Julian Sykes Wildlife Holidays

Valencian Short Break

24th - 27th March 2006

Report by Julian Sykes

Friday 24th :- I met up with Brian Rickwood, Tony Polley, & John Herbert who had just arrived for their 'short break' and we all headed out to Pego Marsh for a Barn Swallow ringing session. The wind was playing it's part here with very few Barn Swallows and Sand 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 good start to Brian, Tony and John's Valencian Short Break.

Saturday 25th :- This was my first full day with Brian, Tony, & John and we headed south to the sites around Alicante. At the Clot de Galvany we followed the usual route to the Charco de Contacto finding a Woodchat Shrike, Wryneck, Booted Eagle, Little Owl, Black Redstart, Sardinian & Willow Warblers, Chiffchaffs, Blackcaps, Crested larks, Meadow Pipits, Serins, Greenfinches & Goldfinches. At the hide we saw a pair of Marbled Duck, White headed Duck, Red Crested Pochards, Little Grebes, Moorhens and Coot, so we walked around the back adding 3 Purple Gallinules and 2 White headed Ducks. The walk to the main pool produced a beautiful male Common Redstart, Hoopoes, Woodchat & Southern Grey Shrike, Song Thrush and Blackbirds. The main pool held plenty of birds with 6 Garganey, Shovelers, Teal, Shelducks, Black winged Stilts and a Purple Gallinule. Next we drove through to the Santa Pola Salinas were at the first pull-in we watched Slender billed, Mediterranean, Black headed, Yellow legged & Lesser Black backed Gulls, Sandwich Tern, Greater Flamingos and Avocets. I scanned out towards the sea and picked up a bird flying towards us, and as it got closer I realised it was a Short eared Owl, my first for Spain. Other stops along the road produced a Great White Egret, Caspian Tern, Spotted & Common Redshank, Greenshank, Little Ringed & Kentish Plovers, Black tailed Godwits, Little Stints, Great Crested Grebes and a few Yellow Wagtails. Spirits were high as we drove round to El Hondo for our lunch then looked around it's perimeter finding 5 Montagu's Harriers, Marsh Harriers, Common Pochard, Common Buzzard, Zitting Cisticola, Cattle & Little Egrets as well a lot of birds seen previously. We then made our way up into the hills above Crevillente to 'Finca Bonelli's Eagle' where we stayed for the next few hours. The pair of Bonelli's Eagles showed well with the female on the nest and the male flying around the canyon and ended up taking an Alpine Swift which he fed on from an old nest on the rock face. Other birds seen around the finca included Alpine & Common Swifts, Crag Martins, Thekla Larks, Blue Rock Thrush, Black Wheatear, Sparrowhawk, Jackdaws and Little Owls.

Sunday 26th :- Before breakfast we all headed out to Pego Marsh and a drive along the north track, were we found a few Savi's Warblers reeling and showing very well. Also here were Marsh Harriers, Purple & Grey Herons, Little Ringed Plovers, Yellow Wagtail, Zitting Cisticolas and a few singing Moustached & Cetti's Warblers, which we didn't see. At the south end were a few waders including Ruff, Greenshank, Redshank, Green & Wood Sandpipers also 30+ Audouins Gulls, Little & Cattle Egrets, Shovelers, Red Crested Pochards ,Cormorants and several Water Pipits. After breakfast we made our way to the Val de Gallinera, parking just outside the village of Alpatro. After a while John found the first of both adult Golden Eagles, which we saw well both flying and sat on rocks, also there was a Sparrowhawk, Kestrels, Red Billed Choughs, Sardinian Warblers, Blackcaps, Robin and a lovely Red Rumped Swallow. We slowly continued inland through the valley to Alcoy and the Griffon Vulture reintroduction programme. We saw plenty of Griffon Vultures, as well as a 'fly-through' Short Toed Eagle, 8 Ravens, several Crested, Great & Coal Tits, 10+ Pallid Swifts, a pair of Black Redstarts, Magpies and a Stonechat. We returned home for a break in the heat of the afternoon then later made our way to Oliva Beach. For an hour we watched from the sea-wall seeing 100+ Balearic Shearwaters close-in, Gannet, Audouin's, 6 (1st winter) Mediterranean & Yellow Legged Gulls, several Sandwich and Common Terns with 50+ Sanderlings flying round the harbour. Finally we went back to Pego Marsh seeing many of the species seen that morning but also Kingfishers, Reed Bunting and Goldfinches.

Monday 27th :- With an early start we headed inland to the plains of Castilla la Mancha starting from the small town of Bonete. Just outside the village we found a few Calandra & Thekla Larks, Linnets, Green Woodpecker, and incredibly a flock of 20+ Grey Lag Geese heading north. We also saw a couple of sandgrouse fly in to some fields further on so we drove to this area where we walked into an area of sparse scrub. Almost immediately we flushed a male Little Bustard that flew right in front of us, then 2 Great Spotted Cuckoos flew from amongst the Magpies calling. In the distance we found our first Great Bustards in the distance and also 4 Black bellied Sandgrouse flew up from the adjacent field showing well as they cut across our path. We returned to the car very satisfied with our start to the day and continued towards Coral Rubio. The road to Coral Rubio produced more Great Bustards, Carrion Crows, Corn Buntings, Red legged Partridge and Common Buzzard. Due to our success I decided we try a small (under-watched) lagoon at La Higuela and the short journey produced a pair of Marsh Harriers and several Lapwings. At the lagoon we parked and a flock of Shoveler and Common Pochard were on the water, and as I scanned them I picked out something different, a handsome male Ferruginous Duck (a local rarity). Also here were Gadwall, Red Crested Pochards, Teal, Coots, Lapwings, and a few Ruff, going back towards Petrola we stopped enroute finding a pair of Stone Curlews. After lunch in Petrola we visited the lagoon where we added 5 Garganey, Little Ringed & Kentish Plovers, Common Snipe, Spotted & Common Redshanks, a Greenshank, Green Sandpipers, Dunlin, 2 Whiskered & a Gull billed Tern, Greater Flamingos, and Crested Larks. We left Petrola and drove slowly along the tracks back to Coral Rubio finding a handsome male Black eared Wheatear, more displaying Great Bustards, a female Merlin that we watch enthralled as it caught a Calandra Lark, 2 Stone Curlews, Calandra & Skylarks, Southern Grey Shrike, Kestrels and Woodpigeons. We returned to the guesthouse very satisfied with our day and on the roof terrace that evening we added a Peregrine Falcon.

Tuesday 28th :- I was returning Brian, Tony & John to the airport and on the way we called in at Monnegre looking for Trumpeter Finch. We didn't find our target but we did see migrating Osprey and Marsh Harrier, plus several Black eared Wheatears, Red rumped Swallows, Thekla Larks, Red legged Partridges, Hoopoe, Meadow Pipits and a Long tailed Tit.


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