Saturday 26 January 2019

El Fondo with Dave & Company

Saturday 26 January

Whilst I was relatively near home in search of the Allen's Gallinule, my friend Dave Elliott-Binns was off at the crack of dawn for yet another visit to the El Fondo reserve near Elche, Alicante.  Lots of great birds recorded an so pleased to read that at least one marbled Duck is on site and, perhaps, leading to a successful breeding season.

El Fondo, Elche   -   Saturday 26th January

Up at stupid o'clock in time to pick Kevin up from the Overa Hotel at 05.45hrs.  Sadly Paul and Reyna had car trouble so had to cancel. We headed north and stopped at the Cox service station for coffee.  We made our way to the North Gate of the El Fondo reserve seeing Jackdaw and Blackbird on the way.  We were first in the queue to gain entry. Whilst waiting for the ranger to arrive, we started birdwatching.  Chiffchaff were feeding in the trees nearby. Cormorants, Magpies, Spotless Starlings all flew past.  We heard a Green Woodpecker.  We were let into the reserve at about 08.15 and parked up. We trudged our way towards the first elevated hide.  We had fly overs by Marsh Harrier, Lapwings, Glossy Ibis and Kestrel.  Kevin spotted a Hoopoe.  We heard Cetti's Warbler.  We climbed the steps up to the hide and scanned the distant palm trees, hoping to see a Spotted Eagle, but alas, no.  There were lots of Shoveler on the water.  Kevin spotted some Teal as well.  Behind us were over 100 Lapwing at rest.  There were numerous Little Grebes together with Black-necked Grebes.  Also seen were Coot, Black-winged Stilt, White Wagtail and Stonechat.  I then noticed a line of White Headed Duck swimming in from the left hand side.  I counted 215 birds.  Amazing!  Kevin found some Red Crested Pochard.  Some Common Pochard also flew in.
We then walked down to the next hide. Here we added Snipe and Sardinian Warbler.  The next hide we saw 100+ Greater Flamingo fly past.  A pair of Gadwall flew in.  As we headed to the second last hide, the large elevated one, a fast flying small falcon flashed past us...a Merlin. 
Up on the hide we had good views over the waters and reeds in front of us.   To start with we only saw Coot and Little Grebe.  Eventually Kevin spotted an egret flying to our right.  A Great White Egret, closely followed by a second.  One landed in front of the far reeds.  A Spanish birder spotted a Kingfisher.  Numerous flights of 12 or 13 Glossy Ibis flew past, as did a Grey Heron.  I then spotted 8 distant large birds flying in our general direction.  They didn't come close but we identified them as Common Crane.

Great White Egret Egretta alba (PHOTO: Dave Elliott-Binns)
The final hide didn't produce anything apart from a couple of Cormorants so we began to head back. Missing out the elevated hide, we went to the next one.  After seeing a number of Robin in the same location, at last an adult Bluethroat made an appearance!  We also had our first Moorhen of the day. The next hide added Avocet and Shelduck to the list.  Most of the wildfowl had moved away from the reeds to the deeper open water. It was one huge raft of between 5 - 10,000 birds.  Heading back to the exit we saw a flock of 100+ Glossy Ibis.

Just visible Marbled Duck Marmaronetta angustirostris (PHOTO: Dave Elliott-Binns)
The time approaching 11.30 hrs we were released by the ranger and headed to the information centre. As we got out of the truck, I spotted a Booted Eagle.  The pool by the car park gave us more Coot, Moorhen and another Snipe.  The enclosed pool by the picnic table area added three Red-knobbed Coot.  I managed to spot a single Marbled Duck resting in the reeds near to a Purple Swamphen.  We also had a House Sparrow and male Black Redstart.  We walked along the raised wooden walkway. Had good views of two Purple Swamphen, a distant view of a first winter Bluethroat and our first Mallard.

Purple Swamphen Porphyrio porphyrio (PHOTO: Dave Elliott-Binns)
We walked to the furthest hide first and only added a Yellow-legged Gull.   The penultimate hide was better.  A Green and a Wood Sandpiper were right in front of it.  A pair of Glossy Ibis were preening nearby.  

Glossy Ibis Plegadis falcinellus (PHOTO: Dave Elliott-Binns)
Kevin spied a Little Egret and I got a Water Pipit.  The Spanish birder who'd seen the Kingfisher earlier found two more in the reeds beside the water filled ditch next to the hide.  There was also another Little Egret there. 

Wood Sandpiper Tringa glareola (PHOTO: Dave Elliott-Binns)
We then headed for a bar for lunch, seeing an Iberian Grey Shrike and Serin on the way.  Tummies full, we headed south, stopping at my friends house between Lorca and Puerto Lumbreres.  In the past weeks, up to 8 Long Eared Owls had been roosting in their garden.  Over the last few days the numbers had decreased.  Today we saw the last remaining two.

Long-eared Owl Asio otus (PHOTO: Dave Elliott-Binns)
These made our total for the day 55 species.  A cracking day with a good mate.  Good weather as well!

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

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