Julian Sykes Wildlife Holidays

Valencian Short Break

6th - 10th November 2006

Report by Julian Sykes

Monday 6th November :- At lunchtime today I was picking up John Moon and his friend Nigel from Alicante Airport for what was to be an excellent Valencian Short Break despite the conditions. The weather was fair but the forecast poor so we headed straight for the Clot de Galvany hoping to kick start the holiday. We walked into the reserve with Crag Martins, Spotless & European Starlings, Black Redstarts, Serins, Chiffchaffs and Sardinian Warblers all over. At the Charco de Contacto we settled down to our picnic lunch watching a pair of White headed Ducks, Purple Gallinule, Common Teal, Shoveler, Coot, and Little Grebes. Then from out of the reeds swam a surprise with a pair of Marbled Ducks, since these normally winter in Southern Spain & North Africa, followed shortly by a late House Martin over the water. The short walk to the mirador produced a Southern Grey Shrike, and at the back pool we saw more White headed Ducks, plus a Common Pochard, Cetti's Warbler and a Hoopoe. We returned back across the reserve to look at the other scrape seeing Robins, Blackbirds, Greenfinches, White Wagtails, and a Meadow Pipit. At the scrape we only added a Common Snipe but heading back out of the reserve John found an Iberian Green Woodpecker on a dead tree, plus another Hoopoe. We then made the short journey to the Santa Pola Salinas but the water levels had risen due to the recent heavy rains so a lot of the waders had gone but we did find Black winged Stilts, Avocets, Common & Spotted Redshank, a Ringed Plover and a Curlew. Also here we had several Great Crested Grebes, Grey Herons, Little Egrets, Cormorants, Greater Flamingos, 4 Marsh Harriers, Kestrel, Black headed & Yellow legged Gulls. Nigel a keen photographer wanted to try and get some gull shots so I decided upon the harbour area where they congregate with the in-coming trawlers. A quick look at the rocks produced 5 Turnstones and then at the harbour mouth there were 100's of gulls mostly Yellow legged, Black headed, & Slender billed Gulls. However it was good fun finding a few Audouin's, Mediterranean & Lesser Black backed Gulls, as well as a Common Tern (another surprise). It had started to rain so we departed and headed south to La Mata a large reserve near Torrevieja but we only had time for a quick visit which produced a Shelduck, Cattle Egrets, Kentish Plover, several Dunlin, Little Stint, Crested & Skylarks As the weather got worse we drove to our accommodation for the night near La Zenia with Geoff & Julia Regan, friends of John and I's.

Tuesday 7th November :- It was overcast but no rain, so John, Nigel & myself had a pre-breakfast walk near to where we were staying finding a Song Thrush, Blackbirds, Dartford & Sardinian Warblers, Black Redstarts, Southern Grey Shrike, Spotless Starlings, Greenfinches, Goldfinches and Serins. After breakfast we all went to San Pedro del Pinetar another large area of salt pans that had been converted into a superb reserve. We started at the sea and walked inland checking the lagoons and coastal scrub finding 2 Black necked Grebes, Cormorants, Little Egrets, a 1st winter Spoonbill, Greater Flamingos, Black winged Stilts, Avocets, Kentish Plover, Black tailed Godwits, 4 Curlew, Common Redshanks, a Greenshank, Turnstone, several Little Stints, Dunlin, Sandwich Terns, Woodpigeon, Crested Larks, Meadow Pipits, Zitting Cisticolas, Dartford Warblers and Jackdaws. We left Geoff & Julia and headed north to El Hondo but the rain had started and was getting quite heavy and we only managed to see some Cattle Egrets and Lapwings. We decided to head up to Colin & Jane's for our lunch and get under cover from the weather, but there was no respite. The drive up through the valley produced a very soggy Little Owl sat on a wire and a Blue Rock Thrush from the finca but apart from that I got a brief view of a pair of Black Wheatears, not much else was seen. So after lunch we left and drove back through the deluge to Oliva calling in at Pego Marsh since the rain had eased a little, here we saw a Marsh Harrier, Little & Cattle Egrets, Grey Herons, Chiffchaffs, White Wagtails and Jackdaws.

