Saturday, 1 June 2019

El Fondo with the Arboleas Birding Group

Saturday 1 June

Good to see that my friend Dave Elliott-Binns is back from his fortnight's birding in Morocco but devastated to read about his computer problems after having downloaded photos from camera and then re-formatted same.  Good news is that that he has been able to rescue most of the photos so now that long process of downloading and working on them to show the rest of us what he and Gilly have been up to in May.  By way of celebration he has just spent a great morning birding with his Arboleas Birding Group up at El Fondo near Elche.  He must have been up well before me as the gate opens at 8.30 sharp and that after a potential three hour drive!

El Fondo, Elche   -   Saturday 1st June

I met Barrie at the Overa hotel at 05.30hrs and made our way to another service station further north where we picked up Mary.  At the Cox service station we were joined by Trevor, Karen, Michael and his visiting brother, another Barrie. (Any Barrie sightings are from Barrie Puttock!)  Suitably refreshed with coffee, we made our way towards the El Fondo Bird Reserve.  Having left the motorway we commenced our log.  Mary spotted the first bird.  A Little Owl on the power line.  On the way to the football field area, we added Spotless Starling, Collared Dove, Common Swift, Serin and Woodpigeon.  We parked up and went for a little wander.  We heard a Sardinian Warbler, but saw Black-headed Gull, Jackdaw and Blackbird.  Barrie then spotted an Alpine Swift amongst the "Commons".  Trevor found a Roller.  I spotted a flight of Black-winged Stilts.  As we drove off, Barrie observed some Crested Larks.
We parked up at the North Gate barrier to await the ranger.  I spotted a Roller in the trees to our right. We heard Zitting Cisticola, Cetti's and Reed Warbler.  The ranger arrived at 08.15hrs and let us through the barrier and then the gate.  He came over to inform us today's procedure was different as it was World Wildlife day.  This restricted area was open to the public till 14.00hrs. Didn't bode well, but to be honest, we were not disturbed by hoards of "public".  In fact it was quieter than previous visits!  As is now the practice, we walked down the track towards the furthest elevated hide.  We saw a flight of Greater Flamingos.  As we passed the water channel we flushed about half a dozen Night Heron and some Greys.
We reached the hide. I scanned the water and saw Great Crested and Little Grebes, White-headed Ducks and a Slender-billed Gull.  The first of many Little Bitterns flew low over the reeds.  In the distance we added flying Glossy Ibises.  I spotted a couple of Goldfinches, but the commonest birds seen in the reeds were unfortunately House Sparrows!  Squacco Herons became a regular occurrence. We later saw both Little and Whiskered Terns.  We heard a Great Reed Warbler and then Barrie heard a Moustached Warbler.  Also seen were Moorhen, Coot, Common Pochard and Mallard.  I found a Purple (or is it "Western") Swamphen.  Trevor, Mary and I went along to the small hide to the right. It's no longer there.  Been temporarily replaced by a screen with viewing slot.  Nothing new added to the list.
Squacco Heron Ardeola ralloides (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
We then walked back along the side track to the next hide.  This had been refurbished and with a new wheelchair-friendly entrance.  Mary spotted a Kestrel.  I found some Black-necked Grebe and Barrie spotted some distant Red-crested Pochard.  He also identified a passing Purple Heron in flight.  We also heard a European Cuckoo.
On our walk to the next hide we heard, then saw, a couple of Bee Eaters.  Nothing much at the hide, so we carried on the the smaller elevated hide into which we all managed to squeeze into.  I added Shoveler and Shelduck.  A Purple Heron obligingly flew in and posed well on a reasonably close bush. A Yellow-legged Gull flew by.
Purple Heron Ardea purpurea (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
I hadn't mentioned the mosquitoes.  There were loads.  Although we'd covered ourselves in anti mozzy stuff, I think we all lost some blood!
We drove out of the open gate and made our way to the Information Centre.  Again we expected the car park to be full, but there were only a few vehicles there.  As usual there was a cacophony of noise from the Great Reed Warblers.
At the enclosed pool overlooked by the picnic area, we added Red-knobbed Coot.  A Glossy Ibis was also present.  Our first and only one of two Barn Swallows flew low over the water for a drink.  As we made our way along the raised wooden walkway some Collared Pratincoles flew over.  More Whiskered Terns were seen.  A fight between a pair of Moorhen and a Purple Swamphen ended with the swamphen making a hasty retreat.  A Squacco Heron was observed in the sparse reeds.  The two hides didn't add anything to the list, but we had a good view of a sitting Pratincole.
We ended the day with 50 species. Even though the weather was hot, we all enjoyed the day. Good birding in great company!
Regards, Dave

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