Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Counting the Cost(a) part 2

Sorry for the delay in posting part 2 of my epic family holiday to Spains coastal strip - Im working like a dog at the moment! Anyway - on with the story.

Day 2 had us heading into the mountains of mid Alicante (roughly inland from Benidorm). We were heading to a town called Alcoy which is sat in a gorge between two mountains which we were hoping to investigate. Heading out of La Siesta the first Hoopoe of the trip was inflight (several more were noted!) and on the Lemon Tree Road we had a flyover Cattle Egret. Not so common this far from El Hondo but ten a penny only a few miles to the north. The drive past Santa Pola salinas also revealed the first Osprey, Flamingo and Black-winged Stilts of the sojorn. Nothing earth shattering but nice to see.

A 45 minute run had us at Font Roja, a beautiful mountain south of Alcoy and my wife was very impressed. A baby related false start meant we were hanging about a little while but soon we were scrambling through the woodland tracks and investigating caves. Robins were wid spread as were seemingly Rock Buntings judging by the calls but I failed to lay my bins on any as I was carrying the baby and entertaining Isabelle who found a pretty cool little cave. With that duly investigated a Sparrowhawk drifted by. A party of tits passed through, mostly Coal and Great Tits but tagged on the back of the flock were three Short-toed Treecreepers. A lifer no less after missing them in the spring. Suitably underwhelmed as they cleared off calling but refusing to give bins views I went back to playing with the kids.

Back at the car park I looked along the spine of the mountain and I noticed 3 raptors circling distantly. These were big and as I raised the bins they resolved into Griffon Vultures. A bit more searching and 11 of these hulking brutes were found in total. They must have come from the colony the other side of the valley.

We descended the mountain hoping to catch lunch in the cafe on the cliffs close to the Vultures home but sadly this was closed as the season ended the day before (All Saint's Day) so I took solace in the impending number of Vultures and the male Stonechat that was sat on a plant stem beside the road. Arriving at the colony initially nothing but slowly up to 25 birds were seen from this vantage point. They were joined by my first Spanish Peregrine which was bothering them.

The kids were asleep but we needed feeding and my wife wanted McDonald's and I duly obliged by descending back into Alcoy and giving my best impression of Spanish to the obviously bored attendent. Once we had had our fill of junk food I glanced up at the Sierra behind and up to 50 vultures were circling over it. A remarkable sight for someone who hasnt been to South west Spain (yet!).

We headed back to La Siesta so the kids could have a nap and at a wee stop en route I noticed an Iberian Grey Shrike on wires. Expected but I didnt see many on the trip. The rarest bird of the trip was noted after we got back when two calling crests in scrub turned out to be Goldcrests. They hung around the whole trip and Im not sure if there have been any documented records for the province (rumours of 3-4 prior records but nothing firm). I finally got some record shots of them on the Friday before we left thankfully.

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