Our guests this morning are 3 visitors to Spain from Scotland. They are on holiday here with their families and all 3 are occasional birders at home. Having booked two days with us before they left the UK, they had requested we take them out "to see as many birds as they can" in different environments, as opposed to the the more specialised species of each location. Usually we take guests out on a full day visit to the Wetlands or the Saltpans but splitting the day into two manageable visits best suited their requirements.
With this in mind we arrived at Santa Pola around 9.30am hoping the sun would have made an appearance in the somewhat overcast sky. The sun did not play ball - but the birds did. We had a good list of small waders and the following birds of note: Greater Flamingo (always a favourite with visitors), Spoonbill, Curelw Sandpiper, Little Stint, Slender-billed Gull (looking fantastic at the moment with a lovely pink chest), Audoiun's and Med Gull.
Satisfied that all 3 of the lads were happy with what they had seen, we headed to El Pinet to watch the Avocet Chicks (which are now off the nest). El Pinet is a small nature reserve with a varied habitat and is a pleasant stroll on easy ground. There is a Tern Colony there and so we were able to point out the differences between the Common, Little and Sandwich Tern.
Lunch next on the agenda - El Hondo nature reserve has an excellent visitor centre with toilet and picnic facilities. The covered picnic area has a viewing screen where you can see the recently introduced Red-knobbed Coot that are now well settled in the small pool behind the visitor block. Four birds were introduced into this programme, but unfortunately only 3 have survived. We were lucky enough to see two of them out in open water. The birds are clearly marked with a numbered white collar as you can see in the picture below. We visit this part of the park often and are happy to note, that the birds are becoming more self sufficient and feeding on natural foods instead of just the food that the warden puts out for them on a purpose built platform at the edge of the pool.
A little burst of sunshine brought with it a flock of Yellow Wagtail which graced the water for a good ten minutes, providing us with excellent views of about 21 birds. A boardwalk provides a good circular walk of about 1km and allows access to 2 hides. Other birds of note were: Squacco Heron (5), Purple Heron, Montagu's Harrier, Booted Eagle, Great Egret (4), Purple Swamphen, White-headed Duck (14), Marbled Duck (2) Whinchat, Woodchat Shrike, Sardinian Warbler, Southern Grey Shrike and Roller.
A short stop in the lay by near the local refuse tip allowed us to point out the White Stork that are present there - one of many new birds for our guests today.