Sunday, February 26, 2012

Strange garden bird

While relaxing on our terrace a strange bird appeared on the power line in front of the house. At the moment it is being looked at by the SOE. The Spanish equivalent to the RSPB Watch this space for a formal identification.

Strange bird in the garden

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A brief birding trip to our local marsh.

On Saturday, in between necessities such as a visit to the garden centre and the supermarket, my wife Carolina and I spent a couple of hours walking around our local marsh.  It´s always worth a look around here as there´s usually something of interest and it makes for a pleasant and easy spot of birding.
As it was afternoon, the gulls that can usually be found were absent, probably out on the coast.  The usual residents, Little Egret, Cattle Egret and Grey Heron were around in good numbers.  On the drier fields were large flocks of wintering Lapwing in amongst which were some fine looking Golden Plovers.
A Booted Eagle passed over, soon to be followed by a Buzzard.  The recent influx of Chiffchaffs was still evident, with Black Redstart, Stonechat and Meadow Pipit also around in good numbers.  Upon scanning around one of the quieter corners of the marsh we came across 20+ Snipe in a field, with Reed Buntings feeding nearby.
As we passed by one of the wetter areas we were also treated to great views of a Squacco Heron.  Although usually a summer visitor, a few often stay in this area for the winter.

Squacco Heron

Towards the end of our walk, we enjoyed views of the extremely pretty Bluethroat, a regular winter visitor to the Valencia region.  A Kingfisher whizzed past as we arrived back at the van, a fitting end to our short but most enjoyable outing.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Bird Watching at Albufera de Valencia.

On Tuesday I had the pleasure of providing a guided bird watching trip to Albufera de Valencia for clients William and Val from Cumbria.  Both skilled birders, having enjoyed many overseas trips they were keen to explore the Natural Park of Albufera.
Having provided a brief summary of the history and layout of the park, we drove across the northern rice fields where we saw hundreds of Little Egret and Grey Heron, and also picked out Reed Bunting and a Bluethroat.  We then moved onto one of my favourite “hidden corners” of Albufera and were immediately struck by the sheer numbers of Chiffchaffs.  The extremely cold weather that Europe is currently suffering has driven thousands of these tiny birds down the East coast of Spain, together with many Black Redstarts, Robins, and Siskins.

Chiff Chaff

We were then fortunate enough to enjoy close views of a Booted Eagle in flight, the sunlight showing off its colouration beautifully.  Marsh Harriers were around in good numbers too.  As we walked through the wetland habitat, we saw several Purple Gallinule and Snipe.  We also had good views of a Cetti´s Warbler and a Kingfisher.  Perhaps the best views were of a Bluethroat that showed very well for over 10 minutes.

A Hoopoe swooped down in front of us and lifted its crest , a strikingly beautiful bird.  Then a small flock of Black Winged Stilt flew gracefully by.
We then moved on to another regular spot where we had good views of Cattle Egret, Lapwing and a flock of over 200 Black Tailed Godwit feeding in a field.  After a brief lunch we focused our attention on the main lake for a while where we enjoyed good views of Pochard, Red Crested Pochard, Teal, Shelduck, Shoveler and Pintail. We then happened across a muddy field that surprisingly contained over 20 Snipe, almost invisible to the naked eye but exceptionally clear when viewed through the scope.
The final part of the day took us across the southern rice fields where we were treated to more super views of Booted Eagle and Marsh Harrier. By now, the sun was quite low in the sky and the day was giving way to a beautifully peaceful evening. Huge flocks of gulls were stood around in the fields, including Black Headed, Yellow Legged and Lesser Black Backed.  We also had good views of Great White Egret.  As we stopped to take a closer look at this amazingly graceful bird, we also came across a few Tree Sparrows in a nearby hedge.
As we travelled slowly across the fields, we were treated to a memorable spectacle as over 300 Glossy Ibis flew overhead before coming to rest nearby.  As the light was beginning to fail we made one further stop to scan a flock of Lapwing, in amongst which were good numbers of Golden Plover.
We´d had a great day out and had been treated to some classic Albufera birds. Our day list totaled 46 species and comprised…
Black Headed Gull, Black Redstart, Black Tailed Godwit, Black Winged Stilt, Blackbird, Bluethroat, Booted Eagle, Cattle Egret, Cetti´s Warbler, Chiffchaff, Collared Dove, Coot, Cormorant, Crag Martin, Fan Tailed Warbler, Glossy Ibis, Golden Plover, Goldfinch, Great White Egret, Grey Heron, Hoopoe, House Sparrow, Kingfisher, Lapwing, Lesser Black Backed Gull, Little Egret, Little Grebe, Magpie, Mallard, Marsh Harrier, Meadow Pipit, Pied Wagtail, Pintail, Pochard, Purple Gallinule, Red Crested Pochard, Reed Bunting, Sandwich Tern, Shelduck, Shoveler, Snipe, Spotless Starling, Stonechat, Teal, Tree Sparrow, Yellow Legged Gull

Written by David Warrington.

Bird Watching Guide at Valencia Birding.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

A Guided Bird Watching Trip to Albufera de Valencia.

