16/11 : recce to El Fondo/Hondo, Elche

I shall let Dave's account of the recce that Gilly and himself made to El Fondo, also known as El Hondo, at Elche, Alicante. I would also ask you to read the very important announcement at the end.

1st winter male Bluethroat
As a few members of the Group expressed a desire to visit the Bird Reserve at El Fondo, south of Alicante, I decided that a recce was needed to check out the access and water levels, so Gilly and I made the 2hr trek, arriving at the Information Centre just after 9am. On the approach we'd seen Kestrel, Chaffinch, Robin, Crested Lark and a female Marsh Harrier. As we waited for a member of staff to get off the phone we took the opportunity to birdwatch over the pool through the large observation window. What a result! We saw three neck-ringed Red-knobbed Coots, three Purple Swamphens (with, unbelievably, three one week old chicks!). Lots of Chiffchaffs were flitting around the reeds. Also seen were quite a few Reed Buntings. A bird then landed on the surrounding fence - a lovely white spotted Bluethroat.
     We had a chat with the staff member. Access via the North Gate is as before. Wednesdays and Saturdays only by prior appointment from 08.30 to 11.30 hrs. Didn't ask about the water level as it was obviously okay. We checked where we could go today. Apart from the raised walkway circling the Centre, there were short walks to new hides as well.  We then began with the walkway. Lots of chiffchaffs, but also Zitting Cisticolas, Cetti's and Sardinian Warblers. Also seen were Grey Heron, Little Egret, Magpie and numerous Stonechats.
     We then reached a hide which over looked a large pond. We spotted Mallard, Common Pochard, Coot, Moorhen and at least 6 Little Grebes.  The next hide added Shelduck, Gadwall and Black-necked Grebe. Also seen flying was a bonny male Marsh Harrier and some Black-winged Stilts.
collared Red-knobbed Coot
 We then back-tracked slightly to walk up a path that had claggy mud to try and avoid. Luckily we'd had the forethought to put on Wellington Boots, but not any anti mosquito lotion. It was worth the ever increasing weight on the footwear and the odd bite. Saw another Bluethroat. Then Gilly spotted a Bearded Reedling in the dense reeds. I could only claimed some bird movement! After we'd seen Dartford Warbler and a Blackcap we conceded that the mozzies were getting the taste of our blood and retreated back towards the Centre, picking up Linnets on the way. On our way to lunch we added Cattle Egret and Crag Martin. On the pathway we found a Glow-worm Larva (see below).
     40 species in total and the weather was good. Hope our members enjoy the trip I've booked for the 5th December after I get back from my solo trip to Morocco delivering charity clothing to a poor village high up in the Atlas Mountains. Obviously I might manage to fit in a bit of birdwatching in the 9 other days I have spare!

glow-worm larva

Having seen Dave's reference to and this photo of a glow-worm larva, I am reminded of Churchill's remark (one of many!): 
'All men are worms, but I think that I was a glow-worm.

I am also unable to resist the following little poem about glow- worms:
I wish I was a glow-worm,
A glow-worm's never  glum,
For how can you be gloomy,
When the sun shines out your bum?

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