Saturday, 29 May 2010

El Hondo Storm

El Hondo

El Hondo

North Gate

I arrived at the North Gate at 08.15 as usual on a Saturday, the freak rain storm we had last night left me feeling fairly optimistic that I might find a good wader on one of the scrapes which last week had been dry. First stop was the observation platform, the area viewed from here (see above) has not dried out yet this year and as a result is usually one of the most productive spots. Numerous Little Bittern were frequently flying across the water as usual and lots of Great Reed Warbler were in good song. Other species recorded here included, Moustached Warbler, White-headed Duck (appears to have lost its brood of 4), Purple Heron, Squacco Heron, Night Heron and a non breeding/immature Great Egret (my first record for 5 weeks).

I then moved to the marsh tower where an hour birding yielded some good birds, but unfortunately the only waders present were the resident Kentish Plover. For some reason I had convinced myself I was going to find a Terek Sandpiper, wishful thinking! This huge disappointment was softened by the presence of Whiskered and Little Tern, Greater Flamingo, Glossy Ibis, Squacco Heron, Purple Heron, Montagu's Harrier and thousands of Pallid and Common Swift.

Great Egret
Visitors Centre

Still not convinced that Terek Sandpiper was beyond the realms of possibility and with thoughts of White-tailed Lapwing now creeping into my mind! (having been told abot a bird in Holland today), I decided to check the main scrape near the visitors centre. The walk down to the viewing platform produced Marbled Duck (8), Red-crested Pochard, Common and Whiskered Tern and a pale phase Booted Eagle.
When i arrived at the platform it was clear to see that the rain had created a perfect wader feeding ground. 800+ Greater Flamingo (the first I have recorded on this scrape) were feeding amongst Avocet and Black-winged Stilt. After 15 minutes I found my waders, not quite a White-tailed Lapwing but the 6 Black-tailed Godwit were the first I have seen here in about a month. The return loop back to the car park passed a ploughed field which contained 150+ Collared Pratincole (see below) an impressive end to a good days birding.

Collared Pratincole

Collared Pratincole
On the drive home the evidence of yesterday's storm was everywhere, nearly all of the fields were flooded and each field held 20+ Cattle Egret (see below), I would have probably had more chance of that Terek if I had looked around the farm fields and not the reserve, Oh well, there's nothing wrong with a bit of optimism!

Cattle Egret

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

La Mata

La Mata

I went for a walk around La Mata this afternoon, the walk down to the tower was fairly quiet probably due to the sun still being high. There were some large flocks of Serin and Greenfinch on the way down as well as the occasional Corn Bunting, Hoopoe and Crested Lark. From the tower many of the usual suspects were seen, including Avocet, Black-winged Stilt, Kentish Plover and the odd passing tern.

A huge battle developed in front of me whilst at the tower which highlighted the trails and tribulations faced by birds on a daily basis at this time of year. A Woodchat Shrike spent about 15 minutes attempting to take the very small (1day old?) chicks out of a Kentish Plover nest. The shrike eventually gave up mainly due to the huge efforts of both Kentish Plover, a massive feat when you consider that the shrike is considerably bigger than this small wader (see below).


"The Battle"

The walk to the second hide was much more productive in terms of different species recorded, the highlight of which was a Rufous Scrub Robin. Other species of note seen during the walk were, Turtle Dove (8+), Spotted Flycatcher (see below), Cuckoo (2), Greater Short-toed Lark (2), Hoopoe (10!) and a male Montagu's Harrier.

Little Tern
From the hide it was clear to see that the Tern colony was doing well, some of the birds already having chicks. Terns numbers visible from the hide were as follows, Little Tern (12 pairs), Common Tern (18 pairs), Whiskered Tern (4 pairs) and a single pair of displaying Gull-billed Tern. All the waders recorded at the tower were also present here in good numbers with the addition of 4 Curlew Sandpiper. The walk home was made even more enjoyable by another Rufous Bush Robin, but unfortunately it would not sit still long enough for a picture, maybe tomorrow!

Spotted Flycatcher

Saturday, 22 May 2010

El Hondo Sat 22

El Hondo

El Hondo - General View

I arrived at El Hondo North gate today for the usual Saturday visit at 07.30. Whilst waiting to be let onto the reserve I managed good views of Roller, Bearded Tit, Great Reed Warbler and 3 Montagu's Harrier (2 Male, 1 Female).

The viewing platform was my first port of call and during an hour and half spent here the following species of note were recorded; Little Bittern (numerous), Squacco (5) and Purple Heron (4), Moustached and Great Reed Warblers (numerous), Bearded Tit (5+) Cuckoo, Whiskered and Little Tern and Greater Flamingo. The highlight of this area was a pair of White-headed Duck with 4 young, see below.

