Southern Costa Blanca area – Andrew Lamb

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A much anticipated Spring visit to our home-from-home near Alicante was a welcome break, and our first Easter trip for three years. A little late to pick up many wintering species, no doubt, but good timing for Spring arrivals and migrants.

9th April – Alicante airport – Feral Pigeon. On the drive to La Marina my eyes should’ve been more on the road than the wildlife, but arrived safely enough, picking up at Santa Pola – Serin, Flamingo, Audouin’s Gull and at the salinas along the N332 – Avocet, Black-winged Stilt, Yellow-legged Gull. On arrival, it was nice to see the “verde” across the road looking lush and wild.

Urb. La Marina – Crested Lark, Kestrel, Sardinian Warbler, Goldfinch, House Sparrow, Greenfinch, Bee-eater (heard calling but didn’t see them), Spotless Starling, Collared Dove.

A quick check over my bike, tyres pumped up, I made a short circuit to the nearest farmland and irrigation canals, adding Iberian Green Woodpecker, Blackbird, White Wagtail to the list.

10th April – Next morning, a ride out to Guardamar for a customary Sunday lunch (Spanish style!) at the market, taking in the farmland from the Urb to the coast and then up the Segura.

Farm/canals – Hoopoe, Tree Sparrow (delighted to see the small colony still there as their habitat has been wrecked to make way for some new irrigation works), Corn Bunting, Zitting Cisticola, Woodpigeon, Mallard.

Rio segura – Reed Warbler, Cetti’s Warbler, Coot, Little Egret, Cormorant, Cuckoo, Subalpine Warbler, Red-rumped Swallow, Red-crested Pochard, Great White Egret – out in the middle of the river, quite a surprise, Nightingale – 3 singing males heard.

Quite a challenge to get to Guardamar itself as the footpath/ford across the river was under 3-4” of water, but I got across! As I arrived at the market before my family (in the car!) I explored up one of the tracks leading to the TV masts, and was surprised to hear a Pheasant! Not seen or heard them in Spain before (although I would see more later in the week).

Following lunch, I headed home “the long way” calling in at Laguna La Mata tower. Lots of Crested Lark but at least a couple of Thekla Lark, with very distinctive calls and song, also Shelduck. Disappointing to see a family (three generations) all step over the chains to walk all the way down to the lakeside, flushing the Avocets and scaring off the small flock of Flamingos. Home through Los Montesinos – Barn Swallow, Iberian Grey shrike.

11th April – Next day, a ride to Dolores with my daughters, for breakfast! As we left the Urbanizacion – Common Swift, and along the tracks towards Dolores lots of Reed and Cetti’s Warblers but also at least one Moustached Warbler. In addition Stone Curlew, Cattle Egret, Marsh Harrier, Grey Heron, House Martin. Back at home, I was pleased to spot a passing Squacco Heron. An afternoon stroll along the seafront in Torrevieja – Turnstone, Mediterranean Gull.

12th April – Family day out to Alicante in cold, grey conditions. No real opportunity for birding, but the undergrowth around the castle held Great Tit, Blackcap.

13th April – A bit of a cycle adventure, heading out to Callosa de Segura in the rain and wind! As the weather cleared up around Cox(?), I picked up more Pheasants and added Stonechat, Glossy Ibis, Jackdaw.

A call in at El Hondo San Felipe Nera (SFN) visitor centre gave me a big surprise, with a (probable) Spotted Crake plopping into the reeds by the boardwalk. By the Visitor Centre – Western Swamphen, Moorhen, Little Bittern, Red-knobbed Coot, Marbled Duck, Pochard, Redshank. From the boardwalk – Bar-tailed Godwit, Spotted Crake? Tiny rail. From the “south hide” – Common Sandpiper, Collared Pratincole, Black-headed Gull, Shoveler, Little Grebe, Black-necked Grebe.

Finally heading home via the Monastery, I didn’t see any Great Spotted Cuckoo or Roller, but a pair of calling Little Owl, and as I headed back along the gravel track to Urb Oasis, dozens of Bee-eaters and a nice pair of Roller.

14th April – A big family adventure ahead…! We drove up to the Sierra Crevillent in the morning, and passing Urb Oasis, I spotted a Magpie. At Sierra Crevillent, we parked up at the arches then followed a walking route up into the mountains. Shall we say, it was rather more challenging than expected?! And to my surprise, actually took us up to the very top of the range! 7.5 miles and 2000ft of climbing!! But it was a very enjoyable day, surrounded by wildlife and almost no other people! Never seen so many Greenfinch, and there was plenty of warbler song (some of which I didn’t recognise/remember), as well as Black Wheatear – 3 or 4 pairs seen, Dartford Warbler – at least 8 very showy, singing males. Also some nice butterflies (Black-eyed Blue was new to me) and beetles (a Glow-worm devouring a snail was amazing to see).

15th April – El Pinet beach and dunes in the morning – Long-tailed Tit. El Hondo (Vistabella Rd hides) in the afternoon – Great Crested Grebe, White-headed Duck, Whiskered Tern.

16th April – Another longer cycle out to Santa Pola, heading up to the Lighthouse (first time I’d been there) – Willow Warbler – singing male, Linnet. Heading home through the Santa Pola salinas – Purple Heron, Yellow Wagtail, Kentish Plover.

17th April – Back to El Hondo Vistabella road hides, very quiet, but a fly-over addition at the boardwalk hide – Great Spotted Cuckoo. A surprise in La Marina village to see a pair of Monk Parakeet (although I was even more surprised the next day when one flew over the house).

18th April – A final trip out, heading along Camino El Hondo to Catral and then the SFN visitor centre. Some flooded scrub on Camino El Hondo (just by the appalling fly-tip) held a few surprises – Wood Sandpiper (at least 6), Gull-billed Tern, Snipe – my first in Spain, I think. At the southern hide at El Hondo SFN – Garganey – a distant pair, Great Reed Warbler – a singing male.

So overall a very enjoyable trip. Plenty of time to explore, even with the variable weather, and most main sites were visited (as in those reachable by bike!). 92 species is my best count for a spring visit, and a couple of “new for Spain” species is good.