20 April : El Hondo (Elche, Alicante)

This was the first of Dave's days out. For those who are unaware, the white collars sported by many Red-knobbed Coots identify birds from the reintroduction project.
I was delighted to be asked by Paul and Kath Groves if, during their holiday, I could take them to El Fondo Bird Reserve, just south of Alicante. I'd arranged to meet up with local birder, Helen Commandeur. As we skirted the reserve, heading for the Information Centre we logged a Roller on a power line as well as some more commoner species. We arrived a tad early so we were able to have a scan round the car park which overlooks one of the shallow pools. We saw Whiskered Terns, Red-crested Pochard, Grey Heron and Black-winged Stilt. On the adjacent staff car park there was a Little Ringed Plover. I spotted some Cattle Egrets and Paul got a Stonechat. Helen arrived, early as well, so we were soon into the reserve proper. A Glossy Ibis flew over as did the first of many Collared Pratincoles. All we could hear were the vociferous song of Great Reed Warblers and it wasn't difficult to spot the culprits on top of the reeds. Above us there were hundreds of Common Swifts. We made our way to the viewing area next to the Centre which overlooks a pool. 
Immediately we saw  a Purple Swamphen and a Squacco Heron. The Squacco flew over the fence and the Swamphen disappeared behind some reeds only to re-appear on the opposite bank with its partner and four chicks. Also close to the bank was a Marbled Duck, which later swam in open water giving great views. It wasn't long before we spotted at least four Red-knobbed Coots, easily identified by their white numbered collars. We headed towards the raised walkway, seeing Little Stint, Kentish Plover and Gull-billed Tern. A Southern Grey Shrike flew past. On a sandy ridge opposite, there were twenty odd Collared Pratincoles as well as a resting Whiskered Tern. On the viewing platform was local birder, Graham, who said he'd just seen a flock of feeding terns pass through comprising Whiskered, Common, Black and White-winged (Black) Terns.  He said a Spoonbill was close to the next right hand hide. 
We made our way there hearing Cetti's Warblers and Zitting Cisticolas on the way. No sign of the Spoonbill, but we did add Greater Flamingo, Shelduck and Avocet. There was a flock of 19 Curlew Sandpipers. The cacophony of sound was being generated from the Black-headed and Mediterranean Gull colony. Kath first spotted a Glossy Ibis, then a Squacco Heron, (as well as being my secretary for the day in Gilly's absence!). 
Paul also found a Sardinian Warbler and a Greenshank. We then back-tracked to the other hide. There was a small raft of Marbled Duck. According to aforementioned Graham, fifty Marbled Ducks had recently be released there. We added Great Crested Grebe to the list. A dark phase Booted Eagle flew over. We heard Reed Warbler song even though they were being nearly drowned out by their more vocal cousins! We headed back to the vehicles via Graham, who'd now seen a pair of Little Terns!
After a short lunch break we followed Helen up and down a track. The irrigation gully was dry which might explain the lack of bird life. At the one place where there was some water and reeds a Purple Heron flew out as we passed. We also added Hoopoe, Red-legged Partridge, Blackbird and Woodpigeon.
We made our way to the South Hide. If you recall my last report from here it was found the route to that hide was waterlogged and muddy. Slightly better news this time. It was passable with care. (Better with wellies!) Checking out the ever present Common Swifts above us, I manage to find a Sand Martin. As we gingerly made our way to the hide we found Black-necked Grebes and White-headed Ducks in the pools next to the footpath. The hide itself was slightly full of mosquitoes, but I have to admit I received no bites possibly thanks to Helen supplying everyone with anti mozzy spray! There were loads of Whiskered Tern and, yay, a few Black Terns as well. Remember that albino Black-necked Grebe from a previous visit....it's still here! A flight of 13 Glossy Ibis was seen before Paul, Kath and myself said our goodbyes and many thanks to Helen as we had a long journey home. She was staying on. The last time that happened she got the Sociable Plover! We had a wonderful day. Am going to arrange a Group outing in the next couple of weeks!
Ended with 59 species. Cracking day!

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