Friday, January 27, 2012

Combine Guided Bird Watching in Spain with a City Break or Beach Holiday

As it´s the time of year when thoughts are turning to the warmer months ahead and of holidays in the sun, we´re all thinking of how we can maximise our precious free time and of course value for our hard earned cash.
These days, more people are opting for a vacation that provides the opportunity to enjoy outdoor activities rather than just a beach holiday or sight-seeing trip. However, it´s often the case that to indulge in a favourite hobby whilst away, one has to opt for a specifically organised activity holiday.  Here at Valencia Birding, we recognise that such a holiday may not suit all members of a family or party and therefore aim to provide our clients with absolute flexibility and superb value for money.

The stunning Bee Eater is a regular summer visitor to Valencia.

We offer anything from a full week of Guided Bird Watching for groups of up to 8 people, inclusive of accommodation to a day trip that can be arranged for a couple or individual who happen to be holidaying in Spain and quite fancy a Guided Bird Watching trip as part of their other plans.  Increasingly, we´re finding that our clients are opting to combine a day or two Guided Bird Watching with a city break to Valencia or a beach holiday on the Spanish Mediterranean Coast.

Guided Bird Watching for Groups of all Sizes

Valencia is a thriving city that manages to combine centuries of tradition and historical monuments, buildings and squares with stunning contemporary architecture, and a beautifully clean, golden beach.

The City of Arts & Sciences, Valencia

Running right through the city from the historical quarter to the stunning City of Arts & Sciences is a unique green “arterial walkway” that follows the original line of the (re-routed!) river Turia. This is now a green ribbon of beautiful parkland planted with a vast array of native plants and trees, play areas, sports grounds and leafy areas perfect for picnics.
Our local area of La Drova is situated in the mountains at a height of 1,200 feet above sea level. The surrounding mountain views are breathtaking and the peaceful location makes it ideal for nature lovers. For those who enjoy the beach life, Gandia´s Blue Flag Award winning beach is only 20 minutes drive away, as is the cosmopolitan town centre. Channel 4´s A Place In The Sun visited recently and were amazed to find such a well kept secret!

Views from our home base of La Drova

The bird life in this area is extremely diverse and provides something of interest throughout the year. Within a comfortable day trip we can provide our clients with a wide selection of Guided Bird Watching. This includes the coastal wetlands of Valencia where we can enjoy Glossy Ibis, Spoonbill, and White Headed Duck, the rocky peaks of Valencia where we can watch the mighty Griffon Vulture and beautiful Bee-Eater and Blue Rock Thrush or for something very different we can visit the high steppe of Castilla de la Mancha. Here we can enjoy views of Great Bustard, Black Bellied Sandgrouse, Hen Harrier and much more.

The Griffon Vulture breeds on the high mountain crags of Valencia

So, if you´d like to be taken to the best birding sites in the East of Spain by an experienced local Guide without having to commit to a “birding only” holiday, feel free to contact us :

Call 0034633117310

David Warrington
Bird Watching Guide at Valencia Birding.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Alpine Accentors!

Today´s outing was not specifically a birding trip and more of a walk to the top of one of our local mountain peaks.  Such is the beauty of the route, it´s one that we enjoy two or three times per year and today´s trip was timed to coincide with the visit of one of my favourite and most character-full of mountain birds, the Alpine Accentor.
The initial walk up through the steep forest gave good views of Chaffinch, Long Tailed Tit, Great Tit, Robin and the beautifully marked Firecrest. This area is also a frequent haunt of Blue Rock Thrush although we didn´t see any today.

The Peaks of Valencia

As we emerged from the tree line we rested in the sunshine on a shoulder just below the summit ridge. Within minutes, we were rewarded with views of 3 Alpine Accentors perched on a rock on the skyline. As we watched, further individuals flew in, apparently interested in whether they could share our lunch! As we sat there, we were joined by up to 20 of these stocky little birds, their red-brown flanks and white throat patches flecked with black showing clearly.

