Mother-in-law’s recovery from her Boxing Day tumble continued to be pedestrian at best. Added to the fact that the carer thus far, Francine’s sister, has to return to work on Monday 6th January, the decision has been taken that we should return home early. Inevitable really. Our hosts are due to return to Alicante airport at about 1:30 PM on Saturday 4th. There is an easyJet flight, actually the only flight prior to our original one, out of Alicante at 6:50 PM on the same day. Assuming no delays, the two flights dovetail nicely. Our plan is to drive down to Alicante, park the car in short term, meet Chris and Yvonne, show them where their car is parked whilst swapping their suitcases for ours, have a coffee with them and then kill a couple more hours waiting for our flight. I’ve booked it; we’re flying back tomorrow.
With our last full day in Spain being advertised as sunny, I’ve been wanting to take another look at the Marjal de Pego-Oliva. On our summer visit, we’d seen eight species of Odonata there and, since it is at a lower altitude, near the coast and, therefore, less likely to suffer from the frosts we’ve had in Jalón, I wondered if there might be some Common Darters (Sympetrum striolatum) lurking about there. We thought it might also be a reasonable place to take el perrito for a wander, since he’d seemed disappointed at our false start when trying to get to Moraira early one morning. We hitched him up in his harness before setting off and, other than the occasional whimper which we amateur dog-sitters failed to understand, he was fine.
On arrival, Francine swapped Scamp’s car restraint for a lead and he jumped out of the car enthusiastically. We began examining the water’s edges and I can’t say I was particularly surprised but we didn’t find any dragonflies. I don’t actually know whether Common Darters are normally found here but they certainly weren’t here now. It really is late in the season anyway.
There were several birds, however, most of which took flight at my approach – status quo. I eventually managed to snag the Little Egret (Egretta garzetta) that kept moving away from me but, as is the norm with birds that take flight, what you usually get is a view from behind. At least it’s a good view of its splendid yellow feet. 🙂
At the end of the track, my luck improved as I happened across a Cormorant which had already begun its take off run. Fortunately it continued on its original course, towards me, and I hurriedly filled the frame as it grew larger in my viewfinder. Nice one!
On our return route a sizeable raptor flew over. It was quite high but I grabbed it anyway. As usual I was concentrating more on tracking it in the viewfinder than on what it might be. We have limited experience with raptors, though, and this looked a little unusual. It was somewhat Buzzard-like but its tail looked a little too long. Out of date though our Collins Field Guide may be, we didn’t have it with us so I was completely lost.
Enter Back to the Future. Once having returned home, I leapt into our old Collins for some raptor help. I was right, it certainly wasn’t a Buzzard: the wing markings are all wrong, the tail is too long and there are 6 (as opposed to 5) primaries clearly showing on each wing tip. The best match I could find was a light morph Booted Eagle which, our Collins claims, “is about the size of a Buzzard” but “has 6 fingers instead of 5”, and some adults “over-winter in SW Spain”. Hmmm, that’s not where we were?
I signed up to BirdForum and submitted my raptor to get some more experienced help. Sure enough my new friends came down unanimously in favour of a Booted Eagle (Hieraaetus pennatus). They went on to say that more and more Booted Eagles seem to be remaining in southern Europe over winter rather than migrating back to Africa.
Not only are some of the scientific names out of date in our old Collins but so, too, is the distribution information. We really MUST get a more up to date guide. 😉