Sunday, 5 February 2017

El Fondo, Elche with the Arboleas Group

Saturday 4 February

Whilst Jenny and I were enjoying a week-end in Fuengirola,  Dave and his team were up north once again visiting the El Fondo reserve on the outskirts of Elche, close to Alicante.  Lots of good birds seen and one thing we had in common was the number of Crag Martins enjoying the last few days/weeks of their winter holidays down at lower levels before returning to their breeding grounds, usually at a much higher altitude.

El Fondo, Elche   -   Saturday 4th February 

Arrival of the Glossy Ibis Plegadis falcinellus  (PHOTO: Dave Elliott-Binns)
After a bad January when I had an angina attack and my 4x4's engine died for a second time,  I was looking forward to a good birding trip to El Fondo Bird Reserve, Elche, just south of Alicante.  I picked up Richard H at just after 5am in a loaned friends car.  We met up with Dave & Myrtle at Cox Service Station cafe for a coffee. Brian & Mary had to cancel as Mary had a heavy cold. Gilly and I feel a bit guilty as we quite probably were it's source!  At the designated time we arrived at the North Gate.  Here we met up with Helen.  The friendly ranger duly arrived just after 8am to let us in.  We made our way down to the far end where there is an elevated viewing structure.  We'd already logged Hoopoe, Moorhen, a Spotless Starling and a Kestrel. Richard saw a Robin by the parking area.  There wasn't much in the lake to our front. I think we only had Coot and a Little Grebe seen later on.  I spotted a Great White Egret flying low to the right.  It was later chased off by a Grey Heron.  Behind us in the other lake there was numerous wildfowl.  There was a large number of Red Crested Pochard and also Teal, Mallard and Shoveler.  We saw the first of numerous Marsh Harrier quartering over the reeds and pools causing widespread panic and also putting a breakfasting Peregrine Falcon to flight!. Small flocks of Lapwing flew over.  We checked for the reported Sociable Plover without success! Overhead flocks of Crag Martin swirled round. Richard spotted a swimming Purple Swamphen which later perched near the top of the reeds.  A single Spoonbill flew over.  An adult Booted Eagle flew along the eucalyptus tree line.   The reed beds were alive with Chiffchaff, but in numbers less than 4 weeks ago. 

Purple Swamphen Porphyrio porphyrio (PHOTO: Dave Elliott-Binns)
We moved, apart from Richard, to the hide a bit further along.  Much more of the same wildfowl was seen plus Common Pochard.  We heard Cetti's Warbler.  We added Magpie, Carrion Crow and Yellow Legged Gull.  Another birder pointed out a distant perched Spotted Eagle.  Returning to the elevated hide, which by now was pretty full of birders, we decided to try our luck in the other hides.  We all drove to the other smaller elevated hide, which also was crammed with birdwatchers.  Saw another Spotted Eagle perched in a distant dead tree.  We added Pintail and Shelduck. Richard found a Dartford Warbler.  Carrying on towards the exit we stopped to get closer views of the Spotted Eagle. A pair of Glossy Ibis flew over. Myrtle spotted an Iberian Grey Shrike.  Richard saw a Water Pipit.

Glossy Ibis Plegadis falcinellus (PHOTO: Dave Elliott-Binns)
It was only 10.30am, so we could have stayed in that part of the reserve for another hour, but all the hides were full.  We cut our losses and exited to go to the Information Centre part.  In the large shallow pool by the car park we saw Black Winged Stilt, Avocet and Little Stint.  White Wagtails were numerous.  From the observation area adjacent to the Centre we had good views of Red Knobbed Coot.  Moving round onto the raised wooden walkway, a Kentish Plover was seen.  A mall flock of 7 Glossy Ibis were feeding in the shallows. 4 weeks ago we had by the stage seen at least 10 Bluethroat.  I finally found one on a muddy isthmus. 

Red-knobbed Coot Fulica cristata (PHOTO: Dave Elliott-Binns)
Helen, Myrtle and I walked round to the next hide.  I saw a Sardinian Warbler.  From the hide we added Black Necked Grebe.  The walk to the next hide produced a Green Sandpiper.  From that hide we saw more Shelduck and Little Grebe.  We had a fleeting glimpse of another Bluethroat.  A Stonechat was observed.  We headed back to David and Richard, seeing another Bluethroat on the way.

After a lunch surrounded by very loud card players we began a drive around the lanes of the southern section, one route being blocked by a village's fiesta!  We only added Common Buzzard, Snipe, Black Redstart and Little Egret before deciding to head home.  (Apologies to David and Myrtle for getting lost!)

We ended up with 53 species.  Compared with 4 weeks ago there was a definite lack of birds, namely seeing only one Spotless Starling, three Little Egret and Bluethroat and no Cattle Egret at all. 

Regards, Dave

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