Sunday, 16 July 2017

Summer Birding

Sunday 16 July

Make the most of this morning before the forecasted showers arrive about 1pm and just in time to add a little sparkle to the star of the British Grand Prix at, not do far away, Silverstone.  So, back from a walk down to the local petrol station to collect a Sunday paper, it is time to bring readers up to date with my present birding world.

This month to date has been most frustrating.  Whilst you have been enjoying 40+C weather in southern Andalucia we have had mainly dry and sunny weather with just the occasional shower or two but our 22C seems far more humid that your oven conditions.  Thanks goodness I got in a couple of hours at nearby Rutland Water at the start of the month and the second week-end visit to my eldest son near newbury in Berkshire to join up with all three boys and families produced a family(ies) of Long-tailed Tits on the feeders, with a maximum of 15 recorded on a single occasion, along with juvenile Blue Tits and the occasional Great Tit.  An added bonus was to have a Red Kite drift over immediately above and, indeed, every time we drove out of Stamford we seemed to be able to guarantee at least one of these beautiful raptors above the road.

But that's it.  Continuing, hindered work trying to sort out mother's probate and then having my bank accounts hacked ten days ago has led to all sorts of misery and frustration.  Hours spent on the phone and visiting local branches to, at present unsuccessfully, resolve the situation has prevented any birding and I had expected, as a minimum, to pay at least three visits to Rutland Water along with a couple of new sites.  Just shows how losing £13K can make an impact on your everyday life - but it could have been worse and I could have lost all my savings along with mother's finances awaiting probate.  Always look  on the bright side and grateful for small mercies.

But then some good news to cheer me up.  I had an email late last evening from my friend Dave Elliott-Binns (Arboleas Birding Group) complete with a report, yet again, from a visit to the El Fondo reserve near Elche, Alicante.  Reading this and previous reports from his visits to the reserve it would appear that marbled Duck is a resident bird and one can be guaranteed a sighting on each visit; I must remembers to keep away!  Anyway, enjoy Dave's report.

El Fondo Bird Reserve   -   Saturday 15th July

Paul contacted me some time ago to arrange a trip to the El Fondo bird reserve near Elche whilst he and fellow holidaying birdwatcher, Matt, were here for the week.  They also bought friend Neville along as well.   We met up at the Overa Hotel, junction 547, A7/E15 at 05.30hrs and Paul kindly chauffeured us all up there.  Having been refreshed with coffee at the Cox service station, we made our way towards the reserve.  Being slightly early we first went to the old football pitch area between the North gate access and the Information Centre.  Paul spotted a large bird perched atop a dead palm tree trunk.  A Short Toed Eagle....a brilliant start.  Other dead palm trees were being used as nesting sites for Jackdaws.  We heard our first Zitting Cisticola of the day.  Neville spotted a Kestrel.  Also seen were Barn Swallow, Common Swift, Crested Lark and Magpie.
As the time for Antonio, the friendly ranger, to open the North gate was approaching, we headed in that direction.  Whilst waiting for his arrival we could hear a Stone Curlew.  Neville was first to see a Green Woodpecker flying by.  Antonio duly arrived and let us through the two gates.  We were first in the queue.  Within 50 metres were had flushed at least 10 Squacco Heron, a Grey Heron and some Night Heron from the roadside channel.  Squaccos were everywhere.  The trees above us had Little Egrets perched on top.  I ordered Paul to stop as I noticed one of the former was in fact a Great White Egret.  We also saw Red-rumped Swallows, Black -headed Gulls and a Lapwing fly over as we made our way down to the elevated viewing platform at the end.  Compared with my last visit, where, if you remember, there were loads of various heron species feeding round the reed line, this time there was nowt as the say north of Watford Gap.  I spotted a White-headed Duck. 

Marbled Duck Marmaronetta angustirostris (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
There were Common Pochard and Mallard.  There were small numbers of Great Crested and Little Grebes.  Yes, there were still numerous Squacco Heron.  There were joined by a regular fly-by of Little Bitterns and Glossy Ibises.  Matt spotted an Iberian Grey Shrike perched high in one of the leafless trees which were also inhabited by Little Egrets.  I found a Purple Swamphen in the reeds and we saw a few Purple Herons.  I also spotted a pair of Common Sandpipers.

Little Bittern Ixobrychus minutus (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
The only other group of visitors to the reserve today were a group from a Spanish Photography Club.  When they ascended the stairs we took the opportunity to walk along to the other hide down there.  As soon as we had arrived Paul spotted an Osprey sitting on a pole out of the water.  The water was quite low so the edges were muddy/sandy flats.  Not many birds on them but we did see Black-winged Stilts, Green Sandpiper and both Ringed and Little Ringed Plovers.  Some Shelduck and Greater Flamingos flew by whilst a half dozen Whiskered Terns quartered the water.
Osprey Pandion haliaetus (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
With the arrival of the Photo group, having pointed out the Osprey, we returned to the elevated hide. We added Avocet.  Paul spotted a Hoopoe and Matt, a Little Tern.
We commenced our drive back to the exit, stopping off at the hides on the way. Our first stop was a painful stop for Neville and I.  Remember last time Les was stung by wasps on the steps. Both Neville and I got stung on the legs.  There was one nest under the steps and another larger one just to the side of the steps behind the hide sign.  Once inside, Paul found a Black-tailed Godwit on the shallow water in front of us and I spotted a flying Marbled Duck.  At the smaller elevated hide there were hundreds of black, white and grey birds in front of us.  Black-headed Gulls, Avocets, Little Egrets and at least 3 Great White Egrets.  Also seen were Slender-billed and Yellow-legged Gulls and Shelduck.  Amongst this group, hiding in full view, were 13 Spoonbill.
Glossy Ibis Plegadis falcinellus (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)

Antonio released us from there and we headed to the Information Centre.  The enclosed pool adjacent to the Centre provided good views of more Marbled Duck, a pair of collared Red-knobbed Coot and a fleeting view of a Purple Swamphen.  We wandered along the raised wooden walkway.  There was a commotion to our right.  A parent Coot with young was  viciously attacking a Purple Swamphen.  It was on its back pushing it totally underwater and pecking its head every time the poor bird came up for air.  It luckily managed to escape this ordeal.  I found a group of 5 Cattle Egret.  We headed for the furthest hide, seeing a flock of 100+ Glossy Ibis land further to our left.  The water level in front of the hide was very low, there being only a shallow pool.  There were 15 Glossy Ibis, together with some Black-headed Gulls there.  Paul spotted a pair of Greenshank.  We heard a Sardinian Warbler and actually saw a Zitting Cisticola on the way back to the car park!

Those dreaded Avipas that seem to love Dave's exposed legs!

Due to the hot weather we didn't have high expectations for the day, but we were proved wrong. 55 species in all.
Good birding in great company! Regards, Dave
It certainly sounds like a great day to me and I am still awaiting my first Marbled Duck of the year. 

Check out the accompanying website at for the latest sightings, photographs and additional information.

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