Sunday 4 June 2017

El Fondo Reserve, Elche with dave and friends

Saturday 3 June

I seem to have lost count of the number of times my friend Dave Elliott-Binns has travelled up to the wonderful El Fondo Reserve bear Elche (think Alicante).  And here he is again with a great set of sightings to whet the appetite of we who have either never been or the odd occasion in what now seems the distant past.  Similarly, given the restricted opening tomes, this is the perfect destination for our "night owls" and any who can't sleep at night!

El Fondo/Hondo, Nr Elche   -   Saturday 3rd June

Night Heron Nycticorax nyticorax (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
Months ago, Barrie asked me to organise a trip to El Fondo whilst he was here on holiday.  So at silly o'clock we, Les, Barrie, John and myself, met up at the Overa Hotel, Jct 547 E15 motorway.  Les kindly chauffeured us up to the Cox Service Station for a coffee break before we made our way towards the bird reserve.  As we were there an hour before the north gate was opening we had a look in the football pitch area on the way to the Information Centre.  Above us were numerous Common Swift.  John also saw a Red Rumped Swallow.  John, I think it was, spotted a large raptor on a dead tree together with something smaller.  They turned out to be a Short-toed Eagle with a Kestrel escort. We'd already seen some flying Shelduck.  Jackdaws were nesting in holes in dead palm trees.  We heard Reed and Cetti's Warbler, but saw the Zitting Cisticola.  Heading back to the road, some of the goal posts were being used as perches by pairs of Bee-eater.  We headed for the North Gate.  Whilst waiting John heard a European Cuckoo, which later visited a tree nearby.  We heard but didn't see the Stone Curlew.  Also seen were Hoopoe, Wood Pigeon, Glossy Ibis, Barn Swallow and Sardinian Warbler.  By the time Antonio, the ranger, let us in we'd already clocked up 23 species.

Night Heron Nycticorax nyticorax and Little Egrets Egretta garzetta (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns
The slow drive down to the elevated viewing platform produced Moorhen, Black-winged Stilt and John spotted Booted Eagle and some Night Herons down a side channel.  The view from the platform was amazing.  Down the left hand reed line were numerous Little Egret, Squacco Heron, some Night Heron and the odd Purple Heron.  Little Bitterns were flying between reeded islands.  Vast numbers of Whiskered Terns were flying, circling and fishing.  I spotted a single Gull-billed Tern amongst them.  There were also Greater Flamingo, Coot, Little and Great Crested Grebe and Common Pochard, the latter two with young.  Watching the terns I was just about to remark how much bigger the Gull-billed Tern was compared to the Whiskered Terns, when the larger tern showed its face.  A Caspian Tern.  Far to the left I spotted a flying Great White Egret.  A pair of Marbled Duck flew in for a brief stop.  The unusually quiet Great Reed Warbler finally showed itself.

Record shot of the pasing Caspian Tern Sterna caspia (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
And another good thing was, we and a family of four were the only visitors.  We moved to the little hide to the right.  Here we added Black-necked Grebes and a pair of Purple Swamphen.  Some Grey Heron flew over.  Barrie heard a Chiffchaff.  We returned to the elevated hide were he also found a female Red-crested Pochard with young.  Constantly we were seeing Glossy Ibis, Little Bitterns and Purple Herons flying and landing.

Little Egrets Egretta garzetta with Purple Heron Ardea purpurea (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
As time was moving on, we drove the short distance to the next hide heading towards the exit.  John, Barrie and I were in the hide when Les screamed and ran in.  He'd been stung three times by wasps. There was a nest under one of the steps!  From here we saw Yellow-legged Gull, but Barrie identified the star, a Moustached Warbler.

Watch out for the Wasps Polistes dominulus! (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
The next stop produced a Gadwall.  As we were walking back to the car I spotted Collared Pratincoles flying over.  We now reached the smaller elevated platform.  Barrie found the Avocet. Breedin- plumaged Black-tailed Godwits were seen.  Barrie spotted a Shoveler.  I spotted a Greenshank flying in. I t landed near another bird.   Due to space restrictions, I didn't have my scope with me.  I directed Barrie to this bird.  A Lapwing.  Chiffchaffs and Reed Warblers were feeding in the trees next to us.  We also managed to spot a Reed Warblers nest quite high up and exposed on a reed.  Barrie spotted a distant Short-toed Eagle, presumably the same one we'd seen earlier as it was in the same general area.  As we were heading for the North Gate Les spotted a female Golden Oriole flying above the car.

Whiskered Tern Chlidonias hybrida (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
Having informed the ranger about the wasps nest we made our way to the information centre, seeing a Southern Grey Shrike and a flock of feeding Glossy Ibis in a field.  Having parked up, we walked towards the centre.   Here the Great Reed Warblers were far more vocal.  A Kentish Plover was seen before we checked out the enclosed pool adjacent to the centre.  As Barrie arrived a White Wagtail departed.  There were Red-knobbed Coot with chicks as well as Coot, Moorhen and a pair of Marbled Duck.  Walking on the raised wooden walkway, we had Collared Pratincoles above us.  A distant flock of Cattle Egret was seen.  At the first hide we added Little Ringed Plover.  Another pair of Marbled Duck flew off.  At the last hide Les found a Green Sandpiper.  Avocet and Little Terns were nesting on the island.  We headed back to the car, sweating in the heat.   As we drove out of the car park we saw two Woodchat Shrikes.  Our last tick of the day was a Greenfinch.

Marbled Duck Marmaronetta angustirostris (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
As Les mentioned, every place we stopped we got new birds for the list. 68 for the day. Thanks guys for a great day.  Special thanks to Les for driving.  We had a nightmare trip back with roadwork detours and and overturned fruit lorry at a major Murcia intersection.  Thank god for Barrie's Google Maps!
Regards, Dave

Squacco Heron Ardeola ralloides  (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
What a great day Dave.  Marbled Duck, Collared Pratincoles, Moustached Warbler et al.  And what about those Chiffchaffs, presumably the Iberian subspecies?

Purple Heron Ardea purpurea (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
Two young Red-knobbed Coots Fulca cristata (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
Check out the accompanying website at for the latest sightings, photographs and additional information.

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