El Hondo

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27march-02At last, ‘The Three Amigos’ were reunited again! Sadly this was for one day only as Bryan got back from the Scilly Isles just before we were due to leave for our visit to England. We set off from Gran Alacant, full of hope, and met Barry at El Hondo, where we found, unusually, about 20 to 30 people there. John, Bryan and I set off to check out the reedbeds and some of the hides while Barry stayed in the tower. The reeds were very quiet and there seemed to be an absence of small birds. A Reed Warbler could be seen moving in and out of the reeds and a Moustached Warbler could be heard making quite a racket but it refused to show. I spotted an Osprey flying over and then a Purple Heron, our first for the year. When we returned to the tower a Great White Egret flew close by and Barry informed us he had seen 2 Little Bitterns, a Collared Pratincole and a Black Tern. Don’t you just hate it when that happens?! There were plenty of ducks around including Pochard, Red Crested Pochard, White headed Duck, Gadwall, Shelduck and lots of Shovelers. A pair of Great Crested Grebes were displaying and Black headed Grebes looked good in their breeding plumage. Quite a few Grey Herons were flying about and the occasional Marsh Harrier was spotted. On our way out of the reserve we stopped at the tall viewing tower, and a fellow birder, Paul pointed out a White Stork in a nearby field. Someone spotted a newly arrived male Montague’s Harrier which we had a few seconds view of and which was probably ‘bird of the day’.

We left El Hondo and followed Barry to a nearby disused football field where the only bird we found was a Peregrine perched in a tree – a good bird though! We moved on to San Felipe where we bumped into yet more local birders, including John Edwards and a visiting Norwegian birder, Mel and Wendy, and Bob and Rose. Like El Hondo, it was rather quiet here birdwise and at one point we thought we might have seen more birders than birds today! We ate our lunch at the picnic area from where we were able to see Stonechat, Willow Warbler, Sardinian Warbler and Bryan chased after a small bird to confirm it as a Subalpine Warbler. A Purple Swamphen was on the pool as usual, along with the reintroduced Red knobbed Coots. After 27march-03lunch we walked round to the first hide where we had great views of a Zitting Cisticola but very little else. By now it was getting hot and we decided to drive home via our usual route around the local small roads and tracks. I remarked that we had not seen a Little Owl for a while, but this was soon remedied when one appeared sitting on a wall in one of it’s usual haunts. On a road where we always seem to see a Green Sandpiper we saw two of them and later we found a nice Corn Bunting singing from a wire. Crossing back over the salinas we added the usual Avocet, Black winged Stilt, Slender billed Gull and Greater Flamingo to our list before heading for home. In the end the species list was better than we thought with the main absentees being the small reed dwelling birds, such as, Penduline Tits which were heard only. It had been a good day, despite the heat stroke I ended up with. At least I won’t be getting that again for a while as we are now back in England where there is still snow on the ground!

Species list – Shelduck, Mallard, Gadwall, Shoveler, Pochard, Red crested Pochard, White headed Duck, Great Crested Grebe, Black necked Grebe, Little Grebe, Cormorant, Great White Egret, Little Egret, Cattle Egret, Purple Heron, Grey Heron, White Stork, Greater Flamingo, Marsh Harrier, Montague’s Harrier, Osprey, Booted Eagle, Kestrel, Peregrine, Purple Gallinule, Coot, Moorhen, Black winged Stilt, Avocet, Green Sandpiper, Black headed Gull,Slener billed Gull, Yellow legged Gull, Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Little Owl, Common/Pallid Swift, Hoopoe, Swallow, Stonechat, Blackbird, Moustached Warbler (HO), Reed Warbler, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Sardinian Warbler, Zitting Cisticola, Penduline tit (HO), Southern Grey Shrike, House Sparrow, Goldfinch, Corn Bunting.