Julian Sykes Wildlife Holidays

Valencian Short Break

21st - 24th March 2006

Report by Julian Sykes

Tuesday 21st :- I met Alan Moorhouse & Frank Mason at Alicante Airport and made the short journey to Santa Pola Salinas where we found Little Egrets, Grey Herons, Great Crested Grebes, Cormorants, 1000+ Greater Flamingos, 30+ Shelduck, Red Crested Pochard, Common Coots, Black winged Stilts, Avocets, Common Snipe, Black tailed Godwits, Common Redshanks, Greenshanks, Audouin’s, Mediterranean, Slender billed, Western Yellow legged, Lesser Black backed & Black headed Gulls, Sandwich Terns, 4 Pallid Swifts, Sand Martins, Yellow Wagtails and Barn Swallows. Next we drove the short journey to El Hondo Reserve where on a small pool we found 7 Marbled Duck, 4 White headed Duck, Common Teal, Red Crested &Common Pochards, Marsh Harriers and House Martins. Finally we headed inland to the Crevillente Hills and a whole new set of species. As we arrived we checked the nest and there was the female Bonelli’s Eagle pulling strips of food and feeding her young. We went for a short walk finding 3 Black Wheatears, 2 male Rock Buntings, a pair of Blue Rock Thrush, Little Owls, Hoopoes, Thekla Larks, Alpine Swifts and Serins. As we retuned for our evening meal the male Bonelli’s Eagle flew into the canyon and displayed around the eyrie. Their short break was off to an excellent start.

Wednesday 22nd :- Before breakfast Alan, Frank and I went to Pego Marsh in search of Savi’s Warblers. Unfortunately the very high winds didn’t seem to bode well; however, on the third attempt we incredibly found a Savi’s Warbler reeling nearly horizontal high-up on the reeds. Other birds seen included Purple Heron, Marsh Harriers, Northern Shovelers, Red Crested Pochards, Common Teal, Black winged Stilts, Little Ringed Plovers, Common Swifts, Crag Martins, Hoopoes, Yellow & White Wagtails, Water Pipits, Goldfinches, Spotless Starlings. After breakfast we headed to the Val de Gallinera, were we parked up and one of the first birds I saw was an adult Golden Eagle moving along the ridge. Within minutes it was being mobbed by a pair of Peregrines and several Red billed Choughs, so it soon disappeared and landed out of sight. We hung around seeing Sardinian Warbler, Greenfinches and Kestrels, then over the ridge appeared a very large raptor, a wing tagged Griffon Vulture. As it flew past the eyrie the adult Golden Eagle appeared and mobbed the vulture with several passes. Both birds moved off as did we, higher up to the Alcoy Hills. At the vulture re-introduction site we saw many untagged Griffon Vultures as well as (adult & 3rd cy) Bonelli’s Eagles, Osprey, Sparrowhawk, 6 Ravens, Magpies, Crested Tits, Short toed Treecreeper and Black Redstarts. After this we returned to Pego Marsh finding new birds including Little Grebe, 2 male Garganey, Booted Eagle, Common Coot, Spotted & Common Redshank, Green Sandpiper, Alpine & Pallid Swifts, Red rumped Swallows, Kingfisher, Meadow Pipits and Reed Buntings. Finally we went to Oliva Beach for a little sea watching over the next hour we saw Balearic Shearwaters, Common & Sandwich Terns, 2 Razorbills, Audouins & Yellow legged Gulls, on the beach were several Sanderlings and a Kentish Plover.

Thursday 23rd :- Today we headed south where we started at the Clot de Galvany where we walked along the track to the Charco de Contacto. Here we found Southern Grey Shrike, Hoopoe, Little Owl, Sardinian & Willow Warblers, Black Redstart, Booted Eagle, and Meadow Pipits. At the pool we saw White headed Duck, Purple Gallinules, and Little Grebes amongst other things. We followed the track around to the main lake and at one tree we found a roosting Little Owl with a Common Whitethroat, 2 Sub-alpine & Willow Warblers, several Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps around it. Also along here we saw Song Thrush, Blackbirds, Crested Larks and 2 Carrion Crows. At the main pool we added 5 Garganey, Shovelers, Common Teal, Black winged Stilts, Water Pipit and another Sub-alpine Warbler. We left and made our way along the coast finding 2 Turnstones, and past the salinas seeing Slender billed Gulls, Black tailed Godwits and Greater Flamingos from the car. At El Hondo we made a few stops around the perimeter before lunch seeing a Lesser Short toed Lark, Common Buzzard, Booted Eagles, Marsh Harriers, Kestrels, Cattle Egrets, Stonechat, Zitting Cisticolas, Yellow Wagtails, Shelducks and Little Grebes. After lunch at the visitor centre we drove north looking for the over-wintering Pine Bunting (seen last week) but to no avail, but we did find Corn Buntings, Thekla Larks and Rock Bunting. After a comfort stop in Elche we headed back into the hills for our last target of the day. A quick search of the area before dusk produced an Iberian Green Woodpecker, Blue Rock Thrush, Chiffchaffs, Blackcaps, Cetti’s & Sardinian Warblers, Sparrowhawk and Jackdaws. As dusk fell the adult Eagle Owl flew out, but unfortunately landed against a dark background, not making it easy to see.

Friday 24th :- Today was my last day with Alan & Frank, and we were also joined by visiting birdwatcher David Barkway. We were going inland to the plains of Castilla la Mancha and their steppe species, but the recent high winds were proving a problem. Around the agricultural fields of Bonete we soon found our first Great Bustards with the males and females in two distinct parties. The males were starting to display and negotiation of the farm tracks enabled us to get good close views from the vehicle. A Red Kite sat in the field and there were also a few Thekla & Calandra Larks, Linnets, Hoopoe and Magpies. We continued towards Petrola seeing Common Buzzards, Lapwings, Woodpigeons, Carrion Crows, Southern Grey Shrike, Corn Buntings and Red legged Partridges. In Petrola we headed straight for the lagoon and a bit of respite from the strong wind and into it's (interesting) hide. Here we managed to look through the side windows finding a Whiskered Tern, Black necked Grebe, Pintails, Gadwall, Teal, Garganey, Shovelers, Red Crested & Common Pochards, Marsh Harriers, Greater Flamingos, Black winged Stilts, Avocets, Little Ringed Plovers, Black tailed Godwits, Common Redshanks, Ruff, Dunlin, Green Sandpiper, Common Snipe, Raven and Crested Larks. After lunch the wind had abated a little so we continued around the agricultural fields finding more Great Bustards, and also 2 Stone Curlews, female Merlin, Stock Doves and Meadow Pipits. We left the area and headed back to Oliva were we met up with Brian Rickwood, Tony Polley, & John Herbert who had just arrived for their 'short break'. A little later we all headed out to Pego Marsh and a swallow ringing session. The wind was playing it's part here with very few swallows and martins caught however we did catch a male Bluethroat, Moustached Warbler, Chiffchaffs and Reed Buntings to the groups delight. Other birds seen included brief views of a Penduline Tits, White Stork, Marsh Harriers, Purple & Grey Herons, Snipe and Common Swifts. A great end to Alan & Frank's trip and a great start to Brian, Tony and John's one.



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