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Old Wednesday 21st September 2011, 21:00   #1
Mark Etheridge
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Birding in Alicante Province

As there are several threads for other areas of Spain, and as this is my "home from home" patch, I thought I'd start off a dedicated thread for this very popular area which may be overlooked by the more serious birder looking for somewhere to spend a week or so in Spain, or for those whose families have dragged them off on a package holiday and despair of ever seeing anything interesting.

The Costa Blanca is of course somewhat overshadowed by the reputation of Benidorm and other tourist concrete jungles, but amidst the high-rise buildings and candyfloss beaches, there are a number of really excellent birding areas. I am centred towards the south of the area, perhaps others can post their thoughts and observations for areas North of Alicante.

Most of the important birding sites are detailed in the Opus section of BirdForum; look for Clot de Galvany (my local reserve), Santa Pola Salinas, El Pinet and the jewel in the crown - El Hondo. The latter is one of the best birding sites in Spain with some really spectacular birds such as Marbled Teal, White-headed Duck and Purple Swamphen, and we are awaiting the arrival of Tonn, the Estonian satellite-tagged Greater Spotted Eagle for what I think will be his fourth year wintering in Spain.

I tend to have a somewhat idiosyncratic style of reporting my observations, as fans of my previous thread which was disastrously entitled "Pajero del Dia" (look it up!) will know - I am primarily a bird photographer with middling skills in bird identification - but I hope others will place their own observations in this thread to give a continuous record of what may be seen in the area.

To start off, I submit my first "bird of the day" (actually it was taken yesterday) which I thought was a Ruff, but the good folks over in the ID section have advised me that it is in fact a Pectoral Sandpiper, seen in my local reserve Clot de Galvany. This is a fairly rare bird in Spain, although it appears that this year has seen a big influx of these birds. It's the one on the left, the other bird is a Wood Sandpiper (I'm fairly good at that one because I see them nearly every time I'm over here)
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Old Wednesday 21st September 2011, 21:10   #2
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Cracking work - I love the Costa Blanca for birding. La Mata is my local patch when I get there (about annually). I take it Clot has a bit more water on than in April. Was VERY dry then.
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Old Wednesday 21st September 2011, 21:14   #3
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The Charco pool at the Clot is quite full of water but unfortunately the new "Wader scrape" area alongside it is now a disaster zone - and has been that way for well over a year. I am trying to find the story behind it, it must have cost a fortune to build and now it's gone to waste.

Bird life there is however quite good at the moment, I'll be posting some more photos and observations tomorrow.
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Old Wednesday 21st September 2011, 23:05   #4
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Good to read reports from another part of Spain - and not one I've visited so it'll be interesting to discover what I'm missing,
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Old Thursday 22nd September 2011, 07:09   #5
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When we arrived at the weekend we found a very stern and official-looking document in our postbox written in extremely dense Spanish legalese, so much so that my wife (who speaks Spanish quite well) couldn't make head nor tail of it. We therefore presented ourselves at the local Town Hall or Ayuntamiento, where we were subjected to the full force of Spanish bureaucracy which has to be experienced to be believed.

It all sorted itself out eventually, and we are officially non-resident again.

Bird numbers are slightly down at the moment but what there is is good quality. The local Purple Swamphen was lording it at the Clot, the first overwintering Teals have arrived, lots of hirundines including Red-rumped Swallows doing their air display routine over the water, the Iberian Green Woodpecker was calling loudly, a flock of Cattle Egrets flew in on the birdy equivalent of a pub crawl, and there were some smaller birds about too.

A small selection - a Sardinian Warbler doing a catwalk pose, a Reed Warbler out in the open, and one of many very furtive Pied Flycatchers that seemed to be all over the place.
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Old Thursday 22nd September 2011, 19:13   #6
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So, famous Spanish fiction writers, then. There's Cervantes, Garcia Lorca, and the bloke who wrote the Alicante bus timetable. Try to spot the odd one out...*

Talking of spots, we have here both types of Starling, Spotless and European. The adults are easy to separate, more so in winter when both species are present, but in this intermediate season with difficult juveniles present (was it ever so?) and the first European birds arriving it's not always easy to differentiate.

I think I'm correct in my identifications though?

