Thursday, April 13, 2017

A week around El Pinet, El Fondo & back up to the Pyrenees

Road Trip to Spain - El Pinet, El Fondo, Pyrenees and all the bits in between. March 17th - 27th
 
So here's the post I would have published 2 weeks ago had I not managed to trash my laptop on my travels. Covering the 10 day period from arriving at El Pinet to all the way back to the French side of the Pyrenees, there was enough here for 2 posts but I want to get back on top of the blog - so a brief round and then the pics.

The salt pans nr El Pinet was always going to be my final destination, I spent a week here last time around and knew I'd have a good spot to put the van, away from all the other campervans and right next to the salt pans. With the El Fondo reserve just 20 minutes away I knew that I'd add many new species to the trip list and so it proved. Despite unhelpful NW winds for much of the time it remained warm and sunny and the wind and with the wind switching around to the south towards the end of my stay there was always something happening, birds on the move, wild flowers sprouting and butterflies on the wing. A buddy up with fellow birder / photographer Paul Coombes  was useful and good fun, he knows the area better than me and thanks to him I added Black Wheatear, Blue Rock Thrush, Rock Bunting, Azure Winged Magpie and best of all Bonellis Eagles at a nest site. Bird migration was 'steady' rather spectacular - most obvious was the passage of Hirundines and Swifts with many Barn Swallows, House Martins and Sand Martins heading north with Red Rumped Swallows, Pallid & Alpine Swifts in smaller numbers. Not masses of waders but both Teminck's and Little Stint were noticeable and Collared Pratincoles came in early. I had my first and only Wood Sandpiper and Whimbrel around here. Also my first and only Redstart, Black Eared Wheatear and towards the end of the week I was around El Pinet, the first Subalpine Warblers, Cuckoos and Willow Warblers. Shame I didn't manage a Hobby but Golden & Bonellis Eagle, Montagues Harrier and both Black and Egyptian Vulture in the Pyrenees more than made up! Including the birds I added in France I ended up with a total of 210 species in 5 weeks, not bad!

Here's the best of the pics starting with the El Pinet salt pans & El Fondo

Black Eared Wheatear, El Pinet, 24/03/2017




What a bird that was! It arrived on the morning I set off back up north and was pretty much my last record at El Pinet.

Mediterranean Gulls, El Pinet, 17/03/2017
c160 Med Gulls all told at El Pinet, here's a couple of close ups - they look stunning in full breeding plumage!


Mediterranean Gull, El Pinet, 17/03/2017
Mediterranean Gull, El Pinet, 17/03/2017

My home for a week ...
El Pinet van spot .. perfect!

Those lovely looking yellow flowers are in fact an invasive species - Bermuda Buttercup, all over this part of Spain like a yellow rash. Here's a few other 'wilder' bits n pieces of flora I found around and about here ...

Barbary Nut, 19/03/2017

Marsh Gladioli, 19/03/2017
 What a debate the above sparked up on a forum I use for 'ID'ing flora sp. Could be any of the following - Gladiolus dubious, G. illyricus, G. itallica or G. gallaeicicus ... Marsh Gladiolus for me!
Blue Pimpernel, all around the rough ground nr the van, 20/03/2017

Yellow Broomrape, on the beach nr the Santa Pola salt pans, 20/03/2017

Hotentot Fig, beach nr Santa Pola, 20/03/2107
Where's there's flowers and warmth there's usually butterflies and this magnificent Swallowtail was the best of 'em!
Swallowtail Butterfly, El Pinet, 18/03/2017
Location shots...



Salt Pans at El Pinet

High tide at El Pinet with Santa Pola beyond


One of the hides at El Pinet

That hide is where I've whiled away many an hour or two both this year and back in 2015. In front are the old salt pans and behind are dunes and then the sea. It's not a prime birding spot like El Fondo but it has its moments and this year I had Collared Pratincole, Little Stint, Greenshank, Redshank, Turnstone, Kentish Plover, Dunlin, Avocet (lots!), Common & Sandwich Tern and Alpine Swift from the above and most interesting for me the colony of Slender Billed Gulls all in pristine condition and strutting about in their territorial dance like little pink and white soldiers!


