Today we joined the March Field trip of the CBBC. On our way to San Felipe we had a quick stop at the Elche tip where we were delighted to see four White Storks! A good start. We used to have one, then two, then three of these birds here, but now there are four. At San Felipe we met the other birders and as soon as we got out of the car Nick pointed out the Pallid Swifts and Alpine Swifts flying overhead. As we all set off along the wooden path a Booted Eagle flew overhead. Various small birds were noted before we arrived at the first hide where someone had spotted some Marbled Ducks. By the time I got into the hide they had disappeared behind some reeds, then someone called them from outside the hide so I dashed to the viewing panel, guess what? They had just gone behind the reeds! I ran back and forth like this for a while, before someone called to say there were now eight Marbled Ducks on the centre of the lake. Finally, we saw them! This was a great sighting for John and I as we have not seen this species for the last two years. From this hide we also saw several Pochard and Little Grebes, a Marsh Harrier and four Purple Swamphens at the edge of the lake.
Moving on to the second hide I was struck by the noise coming from the lake. There were more gulls than I have ever seen there before and they were making a hell of a row. The birds were mostly Black headed Gulls but some people picked out a few Mediterranean Gulls amongst them and we managed to get a good look at them through Fran’s scope. The whole lagoon was pretty busy with Greater Flamingo, Avocet, Black winged Stilt and Shelduck all being numerous. A Spotted Redshank and a Little Ringed plover were also seen feeding at the edge of the water. John and I walked back towards the visitor centre where we saw a Red knobbed Coot on one of the new pools which flows under the boardwalk. As we came round the visitor centre we could see our group on the corner of the path all looking at something, so we headed over to see what they had found. There was a nice Corn Bunting singing to one side, but even better was a Subalpine Warbler in one of the bushes in the scrubland. It was initially hidden but after a short wait it hopped up and gave everyone good views of this lovely little bird.
From here we headed up to Colin and Jane’s for tea and cake. Not long after we arrived Dave Eddy spotted one of the Bonelli’s Eagles flying over the ridge. We saw the eagle several times while we were there enjoying our tea and cake. There were not many other birds to be seen apart from a Green Woodpecker which flew across in front of us and Barry pointed out a Thekla Lark as it sang overhead.
By now it was time for lunch and we all set off back to the restaurant where we had left our car. We weren’t staying for lunch so we said our ‘goodbyes’ and headed off for a picnic by the football fields. We were hoping for a Great Spotted Cuckoo which we didn’t find, but we did see a Great Spotted Eagle instead as it flew over our car, so not a bad substitute really! After our lunch we headed back to look at the tip but the White Storks were no longer there, perhaps they had gone down on to the fields to feed. We decided to finish off with a drive past the Vistabella house, along ‘Green Sandpiper alley’ and down the palm farm track. The only Sandpiper we saw was a Wood Sandpiper along the alley and a Red legged Partridge was on a field to our left. The palm farm track was quiet until several groups of Glossy Ibis appeared flying towards us and passing overhead as they crossed the track. At the far end of the track John saw a bird as it flew quickly in front of the car and away to our right. He thought it was a Great Spotted Cuckoo but I completely missed the bird so sadly it can’t go on my list. We will have to keep looking. We drove back along the road by the ‘Bee eater site’ as we have seen Cuckoos there before. No luck today though although we did have good views of another Subalpine Warbler from the car. All in all it had been a very good day with some good new species for this year’s list and an opportunity to catch up with friends and other birders on a sunny and warmish day.
Species list – Little Grebe, Little Egret, Cattle Egret, Grey Heron, White Stork, Greater Flamingo, Glossy Ibis, Shelduck, Mallard, Marbled Duck, Pochard, Marsh Harrier, Booted Eagle, Bonelli’s Eagle, Great Spotted Eagle, Kestrel, Red legged Partridge, Coot, Red knobbed Coot, Purple Swamphen, Moorhen, Black winged Stilt, Avocet, Little Ringed Plover, Wood Sandpiper, Spotted Redshank, Black headed Gull, Mediterranean Gull, Yellow legged Gull, Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Little Owl, Alpine Swift, Pallid Swift, Hoopoe, Green Woodpecker, Crested Lark, Thekla Lark, Crag Martin, Swallow, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Blackbird, Cetti’s Warbler (HO), Chiffchaff, Subalpine Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Southern Grey Shrike, Magpie, House Sparrow, Serin, Corn Bunting, Reed Bunting.