White-headed Duck

Next stop was the Tower Hide. All of the previously mentioned species were recorded again here, with the exception of White-headed Duck. Additions included Red-crested Pochard (6), Marbled Teal (2), Garganey (1), Gull-billed Tern (3+), Mediterranean Gull (10+), Curlew Sandpiper and Glossy Ibis. The Spoonbill which turned up last week is still present and has been joined by another individual!
The highlight of this area and the day was a "dark morph" Little Egret which was a unexpected find and raised the heartbeat for a few minutes!! The bird flew across the marsh and showed a large white flash in each wing whilst the rest of its plumage was a dark blue. Landing with the numerous other Little Egret, it showed well for 5 minutes in the scope before walking into a channel. The bird had an all dark bill ruling out Western Reef Egret but it could possibly have been a hybrid? Hopefully the bird will be present on Wednesday and some pictures can be obtained.

Little Bittern

Purple Heron

Friday, 21 May 2010

Clot and Santa Pola

Santa Pola - Mass Hatching

Yellow Legged Gull
I arrived at Santa Pola this morning to the spectacular site of Avocet, Black-winged Stilt and Yellow-legged Gull chicks everywhere! The Black-winged Stilt and Avocet in particular had formed 3 large nurseries of at least 25 young in each group. Both species were very defensive even though I was at least 200m from the young, so hopefully this will mean a high survivle rate. Other species seen here included, Little Bittern, Purple Heron, Greater Flamingo (1000+) and 5 Marbled Teal.

Marbled Teal
Marbled Teal

Clot de Galvaney
I spent a couple of hours at Clot after visiting Santa Pola in the hope of finding Rufous Bush Robin. Unfortunately I didn't have any success although I'm sure I will find this late arriving migrant within the next few days. Having seen Marbled Teal fairly well at Santa Pola, it was fantastic to see them much closer at Clot, there are at least 4 pairs on the reserve at the moment (see above). It is fairly strange to see such a rare breeding bird so well in an area very close to human habitation, but welcome nevertheless (see below). Other species of note seen in and around Clot included, White-headed Duck (2), Turtle Dove (numerous), Cuckoo (3), Red-rumped Swallow (10+), Spotted Flycatcher (numerous), Green Sandpiper (2), Water Rail, Hoopoe, Spectacled Warbler (1) and Golden Oriole (1).

Clot de Galvaney

Clot de Galvaney

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

El Hondo

El Hondo
I arrived at El Hondo this morning at 06.45 and had to wait until 08.15 for the gates to the reserve to open. Whilst waiting I birded around the entrance track, recording the following species; 4 Roller, 3 (all male) Montague's Harrier, Common Tern, Purple Heron, Squacco Heron, Sardinian, Reed and Cetti's Warbler, Green Sandpiper and a family of Water Rail (see below).

Water Rail

Tower Hide

Unlike my last windswept visit, the reserve was very calm today. Although the lack of 40mph winds did make things easier when birding in a 40ft wooden tower, it did mean many of the terns were feeding further out on the main lagoon. The Spoonbill found last week remained and was feeding in close proximity to 3 Glossy Ibis. The following species were also seen from the tower, Whiskered, Gull-billed, Little, Common and Black Tern, Squacco, Purple, Night and Grey Heron, Little and Cattle Egret, Little Bittern, 1 Pintail, 2 Garganey, 18 Curlew Sandpiper and 22 Black-tailed Godwit.

Moustached Warbler
Marsh Hide
I arrived at the Marsh Hide to find Ignacio Garcia Peiro ringing. Ignacio has been studying the birds of El Hondo for many years and has wrote a book on his studies. I spent a fantastic couple of hours with Ignacio in which time we caught, 3 Reed Warblers, Moustached Warbler and a superb female Little Bittern (Below).

Little Bittern

Little Bittern
The following species were recorded around the Marsh Hide area whilst watching the nets, 14 Collared Pratincole, 8 Bearded Tit, Cuckoo, Golden Oriole, Cettis Warbler, Nightingale, Green Sandpiper, Curlew Sandpiper, White-headed Duck (still with 5 chicks), Red-crested Pochard, Squacco Heron, Purple Swamphen and Osprey.

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Mar Menor

Sunday 16th - Murcia
Went to have a look if the King Eider at Mar Menor was still present this morning. After a short search the bird was located on an upturned boat near the Albujon river mouth. Slender-billed Gull were also present. Access is from junction 794 on the AP7 signposted El Carmoli.

