Black Shouldered Kite. I went to known sites and had no luck with either. My afternoon’s efforts added Marsh Harrier to the trip list and I checked out some ridges for raptors watching when the temperature rises at the end of the week!

Today I was out at stupid o clock so that I could spend the morning in La Serena and the afternoon in Vegas Altas searching the rice fields.

I had not driven far from Hotel Peru when I hit thick fog. I considered turning back but thought I may be able to get above it and pressed on. I made it to Benquerencia de Serena which was clear and sunny. Below the village was the pea soup like fog which kept shifting along the valley. Benquerencia is a good spot for Black Wheatear. I had failed to connect with this species thus far so picked my spot above the soup line and began scanning the ridge above the houses.

There were plenty of Hirundines obviously with the same idea as I had Swallow, House Martin which nest under the ledges of houses and a group of Alpine Swift who passed through. Down below Blackcap, Robin tits and finches were busy feeding. The bird pictured above looked like a pigeon with a huge pouch for a breast. There were several perched on the rooftops but I guess they are not popular with the local people as one guy shood it off his roof with a broom!

The first bird noted on the rocks was a male Blue Rock Thrush and then a Black Wheatear flew onto a rock but did not remain for long. The white tail with a black wedge and tips made a plain looking bird quite spectacular. I had three telescope views of the bird and took some poor dot shots but a new species for me was in the bag!

After an hour or so the fog decided to climb to new levels and it was time to set off (hopefully out of it!) for my next stop on the La Serena Plains. I was relieved to see the plains were devoid of fog and began checking the fields for Bustards and Sandgrouse. There is a recommended area along the Cabeza Road between 12 and 15km posts. True to description a group of Great Bustard were feeding but there were two smaller bustards further back from the group I put the telescope on them and confirmed Little Bustard. One was throwing its head back and probably (I could not hear it) making its phantom raspberry blower call that it is famous for!

Further along this road I saw a smaller group of Great Bustard in flight and managed to get some better shots of this species. I did not see or hear any Sandgrouse on the plains all morning. Black-bellied seems to be eluding me again (I also failed in Lanzarote). But there are still a few days left!

After lunch I ventured to Vegas Altas and the rice fields. My target species would be Black Shouldered Kite and Red Avadavat (introduced Indian species) and maybe some Cranes. The Kite was no-where to be seen and I found a single Crane suggesting both species may have left! There were plenty of Golden Plover, a Green Sandpiper, Lapwing, Cattle and Little Egret feeding on the semi flooded rice fields!

This only left the Avadavat so I began checking all the ditches with reeds and took pictures of everything that moved which turned up a surprise in a Bluethroat! There were plenty of Zitting Cisticola, Goldfinch and my first group of Spanish Sparrow! I flushed a Quail which called in defiance as it scuttled into the long grass.

I then moved back to the main road where there is a line of concrete arches which look totally out of place but there are reeds directly in front. I heard a strange call which somehow matched the book version of Avadavat and surely enough there were three birds moving in the reeds two perched up on the reeds giving me a good view of them. There were more birds lower down in the reeds and when they flew I counted ten in all. A Cetti’s Warbler then announced itself as if to applaud my days work.

Three new birds today presuming that the Avadavat now counts in this neck of the woods!

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