Sunday, November 27, 2011

Sanderling census of La Safor

Sanderling in Winter Plummage

On Sunday 27th November we took part in the Sanderling Census of La Safor which was organised by the “Associaci√≥ Ornitol√≥gica De La Safor”.
The stretch of Mediterranean coastline to be studied was that between Playa de Tavernes in the north to Playa de Oliva in the south.  We grouped into 4 teams, each having a designated section of beach. Our particular area was from Marenys (just south of the port of Gandia) to Diamus.  We commenced at 0830hrs under very cloudy skies, although thankfully no wind. Sea conditions were choppy although certainly not severe.
Much to subsequent amusement of our fellow birders, our stretch of beach turned up absolutely no Sanderlings whatsoever!  However, the day´s count for the whole area was 323.  Although we managed to find no Sanderlings, we did spot 16 other species.
The day commenced with Grey Heron and Little Egret, both of which were fishing in the mouth of the river Serpis. As we made our way down the beach we saw 16 Pied Wagtails, 4 Cormorants, a pair of Black Redstarts, 2 Common Terns, 6 Yellow Legged Gulls, 1 Black Headed Gull, 2 Little Ringed Plovers, 4 Kentish Plovers and 3 Sandwich Terns. The small river mouth at Diamus revealed a pair of Moorhen, a Robin, a Hoopoe and a first winter Grey Wagtail.

Audouin´s Gulls
Audouin´s Gulls on the beaches of La Safor

However, the highlight of the day was a group of 18 Audouin´s Gulls on the beach at Diamus.  Once finished, five of us met for a brief scan over Gandia marsh where we saw 2 Marsh Harriers and enjoyed great views of a Booted Eagle.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

El Hondo

Not within our usual birding area, El Hondo is a wetland reserve of major international importance, not least for it´s population of White Headed Duck and Marbled Duck.  Although not a regular venue for us, El Hondo always provides something of interest.

El Hondo Nature Reserve

We were fortunate to enjoy some beautiful autumn sunshine as we set off across the reserve.  Within just five minutes we were delighted to see 3 Cranes passing overhead, shortly followed by a lone Booted Eagle.  As we made our way through the reedbeds, we watched as a Marsh Harrier hunted by the shore of the lake.  We stopped and set up the scope, to be rewarded with views of Serin, Stonechat, Moustached Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Fan Tailed Warblers and a Bluethroat.  A Great Grey Shrike provided a few minutes entertainment before we were distracted by 3 passing White Storks.
The first lake held Coot, Mallard, Pochard, Gadwall, Little Grebe and a Purple Gallinule.  The larger second lake gave views of Flamingoes in good numbers, Grey Heron, Little Egrets and a Crested Lark by the shore.
We were almost out of time so wandered back to the car park as the sun was beginning to set.  A flock of 14 Glossy Ibis flew overhead providing a great ending to a super day.
Although our plans allowed for only a few hours, we managed to see 33 species…Pied Wagtail, Crane, Magpie, Chifchaff, Marsh Harrier, Fan Tailed Warbler, Black Headed Gull, Booted Eagle, Great Grey Shrike, Little Egret, Moustached Warbler, Bluethroat, Stonechat, Mallard, Gadwall, Little Grebe, Coot, Pochard, White Stork, Purple Gallinule, Serin, Cormorant, Spotted Redshank, Grey Heron, Crested Lark, Kingfisher, Kestrel, Flamingo, Sardinian Warbler, Moorhen, Jackdaw, Glossy Ibis, Spotless Starling.

Dave Warrington birdwatching guide

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

An Afternoon at Albufera de Valencia

As we had business to attend to in Valencia today, the opportunity to spend a couple of hours looking what was around Albufera couldn´t be missed.

Autumn Sunshine at Albufera de Valencia
We started at the main hide, where we were greeted by a group of school children on a day trip! Although not the quiet environment that we expected, it has to be remembered that this is where the future of conservation lies. We soon attracted a small group of kids who were curious to see what the telescope was and soon had a small queue forming to watch the Flamingoes that were resting at the far side of the lagoon. A few others were fascinated to see the beautifully coloured Teal through binoculars which at first glance to them, appeared to be just “boring brown ducks”!

A very tame Black Redstart!
Once their teacher called time and moved them on and out of the hide, we settled down to see what else was around. As mentioned, Teal were present in good numbers. A group of 6 Black Winged Stilt did a good job of trying to conceal a lone Avocet amongst them. We spend a little time waiting and watching and were rewarded with, amongst other things Kingfisher, Little Grebe, Sardinian Warbler, Little Egret, Greenshank and a Black Redstart that almost came into the hide to have a look at us!
Further scoping across the lake revealed Red Crested Pochard in huge numbers, Cormorant, Pochard, and up to 6 Marsh Harriers. Crag Martins passed over as did a flock of Spotless Starlings. It also seemed that most of the Iberian population of White Wagtails were at Albufera, plus many more Cattle Egrets than we usually see there!

