The central regions of Spain's eastern Mediterranean coast hold the attractive holiday regions generally referred to as Costa Blanca, Costa del Azabar and Costa Calida. They draw millions of tourists annually. Don't throw your hands in the air in despair for they are also the coastal regions of the provinces of Castellon, Valencia, Alicante and Murcia. These provinces are some of the most productive of Southern Spain.
Murcia, holds vast orange, lemon and pomegranate groves interspersed with fields of garlic, maze, vines and olives. Although dry for eight months of the year the landscape manages to seem full and fragrant even in June. A major river, the Segura reaches the sea at Guardamar just below Elche (Elx) and must be a good source of birdlife. Close to the sea there are the freshwater lagoons of L'Albufera, and, on the Costa Blanca, the saltpans of Santa Pola and the striking limestone crag of Penyal d'Ifach. Twenty minuets inland from Torrevieja is the village of Dolores, and close by, the Parque natural del Fondo complete with barn hide. Just below the province of Murcia lies the Mar Menor, an inland sea or lagoon. Most of these areas are accessible from the towns and villages between Murcia, Orihuela and Alicante and the locals in the towns are happy and hospitable. Prosperity is booming and major roads are a boon to travellers.
Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Montagues Harrier, Black Winged Stilt, Avocet, Little Terns, Hoopoo, Pallid Swift, Black Kite, Serin, Spanish Sparrow, Swallow, Martin and Crossbill abound. So a determined day out in true birding style would no doubt satisfy any avid birder.
Alicante Airport Area
The first spot lies in the shadow of the Alicante airport to the North and a huge building site to the South. It is North of Santa Pola at Gran Alicante, off the N332 route, a reserve called Cot de Gaveney. The visitor centre was closed for Christmas, but has some leaflets and displays. The best viewing areas are about 300 yards form the Centre with a fingerpost to a hide. The hide is easily accessible by wheelchair and on foot of course and is close to the car parking area. There is a large expanse of water to walk around, but that may be difficult in places. A good selection of Waders included: Little Stint, Bar and Black tailed Godwit, Black Winged Stilt and the major duck species was the White Headed Duck. Little Egret, Greater Flamingo and Grey heron were also in residence. A Buzzard species and Marsh Harrier vied for territory over the reed bed. Of the passerines Crag Martin, Crested Lark, Dartford Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Great Grey Shrike and huge flocks of Serin were the major players on the day we visited.
Alphonso X111 Embalse
There are reported to be good numbers of Bonelle's and Golden Eagles, Chough, Peregrine and Rock Sparrow. Well that day, nada. Boxed by Cehegin, Cieza and Mula lies the Alphonso Embalse and acres of mountains and plains in between. The negative side to this journey is that the road skirting the Embalse is blocked about half way along to Cieza. But along that part of the trip Black Wheatear, Crested Lark and a possible Rock Thrush. Barely glimpsed but right jizz. No soaring raptors though. The best site for them is beyond the obstruction and it looks as if one will have to get permission to spend time in that area. The little town of Cehegan has a colony of Red-rumped Swallows. Also noted are Little Owl, Little Egret & Great-crested Grebe are present all year.
Parque Natural de El Hondo
The park is open Tuesday to Friday from 8:00pm to 3:00pm and Sat and Sunday from 8:00 to 11:00am. Closed Monday. It has an ultra modern visitors centre, with video links to lagoons, services and a huge car park. But to view from the best hides you have to make an appointment. For visitors with little time to plan a journey the phone number is (0034) 966678515. A local taxi, based at Orihuela is (0034) 966740202 or 966739144. Among the best at this site on one 3 hour trip were Black Necked Grebe, Glossy Ibis, Purple Gallinule, Whiskered Tern and Bluethroat. Disabled people should ask for access to the hides by whatever vehicle they arrive in, because there is a long walk from the gate. (2km)
The Sierra Espunas is accessible by car and is predominantly a National park. We accessed it from the N340 - E15, which is the Granada route from Murcia. The town is called Alhama and the route is well served with viewing spots. Towards the Totana end there are restaurants and a Visitors Centre, but they were all closed for Christmas. (And I left the sandwiches in the Fridge!) This park is reported to host the rare mountain goat and wild boar, neither of which showed up during our visit. But Golden Eagle and Crested Tit, Firecrest and Nuthatch, Jay and Common Crossbill were quite easy to find. The park is heavily wooded and wild Spring flowers are already starting to make an appearance, so I think March or April will be magic in that area.
Where to Watch Birds in Southern and Western Spain
Andalucia, Extremadura and Gibraltar - Ernest Garcia & Andrew Paterson - Christopher Helm (2008) 400 pages, 30 b&w illus, 99 maps
ISBN: 9780713683158Buy this book from NHBS.com
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El Anuario Ornitológico de la Región de Murcia
El Anuario Ornitológico de la Región de Murcia (AORM) persigue recopilar todas las observaciones de interés sobre aves dentro de los límites marítimo-terrestres de esta Comunidad Autónoma. La información recogida se publicará en esta misma página con perioricidad bimestral, una vez elaborada y tras un proceso de filtrado en base a unos criterios de aceptación de citas que variarán dependiendo de las especies implicadas (ver Instrucciones).
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