Saturday, 27 January 2018

Arboleas Birding Group to El Fondo

Saturday 27 January

Good to see that Dave's camera is back to "normal" once more in time for his first visit of the year to the El Fondo site near Elche, Alicante.  Lovely to read about the many Booted Eagles and Bluethroats plus the numerous waders.

El Fondo & Lagunas de Compotejar-Salar Gordo: Saturday 27th January

It was only myself, Les, Alan and John, who was driving, heading at silly o'clock north towards Elche. Unfortunately the four others had to cancel.  After a break at the Cox Service Station we made our way to the North Gate of El Fondo Bird Reserve to await entry at around 08.30hrs.  It was chilly, but no wind at that time.  We heard a Green Woodpecker, but saw Cormorant, Blackbird, Little Egret and the first of hundreds of Chiffchaff.  Les spotted a Reed Bunting.  Also seen before the ranger arrived were Jackdaw, Collared Dove, Black Headed Gull, White Wagtail, Spotless Starling and Magpie.  Once in, we drove slowly along the track, heading to the far elevated hide.  On the way we had Black Redstart, Moorhen, a Common Buzzard and a Purple Swamphen. We saw the first of over 20 Marsh Harriers.  We climbed up to the hide.  There were many Crag Martins overhead.  

On/in the water were Red-crested Pochard, Black-necked and Little Grebe, Shoveler, Common Pochard and a small group of Greater Flamingo.  We could hear Cetti's Warblers.  I spotted a single Black-winged Stilt to our right, but Les was checking out the large shallow expanse of water further to the left.  He found Lapwing, Dunlin, Little Stint, Avocet and Shelduck.  Never seen so many.  In the reserve there must have been between 750-1,000 birds.  The odd flight of Teal shot past.  We then saw our first Booted Eagle of the day.  Must have seen about 10 during the day.  Two Kingfisher flew past.  We decided to get closer to the left hand shallow water so walked to the next hide back along the track.  There were a few Little Ringed Plover feeding on the mud in between rotting shrubs.  I spotted a Bluethroat flitting in and out of the reed base as were Stonechat and a Robin.  Alan found a Temminck's Stint and also spotted a Raven.
Little Egret Egretta garzetta (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
Moving back to the small hide the other side of the elevated hide, we added Mallard, White-headed Duck and Great Crested Grebe. When 30 non-birding Spanish arrived at the hide made for four, we exited and made our way to the other hides adding Redshank, Meadow Pipit and Chaffinch before getting an early release by the ranger.
Bluethroat Luscinia svecica (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
We drove round to the Information Centre.  On the first pool we had a surprise.  Not a Barn Swallow, but a Red-rumped Swallow feeding low over the water with the Crag Martins!  Moving to the observations area adjacent to the building we found 4 Red-knobbed Coot with only one with an ID collar. 

Red-knobbed Coot Fulica cristata (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
There were also a pair of Marbled Duck. We glimpsed another Bluethroat as we commenced the wooden walkway.  At the observation deck we had good views of a Purple Swamphen.  At the far right hide I was first to spot a flight of 20+ Glossy Ibis in the distance.  Les found some waders to the left. Green, Wood and Common Sandpipers all within 5 metres of each other and a Water Pipit as well.  We ended our list with Kestrel and Northern Starling.  As we were leaving a Booted Eagle and Common Buzzard were having a dogfight above us.

Purple Swamphen Porphyrio porphyrio (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
We finished with 62 species which surprised us all.  Could've been more, but the cold wind had increased during the morning.  On the way home we decided to check out some other sites.  We first stopped at a reservoir John knew, the Embalse de Santomera, but access was blocked by a new gate.   Undaunted we headed for the Lagunas de Compotejar-Salar Gordo, near Fortuna off the Murcia to Albacete road.  Les had found an article on it in a Costa Blanca magazine.  It is a complex of 5 medium sized lakes for the protection of White-headed Ducks.  Sure enough, on the first lake next to the information centre there were quite a number of them as well as Common and Red-crested Pochard, Shoveler and Little and Black-necked Grebes.  Les found a Purple Swamphen plus Moorhen, Green and Common Sandpiper.  A Bluethroat, Stonechat and Serin were added. At the next lake I spotted 4 Ferruginous Ducks. 3 males and a female which flew to the far end.  We also had Red-legged Partridge, Magpie and a Southern Grey Shrike.  All the lakes contained similar wildfowl apart from the Ferruginous Ducks.  Bit difficult to find but I'm sure you can get directions from the internet.  Very suitable for wheelchairs users as wide tracks were tarmac'd.  We saw 22 species there.
Red-legged Partridge Alectoris rufa (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)

A long but great days birding!  You can see from the photos I've sorted out the blue rinse!
Regards, Dave
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