One of our local cafes has a daily motto on its menu board, translated from the Spanish it reads:
"You cannot avoid the wind, but you can build a windmill."
Well if that doesn't make you think, I don't know what will...
* Took 2 buses today, times at which they arrived bore no resemblance to the advertised time.
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Old Friday 23rd September 2011, 18:23   #7
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A full day's birding today, concentrating on two areas with mixed results.

I went with a fellow bird photographer to Monnegre, a mountainous area about 15 miles west of Alicante. Unfortunately at this time of the year there wasn't much in evidence, we were looking for Bonelli's Eagle and other specialist mountain species, but apart from a very distant (unidentifiable) raptor, there was little about. We heard a brief call from a Rock Sparrow at the top of the pass without seeing it, the highlights were a Hoopoe in a field before we got into the mountains, and a Little Owl sitting obligingly on a telephone wire on the way back down. Also there were hundreds of Crag Martins swooping aout the cliff edges.

We cut our losses and went on to El Hondo, where the birding was much better. Firstly we found a field full of Yellow Wagtails which will give us hours of fun deciding which race they belong to; a handful of Bee-eaters were still about on the wires, a well-filled pool produced the usual suspects including Flamingo, Glossy Ibis, Little Egrets, Grey Heron, Coots and Moorhens which were all suddenly disturbed by an Osprey flyover.

The fields along the Vistabella road to the south of the reserve produced little of interest, although within the past few days both Dotterel and Little Bustard have been reported. There was a lot of planting work going on which may have accounted for the lack of birds there, we'll try again next week.

We finished up at the Clot de Galvany - no sign of the Pectoral Sandpiper, but there were two Purple Swamphens present and the Reed Warbler put in another appearance in the open area in front of the hide. Also present was a juvenile White Wagtail retending to be a duck...
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Old Friday 23rd September 2011, 19:42   #8
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Sounds good - whats Monegre like? I havent been up yet and its definitely on my to do list along with the vultures up the road... I usually go to crevillente for the Bonelli's but Monegre seems to get a bit more variety
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Old Saturday 24th September 2011, 09:09   #9
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The road up to and through the village is very spectacular, with plenty of parking places off the single-track road. There is a variety of ecosystems ranging from sheer cliffs, to pine woodlands and a riverbed in the depths of the valley. The village of Monnegre is very small, with no facilities, so stock up on necessities before you go.

When I was there last May I saw Black and Black-eared Wheatear, Blue Rock Thrush, Thekla Lark, Crested Tit, Rock Sparrow and other montane species. The Bonelli's Eagle nest site is fairly obvious from the road and a very specific guidebook for this and other areas south and west of Alicante can be obtained from Graham Critchell via his website at:
http://www.spainbirdwatching.com/

It's well worth the price and Graham is an excellent guide who I can thoroughly recommend if you are new to the area and need someone to show you the highlights if you are pressed for time on holiday.
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Old Saturday 24th September 2011, 21:03   #10
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The Clot de Galvany reserve is a very reliable place to see a Purple Swamp Hen, and a quick visit today was no exception - but this time there were two birds present. Usually I find you have to wait for an hour or two before the birds show, but they were there and waiting this morning.

Unfortunately one of the downsides of the Clot as a reserve is that it is surrounded by housing - and at the weekend the local kids descend en masse to the reserve with the idea of getting away from their parents and find the hides a good place to hold their juvenile meetings complete with music

Still, I got some good photos before the disturbance occured

Today's motto at the cafe says : All the good things in life make you fat, drunk or pregnant...
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Old Sunday 25th September 2011, 16:19   #11
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Even on a birding-free day (morning doing the housework, afternoon by the pool), there's always something to see here. I've been very unlucky with this species in the past, there has been one living in the vicinity of my house but I've never had the camera with me when he's around.

My Collins guide says that Black Wheatears are shy and flush early, but this one sat on the wall around the pool long enough for me to dash back to the house, grab the camera and get these shots of him - he's a bit of a scruff but I'm glad I got him!
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Old Sunday 25th September 2011, 18:24   #12
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Any advice please

My wife and I will be in Benidorm for a week in early November, is there anywhere nearby worth visiting?

Thanks

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Old Monday 26th September 2011, 10:08   #13
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Hi Chris

There are several sites well worth visiting when based in Benidorm, but apart from Calpe (which you can get to on the little train from Benidorm station) the rest of them need a car to visit. Calpe rock (you can't miss it!) is good for gulls and the occasional peregrine, the old salinas (salt lakes) can be productive but is a matter of luck.

