Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Altea ~ 30 March - 6 April 2016

A very basic trip report from a holiday that was not focussed on birds/birding but nonetheless yielded some good species. Flights to Alicante were cheap, and I was based in the small town of Pueblo Mascarat on the outskirts of Altea, approximately an hour's drive to the north-east of Alicante.

Although not a birder's typical destination, the area holds a number of sites that are very promising and certainly worthy of further explanation if you find yourself in this region.

Pueblo Mascarat

This hillside town was surprisingly decent with Blue Rock Thrush and 4+ Black Wheatear pairs breeding in the town, the latter regularly performing song-flights from villas and lamposts.
There are large numbers of Pallid Swift breeding, and before temperatures increased large congregations would regularly feed over the town, often accompanied by Common Swifts and small numbers of Alpine Swift and Crag Martin, the latter two breeding on the steep slope by the road-tunnel that heads towards Calp.

Serin, Firecrest & Sardinian Warbler were abundant (as they are everywhere in these parts) though Black Redstart, Woodchat Shrike & Hoopoe were surprisingly scarce. Nightingales breed in the bottom of the dried-river valley and the area generally looks good for migrants that follow the coastline northwards.

Geranium Bronze were seen in the dried river valley along with good numbers of European Swallowtail & Cleopatra.

Black Wheater


2 sites of interest in this town, the Les Salines saltpans no doubt being the star attraction. Large congregations of 200+ Greater Flamingo and 80+ Black-winged Stilt offer great views from the circular footpath that circumnavigates the waters edge. This area looks amazing for migrants with very good scrapes for passage waders (only LRP on my visit), and the reeds towards the western edge most likely hold Great Reed Warbler etc. Slender-billed Gull appear to be regular. A flock of Little Egret held Cattle Egret and a single Glossy Ibis, and a flock of Whiskered Tern flew through on one visit. Definitely a site worthy of exploration.

Ifach Rock holds a large (Yellow-legged) gull colony and Black Wheatear and Blue Rock Thrush breed on the steep slope. The small area of scrub at the tip of the point is again no doubt a good area for migrants, and also holds breeding Sardinian and Western Subalpine Warbler.

Later in the year, this site reportedly has breeding Eleonora's Falcon, though I failed to find any recent, reliable reports of this species.

Black-winged Stilt 
Little Ringed Plover
Greater Flamingo
'Iberian' Yellow Wagtail


Where the river (Riu de l'Algar) meets the sea at Altea as marked here there is a small reed-edged pool. The reedbeds hold Little Bittern , and Purple Heron are likely to feed along the river itself (with one individual seen circling for 15 mins).

Audouin's Gull breed nearby and come down to bread. This is a site worth exploring with a record of Baillon's Crake in April 2015 and regular local reports of Squacco Heron.

Purple Swamphens are the 'star attraction' with at least 6 showing well at all times of day, regularly feeding on bread that had drifted into the reedbeds, and when quiet venturing onto the beach.

Large numbers of hirundines roost in the reedbeds during migration, including Red-rumped Swallow.

Audouin's Gull
Purple Swamphen
Purple Heron
Red-rumped Swallow

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