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Barranc del Sinc trip

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Old Tuesday 18th February 2020, 07:00   #1
Gleb Berloff
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Barranc del Sinc trip

I have been planning this trip for an extremely long time. It came to my attention as one of the only places to see griffon vultures in the region. I have never seen these birds in my life before. And only white-tailed and golden eagles came close in size. I went to satiate myself with lovely views, fight my camera again for pictures, have a nice walk with my mum, and then show these images to my girlfriend, a massive wildlife and cactus enthusiast.
Our trip started in Santa Pola. The fog at the start was unnerving, to say the least, but we decided to continue, and soon reached the bus station. We took a bus to Alicante, and then in half an hour got onto a bus to Alcoy. As the bus drove on past Sierra del Maigmo, I saw a large almost-black bird of prey soaring above the wooded mountains. Based on the distance, it was a huge bird- with a massive fanned tail. I am reasonably confident that was a golden eagle, especially I have been told the area around Tibi, which we were passing at that moment, was especially good for them. However, I failed to take an image, despite having it in my viewfinder.
In Castalla, my mum noticed a raptor soaring over the city, which I didn't see at first. I quickly identified it as a massive female goshawk based on its characteristic colouration and shape.
No more raptors were seen despite driving near and under Font Roja nature reserve famous for its breeding Bonelli's eagles, all the way to Alcoy. And even as we got underway to the Barranc del Sinc we could see soaring birds in the distance over the massive cliffs. As we approached the trailhead, the birds started coming into view, enormous griffon vultures circling in the skies above the gorge. I managed to take a few very nice images and a video despite my protesting camera before we went into the gorge.
As we did so, we stopped regularly to view the vultures circling above the gorge and landing on the vertical cliff faces, making excellent images. I even managed to take one image of a vulture right as it was landing to roost with another vulture.
I also knew peregrines nest in the gorge, but was unable to see any.
The path mostly was nice, and we passed several lovely waterfalls on the way. Our route was through Alcoy to Montcabrer and back, and so as we went down the trail I stopped regularly to take images of soaring vultures. One vulture soared almost overhead, slowly enough for me to finally force my camera to take a decent image of the enormous bird. It was just amazing watching them glide slowly through the sky...
As we continued past several lovely waterfalls, we noticed that the path was flooded in some places as the stream was running right over it, which made it difficult to get past, and at one point I had to climb up onto a hill to observe the best route past a logjam over the flooded path which avoided a hidden mire. I do not recommend taking this route, unless when you see the collapsed pine you immediately move upground. Then, it can be bypassed relatively easily.
After that obstruction we moved on, and gradually the way became better and better, and the vertical cliffs turned into very steep slopes. Wandering through the forest, we sometimes got glimpses of the sky, and griffon vultures soaring through them.
We found a road, and started following it, and reached a small village, where I saw eight vultures soaring simultaneously in the skies.Despite being within easy reach of at least a view of Montcabrer, we decided to turn back, and hiked back through the gorge, enjoying the griffon vulture views. We bypassed the logjam upground, and a plunge pool beneath a waterfall looked so inviting part of me was just tempted to jump into it.
Be warned that this path is also a large trip hazard. When I viewed the waterfall I attempted to jump up onto the path, but tripped and so both my legs including my shins smashed into the rocks. Miraculously, I didn't break anything, or even bruise anything.
Hiking out of the gorge, we saw a lone vulture soar up out of the cliffs, and pass almost overhead, making a lovely shot. And, after this shot, as if my camera was not bad enough on shutter speed priority, I accidentally made the terrible mistake of setting it to aperture priority, distracted by admiring the vultures, but giving up on photographing them. I'd be furious if it was eagles I kept failing to photograph, my camera being unable to focus, but now was only very irritated.
But as we turned to descend to Alcoy bus station, I noticed a falcon struggling through the skies, heading right for the gorge. As I got it in my viewfinder I saw it was a peregrine lugging a pigeon it had caught right to the gorge, visibly struggling with the weight. I have a history with getting incredibly fortunate with falcons. Last summer, a red footed falcon was stalled by a massive gust of wind, just enough time for me to take a picture of it. And now, it was flying so slowly that I managed to get an image. On aperture mode it took me three tries before I made it. And even then that image is blurry, but still unique.
We made it to the bus station, with water and juice we had bought. I swallowed three bottles of it before boarding the bus in something like two minutes.
A lovely trip, to a lovely place. I will certainly and definitely return here. And a visit is highly recommended, but do be careful.
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Last edited by Gleb Berloff : Tuesday 18th February 2020 at 07:05.
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Old Tuesday 18th February 2020, 07:10   #2
Gleb Berloff
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Another series of images.
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Old Tuesday 18th February 2020, 07:14   #3
Richard Prior
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Well done Gleb, thanks for posting!
"Thought I saw an eagle
But it might have been a vulture
I never could decide" Leonard Cohen
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