El Hondo, Torreveija area – Steve Saunders

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It was great to be back on the Costa for the first time since January 2020 when news of a virus was just beginning to emerge as we boarded the plane home. This year’s visit was intended to coincide with peak migration and despite some wet and windy days there was plenty to enjoy, summarised as follows:-

23rd April – El Hondo North Gate

I nearly collided with a Roller on my way to the reserve, the bird flying out of the palms across the road just a few metres ahead of the windscreen. A good start to the day and it turned out to be my only sighting.

A cool calm start after heavy rain the previous day had brought out clouds of mosquitoes so it was a good job I had sprayed on a repellent. Only 2 other cars turned up so I had the towers to myself for most of the morning and was able to get good views of several Spotted Redshank, Greenshank, many Ringed Plover, a Purple Heron and a Night Heron as well as Redshank, Dunlin and White-headed Duck. Nightingale and numerous Great Reed Warbler competed with Cetti’s and Reed Warbler to provide the sound track. Large numbers of Whiskered Tern were present and thousands of Swift, including Pallid hoovered up the mozzies over the reed beds. The only real surprise was a male Pied Flycatcher that popped out of the reeds. A total of 43 species.

By late morning the sun had broken through but a relentless wind had picked up by the time I had reached San Felipe which made sighting anything in the swaying vegetation very difficult so I didn’t venture far. A Corn Bunting trying to make itself heard was the only notable find amongst the usual occupants.

24th April – Torrevieja – A fly over Oystercatcher was a surprise.

25th April – El Pinet

This reserve never fails to delight even if it was a local ‘Red Day’ with the consequent increase in human activity. A warm afternoon revealed several Collared Pratincole and Dunlin, an Iberian Grey Shrike, Audouin’s Gull and Mediterranean Gull amongst all the expected summer residents, many of which were engaged in mating activities. An immature Yellow-legged Gull tugging at the wing of a Slender-billed Gull, no doubt attempting an egg robbery, was not a happy watch but 3 Little Tern flew around and there were good numbers of Sandwich and Common Tern which a few days later (28.04.2022) also included Gull-billed and a solitary but very obvious Caspian Tern along with a breeding plumaged Curlew Sandpiper, the first time I have seen one in its summer finery.

29th April – La Mata

A beautiful morning made especially enjoyable by the lush growth, abundant wildflowers and Swallowtail Butterflies. The reserve also looked very well cared for and I include below the full list of species. A new species for me was Chukar, a pair creeping through the grasses between the vines. I don’t know whether this is a naturalised introduced species or indigenous but I have never come across one in Spain before. Another highlight was the soft purring of Turtle Doves, now an almost forgotten sound in the English countryside. Very much a surprise as late as this was hearing the call of Willow Warblers, several of which were flitting around the picnic area. One briefly broke into song to erase any doubt. Presumably the unusual weather pattern this year has held up migration. I have included Short-toed Lark but it could have been Lesser if that species is found here in summer as I couldn’t see it long enough to be sure.

Species List – House Sparrow, Barn Swallow, Red-rumpled Swallow, Common Swift, Spotless Starling, Linnet, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Serin, Iberian Green Woodpecker, Kestrel, Monk Parakeet, Turtle Dove, Woodpigeon, Iberian Grey Shrike, Greater Flamingo, Avocet, Black-winged Stilt, Cormorant, Mediterranean Gull, Common Sandpiper, Long-tailed Tit, Great Tit, Blackbird, Sardinian Warbler, Willow Warbler, Spotted Flycatcher, Crested Lark, Short-toed Lark, White Wagtail, Chukar, Red-legged Partridge.

That was as good a couple of hours I could have wished for before boarding a plane back home and totting up a list of 89 species over the nine days which included a Firecrest on a trip to L’Abarda Gardens and good sightings of Woodchat Shrike at several locations.