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Birding in Valencia with Jules Sykes

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Old Monday 13th June 2005, 22:53   #1
James Lowther
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Birding in Valencia with Jules Sykes

Towards the end of May, myself and my girlfriend Carol spent a superb three days birding in Valencia, eastern Spain with Jules Sykes. Compared with Andalusia, Extremadura and the Pyrenees this area doesn't get much attention from visiting birders but believe me, it is simply superb, and provides some species even those areas can't or don't - most notably TRUMPETER FINCH (the real deal, not the grotty vagrants which hang around power stations ) and RUFOUS BUSH-ROBIN.

The supporting cast was also top-notch, including:-

Audouin's Gull, Whiskered Tern, Purple and Squacco Herons, Little Bittern, Spoonbill, Marsh Harrier, Little Ringed Plover, Savi's, Great Reed and Moustached Warblers around Oliva (the small town where Jules is based.)

Golden and Bonelli's Eagle, Chough, Crag Martin, Nightingale and Cirl Bunting in the beautiful Val de Gallinera.

Great and Little Bustards, Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Great-Spotted Cuckoo (!), Stone Curlew, Calandra, Short-toed and Thekla Larks, Rock Sparrow and calling Quail on the vast plains of Albacete province.

White-headed and Marbled Ducks, Roller, Red-necked Nightjar, Collared Pratincole, Purple Swamphen, Montagu's Harrier, Slender-billed Gull, Flamingo, Glossy Ibis and Southern Grey Shrike in the wetlands and dwarf pine scrub within a stone's throw of the Alicante coastal resorts (also home to the Bush-Robins).

More Bonelli's Eagles, Crag Martins and Thekla Larks, plus black and Black-eared Wheatears, Rock bunting and Pallid Swift at the 'Trumpeter Finch site' in amongst the freakiest mountain scenery this side of Cappadocia.

In addition to regular Hoopoe, Cattle Egret, Red-Crested Pochard, Avocet, Black-winged Stilt, kentish Plover, Bee-eater, Woodchat Shrike, Spotless Starling, Red-rumped Swallow, Zitting Cisticola, Sardinian warbler, 'Spanish' Wagtail, Crested Lark and Serin.

On top of all this, Jules is simply a top bloke, and i reckon just about the perfect 'guide' - easy-going but enthusiastic, as other BF members (Edward, John Moonie, Eagle) can no doubt testify. Towards the end of an extremely heavy stint (like a semipalmated plover ) of driving and birding round Alicante local birder Malcolm Palmer who had joined us for the day commented 'it's been a long day for you Jules', to which he replied 'it's a pleasure.' I believed him too. His rates are also very good (particularly in my case ha ha).

We stayed at the b&b run by Jules' wife Amanda and himself, and again I have to say the welcome and hospitality was second-to-none. What Jules is to birding, amanda is to, errr, b&b-ing. Sitting on the roof terrace sharing a few cold beers with them at the end of a hard day peering at sun-baked lumps of earth and trying to turn them into Sandgrouse was a great reward.

In short, I cannot recommend Jules and Amanda's 'operation' enough. (Check out http://www.olivaramatours.com for more details). If you are heading to the Costa Blanca and fancy slipping away from the 'delights' of Benidorm and the like for some quality birding time - or even if you fancy checking out an underwatched and under appreciated area of a very well watched and well appreciated country, Jules and Amanda have the answer!!!!! (is that enough exclamation marks?)

Anyway, enough of my ramblings (can you tell we enjoyed ourselves?).
James
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Old Tuesday 14th June 2005, 08:12   #2
tom mckinney
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Excellent James.

How far is Olivarama from the big tourist areas? Might be worth considering a cheap last minute package deal to Benidorm if the Sykes duo are not very far away...

Tom
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Old Tuesday 14th June 2005, 08:29   #3
James Lowther
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About an hour i think Tom. We drove past Benidorm on the way to and from the sites in alicante, incl. the trumpeter finch area.
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Old Tuesday 14th June 2005, 09:48   #4
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Well you might put an exclamation mark behind Great Spotted Cuckoo, James. I still have to see photographic evidence. But I can only echo what you say. A visit to Jules' place is highly recommended and you won't find a better companion in the field. He and Malcolm Palmer are a formidable double act (two Yorkshiremen together can be risky, make sure there's at least three of you to outnumber them). Saw four much wanted lifers with Jules, Golden Eagle (finally!), Rufous Bush Chat, Trumpeter Finch and an unexpected Red-footed Falcon but I think the highlight was Bonelli's Eagle feeding young. Local knowledge was criticial for these birds (except the R-f Falcon which surprised Jules as much as any of us). I'll be back for the GSC, Jules.

