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10 Mar
Butterflies and orchids in Costa Blanca

Today I have prepared for Jan and Robert an interesting itinerary which combines wetland birds, with butterflies and orchids in Costa Blanca. The last weeks has been very warm for March (max, temperature of 31ºC!) and butterflies are already very active. In addition, we are at the peak of the Mediterranean orchids so I expect to see a good number and variety of them.

After picking Jan and Robert up in Jávea we set off to Pego marshes. The paddy fields are being drying out and the number of birds is amazing. There are thousands of Little and Cattle Egret, White Wagtails, Pipits, Gulls, etc. Very soon we find 19 Common Cranes feeding in a field and Pau spots a couple of Little Ringed Plover and a Bluethroat popping out from the reeds. As we drive around, we find a stunning male Hen Harrier. It is probably the same bird seen last week by Pau. Other common birds seen include Hoopoe, Serins and Tree Sparrows.

In the North part of the park, we spot 2 Booted Eagles, several Marsh Harrier and 5 Common Buzzard migrating above the Montanyeta verda. Later, we find over 100 Audouin’s Gulls, joined by few Mediterranean Gulls feeding on the invasive american crayfish in a paddy field.

 

Orchids in Costa Blanca

 

Butterflies and orchids in Costa Blanca

After a rewarding coffee stop in Pego, we continue driving to the near valleys to look for butterflies and orchids in Costa Blanca. In our fist stop, Pau show us 3 spikes of Mirror Orchid (Ophrys speculum) and a couple Sawfly Orchid (Ophrys tenthredinifera). Our next stop is on the shade of a stone oak to have lunch. Soon we have to stand up to see a nice Firecrest and a stunning Moroccan orange tip butterfly. Once we finish and pack up the picnic table and chairs back in the boot, we drive few km more. A short walk reveals few tens of Early purple orchids (Orchis olbiensis). We find from white ones to magenta, a nice variety of colours!

Later we drive to an area near Vall d’Ebo where Pau has found previously orchids and his favourite butterfly, the Spanish festoon. There, we see lots of spikes and basal rosettes of two species: Sombre-bee Orchid (Ophrys fusca) and the endemic Ophrys dianica. Regarding butterflies, we have superb views of Spanish festoon, Bath white and Provence Hairstreak among others. Along the road, we find a Cirl Bunting.

 

Finally, on the way back to Jávea we make a quick stop to add some cracking orchids: Giant Orchid (Himantoglossum robertianum) and Woodcock Orchid (Ophrys scolopax). Furthermore, we add two hybrids Ophrys x castroviejoi (O. scolopax x O. speculum) and Ophrys x pielteri (O. scolopax x O. tenthredinifera). Regarding butterflies, we add an extra 15 species more of butterflies, including Scarce Swallowtail, Cleopatra, Western Dappled White, Mallow Skipper and Holly Blue.

 

 

All in all, a fantastic general wildlife day out with many birds, butterflies and orchids in Costa Blanca, Spain. Should you have any question, please do not hesitate to contact us.

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27 Jan

Alicante is one of the most interesting areas for birding in Spain. Alicante holds a fantastic diversity of habitats which are home to many sought after bird species. Thus, it is becoming one the most popular birding spots in Spain. You might find interesting our 5-day bird watching tour in Alicante and Valencia.

Please find below a report about two birding trips in Alicante during January.

 

Birding trips in Alicante: El Fondo and Santa Pola Salt Pans

 

Birding trips in Alicante-bluethroat

I have known Vernon and Lynee for three years. They are a very nice couple who enjoy combining the facilities of Benidorm with some birding trips in Costa Blanca.

On Monday we set off to Las Salinas de Santa Pola. Our first stop was near the city, where we get our first waders feeding on the pans: Dunlins, Little Stints, Sandering, Little Ringed Plover and Black-winged Stilts. On the water, there is a large group of Coots and both Grebes (Little and the gorgeous Black-necked). Then we continue to stop in the tower of Tamarit. There we get our first Slender-billed Gull (Pau’s van logo!), a Redshank and a Spoonbill.

