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The Andalucia Bird Society  |  ABS Birding forum  |  Your Local Patch  |  Topic: Birding in the Osuna / La Lantejuela area « previous next »
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Author Topic: Birding in the Osuna / La Lantejuela area  (Read 3732 times)
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« on: June 28, 2014, 04:54:05 pm »

The Osuna / La Lantejuela / Osuna circuit 10 June 2014

I am posting these notes on our bird-watching day, even though I know the area is familiar to some members, in the hope that you will reciprocate and tell us about places where you go bird-watching.

The answer lies in ruins, ... and on the bridges, ... and in the cotton fields

An experienced bird-watcher said to me recently that she had “always considered Osuna a very dry dusty sort of place (mainly ideal for Bustards)” and, in truth, for many years we under-estimated this area because we did not look in the right places, approaching La Lantejuela as we did from the Marchena road, which is not productive for birds. The Bustards eluded us. We were content with the water birds on the lagoons in winter, the raptors (particularly the abundance of Harriers in spring), the occasional sightings of Stone Curlews, and the fairly reliable sightings of the elegant Black-winged Kite. Javier Salcedo’s article in the Spring 2014 edition of the Birds of Andalucía magazine makes it clear that there is far more than this to be seen in the area. But it was John Cantelo’s blog which first set us on the right track. The answer lies on the bridges!

We have found the most reliable place to see Bustards is from the most easterly road, from junction 82 of the A92 to La Romera (just a ruin but marked on the Andalucía regional map), running parallel to the railway line. The bridges over the railway line, particularly those connecting farm tracks, are ideal places from which to scan the surrounding countryside. And so it was on 10 February 2013 we saw excellent views of 9 Great Bustards, at first flying past us (what a size!) and then standing out clearly in the low winter vegetation, close to the olive groves into which they could blend if necessary. A few more visits during February always produced sightings of good numbers of Great Bustards, often with the males displaying. On 17 February 2013 we saw 32 Great Bustards and 4 Little Bustards. The latter have been generally more elusive – we watched the black and grey neck of a Little Bustard going up and down behind a screen of vegetation for ages without it ever revealing its body, or we glimpsed a couple flying in the distance. It wasn’t until 4 February 2014 that we saw 32 (yes, 32) Little Bustards from the same bridge but on the other side of the road.

So what was a visit on 10 June 2014 likely to produce? Surely not Bustards as they would have spread out and be more difficult to see in the tall summer vegetation. I hoped to see a Roller, Collared Pratincoles and a Black-winged Kite. Lynn, Bob, Tom and I set off on the Osuna to Ecija road (A531) (no safe stopping places along this stretch) and took the SE8200 towards El Rubio, on a day forecast to be partly cloudy so not as baking hot as the ABS meeting last June. We failed to locate the ruined finca where Peter Jones had shown us Rollers last year so we inspected each ruined finca we came across. Our first sighting was of a mongoose, which ran along the track in front of us before setting off through the olive groves. On the first ruin there was a Roller on the barn wall, which then flew off to a nearby electricity cable. On the track to the second finca there was a Roller on a pylon, and then 2 flying around the finca. A Little Owl on the wall elicited the oohs and aahs that Little Owls always seem to (as did several families of Red-Legged Partridges we saw during the day). After these successes we returned to the A531 and took the SE8201 towards La Lantejuela (where we often see Black-winged Kites – but not this time). The lagunas were bone dry and therefore lifeless, (except for Crested Larks and a Corn Bunting) but a Short-toed Eagle flew directly over our heads, and we also saw Common and Lesser Kestrels, Griffin Vultures, Black Kites, Common Buzzards and Ravens (most of them spotted in the distance by Lynn).

After a coffee / comfort break in La Lantejuela we took the A407 towards Osuna, turning right towards El Romero. A Bee-eater posed for a photo on the side of a track (as if saying “What is all this adulation of Rollers about? I am much more beautiful”). We admired the Iberian Grey Shrikes (which we always see on this stretch), several Hoopoes (oh, and that was a Roller). We arrived at the La Romera ruined finca at about 3 p.m. and decided it was much too hot to check whether they were Spanish Sparrows we were hearing and continued, past 4 Cattle Egrets on a wall, past a purpose-built Lesser Kestrel nesting tower, along a fairly rough track for quite a way (2km?)to another ruin. En route we saw a Stonechat and Sardinian Warbler on the reeds (oh, and that was another Roller). The ruin turned out to be a sizeable hacienda and we disturbed the usual other residents (Hoopoes, Lesser Kestrels, Turtle Doves, Jackdaws, etc.) as well some Rollers (possibly 4 but difficult to tell with all the comings and goings). We were running out of superlatives to describe the iridescence of the blue of the Roller sitting in a bare bush facing the sun, the aquamarine of the under-wing as they flew overhead, or the chestnut of the back of the Roller with its back to the sun, so we settled for “they are big”. We retraced our bumpy ride to La Romera and set off to Osuna parallel to the railway track. What was that on the first pylon? A Roller. And on the second? And on the fourth? And on the fifth? You have guessed. More Rollers than I generally see in Spain in several years. This was getting ridiculous!

Leaving the Rollers behind we approached a cotton field where Tom said he had seen 50 Collared Pratincoles at the April ABS meeting. (I have read that Pratincoles, as well as marshes, favour cotton fields.) And there they were, and what a beautiful sight! Dozens in the air and dozens on the ground, some of them within a few metres of the car. We watched them stationary (and legless) on the ground, getting perfect views of the striking facial markings and red beaks, bearing so little resemblance to the agile, tern-like, Pratincoles in flight, some of them at surprising heights. Does any other bird transform its character so completely on taking flight? (OK, flamingos, perhaps.) While watching the Pratincoles on the ground we spotted a Stone Curlew, only about 15 metres away but so well camouflaged it was difficult to pick out.

We had been bird-watching for 7 hours but were so engrossed that no-one was flagging and we hadn’t even done all the bridges yet. From the final bridge of the day Lynn spotted a Booted Eagle and a male Montagu's Harrier and then, the icing on the cake, our eagle-eyed spotter picked out 3 Great Bustards!

The final bird count was 39 species, but it was not the number of species but the close encounters with interesting species that made it such a memorable day, and gave Bob just a few photos to sort.
Photo by Bob

If you have read this article, please tell us about the places where you go bird-watching. We won’t tell anyone, honest! And in any case some bird-watching sites are big enough to share, aren’t they?

* Collared Pratincole.jpg (62.41 kB, 803x605 - viewed 483 times.)
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The Andalucia Bird Society  |  ABS Birding forum  |  Your Local Patch  |  Topic: Birding in the Osuna / La Lantejuela area « previous next »

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