Alpine Accentor

After the climb up the steep shady forest, it was fantastic to sit here in the sunshine at over 1000 metres above sea level with Alpine Accentors for company! As we enjoyed the views across the peaks, Crag Martins passed by and we were treated to an aerobatic display by a pair of Ravens.

This is a route that we willingly repeat, each season offering its own delights. From the very spot that we enjoyed our lunch with Alpine Accentors, we´ve previously been rewarded with views of Griffon Vulture, Golden Eagle and Alpine Swift.
Written by David Warrington

Monday, January 9, 2012

Winter Birding in Castilla de la Mancha

Today´s trip was a joint effort arranged by Valencia Birding and La Safor Ornithological Society, a Spanish group based in our local town of Gandia. The area visited was the same as that taken in on our “Steppe & Lagoons” trip and visits the high plains of Castilla de la Mancha, just over a hour´s drive from the Mediterranean coast.
To make the most of the day and to have the best chance of seeing the target species we left our home base at 6.30am and after a couple of pick ups we were up on the steppe by 8.30am. The early start was rewarded by a stunningly beautiful and crisp morning. The temperature gauge was showing -6 degrees C and a sharp frost was evident although fortunately there was a complete lack of wind as we made our first stop.

Winter sunshine on the plains of Castilla de la Mancha   
As we scanned across the vast plains we were fortunate enough to see a dozen Great Bustards resting in the early morning sunshine.
Having enjoyed some super views we headed back to the van and drove along our usual track out over the fields.

Great Bustards 

  We made a few brief stops, the first to watch another group of Great Bustards and the second to see another target bird, the delicately marked Black Bellied Sandgrouse. Although quite far off, we enjoyed good views through the scopes.

Scoping across the plains gave views of Black-Bellied Sandgrouse and numerous Great Bustard

Our next stop was at a small lagoon where we saw Shelduck, Teal, Mallard, a Common Sandpiper and a Lesser Black-Backed Gull. The next lagoon provided good views of Pochard, Red Crested Pochard, Shoveler, and Little Grebe. This is an area that has previously provided sighting of Hen Harrier although sadly, not today. However, we did enjoy good views of Marsh Harrier and Buzzard. A Black Redstart and a Stonechat moved through the bushes.
After a coffee break we headed off again across the plains where upon reaching a flooded area, we enjoyed good views of Snipe, Little Stint, Greylag Goose and a Corn Bunting. A little further on we stopped and enjoyed superb views of yet more Great Bustard plus small flocks of Calandra Larks and a pair of Cranes, another of the day´s target species.
headed for our final stopping point, we made a slight diversion to enjoy views of a soaring Golden Eagle, always a spectacular sight.
Our final viewing point was a large lagoon where we watched Greater Flamingo, Black Winged Stilt and yet more Shelduck. The bushes and trees around the shore held Iberian Grey Shrike, Tree Sparrow, Linnet and Cirl Bunting.
The day had been a great success and was enjoyed by all, especially those who enjoyed new “life ticks”. As the sun began to dip towards the horizon we made our way back down to the coast, feeling very privileged to have seen some magnificent birds.

The day´s list totaled 45 species, and comprised…

Black Bellied Sandgrouse, Black Redstart, Black Winged Stilt, Buzzard, Calandra Lark, Cattle Egret, Chaffinch, Cirl Bunting, Collared Dove, Common Sandpiper, Coot, Corn Bunting, Crane, Crested Lark, Crow, Fan Tailed Warbler, Flamingo, Golden Eagle, Goldfinch, Great Bustard, Iberian Grey Shrike, Greylag Goose, House Sparrow, Kestrel, Lapwing, Lesser Black Backed Gull, Linnet, Little Grebe, Little Stint, Magpie, Mallard, Meadow Pipit, Moorhen, Pied Wagtail, Pochard, Red Crested Pochard, Robin, Shelduck, Shoveler, Snipe, Spotless Starling, Stonechat, Teal, Tree Sparrow, Wood Pigeon.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

A morning at Albufera de Valencia.

