I am experiencing some trepidation about returning to Gran Alacant this month – we have not been here since June, and I have seen the pictures on social media of the horrendous deluge which occurred in September. I wonder what sort of condition my house will be in when we arrive, and will we be looking at a hefty bill for repairs?
Fortunately, we are on a slope, and I am guessing (hoping?) that most of the water will have drained into the Clot by now. That means that there will be a lot of long-term flooding in the Clot, which may affect iwt quite considerably with the consequent effects on the flora and fauna.
Does this cloud have a silver lining? Well, yes, and for one particular species it is excellent news. Here is the Glossy Ibis, and one place where you can usually find them is in flooded fields; when the local farmers irrigate their crops, you can be sure that once they have completed that job a flock of these birds will descend to feed on the flooded area. The improvements in the Clot over the past few years have made the area ideal for breeding Glossy Ibis, and they can be seen here in most months of the year. With the amount of rainfall that fell in September, you can be sure that these birds will make the most of it.
When I first came here twelve years ago, they were uncommon birds in our area, but a Spanish population explosion has occurred over those years and they are now a regular sight. When you first see them, the impression is of a large all-black bird with a long decurved beak, but seen close-up in good light it reveals stunning colours; deep maroon, emerald, bronze and violet depending on the angle of view.
They use their long decurved beak to probe into the water and mud, and feed on a wide range of prey from frogs and snails, to insects and occasionally fish and small snakes and lizards. They usually operate in flocks, and will attract other members of the white heron family to the feast – Great, Little and Cattle Egrets – giving the impression of a gigantic game of chess.
A few of these birds do a curious reverse migration, birds ringed as youngsters in Spain in summer can be found in the UK in winter, why they do this is a bit of a mystery but as the Spanish population increases it seems to be happening more frequently. From being a spectacular rarity in the UK, they are now an annual occurrence, and breeding has begun.
You can see more photographs of birds from our area by visiting www.marketheridge.smugmug.com
See you next month.