A site guide for both North and South of Alicante is given on the Costa Blanca Bird Club website here:

http://www.costablancabirdclub.com/N...te%20Guide.htm

Good luck!
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Old Monday 26th September 2011, 19:52   #14
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The Purple Swamphen at the Clot de Galvany laid on a command performance this afternoon, parading himself slowly across the main pool right in front of the hide. Also present were 2 Snipe, but no repeat showing of the Pectoral Sandpiper, although apparently it was seen again yesterday while I was poolside.

Goldfinch Air Traffic Control was working overtime today...

Today's motto at the Spanish Cafe reads:
"The Young know the rules, the Old know the exceptions to the rules"

Bit too deep for me...
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Old Wednesday 28th September 2011, 19:59   #15
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A really excellent days birding and photography today

We booked for the 3-hour entrance into the restricted area of El Hondo (free but you have to let them know you're coming) starting at 8 a.m. in the morning. As the sun rose, we made our way to the viewpoint passing large areas of dried-up lakes about which we had been warned prior to booking. Despite this, there were a good number of birds around, starting with four or five early Bluethroats, Kingfishers zipped through the reeds, a large flock of Flamingoes flew right over our heads, their wings making a tremedous noise, Little Grebes made the most of what water there was and various warblers including Reed, Savi's and others could be seen intermittently deep within the reedbeds.

A distant view of a raptor perched on a tree indicated the excitement to come. We tracked it down, and found it was the first of several Booted Eagles as it dropped away from the tree. The next one was a little further along and seemed less concerned at our approach, and the third was a darker bird which initially we thought might be a Common Buzzard, but the good folks in the ID Forum have confirmed our third Booted Eagle.

The next raptor to be flushed from the trees was something a bit different; once again many thanks to the ID experts for confirming our first-ever Short Toed Eagle which gave us a tremendous aerial display.

We paid a quick visit to El Hondo reserve centre before lunch, and as well as the usual waterbird population, we had distant views of at least 3 Marsh Harriers.

After lunch it was a drive along the Vistabella road to the south of the reserve, where a lot of work is taking place to provide a dam and watercourses to prevent the drying-out of the reserve in future years. We found Northern Wheatear, Stonechat, Whinchat and large numbers of Iberian Yellow Wagtail in the fields to the south of the reserve, and one of the small ponds by the edge of the road produced a Green Sandpiper.

A message on my e-mail told me of a Terek Sandpiper at a new location I didn't know about with directions on how to get there. We duly discovered the place, only to find the water's edge occupied by a large and unruly flock of sheep, with Cattle Egrets in attendance hitching a free ride on their backs, and a quick flight view of what might have been another Green Sandpiper, but unsurprisingly no sign of the Terek

A final call in to the Clot de Galvany found the main hide occupied by a large family with noisy children, so we amused ourselves with trying to get better shots of the local Sardinian Warblers and Subalpine Warblers in other areas of the reserve, but with little luck as the light faded.

However, all in all, we were extremely satisfied with our photographic haul.
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Old Thursday 29th September 2011, 18:43   #16
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I have mentioned before that one of the downsides of the Clot de Galvany reserve is that it is surrounded by urbanisations, and this means that it is used more as a leisure facility for the locals, with families treating it as a grand day out rather than a dedicated nature reserve, and consequently the hide in front of the main pool is often occupied by noisy families and their kids.

However, this afternoon it was mercifully quiet, and the benefit of this was the appearance of a bird which rarely shows itself, and certainly not when there are loud noises coming from the hide. I managed to take a dozen or more shots of this Water Rail, the best two reproduced here, when he somewhat unexpectedly decided to take a quick constitutional away from the cover of the reedbeds!
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Old Friday 30th September 2011, 17:18   #17
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After the disappointment of missing out on the Terek Sandpiper on our monumental photographic bash on Wednesday, my colleague John Oliver and I decided to give it a final go after receiving news from the inestimable Malcolm Palmer (El Presidente of the Costa Blanca Bird Club) that it was still there. This was to be my last chance, as I'm back to the UK this weekend....

We arrived at the site and spent some time trying to resolve various Common, Green and Wood Sandpipers into our elusive quarry, but with no luck. I moved along the bank of the pool to see what was at the other end, when I spotted what at first I thought might be a Juve Redshank, but on closer inspection - there was the upturned bill, yellow-orange legs and overall grey impression, there was the prominent forehead...

