|Mountain view ( click on photos too enlarge )|
I would also like to say a big thank you to Richard Howard who took me to some sites on the 14th and 15th, he knows my uncle, without his help and local knowledge, I would not have seen half the ‘speciality’ species.
Friday May 13th
Dawn found me walking the lower mountains outside the villa, as the light came up many species started singing. Serin seemed to be everywhere and the calls of Thekla and Crested Lark soon joined the chorus, unusual sight of the morning was a Little Owl hovering over grass, never seen this before.
It soon became apparent that Fan Tailed and Sardinian Warbler were pretty common as I saw them everywhere, also heard Green Woodpecker.
Other species seen were-
Woodchat Shrike Peregrine- Tiercel seen on Mountain
Hoopoe – 2 seen and calling
Bee Eater – 4 seen hawking
Red Rumped Swallow – pair breeding next door
Swift – numerous
Pallid Swift – 1 definite
From here I headed out to explore the coast of the Mar Menor, 1st stop was an area of flat sand which is popular with the Kite Surfers, I arrived pretty early so not too many about. It is located around 2k further on from the village of Los Nietos as you head up the coast towards San Javier. As I arrived there was a very large flock of Yellow Legged Gulls resting up near a large pool of water, very shallow which obviously suited the birds present.
|Grey Headed flava type Wagtail|
|Red Rumped Swallow|
Slightly inland were 8 Red Rumped Swallows and a couple of Grey Headed flava type Wagtails, cracking looking birds as were the Red Rumped, both gave good photographic opportunities.
|Red Rumped Swallow|
Time was flying by and could have stayed there for hours photographing but moved on up the coast, next stop was the very large working salt lake next to Torremendo, very hard to cover, many tracks lead to it but hard to get close. I went around this for about 3 hours covering probably 50% of it, best bird by far was a male Montagu’s Harrier, stunning. Other notable species seen or heard were Nightingale, every Orange or Lemon Grove seemed to hold one, Turtle Doves were numerous, always good to see. By now it was late afternoon so headed for home, very hot and heat haze everywhere, a beer was calling.
The plains of Guadalentin
|Short Toed Lark|
|Southern Grey Shrike|
This trip also provided also produced 3 lifers for me, Lesser Short Toed Lark, Rufous Bush Chat and best of all, Roller. Along with the ever present Bee Eaters, Rollers were spectacularly colourful, I have waited a long time to see one of these, well worth the wait.
|Male on left|
|A very colurful cable|
Below is a list of just some of the species that we saw.
Rufous Bush Chat – 1 seen
Roller - a minimum of 8 seen
Quail - at least 8 heard
Little Bustard – 2 seen distantly
Hoopoe – 5
Stone Curlew – 8
Spectacled Warbler – 12 seen, a majority of these were singing males
Southern Grey Shrike – 3 seen
Great Spotted Cuckoo – 2 seen
Gull Billed Tern – 2 heard
Bee Eater – 12+
Booted Eagle – 1
Woodchat Shrike – 1
Red Rumped Swallow - many
Calandra Lark – 15
Short Toed Lark – 18
Lesser Short Toed Lark – 12
Also recorded were 12 Clouded Yellows.
We did not catch up with any Sand Grouse, it just provides a great reason to go back.
|Stunning looking birds|
From here we headed for a small lake on the edge of a mountain range called La Charca de Las Moreras, this provided great views of a pair of Great Spotted Cuckoos along with at least 10 White Headed Duck. The drakes really are cracking looking ducks, also present were numerous Great Reed Warbler, Red Rumped Swallow, Purple Gallinule, 3 Bee Eaters, 2 Cattle Egrets and a Hoopoe.
|Pale phase Booted Eagle|
To end the day we visited another site, a pair of Black Wheatears greeted us on arrival, I never realised that they are quite confiding, behaving just like garden Robins, not sure if this is normal behaviour but certainly appreciated to end a great day.
|Black Wheatear admiring the hire car|
I picked Richard up from Los Belones at 6.30am and we headed up the motorway towards Alicante passing Torrevieja and then heading for Dolores, El Hondo is sign posted from then on. The sign posts actually read ‘ El Fondo’.
