Our journey started early on the morning of the 26th of December. We left Apeldoorn around 6.45 to drive to Weeze Airport in Germany where we would fly to Alicante. The plane departured on time which meant a few hours later we had switched the cold, grey and rainy weather for clear blue skies and pleasant temperatures: welcome to Spain!
The Pyrenees with snow!
We had rented a car so after we got our luggage (the first luggage on the belt for a change!) we went to the car rental and picked up our car: a nice Mercedes. From the airport it was only a 15 min drive to our appartment in Gran Alacant, just north of Santa Pola. Our main reason for being here was to try and see the wintering Greater Spotted Eagles et El Hondo parque natural. After we ate something and after we'd installed ourselves in the appartment we left for El Hondo with the four of us. The first place we would visit was the visitor centre at San Felipe Neri on the western side of El Hondo.
The parking lot at the Visitor Centre and the surrounding area.
We arrived there around 15.00 and started the boardwalk just behind the visitor centre. Soon we saw two Booted Eagles flying low above our heads! That was a nice starter already. After scanning the area with the telescope the total of Booted Eagles was raised to 9 hunting birds in the area. Further species seen near the hides were: Purple Gallinules, some Kingfishers, a Little Egret, a lot of Chiffchaffs, a couple of Sardinian Warblers, 2 Zitting Cisticola's, a Bluethroat, a lot of Crag Martins in the sky along with a unexpected bird: a Swift!! was hunting amongst the Crag Martins. and a good variety of ducks: Shovelers, Gadwalls, Pochards and also Little Grebes. After having explored this area we decided to head off to the South Gate, which would be a good place for seeing Greater-spotted Eagles since they would roost in the Eucalyptus trees close to the road. No spotted eagles were seen during our stay here but we did see quite a few Booted Eagles again, of which some were perched in the Eucalyptus trees. Furthermore we had singing Cetti's Warblers, Corn Buntings, calling Water Rails and Purple Gallinules and 2 Hen Harriers. When we drove back to Gran Alacant we came past the Salinas of Santa Pola. On these Salinas we saw hundreds of Greater Flamingo's, Yellow-legged Gulls, Audouins Gull's, Slender-billed Gulls as well as good numbers of Little Egrets and Cattle Egrets and some Ringed Plovers and 50 Black-winged Stilts. Before we headed back to the appartment we did some grocery shopping at the local Mercadona.
27th of December
My dad and I left after breakfast to El Hondo. We would start at the South Gate. On the way to El Hondo we saw a 3 Southern Grey Shrikes, a Great Egret, a Curlew, some 100 Pied Avocets and lots of Slender-billed Gulls at the Salinas. We arrived at the South Gate around 10.00. First thing we saw were 30 Corn Buntings feeding in the reeds. While scanning for Greater Spotted Eagles we saw 6 Booted Eagles of which some were perched in the trees again. In the reed in front of us we had close views of a real skulky Moustached Warbler! A Bluethroat showed itself better in the reed though:
When we walked back to the car we had a nice surprise: a group of 13 Cranes had dropped in, in the fields behind us, calling loudly. From the South Gate we drove to the Visitor Centre again. We had a nice road along the (very disclosed) park. We heard a Penduline Tit and saw a Southern Grey Shrike that wasn't really shy:
Southern Grey Shrike ssp meridionalis
At the hides near the Visitors Centre we saw 7 Black-necked Grebes along with the common stuff. Also, some Booted Eagles were just giving phenomonal views! They were hunting close to us and didn't seem shy at all!
Light morph Booted Eagle.
After we had made great pics of these amazing eagles we went back to our appartment again for a warm meal. After our warm meal we made a little tour with the four of us along the coast. Starting at Gran Alacant we drove along the beach to Santa Pola. The drive was nice. The road along the beach goes along a rocky coast with no urbanisation at all which makes it a beautiful drive. We stopped halfway to take a walk along the beach. I couldn't resist taking out the telescope and scanning the sea: a couple of hundred (distant) Balearic Shearwaters, three Shags, some Sandwich Terns and 2 Gannets was the result in a short time. We had a drink at the beach in Santa Pola. At the harbour of Santa Pola we had some good birds: 12 Common Scoters, 1 Common Sandpiper, 13 Mediterranean Gulls, about 125 Audouins Gulls, 6 Lesser Black-backed Gulls, 3 Sandwich Terns and a Grey Wagtail.
some of the 75 Audouins Gulls on the beach
some of the 50 in the harbour
7 Mediterranean Gulls
A 1cy Yellow-legged Gull
12 Black Scoters
Beach at Santa Pola.
Another day had gone by without seeing the Spotted Eagles, but it didn't really matter because of all the other great stuff we'd seen and photographed. Tomorrow morning we would have our last try to see one, would we succeed??