Julian Sykes Wildlife Holidays

Valencian Short Break

29th April - 3rd May 2007

Report by Julian Sykes

Sunday 29th April :- Gary & Gwen Smith were arriving today at lunchtime into Alicante and after meeting them we headed straight into the hills for our lunch. Truck stops are arguably the best value places to eat and this one is excellent with outside tables over-looking a large hillside, and while we tucked into our out-sized bocadillos Gary found a Peregrine Falcon carrying prey. After lunch we made the short journey to Maigmo and a stroll up the wooded hill provided Short toed Treecreepers, Crested, Long tailed, and Great Tits, Mistle Thrush, Blackbird, Woodchat Shrike, Chaffinches, Goldfinches and Serins. Next we headed for Monnegre and as we dropped down the valley Gwen first found a Short toed Eagle, then a Raven, as well as a male Dartford Warbler before we reached our destination. At the Barranco de Monnegre there were a lot of birds and initially we saw a Blue Rock Thrush, Thekla Larks, several Rock Sparrows, Barn Swallows, Serins, and Goldfinches. We walked into the barranco and waited finding Black eared & Black Wheatears, several parties of Bee-eaters were moving north and the skies were filled with migrating Common Swift. Then a pair of adult Bonelli's Eagles passed overhead, followed by a Sparrowhawk, but then we found our main target as a distinctive call revealed a pair of Trumpeter Finches on the opposite hillside. We enjoyed these birds for a good while before heading back to the vehicle and as we got there an unfamiliar song revealed a nest building male Spectacled Warbler, the first I had found here. Eventually we had to leave and as we made our way downwards we saw more Bee-eaters and Woodchat Shrikes plus a Kestrel, Nightingale, Willow Warbler, Crag Martins and Southern Grey Shrike. An excellent start to their short break.

Monday 30th April :- A pre-breakfast visit to Pego Marsh enabled us to find a few of Gary's target species, and starting at the north end we soon found Moustached, Savi's, Great Reed & Eurasian Reed Warblers, Zitting Cisticolas, Whiskered Terns, Black winged Stilts, Little Ringed Plovers, a single Curlew Sandpiper, Purple & Grey Herons, Little & Cattle Egrets and an Osprey sat on it's usual pylon. At the still dry paddy fields we saw Audouin's & Yellow legged Gulls, Gary found a Black Kite flying away, plus a male Little Bittern and a small flock of Yellow Wagtails revealed both the Blue headed (flava) & Grey headed (thunbergi) forms. After breakfast we headed to Cabo de San Antoni, hearing several Monk Parakeets en-route around Denia. At the headland we sat sea watching seeing lots of Pallid Swifts as they passed by below us, going into their nests in the cliffs. Also while we were here we saw a single Cory's & 20+ Balearic Shearwaters following the trawlers, Mediterranean Shag, a pair of Peregrine Falcons, several flocks of Bee-eaters, Nightingale, Northern & Black Wheatears, Woodchat Shrikes, Thekla Larks, Blue Rock Thrushes, Blackbird, Sardinian & Willow Warblers in the scrub and dwarf pines. After lunch we returned to the south end of Pego Marsh having a leisurely stroll finding much the same species as the morning plus Collared Pratincoles, Common, Wood & Curlew Sandpipers, Dunlin, Marbled Duck, Red Crested Pochards, Coot, female Marsh Harrier, Kingfisher and a Jackdaw. A drive along the allotments produced a Tree Sparrow amongst the House Sparrows, and then another walk behind the hillside we found a Short toed Eagle, Kestrel, Alpine Swifts with the Common Swifts, Whinchats, more Woodchat Shrikes, a Nightingale sat out on an overhead wire, Serins, Greenfinches & Goldfinches.

Tuesday 1st May :- We all set off for the Albacete Plains but the high winds made things fairly difficult. Our first stop along the Higueruela Road produced Black eared & Northern Wheatears, Woodchat Shrike, Stock Doves, Woodpigeons, Mistle Thrush, Spotless Starlings, Corn Buntings, Crested & Calandra Larks, Red legged Partridges, Kestrels, Magpies and Carrion Crows. Then we found 8 Great Bustards  and a  female Montagu's Harrier floated past, plus a pair of Stone Curlews, Common Buzzard, Common Swifts and Swallows moving north. We made our way to Corral Rubio and near here we stopped and scanned the fields finding 3 Little Bustards, 4 Black bellied Sandgrouse, Linnets and another Woodchat Shrike. A little further recent rains had made some roadside pool and a careful check revealed a Temminck's Stint, 2 Little Stints, Wood & Common Sandpipers, Kentish Plover, Redshanks, Greenshanks, Lapwings, Avocets, Black winged Stilts and a (thunbergi) Yellow Wagtail. The ponds just outside Corral Rubio produced much he same species along with another Montagu's Harrier and our first Black Kite of the day. En-route to Petrola we added a female Marsh Harrier and after another excellent lunch we headed for the lagoon but it was fairly quite seeing Whiskered Terns, Kentish & Little Ringed Plovers, Common Sandpipers, Redshank, Avocets, Black winged Stilts, Black headed Gulls, Red Crested Pochards, Gadwall, Shelducks, Montagu's & Marsh Harriers and Raven. Next we drove along the tracks back to Corral Rubio finding a Short toed Lark with the Calandra Larks, plus a single Great Bustard, Stone Curlew, 10+ Bee-eaters, 2 Black Kites, Montagu's & Marsh Harriers. At Higuela Lagoon there were Black necked & Little Grebes, Gadwalls, Common & Red Crested Pochards, Coots, 9 Greenshanks, 71 Redshanks and a lovely male Marsh Harrier. Finally as we returned towards Bonete we saw a Southern Grey Shrike and the final 'icing on the cake' was a very close Lesser Kestrel from the main road.

