Tuesday 8 January 2019

El Fondo, Elche

8 January 2019

Hardly recovered from Wednesday's day post than Dave and his Arboleas Birding Group took the long journey up to El Fondo for the very early visit to the closed reserve.  It must have been very frustrating after many hours driving to be confronted with driving restrictions upon arrival - but at least it finally got rid of the surplus fat built up be eating all that turkey, goose, duck and chicken; no wonder we have a shortage of birdlife!  But I see no mention of Marbled Duck, where have they all gone?

El Fondo, Elche   -   Saturday 5th January

It was very cold at 05.30hrs as I waited at the Overa hotel to be picked up by Alan, John and Val to be conveyed to the El Fondo Bird Reserve near Elche.  Mike, Diane and Richard followed in Mike's car. We headed initially to the Cox Service Station for a coffee and tostada.   Suitably refreshed we made our way to the North gate entrance.  We were first in the ever-growing queue.  As we waited for the first barrier to be lifted, we managed to see Little and Cattle Egret, squadrons of Cormorants, a single Glossy Ibis and some Marsh Harriers.  We saw the first of 100's if not 1,000's of Chiffchaff.  The first barrier was lifted we drove down to the 2nd gate, seeing Snipe and Lapwing on the way.  We were let through by the ranger, telling us we had to park up and walk from thereon.  As it is about a mile and a half (almost 3km) to the far end this cuts our 3 hour birdwatching window down another hour.  A decision difficult to understand.  Fortunately the ranger agreed that Mike could drive down due to Richard's mobility problems.

We all met up at the first elevated hide, a good half mile walk!  First birds noted were Black-necked Grebes.  We then spotted a gull/tern flitting over the surface.   After much discussion (and Diane going back to their car to get their Collins!) it was confirmed to be a 1st winter Little Gull.  To the right I found a huge flock of flying Glossy Ibis.  There were huge numbers of wildfowl....Teal, Common Pochard, Shoveler and Shelduck.  Alan found some Gadwall.  Also seen were Black-winged Stilt, Little Grebe, Coot, White Wagtail and a Kestrel.  I spotted a Common Buzzard flying by.  We heard Cetti's Warbler. 

Mike, Diane and Richard had already left to go down to the far elevated hide.  As space is limited, I began to walk to the 2nd hide down.  On the way I saw an Osprey flying to the left of where Alan, John and Val were.  They didn't see it as another birder had found a Spotted Eagle on a distant palm tree.  

Distant Spotted Eagle Aguila pomarina (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
At the 2nd hide I added Red-crested Pochard.  Outside whilst fiddling with my camera which was playing up, I was met by Val.  She'd seen a Robin and Black Redstart on the way down.  Meeting up with Alan and John, they had also seen Dunlin, Kentish Plover and Ferruginous Duck.  I hastily returned to the first hide, where the other birder pointed out the Spotted Eagle for me.  We met up with Richard, Mike and Diane at the third hide. They didn't see much from the 4th hide.  Moorhen and Great Crested Grebe.   Sharp eyed Richard spotted a Kingfisher.  Alan found a Water Pipit.  We moved to the 4th elevated hide.  As already stated, not much on the water, but Alan did find a distant Great White Egret and a Grey Heron.  Also seen were Crag Martins, Blackbird and Stonechat. 

Over-flying Great White Egret Egretta alba (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
I alone wandered to the small 5th hide.  Nothing much here either, only Coot and Grey Heron.  On the walk back I managed to get a shot of Alan's Great White Egret in flight.  Whilst away I'd missed a Purple Swamphen sighting.  As it was approaching 10.45 hrs we needed to head back the mile and a half to the exit gate.  On the way we spotted a Sparrowhawk and "my" Osprey flying back over.  Alan also found a Booted Eagle.  Mike, Diane and Richard obviously got back first.  Diane had spotted a Little Bittern in the water-filled channel to their left.  It flew off as we arrived, but very obligingly returned to what must be a favourite feeding point some 10 minutes later.

Little Bittern Ixobrychus minutus (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
Having been released by the warden we drove to the Information Centre.  We in the leading car saw what we thought was a Little Owl on an abandoned building.  Richard in Mike's car thought it was an eagle.  When we passed over an hour later the bird had predictably gone, so who knows who was right!
Once parked up we checked out the first pool.  A Purple Swamphen was showing well.  Alan found a Common Sandpiper and I spotted a Bluethroat.  Also seen were Snipe, a Black Wheatear, Coot and Black-winged Stilt.  Despite a large King's Day eve picnic going on in the area overlooking the Information Centre pool, there were still a few Red-knobbed Coot to be seen.  Our final bird on the list happened to be a House Sparrow spotted by Alan!  Walking along the raised wooden walkway, I spotted another Bluethroat which gave good but distant views.  The far hides were very disappointing.  Only Coots basically, but the last hide did produce another Bluethroat.

Bluethroat Luscinia svecica (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
All in all a very successful day. 56 species in total in glorious weather.  Great company and a good work-out with all the walking!

More photos from El Fondo - all by David Elliott-Binns

Black-winged Stilts Himantopus himantopus (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
White Wagtail Motacilla alba (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
Purple Swamphen Porphyrio porphyrio (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
Red-knobbed Coot Fulica cristata (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)

Check out the accompanying website at http://www.birdingaxarquia.weebly.com for the latest sightings, photographs and additional information

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