|A minimum of 8 birds left the roost - hard to keep count!|
I arrived on site at 6.30ish and dawn was still a little over the horizon. Soon a Cetti's Warbler piped up and a Night Heron left the reeds for its roost site to the south after a brief flyby. The sun was thinking about making an appearance when 3 Montagu's Harriers fly by. Except one wasnt - I did a double take on the third bird which seemed a little smaller and flew on flat wings - a Red-necked Nightjar. This was not an ID hurdle I thought I would have to cross but one to be aware of when size isnt apparent (such as in the early dawn when flying high).
|Dawn at El Hondo from the North Gate|
At the visitor centre it was soon apparent that mozzies were everywhere and I togged up in my hoodie and kept my hood firmly UP. Quickly a party of 7 Glossy Ibis left their hidey hole for a day stalking the wet fields in nearby San Felipe Neri. Making my way out on to the boardwalk and a Green Sandpiper was flushed by my footfall. Good birds at every turn. As I received the first of 29 mozzy bites to my face and neck I noticed a bird sat on the fence. Great Spotted Cuckoo - my first lifer of the trip and showing nicely.
The bird showed well for 5 minutes before I was joined by a warden which spooked it (I was racing round so he didnt flush anything. Two Purple Herons pitched down into the reeds at the next pool just as I arrived but I couldnt see them. There were plenty of White-headed Ducks, Pochard, Black-necked Grebe and Great Reed Warbler were singing from every stand of reed. A Snipe pitched down near to where the herons had gone in but quickly there was little evidence of anything.
The next pool held even greater numbers of waterfowl and the hide was full of cobwebs offering brief respite from the mosquitos. A Great White Egret was fishing just in front of me and 15 pairs of Black-necked Grebe were about. A few Collared Pratincoles were loafing on an island and one came to investigate flushing a Little Bittern.
Time was pressing so I left at speed nursing the soreness on my face with little regret for the plethora of birds that I'd seen including a drake Stonechat at the gate. I was going to the mountains. First stop was Maigmo, an isolated Sierra en route to Alcoy my final destination.
Nice! As I havent hit the mountains before I scored an easy spanish tick in the form of Coal Tit before a large hawk rose on the ridge in the first of the photos above - a Goshawk. This was too easy. A migrant male Marsh Harrier was seen 5 minutes after the gos disappearred, one of only 2 seen on the trip.
Back in the lowlands I stumbled on some gems in yellow in the form of Iberian Yellow Wagtail and Blue-headed Wagtail. I also stumbled on a couple of amourous young Spaniards shagging in a layby next to the very busy N-332. Eyes down. A Dartford Warbler briefly topped a stand of salicornia before disappearing as they do. A Water Rail was squawking in the reeds and distant terns wouldnt resolve into species (probably Whiskered). I gave up after I flushed a gaggle of Turnstones and turned tail but not before I noted another Great White Egret amongst the plethora of Flamingoes, Stilts and Avocets. I was knackered but very happy. The trip list was now 98 species plus 1 heard only.