And here's the second one:
For the Sunday trip, here is a bit of background, some recent sightings plus logistical info.
La Serena is a huge area of rolling grassland which makes up the largest steppe in Western Europe. It is about 30 kms from north to south and 50kms from east to west. It is flanked by the Sierra de Tiros to the south and the Sierra de Orellana to the north, with the largest reservoir in Spain cutting across it. The soil is poor and shallow with numerous jagged rocky outcrops. The area is almost completely devoid of trees, and agriculture is based on grazing sheep (formerly by bringing vast flocks down the network of drove roads from the northern Spanish meseta) and growing cereal crops.
It has a range of interesting birds – resident Great and Little Bustard, Black-bellied and Pin-tailed Sandgrouse, Stone Curlew and Calandra Larks, overwintering Golden Plover, Lapwing, and Common and Spotted Starlings. In the spring and early summer there is a good population of Montagu’s Harriers. The area is hunted over by resident Golden Eagles and Bonelli’s Eagles, and in the summer Short-toed and Booted Eagles.
There have been very large numbers of Golden Plover this winter, with many thousands of birds. Amongst them there have been a small number of Dotterel, and these have been recorded every winter for the past 3 years. The Dotterel were present a week ago but yesterday (Saturday 11th) there was no sign of them and many of the plovers have moved off too.
Two recent trips across the area gave some good birding. Yesterday at the southern limit of La Serena there were a pair of sky-dancing Bonelli’s Eagles, a Golden Eagle and the first Black Kite of the season. Also we saw 3 Great Bustard, a small group of Black-bellied Sandgrouse and 8 Pin-tailed, 10 Red-billed Chough and 5 Little Owls in view at the same time. The highlight of the day was a flock of 70 Little Bustard. There has been a SEO census of Little Bustards as the numbers have crashed over the last few years. After 2 afternoons a few weeks ago with no sightings at all, this group was very welcome. Another single male bird later on suggests that lek formation is starting. This makes birds easier to find, as the winter flocks are hard to locate in the vast area. We have a very good chance of seeing Sandgrouse, most likely in flight when they are located by their calls. There are still large flocks of Calandra Larks, and of Eastern European Starlings mixed in with the Spotless.
We will include a visit to the castle at Puebla de Alcocer. There are fantastic views over La Serena, plus a chance of Blue Rock Thrush and Black Wheatear.
Then we will pass the cliff at Puerto Peña, with a resident Griffon Vulture colony, Bonelli’s Eagle, and maybe a returning Black Stork.
The final location will be to look for Spanish Imperial Eagle near Casas de Don Pedro.
We will depart at 9.30am from the same location as on the Saturday (Don Juan hotel in Obando). So far 9 people have confirmed they are coming along. Apart from myself we will have another guide with us. The the cost will be €25 per person. If anyone else is interested please send an email to me at email@example.com
We will have a picnic lunch. If you would like one prepared by my wife Ana it will cost €8. Please let me know if you need one.