Not far from there, along the national road we make our the last stop in the Salinas. It proves to be a good idea as we see 17 Spoonbills, 24 Wigeons, Sandwich Terns and other common birds. After having a coffee in Catral, we continue our birding trip in Costa Blanca driving around the farmland, South of El Hondo, seeing 2 Booted Eagles (pale and dark morph). In addition, we see Iberian Grey Shrike, Hoopoe, Crested and Skylark. Sadly, the hides are flooded so we move to the visitor centre. As we step off the car, a friendly Bluethroat shows up. While we have lunch we have great views of Red-knobbed Coots and a wide variety of waders, including a superb Jack Snipe. 

Finally, we drive northwards to make the last stop in El Clot de Galvany . Once we are there, we find the main path flooded but that is not a problem for visiting the two main hides. There, we get Purple swamp-hen, Grey Wagtail, a stunning male White-headed Duck and a good variety of wildfowl.

 

Monnegre and Alicante mountains (birds of Alicante)

 

Birding trips in Alicante-Griffon vulture in Alcoi

During our second trip, we change completely of habitat and head off to the snow-capped mountains of Alicante. We start in Monnegre making 4 short stops. In the first one, we get 2 wonderful males Darford Warblers and a pair of Choughs. On the second stop, we find our first  Black wheatear on the top of a boulder. After that, we pull over to watch a group of Woodlarcks, Thekla Lark, Sardenian Warbler, Spotless Starlings and a chirping Crested Tit. Later, we get to a recently established small Griffon Vulture colony. Pau found it about 3 years ago and since then has been keeping an eye on them. It seems that they are still fixing the nest, so no doubt the cold snap has delayed the breeding.

Our last stop is in Alcoi where we visit the main Griffon Vulture colony. As we start walking, a wonderful Blue Rock Thrush displays for us moving around the old factory. Along the path, Blackcaps, Serins and other common birds take advantage of the olives. Finally as we walk back to the car, a Goshawk flies right in front of us chasing some small birds! What an end for a Birding trip in Costa Blanca!

 

 

Should you have any question, please do not hesitate to contact us!

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25 May

 

In this article, we hope to give you some ideas about where to watch bustards in Spain. The country holds the largest density of bustards in Europe. Both Great and Little can be found in different areas, being La Mancha (Ciudad Real, Cuenca and Albacete provinces) and Extremadura the best places. However, bustards are suffering a huge decline, specially Little Bustards. Farming practises and intensification seems to be the main factor.

 

Where to find bustards in Spain?

Apart from the popular steppes of Extremadura or Villafáfila, there are other superb birding places unknown by most. For instance, the steppes of Albacete and La Mancha in East Spain offer a great opportunity to watch Great and Little Bustards. Futhermore, other specialities such as sandgrouses, larks and Rollers can be found in the steppes. Finally, the temporary pools are packed with Black-necked Grebes, Greater Flamingos, Red Crested Pochars, White headed-ducks and many more.

Please find the short trip report below:

 

Albacete Steppes, 22 nd May

 

Where to watch Great bustards in Spain

I am spending three days with Hervé watching birds and looking for mammals (Genet). Today we are going to pick Linda and Mike from a camp site in Oliva and we are heading to the steppes of Albacete.

After half and hour drive and a quick coffee we are watching our first birds: Corn bunting, Rock sparrow, Hoopoe and Crested lark. Pau drives straight to the breeding ground of the elusive Little bustard. The wheat is high, so it is going to be a bit of a challenge to see them. As we walk, a cracking Roller flies over us! Marsh harriers soar in the fields behind us and a solitary Great bustard remains in a green patch in the middle of ploughed field. After that, Pau hears a Little bustard so we move along the track, and finally, Hervé spots a silhouette who turns to be a gorgeous male of Little Bustard,  well done!

We drive up to visit different pools finding: Black-winged Stilts, Red-crested Pochards, Whiskered, Gull-billed, Black tern and other common birds. Linda particularly enjoys a pair of Black-necked Grebe. It’s 1:20 pm. and our bellies are asking for lunch. After having some tapas and coffee in Pétrola we visit the largest lagoon where the Greater Flamingos breed. There, we also add a Black kite, Yellow Wagtail, Kentish Plovers, Ringed Plover, Collared Pratincole and a superb Great Reed Warbler singing from the reeds. Birds are very close allowing nice views.  Later we undo the way following tracks and we get a Little Owl, Calandra Larks, Great Bustards and a Northern Wheatear.