Today´s trip was provided for two British birders who wanted to learn more about the extensive Natural Park of Albufera de Valencia.  Whilst the weather was dry, there was a very strong wind that limited what we would see, although a good days birding was enjoyed.
Our first stop was to observe a recent controlled release of Crested Coot.  This extremely rare bird has provided a challenge to conservationists so far but hopefully this season will see some breeding success.  We enjoyed good views albeit from far enough away as not to cause a disturbance.  We then walked across an area of reeds and small lakes where we enjoyed Reed Bunting, Purple Gallinule, Snipe, and a single Red Crested Pochard that has spent the entire winter with a flock of Common Coot.

We were also fortunate enough to enjoy good views of Flamingo, Great Crested Grebe, Little Grebe and Kingfisher.  We then made our way across the rice fields, in which we were happy to see hundreds of European Starlings. Valencia provides wintering grounds for many European Starlings that make the journey south each year to join their southern cousins the Spotless Starling.  The fields also provided views of Great White Egret, Yellow Legged and Lesser Black Backed Gull.
The wind was far too strong for anything to be perching on the poles in the main lake so we headed for the shelter of a hide, from which we saw Teal, Mallard, Shoveler, Pintail and Black Winged Stilt. A Marsh Harrier made several passes, causing the Teal to scatter. After a short while, a Booted Eagle arrived on the scene and eventually settled in a tree very close to the hide.

Booted Eagle

We then headed out across the southern side of Albufera, stopping at favourite spots along the way.  We enjoyed seemingly endless Cattle and Little Egret then stopped to scan a flock of Lapwing.  As we carefully watched we were able to pick out a few Golden Plovers in amongst them.
The day was made very special by a distant flock of large black birds, originally thought to be Cormorants.  As they came closer it became clear that they were indeed Glossy Ibis.  They settled in a field approximately 200 metres away. Our estimations put their number to be around 300 birds.
Despite the wind, a great guided bird watching trip to Albufera de Valencia was enjoyed by all.  Our species list for the day was :
Black Headed Gull, Black Redstart, Black Winged Stilt, Booted Eagle, Buzzard, Cattle Egret, Chiffchaff, Coot , Cormorant, Crested Coot, European Starling, Flamingo, Glossy Ibis, Golden Plover, Great Crested Grebe, Great White Egret, Grey Heron, Kingfisher, Lapwing, Lesser Black Backed Gull, Little Egret, Little Grebe, Magpie, Mallard, Marsh Harrier, Meadow Pipit, Moorhen, Pintail, Purple Gallinule, Red Crested Pochard, Reed Bunting, Robin, Sardinian Warbler, Serin, Snipe, Spotless Starling, Teal, Yellow Legged Gull.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Garden Watch

For a Southern English wimp outdoor birding was not an option today . The forecast was snow and wind with temperatures not rising much above zero. This is unusual for Spain but can happen when you live at 400 metres above sea level and the rest of Europe is in the grip of a cold snap. Even Majorca had snow on the beaches.
I decided to set up my camera by the lounge window do an English style garden watch.

I made sure that there was plenty of bird food in the feeders, fresh water in the bird bath and settled down to see what would turn up.


Chaffinch, House Sparrow and Greenfinch were the first to arrive closely followed by Blackbirds and Spotless Starling.
After about half an hour I was amazed to catch a glimpse of a Rock Bunting with its head jammed into the seed feeder. Obviously not used to free food.

The bird decided to fly into our plum tree just below the window and posed well for the next photo.

The Rock bunting was quickly followed by a Crested Tit, Great Tit and a female Blackcap among the Ivy. A Sardinian Warbler turned up for lunch but was too quick for a photo.

A blizzard stopped any more photo opportunities but the birds remained in the garden sheltering from the bad weather conditions.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Half Day Trip to the Mountains of Valencia

On Tuesday, I took two local British birders on a half-day trip to the mountains of Valencia. Before we set off on the short walk, we stopped for a coffee and were entertained by a pair of Short Toed Treecreepers and a group of Long Tailed Tits in the pine trees by the road.
We parked the van and set off into a beautiful rocky gorge. Within just a few minutes, we spotted a Black Wheatear, a special bird for today as it was a “life tick” for both of my guests. It sat around long enough for a few photos although it was quite a long way off. It was soon joined by at least 6 Black Redstarts and similar numbers of Blackcaps.

Black Wheater

As we made our way up the valley we were treated to stunning views of Griffon Vultures. It´s always incredible to see how such a huge bird can soar on the thermals seemingly without any effort whatsoever. We were fortunate enough to find a few at rest on the high cliffs so were able to get a few photographs.
Griffon Vulture

Whilst we were scanning the cliffs for more vultures, we saw Crag Martin, Rock Bunting, and Sardinian Warbler. A familiar sound caught our attention and sure enough, a pair of Ravens soon appeared in the sky above us.
Male Blue Rock Thrush

After a little time spent sitting in the afternoon sun we made our way back to the van. Before packing and departing, we scanned around one more time and were treated to superb views of both male and female Blue Rock Thrush.
A great way to spend half a day and within a few hours we´d managed to see…
Black Redstart, Black Wheatear, Short Toed Treecreeper, Blackcap, Long Tailed Tit, Serin, Raven, Chaffinch, Song Thrush, Blackbird, Robin, Griffon Vulture, Blue Rock Thrush, Sardinian Warbler, Chiffchaff, Crag Martin, Rock Bunting.

Written by David Warrington
Bird Watching Guide.