El Hondo fields and San Felipe

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Today Bryan joined us for a morning trip to San Felipe. We took a slight diversion past the ‘Bee eater site’ but found none of the hoped for birds. As we drove along the ‘palm farm track’ we saw a nice Corn Bunting sitting on top of a stick but the track was otherwise fairly quiet. As we continued our usual route along ‘Green Sandpiper alley’ a bird flew across in front of us and landed in the reeds to our left. It stayed long enough for us to identify it as a Great Reed Warbler, our first for the year. We continued along the ‘Vistabella road’ and round past the North Gate of El Hondo where a brief stop found us a Subalpine Warbler in a tree by the entrance. There seem to be lots of this species around here this year.

Kentish Plover by Bryan Thomas©
Kentish Plover by Bryan Thomas©

We moved on to San Felipe, with John navigating the numerous massive potholes on the entrance road as best he could. As soon as we arrived we could see small waders on the left of the newly flooded area near the car park. We saw Kentish Plover, Little Ringed Plover, Redshank, Black winged Stilt and Wood Sandpiper. We walked around the boardwalk hoping to see some of the Collared Pratincoles which have been seen here recently but we had no luck. At the viewing platform we met fellow birders John and Michelle, and also Eddie, who told us that two Pratincoles had just flown up from the ground and disappeared over the reeds, we had just missed them! We stayed to chat a while before we all went our separate ways and we carried on to the first hide. On the way there Bryan pointed out a Willow Warbler in a small tree at the end of the boardwalk.

From the hide we could see plenty of Pochards, two Purple Swamphens and a few Marbled Ducks. Eddie had told us to look out for a Garganey and after a quick scan of the area I spotted one standing at the water’s edge. This is always a great duck to see and Bryan managed to get a few photos of it when it moved onto the lagoon. Next we had a look at the other lagoon from the second hide where we could see and hear hundreds of ducks, along with Black headed Gulls with a few Mediterannean Gulls amongst them, but sadly still no Pratincoles. By this time the place had filled up with people and it was getting rather hot so we set off back towards the car park. On the way we saw a few waders again, and a Kentish Plover and a Little Ringed Plover stayed on our side of the pool despite us passing quite close by, even I managed a photo this time! That is probably the closest we have ever been to these two species. We all agreed this place should be really good for waders next winter provided the water levels can be maintained.

On our way home we had a brief stop at El Pinet where the first two pools held mostly Avocets. One of the islands in front of the hides held about 50 Sandwich Terns and another was being colonised by nesting Slender billed Gulls. A few Common Terns flew overhead so I expect they will be nesting very soon. We had missed out on a few target birds but had been compensated with a couple of other good species to make up for it. We will keep looking for Bee eaters and Collared Pratincoles!

Species list – Little Grebe, Cormorant, Grey Heron, Flamingo, Shelduck, Mallard, Shoveler, Garganey, Marbled Duck, Pochard, Red crested Pochard, Marsh Harrier, Booted Eagle, Kestrel, Coot, Red knobbed Coot, Purple Swamphen, Moorhen, Black winged Stilt, Avocet, Kentish Plover, Little Ringed Plover, Little Stint, Wood Sandpiper, Redshank, Snipe, Black headed Gull, Mediterannean Gull, Slender billed Gull, Yellow legged Gull, Common Tern, Sandwich Tern, Collared Dove, Little Owl, Swift, Hoopoe, Crested Lark, Swallow, House Martin, White Wagtail, Stonechat, Cetti’s Warbler, Great Reed Warbler, Willow Warbler, Subalpine Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Blackcap, Southern Grey Shrike, Spotless Starling, Magpie, Jackdaw, House Sparrow, Serin, Corn Bunting.