El Hondo Natural Park (El Fondo in Valenciano) is lovely place to spend a few hours communing with nature. Located between Elche and Crevillente, it was designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in 1988. With over 1000 hectares of water, marshland and vegetation it has become a magnet for bird enthusiasts. There is a visitor centre, accessed by a new smooth tarmac road, brimming with information (mostly in Spanish only). Even when it is closed you still have access to various walkways and observation hides where an abundance of avian life is within easy access.
At the moment, the visitor centre is also housing a photographic exhibition. Murcian photographer Lola López is showing off 20 impressive images of birds and butterflies in her “Alas en los humedales del sur” (“Wings in the Southern Wetlands”) collection. You can visit Sunday to Friday 0900-1400 with slightly different hours on Saturdays 1200-1400.
Inside the visitor centre you can learn all about the park’s conservation efforts. There is also a lot of information on the lifecycle and habits of the flamingos. As I said before, most of it is only available in Spanish so bring a dictionary or a mobile app to help you out.
Step outside into the fresh air and have a walk around one of the trails. That is the best way to see the birds. Inside the hides (masks on please, and no more than three people at a time) are pictorial displays to help you identify what you see. On this visit I was lucky and managed to see a kingfisher, but getting a clear picture of one is another matter as they fly at such speed that there’s no time to click before they’ve disappeared! Here are a selection of my photos for your enjoyment. Can you name all the species? Leave a comment if you can!!!!
Whenever we visit El Hondo we keep a careful look out at the edge of the water for one bird in particular. The Purple Swamp Hen was a particular favourite of our good friend Rob who sadly passed away in September 2018. He was always trying to see one of these birds but I’m not sure if he ever managed to. His birding blog, Birding For A Lark, is kept alive in his memory.
You don’t have to be seriously into birding to enjoy a day observing our avian friends. Just remember to bring binoculars and/or a camera to help you get a closer view. Insect repellent is, of course, highly recommended too! There are also several other sites in the Costa Blanca South area which are good for birds.