La Mancha July 2013 | Pajaros | Birds

It's been a while since I last posted on here, due in part to the fact that for the past three weeks I have been traversing La Mancha and briefly Alicante with Gui. In this post I am going to write about the Avifauna of the trip, and I could not believe just how much I saw...
        The first lifer of the trip came, as planned, within hours of arriving in España, my new favourite gull Audouin´s (Gaviota de Audouin), as well as a year tick (having only seen a couple prior) in the form of Yellow-legged Gull (Gaviota patiamarilla).

Audouin's Gull - Gaviota de Audouin
Photo by Gui

         After two days in the horrible Alicante heat, it was time to head to Albacete. We travelled in the Ave so the journey was fairly quick but still offered plenty in the way of birds, and much more exciting than those which I see regularly on my commute to uni, with Flamingos, Herons being seen as we approached the city of Albacete. Two of my top birds to life tick were seen on the journey; first Bee-eater (Abejaruco) and second Hoopoe (Abubilla)... unfortunately I missed both of them. Luckily I didn't have to wait much longer to see the former and the second came soon after. En route to Chinchilla, I got a lifer in the form of Little Bustard, however the lack of light and fact that we were in a car and the bird was in flight meant very poor views. 
         The next morning Gui and I traversed the Sierra de Chinchilla where it wasn't long before we'd seen Bee-eaters. I didn't expect that after this I'd end up seeing them almost as much as Wood pigeons (Paloma torcaz), but the novelty didn't wear off. Another bimbo (FYI: Spanish for lifer), was Serin of which I got a poor record shot and was surprised to have not seen more of.
         The majority of birds were in fact seen whilst in the car or train, and were seen en route to other locations such as Booted and Short-toed Eagle (Águila calzada y Águila culebrera), Roller (Carraca), Bee-eater, and Lesser Kestrel (Cernícalo primilla) but one evening driving around the outskirts of the city with Rafa Torralba was particularly fruitful with great views of Roller, Bee-eater, Hoopoe, Stone Curlew, Little Owl, c30 Black Kites (a lifer for me!), Pin-tailed Sandgrouse (Ganga ibérica), Black-winged Stilt (Cigüeñuela), Booted Eagle, and not so great but ok views of Great Bustard (Avutarda) within the space of a few hours!

Roller - Carraca

Black Kites - Milanos negros

Little Owl - Mochuelo

        One of the things which I found the best was the fact there is little need to travel far at all to see awesome birds, however one day Gui, Rafa, and I paid a visit to the south of the province, and into Granada and Jaén to see some particularly exciting species. We set off early on the Wednesday morning and after a couple of hours of travelling arrived at our first destination where I had my first views of Griffon Vulture (Buitre leonado), definitely now one of my favourite raptors - I even managed to get a half decent record shot! At our next stop for vultures I managed another two lifers (one of which I almost twitched last year); Alpine Swift (Vencejo real) and Crag Martin (Avión roquero), and minutes later at a village down the road I 'bimbo'd' my second  Hirundine of the day; Red-rumped Swallow (Golondrina dáurica).

Red-rumped Swallow - Golondria daúrica
        After driving a while longer and then settling down next to have lunch (including the best sandwich ever made by Gui) in a refuge in the mountains, we set off on the road again travelling through los Campos de Hernán Perea seeing many more Griffon Vultures along the way and also a new Corvid for me; Chough (Chova piquirroja). After a driving for a fair while (something made pleasant by the stunning scenery but not so pleasant by the scorching heat), we pulled off onto one of the quieter roads through the mountains and reached an area with some trees and bushes where we got one of my favourite birds of the trip; Azure-winged Magpie (Rabilargo). I didn't expect to get such good views and see so many, but I was pleasantly surprised, and all were calling loudly; one of the most interesting calls I've heard but a cool one. Sadly I didn't manage a picture however Gui did, but being able to get fairly sustained views is more than I could have asked for; one of the lifers I've most enjoyed and can't wait to see more of in the future.

Azure-winged Magpie - Rabliargo
        Our final stop for the day was el Estrecho del Hocino where as well as seeing a lot of Mountain Goats; one of my things from the trip, I badly mistook something very exciting for something not so exciting. The bird, which eventually turned  out to be a lifer for me as opposed to something I saw regularly in the UK was a Blue Rock Thrush! We got sustained but not fabulous views due to the light and position of the bird but definitely a cool bird to tick. Not as vivid blue as I'd hoped for though. At the Estrecho del Hocino we were also very lucky to see a stationary Crag Martin, which allowed me to get my first picture of a single Hirundine!

Griffon Vulture - Buitre leonado

Chough - Chova piquirroja

Crag Martin - Avión roquero

Woodchat Shrike - Alcaudón común

         Compared to England, very little time was spent birding from hides and we only visited one; at the lagoon of Pétrola, however just as many if not more birds were seen from outside the hide. This was where I got potentially my favourite lifer of the trip; White-headed Duck (Malvasía cabeciblanca); a crazy and fascinating looking duck, and definitely in my top 10 birds. The only other lifer I got at Pétrola was Kentish Plover (chorlitejo patinegro), but it was where I got much better views of birds that I had only got glimpses of earlier in the trip such as Flamingos, Black-winged Stilts, and also some Marsh Harriers (Aguilucho lagunero) en route to the hide.

White-headed Duck - Malvasía cabeciblanca

Flamingo - Flamenco rosa

Black-winged Stilt - Cigueñuela
 Overall the most amazing three weeks - My monotonous listing in this blogpost really doesn't do it any justice! Many of the species I was so desperate to see, were the ones I only managed to get fairly crappy views of such as Stone Curlew (Gui's favourite) and one he had me desperate to see, and Great and Little Bustard, so I am hoping to rectify this in next time, and I can't wait to get back and see even more awesome stuff. In the mean time I will be writing some further posts about Invertebrates, Mammals, and Plants etc. I hope you enjoyed reading.

Lifer list - Listado de bimbos
  1. Audouin's Gull  Gaviota de Audouin
  2. Spotless Starling  Estornino negro
  3. Gull-billed Tern  Pagaza piconegra
  4. Rock Sparrow  Gorrión chillón
  5. Pallid Swift  Vencejo pálido
  6. Alpine Swift  Vencejo real
  7. Red-rumped Swallow  Golondrina dáurica
  8. Crag Martin   Avión roquero
  9. Blue Rock Thrush  Roquero solitario
  10. Azure-winged Magpie Rabilargo
  11. Chough   Chova piquirroja
  12. Griffon Vulture  Buitre leonado
  13. Lesser Kestrel  Cernícalo primilla
  14. Bee-eater  Abejaruco
  15. Hoopoe  Abubilla
  16. Booted Eagle  Águila calzada
  17. Short-toed Eagle  Águila culebrerera
  18. Golden Eagle  Águila real
  19. Little Owl  Mochuelo
  20. Black Kite  Milano negro
  21. Great Bustard  Avutarda euroasiática
  22. Pin-tailed Sandgrouse  Ganga ibérica
  23. Montagu's Harrier  Aguilucho cenízo
  24. Quail   Codorniz común
  25. Crested Lark  Cogujada común
  26. Thekla Lark   Cogujada montesina
  27. Iberian Grey Shrike  Alcaudón real meridional
  28. Sardinian Warbler  Curruca cabecinegra
  29. Black Wheatear  Collalba negra
  30. Stone Curlew  Alcaraván
  31. Little Bustard   Sisón
  32. White-headed Duck  Malvasía cabeciblanca
  33. Kentish Plover   Chorlitejo patinegro