Other sightings included blue rock thrush, crested and thekla larks, Sardinian warblers, red-legged partridge, stonechats and a large mixed flock of hirundines with crag, sand and house martins and barn and red-rumped swallows.
(Common bluetail damselfly)
Moving on to the El Honda de Elche Reserve, the heat of the day was starting to get to us, so we retreated to the shade of the hides overlooking reed fringed pools. on the first lagoon were several species of duck including the now very rare marbled duck which has been reintroduced to this site and is very slowly recovering.
(Marbled ducks and purple swamphens)
Marbled ducks are now very rare in Spain and rely on shallow brackish or freshwater pools with plenty of aquatic vegetation to feed on, plus reedbeds to breed in. Sadly most of this wetland habitat in southern Spain has been drained for agriculture and even at the carefully managed El Honda Reserve the population still suffers from water loss in some dry years.
Walking further into the reserve, it was a delight to see so many species in relative abundance; purple gallinules, glossy ibis flocks, reed warblers, red-rumped swallows, squacco herons, whiskered terns and marsh harriers. Autumn migrants were also very evident with winchats, yellow wagtails and huge flocks of European bee eaters passing overhead.
At one of the larger lakes we found a female white-headed duck as well a pair of hunting ospreys that gave superb overhead views.
(Female white-headed duck)
We then moved through an area of farmland finding booted eagle, hoopoes, spotless starlings, serins, Iberian grey shrike and an incredible movement of European bee eaters. They were coming down to a wet field to drink and there must have well over 100 of them.
(European bee eaters)
Pau knew of a fantastic hide around the back of the El Honda Reserve, where there was much more exposed mud and this produced a true wader migration fest. I cant ever remember seeing so many European migrant wader species all from one hide view before. We had curlew sandpiper in exceptional numbers, plus dunlins, temminck's and little stints, wood, green and common sandpipers, spotted redshanks, redshanks, black-tailed godwits, ruff, ringed, little ringed, Kentish and golden plovers, turnstones, whimbril, black-tailed godwit, avocet, black-winged stilt all on view simultaneously.
(Preening curlew sandpiper)
Our final stop of the day was the Saltpans of Salinas de Santa Pola where the numbers of greater flamingo feeding in the saline lagoons made for pink haze in the distance. We had wonderful close views of these birds as well as many slender-billed gulls, yellow-legged gulls and a few waders.