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Wednesday, February 18, 2015

A brief excursion into the Steppes of Petrola, Great Bustards, Teminck's Stint and lots of wind and rain!

Petrola Steppes location
During my time around El Fondo I was pointed in the direction of some good old Spanish steppe land by Graham Critchell - the Petrola Steppes, some way North and West of Alicante and a stunning example of this type of habitat. Its at altitude and a good 10C colder than the coast.

The good bits are around and between the small villages of Petrola itself, Calle Rubio, Higueruela to the north and Los Anorias to the south. There's almost no traffic and almost no people so easy enough to pull off and scan for good birds

Many thanks to Grahame for putting me onto this spot and I'd thoroughly recommend his guide books for anyone visiting the area - GO HERE for more info

19-Petrola: 20-Calle Rubio: 21-Higueruela: 22-Ls Anorias

Ruff, Laguna de Petrola (14th Feb, 2015)
I arrived here late Saturday afternoon (Feb 14th) and though windy (story of the trip so far!) I was immediately into good birds with an unexpected flock of 32 Ruff on the Laguna de Petrola.

As I was watching the Ruff and wondering if they were over wintering up here or just in transit, a small wader fluttered in on the wind and landed no more than 10 metres away from me. A Teminck's Stint no less, a tiny but strongly migratory wader that winters in N.Africa and breeds in the Arctic circle. It was so close and so unbothered that I had to step back to get some 'in focus' shots and these were the only two that came out ok.

Teminck's Stint, Laguna de Petrolla, 14th Feb, 2015

Teminck's Stint, Laguna de Petrolla, 14th Feb, 2015
It was another bird for the trip and shortly afterwards I got another ... bit bigger, Turkey size in fact. They still roam in pretty good numbers across the steppe lands of Spain and Portugal and recently been re-introduced to Salisbury Plain in the UK. Great Bustards!

Great Bustards, nr Calle Rubio, 14th Feb 2015
Great Bustards, nr Los Anorias, 15th Feb 2015

 Sadly, wind and rain for much of Sunday put a dampener on things and I was lucky to get a further shot of the Great Bustards from the confines of my van. I got out and tramped across some fields in the rain in the hope of some closer views but they'd flown away .. the bustards!!

Quails eggs or something else? I did eat!

The only bar in Calle Rubio beckoned, friendly as most of these out of town bars are, as a birder I was slightly taken aback by one of the 'mini tapas' you get with every drink you order ...

Calandra Lark and Black Wheatear were added to the list later as I braved the weather but in such inclement conditions I was unsurprised to miss out on my other target species - Little Bustard, Pin Tailed & Black Bellied Sandgrouse ... yet to photograph any of these species. It wasn't the conditions either to take landscape pics but this might give you some idea ...

Steppe land, nr Calle Rubio
I had some people to see in San Vicente del Raspeig the day after, the Vape shop people who very kindly contacted me to say that I'd left my wallet there. A huge thank you to Francesa and ?Sucho for their honesty, gratitude and just for being nice people. Very happy to give you guys a plug on my little old blog ... great products guys. E-Blow, the best Vape shop on the Costa Blanca

Back at El Pinet nothing much had changed, my camping spot was still unoccupied ...
Van spot, El Pinet
... the inside of the van was still messy
Van mess!
The same Little Egrets, Black Winged Stilts and Dunlin were braving the wind....

Little Egret, El Pinet, 16th Feb2015

Black Winged Stilt, El Pinet, 16th Feb2015

3 Little Stints (the commoner of the Stints seen over here) were the only addition, here's one that came quite close to the hide
Little Stint, El Pinet, 16th Feb205

Dunlin, Sanderling and 1 Little Stint .. can you spot it?

 and one for all you Gull fanatics, nothing fancy but if a Yellow Legged Gull turns up on your local patch this might be good for id if its a juv ....

Yellow Legged Gulls, adults and immatures
 I've gone a bit further South now and presently around the Mar Menor, nr Cartegena but not had a decent day's birding since the w/e because of gale force winds and rain!


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