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Old Tuesday 14th June 2005, 10:46   #5
James Lowther
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Edward
Well you might put an exclamation mark behind Great Spotted Cuckoo, James.
LOL,
I put that in especially for you Edward.
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Old Tuesday 14th June 2005, 11:21   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by James Lowther
On top of all this, Jules is simply a top bloke, and i reckon just about the perfect 'guide' - easy-going but enthusiastic, as other BF members (Edward, John Moonie, Eagle) can no doubt testify.

at the end of a hard day peering at sun-baked lumps of earth and trying to turn them into Sandgrouse
James
Can't yet testify! But really looking forward to a planned day's birding on Saturday, with Jules!!
Eagles! Eagles!!Bonelli's would be a lifer and I always want to see Golden!!
You've added to my excitement!! Thanks has brought to my attention some other birds I'd like to see!!
as to the italics above (mine) I understand that one well!!!

So glad I agreed to go to Valencia for a w/e when friends suggested it!!
They are very understanding of my "birding" needs!!!
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Old Tuesday 14th June 2005, 11:39   #7
James Lowther
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sorry for the 'misappropriation of your brand' eagle!! I thought you'd already been. I hope you enjoy yourself when you do go, but if your trip's anything like mine there'll be no worries on that score!
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Old Tuesday 14th June 2005, 12:04   #8
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Hi James
Thank you very much for the kind words it was a great pleasure having you & Carol to stay. This goes for all the people I have been lucky enough to be out with in my first year of 'living the dream'.

Edward; I am sure the on-going saga of (the mythical) GSC will end with you finding the first for Iceland. (dream on, book a flight to Madrid next March and nail the bird with no parents apart from those that foster it, usually Magpies).

Take care all and thanks again.

Last edited by Julian Sykes Wildlife : Wednesday 15th June 2005 at 17:53.
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Old Tuesday 14th June 2005, 22:15   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jules Sykes
Hi James
Thank you very much for the kind words it was a great pleasure having you & Carol to stay. This goes for all the people I have been lucky enough to be out with in my first year of 'living the dream'.

Edward; I am sure the on-going saga of (the mythical) GSC will end with you finding the first for Iceland. (dream on, book a flight to Madrid next March and nail the b%$^*rd).

Take care all and thanks again.

GSC a problem Edward...we saw a few in Extremadura!!
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Old Wednesday 15th June 2005, 10:47   #10
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LOL, that is cold-blooded Eagle!!
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Old Wednesday 15th June 2005, 12:52   #11
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Originally Posted by James Lowther
LOL, that is cold-blooded Eagle!!

Oh...really? Just trying to be helpful!!


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Old Wednesday 15th June 2005, 14:54   #12
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Originally Posted by Eagle
GSC a problem Edward...we saw a few in Extremadura!!
So they do exist! Nice shot, Eagle, lucky you. I had similar problems with another big, noisy and conspicuous cuckoo once, Channel-billed Cuckoo in Australia, but when I did finally see it, it was all the sweeter. Hope the same applies here. I've actually given up on Spain and may try Kenya in January for them ;-)

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Old Monday 20th June 2005, 18:27   #13
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Originally Posted by Edward
So they do exist! Nice shot, Eagle, lucky you. I had similar problems with another big, noisy and conspicuous cuckoo once, Channel-billed Cuckoo in Australia, but when I did finally see it, it was all the sweeter. Hope the same applies here. I've actually given up on Spain and may try Kenya in January for them ;-)

E

A bit extreme eh? Edward to Kenya ...you will probably get a few more there too

plus a few mammals!!
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Old Monday 20th June 2005, 18:32   #14
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Had a great time with Jules and managed 5 lifers!!

Bonnelli's Eagle, Chough, White Headed Duck, Little Bittern and Audouins Gulls!!

(Plus Adult Golden Eagle ..... two juveniles on the nest site...the Golden was being mobbed by 4 Chough when we arrived...a Peregrine put in an appearance there too!!).

You are right James -- Jules is a top man with a lovely (?) sense of humour!!
More later!!


Hope you got that Jules you deserved it!!
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Old Monday 20th June 2005, 18:48   #15
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James,

Glad to hear you had a great time with Jules. I can't wait to go back and will hopefully manage it before end of the year despite having a holiday booked in September.
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