The turnout for our first autumn outing was gratifying, when some 22 people showed up at the Hondo Visitors’ Centre, San Felipe de Neri, on a hot, cloudless mid-September morning. We took to the boardwalk, and soon found Common Sandpiper and the first of several Temminck’ Stints, surprisingly numerous this year. The odd Squacco Heron flew past, and as we left the boards, we saw a Bluethroat perched on the fence.
On then to the furthest hides, where waders abounded. A single Ruff and a Curlew Sandpiper were found, together with more Temminck’s and Little Stints, Ringed Plover and Redshank. Parties of Glossy Ibis flew over and a Booted Eagle circled overhead, whilst a Marsh Harrier quartered the reeds.
As we returned to the cars, a Whinchat perched obligingly, and Sand Martin joined a few other hirundines. A big flock of excited Bee Eaters was calling nearby.
We drove around to the south side of El Hondo, taking the famous ‘Palm Farm Track’ with our considerable convoy of cars. We were soon halted as a big flock of Bee Eaters was perched on wires, but what caught our attention were two falcons on a pylon nearby. Close inspection revealed them to be juvenile Red-footed Falcons, not exactly a rarity, in national terms, but a scarce visitor on passage from Eastern Europe to Africa. There may have been more than two, in fact, as these birds are notoriously gregarious, and there were Kestrels about too, but we were able to identify two specifically.
Meanwhile, a Jack Snipe flew up from a small ditch as we stood there, but it was time to move on, and we headed for El Pinet, where we had close views of a Greenshank and some nice Slender-billed Gulls.
An excellent lunch awaited us at Tano’s, then most of the party made for a windy vigil at the end of Santa Pola’s fish-pier, where we watched fishing boats, trailed by myriad gulls, including many Mediterranean Gulls. Stephan had a brief view of an unidentified shearwater, but quite the best find was of a small party of Little Gulls bobbing around in the harbour entrance – not a common sight these days. It had been, by common consent, a good day.