Julian Sykes Wildlife Holidays

Valencian Short Break

13th - 16th May 2006

Report by Julian Sykes

Saturday 13th May :- Today I was picking up Adrian & Joan Adams and then Paul Housley from Valencia Airport, for their short break. As there was a 3 hour gap between flights Adrian, Joan & I visited the nearby Marjel del Moro in hope of finding one or two of it's specialities. We walked along the coast and at the first pool we found 3 Crested Coots, which showed very well and while we watched 2 male Little Bitterns flew around and posed on top of the reeds. A Short toed Eagle hunted over the back of the marsh and other birds included Whiskered Terns, Grey & Purple Herons, Little Egrets, Red Crested Pochards and Eurasian Coot. At the viewing platform we found 2 Little Bitterns as well as Common & Little Terns, Collared Pratincoles, Yellow legged Gulls, Great Reed Warblers and a showy Cetti's Warbler. We strolled back aong the beach seeingan Audouin's Gull fly past, took a track heading inland. Here we found the Collared Pratincole colony and we had close views of these gorgeous birds, along with Stonechats, Zitting Cisticolas, Turtle Dove, Goldfinches, and at the last watchpoint we added 2 male Gadwall and Common Pochard. We returned to Valencia Airport and collected Paul before returning to the guesthouse to have a rest and freshen up before a quick visit to Pego Marsh in the evening. At the marsh we started in the south east corner were a check over the reeds produced singing Moustached, Savi's, Eurasian Reed & Great Reed Warblers, Zitting Cisticolas, Yellow Wagtails and a 1st year Night Heron. At the open area we found lots of Squacco, Purple & Grey Herons, Little & Cattle Egrets, Mallard, Red Crested Pochards, Coot, Whiskered Terns and Black winged Stilts. We moved then to the paddy fields with Adrian seeing a Kingfisher en-route and here we found more of the same plus 2 Little Bitterns, Audouin's & Yellow legged Gulls, Redshank and a Kestrel. However the highlight was finding a pair of Marbled Duck in one of the flooded fields, hopefully an indication of possible breeding at this site.

Sunday 14th May :- My first full day with Paul, Adrian & Joan and we drove out to Bonete then started checking the minor roads in the area, with our very first stop producing several target species. We walked a track between the agricultural fields finding our first (of many) Calandra & Crested Larks, then we heard a pair of Stone Curlews but could not locate them. At the end of the track a pair of Little Bustards flew up from right in front of us but unfortunately they dropped out of sight. We slowly walked back and near the car I found a Pin tailed Sandgrouse flying in the distance, which was then joined by 2 Black bellied Sandgrouse. An excellent start to the day. We continued on the road and parked where we thought the sandgrouse had come from, and after a quick search we found 4 Black bellied Sandgrouse feeding in the field, along with several Mistle Thrushes. Again we moved our position and this time I found a pair of Pin tailed Sandgrouse sitting amongst the vegetation, and a quick manoeuvre of the car gave us again good views of this difficult species. We left this area and moved through to Corral Rubio driving the tracks round to Petrola here we added a female Great Bustard, followed by 20 male Great Bustards, Short toed & Calandra Larks, Skylarks, Rock & House Sparrows, Common Buzzards, Marsh Harriers, Kestrel, Lapwings, Linnets, Magpies, Carrion Crows, Corn Buntings, and an interesting False Smooth Snake sunning itself on a rock. After lunch we visited Chinchilla & Petrola Lagoons seeing a Curlew, 2 Wood Sandpipers, Ruff, Little Stints, Redshank, Ringed & Kentish Plovers, Black winged Stilts, Avocets, Whiskered Terns, Red Crested & Common Pochards, Mallard, Coot, single Pallid & Common Swifts. At Petrola Lagoon we saw many of the same species but also managed to add 2 Black Terns, 10+ Gadwall, Little Ringed Plovers, 20+ Greater Flamingos, Shelducks, Tree Sparrows & a Yellow Wagtail. We finally made our way slowly back to the highway finding a Lesser Kestrel, 2 Pin tailed Sandgrouse, Red legged Partridges and Northern Wheatear on the way

