El Hondo, Santa Pola field trip – Malcolm Palmer

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As is the Costa Blanca Bird Club’s custom, their June field trip took the form of an afternoon/evening meeting. Ten members and two guests met at the car park of the El Hondo Visitor Centre at San Felipe Neri. The weather was fine, after a couple of very stormy days, and bird-life seemed to revel in the sunshine. No less than five Squacco Herons were in full view, as was the inevitable Western Swamphen. A large number of Glossy Ibis was present, and many Swifts fed overhead, whilst Whiskered Terns flew by in small groups, Collared Pratincoles swooped over and Flamingos and Black-winged Stilt waded in the shallows.  

A pair of Marbled Duck seemed to have taken possession of a nest-box (constructed for that purpose) and that other local  ‘speciality’ – Red-knobbed Coot – was also well represented. A metre-long snake gave rise to some speculation as to its identity – some members thought it a Ladder Snake, but the balance of probability suggests Viperine Water Snake. Reed and Great Reed Warblers sang, and Zitting Cisticolas were in evidence. A Purple Heron and a Stone Curlew flew by, and a Little Ringed Plover was close to the car park when we returned.

We headed around the periphery of El Hondo, to the ‘Old Monastery.’ There Rollers perched on the wires, and we added Iberian Grey Shrike and Red-rumped Swallow to our list – an Iberian Green Woodpecker could be heard (but not seen!)

El Pinet was the next ‘port of call’ – Common, Little and Sandwich Terns, and lovely pink-tinted Slender-billed Gulls were there in plenty, but time was scarce, and our final objective of the day lay ahead.

We made our way to the quiet, wooded slopes of the Sierra de Santa Pola, where a couple of us had had great views a week ago of the elusive Red-necked Nightjars. Our group was not so fortunate this time, with only distant views and one – belatedly -in song. A Stone Curlew and several bats, together with many more Swifts, completed our evening.

Birders by Jeremy Halls©