El Hondo/ San Felipe – Martin Harrison (visiting birder) – Jan/Feb 2018

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El Hondo or El Fondo? (Make up your minds!) Reports suggest the North Gate, off CV851, is the best place to go but it’s Saturday mornings only. (Bad planning for me, that :o) so I made do with the Visitor Centre, generally known as San Felip (Neri), this being the nearby village. The visitor centre is open until about 2pm and the staff are helpful. Much has been written about “Vistabella Road” which, as far as I can tell, is CV-861. The vista was not so bella for me: just 3 metre-high reeds waving in the breeze and hiding all views from the road. A drainage channel separates the road from the refuge but cycling from the visitor centre might prove more worthwhile. The pond closest to the visitor centre is home to Red Crested Pochards and Red knobbed Coot. (Editor’s note – Birds showing white collars were initially introduced  but have now bred here). Also to be seen, without too much strenuous walking: Purple Gallinules, Snipe, Bluethroats,  Black Redstart, assorted finches and buntings and, flying overhead, plenty of Crag Martins and the occasional raptor – Booted Eagles seeming to be the most common.