|Dotterel (Jesús Porras)|
Jesús had given me excellent directions and I got out of the car and gazed across what looked like perfect Dotterel country. A quick glance produced several Lapwing and Calandra Lark, but no sign of anything else. So I walked back along the track about a hundred metres and then systematically scanned across the fields as I returned to the car. Three Griffon Vultures and a Black Vulture had become airbourne and effortlessly rose on a hidden thermal. The sky was cloudless and the light conditions superb. I stood by the car again and this time looked again at the first area, where the habitat had seemed most promising. And there they were! A group of four Dotterel in their greyer non-breeding plumage had emerged from a belt of dry thistles onto open ground. Feeding like true plovers, they took a few paces and then stopped, then a few more paces before another stop and a peck on the ground. At least two others were further off, amongst the thistles still. I stood delighted and mesmerised by these wonderful birds, with their almost swollen creamy superciliums, black beady eyes and the suggestion of a pale necklace hanging across the breast. I was intrigued as well: are they here on a stopover, or perhaps for the whole winter? The species winters in North Africa, but it has been known to stay in a few places in Spain as well. This site had all the appearance of being potentially a good area. And as I watched them, memories came back of my earlier sightings, a long time ago, on fenland fields in eastern England, which apart from the sense of space, bore little similarity to these rough sparse Spanish pastures, especially since as I watched the Dotterel my ears soaked up as well the sounds of sandgrouse and a multitude of Calandra Larks. And I marvelled at the luck of Ricardo who had found these proverbial needles in the haystack and recognised his generosity at passing the news of his discovery on.