Julian Sykes Wildlife Holidays

Valencian Short Break

20th - 23rd April 2007

Report by Julian Sykes

Friday 20th April :- Today was the first day of  Peter & Jenny's Valencian Short Break having arrived the evening before. We started at Oliva Beach but it was very quiet with just a few Sandwich Terns and a couple of Gannets so we quickly moved on to Pego Marsh. The still conditions were ideal for reedbed warblers and within an hour we had scoped views of Moustached, Savi's, Great Reed and Eurasian Reed Warblers, plus Zitting Cisticolas, Iberian Yellow Wagtails, Mallard, Marsh Harriers, Little & Cattle Egrets, Grey & Purple Herons, Black winged Stilts, Little Ringed Plovers, a Kingfisher and Whinchat. However the personal highlight was my first Stone Curlew for this excellent site. After breakfast we returned to the marsh checking out a couple more areas finding more of the same plus several Squacco Herons, Red Crested Pochards, 2 Marbled Ducks, Coots, Common Snipe, Redshank, several Wood, Green & Common Sandpipers, 30+ Whiskered Terns, Crested Larks, Barn Swallows, House Martins, Common Swifts, White Wagtails, Blackbirds, Sardinian & Cetti's Warblers, Great Tits, 2 male Woodchat Shrikes, Goldfinches, Greenfinches and Serins. One disappointing thing was finding a dead Eagle Owl that looked like it had flown into overhead power lines. We then drove up to the Vall de Gallinera firstly for our lunch which we ate whilst watching 30+ Red billed Choughs. After lunch we drove up and down the valley making several stops where we found 2 adult Bonelli's Eagles, a Sparrowhawk, Kestrels, Common Cuckoos, heard a Wryneck, Crag Martins, Red rumped Swallows, Sardinian Warblers, Nightingales, Stonechats, Long tailed & Great Tits, and a Cirl Bunting.

Saturday 21st April :- We all set off for the Albacete Plains in good time and arrived in near perfect conditions and our first stops along the Higueruela Road produced Rock Sparrows, several Stone Curlew, Northern Wheatear, Stock Doves, Woodpigeons, Mistle Thrush, Spotless Starlings, Corn Buntings, Crested & Calandra Larks, Red legged Partridges, Kestrels, Magpies and Carrion Crows. Then at one stop we had a fantastic half hour firstly flushing 3 Little Bustards, then finding 3 Great Bustards (one foam-bath displaying), and while watching these we had 10 Black bellied & 12 Pin tailed Sandgrouse both flying and on the fields, a male Montagu's Harrier floated past, plus a Short toed Lark, Hoopoes, Common Buzzard, Common Swifts and Swallows moving north. After this we made our way quickly to Petrola stopping en-route at Corral Rubio ponds for Rock Sparrows, a Greenshank, Redshank, 2 Avocets, Lapwings, Black winged Stilts, a Sparrowhawk, Mallards and Linnets. In Petrola we had an excellent lunch and afterwards headed for the lagoon for an hour watching 6 adult summer Black Terns with a Common & Whiskered Terns, Ruff, Common & Wood Sandpipers, Kentish, Ringed & Little Ringed Plovers, Sanderling, Redshank, more Avocets, Black winged Stilts, 5 Greater Flamingos, Black headed Gulls, Red Crested Pochards and Shelducks. Yet the major highlight for me was finding a moulting adult Little Gull amongst the marsh terns, my first ever in Spain. Next we drove along the tracks back to Corral Rubio getting excellent views of another 20 Great Bustards with some in flight, plus more Stone Curlew, Marsh Harrier, Northern Wheatears, Lapwings, Red legged Partridges, Short toed, Crested & Calandra Larks. The road to Higuela Lagoon produced a gorgeous male Black eared Wheatear and on the ponds there was a Little Grebe, 2 Gadwall, Common & Red Crested Pochards, Coots, Common Sandpiper and Kentish Plover. Finally as we returned towards Bonete we had a Black Kite fly over us, ending yet another great day in this underwatched area.

