A Birding Route around Elche – courtesy of AHSA©

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Stephan has asked me to share this information which comes from The Amigos de los Humedales  del Sur de Alicante (AHSA) Website. I have placed a link here which you can click on to go to their site and the itinerary details.

I have also included a rough Google translation (with some of my own amendments) which may, or may not help! You will need to visit the AHSA Website to view the map and photos.

For anyone who goes to try the route, please send a report with your comments for the website!

Itinerarios: Palmerales urbanos y río Vinalopó en Elche

Elche is the second city in the Valencian Community and is the largest area of parkland per inhabitant. Most of these correspond to orchards of Palm trees, with more than 1’5 million square metres of municipal ownership. These urban gardens with their complex system of irrigation associated with the river Vinalopó, declared world heritage by the UNESCO, provide a habitat for dozens of species of birds, reaching so far posted a total of 117. The proposed route, which in part follows the trail of the Palm Grove PR-CV439, makes a tour of some of the most interesting Green areas in the town of Elche, where we can enjoy, apart from the characteristic landscape of the Palm, the interesting variety of birds that can be found in it.

The route begins at the Hort of the Monjo, next to the car park situated on the street of the Filet de Fora. In this garden there is a pond that recreates a small wetland in the winter months, we can find Yellow, Grey or White Wagtail, the latter throughout the year. All species also frequent the network of canals that cross the orchards, watering the Elche Palm Grove with the brackish waters of the river Vinalopó. This area is a good place to see Greenfinches and Blackbirds, all very common birds in the agricultural environment, however suffering a major regression in their populations.

We go deep into the set of different gardens that follow one another forming a core of great interest, where you can wander and  search for the different ornithological species that swarm among vegetation, this being a good place where to find the Little owl. Another very common in winter and during the passage of the migratory species is the Blackcap, which feeds mainly on dates, habit in the field of Elche is known as “datiler”. Like the Warbler, the Starling is another species that is easily seen in winter, feeding also on dates. Despite being very close to the Centre of the city, the silence of this area of orchards makes us go back to an agricultural environment away from the urban environment that reigns beyond.

We continue taking the Porta street of les Tafulles, which in reality is a lovely road that runs through this area of orchards, arriving at the Curtidors Street, passing through it we find the Hort dels Pontos. It is the House of the orchard, an interesting example of popular architecture (despite the sorry state of conservation that is) and home we see to a Hoopoe, Great Tit or Black Redstart, the latter only present in winter time.

This garden is linked to the so-called Hort of the Sun where we will go next to the Commissioner of Elche, crossing the street Porta de la Morera and enter the Hort del Gat, where we find the former headquarters of the Phoenix station, now completely abandoned facilities. In this garden, we can see good number of Woodpigeons nesting in various city gardens and in winter you can also view Song Thrush and Chaffinches.

We continue along the Villa Carmen Hort and return to the urban environment, coming to the Avenida Juan Carlos I. We briefly reach the Hort de Carme and Vicentet, also called King Jaume I park which is landscaped, with the presence of grass and other plants that confer some humidity, and it is possible to observe even in summer , a Robin, as happens for example in the Municipal Park or chalets with gardens of the city and which are integrated into the urban oases. Out opposite the historic flours, next to the bus station. We cross the railroad and entere the Hort de la Torre, which gets its name from the Tower of the Vahillo, a perfectly preserved 16th-century watchtower, where we can find a Kestrel. We leave this garden at the Cami of the Panta, continuing along a trail that borders the municipal nurseries and allows us to see inside. Here, as in most gardens, we find Sardinian Warbler although scarce, this species that like many others, is largely insectivorous which helps to eliminate some pests naturally.

Facing one of the entrances of the University Miguel Hernández, take to the left a paved road, and in the nearby gardens you can listen and with a little luck may observe the curious Treecreeper, which climbs up the Palm trees in a spiral, or the elusive and little Green Woodpecker, both species being well-suited to the Palm Grove where they nest in cavities and cracks in the palms. We next go to the headquarters of the Servef in Elche, pass the building and by turning to the right we find the Hort de Martí. This landscaped garden features a series of small artificial ponds where it is possible to observe many birds drinking water or swimming, especially in the hottest days of the summer, easy to observe here species are the common Blackbird or the House Sparrow and sometimes one gets to observe Little Egret and White Wagtails and can even a Kingfisher.

From here, we can look over the river Vinalopó, and contemplate also the log splitter Candalix. This is very well preserved and it distributes water from the Acequia Mayor del Pantano to irrigate urban oases. From this point, we have a good view of the River, with the catwalks of concrete, the project Valley braiding, which cross it and the slopes and much of the land scorched by the lack of irrigation trees planted.

From here we descend to the river and have the option to continue a few hundred meters upstream, where shortly before reaching the Millennium Bridge, we found a small sheet of water, old diversion dam, surrounded by reeds where MoorhensNightingales and a Reed Warbler nest. Outside the breeding season it is also possible to find in the area Kingfisher or Grey Wagtail.

We continue upstream, where we find small patches of reeds until you reach a small Grove, where you can also hear the beautiful song of the Nightingale or contemplate anything moving among the branches of the Tamarisk. Despite the incipient decline that begins to affect the zone by the dumping of waste or breaking of branches, it is an oasis nestled in the slopes of the Vinalopó valley. A beautiful example of how it could be if the cement covering the waterway as it passes through Elche, instead of adding even more was removed. Other species that you can find on this tour are the Black Wheatear, Bee-eaterSouthern Grey ShrikeBlue Rock Thrush, Dartford Warbler, Black Redstart, Stonechat and Chiffchaff, with the last six species only being present in winter.

We have now reached and continue along the riverbed, in areas with pine trees where you can find Crossbill a typical forest species that has adapted it’s beak to extract the seeds of pineapples. In addition, in these small pine forests, with the presence of eucalyptus, we can observe some regular nesting of species, such as Turtledove, Serin, Greenfinch, House Sparrow, Goldfinch or Spotted Flycatcher, this last species can be found in some gardens of Palm trees that we visit. It is also good place, during the time of migration, to watch some birds on passage, such as, the Pied Flycatcher, Redstart, Willow Warbler, Subalpine Warbler, Lesser Whitethroat, Garden Warbler or Melodious Warbler, amongst other species.

Following the course of the river we find the MOLÍ del Real, a former flour mill that is moved by the force of the water of the largest drain. In this section we can pay a visit to the Municipal Park, Palm Garden and Park of the city of Elche, here it is also possible to observe many Blackbirds, Spotted Flycatcher, Treecreeper, Crossbill and even some Robin through the summer.

We continue the journey by the river downstream, where we will observe during the breeding season, flying over the river and buildings that border it, numerous Common Swifts and Pallid Swifts are commonly seed picking up mud from the River to build their nests. Spotless Starlings are seen over some of the rooftops busy with feeding their young. Continuing along the edge of the River, we arrived at the height of the District of el Raval, we go out of the river valley, cross the old Moorish quarter of Elche, until you reach the street of the Filet de Fora and the Hort de Monjo, the starting point of our journey.

Elche by Mary Brazier©