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Sunday, 2 June 2019

Spain - Osuna Day 2


Day 2

Luis our guide for the day picked us up at 6.00 a.m from the hotel, still dark as we headed out for the Steppes and Farmland of the Osuna area.

After over an hour’s drive later and a nice breakfast to boot we arrived at dawn in Farmland, a nice little area off piste, on the way however we had already added Little Bustard, one of the target species.

As we were to find out during the rest of the day, there were many areas that produced so many good birds and this particular spot was just one of many.

First up was a calling Quail and then they all put in an appearance, White Stork, Red Rumped Swallow, Purple Heron, Montagu’s Harrier, Gull Billed Terns, Hoopoe but the stars of the show had to be 2 Great Bustards that dropped in out of knowhere.Only the 2nd time I have seen them you forget how big they are, even at distance size was apparent. One was a superb male no less as the pair foraged at the bottom of the field.

My interest however was in a line of pylons directly in front of us, in 2 respective pylons adjacent to each other there was a large nest in each, presumably old Raven nests, we had already seen a couple.

However both nests had been taken, a Peregrine Falcon in one and a Common Buzzard in the other, if there anything like they are in the UK, I would imagine quite a volatile relationship being this close to each other.

Both nests had 2 juveniles apiece and it looked like they weren’t far off fledging.

Being dry open Farmland, there were very few trees, the line of pylons were a nesting magnet and disappeared into the horizon. I could see nests on every one, too far to see if further occupied but I suspect many were likely were, the 2 we were watching even had Spanish Sparrow nesting in the twigs.

Juvenile Peregrines - one laying down

Common Buzzard guarding 2 juveniles

Great Bustards - distant but still enormous

Leaving here we headed for another area seeing bird’s enroute, another Little Bustard, Spectacled Warbler, Monties, Black Kite and more White Stork. Red Rumped Swallows were again present, every bridge section seemed to have them nesting, just a pity we don’t get them in numbers in the UK. 

All the driving was off road, during the course of the day we spent most of the time out in the wilds and even on disused or not open motorway type roads, you need a 4x4.

Moving on and we were stopped in our tracks by a hovering bird working the fields, a Black Winged Kite no less, personally, this was the one I wanted to see only ever having seen one other individual around 25 years ago.

My target species

We stayed in this area for over an hour, a nearby farm house and out buildings was a bird hotspot and contained a colony of Lesser Kestrels, the Black Winged Kite was still working the fields and at times you didn’t know where to look. 

Calandra and Crested Lark joined the list as did a Golden Oriole, a lovely male singing in the farmhouse trees, also another Montagu’s Harrier hunting nearby and more White Storks.

Whilst scanning the area I picked up a group of distant Raptors, it looked like they had been on the ground and were just coming up to thermal, this they did and more surprisingly they then flew straight for us.

It turned out to be a flock of 14 Honey Buzzards no doubt on their way to distant breeding grounds, they passed relatively low over us and gave outstanding views.

Unrelated to them we then picked up a larger Raptor and again this flew over us, an immature Egyptian Vulture no less, this particular area was proving very productive.

A Great Bustard was again seen, this time in flight, needless to say they are big birds.

Honey Buzzards

Up close

Great Bustard

Wouldn't come out

Immature Egyptian Vulture

Thoroughly spoilt for good birds and Spanish specialities, we move on to a relatively wet area along a disused road via lots of tracks. 

This was a massive field which held a number of Bulls bred for the Bullring, obviously don’t agree with it and sad to see so many magnificent animals knowing they had a bleak future. Way overdue to be banned in a modern world, how could people sit there and watch an animal suffer like that in a bullring?

Obviously the field and floods had attracted a lot of birds, first scan probably showed around 100 Glossy Ibises and probably half again of Cattle Egret, as we continued to scan up came a flock of around 20 Collared Pratincoles.These were very welcome and we then got individuals flying around before Luis picked out 2 Black Bellied Sand Grouse flying away from the floods, very lucky with these as it turned out to be the only ones we saw.

With the heat building, it was showing 36 degrees in the car, Osuna is one of the hottest areas of Spain we scanned the skies for Raptors.

A couple of Black Kites were followed by a Marsh Harrier and we then got a couple of Short Toed Eagles, one hovering and hunting with a 2nd on the deck at the far end of the field. Red Rumped Swallows were again present and as we left this area several Iberian Grey Shrikes and Whinchat put in an appearance, a cracking area that we all enjoyed.

Glossy Ibis

Black Bellied Sandgrouse

Short Toed Eagle

Collared Pratincole

We next headed for the area that held Rollers via lots of farm tracks, more than this a Roller Tower was present, never seen one of these and must admit they work with at least 5 Rollers present in their respective holes. 

Others were also present and I suspect there were at least 9 in the area along with some Jackdaws in the Tower, they were very flighty and we didn’t want to disturb them so left, lunch was calling.

Spanish Sparrow

Roller Tower

Spotted Flycatcher

After lunch we headed down to a massive field, along yet another set of very productive tracks and came across some good birds, Short Toed Lark, Tawny Pipit, Calandra and Crested Lark, Blue Headed Wagtail, Corn Bunting, Montagu’s Harrier and Whinchat. We spent some time here and then headed along another track picking up Spotted Flycatcher along the way before we arrived at a large lake. 

We added Spoonbill here and Collared Pratincole again and there were also a number of Greater Flamingos, some quite close, lots of photos as you can imagine. This was to be our last site and I think it was fair to say that we were flagging; I suspect the previous day’s excursions were also catching up.

A great end to the day, or so we thought, an unscheduled trip on the way home was a very welcome surprise as we popped into Fuenta De Piedra, the flood on the left as you enter was absolutely alive with birds.

To name but a few.

12+ Black Terns

Whiskered Tern

3 Little Stints

10+ Curlew Sandpiper

5 Audouin’s Gulls

16 Greater Flamingo’s

We were all running round like headless chickens with the cameras as the birds were so close, add to that people were at the side of the lagoon and the birds weren’t disturbed at all by them, a very impressive site.

Black Tern


Whiskered Tern with Curlew Sandpipers

Curlew Sandpipers

The icing on the cake and our day, was a Great Spotted Cuckoo flying over picked up by Mart, a good spot as it turned out to be the only one we saw. 

Great Spotted Cuckoo

Black Veined White

We finished the day on 122 species; with 75 seen the previous day at the Mouth of the Guadalhorce we had added 47 new species for the day. I must admit to thinking we would struggle and get a lot less, a stunning day and a Black Winged Kite no less, the one bird I really wanted to see.

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