Santa Pola, El Pinet, Vistabella, San Felipe, Elche Reservoir – Malcolm Palmer

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The Costa Blanca Bird Club was somewhat reduced in numbers when the September field trip group met on Santa Pola Salinas, only some 17 members showing up, as several had apparently delayed their return from Northern climes. A few Spoonbill and a Great White Egret were visible, but there was little else to retain us, so we made our way to El Pinet, where waders were plentiful, with good numbers of Black tailed Godwits and Avocets stood around, whilst a couple of Collared Pratincole remained with the many Stone Curlew out on the rocky islands. Common Sandpiper, Redshank, Ringed Plover and Turnstone were also there, and a Kingfisher zoomed away as we all got a decent view of the usually elusive Water Rail, which paraded right in front of us.

It was time to head for the Vistabella area, and once on the famous ‘Palm Farm Track’ David spotted what was probably the best bird of the day, a juvenile Montagu’s Harrier, its white rump and orange underparts distinctive features. A Booted Eagle and several Kestrels were also there, but, apart from flocks of migrant Bee eaters, and the odd Red rumped Swallow, there was little of note, so we made for the Reserve Centre at San Felipe. After spending a little time watching the Red knobbed Coot and Purple Swamphen near the Centre, we took to the boardwalk, and soon saw a nice Whinchat, and a Bluethroat on the always-reliable fence. The first hide was less productive than on a previous visit, but eventually yielded a Ruff and a couple of Ringed Plover. Walking back, we spotted a pair of Northern Wheatears.

We lunched – extremely well – at El Rocio, then the leader’s ‘biological GPS’ had to swing into use to get us to the somewhat obscure destination of Elche Reservoir. By some kind of miracle, it functioned, and we were soon walking off our lunch. White-headed Duck swam amongst the Pochard and Coot on the open water, and Stephan reported a Whitethroat in the bushes. It had been a very good day for the few who made the trip.