Sunday 19 March 2017

El Fondo with the Arboleas Bird Group

19 March 2017

It would appear that whilst I was up at Cabo de Gata in Almeria province withe Andalucia Bird Society for its March field visit, report later, Dave and his group were even further north at the "famous" El Fondo site.  A few years now since Dave took Jenny and I there so I wonder if it still holds breeding Moustached Warblers.  It certainly must still be very popular as I think Dave and company have made the long journey up to Elche, near Alicante, on at least four occasions these past six months or so.

El Fondo, Elche   -   Saturday 18th March

Paul & Kath asked me to arrange a day out at El Fondo whilst they were over for a short break, so here we were at silly o'clock heading towards the bird reserve near Elche. We'd already logged Blackbird and Black Redstart prior to arriving at the North Gate for 08.15hrs when the ranger released us into the reserve for the only 3 hour slot of the week into this, the best, part of the reserve. We heard Green "Iberian" Woodpecker and Cetti's Warbler as we were waiting. 
As Paul drove along the track towards the bottom elevated hide what should fly across in front of us but our first "Common" Cuckoo of the year!  A great start!  Also seen on the drive were Glossy Ibis and Cattle Egret.  As we exited the car a Common Buzzard flew off.  From the hide, looking away from the sun, onto the expanse of water in front of us we could see White Headed Duck, Mallard, Moorhen, Coot and Common Pochard.  I spotted a distant Purple Swamphen on the reed bed peripheries.  (Big word for this time of the morning if correct, but sounds good!) Some Greater Flamingos flew passed.  A Grey Heron was also seen.  On the water the other way we saw Cormorant,  Great Crested and Little Grebe.  In the reeds were a few Chiffchaff and invisible Cetti's Warblers.  On the water way over to the left were some Shoveler (more later!).  The only hirundine we saw was a lone Red Rumped Swallow. 
The sun was now warming us & and the raptors up. We were subjected to flights of Booted Eagles and Marsh Harriers, some of the former landing in the close by eucalyptus trees.  Meanwhile fast flying squadrons of Teal flashed passed to land unseen behind the reeds.

Booted Eagle Hieraaetus pennatus (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
We decided to move to the small hide along the dew covered grass track to the right.  As we walked along, getting decidedly wet shoes and socks, a flight of 200+ Glossy Ibis flew by.  From the hide we only added Shelduck, Cattle Egret and a single Black Headed Gull.  I had a fleeting glimpse of a Kingfisher.  Walking aback to the elevated hide we saw a Robin and a Barn Swallow.  We'd missed two Little Bittern flights whilst away!  We added a flight of Black Tailed Godwit before making our way to the hides further back towards the entrance.  The first was unreachable as the little bridge was under water.  The region had had torrential rains in the last week.  At the next hide we saw Black-necked Grebe and a single male Red Crested Pochard.
At the smaller elevated viewing hide we were greeted by three Great White Egret feeding with numerous of their Little cousins and a few Glossy Ibis.  A flight of 10 or so Golden Plover was seen. The vast expanse of water was covered with Shoveler.  I guesstimate there were at least 2,000+.  Paul found a male Blackcap skitting up and down a shrub.  I had a fleeting glimpse of what was probably an Osprey before it disappeared below the reeds.  We moved to the raised footway a bit further along. We were treated to our first Pallid Swifts high above us plus some soaring Marsh Harriers and a Booted Eagle. I at first missed the Alpine Swifts with the flight of Pallids but soon locked on to a couple of them.  A Green Sandpiper flew by.  We ended time there with a Kestrel.

Great White Egret Egretta alba (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
We then drove round to the Information Centre having been let out by the ranger.  A lot of families around, not to mention the midges and mosquitoes!  (Thought I'd got away with not being bitten, but have just found a large bite at the back of my head which won't stop itching now I've scratched it!) There was a singled collared Red Knobbed Coot in the pool next to the Centre.  We walked along the raised wooden pathway.  A Sand Martin flew by.  There was a Little Stint on the water line to our left. Then to our right another wader.  After much discussion we confirmed it as a Temminck's Stint, a lifer for Paul.  We got to the end of the pathway and Kath decided to head back to the car park as she was getting plagued by the mozzies.  Paul and I headed for the two other hides.  The far one was unreachable due to the water level, so we made our way back to the first one.  The usual suspects were there...Moorhen, Coot and Black Headed Grebe.  We were just about to leave when I spotted a Marbled Duck.  In fact there were four on the far reed line.  

Marbled Duck Marmaronetta angustirostris (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
We also saw Crested Lark, Sardinian Warbler and Zitting Cisticola on the way back.

Temminck's Stint Calidris temminckii (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
A great days birding in good company, ending with 55 species.
Regards, Dave
Great report dave and most envious to read about both the swifts and the Marbled Ducks.

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