Well my first day back from Morocco and as I settled in to sort out the 500+ pictures from the trip the phone rang with a day trip booking for the following day (Wednesday 20th). Trevor Steven's; who is on holiday from the Oxford area was our client for the day, I hoped that with the information I had been given over the phone, I would be able to get him a few lifers. The day trip request was for our wetland option but rather than a full day, Trevor preferred half a day around the wetlands with an evening outing to try and see Eagle Owls, no problem!
Night Heron - Vistabella Road
I collected Trevor at 7. 45 the following morning and headed over to the south side of El Hondo to explore some of the various canals and pools found here. It wasn't long before the lifers started, the best of which at our first stop was the Night Heron pictured above. Here we also recorded a number of other good species including Sardinian Warbler, Moustached Warbler (singing), Great Reed Warbler, Fan-tailed Warbler, Cetti's Warbler, Cattle Egret, Purple Heron, Red-rumped Swallow and vast numbers of Pallid Swift.
Our next stop was one of the large pools situated on the south side of El Hondo where we added a number of good species; including, White-headed Duck (38, see below), Red-crested Pochard (22), Purple Swamphen (calling), Garganey and superb views of Whiskered Tern. A brief stop en route to the visitor centre rewarded us with breathtaking views of Nightingale as well as numerous male Montagu's Harrier displaying to a single female close over the reed-beds.
The visitors centre added more species such as Collared Pratincole and Hoopoe as well as giving Trevor the chance to get very close views of Great Reed Warbler (see above), which by his own admission, he fell in love with! More White-headed Duck showed well for us and a Hobby was also a welcome bonus. Bee-eaters on the way home shot straight into Trevor's top 5 and I dropped him off with over 15 new species! The following account of our evening trip is by Tracy Powell.
Tonight, 20th April 2011 Ashley took me and another visitor Trevor (from Oxfordshire who is holidaying here) to look for the Eagle Owl. The weather was very windy and I didn’t hold out much hope of seeing it. Having already made several trips to try and see these birds and not been successful I had decided this was my nemesis species. We arrived at the sight around 8.30pm and scanned the sides of the cliff looking for the Owl. After about 20mins and no sighting, the wind was getting stronger and we decided to move a little further along the road to try and get some shelter. The reasoning being that at least then Ashley would be able to hear the Owl calling if it was present. After a short wait of only about 10 minutes – Ashley had found the bird - success !! The magnificent bird flew across the cliff side and circled right above our heads, settling on a ledge in full view. It was brilliant - one of the best birding sights I have ever seen. Ashley gave us the benefit of his knowledge, advising us of the birds’ statistics and general information on this species and their nesting habits, as we watched her for a good 20 minutes. It was so worth the wait. Even as an occasional birder, I was fascinated at the sight of this impressive bird and could feel myself being drawn in to the net of the “bird watching bug”. Tomorrow I will be out looking for more great birds – I think I have decided that the raptors are my favourites. Thank you Ashley, for your patience and perseverance so that I could see this fantastic bird.
Thursday 28th - Santa Pola and El Pinet
A quick visit to Santa Pola didnt produce anything out of the ordinary except for the vast number of Curlew Sandpiper (750+, see below) which have seemingly arrived over night! Other noteworthy observations here included Northern Wheatear (4) Grey Plover (3) and a single Temminck's Stint.
Again El Pinet held it usual assortment of excellent breeding species - Little Tern, Common Tern, Sandwich Tern, Gull-billed Tern, Mediterranean Gull, Slender-billed Gull, Audouins Gull, Avocet, Black-winged Stilt and Collared Pratincole. There were also more Curlew Sandpiper here (40+) but not the Lesser-crested Tern I keep convincing myself will be there one of these days!!