30/01 : El Fondo / El Hondo

Dave E-B and the Arboleas fanatics ventured out of Andalucía and into Murcia to visit the famous El Hondo reserve where up to three Spotted Eagles have wintered, including the Estonian origin radio-tagged bird 'Tonn'. My days out on Tuesday and today, Thursday, will be on line on Saturday.
male Bluethroat
O5.00 hrs! Another early start today for some of us. Some members stayed overnight near the El Fondo Bird Reserve, near Elche so they didn't have far to travel to the Cox service station, the coffee and meeting place.  There were 17 of us, waiting to be let into the reserve at the appointed time of 08.15hrs. I would like to welcome Trevor and Ann to the group. It was also good to see Helen again since her move.
As we waited we started birding. We saw both Cattle and Little Egrets, Cormorants, 7 Grey Herons flying over as well as a Wood Pigeon. In the bushes and reeds we saw Chiffchaff, Chaffinch and Black Redstart. We also heard Cetti's Warbler. The ranger arrived and let us in. There were at least a dozen other birders so space in the hides was at a premium. We drove down towards the elevated covered viewing platform, seeing Booted Eagles and Marsh Harriers on the way. On the smaller lake we could see Red-crested Pochard, White-headed Duck and both Little and Great Crested Grebes. A Kingfisher made a brief appearance as did a Purple Swamphen. Colin spotted a Great White Egret. The view, at that time of the morning, over the larger lake was poor due to a bright, low sun. Did manage to spot Shoveler silhouettes, fast flying Teal and the larger Shelduck.
Penduline Tit
       I decided that as there were too many people and lack of view that I'd make my way to the hide in the centre of the reeds. Much of the group came with me. We saw a Robin as we walked towards the turning. Along the track I thought I spotted a Penduline Tit. Then Kevin said he saw one. We then had good views of at least 8 individuals. We used the hide in shifts. We added Greater Flamingo, Black-necked Grebe, Pintail and Black-headed Gull to the list.
      When we got back to the elevated hide, an Osprey was seen sitting on a distant post. Little Bitterns made brief appearances unlike the Spotted Eagles we'd hoped for! Some distant large birds were seen. Possibly Spoonbills, someone suggested? 
      11.20hrs was the end of our allotted time. We were released by the ranger and headed for the Information Centre. We managed to see a few Red-knobbed Coots in the small pool before walking along the boardwalk towards the other hides. From the first we had great views of a Bluethroat and also saw Little Stint and Black-winged Stilt. Troy spotted some Serins.
      It was a great mornings birding. 48 species in all. Looking forward to our next visit, hopefully in March.

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