Thursday, 29 December 2016

El Fondo, Elche with Dave Elliott-Binns

Thursday 29 December

Christmas has come and gone and whilst I will get the bionic eye under way tomorrow when I drive up to Cabo de Gata with Steve and Elena Powell, my close friend Dave Elliott-Binns has been out on his own with a visit to a very special site near Elche which is close to Alicante.  No doubt Dave was up and out well before dawn with a couple of hours driving in the dark.  So the post Christmas birding activity starts up again.  Many thanks for the following report Dave.

El Fondo, Elche 29 December
Gilly was doing a 12 hour shift down at Almeria hospital so I took the opportunity to visit El Fondo near Elche for a couple of reasons.   Obviously the main job was to check out the birds, but the second was to arrange further visits for the Group into the restricted area. On the way up there, I stopped for fuel and a coffee at Cox.  It's about 11km south of the Crevillent Estacion turn off.  On the approach road to the Information Centre I managed to see White Wagtail, Serin, Magpie, Spotless Starling and Jackdaw.  I got to about 100 metres from the gate when I spotted dark birds in a water sodden field to my right.  I stopped. Firstly there were hundreds of Cattle Egret perched along the power line and there feeding in the field were at least 40 Glossy Ibis with a few Moorhen.  A very good start!

Glossy Ibis Plegadis falcinellus (PHOTO: Dave Elliott-Binns)
I parked up in the car park and began to walk around the shallow lake to the left of the buildings.  A Hoopoe showed well.  There had been good reed management with the large clumps, where the Great Reed Warblers had sung from in the spring and summer, being cut back.  New growth had commenced.  Above me were numerous Crag Martins.  Walking round I had many little birds. Crested Lark, Sardinian Warbler, Black Redstart, Greenfinch and a calling Cetti's Warbler.  I saw the first of hundreds of Chiffchaff, all of which needed checking to see that they didn't have Yellow Brows!  The reeds in the fenced off pool adjacent to the Information Centre had also been cut back giving clear views of the Purple Swamphen, Red Knobbed Coot, Moorhen and normal Coot feeding on the far bank.  Also seen there was a Zitting Cisticola.

Chiffchaff  Phylloscopus collybita (PHOTO: Dave Elliott-Binns)
I then moved round onto the raised wooden path over the far end of the lake.  A bamboo roof had been erected over the viewing platform.  From here I saw Shoveler and a couple more Red-knobbed Coot.  Obliging Chiffchaff were landing on the banisters!  At the end of the walkway I had a view over the far end of the field I'd seen the Glossy Ibis and Cattle Egret in.  I saw more of both species plus about half a dozen Grey Heron, Little Egret and Black Winged Stilt.  There were also some Lapwing which caught my interest as the reported Sociable Plover was usually found in Lapwings company. 

Red-knobbed Coot Fulica cristata with the seemingly obligatory neck collar (PHOTO: Dave Elliott-Binns)
As I walked towards the first hide a number of smaller birds were flitting between the shrubs and reeds.  I had a good, but brief, glimpse of a 1st winter Bluethroat.  It was also nice to see Reed Bunting.  At the hide I added Black Necked and Little Grebe.  There were a couple of male Red Crested Pochard and a female Teal amongst the numerous Mallard.  A passing female Marsh Harrier put them all to flight. 

Purple Swamphen Porphyrio porphyrio (PHOTO: Dave Elliott-Binns)
I then headed towards the second hide.  Unfortunately the track was completely flooded, but I did flush a Green Sandpiper.  Walking back I again saw the Bluethroat.  I stopped to check out the Glossy Ibis field.  The Marsh Harrier also had the same idea as it put everything to flight.  The vegetation must have been quite high as suddenly at least 100 Glossy Ibis took to the air!  I added Greenshank to the list.  

Hoopoe Upupa epops (PHOTO: Dave Elliott-Binns)
Heading back to the Information Centre I found a small group of waders on the lake side, Dunlin, Little Stint and a Little Ringed Plover.  A Stonechat was also seen.  Having booked up two visits at the Centre I returned to my truck.  I stopped in the next village for a brunch and coffee before heading towards the southern hide.  On the way I spotted a bird of prey on one of the pylons.  An adult Booted Eagle.  

Booted Eagle Hieraaetus pennatus (PHOTO: Dave Elliott-Binns)
Alas further along, the road was taped off, presumably for floods. Not knowing the route round I headed home.  A disappointing end to a good morning's birdwatching!  43 Species in total.  Weather was fine and sunny.     Regards to all, Dave
There comes a point when you can drive no further! (PHOTO: Dave Elliott-Binns)

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