 

 

Finally, we stop in one last area to add a White-headed Duck and a Lizard Orchid! Please, do not hesitate to contact us for a tailor-made trip to find this sadly scarce birds. You can also visit our tour calendar for schedule trips.


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30 Nov

 

Benidorm birding tours, more than a flip-flop holiday!

 

Benidorm birding tours-trompeter finch

Benidorm is widely known for its long beaches, warm weather and skyscrapers. Most of the holiday tours departing from Benidorm are mainly focus in sightseeing the city and nearby towns like Guadalest.  However, there are a lot of Benidorm birding tours and wildlife watching options (less than one hour drive) and that is what we want to propose you. For instance, if you go North, in the border with Valencia province is located the Natural Park of Pego Marshes and the surrounding mountains. Inland of Benidorm, you will find the wonderful Aitana mountain, which is the highest of Alicante with 1558 masl.  This is a perfect place for botanising, birding and enjoying butterflies.

In the South of Benidorm there are two stunning birding places, El Fondo de Elche and the Salt Pans of Santa Pola. In addition, close yo Alicante is found el Monnegre. It a very dry area with very interesting species such as Trompet Finch or Black Weather. Finally, the mountains around Alcoi offers a good chance for Griffon Vulture, Golden Eagle and Bonelli’s Eagle.

Following, I am writing a short birding trip report from today:

 

Trip report: bird watching from Benidorm

 

White-headed Duck-Benidorm birding tours

After greeting Joe and his two friends we set off to the Salt Pans of Santa Pola. I was aware that they were very keen photographers, so I put together a slightly different tour with good chances of photographing birds. As we pulled over the car in the Salinas, the elegant Slender-Billed Gull approached. We took advantage of the bird soaring to get some nice pictures. In addition, Turnstones, Black Winged Stilts, Spoonbills, Great White Egrets, Greater Flamingos, Shelducks and Water Pipits were also seen. Our second stop in the Salinas, revealed Siskin (it has been a good winter), Dunlins, Little Stint, Black Redstar, Red and Greenshank. In the nearby pines, Iberian Green Woodpecker screamed.

Before lunch, we drove to El Fondo to see 200+ White headed Ducks! Many of them are birds which breed in la Mancha but choose el Fondo to winter. Moreover, there were also 150+ Black-necked Grebes, a Penduline Tit, a Purple Swamp-hen and a Red-knobbed Coot. Then, after having lunch and coffee we drove around the farmland. As a result, we got Iberian Grey Shrike, Booted Eagle, a solitary Crane and a more than likely Spotted Eagle. Unfortunately, the bird was a bit far but it fitted rightly with its jizz.

Tomorrow, we will continue this birding and photography tour and hopefully we will get Alpine Accentor, Ring Ouzel and Brambling.

All in all, a good variety of wildlife to see while you are on holidays in Benidorm. Wheter you are interested in butterflies, orchids, dragonflies or birds, Valencia Region offers possibilities to suit all tastes!

Good birding!

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27 Oct

 

Birding trip report written by Helen and Dick during a birding trip in Costa Blanca, October 24th

My husband Dick and I were spending a 3 week holidays in the Costa Blanca. We were part of a party of 20 Canadian and were accommodate in Benidorm. As we were the only birders of the group, we arranged a birding tour with Pau Lucio from Birdwatching Spain to visit el Fondo and surroundings. We thought this reserve would be a good place for seeing a good bunch of lifers and certainly it was!!!

 

Report of the birding trip to Costa Blanca

 

Pau took us to the North part of the park and there, we were very exited seeing our 3  first birds of the day (Little, Black-necked and Crested Grebe). They followed by Egrets, Bluethroat, Red-crested and Common Pochards. In addition, we heard a Great Reed Warbler singing like there was no tomorrow, “it should be already in Africa” said Pau. Later, other birders moved from the first hide allowing some room for the three of us. So, we walked up the tower and as soon as Pau set the scope “surprise” a stunning Spotted Eagle right in front of us. Magnificent! The bird was perched on a post and allow us cracking views.