The reserve is very big, made up of 2 reservoirs bordered by extensive reed beds, in total around 1100 hectares. The site in winter holds good numbers of the larger birds of prey, last winter they recorded up to 5 or 6 Greater Spotted Eagles, one of which I understand has a tracker.
|White Headed Duck|
On arrival at the car park and visitor centre, it is very modern looking, we looked on an adjoining farmers field and had 3 Audouin’s and around 10 Mediterranean Gulls, whilst scanning we heard a very unusual call. First thoughts for me were perhaps a Crake, later seen, it turned out to be a Southern Grey Shrike, I would never have connected the call to a Shrike, having said that, I heard a Woodchat Shrike singing also, some of it sounded Finchy. You never stop learning.
As we entered the reserve, it was still quite early, the mossies massed and made a bee line for the fresh meat, got a few bites before we could get the repellent on, they are persistent little buggers.
As we walked towards the hide we picked up our 1st Heron, a Purple, shortly after this they all started to appear, Squacco was next with a bird giving good views on a flyby.
I then got onto 2 ducks flying at distance, initial thought was Gadwall, and I then got the head pattern and wing bar, Marbled Teal, a lifer. We later got good views of these and ended up seeing 2 pair. We reached the hide and the birds on show were spectacular, double figure counts of Black Necked Grebes all in there summer plume finery, Whiskered Terns up and down, Collared Pratincoles hawking and White Headed Ducks right in front of us.
|Male Little Bittern|
Species of note seen were
Whiskered Tern – 8
Great Reed Warbler – numerous
Southern Grey Shrike – 2
Cattle Egret – 4
Marbled Teal – 4
Collared Pratincole – 10
Squacco Heron – 6
Little Bittern – 2
Black Necked Grebe – 10+
Little Tern – 3
White Headed Duck – 4
Stone Curlew – 1
Green Sandpiper – 1
Purple Heron – 4
Alpine Swift – 2
Woodchat Shrike – 1
Peregrine Falcon – 1 female
We spent a good few hours in the hide, it was hard to go and leave such a display but we decided to visit another part of the reserve, this turned out to be the move of the day.
On pulling up we got onto a male Montagu’s Harrier giving good views over a reed bed, a stunning looking bird, as we watched another came up and joined it, then another and so on.....
|Male Montagu's Harrier|
In the end there were 5 males up and a ringtail, as quickly as they showed they all disappeared again, in the next hour we had some good views of a male hunting and calling, I also managed to get a couple of shots of him.
This area also produced 3 Rollers nearby, one of these mobbed a male Monty, too far away too photograph but a very persistent individual, it was quite a sight.
Moustached Warbler was also heard briefly but simply too much thick cover to view.
Santa Pola Salinas El Pinet
This is not very far from El Hondo, it is a series of man made large pools and hosts large numbers of breeding Avocet, Black Winged Stilt, Common, Sandwich and Little Tern and a very large colony of Slender Billed Gulls. I would say the colony of Slender Bills is probably around the 250 mark, they are simply everywhere.
|Slender Billed Gull|
Would have like to have stayed longer hear but we were pressed for time and called it a day.
I did not think much could match Guadalentin but the birds seen at El Hondo, especially the male Montagu’s Harriers did so.
May 16th Bills
Last morning before flying home so I did a dawn stint from the rooftop for around 2 hours.
Birds of note seen were
Peregrine –Tiercel climbing for all his worth, obviously on to something higher up
Blue Rock Thrush – 1 flying to mountain side
Wood Lark – 1 overhead
Spannish Sparrow – 1 possible seen briefly
Alpine Swift – 3 in amongst the Swifts and Red Rumps
Stone Curlew – flight calling at dawn, took me a while to suss out what it was before I saw it.
|Rufous Bush Chat|