Slender Billed Gulls, El Pinet, 17/03/2017


Slender Billed Gulls, El Pinet, 17/03/2017
 .... and I couldn't resist yet another Audouin's Gull portrait pic!
Audouin's Gull, El Pinet, 20/03/2017

Around El Fondo ...
Stone Curlew, in fields around El Hondo, 17/03/2017

Pallid Swift, El Hondo, 17/03/2017

Black Winged Stilt, El Fondo, 22/03/2017

Little Ringed Plover, El Fondo, 22/03/2017

Red Crested Pochard, El Fondo, 22/03/2017

Marbled Duck, El Fondo, 22/03/2017
 The new boardwalks around the visitor centre at El Fondo are great for getting the camera to grips with dragonflies .... the most numerous by far were these Vagrant Emporers
Vagrant Emporer, El Fondo, 22/03/2017

Vagrant Emporer, El Fondo, 22/03/2017

White Headed Duck, El Fondo, 22/03/2017

Red Knobbed Coot, El Fondo, 22/03/2017

Collared Pratincole, El Fondo, 17/03/2017

Collared Pratincole, El Fondo, 17/03/2017
Redstart, Torreviega, 23/03/2017

Montague's Harrier,Torreviega, 23/03/2017

Montague's Harrier,Torreviega, 23/03/2017

Not often you get to observe a pair of one of Europe's rarest eagles at a nest site and my guide come birding buddy Paul certainly earned his lunchtime bevvies with this one. Bonelli's Eagles & both birds showed well and although shooting from a distance the light was good and these are ok shots.
Bonelli's Eagle nesting site, nr Crevillente

Bonelli's Eagle, nr Crevillente, 22/03/2017




Bonelli's Eagle, nr Crevillente, 22/03/2017
 
Bonelli's Eagle, nr Crevillente, 22/03/2017

Bonelli's Eagle, nr Crevillente, 22/03/2017

Bonelli's Eagle, nr Crevillente, 22/03/2017


Griffon Vulture, en route to Belchite, 25/03/2017
My return trip up through Spain and into France via the Belchite Steppes was always going to be a bit of a slog - Belchite was great though (added Calandra, Short & Lesser Short Toed Larks, Black Bellied & Pin Tailed Sandgrouse and Golden Eagle) , Jaca less so (weekend and a stranded bus in the snow completely wrecked my plans!), a stop off nr Alcaniz brought my best ever Alpine Swift pics and then over on the French side of the Pyrenees in the Val d'Ossau a couple of completely unexpected species, Black and Egyptian Vulture - get in!


Alpine Swift, over Le Estanca, Alcaniz, 25/03/2017

Alpine Swift, over Le Estanca, Alcaniz, 25/03/2017


Belchite Steppes, 25/03/2017

Belchite Steppes, 25/03/2017

Juv Golden Eagle, Belchite, 25/03/2017
Juv Golden Eagle, Belchite, 25/03/2017



Juv Golden Eagle, Belchite, 25/03/2017

Nr Jaca, Spanish Pyrenees
Nr Jaca, Spanish Pyrenees

Val d'Ossau, French Pyrenees


Bedous, Val d'Ossau

Grey Wagtail, Bedous, 26/03/2017


Early Purple Orchid, Bedous, 26/03/2017
Black Vulture (record shot), Bedous, 26/03/2017
 
 

 
Egyptian Vulture, Bedous, 27/03/2017
Ok, almost done and if you've managed to scroll down this far very well done indeed! My last best pics on this leg were extremely fortuitous. Camped out in the Pyrenean village of Bedous and just about to head up through France, aided and abetted by the local butcher who puts offal out for the local Kites, I couldn't believe my luck when in amongst the scores of Red & Black Kites, Griffons and Buzzards, in came a couple of Egyptian Vultures. Mega French record for me and the early morning sunshine set them off to a tee!




Egyptian Vulture, Bedous, 27/03/2017

Egyptian Vulture, Bedous, 27/03/2017