After that, Pau told us that a local birder reported a GSE on September 17th and since then, there hadn’t been any sight. Maybe the same bird? Probably, but not sure as more Spotted Eagles are expected to come to winter.  On the back of the lake there were Black-winged Stilts, Snipes, Glossy Ibis and Greater Flamingos among other birds.

It was nearly noon and we stopped for a coffee in San Felipe Neri. Then, we went to the visitor centre and add to our list Iberian Grey Shrike, Booted Eagle (dark morph), Purple-swamp hen, Great White Heron, Sardenian Warbler, Green Sandpiper, both Starlings and waterfowl. Later, we moved to the South of the reserve to look for a bird that Dick was very fond of, the White-headed Duck. Pau showed us 3 different birds and also an Osprey. I also enjoyed seeing with Dick and Pau other European common birds such as Pied Wagtail, Stonechat and Greenfinch.

 

Salinas in Santa Pola

 

Finally, we visited the Salinas de Santa Pola where we found different species of waders. It is always nice when you have someone like Pau pointing out the differences, to me, all waders look the same!! There were nearly 200 Dunlins, Greenshanks, Spotted Redshanks, Ringed Plovers, Common Sandpiper, Sandwich Terns and a Slender-Billed gulled. In the surrounding pine forest, Pau showed us Long-tailed Tit, a bird that was in our most wanted list!

All in all, a nice birding day with Pau. We strongly recommend Pau to anyone looking for a guided tour in Costa Blanca.

Are you thinking in birding in Costa Blanca? The region will surprise you! Please find in the following link our 5-day bird watching holidays in Alicante and Valencia. Should you have any question, please do not hesitate to contact us!

 

 

Helen and Dick, Alberta, Canada


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13 Jan

Birding in Benidorm? Many tourists doubt about the possibility of birding in Benidorm. For many tourists, Benidorm seems to be a place to lay down on the beach or to party. However, I will explain you in this post the fantastic birding reserves that you can find just one-hour drive from Benidorm.

That is the surprise reaction when someone tells a friend that he/she has been birding in Benidorm. In the surroundings of this popular holiday destination can be found a wide variety of habitats and reserves teeming with some of the ‘most wanted’ Iberian birds.

This part of East Spain is becoming more and more popular for birders, particularly families, thanks to the promotion done by the administration and birding companies. The coast of Valencia and Alicante offers the possibility to combine beach holidays for, let’s say your partner and children, and birding for you. Following you can read my last trip report about birding in Benidorm.

 

Birding in Benidorm: El Fondo and the Salt Pans

 

Little owl-birding benidorm

Last Friday, I picked Vernon up from Benidorm and we went South of Alicante province to watch as much species as possible. Our first stop was at the Salinas de Santa Pola where we watched an immature Slender-billed Gull (the first lifer for Vernon), a Great White Heron and hundreds of Greater Flamingos. In addition, we added waders such as Knot (a local rarity which has been in the area for few weeks), Black-tailed Godwits, Avocets, Redshanks, Black-winged Stilts and Little Stints.

On the top of a scrub we got an Iberian Grey Shrikes.

Our second stop was on the beach near the Salinas. There we enjoyed a close-up group of 10 Sanderlings. With the telescope we watched Gannets diving and Audouin’s Gulls. Later, we drove to a nearby bar to have a coffee before continuing the birding tour.

Our next stop was at El Hondo reservoir. Here the star was a group of 70 White-headed Ducks mixed with Black-necked Grebes, Tufted Ducks and Common Pochards. We also found an injured male Red-Crested Pochard (probably shoot by hunters the days before), so I phoned straightaway the wildlife recovery center. Marsh Harriers, Stonechat, a Yellow Wagtail and gorgeous male Darford Warbler were also seen in the surroundings.

 

A last birding stop

 

Hoopoe-birding benidorm

To finish the tour, we moved to our last stop in the hills which surround El Hondo. There, we got superb views of the resident pair of Bonelli’s Eagles patrolling their territory.  We could see through the telescope these fantastic raptors looking at us from their usual perch. Later,  on the top of a huge rock I spotted a Black wheatear and shared it quickly with Vernon. Crested Larks, Hoopoe and Sardinian Warblers were calling. On the way back to the main road, Vernon did very well spotting a Little Owl on a stone wall. With no more time, we drove back to Benidorm after this wonderful birding tour in a sunny and warm day.

