Friday, December 30, 2011

A Christmas Trip to the Valencian Coastal Wetlands.

Following a cool frosty night, the morning dawned bright and by the time we´d arrived at the café bar by the beach, the sky was a watery blue, blending almost seamlessly with the Mediterranean horizon.

Today´s guided trip by was provided for an English lady new to birding and was bought for her as a Christmas gift by her husband. During our coffee break by the sea we discussed the day´s target birds and I provided an outline of the habitat of the Valencian Wetlands and the birds that spend the winter months here.

Our first stop by a small lagoon and reedbeds gave good views of Chiffchaffs busily feeding amongst the reeds, plus the day´s first sighting of one of the target birds –Purple Gallinule. This stocky bird with its stunning purple sheen and comically huge feet has done extremely well over the past couple of years and has established breeding grounds throughout the Mediterranean coastal wetlands.

As we walked along the coast we were treated to views of a Dartford Warbler, soon to be followed by another stunning little bird, the Bluethroat. The next lake held Teal and Shoveler, both in good numbers, most of which appeared to be sleeping until startled into activity by the passing of a Marsh Harrier. Further sightings of 3 more Purple Gallinules were enjoyed too.

As we made our way back through the coastal scrub to the next lagoon, we watched numerous pairs of Stonechat, a passing flock of Greenfinch, a Meadow Pipit, Hoopoe and a Kestrel which allowed us to pass very close-by, seemingly at ease with our presence. A pair of Booted Eagles passed high overhead, another superb bird that appears to be doing well in this area.

A lunch break in a hide overlooking a much larger lake gave further views of Teal plus Grey Heron, Kingfisher, Sardinian Warbler and yet more Purple Gallinule. Although not seen, we heard the call of Cetti´s Warbler. A flock of Yellow Legged Gull rested on the water whilst a Little Grebe busily dived for food. Another highlight of the day was enjoyed as we were able to enjoy great views of a Hen Harrier hunting over the reedbeds.

The afternoon sun continued to shine, making the next section of walking through fields and lakeside tracks extremely pleasant. Robins were active in good numbers, Stonechats were in constant attendance, Spotless Starlings passed overhead and the surrounding meadows held good numbers of Lapwing. We enjoyed further views of the pair of Booted Eagles seen earlier. Another special moment was in store when an Iberian Grey Shrike perched just 15 metres from us, giving excellent views of this very smart bird.

As the day drew to a close and we made our way back to the beach, the wind suddenly picked up bringing in dozens of Cormorants and Gulls. As we enjoyed this influx we were treated to another beautiful spectacle as a flock of 20+ Greater Flamingoes flew by, the low afternoon sun illuminating their striking pink plumage.

A fitting end to a very pleasant day. We´d managed to see 33 species in just a few hours. I´d had a great time and very much enjoyed the company of my guest who appeared to be becoming hooked after her first days birding!
David Warrington.
Bird Watching Guide -

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