Sunday 22nd April :- The Alicante Region was today's itinerary and as normal we started at the Clot de Galvany in the rain!. We made our way quickly to the hide and sat there until it abated enjoying very close views of 3 Marbled & several White headed Ducks, Red Crested & Common Pochards, Mallard, Little Grebes, Coot, Moorhen and Black winged Stilts. A walk around the reserve was very productive with Shelduck, 2 Wood Sandpipers, Kentish Plover and 20+ Little Stints on the other pool along with 20+ Turtle Doves, Woodpigeons, 4 Little Owls, Hoopoes, Iberian Green Woodpecker, a Melodious, Willow & several Sardinian Warblers, a late Chiffchaff, Serins, Greenfinches & Goldfinches. After an early lunch we then dove down to the Santa Pola salinas, which was stacked with waders, and estimates being 4 Grey Plovers, 10+ Ringed Plovers, Kentish Plovers, 10+ Black tailed Godwits, 2 Greenshank, 6 Spotted Redshank (one full summer plumage), 30+ Common Redshank, 100+ Dunlin, 200+ Curlew Sandpipers, Common Sandpiper 100+ Little Stints, loads of Avocets and Black winged Stilts. Also here we found Great Crested Grebes, Grey Herons, Greater Flamingos, Little Egrets, Shelducks, Mallard, Red Crested Pochards, Yellow legged Gulls, 20+ Little Terns, Yellow Wagtails and Zitting Cisticolas. At El Pinet we saw more of the same including 100+ Curlew Sandpipers, 10+ Sanderlings, Dunlin, Little Stints, Greenshank, several Redshank, (1st winter) Mediterranean Gull, 100+ Slender billed Gulls, 5 Audouin's Gulls, 20+ Sandwich, Little & Whiskered Terns, an Alpine Swift, 6 Bee-eaters, Willow Warbler and Southern Grey Shrike. Several stops around the perimeter of El Hondo produced Cattle Egrets, male Montagu's Harrier, Kestrels, 2 Collared Pratincoles, Little Owl, Common Cuckoo, 3 Whinchat and another Iberian Green Woodpecker. We now drove up through the hills to Finca Bonelli's Eagle and we were soon greeted by scoped views of one of the eaglets on the nest over the next couple of hours we were treated to superb views of both adult Bonelli's Eagles and the two young being fed. As well as this we also saw Black Wheatears, Blue Rock Thrushes, Thekla Larks, Alpine Swifts, Jackdaws, Kestrel and Dartford Warbler. Finally we made our way to the Elche Hills and as dusk was falling I eventually found a shape against the rock face, which was a young Eagle Owl, we then saw an adult sat out, and then the owlet was joined by a second bird, 3 Eagle Owls in 15 minutes a very rare treat. To round off the day we then had a European Nightjar fly right past us while it was still light enough to see some plumage, a fantastic day.

Monday 23rd April :- Today I was returning Peter & Jenny back to the airport and since there flights weren't until late afternoon we had some time for additional birdwatching. So we drove through to Cabo de San Antoni stopping en-route for the Monk Parakeets just outside Denia. At the headland we made our way to the cliff edge and enjoyed fantastic views of a pair of adult Peregrines as they flew overhead, as well as several Pallid Swifts, Black Wheatear and a pair of Blue Rock Thrushes. Back on the road I noticed a large falcon coming in from the sea and quickly commented on it's large size, long wings & tail, and called "Eleanora's Falcon". We all watched as this 'pale phase adult' flew past, causing a Peregrine to react (giving a fantastic comparison), and disappear inland with it's very distinct flight action. Extremely pleased we continued our walk around the headland just seeing a few Sardinian Warblers and Serins, but as we returned to the car we got a repeat performance as another pale phase Eleanora's Falcon powered it's way inland giving fantastic views in the sunshine, what a day. We then drove down to Alicante and then after lunch into the hills to Maigmo where a walk through the pine forest produced a male Pied Flycatcher, Crested, Coal, Long tailed & Great Tits, Short toed Treecreepers, a Rock Bunting, Firecrest, Chaffinches, Serins and a Common Buzzard. I returned Peter & Jenny to the airport after a very enjoyable few days.


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