As I am writing this, I get news of a Lesser Yellowlegs located in the farmland fields South of “El Hondo”. It shows what a fantastic area for birding the Alicante province is! If you would like more about birding in Valencia Region, we recommed you to read our 5-day itinerary. Should you have anu questions, please do not doubt to contact us.

 

 

Have a nice day!


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22 Dec

 Albufera de Valencia in Winter, a great place for birding!

Isabelline Shrike-Albufera de Valencia in winter

I am going to explain why is worth to visit the Albufera de Valencia in winter and arrange a bird watching tour in Valencia. Last Saturday, I guided Daniel and George to some of the most interesting birding spots in East Spain. I told them the possibility of visiting the Marjal d’Almenara, a small coastal wetland in the border between Valencia and Castellón. The main reason was that an adult Isabelline Shrike has been recorded since one week ago. This rarity has been filmed and photographed by dozens of birders during the last week.

We arrived to the area around 9:00 o’clock and it took us approx. 45 minutes to find the Shrike perched in the same spot where it was located the first time by the Bort’s brothers. As we were watching it, the Shrike made some attempts to kill a Chiffchaff but with no luck. During the previous days, some birders have recorder it killing and eating Chiffchaffs and Dragonflies.

Other species seeing in the Marjal d’Almenara were Cetti’s Warbler, Penduline Tit, Marsh and Hen Harrier, Stonechat, Moustached Warbler and other common birds.

 

Birding in the Albufera de Valencia

 

birding albufera in winter

Around 11:30 we moved to the Albufera de Valencia to do some seawatching. Daniel was looking forwards to see an Artic Skua and 30 minutes after putting up the scope we found a Great and an Artic Skua. In addition, other interesting sightings were at least 5 Yelkouan Shearwater mixed amongst more than 600 Balearic Shearwater and few Gannets (the day before I recorded 1500 BS in 10 minutes, amazing!) It made me so happy to watch this big flocks of the endangered Balearic Shearwater. Furthermore, we also spotted a fem/juv Common Scoter and 3 Great Northern Loon which are no common birds in the area. In the seashore there were 400+ Sanderlings mixed with 32 Grey Plovers and few Dunlin.

Finally, we visited the main lagoon to watch hundreds of wildfowl: Red Crested Pochards, Shovellers, Shelducks, etc and. a wintering Booted Eagle. No wonder that all these fantastic birds spend the winter here! with a shiny sun and a temperature of 18ºC, I would do the same 🙂

Should you have enquiere about birding in the Albufera, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Have a nice day

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10 Sep

Please find the trip report to a day trip to the Albufera de Valencia, September 10th.

 

trip report albufera - Pau with clients

I have spent a great time birding in the Albufera de Valencia with Verna and Bob from Canada. The Albufera de Valencia is one of the hot spots for birders in Spain, with a good number of rarities showing up during this time of the year. I hope you find useful this trip report Albufera de Valencia. For more information about this itinerary, please visit our 5-day bird watching tour around Valencia and Alicante.

It’s 7:00 and I am picking Verna and Bob from Oliva where they are staying. After 50 minutes driving we arrive to our first stop, “el Tancat de la Ratlla”. This reserve is surrounded by paddy fields and managed particularly for waders. There has been very interesting records in the area during the previous weeks.

 

 

Tancats: green filters which attracts lots of wildlife!

 

Trip report Albufera

In the Tancat de la Ratlla, we managed to see a good number of waders such as Black-winged stilt, Collared Pratincoles, Little and Ringed Plover and Dunlin. In addition, there were beautiful Curlew Sandpiper (some in full winter plumage while others just started to molt),  Little Stint, Wood, Green and Common Sandpipers, Common Snipe and Ruffs. There were also Little Terns, Kingfishers, a Glossy Ibis and Yellow Wagtails. Moreover, Verna spotted a Tern which turned out to be a Gull-billed Tern. On the sky, mixed flocks of Sand Martins and Barn Swallows feasted on insects.

