San Felipe, Crevillente and El Hondo Fields

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The weather was looking pretty grim when the Costa Blanca Bird Club met – some 30 members present – at the El Hondo Visitor Centre, with a big black cloud overhead, but some had already seen a White Stork circle overhead by the time I arrived, and the sky was full of hirundines, with newly-arrived Swallows and House Martins performing well. We walked off along the boardwalk, and soon had notched up our first Bluethroat of the day. Before long, we were able to see the broader expanse of the first lagoon, and an impressive group of Marbled Duck floated past. Marsh Harriers and the occasional Booted Eagle were overhead, and we had tantalising glimpses of a ‘ringtail’ Hen Harrier behind distant palms. On the furthest lagoon, Glossy Ibis and Black necked Grebe were well represented, and Barry found a Spotted Redshank, then a very visible Bluethroat before we headed back to the carpark. Before we did so, a shout of ‘Swift!’ had us all looking up to see briefly a big Alpine Swift zoom over. Several Red rumped Swallows had also ‘joined the party.’

Condensing into as few cars as possible, we went up into the Sierra de Crevillente, and were treated to some excellent views of Bonelli’s Eagles – for some members, the best views they had ever had of this rare and endangered species. Pete spotted a pair of Chough flying onto a nearby crag – certainly a bird which appears to be on the increase in the area. We repaired to the Restaurante El Rocio for a most excellent lunch, then, whilst some members from far-flung parts of the zone took to their heels, the rest of us headed for Vistabella. Once there, the weather improved dramatically, and with it, birds started to re-appear. Booted Eagles of both phases, two or three Buzzards, groups of Glossy Ibis, then a most unexpected flock of Stone Curlew flew over the road. We took to the famous ‘Palm Farm Track’ and as we turned the corner, were treated to first class views of a male Hen Harrier, quartering one of the fields. It had been a surprisingly fruitful and enjoyable day, after unpromising beginnings.