23 June, El Fondo, Elche (Alicante)

The Arboleas Bird Group started very early to go a long way to El Fondo, also known as El Hondo, a very good and very important reserve, both for birds and mosquitos! Read on through Dave's report and be jealous of what they saw!

Note that Dave makes reference to the opening time of the reserve and he tells me that it is open Wednesdays and Saturdays only, between 08.15 and 11.15 and that reservations can be made by calling the information centre on 966-678-515.

5.20 am is a very early start in order to get to the North Gate of the reserve at the opening time of 8.15 am and have breakfast beforehand! Gilly and I had an old member, Stan, with us who was here on holiday. We met up with Brian and Mary and arrived at the entrance at 8 am, putting a Marsh Harrier to flight, so had time to put on anti-mosquito spray before one of the rangers opened up.

As we drove down the 1.5 km track to the elevated viewing platform down the far end, there was a pair of Rollers in the eucalyptus trees as were some Cattle Egrets and a Squacco Heron. A Common Buzzard flew passed.
We then walked back up up the track to hide overlooking a large expanse of shallow water, logging a Green Sandpiper as we went. There were 19 Greater Flamingos. On the waterfowl front, Shelduck were the most numerous, with a few Shoveler, Mallard and a single Marbled Duck. A flock of 30+ Collared Pratincoles gave an aerial display in front of us. I managed to get a fleeting glimpse of a Purple Gallinule.

We then walked to the hide further onto the reserve, "beating" a Hoopoe along the track in front of us. As we climbed the steps to the elevated hide about 20 Squacco Herons, some Little Egrets and a single Glossy Ibis took to the air from the reeds in front of us. They all circled 7 returned to the reeds....never to be seen again!! We overlooked a large expanse of shallow water to both sides and the front. There was a flock of over 50 Black-tailed Godwits in breeding plumage and a single Greenshank. Brian spotted some Ringed Plover as well.
We walked back to a hide we had missed as it had been occupied. Some Spotted Redshank had been seen. But before we could seen them. everything took to flight as a wonderful male Montagu's Harrier quartered over, making a few passes in front of us. To our left was an eucalyptus tree which was an insectfeeding station for numerous warblers....mostly LBJ's ! I think I did positively ID an Olivacous Warbler amongst them.
We headed back to the elevated viewing platform for the last half hour. As well as the numerous Little Bitterns reed top flying, a shout went up about a flying Bearded Reedling. I did manage to spot its bottom disappearing into the dense reeds.
As it was 11.15 am, kicking out time, we headed towards the information centre. On the way we noticed what appeared to be columns of water spray all over the verges and fields. Not water...mosquitoes!! Billions of them. There was a misty haze, billions of them...yes even more than the UK's deficit!! Being a bite magnet, Brian decided they'd try and find a new hide we'd been told about on the other side of the reserve whilst Gilly, Stan and I did the Information Centre. As Stan and I walked round the boardwalk there were no mozzies which was a blessing. Didn't see the Stone Curlew, which Gilly spotted from the Centres observation window, but did see the nesting Collared Pratincole on one of the islands.
What a great day we had. 50 species in all and most of them good 'uns! Yes, an early start, but well worth it.

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