Bird Watching

Nature Parks in the vicinity

Within 25 minutes by car from Casa Alta there are 4 Nature Parks supporting a variety of habitats and extensive bird life; some have Special Protection status and are on the Ramsar wetlands convention list.

Parque Natural de El Hondo

Parque Natural de El Hondo (also known as El Fondo d’Elx) is located between Elche (Elx in the Valenciano dialect) and Crevillent in the province of Alicante. The 2,387 hectare site is classified by the European Union Birds directive as a Zone of Special Protection for Birds, and listed by the Ramsar wetlands convention. It is of international importance as a breeding area for rare and endangered species, and also a wintering and migration site.

Species
El Hondo is particularly famous for the Marbled Teal / Marbled Duck (not found anywhere else on the European continent), and for White-headed Duck (El Hondo is the main worldwide population centre).

At nesting time colonies of very rare species of Herons include the Purple Heron, the Black-crowned Night-Heron and the Squacco Heron. Red-Crested Pochard, Common Pochard and the Common Shelduck also nest at El Hondo. Colonies of Avocet, Stork, Collared Pranticole can be seen in shallower waters.

The winter season brings the greatest concentration of birds, with particular importance attributed to the Northern Shoveler and Coot – there being as many as 30,000 specimens. The Bearded Tit, Penduline Tit and Moustached Warbler can be seen - all are threatened by the disappearance and degradation of the swamp ecosystems.

An impressive number of raptors regularly visit the area, including Marsh Harrier, Booted Eagle, Common Buzzard and Osprey. Also recorded are Lanner Falcon, Black-shouldered Kite and Red-footed Falcon, and Greater Spotted Eagles.

Rarities, which have been seen with considerable frequency, include Dotterel, Red-throated Pipit, Lesser Flamingo, Brent Goose, Ferruginous Duck, Pectoral Sandpiper and Isabeline Shrike.

The Crevillent mountain range (just north of El Hondo) is well-known as a nesting site for Bonelli’s Eagle and Eagle Owl and other montane species.

Visit BirdForum at www.birdforum.net/opus/El_Hondo for a check-list of 130 birds which have been recorded at/ near the reserve.

Site information
El Hondo can be reached from the main road from Alicante to Murcia, or from a road linking Elche to Matola. An Information Centre is well-signposted from nearby San Felipe Neri and has good parking facilities and wheelchair access, toilets, limited catering facilities and a picnic area. A recently built hide is always open but if a Guided Tour is required around the reserve it must be booked in advance (0034 96 667 85 15) or e-mail parque_elhondo@gva.es. Visit parquesnaturales.gva.es for additional information.

Santa Pola Natural Park (Santa Pola Salinas)

This Nature Reserve incorporates working salt flats as well as the location for significant numbers of breeding birds. It is located just to the south west of Santa Pola town, which in turn is some 15 kilometres south of Alicante airport. The area is reached by the N332. The Salinas currently extend over 2,470 hectares and are part of the wider area called Cabo de Santa Pola. Originally part of the same wetland as El Hondo, it now consists of salt-pans, freshwater pools and reedbeds, saltmarsh and a long sandy beach.

Species
Greater Flamingo, Little Egret, Red-crested Pochard and Kentish Plover can be seen throughout the year. Other residents include Lesser Short-toed Lark, Moustached Warbler, Zitting Cisticola, Spotless Starling and Bearded Tit. In summer, these are joined by Little Bittern, Squacco Heron and Purple Heron, Marbled Duck, Black-winged Stilt and Gull-billed Tern and Whiskered Tern. The salt-pans may also be visited by Slender-billed Gull and Audouin’s Gull, Caspian Tern, Black Tern, Osprey and Common Kingfisher.

Rarities have occurred with some frequency at the Santa Pola salt-pans. They have included all three Phalaropes and Pectoral Sandpiper, Laughing Gull and Royal Tern. Richard’s Pipit is now an almost annual winter visitor to the beach area between the sea and the Salinas.

Visit BirdForum at www.birdforum.net/opus/El_Hondo for a check-list of 120 birds which have been recorded at/ near the reserve.

Site information
Seawater is allowed into the area through sluices from the Mediterranean, and circulates through a succession of reservoirs. There is a gradual concentration of salt, and after evaporation has taken place, the salt is harvested.

The nearby Santa Pola Museum, housed in a restored former salt mill, has a Visitor Centre with parking facilities and is accessible to those with reduced mobility. Many of the birds can be seen from here. Other parking areas and tracks offer opportunities to see waders and water birds.

El Pinet Nature Reserve

At the southern end of the Santa Pola Salinas is the separate El Pinet Reserve, created from disused salt-pans. Located near El Pinet beach, close to La Marina town, the Reserve has parking facilities, an information board, hides and an observation tower.

Species
Pied Avocet, Collared Pratincole, Kentish Plover, and Common, Little and Whiskered Terns are listed and for much of the year, Slender-billed Gull and Audouin’s Gull can be seen. El Pinet beach offers the opportunity to view Balearic Shearwater, Gannet, divers, scotas and skuas.

Visit BirdForum at www.birdforum.net/opus/El_Hondo for a check-list of 95 birds which have been recorded at/ near the reserve.

Lagunas de La Mata – Torrevieja

This is a protected wetland area, listed in 1989 by the Ramsar convention, comprising 3,700 hectares and, due to its mineral content and salinity has a characteristic pink colour. Facilities include a Visitor Centre (open from Tuesdays to Sundays), bird-watching hides, shady picnic area, toilets, and a decked path round the lagoon enabling disabled access.

Species
Bird Life is of international interest, offering more than 100 species including Flamingo, Eared Grebes, Montagu’s Harrier and Avocet. The lagoon is home to over 11,000 pairs of waterfowl. A conservation project for Audouin’s Gull is one of the Park’s priorities.

Other information
Seawater is allowed into the area through sluices from the Mediterranean, and circulates through a succession of reservoirs. There is a gradual concentration of salt, and after evaporation has taken place, the salt is harvested.