Later, as we walk along the ditch to get good views of Reed and Fan-tailed Warbler, we found two beautifuls males of Bluethroats chasing each other. Fantastic bird! Before leaving, we got a quick view of a Cetti’s Warbler.

Our next stop was “El Tancat de la Pipa”. There,  from the tower we watched Purple Heron, Little ,Cattle and Great White Egret and Purple swamp-hens (2 adults + juv). In addition, we found  a pair of Red-crested Pochards, Gadwall, Marsh Harriers and a Little Bittern which sadly is missed by Verna. On the way back to the car, a Greenshank and a group of three Caspian Terns (at least one of them was a juvenile) flew above us. They are probably the sight of the day!

It is midday and we need to charge batteries so we go the local restaurant to enjoy some local cuisine “all i pebre” (eels with garlic and potatoes) and some rice with prawns for a main dish. Delicious!

 

 

The beach, a good spot for waders and seabirds in winter

 

Finally our last stop is in a lagoon close to the Saler beach. There we found Common Redshank, an Oystercatcher, Turnstones, and a group of juveniles Greater Flamingos dancing to stir the mud to filter their food. Being the weather hot, we decided to drive back to Oliva and rest as tomorrow we will be heading to the Steppes of Albacete. For more information, we recommend to read our article about the steppe birds found in Valencia. Do not hesitate to contact us if you need further information.

 

Have a nice day

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31 Jul

Birding trip Alicante, a day bird watching trip report to Monnegre, El Hondo and Santa Pola Salinas.

I hope to catch your attention about the superb birdlife that can be found in this part of Spain (Alicante and Valencia provinces). Last Tuesday, I had the pleasure to guide Richard in the Alicante area. He had emailed me a list of lifers he would like to see and I think we did pretty well.

We lead a 5-day bird watching tour around Valencia and Alicante to see most of the habitats and bird species found in the region.

Monnegre birding trip

After picking him at 6:30 (we wanted to avoid the heat), we set off to el Monnegre to look for our first targets, the Black Wheatear. It didn’t take long before we watched our first Black Wheatear in the river gorge, following by two mores near a building in ruins. After that, we drove for few minutes to visit an area where last May I found two territories of Rufous-tailed Scrub-robin. In my opinion, this is one of the most wanted birds as it has become very rare. Unfortunately, the population is crashing and the remain pairs are very located and will be extinct in the near future.

We failed in the first attempt. Nevertheless, we found in the second patch a nice male Rufous-tailed Scrub-robin calling on the top of a pine three. What a superb bird! Besides, we found Crested Lark, Sardinian Warbler, Red-legged Partridge, Woodchat and Iberian Grey Shrike.

 

Birds of el Fondo and the Salt Pans

 

Our next destination in this birding trip Alicante, was El Hondo. There, we found in the lagoon besides the visitor center Fan-tailed WarblerPurple swamp-hens and the usual Red-Knobbed Coots with a white collar.

These RKC are part of a reintroduction programme which is not working as well as we would like. The main reason, is hunting and although RKC are protected, Common coot are hunted. Both species look very similar and hunters can shoot at night! Ridiculous isn’t it? Once the birds are release, they disperse and never settle, suffering high mortality.

We continued the birding trip Alicante finding the third target of the day, the White-headed Duck. There was a group of 5-6 ducks diving in front of the first hide, most of them juveniles which is excellent!. In addition, we also watched a good number of birds such as Collared Pratincole, Squacco, Night and Purple Heron, Whiskered Tern, Little and Cattle Egret, Shelduck, Black-winged Stilt, Whimbrel, Plovers, Sandpipers and a female Red-crested Pochard to name few.

Little Bustard-birding trip Alicante

Around 11:00, we started to feel the heat, so we decided to  go for some refreshments in San Felipe Neri before driving to the Salinas de Santa Pola. Later, while I was driving to the Salinas I found a Roller in a Palm tree, much to Richard surprise. I pulled over the car to watch it. Nice bird!

In the Salinas we found another target, the Slender-billed Gull. Moreover, we watched Greater Flamingos, Avocets, Kentish Plover, Gull-billed, Common and Little Tern, and other common birds.