King Eider
A walk afterwards along one of the nearby river valleys produced,
20+ Roller, 1 sub adult Golden Eagle, 4 Greater-spotted Cuckoo and numerous Greater and Lesser Short-toed Lark, Calandra Lark, Rock Sparrow, Tree Sparrow, Bee-eater, Green Woodpecker, Quail, Little Bustard, Turtle Dove and Black-bellied Sandgrouse.

15th El Hondo

Sat 15th May - El Hondo

The weekly visit to El Hondo was fantastic as always. The first hide was fairly quiet but 2 Glossy Ibis which flew in after a short wait made the walk worthwhile. All the usual species were present from the viewing platform including Little Bittern, Purple Swamphen, Purple Heron, Squacco Heron, Greater Flamingo, Great Reed and Moustached Warblers and the highlight, a White-headed Duck with 5 young.

The Marsh Hide held plenty of Whiskered and Gull-billed Tern which were pushed closer to the hide due to the high winds. Three Honey Buzzard which drifted over were presumably also pushed onto the reserve due to the wind strength in the mountains. The Highlight of the entire day was a Spoonbill from the Marsh Hide which although common in other parts of Spain is the first I have recorded at El Hondo, a poor record shot can be seen below.


Friday, 14 May 2010

Gran Alicante

Friday 14th May - Gran Alicante Area

Purple Swamphen
A brief stop at a layby on the N332 reveled that the usual Little Terns, Yellow-legged Gull, Pochard and Shelduck had been joined by 4 Marbled Duck! After watching the duck for 10 minutes or so I decided to check Clot, surely if there were Marbled Duck at Santa Pola there must be more at Clot?!

The first hide held Green Sandpiper, Purple Swamphen, Little Ringed Plover, White-headed Duck and a family of Pochard. My suspicions were confirmed on reaching the second hide where 9 Marbled duck were present. Close views of this beautiful species provided great photo opportunities, see below.

Marbled Duck
Thursday 13th May - Owls and Nightjars

I decided to go out this evening in search of a new site for Eagle Owl, the area i choose was about 5km outside Algorfer. After an hour of searching with only a Little Owl found, the night soon picked up when an Eagle Owl slowly drifted across the valley and perched on a nearby rock face. The bird soon began calling and this seemed to act like a switch for everything else to kick into action. Within 2 minutes of the Eagle Owl starting to call Red-necked Nightjar, Little Owl, Cuckoo and Scops Owl could all be heard. Shortly after this (whilst watching the Scops Owl) a European Nightjar started Churring. An excellent 40 minutes birding, its a shame these species are not active all day!

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Monday 10th - Wednesday 12th May

Castile La Manche

Monday 10th

En route to the Cabaneros area I decided to make a stop near Petrola for a couple of hours birding and some breakfast. After a quick food stop I moved off into the plains and was soon rewarded with 9 male Great Bustard displaying to a single female. At the same time on the other side of the road 4 male Little Bustard were very active displaying to a hidden female, fantastic!

After watching them for a while I moved on to an area that on my previous visit had been good for Sandgrouse. After 10 minutes and a short walk I had found a group of 12 Pin-tailed Sandgrouse showing fairly close. Whilst watching these unique birds a party of 4 Black-bellied Sandgrouse flew over. Other birds recorded in the area included Calandra Lark (numerous), Thekla Lark, Black-eared Wheatear, Rock Sparrow (above left), Bee-eater and Southern Grey Shrike.

Pin-tailed Sandgrouse

Arriving in the Cabaneros area late, there was just enough light for an hours birding. A walk along a river just outside the National Park produced a number of good species. Pied Flycatcher, Spanish Sparrow, Booted Eagle and Green Sandpiper were all recorded. This area was covered in White Stork nests with approximately 23 nests seen in the short half mile walk. The highlight of this short walk was 4 Black Vulture and a single Griffon Vulture which drifted slowly over the river.

Tuesday 11thThe first full day in Cabaneros began with a walk down a track which dissects a section of wildflower meadows. This area was extremely productive for three species in particular, Golden Oriole, Azure-winged Magpie and Woodchat Shrike, all of which were present in good numbers. Turtle Dove and Quail were both very vocal in the area, the latter showing well at times.

Golden Oriole

As I proceeded down the track and it began to warm up raptors became more active. Small groups of Black and Griffon Vulture were a constant fixture in the air as were Booted Eagle and Black Kite. A perched Short-toed Eagle posed well for pictures, although the heat haze made it difficult to focus the camera on the bird.

Short-toed Eagle

Next stop was an area that on my previous visit had been good for Black-shouldered Kite. Almost as soon as I arrived a Black-shouldered Kite appeared and proceeded to hunt the area in front of me. I watched the bird hunting for 10 minutes until it eventually gave up and decided to perch, I managed a few pictures (below) but unfortunately the heat haze was again an issue. Other species seen in this area included, Roller, Nightingale, Greater Spotted Cuckoo, Hoopoe, Bee-eater, Azure-winged Magpie (below), Golden Oriole, Spanish Sparrow and White Stork.

