Posts byMark

WATER RAIL

Spring is here, and it must be wonderful for those of you who are able to stroll around the Clot in lovely sunny weather. Those of us stuck back in Blighty are extremely envious, as April showers drench us and night temperatures can still get down to near freezing; we can’t wait for the restrictions
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Greater Spotted Eagle

In May 1897, the great American humorist, novelist and social critic Samuel Clemens – best known by his pen name, Mark Twain – was in London. While Twain was in London, someone started a rumor that he was gravely ill. It was followed by a rumor that he had died, and one major American newspaper
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COMMON SNIPE

Have you ever considered why a rifle marksman is called a Sniper? That’s because the bird we are looking at this month is one of the most difficult to shoot with a gun, which is jolly good news for the Common Snipe and bullet manufacturers, but bad news for the budding shooter, and when he
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WHITE STORK

Well thank goodness that’s all over! The car crash that was the year 2020 is now behind us; we can look forward with a bit of hope and pray that the Stork bringing us the new year of 2021 is going to deliver a much more acceptable package. The legend that Storks bring babies is
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STONECHAT

I was surprised to realise the other day that I’ve been writing this column since 2009; I was checking back to see which species I haven’t covered yet, or perhaps which ones needed a bit of an update to reflect changes which have occurred in the Clot. We have gained more species than we have
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HOOPOE

There can’t be many residents of the Costa Blanca with even a passing interest in nature, who don’t know the Hoopoe – that pink-bodied bird with an incredible crest and black and white wings which flaps past you like a huge butterfly, or who sits on your TV aerial at early o’clock and wakes you
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OSPREY

The autumn transition of bird species, when many of them are moving south for the winter, is one of the most exciting times for birdwatchers. Spain is one of the top places to be – not only do all the summer visitors depart, but many others from the north either arrive here to spend the
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IBERIAN WATER FROG

I appear to have been quite fortunate – one of the downsides of getting older is the gradual loss of the ability to hear sounds in the higher register, meaning that some birdwatchers of advancing years cannot hear the high-pitched calls of the smaller birds. Fortunately, I am still able to hear them, but even
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NIGHT HERON

Last month I told you about the breeding success of the Great Crested Grebe, a bird not usually found in the Clot, but due to the improvements in the water system, it has made a successful appearance. It would now seem that yet another bird has found the area much to its liking. The Night
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GREAT CRESTED GREBE

This is all highly frustrating. I am stuck in the UK, with little prospect of being able to get out to Gran Alacant any time soon this year, what with underlying health issues and having to self-isolate. The only birding action I’m getting at home is a troupe of scruffy Sparrows, two fat Woodpigeons and
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WHISKERED TERN

Lockdown, what lockdown? By the time you read this, things should be back to some sort of normal, and you can get out and about in the countryside and see how the lack of human disruption has benefitted wildlife over the past few months, with cleaner air and less artificial noise improving conditions at the
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SARDINIAN WARBLER

I recently dusted off my old guitar for something to do in the current situation, and discovered that I had turned into a very bad guitarist. I am pleased to report that after weeks of practice, I am back to being a very mediocre guitarist, and I still can’t play an Em7add11 chord.* I was
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Reed Wabler

Why am I showing you two pictures of the same bird? Actually, I’m not, they are different species, although closely related, and both will arrive in the Clot in some numbers this month. In fact, a few have already arrived in March from their winter quarters in Sub-Saharan Africa, and both species are making their
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REED WARBLERS

Why am I showing you two pictures of the same bird? Actually, I’m not, they are different species, although closely related, and both will arrive in the Clot in some numbers this month. In fact, a few have already arrived in March from their winter quarters in Sub-Saharan Africa, and both species are making their
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HOW TO WATCH BIRDS IN THE CLOT

Over the past few years, I’ve described the wide variety of birdlife that can be seen in our area, particularly down in the Clot which is a tremendous resource right on our doorsteps. So you don’t have to travel far to see the best of what Spain has to offer, but the other day someone
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Kingfisher

I’ve been coming to my house in Gran Alacant for the past 12 years, usually for 3 months in Spring and 2 months in autumn. Each season has turned up its surprises; it seems that each time I visit there is at least one remarkable occurrence in the Clot, and the end of the year
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Egrets

I received a message the other day from Barry, our esteemed former GA Advertiser editor. He had been asked by another reader if I could answer a few questions about all the white egrets which descend on the Clot during the evening to roost in the reed beds. As many of you will know, the
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Common Crane

