28 May : El Fondo/Hondo (Alicante)

Cat's away, miouse continues to play. The photo of the Common Tern is of a 1st summer bird, a relatively uncommon plumage to see even down here and well night impossible in more northerly climes. Rather early for a juv. Gull-billed Tern. We call 'foreign' areas Comanche territory here!


25 May : Caho de Gata & Rambla Morales

Dave, if you can't sleep, try counting your life list instead. You fall asleep after losing count fifteen times. Bit late for a Meadow Pipit, isn't it?
For some reason I awoke at 3am this morning and even though I counted sheep I couldn't get back to sleep. It was nice to hear Red-necked Nightjars coming from the overgrown & abandoned orange groves behind our house. So at 6.15am I departed en route to Cabo de Gata to check out the rear of the reserve before meeting up with the others at 9.30. 
I was there by 7.30, but the weather was a bit cloudy.   I came in by the southern end (where there's a new roundabout!). There was no water in the first two salinas, so it was a salt earth desert. No birds, no vegetation. Not a good start! 
I stopped to scan some old farm buildings and spotted a Little Owl. I then saw a bird of prey coming towards me. A Black Kite. And there, further along by the hide, was another one perched atop a pylon. Us here in the east of Andalusia don't often see these in our neck of the woods, so that was quite a find!  I checked out the hide, which overlooked the first bit of water. There were Ringed and Kentish Plover. Further along I saw Greater Flamingo, Slender-billed Gull, Avocet, Shelduck and Black-winged Stilt
A Sanderling confused me a bit by being in breeding plumage. Having been recently to Extremadura I easily identified the flying Corn Bunting. I spotted a Sardinian Warbler, but a short distance further along the track I found a pair of Spectacled Warblers. A Gull-billed Tern flew by as did a pair of Stone Curlews. The only other bird of note was a Meadow Pipit.
I headed to the Pujaire for a second breakfast to await the rest of the gang. I was joined by Barrie and Beryl, Les, Colin and Sandra, Richard and John, who's recently had a successful cataract op and I was to be his eye drop nurse for the day in Gilly's absence! John had already seen Kestrel and a Woodchat Shrike on the way into the village. We headed for the first hide. We saw Mallard, Shelduck, Yellow-legged and Slender-billed Gull and, of course, Greater Flamingo (a total of 350-ish for the day) Waders were few and far between: Little Ringed and Kentish Plover and John spotted a Green Sandpiper. Les found a Stone Curlew on the scrubland. A further search provided one or two more. Sandra found a Yellow Wagtail and then a Southern Grey Shrike. Also seen were Little Egret, Jackdaw and Little Tern. As we were leaving for the second hide a Gull-billed Tern flew by.
After many negative sea watches from opposite the second hide, today I spotted 5 Cory's Shearwaters heading down the bay towards the lighthouse! We were joined by Jacky. We didn't add any new birds at the hide. Barrie, I think, spotted another Stone Curlew.
We moved to the public hide. There were loads of Avocets and the odd Kentish Plover. I found a group of three Black-necked Grebe. We also had Sandwich Tern and Thekla Lark
We adjourned to the beach side cafe in Cabo village for refreshments and spent most of the time spotting further Cory's Shearwaters passing by. I suppose we must have seen about a dozen in total. A pair of Audouin's Gull was also seen.
We then convoyed along the track towards the brackish lake in the Rambla de Morales. We struggled here to start with....a Coot! We heard Reed Warbler, but managed to see Zitting Cisticola. We saw our first & only Black Headed Gull and some Common Swift. Barrie suckered us to walk down to the dead wood area saying he'd seen a Glossy Ibis there recently, but alas nothing. He redeemed himself by spotting a pair of Grey Plovers in full breeding attire down by the beach and a Common Pochard. Unfortunately by the time we'd walked back a 4x4, followed by a walker had flushed them away. We did see Sanderling in breeding plumage plus some Kentish Plovers and chicks.
A good days birding. 46 species in total.