Azure-winged Magpie

Black-shouldered Kite

My favourite part of the Cabaneros area was by far the final destination of the day, which on my previous visit had held a pair of displaying Spanish Imperial Eagle. I started out with fingers crossed that they had remained to nest in the area. The walk down to the site produced new birds in the form of Bonelli's Warbler, Sub-alpine Warbler, Cirl Bunting, Rock Bunting and Grey Wagtail. During the first half an hour at the site a number of raptors appeared over the ridges including Golden Eagle, Booted Eagle, Black Kite, Griffon Vulture and Black Vulture but my target species still eluded me.
A bit of patience paid off and after another 15 minutes an adult Spanish Imperial Eagle drifted in low along the canopy line and landed just out of view. A few minutes later the bird re-appeared and slowly gained height over my head, initially only 30m above me. Such close encounters of this spectacular species define the term "breathtaking" and are certainly recommended if you have not yet been privileged enough to experience them for yourself.

Black Vulture

Wednesday 12th
Before setting off for home I couldn't resist another try for the two raptors that define this area Black-shouldered Kite and Spanish Imperial Eagle. I located the birds in the same area that I had visited yesterday. After enjoying superb views of both species I begrudgingly headed home. A succesful and rewarding couple of days birding. The species listed in this post can be enjoyed on a number of our tours, for further information please feel free to contact me -

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Saturday 8th May - El Hondo North Gate

Access to the North Gate of El Hondo had been arranged for between 08.15 - 11.15. The North Gate is only accessible between this time on a Wednesday and Saturday which is a shame as it is arguably the best part of the reserve.

Marsh Hide
The walk down to the hide indicated immediately just how many Great Reed Warblers had arrived in the few weeks I had been away, with at least 30 birds being recorded in the short walk down to the hide. Between the Great Reed Warblers a couple of Moustached Warblers were heard and subsequently located, as well as a Savi's Warbler. From the hide Whiskered, Little and Common Tern were all present in good numbers along with Purple Heron and Black-tailed Godwit. Other noteworthy additions included; 5 Night Heron, 7 Squacco Heron, 7 Wood Sandpiper, 12 Curlew Sandpiper, 3 Pintail, Garganey (drake), 2 Marbled Duck and a fantastic White-winged Black Tern.

Squacco Heron

South Hide
Ringing was taking place at the entrance to the hide which is undertaken to monitor the population of breeding warblers. My timing was impeccable as the team of Spanish ringers were just processing a re-trapped Moustached Warbler. From the hide: 57 Curlew Sandpiper, Gull-billed Tern, 2 Purple Gallinule, Water Rail (with 3 chicks), Spotted Redshank, Montague's Harrier, Marsh Harrier and Booted Eagle were all recorded. A brief stop at the Roller site on the way home was not disappointing with 3 birds present.
After Lunch I had a walk around the lakeside scrub and pines at the back of the house with great success. The circular walk produced Spotted and Pied Flycatcher (both in good numbers), 2 Iberian Green Woodpecker, 2 Turtle Dove, Cuckoo, 12 Long-tailed Tit, Coal Tit and Willow Warbler. A single Turnstone on the edge of the lake was the first I had seen at this site and it ended a great days birding perfectly.

Pied Flycatcher

Friday 7th May - El Hondo Area

White-headed Duck

This morning I headed over to El Hondo and walked the perimeter to both hides/viewing platforms. The vegetation has grown massively in the 3 weeks I have been away in the UK, due to the extremely wet weather this region has sustained. The rain has also aided the water levels on the reserve, particularly for Greater Flamingo which have nested here for the first time in 12 years with approximately 200 pairs present. A couple of hours produced a number of noteworthy species including, 2 Marbled Duck, 30+ White Headed Duck, 2 Fudge Duck, 9 Curlew Sandpiper, 130+ Collared Pratincole and numerous Montigues Harrier, Great Reed Warbler, Woodchat Shrike, Whiskered Tern, Little Tern, Common Tern, Purple Gallinule, Squacco Heron, Purple Heron, Night Heron and Little Bittern. The highlight of the day was whilst exploring a new area nearby where I was lucky enough to watch 4 male Roller displaying to a female for over 10 minutes, these superb birds are certainly worthy of their name!

Collared Pratincole

In the evening I went for a walk in search of Red-necked Nightjar which after waiting for a short while began calling. A total of 15+ where seen, whilst a singing European Nightjar was a welcome bonus along with Scops Owl.