A Great White Egret beside a Little Egret 

A little further up the lake we saw Yellow Legged Gull, Lesser Black Backed Gull and Sandwich Tern. We then headed back towards home and finished the day with good views of Great White Egret, Lapwing, Sparrowhawk, Shoveler and what must have been our best ever close-up views of Marsh Harrier.

We enjoyed stunning views of Marsh Harriers at Albufera
A great afternoon spent in a classic Valencian Wetland, and a species list of 38…

Avocet, Black Headed Gull, Black Redstart, Black Winged Stilt, Cattle Egret, Chiffchaff, Coot, Cormorant, Crag Martin, Flamingo, Goldfinch, Great White Egret, Greenshank, Grey Heron, Grey Wagtail, Kestrel, Kingfisher, Lapwing, Lesser Black Backed Gull, Little Egret, Little Grebe, Magpie, Mallard, Marsh Harrier, Meadow Pipit, Moorhen, Pochard, Red Crested Pochard, Robin, Sandwich Tern, Sardinian Warbler, Shoveler, Sparrowhawk, Spotless Starling, Stonechat, Teal, White Wagtail, Yellow Legged Gull.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Bird Watching at Santa Pola & La Mata

Although a little further South than our usual haunts, as we had an appointment in Alicante in the morning, we decided to make the most of the day by taking a slight detour and spend the afternoon bird watching at Santa Pola and La Mata.
The forecast for heavy rain thankfully proved to be pessimistic. Although we expected to be watching from the van, we were fortunate enough to be greeted with patchy cloud and sunny spells.
Santa Pola offers great bird watching and is situated less than 10 minutes drive from Alicante airport
We scanned the lagoons at Santa Pola first, where we enjoyed views of hundreds of Greater Flamingoes and Yellow Legged Gulls. Scoping across the water revealed Sandwich Tern, Shelduck and Avocet, all in good numbers. A few Little Ringed Plovers scurried along the shallow banks whilst a Marsh Harrier passed low over the reedbeds. As we explored the reedbeds a little more, we had good views of Black Redstart, Zitting Cisticola and a male Cirl Bunting. As we made our way back to the van a pair of Turnstones ran out of the vegitation on the shoreline. A final scan gave us views of a passing Great White Egret.
After a brief lunch we headed a little further south for some bird watching at La Mata. As we walked through the vineyards and down to the hide, we watched dozens of Skylarks, a handful of Crested Lark and at least 8 Black Redstarts. The lake was quiet although as is always the case, a little patience was rewarded eventually. From the hide we watched Kentish Plover and Sanderling on the shoreline. A short walk through the fields gave views of Spotless Starling, Meadow Pipit, Stonechat and Greenfinch.
Scoping across the shoreline rewarded us with views of Kentish Plover and Sanderling
We then headed back to the car park and began packing away the gear. We were about to get into the van when a wagtail flew over from the meadow and landed in the car park. At first glance it appeared to be a White Wagtail, but we soon noticed some yellow on its head. We quickly grabbed the binoculars and were able to watch what we firmly believe to be a Citrine Wagtail. We were unable to get the camera and photograph it so clearly cannot officially claim it, but having researched further we´re very confident that´s what it was. Further searching was in vain but what an end to the day!
Written by David Warrington, professional Bird Watching Guide.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

 This morning, we spent a couple of hours wandering around one of our local patches which consists mainly of rice fields. When in flood the Valencian rice fields attract a variety of birds, including passing migrants, which make it an ideal area for bird watching in Spain.  The day got off to a good start – as soon as we got out of the car, a pair of pale form Booted Eagles passed over. They were relatively low so we enjoyed great views. They spent a while quartering the hillsides looking for prey before they drifted off into the distance, although we saw them a further three times during the morning.

Booted Eagle in Spain

There were still surprisingly high numbers of Swallows feeding on the insects over the water. As I scanned the Valencian rice fields I also picked up good numbers of Black Headed Gull, dozens of Grey Herons, Little Egrets, Cattle Egrets and a lone Squacco Heron. Although they are “officially” a summer visitor, we do see a few that over-winter by the coast.

Rice fields of valencia
The reedbeds held good numbers of Fan Tailed Warblers plus a few pairs of Stonechats and a Whinchat. Careful observation of the water´s edge revealed a pair of Bluethroat, a Water Pipit and Grey Wagtail. A pair of Buzzards passed over plus we were fortunate to have great views of at least four Marsh Harriers through the morning. Super views of a perching Kingfisher finished the morning on a high.
A couple of hours well spent in the Valencian rice fields and another great day for bird watching in Spain!  In fact, the full list comprised…Booted Eagle, Squacco Heron, Little Egret, Swallow, Marsh Harrier, Black Headed Gull, Cattle Egret, Goldfinch, Pied Wagtail, Buzzard, Grey Wagtail, Whinchat, Bluethroat, Stonechat, Moorhen, Kingfisher, Crow, Fan Tailed Warbler, Water Pipit, House Sparrow.
Dave Warrington – Valencia Birding