Torrevieja Field Trip – Malcolm Palmer

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The day’s story began as three of us killed time, being uncharacteristically early, en route to the meeting place. We paused by Torre San José, on Santa Pola Salinas, and immediately located an Osprey, perched on a post some way across the still waters. A Great White Egret was motionless nearby, and a Purple Heron flew steadily over. Not a bad start, we thought, as we made our way to the meeting place, at El Pinet’s reserve carpark.

An encouraging turnout of 22 included four newcomers, and we began by examining the islands that are frequent resting places for several species. Stone Curlew predominated – there must have been upwards of forty individuals scattered around – but a good few Collared Pratincole could be seen, mostly a little further away. An adult Little Tern remained there too, and just a pair of Black-tailed Godwits fed alongside Avocets. A solitary Greenshank gave good views, as migrant Swallows flew past. Members also had a good chance to see Slender-billed Gulls at close quarters.

It was time to move on, and we decided on La Mata as the next stop, parking near the cemetery, and walking into the eucalyptus wood alongside the lagoon. Amongst the trees, many Red Squirrel gambled, showing no fear of human presence, but apart from Black Redstart and Spotted Flycatcher, there was little of avian note. A couple of Sandwich Terns perched on posts out on the lagoon – otherwise nothing stirred.

We headed for the site south of Torrevieja Salt Lake, which has become home for an isolated colony of Azure-winged Magpies in recent years. Three or four lucky people stayed by their cars and saw small parties of these sometimes elusive birds fly over. The rest of us had to be content with many screeching Monk Parakeets, until, flying low over the lake, came a female Montagu’s Harrier – undoubtedly the ‘bird of the day.’ A couple of Iberian Grey Shrikes completed a long morning, then we made for the ever-welcoming Restaurante El Rocio for a pleasant, and very sociable lunch. A few members went to the El Hondo reserve centre afterwards: the rest of us, all too aware of gathering storm-clouds, headed for home.