September Field Trip to Pego Marshes – Malcolm Palmer

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Unseasonal excessively hot sunshine, and annoyingly heavy traffic marked the beginning  of the Costa Blanca Bird Club’s autumn programme, which started with a visit to the Marjal de Pego, right on the border of Alicante and Valencia provinces. We had already seen a Sparrowhawk when we arrived – rather late – at the designated meeting place, but an expanse of dry fields didn’t augur well for our visit. Kathy soon spotted the first of several Kingfishers, and raptors started to appear over the nearby hill. A Common Buzzard was followed by several Booted Eagles, mainly – as usual – the pale phase birds, with their distinctive ‘two-tone’ underwings, but we did see a single dark phase bird too. Calls led us to their authors – and we were soon all watching a scattered group of Common Waxbills, those little, originally introduced seedeaters native to Africa that recalled my first sighting of them, not two hundred metres from where we were now standing, some thirty years ago, since when they have been a fairly regular sight on Pego marsh.

We moved to another area of the marsh where a nature trail has been established. Great Reed Warbler was still – surprisingly – in song, but the most interesting find there was a couple of Whinchats . On then to Forna, up in the hills, where we eventually arrived, despite temporary traffic lights, blocked roads – you name it! Undaunted, 21 of us sat down and ate well at the Restaurante Nautilus, then many of us returned to the Marjal for a last shot at the birds. We were not disappointed. At first we only found Zitting Cisticolas and the inevitable House Sparrows in the reeds, but our attention was soon diverted to an unusual number of Marsh Harriers and the odd Booted Eagle circling at some distance. The Marsh Harriers were almost all females, but one fine male also showed, then one was ‘buzzed’ by a Hobby – the bird, we thought, of the day. That was, until it was joined by another and another………Eventually we had no less than four of these elegant small falcons in the air together. A good finish to a quiet day.