29 April, Arboleas Birding Group visits El Fondo (Alicante)

The Arboleas Birding Group bravely ventured out Andalucía to visit the El Fondo reserve (it is also known as El Hondo, the Fondo is apparently in the valencian dialect) in Alicante province. Even though it is not in Andalucía or the coast, it is a place well worth a visit and therefore here is their account of their visit, which apart from the birds appears to be also a reserve for huge numbers of mosquitos, as the photo of Gilly in her beekeepers outfit but minus gloves testifies. (How were your hands, Gilly? - Dave has since informed me that she wore rubber gloves and even then one mossie penetrated!). Again, photos by Dave and many thanks for this account.

We left Arboleas at 5.30 am to get our friends to Alicante airport for 7.30. After a hasty breakfast we headed to the north gate of the El Fondo Parc Natural near Elche, where we were to be let in to the reserve by one of the rangers. Access has to be pre-booked at the information centre for a Wednesday or Saturday, I believe, from 0815 - 1130 hrs. We drove with the three other birders down to the furthermost hide. On the way down our first Cuckoo of the season flew over. Also to greet us were thousands of large mosquitoes.

As you can see from the photo of Gilly, we were pre-warned and well protected. From this first raised hide we had good views over the tops of the reeds to large pools on two sides. Great Reed Warblers were very visible and vocal. Cetti's and Reed Warblers were just as vocal. Numerous Pochard were seen, together with their less numerous Red-crested cousins. A pair of White Headed Duck made an appearance.

At least 3 Little Bitterns flew between reed islands. Hundreds, if not thousands, of Pallid Swifts were feeding above us, together with the darker Common Swift. Whiskered Tern, Black-winged Stilt and a solitary Greenshank flew by. A Moustached Warbler made a fleeting appearance. Gilly and I then headed to the next hide which overlooked an area of cut back reeds. A pair of Squacco Heron were in the open. Two Glossy Ibis flew over. The next hide gave great views over a large shallow lake and a huge area of wet marshland. Gilly counted 982 Greater Flamingos. There were hundreds of Black-winged Stilts, together with very numerous Little Egrets. A Marsh Harrier glided by and then Gilly spotted a distant Osprey sitting on a post. A flock of 100+ Sand Martins sat on nearby reed tops, resting. We the sauntered back to the first hide. A Bearded Reedling was glimpsed. A Purple Heron flew by. The sight of the day was another Osprey making three unsuccessful fishing attempts.

At the prescribed time we were "released" by the ranger and headed to the information centre, round which there is a raised walkway. A lot of
Zitting Cisticolas were in the air, but the high point was a very obliging Squacco Heron posing on a low fence by the track.

A 44 count, but what quality, and numbers of most species was mind boggling.

Dave & Gilly

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