I called John over, and between us we must have rattled off more than 200 shots between us - pity it was on the far side of the pool, but at least there were no sheep or goat flocks to disturb our activities this time.

So, a great finish to our trip; a final word about the location of the Terek. There is a prominent notice in front of the pool which says:

ATENCION - El Dia que te pille robando, Te mato!

Roughly translated - Warning The day that I catch you stealing from me, I'll kill you!

I think the local farmer may have had some of his goats rustled...
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Old Friday 30th September 2011, 17:51   #18
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Some great photos there - it puts my thread on Cadiz birding to shame. Hopefully, when I get a telephoto lens for my G3, I'll be able to post more photos, but I doubt if they'll come remotely close to those you've posted.

Keep the mottos coming too although I'm surprised that the Spanish seem to think that the young know the rules!
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Old Friday 30th September 2011, 21:17   #19
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Thanks John, I find your Cadiz thread very informative and I must get myself down to that area of Spain sooner rather than later!

I'm hoping I'll be able to keep updating this thread even though I will be back in the UK for the next four weeks - my colleague John OLiver has promised to send me his observations and photos, he is based in La Marina between the Santa Pola salinas and El Hondo and will be there until November. Any other birders visiting or living in Alicante are more than welcome to add their observations in here

To finish off my bit, I attach a piccie of an unknown species of bird seen quite frequently in Spain. Their habitat appears to be confined to roundabouts and crossroads, and they have a distinctive call which sounds like "Coo-ee Senor". They apparently thrive on certain amounts of cash, the precise quantity of which I am unable to verify as my wife wouldn't let me get close to them...
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Old Friday 30th September 2011, 21:33   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mark Etheridge View Post
Thanks John, I find your Cadiz thread very informative and I must get myself down to that area of Spain sooner rather than later!

I'm hoping I'll be able to keep updating this thread even though I will be back in the UK for the next four weeks - my colleague John OLiver has promised to send me his observations and photos, he is based in La Marina between the Santa Pola salinas and El Hondo and will be there until November. Any other birders visiting or living in Alicante are more than welcome to add their observations in here

To finish off my bit, I attach a piccie of an unknown species of bird seen quite frequently in Spain. Their habitat appears to be confined to roundabouts and crossroads, and they have a distinctive call which sounds like "Coo-ee Senor". They apparently thrive on certain amounts of cash, the precise quantity of which I am unable to verify as my wife wouldn't let me get close to them...
I see she is in winter plumage - was in white in the spring!
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Old Friday 30th September 2011, 23:06   #21
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I'm not sure I fully understand the location of the Terek, is it at Clot del galvany?

Cheers,
Eduardo
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Old Saturday 1st October 2011, 07:07   #22
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Not quite, the Terek is on a pool known locally as EDAR (sorry I don't know what that means!) to the north of the Clot which is situated off the El Arenales del Sol to El Altet road, it's along the first farm track to the left just after leaving the Arenales roundabout if you know the area.
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Old Friday 7th October 2011, 00:05   #23
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What a pity!!
I was in Alicante and Murcia by 10th september, visiting the Clot del Galvany and other birding and dragonflying spots, as I was designing a private tour. Our visit was also trying to check the state of conservation of southeastern coastal wetlands.

I produced a trip report for that recce trip, but it is entirely in Spanish, with the species seen. Would you be interested to have one of this?? I promise that my Spanish it isn't as dissapointing as the one included in those documents issued by 'Ayuntamientos' or lawyers!!! ;-)

Saludos
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Old Friday 7th October 2011, 08:00   #24
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Hola Jorge

Yes, I would like to see your report - can you send it by PM? I can get a translation and repost an extract here!

Saludos
Mark
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Old Saturday 8th October 2011, 10:03   #25
Vipers
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Join Date: Feb 2005
Location: Brunswick Green.
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Originally Posted by Hotspur View Post
Sounds good - whats Monegre like? I havent been up yet and its definitely on my to do list along with the vultures up the road... I usually go to crevillente for the Bonelli's but Monegre seems to get a bit more variety
Monnegre used to be a good site for Trumpeter Finch. It's been five years since I was last there, so not sure if if they are still around.
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