A Visit to the Costa Blanca by Simon Elliot

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Golden Eagle by Simon Elliot©
Golden Eagle by Simon Elliot©

Although I found the birding hard work because of the season and the heat, I managed several new species on this holiday as well as getting better views of some of my favourite birds. I was particularly interested in Bonelli’s Eagle, as I’d previously only had a fleeting glimpse in Portugal. For reference I used the Costa Blanca Bird Club site guide, and the Graham Critchell book “Where to Find Birds in Southern Costa Blanca.” I drove to Calblanque on 28 July, and on most days during the holiday. On the first day I was surprised by a juvenile Golden Eagle, which I found again on subsequent visits. The Salinas were very quiet although I did see my first Kentish Plover, several Slender-Billed Gulls, Curlew Sandpipers and a distant Stone Curlew. I’m hopeless with larks so although there were several there I couldn’t tell you what they were. I found a colony of Bee-eaters at Calblanque, in trees on the right down the steep bank from the visitor centre before the car park. I also photographed a distant Woodchat Shrike.

Montagu's Harrier by Simon Elliot©
Montagu’s Harrier by Simon Elliot©

I struggled at Crevillente on 30 July, both with birds and also directions (and a shameful lack of Spanish). I did see a Short-Toed Eagle while watching a Golden Oriole and more Bee-eaters. On August 1 I visited El Hondo, where I saw my first Great Reed Warbler, plenty of herons and Bee-eaters but sadly the site was generally quiet. A Squacco Heron posed for photographs to cheer me up. Guadalentin was also quiet due to high winds and a dust storm, but I was in for a treat that evening at Calblanque, where a male and female Bonelli’s Eagle appeared behind a hill and flew over my head. I found the best spot for the eagles was from the road into the hills past La Manga Club, pulling in on the very twisty road down towards the coast and the old mining area, before the roundabout. Black Wheatear were also present on the rocks to the right (another lifer for me). The grounds of the golf course at La Finca were superb on 3 August, with easy Little Owl, Hoopoe, Stone Curlew, Night and purple Herons, Little Bittern and others. Also excellent was La Mata which I visited twice for Collared Pratincole, several species of wader and prolonged flying displays by Montagu’s Harriers.

Thanks to Mary Brazier and others from the Costa Blanca Bird Club for pointing me in the direction of several species and locations.