San Felipe and Escalona – By Stephan Cramer

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12nov-02At El Hondo’s San Felipe Visitors Centre, 25 members and guests gathered for a fine day of birding. From the Centre and the adjacent picnic area we observed Purple Gallinule, Moorhen, and Red knobbed Coot. This last species still had it’s now dull red coloured knobs. Also we saw here the only duck species for the day, a Mallard. A Chiffchaff raced through the palm leafs. Robin, Black Redstart and Bluethroat were added to the list. Then to the board walk. Cattle Egret, Sardinian Warbler, a Jackdaw flying over, some Crag Martins and a Grey Heron. At the place where we usually see a Wryneck we stopped, and sure enough it showed itself on the fence, but on the other side from normal. Zitting Cisticola showed itself, and a Collared Dove rested on the wire. The first of several groups of around 125 Glossy Ibis flew by in front of us from west to east. The first of many Stonechats was spotted, and some Marsh Harriers soared over the reed beds. We took our time looking at the fence that divides the agricultural area from the park. Blackcap and Wren were new species here, along with a lot of other little birds. On our way to the two hides, on the muddy path a few Reed Buntings were sitting on the plumes of the reeds. A Little Egret flew along and Linnets danced around. The first hide gave good views of Coot only. The second hide initially looked a bit disappointing, nevertheless we saw a lot of Black necked Grebes, Little Grebes and White Wagtails. Black headed Gull and Yellow legged Gull were in the air over the rubbish dump. Next to the hide we had splendid views of a bird we had heard earlier, the Cetti’s Warbler. Reed cutting machinery in the distance did it’s best to imitate bird sounds, but we finally identified the noise! On our way back to the board walk we heard Skylark, we saw a new bird on the fence, a Southern Grey Shrike, and a Kestrel came to look at us. The platform on the board walk is a good place to look at the reed beds and the sky around, and a Booted Eagle flew by. In a distant tree a large broad shouldered raptor was sitting. It was probably an eagle but it was too far away to be correctly identified. We then saw our only Cormorant of the day. After the House Sparrows, and Blackbirdat the Visitor’s Centre we met with the members who had not walked around. They told us of a Hobby catching a dragonfly, and a disturbance that put up two Common Snipes and a Woodcock.

We then went to our next destination the raptor/owl observation site at the Sierra Escalona. Along the way some saw Crested Lark, Hoopoe, Spotless Starling and Sparrowhawk. At the observation site we divided into two parties, some walking through the woodland whilst others stayed to watch the ridge. The area proved rather quiet. Some little raptors already mentioned were seen again, plus a Peregrine Falcon, 2 Ravens, Chaffinch, Long tailed Tit, Robin and Great Tit. Having worked up a hunger we then had a good Spanish style meal at the usual restaurant in Torremendo. After lunch some Members went back to the Raptor watch site. Little was flying but some distant (nothing seemed to come close today!) small raptors appeared to be Lesser Kestrels. Malcolm confirmed the Lesser Kestrels – his first in the Province for about 12 years. There were four of them and they hawked insects high above us for some time. One Member, who stayed until dusk, saw a large but unidentified raptor land on the usual perch (dead branch on the ridge).