The main bird I was hoping to encounter was Little bustard...apparently there's about 10 billion of them...but I kept waiting. The journey was punctauted with regular sightings of Bee-eater, Roller, Calandra, Crested and Thekla larks, Southern Grey shrike, Black kite, White stork, Pin-tailed sandgrouse...but no flippin bustards! At one point, passing through some trackside broom bushes we had a veritable flock of 5 Great spotted cuckoos...we even had to drive carefully around one who refused to get out of the road!
Southern Grey shrike
At about 20 km, after meeting possibly the largest flock of House sparrow I've ever seen (they stupidly refused to fly left or right and so knackered themselves out by stopping-flying ahead of us for several K's!)I finally saw a bustard -shaped blob off to the left at about 50 yards. Being midday, the haze was a severe nuisance, but yes, it was my very first Little bustard. Not the stunning view of a farting, leaping male I'd hoped for, but a solitary female pretending to be a statue will do.
La Serena...thousands of hectares of nothing
La Serena. La Serena. Mmmm. For months I've been reading of this fabled place whilst smoking fags in my chilly conservatory/smoking room, dreaming of flocks of bustards, sandgrouse and Montagu's harriers. The largest single area of unculivated land in Europe. Home to tens of thousands of steppe birds....
Somewhere in this picture there are thousands of beady bustard eyes staring back...
Ok, we didn't do it justice. We only spent 3 hours in the whole area. But seriously, we covered a lot of ground and had virtually no reward! The Roller nestboxes are at least 50 yards from the road, and you can't pull in anyway as it's illegal and highly dangerous. We saw 3, yes 3, harriers. Despite careful searching we saw no bustards or sandgrouse. And the villages are bloody awful! Talk about back woods. I half expected Clint Eastwood to be walking along the main streets.
What the area needs is a picturesque casa rural set up for visiting naturalists so they don't have to drive for 2 hours from anywhere remotely decent to stay. I'm being slight harsh here...I'm sure the area deserves its reputation, and I did see Little Ringed plover and Black-winged stilt in a roadside pool, so maybe it just requires a more concerted effort. PS If you are the slightly elderly bearded British gent who I was rude to please forgive me..I'm not usually moody but was having a bad day.