Most birders keep lists of the birds they’ve seen. We can’t help it, it’s just one of those things we do, and we keep different lists for different places. I have a UK list (278) a USA list (109 – well it was only a two-week visit in 2006), a Spain list (194) an Offshore
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Trumpeter Finch

Earlier this year, while I was at home in the UK, I was somewhat irritated and envious when my birding friend Greta (who lives in Gran Alacant) posted a photograph she had taken in the countryside near La Marina. It was on a Facebook group dedicated to bird sightings in our area, and showed a
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Nightjar

I don’t really recommend the summer months for wildlife watching, it’s all too uncomfortable and there are much better things to do! It can become very unpleasant to be out in the midday sun (accompanied by the odd mad dog) and besides that, most birds will be seeking the shade and making themselves difficult to
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Montagu’s Harrier

Ask any keen birders what their best moment was while birdwatching, the chances are high that the story will involve a raptor. There’s something about these aerial warriors which brings out the Jeremy Clarkson in birders – Jezza would rather talk about Ferraris and Bugattis than Fiats and Fords, birders want to talk about Eagles,
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Nightingale

NIGHTINGALE Each time I visit Spain, it is clear that changes are taking place. Every visit has its star birds for me – I see lots of one particular species, but on the next trip they are hard to find. This spring has been no exception, and I will be remembering it as the Spring
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Pallid Swift

Sometimes it’s quite simple to identify a bird out here on the Costa Blanca – once you know what a Hoopoe is, for example, you’ll know one when you see one, an unmistakeable starling-sized pink bird with black and white wings and a crest – easy-peasy, and you’re likely to see at least one on
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Cuckoo

How many bird songs do you know? No, I’m not talking about “Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep” by Middle of the Road, or the massively insane “Surfin’ Bird” by The Trashmen (look it up on YouTube!), but actual birdsong. Most regular birdwatchers could probably identify 30 or more; if you’ve got a good memory for sounds
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Marbled Duck

This month, I was ready to tell you all about the many summer migrants which will be arriving in the Clot throughout the month, at the start of one of the most exciting periods for local birdwatchers. The swallows will undoubtedly be back by now, and there are many more species to come. However, events
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Black Redstart

Everybody knows the House Sparrow, you probably have them around your house or you encounter them when you’re having a meal at an open air restaurant, where they attempt to look as cute as possible in order to attract a stray crumb, or recklessly dive-bomb your table at the risk of a good swatting. You
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Little Grebe

I was going through my past archive of all the birds and animals I’ve written about for the GA Advertiser over the past few years, and was surprised to find I’d missed out on one of the easiest birds to be found in the Clot – the Little Grebe, which you are almost certain to
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Tönn – A Christmas Story

Once upon a time, in a land far away, there was a big tree, and in this tree there was a big nest, and the big nest contained a big egg. Now the parents of this big egg were very special birds, because there aren’t many of them about, so the people of the land
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Fudge Duck

FERRUGINOUS DUCK Last month I told you about a new bird species which has been found in the Clot – the Crested Coot (our esteemed editor decided that the alternative name for it wasn’t very appropriate!) and I spent several days in October trying to find it, without any success. It’s probably hiding in the
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CRESTED Coot

Autumn – most birdwatchers will tell you that this is the best time of the year, with summer birds leaving, winter birds arriving and this year’s crop of young birds dispersing to new areas. In addition to this, birds are moving through on migration and generally getting lost, which means that there is a good
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Little Owl

WHAT’S THAT IN THE CLOT? Well it looks like I’ve been lumbered yet again with trying to think up something to write for this month’s GA Advertiser, it’s a tedious job but somebody’s got to do it. As the Spanish would say – estoy encargado con el mochuelo – I’ve been given a Little Owl.
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Kestrel

WHAT’S THAT IN THE CLOT? Welcome to the hot days, for some people the best time of the year. You can lounge by your swimming pool or on the beach, ice cold drink to hand and a parasol to move beneath if you are beginning to crisp at the edges. You can strip off layers
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Woodpecker

Even if you’re not very familiar with different bird species, you might possibly guess that the bird in my picture this month is a Green Woodpecker, and you’d be right. No, wait a minute – you’d be wrong. You’d have been right if you’d said that more than about 7 years ago, but the powers
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Praying Mantis

One of the great advantages for me of living in Gran Alacant is that the Clot de Galvany is within a ten minute walk from my front door, and anyone interested in nature will find a variety of things to observe in their natural habitat. There may be one or two of you however who
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Monk Parakeet