On 3rd January we spent a few hours at the Natural Park of Albufera de Valencia, a coastal wetland site just south of the city of Valencia.  This site is of significant European importance and provides both critical breeding and wintering grounds for a vast range of species.  Today´s trip was not so much an intensive day´s birding, in fact we only had a couple of hours as the main purpose of the visit was a meeting with the management team of a relatively new bird reserve within the park.

The main lake of Albufera de Valencia

On the way, we made a brief stop at one of the nearby beaches where we were fortunate enough to watch a passing flock of Balearic Shearwaters, a bird that we´ve seen on a number of occassions over the winter.
Our first stop was to scan the (flooded) rice fields that surround the main lake.  We saw the main three Egret species; Little, Cattle and Great White plus hundreds of Shoveler in amongst which were Shelduck.  Yellow Legged, Lesser Black Backed and Black Headed Gulls were present in good numbers too.  We then moved on to a hide overlooking a smaller, sheltered lake where hundreds of Teal were over wintering.  We also enjoyed superb views of Marsh Harrier and Booted Eagle.  The seemingly ever-present Stonechats entertained us for a while but soon fled for cover as the Marsh Harrier made a low pass over the reeds.  We then scanned over the main Albufera lake where we enjoyed superb views of Red Crested Pochard, Pintail, Shelduck and a gathering of Sandwich Terns.

Cattle Egret

Time was running short so we headed off to our appointment where, following our meeting we were treated to a demonstration of a “green filter” project.  This is a truly impressive and completely natural method of significantly improving water quality through the use of strategically situated lagoons that contain a specialised mix of plants that aid the cleaning process by absorbing significant amounts of organic compounds.  The improved water quality and the knock-on effect of enhanced environment is already providing ideal breeding grounds for endangered species such as Crested Coot and Purple Gallinule.  Even in the few minutes that we had prior to our appointment, we saw Glossy Ibis, Purple Gallinule and more Marsh Harriers than I´ve ever seen in one place.
Even though we´d crammed in a little birding into what was a busy day, we still managed to see 44 species.  The list for the day comprised Balearic Shearwater, Black Headed Gull, Black Redstart, Blackbird, Booted Eagle, Cattle Egret, Chaffinch, Chiffchaff, Collared Dove, Coot, Cormorant, Crag Martin, Fan Tailed Warbler, Glossy Ibis, Goldfinch, Great Crested Grebe, Great Tit, Great White Egret, Grey Heron, House Sparrow, Kestrel, Kingfisher, Lesser Black Backed Gull, Little Egret, Long Tailed Tit, Magpie, Mallard, Marsh Harrier, Moorhen, Pied Wagtail, Pintail, Pochard, Purple Gallinule, Red Crested Pochard, Red Legged Partridge, Robin, Sandwich Tern, Shelduck, Shoveler, Spotless Starling, Stonechat, Teal, Yelkouan Shearwater, Yellow Legged Gull.

Monday, January 2, 2012

New Years Day birding trip

Jackie and I decided to forgo the invites to New Years eve parties and get up early to start our bird list for 2012. The weather forecast was good and I started of to our local patch (with our dog Skye) in La Drova to begin the list for the day. The highlights were a group of Rock Bunting, Serin, Sardinian Warbler, Blackcap, Black Redstart and Crossbill with a toatl list of 17 species in an hour.

After breakfast we headed for Oliva/Pego marsh which produced 3 Booted eagle, 4 Bluethroat, Marsh Harrier, Meadow Pipit, Little Egret, and Cattle Egret with a total count of 13 species.

Our next stop was the saline lake in the center of  Calpe where we stopped for a picnic lunch and watched a large group of Greater Flamingo sunning themselves in the middle of the lake along with numerous Cormorant. Also present were 2 Grey Wagtails, several Shelduck a solitary Little Ringed Plover and a Black-winged Stilt.
A total of 9 species.