18 May : Sierra de María

Before starting, I would simply like to say that finding and subsequent identification of Dupont's Lark is a needle in haystack job, even where there is a small, almost relict, population as in the huge area of Las Almoladeras (Almería). Away from there, I know of no certain records off-hand.The best time is around dawn when they are singing, although I have heard of occasional birds being seen/heard around dusk. Further, at this time of year birds are letting rip with their hormones and finding one away from the known area would be extremely unlikely, although nothing is impossible in the birding world - they don't read the guides! Add to that the difficulty of the effects of fading of plumage and the notorious difficulty presented by some pipits and larks showing individual variations, and one is presented with real headaches.
That said, on to Dave's report.
After a successful trip to Extremadura, I have now dried out and am now keen to visit the Sierra de Maria with other group members. I made my own way there, seeing some birds in the "zone" before reaching Maria town, the best being a Woodchat Shrike. I met up with Alan, Colin, Sandra, Barrie, Beryl, Les and Mary. After a catch-up chat and coffee we made our way to the chapel. Amazingly the first bird I spotted was a Melodious Warbler, closely followed by a Jay. Barrie and Alan identified the song of a Woodlark which was eventually found. Alan then spotted a Subalpine Warbler. We also saw Chaffinch and a female Black Redstart. Another Melodious Warbler showed very well before we headed to the water trough. Here Serin and more Subalpine Warblers were seen before we added a Bonelli's Warbler as well. Just beyond the trough a Western Orphean Warbler gave us good, but distant views. Moving further towards the Botanical Gardens, Mary spotted a Raven near the mountain ridge. Also seen were a Magpie and the occasional Griffon Vulture gliding along the ridge. 
As we got closer to the information Centre we saw both Coal and Blue Tit. Les decided to stay in the gardens whilst the rest of us hot-footed it onto the lower path as a coach load of school kids arrived. We heard European Cuckoo and Colin was first to hear a Great Spotted Woodpecker which later showed itself. We saw further Subalpine, Bonelli's and Melodious Warblers. Mary thought she'd heard Long-tailed Tits, but Les, as we discovered upon our return to the gardens, had seen some as well as Crested Tit, Short-toed Treecreeper and Crossbill. The walk down to the chapel added Wood Pigeon and a Cirl Bunting found by Alan.
We made our way to the farm buildings where we added Crested Lark and Rock Bunting. It was next to the farm trough and water deposit. The trough was empty but we still saw a pair of Hoopoes. Alan saw a pair of Turtle Doves as we arrived. There was a Black-eared Wheatear on the farm building and I spotted a distant Northern Wheatear on another building. Some Linnets, Goldfinches and a Red-rumped Swallow were also seen.
We then convoyed along the plains straight, me leading with Les at the rear. I spotted a Northern Wheatear by the ruined building and the Little Owl on its usual pile of rocks. There were also Crested Lark and Les saw a Red Billed Chough.
At the hamlet we checked out the Lesser Kestrel situation for Helen Commandeur's survey. There were a pair of adults and what appeared to be an immature female. We headed back to the La Piza forest cafe, Les bringing up the rear. We didn't add anything new on the journey, but Les saw Short-toed Larks and what he thought was a Calandra Lark
At La Piza, after asking the staff to fill their little pool with water, we were given a show by Chaffinches and numerous Crossbills. Great Tit was also seen.
A lovely days birding in good weather and company! 47 species in total.


04 May : El Fondo / Hondo

Dave's been back into Comanche territory in Alicante to el Fondo/Hondo. Herewith his account along with a bundle of nice photos at the end.

 A relatively early start, meeting up with Les and John at the Overa Hotel, Jct 547, at 07.00hrs for our trip to El Fondo. Kindly John agreed to drive, his car being far more comfortable than my 4x4. After an uplifting coffee at Cox we made our way to the Reserve's Information Centre​, sighting  10 commoner birds before arriving. Unfortunately Helen couldn't make as she'd been out the previous evening counting Little Bustards, so we were on our own. Yet again we were met by a cacophony of vociferous Great Reed Warblers which seemed to occupy almost every reed bed. On or next to the shallow water near the car park were Black-winged Stilts, Little Egrets and Les found some Common Pochard and Mallard down the far end. A Redshank flew over as did the first of many Glossy Ibises. I spotted a Whinchat and Les added a Stonechat. Quartering over the water were numerous Whiskered Terns. Also seen were Zitting Cisticola, Common Sandpiper, Little Ringed Plover, Little Grebe and Southern Grey Shrike.
Moving to the viewing area by the Centre building, we were delighted to find Marbled Duck, Red-crested Pochard, a Red-knobbed Coot with chicks and a Purple Swamphen also with chicks. Les found a pair of Skylarks as well.
Walking around on the elevated path we added Avocet and Kentish Plover. About 6 Collared Pratincoles were seen resting and flying. About 3 Squacco Herons also were seen. Jon found the first Purple Heron which later flew off being harassed by a Grey Heron.We didn't add to the list in the next hide but as we left there Les spotted one of a pair of Stone Curlews in the scrubland opposite. He also found another Whinchat.  
As we walked to the following hide we heard Cetti's and Reed Warbler. There were numerous Avocets, Shelducks and Black-winged Stilts here as well as hundreds of Greater Flamingos. Les found a distant Curlew Sandpiper before one obligingly settled right next to the hide. 
We also had Mediterranean and Slender-billed Gulls, Great Crested Grebe and Little Tern. Les spotted a far off hovering Kestrel, but missed the Marsh Harrier John had spotted. As we headed back to the car park, avoiding the coach load of school kids, we stopped to check out the pool. And what should walk out of the reeds and walk as bold as brass along the edge, but a Water Rail
After a hearty lunch (actually not good for the heart!) we made our way to the southern hide, where we discovered to John's joy the track had dried out and his car mats were safe! On the way we saw a flock of 17 Glossy Ibises in a field. Whilst parking another four were feeding with a flock of Wood Pigeons.We found numerous Black-necked Grebes in full breeding plumage. I missed the Little Bittern as I was attempting to photograph a Great Reed Warbler! A Squacco Heron was advancing along the track before us. At the hide from which we had to expel hundreds of mozzies, we saw White-headed Duck as well as Whiskered Tern, Greater Flamingo, Little Egrets and another Little Bittern which I managed to see. John and Les saw another Marsh Harrier. Getting back to the car, we heard Goldfinch and Greenfinch. We ended our list by seeing a Roller and two Bee-eaters on power lines near the closed North Gate. 
A fantastic days birding. 64 species in total.

​Collared Pratincole

​Purple Heron

​Purple Swamphen

​Squacco Heron

​Curlew Sandpiper 

​Squacco Heron