Monday 15th May :- Our second day and we were heading south to the Alicante region and a long day in the field with many target species to find. Our first stop was on the Santa Pola coastline and the first bird I looked at was a male Rufous Bushchat singing from the top of a tree. We watched it for a few minutes before it dropped out of sight and we continued into the small wood were we good good views of at least 4 Rufous Bushchats running about on the floor. Also here we saw a few Spotted Flycatchers, Sardinian Warblers, Blackbirds, Great & Long tailed Tits. Next we moved on to the Clot de Galvany where we spent the next 2 hours just walking round watching the varied birdlife. We found Little Grebes, 7 White headed Ducks, single Marbled Duck, male Garganey, Common Pochards, Mallard, Shelducks, Common Sandpiper, Black winged Stilts, Kentish Plovers, 3 Purple Gallinules, Turtle Doves, Pallid & Common Swifts, Hoopoes, Iberian Green Woodpecker, Little Owls, Sand & House Martins, Southern Grey Shrikes, Spotless Starlings, and 3 Carrion Crows. At the 'salinas' we added Great Crested Grebes, Greater Flamingos, Red Crested Pochards, 2 more Marbled Ducks, Purple Heron, Little Egrets, Sanderlings, Little Stints, Western Yellow legged, Black headed, 40+ Slender billed & a (1st summer) Mediterranean Gull, Little, Common & Whiskered Terns, Southern Grey Shrike, White & Yellow Wagtails. We then had lunch on the beach while watching several Sandwich Terns and a couple of Audouin's Gulls flying over the sea. After the break we continued around to the edge of El Hondo reserve making a few stops at known locations, finding a Grey Heron, Cattle Egrets, 4 Montagu's Harriers, Kestrel, a Collared Pratincole, 2 Turtle Doves, 5 Rollers, several Lesser Short toed & Crested Larks, Zitting Cisticolas, Eurasian & Great Reed Warblers, and an elusive calling Common Cuckoo. It was now time to head inland to the hills above Crevillente and spend a few hours at Finca Bonelli's Eagle. We arrived to the news of the eaglet had fledged the nest (earliest ever record?) and unfortunately they were no-where to be found. However after a short period Adrian picked up an adult Bonelli's Eagle flying into the canyon carrying food, closely followed by the other. The first had alighted on the cliff and started to prepare the prey, which made the juvenile Bonelli's Eagle hopped up onto a bush and wait for it's meal. The adult then stood back and the young eagle jumped down and walked over to the prey and fed upon it, fascinating to watch. We remained here having, as usual, an excellent evening meal seeing other species such as 3 Black Wheatears, 2 Blue Rock Thrushes, several Thekla Larks, Alpine & Common Swifts, 2 Red rumped Swallows Sardinian Warblers and Bee-eaters. Late evening we left and headed for the hills above Elche and as the dark drew in, again Adrian spotted the large shape of an adult Eagle Owl as it landed in full view on the crags in front of us. It stayed for a couple of minutes giving everyone a chance to see the bird well before it disappeared over the hillside. We drove back north to our final destination just outside Oliva where we found 3 Red necked Nightjars sat on the tracks giving fantastic views.

Tuesday 16th May :- This was my last day with Adrian & Joan Adams, Paul Housley & John Johns, on their short break and we headed into the Vall de Gallinera. At our first stop we stood and watched the surrounding valley and hillside for it's breeding eagles but also other birds. A male Golden Oriole sat out in full view singing and catching insects for most of the time we were there, and was later joined in the same dead tree by a Wryneck and a Woodchat Shrike. Other birds seen included a Jay, Bee-eaters, Red billed Choughs, Turtle Doves, another elusive Cuckoo, Great Tits, Goldfinches, and Serins. Finally as it warmed up 2 adult Golden Eagles flew out from the crags and gave good views before disappearing out of sight. A little further up the valley Joan saw a large raptor go over the car so I managed to stop, we refound the bird and identified it as a Bonelli's Eagle just before it flew over the ridge. We continued for a short way, this time we stood at a bridge hearing & seeing many birds, it was a magical experience. We found a Black eared Wheatear, Rock Sparrows, Grey Wagtail, Wren, 2 Melodious Warblers, Crag Martins, Stonechats, Nightingales, 3 or 4 Golden Orioles, Wryneck, Spotted Flycatchers, Corn & Cirl Buntings. We then drove up the valley and out to the hills above Alcoy and walked up the hill to the vulture reintroduction centre. Although there were only a few Griffon Vultures around they gave very good views as they passed by at eye-level. Due to the heat of the day things were quiet but we did manage to see 3 Rock Buntings, Magpies, Crested & Coal Tits, as well as hearing Short toed Treecreeper and a couple of Common Crossbills.


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