So contrary to expectations, I managed to survive a week in Benidorm! Such places, jam packed with people, loud music and twenty-four hour nightclubs are not usually my first choice of holiday destinations, mainly because they often lack wildlife. This week found me pleasantly surprised however and I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Spain. Sadly I was unable to venture out of the city during the week though this was of little importance with a great line-up of birds, butterflies and other beasties to enjoy. Urban birding has it’s perks it seems!
Starting out as ever with the feathered things and with 51 species noted amid the glaring lights and constant music I find myself unable to complain! First up the seafront and a few visits here provided a few goodies though I did receive a few odd looks prowling around, bins in toe amid the thousands of sunbathing British Grandmothers. Here Black-Headed Gull and Yellow-Legged Gull were numerous. The latter proving particularly confiding. Two tern species were also picked up though the second, a rather dainty looking bird remains unidentified due to poor views. Drat. Still, the Sandwich Terns here but on a fine show, as did the numerous Shags that fished behind the breakers. Both Little Egret & Grey Heron stalked the rocky areas here and Common Swift and Barn Swallow were picked up hawking above the beach. On a few occasions fishing boats passed by with a escort of rather nimble looking gulls, Auduoin’s perhaps but I will never know. Elsewhere the only other things to be seen along the coast comprised stacks of Feral Pigeons and an all to brief Peregrine which shot through in pursuit of one rather unlucky dove.
Moving on, Benidorm surprised me, showcasing a number of “green areas” within the city itself. Most of my outings during the week focused on these areas and thankfully I was rewarded with a number of great birds. One of the highlights here was a delightful Hoopoe though this was followed closely by Firecrest and Sardinian Warbler, both of which were extremely numerous! The various stands of pine that held the aforementioned crests were also jam-packed with Goldcrest, Great Tit, Chiffchaff and Blackcap though good numbers of Common Crossbill were a tad more interesting. I did manage glimpse an “unknown warbler” here during one of my morning excursions though it quickly disappeared never to be seen again. Based on the overall shape, colour and rather thick bill I feel confident angling towards Melodious Warbler though as ever, when unsure, no ID was made. Black Redstarts were prolific here with over 100 seen during my stay, outnumbered only by Benidorm’s Feral pigeons! I am used to seeing these birds in ones or twos, often while freezing on the Northumberland coastline so these proved particularly enjoyable!
A few jaunts to building sites and various other wasteland sites produced yet more familiar British birds including Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Meadow Pipit, Common Starling, Collared Dove, and Woodpigeon alongside the more noteworthy additions of White Wagtail, Serin and yet more Black Redstarts. Serin was a much sought after lifer for me prior to this trip and these colourful little finches did not disappoint. Notes taken, I now stand ready to unearth one of these in the UK in the future.. I can dream can’t I? Also here a number of Spotless Starling were seen though these proved rather timid.
Benidorm is thankfully surrounded by some rather pleasant mountains and the suburban fringe where city meets sand provided an exciting change of scenery. The undisputed highlight here (and perhaps of the whole holiday) was the numerous Crag Martins zipping too and throw overhead. At least 45 of these birds were seen together at one point and made for quite a show, providing another nice lifer in the process. With them a few more interesting species including some very noisy Dartford Warblers, Raven, Stonechat, Blackbird & Song Thrush. The same area also provided the trips only Long-Tailed Tits on top of more Firecrest, Sardinian Warbler and you guessed it, Black Redstarts. On one early excursion I found the place virtually empty and opted for a quick dip in the sea in a rather secluded cove. Here various tropical fish, sea cucumbers and odd looking crabs made for a memorable encounter and another Peregrine graced me with its presence as I attempted to haul myself out of the sea upon realising a line of German tourists had assembled behind me with cameras! So much for being alone.
Heading back to Allicante airport on Friday, two Iberian Grey Shrikes and a Green Woodpecker provided nice views, the former giving me my final lifer of the trip. Not bad at all though birds were not all to be seen in and around Benidorm..
Butterflies proved a mainstay of my week with the highlight a glorious Scarce Swallowtail (shown left) which at one point decided to use me as a perch! Clouded Yellows were numerous here, as were both Large & Small White while a few equally familiar species were observed including Wall, Painted Lady & Red Admiral. Aside from the Swallowtail the only other new species comprised a good number of Long-Tailed Blues scattered along the coastline. A real energetic gem of a butterfly and one that proved incredibly hard to photograph! My best attempt is shown below. Butterflies aside lots of interesting (and in some cases rather large) Grasshoppers also proved entertaining and a whopping great spider was revealed to be Araneus angulatus, a rather large and fearsome relative of the Garden Spider and one that is rather scarce in the UK. This one had made a meal of an unfortunate Clouded Yellow.
So as you can see, there is far more to Benidorm than just sex and Sangria! The week proved most enjoyable though now that I am back in the real world I should get back to the arduous process of conservation based job seeking *sigh*