Wednesday 8th November :- The weather was still poor but the forecast was better for inland, but as usual they were wrong!!!. We arrived on the plains of Albacete to intermittant rainfall and we made our way towards Higueruela stopping to check out a likely field from the car. Immediately we found several Stone Curlews (we found 28 in all), which were bathing in a couple of puddles near the road, then John said "these aren't Stone Curlews?" and a quick look revealed there were 3 (female) Little Bustards sitting out the bad weather. A great start that was enhanced by the presence of several Calandra & Skylarks song-flighting as the rain stopped. We decided to move on and checking the agricultural fields produced a female Merlin sat on the ground and then a small flock of sandgrouse flew past. We watched as they came to ground and joined another party making 27 Black bellied Sandgrouse, and a single Pin tailed Sandgrouse, good scoped views were attained of these elusive birds. While watching the sandgrouse I scanned round and found 2 Great Bustards in a far-off field, all five of the main steppe species in the space of an hour. We eventually returned to Bonete and out towards Corral Rubio and just outside of town we found a huge mixed flock of passerines that included 80+ Rock Sparrows, Corn Buntings, Linnets, House Sparrows, Chaffinches, Goldfinches, Meadow Pipits, White Wagtails and a Kestrel. We continued towards Corral Rubio finding Stonechats, Southern Grey Shrike, Red legged Partridges, Common Buzzard, Crested Larks, Carrion Crows, and another flock of 18 Great Bustards. After this we headed straight for Petrola and our lunch stop at San Juan's, before heading round to the hide at Petrola Lagoon. On the lagoon we found 30+ Greater Flamingos, 2 Wigeon, Shovelers, Gadwall, Common Teal, Shelducks, Mallards, 3 Common Buzzards, Green Sandpiper, Common Redshank, 2 Ruff, and several Crag Martins. We journey back towards Bonete was puntuated with another flock of 21 Great Bustards and at Higuela lagoon we added a Curlew and Coot, but the weather had worsened again so we decided to return to Oliva. With about an hour of daylight left we decided to go to a quiet beach just outside Oliva and on arrival found a Swallow along with a Cetti's Warbler and Chiffchaff. Along the beach we then found a group of gulls, which included a few Audouin's & Black headed Gulls plus Sandwich Terns, Sanderlings and a couple of Kentish Plovers. Out to sea we were watching more gulls and terns when I picked up two more birds chasing a terns that were Arctic Skuas, another good find. Finally as we returned to the guesthouse Nigel found a Kingfisher sat at the side of the road over a drainage ditch.

Thursday 9th November :- Our final full day of John & Nigel's short break and today we were staying local in a hope of finding a couple of targets for John. We started at Oliva Marina were a small flock of gulls & Sandwich Terns on the beach held 6 (2 adult a 2nd win. & 3 1st win.) Mediterranean Gulls with a few Audouin's Gulls, 2 Kentish Plovers and several Sanderlings. Next we went to Pego Marsh and started at the north end and with the raised water levels lots of birds were around the tracks. We soon found a couple of Marsh Harriers and a Booted Eagle, along with a Common Snipe, Cetti's Warblers, Zitting Cisticolas, Chiffchaffs, Little Egrets, Grey Herons and a few Mallards. A Penduline Tit flew over calling and John found at least 4 Bluethroats with lots of Reed Buntings, Chaffinches, Robins and a Water Rail. However the major highlight was having a male Baillon's Crake cross the track allowing brief but good views through the telescope. The sun was out now and Moustached Warblers were singing and eventually we managed to see one as it worked it's way though the reeds. We then drove to the south end stopping at the new scrape to allow John & Nigel to photograph Cattle Egrets, then seeing a Yellow Wagtail with the White Wagtails, Hoopoes, Southern Grey Shrike, Jackdaws, Meadow Pipits, and lots more herons & egrets. Around the paddy fields we found a late Squacco Heron, Little Grebes, a couple of Water Pipits, Kingfisher, Crested & Skylarks, 2 Booted Eagles, Marsh Harriers, and a Kestrel. In the reedbed we found more Cetti's Warblers, Chiffchaffs, Reed Buntings, a Eurasian Reed Warbler and a good view of another Penduline Tit. Finally a quick look along the allotments we added a Tree Sparrow amongst the House Sparrows, Sardinian Warblers, Stonechats, Black Redstarts, 2 Kingfishers, Hoopoes, Blackbirds, Goldfinches, Chaffinches, Serins, Crag Martins, Spotless & European Starlings. It was nearing lunchtime so we drove up to the Val de Gallinera and while eating al fresco we saw 30+ Red billed Choughs and a few Blackcaps. We returned down the valley and stopped at it's entrance finding an adult Golden Eagle, Common Buzzard, an Iberian Green Woodpecker, Wren, Song Thrushes and Great Tits. We finally drove through to Cabo de San Antoni and as we watched the trawlers going to Denia we found 3 Balearic & 2 Cory's Shearwaters, Common Tern, Mediterranean Shag and several Gannets amongst the hundreds of gulls following the boats. Whilst checking the headland we had a lovely adult Peregrine fly right past at eye level, along with Greenfinches, Sardinian Warblers and Black Redstarts. it was now time to leave and on the return journey we stopped just outside Denia to add Monk Parakeet to our excellent day total.

Friday 10th November :- With a lunchtime departure it meant we had time to go to one last site not too far from the airport, so we headed slightly inland from Alicante to the pine forest of Maigmo. We had a short walk through the forest and looked at a couple of Olive plantations finding a flock of 8 Firecrests together, singing Woodlark, Iberian Green Woodpecker, Mistle Thrushes, Sardinian Warbler, Blackcap, Robins, Black Redstarts, Long tailed, Coal, Crested & Great Tits, Short toed Treecreepers, Southern Grey Shrike, Jays, Crossbills, Cirl & Rock Buntings. A fantastic finale to an excellent few days birdwatching seeing 130+ species.

 

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