WHAT’S THAT IN THE CLOT? Last month, there was a posting in the online Gran Alacant forum (search for Gasbags on Google – it’s a great place for local information!) from the redoubtable John Hannon, saying that he had seen a green parrot in Torrevieja. He asked what it was and he had attached a
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Bee Easter

I always thought that the phrase “one swallow does not a summer make” was one of those wise old British sayings which came from the fact that if you see a single swallow in late March, you can expect a similar chilly weather period to the “Beast From The East” which we went through recently
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Moorhen

What’s in that Clot? One of the many things I have been unable to fathom throughout my life is why the makers of a very popular video game felt the need to make the opponents of Angry Birds a bunch of green pigs. There are plenty of reasons why birds get angry, but green pigs
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WHAT’S THAT IN THE CLOT?

It can be a frustrating business at times, this birdwatching. One of the worst things you can hear when entering a hide on the lookout for a particular species is “Oh, there was one here just five minutes ago, but it’s gone now.” I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve heard that, the annoyance
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Black Redstart

Everybody knows the House Sparrow, you probably have them around your house or you encounter them when your are having a meal at an open air restaurant, where they attempt to look as cute as possible in order to attract a stray crumb, or recklessly dive-bomb your table at the risk of a good swatting.
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What’s that in a clot? Kingfisher!

WHAT’S THAT IN THE CLOT? It’s that time of the year again – or at least it has been since the beginning of last month. Shops full of shiny bright things ready for you to put on your Xmas tree, and spend a fortune in doing so. Nature, of course, has its own bright shiny
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Booted Eagle

WHAT’S THAT IN THE CLOT? There’s a killer on the loose. Actually, there’s more than one, there are several, and they’re all in our area. The Costa Blanca is one of the best areas in Europe to see a wide variety of avian raptors during the winter season. The wetlands around us, which include the
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New birdwatching guide of Salinas Natural Park

October – the best month for finding interesting birds as migration is well under way. You are likely to see many species, from departing summer visitors such as Bee-eaters, to arriving specialities like Bluethroats and Black Redstarts. Then there is always the possibility of finding some sort of vagrant – one of those waifs and
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What’s that in a clot? Red Darter!

What’s that in a Clot? It looks a bit nasty, doesn’t it? It’s bright red, which means danger, it flies about in a threatening manner, it’s got a sharp tail which will probably sting you, and right now there are lots of them about, so why doesn’t somebody do something about them? Only one of
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Common Kestrel

WHAT’S THAT IN THE CLOT? You are probably feeling very sorry for the poor little sparrow in my photo this month – cut down in the prime of its life by a vicious predator. Wouldn’t it be nicer if everything just got along, live and let live? Why does nature have to be so cruel,
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Ladder Snake in the Clot?

WHAT’S THAT IN THE CLOT? Oh No! I can hear the howls of anguish and fear already. “If he’s about to tell us there are snakes in the Clot, then I’m not going in there, ever!” This is a perfectly understandable reaction. About a third of adult humans are frightened of snakes (ophidiophobia, if you
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Golden Oriole

WHAT’S THAT IN THE CLOT? Sit tight because I’ve got a personal story to tell you. It might seem a little self-indulgent, but it explains why I find Spain and its birds so fascinating. Older British readers might remember the small “Observer’s” books published in the 1950’s. These were pocket-sized, and covered many different subjects,
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What’s that in a Clot? Garganey!

WHAT’S THAT IN THE CLOT? I will hold my hands up and admit to my guilt. What am I talking about? It is the use of the traditional British birders’ greeting everywhere, even here in Gran Alacant, where the words “Hello, anything about?” is always met by the usual “Hi there, no, just the usual
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Willow Warbler

WHAT’S THAT IN THE CLOT? March is the month when British birdwatchers start to look out for the first of the summer arrivals – but here in Gran Alacant, the spring migration is well under way, and many species have already arrived. Some of these will just be passing through on their way northwards, and
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black redstar

WHAT’S THAT IN THE CLOT? Do you own, or are you staying in, a nice house in Gran Alacant? Of course you keep it clean and tidy (or at least I hope you do) and you wouldn’t put up with rubble and other mess. You’d keep the roof watertight, you’d repair holes in the walls
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PLAIN TIGER

So that’s the summer over, many visitors both human and avian are disappearing, and life settles down to the mellow fruitfulness of autumn. You might think that all the colourful animals are now gone and all you might see from now on are a few drab-looking birds in their winter plumages – but you’d be
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