Saturday 4 June 2022

EL Fondo, Elche with the Arboleas Birding Group

Saturday 4th June 2022

El Fondo, near Elche

I set the alarm for 4.15am, but was awake at 3.30am, so got up.  Gave me time to sort myself out.  Gilly, bless her, had made my pack up before coming to bed.  I drove to Junction 547 where I met up with, Barrie, Trevor and Ab.  I then drove them north towards Alicante.  We stopped at the Cox service station (Jct 526...don't go there!) for a refreshing cup of coffee before carrying on our journey to the El Fondo bird reserve.  Our list started as we came off the motorway at the Crevillent Estacion junction.  It was about 07.00am and as the North Gate entrance wasn't due to be opened until (officially) 8.30am we headed towards the "football pitch" area.  The shrubs were nearly a third the way up the goal posts!

We'd only seen House Sparrow and Collared prior to taking to the track.  As I drove we saw a Jackdaw. Ab spotted a flying Grey Heron.  I parked up at a convenient turning place.  As we got out all our optics from the rear of my estate car, we added Crested Lark, Woodpigeon and a low flying Stone Curlew.  An auspicious start!  We headed up the track to where we could hear distant birds.  From the closer reeds we heard Zitting Cisticola, Great Reed and Cetti's Warbler.  Barrie spotted a Sardinian Warbler.  There was a bird sat on top of a dead palm tree.  At first the silhouette indicated a little owl, but it turned out to be a Kestrel.  It was then we saw the first of many Glossy Ibis.  This one flew over.  Barrie found a flying Hoopoe.  As we reached the source of the bird noise, as close as we could get to it, we saw a stretch of water in the distance.  It contained Greater Flamingos, Black-winged Stilts, Great Crested Grebe, Common Pochard and Mallard ducks.  We also heard Reed Warblers.  Barrie added Shelduck, Little Egret and Black-headed Gull.  We headed back towards the car, hearing distant Bee-eaters.  Trevor spotted a bird perched in a very distant tree.  We checked it out with a scope when we got back to the car.  Only a Woodpigeon in the shade unfortunately!  Barrie found a couple of grazing Cattle Egrets on the shrubland.

Some of the thousands of Greater Flamingos plus some Glossy Ibis (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)

We got to the North gate at about 08.00am so we had a bit of time to bird before the ranger came to open up.  We were greeted by a small number of Bee-eaters on a dead tree.  Barrie spotted our only Barn Swallow of the day.  Lots of Common Swifts around but no other hirundines except that swallow. We saw House Sparrow, Barrie reminding me that years ago we'd seen Tree Sparrows at that location! The ranger arrived at 08.15am and opened up.  Looking at her list she asked who was disabled, but sadly Richard couldn't make it.  This meant we had to do "the walk" down to the elevated viewing platform at the far end.  We had Little Bittern and Night Heron flying over plus more Glossy Ibis. Trevor and Barrie, out front, spotted a Whiskered Tern.  I was struggling with my sciatic nerve and hip problems, but did manage to spot a European Cuckoo flying up the tree line. 

Eventually we made it to the aforementioned platform.  Not a lot of bird life instantly visible but in time we spotted White-headed Ducks, Coot and Little Grebe.  There was a Little Bittern flitting between reed island quite close to us. 

Male White-headed Duck with an itch (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)

A Squacco Heron flew by.  Barrie spotted some passing Mediterranean Gulls.  Trevor and I wandered along to the small hide further to the right.  Previously there was only room for two persons, but it had been refurbished and enlarged with enough room for about six persons.  Very few birds there.  Great Crested Grebe and Common Pochard.  There was however a large pile of thankfully non-smelling poo in the corner of the hide.  This "toilet" area had been used on numerous occasions.  Trevor and I returned to the elevated platform and sent Barrie and Ab to investigate.  They hadn't added anything to the list in our absence.  We added Yellow-legged Gull, a Moorhen with chicks, a Purple Swamphen in the reed line and a flying Purple Heron being harassed by a couple of Avocet.  Our detectives returned and concluded the poo had been deposited by an Otter.  Whilst they were away, I had said to Trevor that I'm sure that bird song is the start of a Moustached Warbler's song.  It was heard when they got back.  A quick check on Barrie's phone confirmed I was correct!  Never did see it though!

It was about 10am when we began our walk back.  This time we stopped at the hides en route.  The first hide gave us hundreds of Greater Flamingos and numerous Glossy Ibis.  Barrie found a Squacco Heron. I discovered a single female Red Crested Pochard amongst her Common cousins.  We also saw distant Whiskered Terns, but a closer view of a Little Tern.  The next hide had at least 2-3,000 Greater Flamingos in front of it.  I counted 30 Glossy Ibis as well.  On some rocks to the right were some male Red-crested Pochard with a male Shoveler behind.  A Purple Heron flew by.  Barrie did well to spot a Tree Sparrow in the low reeds below us.

Tree Sparrow in the reeds (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)

My bird of the day.  In the 20 years I've lived here only the third time I've seen one.  He also spotted four Marbled Duck that had just flown in.  The final elevated hide didn't add anything to the list.  I commenced the torturous walk back to the car, Trevor thankfully taking my scope for me.

Glossy Ibis (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)

Having got back to the car, I drove round to the Information Centre.  I decided I'd be in charge of keeping an eye on our pack ups as the others did the walk round and the two hides.  As we arrived at the covered picnic table area, we saw that the enclosed pool was covered in blanket weed with a few channels.  In one of them was a Red-knobbed Coot.  A Moorhen was also seen.  The others left.  A Whiskered Tern arrived for some hunting and departed after being successful.  After about an hour the others returned.  They had only found success in the far hide.  They added a Black-necked Grebe with a chick on its back and a Black-tailed Godwit.  We sat and ate our snack.  Two Purple Herons flew above the shallow wetland behind us.  I spotted something land on the blanket weed.  It was a Squacco Heron. It soon got harrassed off by a Red-knobbed Coot parent as it was eyeing up one of the chicks!

Squacco Heron (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)

We ended up with 50 species.  A Cracking day as ever at El Fondo despite my mobility problems!  And great company too!
P.S. Got some insect photos as well!

Damselfly (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)

Dragonfly (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)

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