Friday, 21 November 2014

Travelling to and in the El Hondo area, Alicante Province.

Second trip out of Andalucia this year, this time for some special Eagles.

The group set off early and made our way up the motorways through Granada, Almeria, Murcia and in to Alicante to the well known wetland reserve of El Hondo. On the drive we picked up Carrion Crow (Corneja Negra / Corvus corone), Jackdaw (Grajilla / Corvus monedula), Raven (Cuervo / Corvus corax), Common Magpie (Urraca / Pica pica) and Griffon Vulture (Bultre Leonado / Gyps fulvus) and near the reserve whilst we were searching the small lanes of the site we also picked up Red-legged Partridge (Perdiz Roja / Alectoris rufa), Southern Grey Shrike (Alcaudón Real Meridional / Lanius meridionalis) and the first Booted Eagles (Aguililla Calzada / Hieraaetus pennatus), Common Buzzards (Busardo Ratonero / Buteo buteo) and Marsh Harriers (Aguilucho Lagunero Occidental / Circus aeruginosus).
As with so many Spanish reserves El Hondo has very restricted entry time but we were booked in on the visit sheduled for tomorrow morning so we spent the rest of this morning around the south gate and the two hides nearby. We parked on the roadside and walked out to the first hide, on the way we saw Cattle Egret (Garcilla Bueyera / Bubulcus ibis), Snipe (Agachadiza Común / Gallinago gallinago), Purple Swamp-hen (Calamon Común / Porphyrio porphyrio), Eurasian Coot (Focha Común / Fulica atra), Water Rail (Rascón Europeo / Rallus aquaticus), Common Moorhen (Gallineta Común / Gallinulas chloropus), Collared Dove (Tórtola Turca / Streptopelia decaocto), Zitting Cisticola (Buitrón / Cisticola juncidis), White Wagtail (Lavandera Blanca / Montacilla alba), Reed Bunting (Escribano Palustre / Emberiza schoeniclus), Common Stonechat (Tarabilla Común / Saxicola torquata), Common Chiffchaff (Mosquitero Común / Phylloscopus collybita), Grey Heron (Garza Real / Ardea cinerea) and the first of dozens of Kingfishers (Martin Pescador / Alcedo atthis) we were to see over the two days here. Once we were in the hide we got good views of 200+ Greater Flamingo's (Flamenco Común / Phoenicopterus roseus), Shelduck (Tarro Blanco / Tadoma tadorna), Northern Shoveler (Pato Cuchara / Anas clypeata), Common Pochard (Porrón Común / Aythya ferina), Mallard (Anade Azulón / Anas platyrhynchos), Great Cormorant (Cormorán Grande / Phalacrocroax carbo), Black-headed (Gaviota Riedora / Larus ridibundus), Lesser Black-backed (Gaviota Sombria / Larus fuscus) and Yellow-legged Gulls (Gaviota Patiamarilla / Larus Michahellis), an Osprey (Águila Pescardora / Pandion haliaetus) which was perched on a post in the water, plenty of Crag Martins (Avión Roquero / Ptyonoprogne rupestris), and in the trees on the far side of the reeds dozens of Woodpigeons (Paloma Torcaz / Columba palumbus) and a single Stock Dove (Paloma Zurita / Columba oenas). I went for a stroll back to the road, on the way I had two male Penduline Tits (Pájaro Moscón / Remiz pendulinus) in the reeds along with a male Bluethroat (Pechiazul / Luscinia svecica) which was skulking around on the mud at the side of the lake. In the trees by the road I located a Common Buzzard (Busardo Ratonero / Buteo buteo), a Green Sandpiper (Andarrios Grande / Tringa ochropus) flushed up from a ditch at the side of the road and two Bramblings (Pinzón Real / Fringilla montifringilla) flew over calling. Next came lunch and after we had eaten we headed back to the hides but this time I checked out the second one which was a little further along the track. From here I had views of Black-winged Stilts (Ciguenela Común / Himantopus himantopus), Avocet (Avoceta Común / Recurvirostra avosetta), Common Redshank (Archibebe Común / Tringa totanus), Black-tailed Godwit (Aguja Colinegra / Limosa limosa), Eurasian Curlew (Zaoaito Real / Numenius arquata), Dunlin (Correlimos Común / Calidris alpina), two more Ospreys, Great Crested (Somormujo Lavanco / Podiceps cristatus) and Little Grebes (Zampullín Común / Tachybaptus ruficollis). In the ditches and around the pools I also saw several Insect species included Migrant Hawkers (Aeshna mixta) which were quite common, Vagrant (Anax ephippiger) and Lesser Emperors (Anax parthenope), Red-veined Darters (Sympetrum fonscolombii), Bath  (Blanqiverdosa / Pontia daplidice), Large (Pieris brassicae) and Small Whites (Artogeia rapae) and a butterfly lifer a very smart Plain Tiger (Danaus chrysippus).
We wondered back to the first hide adding Little Egret (Garceta Común / Egreeta garzetta), Linnet (Pardillo Común / Carduelis cannabina), Skylark (Alondra Común / Alauda arvensis), Corn Bunting (Triguero / Emberiza calandra), Sardinian Warbler (Curruca Cabecinegra / Sylvia melanocephala), Meadow Pipit (Bisbita Pratense / Anthus pratensis), Hoopoe (Abubilla / Upupa epops) and Blackbird (Mirlo Común / Turdus merula).
At around 15:00 we decided to have a drive around the south west corner of the reserve where we some how or other found our way to an abandoned visitors centre near Santa Agueda where some of the group checked out two towers at the site whilst some of us keep a check that the gate was not going to be locked behind us, whilst I was on gate watch I saw two cracking Bluethroats, more Reed Buntings, Green Woodpecker (Pito Real / Picus viridis) and then the bird of the day TONN the Great Spotted Eagle (Águila Moteada / Aquila clanga) complete with defunked transmitter. The rest of the group saw the bird just as it landed in a large pine tree which was where we watched the bird preen for a while before it again flew heading for the trees in the centre of the reserve. Whilst it was in the tree we moved around to a track to get a better view, here we met a nice Spanish chap who told us the gate to the centre was never locked so we all returned there and checked the towers again. Species seen from here included a fine Wood Sandpiper (Andarrios Bastardo / Tringa glareola), 2 Little Stints
(Correlimos Menudo / Calidris minuta), Ringed Plover (Chorlitejo Grande / Charadrius hiaticula), Snipe, Black-winged Stilt, several Great White Egrets (Garceta Grande / Egretta alba), Glossy Ibis (Morito Común / Plegadis falcinellus), Water Pipit (Bisbita Alpino / Anthus spinoletta) and in the scrub behind us a Dartford Warbler (Curruca Rabilarga / Sylvia undata).
Once it was getting towards dusk we headed for the hotle near Elche which was found quite easily, just as we were unloading two of out friend Juan Perez and his wife Beatriz turned up along with Chika there lovely little dog. We got the rooms sorted and then all went out for a meal in a local bar.

During this days birding we saw a total of 82 species of bird which was a good total considering the weather had been very dull but thankfully dry.

Photographs from the top: Little Grebe (Zampullín Común / Tachybaptus ruficollis), Black-winged Stilt (Ciguenela Común / Himantopus himantopus), 2x Great Spotted Eagle (Águila Moteada / Aquila clanga), The towers and Great White Egret (Garceta Grande / Egretta alba).

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