Wednesday 2nd May :- Before breakfast we went out to Pego Marsh and the still conditions were perfect for finding reedbed species. Starting at the north end we easily found Moustached, Savi's, Cetti's, Great Reed & Eurasian Reed Warblers, Zitting Cisticolas, Whiskered Terns, Black winged Stilts, Little Ringed Plovers, Purple & Grey Herons, Little & Cattle Egrets. Andrew found a male Little Bittern sat in the reeds and we also saw a Marbled Duck, a male Peregrine Falcon, Audouin's & Yellow legged Gulls, 3 Turtle Doves and 2 Whinchats. After breakfast we all set off or the Val de Gallinera with the initial stops producing 2 Golden Eagles, 10+ Red billed Chough, 20+ Bee-eaters, Common Cuckoo, Red rumped & Barn Swallows, Nightingales, Sardinian Warblers, Woodchat Shrike, a Cirl Bunting, 30+ Rock Sparrows sat on wires, and brief flight views of a Golden Oriole and a Firecrest. However an hour stood at the 'puente' was simply fantastic with scoped views of a male Golden Oriole out in the open, as well as Hoopoes, a Wryneck, Iberian Green Woodpecker, Crag Martins, Grey & White Wagtails, Bee-eaters, Nightingale, a few more Rock Sparrows, Goldfinches, Greenfinches, Serins and another male Cirl Bunting. We then drove up to Vulture feeding station at Alcoy and found yet more species including 40+ Griffon Vultures, female Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, Woodpigeons, a Thekla & Wood Lark, male Blue Rock Thrush, Blackbirds, Mistle Thrush, Sardinian Warblers, Black Redstart, Crested, Coal, Long tailed, & Great Tits, Short toed Treecreepers, Magpies, Raven, Serins, Chaffinches and a Crossbill. Finally as we made our way home we saw a couple of Southern Grey Shrikes and a Little Owl. Tonight we ventured back out for the first time this Spring looking for nightjars and we were rewarded with excellent views of 2 Red necked Nightjars.

Thursday 3rd May :- This was Gary & Gwen's final day and Kevin & Andrew's penultimate day, which was being spent in the Alicante Region. We made our usual itinerary starting at the Cot de Galvany seeing Marbled & White headed Ducks, Red Crested & Common Pochards, Shoveler, Mallard, Little Grebes, Coot, Black winged Stilts, Willow & Eurasian Reed Warbler. A walk around the reserve was very productive with Spotted Flycatcher, Turtle Doves, Woodpigeons, Little Owls, Hoopoes, Iberian Green Woodpecker, Woodchat & Southern Grey Shrikes, Serins, Greenfinches and Goldfinches. We then went to the Santa Pola Salinas finding a late (pale phase) Booted Eagle, Ringed & Kentish Plovers, Common Redshank, Curlew Sandpipers, Little Stints, Avocets and Black winged Stilts, plus Great Crested Grebes, Grey & Purple Heron, Greater Flamingos, Little Egrets, Shelducks, more Marbled Duck, Yellow legged & Audouin's Gulls, Little & Common Terns and Yellow Wagtails. At El Pinet we saw a few more Curlew Sandpipers, Little Stints, 30+ Slender billed and an Audouin's Gull,  Sandwich, Common, Little & Whiskered Terns, Bee-eaters, and a pair of Southern Grey Shrikes. Several stops around the perimeter of El Hondo produced a couple of Rollers, Kestrels, Cattle Egrets, Green Woodpecker, Montagu's Harriers, Lesser Short toed & Crested Larks. We then made our way up to the Crevillente Hills for our evening meal and excellent views of both adult Bonelli's Eagles and the 2 Eaglets. As well as this we also saw 7 Honey Buzzards migrating north, Black Wheatear, Blue Rock Thrushes, Thekla Larks, Alpine & Common Swifts. Finally we made our way to the Elche Hills initially finding Black Wheatear, Blue Rock Thrush and Little Owls, but we waited for the Eagle Owls. Then as it was getting dark Kevin found both the owlets on top of the cliff-face, and as we watched a adult flew in and started to feed them. We returned to our accommodation and sat outside listening to Red necked Nightjars, Scop's & Little Owls while having a well earned beer.


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