Saturday, 10 February 2018

Yet another Visit to El Fondo with Dave and Friends

Saturday 10 February
Our Dave certainly like to make the long drive up to the El Fondo reserve near Elche, Alicanta and, on this occasion,m was rewarded by good views of the wintering Spotted Eagle.  What a lucky chap!

El Fondo, near Elche  -  Saturday 10th February

Due to other commitments, late notice, lack of brownie points & injuries, only Richard & myself ( succumbed to this cough & cold) were heading north on the E15/A7 at silly o'clock this chilly Saturday morning. After a reviving cuppa at the Cox service station we made our way to the El Fondo bird reserve. Being early for the 08.30hrs opening of the North Gate ( and still slightly dark!), we headed for the football pitch on the way to the Information centre. Once the light conditions had improved, we had a wander up the track. First bird of the day was a Booted Eagle, closely followed by a Kestrel, Marsh Harrier & Grey Heron. Smaller birds included Sardinian Warbler & the first of hundreds of Chiffchaff! We then made our way to the North Gate. Whilst waiting for the ranger to arrive we heard a Green Woodpecker and saw Cormorant, Mallard & a large flock of Northern Starlings flying by. Once inside the reserve we drove slowly down to the bottom elevated viewing platform seeing Coot, Moorhen & a Reed Bunting on the way. The expectations were high as we climbed the steps. These were quickly dampened as we were "hit" by the chilly westerly wind. On the water we saw Red Crested & Common Pochard, Shelduck, Little Grebe & Coot. We heard Cetti's Warbler. The "highs" were the number of Marsh Harriers quartering...up to 20 and the number of Booted Eagles...up to 15 soaring distantly to our right.
I had a walk to the little hide a bit further along. I added Great Crested Grebe, Shoveler & Teal, whilst Richard remained at the elevated platform & added a Robin. Upon my return there we added Black Headed Gull, Blackbird & White Wagtail. If things didn't improve, I wasn't going to do a report. As Richard has difficulty walking too far, we drove back towards the North Gate, stopping at the hides as we came upon them. The first one, where previously we'd seen Bluethroat & Temminck's Stint, had no birds apart from Coot as the water level had risen and there was no muddy scrapes. 
Moving on, things improved with sightings of Grey Wagtail, Meadow Pipit, Snipe & a Wood Sandpiper. As we arrived at the final elevated hide, others were leaving and gave us the heads up of what to expect. We first saw an Osprey eating its fish breakfast on a post. It was surrounded by many Shelduck, one of which was supposed to be a Ruddy one. The only suspect I saw was what appeared to be a Shelduck/Mallard cross. I then found what appeared to be a Spotted Eagle perched in a palm tree some distance away. Another one was perched slightly closer in front of us. Also seen were Greater Flamingo, Avocet, Black Winged Stilt, Yellow Legged Gull & Pintail. As I think we'd peaked we then made our way to the exit seeing Chaffinch on the way.
Once released we made our way to the Information Centre seeing a Sparrowhawk, Spotless Starlings and Serin on the way. We saw our first Stonechat, closely followed by Little Grebe & Black Winged Stilt. Amongst the Coot on the reed edges we found at least two Purple Swamphen. In the enclosed pool by the Centre we had Black Redstart, Red Knobbed Coot & Red Crested Pochard & another Purple Swamphen. Richard was going to do the shorter wooden walkway loop whilst I was doing the two other hides as well. I didn't add anything to the day list at either hide, but as I was leaving the furthest one I spotted a large flight of Glossy Ibis. On the way back I bagged a Southern Grey Shrike, Robin and another Reed Bunting. Meanwhile Richard had seen the Red Rumped Swallow we'd seen a week or two ago plus a Black Wheatear.
All in all it was a successful trip in the end. Saw no small waders, no Egrets, Larks or Bluethroat. Think we must have hit the " gap" between winter & spring birds!
Regards, Dave
Spotted Eagle
Another or the same Spotted Eagle?
Marsh Harrier
Osprey giving the eye to the nearby Shelduck
Purple Swamphen
Male Red-crested Pochard
Wood Sandpiper

A wonderful selection of photos from (taken by) Dave Elliott-Binns including a couple of the wintering Spotted Eagle and an Osprey wondering whether or not it might have a Shelduck for lunch!  It certainly sounds as if Dave and friends had a wonderful visit today. 

Check out the accompanying website at for the latest sightings, photographs  and additional information

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