Finally, we made a short visit to the beach finding the last target, the Audouin’s Gull.

 

The steppes, also an excellent area for special birds!

 

The following day we went to the steppes of Alicante where we accomplished the two last targets: Little Bustard (a group of 10) and Black-bellied Sandgrouse. Other nice sightings were Great Bustards, a White-headed Duck, Black-necked Grebes, Pin tailed Sandgrouses and Bee-eaters.

I hope you find useful this birding trip Alicante article. Furthermore, I would like to encourage worldwide birders to visit this superb area which will not disappoint you by any means. For anyone keen on dragonflies, there are a lot of species to see! Should you have any enquire, please do not hesitate to contact us.

 

 

Have a nice day

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30 Apr

 

Valencia Region and particularly Valencia and Alicante provinces are excellent places to watch steppes birds. There are 2 main places, one is Pétrola and it is located in the borders between Valencia and Albacete. The second one, is in Villena, in the Alicante province. Both places hold a good number of steppe birds: Little (scarce and declining) and Great Bustard, Pint-tailed and Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Calandra, Thekla and Short-toed Lark, etc. Sadly, this group of birds are declining due to farming intensification.

 

 

Pétrola is probably a better place for Great Bustards, while Villena holds a higher density of both Sandgrouses as well as Lesser short-toed Lark. In addition, both areas offer good chances to see Spanish Imperial Eagle, although the sightings are mainly immature birds. Golden Eagle, Great spotted cuckoo, Spectacled Warbler and other wonderful birds can be seen along the year.

Both places can be visit during our 5-day bird watching tour.

 

Trip report to Pétrola and the steppes of Albacete. Steppe birds in Valencia

 

This trip report is about the guiding I did in Petrola on April 29th. It is 8:30 in the morning and I am meeting Peter and his wife in a petrol station near l’Alcudia. I suggested them to take this tour as this area looks superb at the moment! These well preserve steppes are among the best birding places in all East Spain.

Our first stop in a lagoon revealed Greater Flamingos, Avocets, Black-winged Stilts, Common Sandpiper, Gadwalls, Shelducks, Dunlins, Redshanks and Gull-billed Terns. It did not take long before I locate 4 Long-tailed Sandgrouses, Hoopoe and Calandra Larks in the nearby fields. Ten minutes later a group of Black-bellied Sandgrouse flew at some distance which made us very happy! Christine did very well finding our first Great Bustard, which was followed by two males and few more females. We have been just 40 minutes and we have seen all these amazing birds! Both Sandgrouses and Bustards usually occurs in the same area.

 

The temporary lagoons of Petrola: a wonderful spot packed with birds

 

Later, we stopped in a second lagoon finding Kentish and Ringed Plover, Lapwing, Greenshank, Black-tailed Godwits, Whiskered Terns and 2 Temminck’s Stints. So far so good! A solitary Stone Curlew flew above the lagoon. In front of us, there was a stone wall where I found Crested Larks, a Rock Sparrow and a flock of Spotless Starlings. We continue driving to the Petrola lagoon to find Ruff, Wood Sandpiper, Sanderlings, Little and Cattle Egrets, Marsh Harriers, Zitting Cisticolas, Bee-eaters, Black-necked Grebes, Common and Red-crested Pochards, Yellow Wagtails,  Shovelers, 2 stunning males White-headed Ducks and Black Terns.

The island on the back of the lagoon, was very busy with large numbers of Greater Flamingos and Black-headed Gulls breeding. Peter spotted on the top of the reeds a Great Reed Warbler singing. Reed Warbler and Savi’s warblers were also singing from the reeds and a Cuckoo from the farmland close to the lagoon. Before we moved to the next place, we watched a Nightingale on an almond tree.

Finally, we move around the farmland to find Short-toed Larks, around 15 Great Bustards, Linnets, Corns Buntings and finches. In the last lagoon, there were a wide variety of waders previously mentioned, besides Curlew Sandpiper and Little Stints.

I hope you enjoy this trip report and article about the steppe birds in Valencia and Alicante! More information about this tour can be found in our Great Bustard Tour. Should you have any question, please do not hesitate to contact us!

 

 

Have a nice day


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