Sunday, December 16, 2012

Another amazing day at the Valencian Coastal Wetlands!

On 4th December, we arranged a trip to the Valencian Coastal Wetlands for a group of 8 local birders. After the obligatory morning coffee, we parked the van near the beach. The day got off to a fantastic start the moment we got out of the van with immediate views of a Kingfisher perched on a reed overhanging a small canal. Things then turned from the sublime to the ridiculous as a bright green bird flew by…one that we identified as a budgerigar!! After some discussion about whether we could include it on the list, we headed to the first lagoon.

A chiffchaff, the first of many for the day was flitting around, soon to be joined by a Black Redstart. The lagoon held Shoveler and Teal and the surrounding reed beds were being patrolled by a Marsh Harrier.

A stroll up the coast gave good views of Stonechat, Northern Wheatear, Hoopoe and Reed Bunting. Then another oddity…an unusual bird and one that we had clear views of for a good 10 minutes. The firm consensus of opinion within the group was that we were looking at a Desert Wheatear, a real rarity for Spain. We´d had great views and everything pointed to Desert Wheatear. (Having consulted with the rarities committee, the only other possibility is a leucistic Stonechat).  This was followed with sudden and superb views of a Booted Eagle, the low winter sun illuminating its plumage magnificently.

Booted Eagle

As we watched the next lagoon, the bushes around the shore gave brief but good views of a pair of Sub-Alpine Warblers. Crag Martins were around in good numbers and we enjoyed further views of Marsh Harriers.

After lunch we walked through more reed beds and out into some rough pasture land where we saw an Iberian Grey Shrike, Sardinian Warbler, Lapwing and a Hen Harrier. The day was brought to a close with a visit to another coastal lake where we saw dozens of Cormorants coming in off the sea, Coot, Shoveler and finally three Purple Swamphens.

Another great visit to this very special area that always delivers at least one surprise!

The day´s species list included :
Booted Eagle, Buzzard, Hen Harrier, Iberian Grey Shrike, Kestrel, Marsh Harrier, Black Redstart, Blackbird, Crag Martin, Desert Wheatear, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Hoopoe, House Sparrow, Kingfisher, Magpie, Northern Wheatear, Pied Wagtail, Reed Bunting, Robin, Skylark, Spotless Starling, Stonechat, Wood Pigeon, Chiffchaff, Fan Tailed Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Sub-Alpine Warbler, Coot, Little Grebe, Mallard, Moorhen, Pochard, Purple Swamphen, Shoveler, Teal, Cattle Egret, Grey Heron, Lapwing, Little Egret, Cormorant, Yellow Legged Gull

December on the Steppe.

Distant views of Great Bustards
Distant views of Great Bustards
On Tuesday 11th December Dave provided a guided trip for a local group of birders. We decided upon the steppe and lagoons of Castilla de la Mancha as the venue. Despite being a little chilly, we were fortunate in that there was no wind and a clear blue cloudless sky.  As we scanned the surrounding plains from our first stopping point we saw a distant flock of Great Bustards although they were too far away to provide good views, even with the scopes.

We hoped for further sightings later in the day so set off to check out what was on the first lagoon of the day. Shovelers were on the water in good numbers as were Shelduck and Greater Flamingo.  A Corn Bunting was perched on a near wire closeby and a Tree Sparrow was seen on a ruined building.

Corn Bunting
Corn Bunting

The second lagoon of the day held Coot, Pochard, Little Grebe and Teal. As we enjoyed our lunch by the shore, we were delighted to see first a Marsh Harrier, then two Red Kites. A little later, a Sparrowhawk settled in a tree close by.  We then headed out across the steppe, stopping at various places along the way to scan the surroundings. We enjoyed views of Crested Lark, Calandra Lark, Iberian Grey Shrike, and a Little Owl. Then, we finally found two separate flocks of Great Bustards. We were able to watch them for quite some time, and at quite close range.

Scanning across the steppe gave good views of Great Bustards, Calandra Larks and Hen Harrier
Scanning across the steppe gave good views of Great Bustards, Calandra Larks and Hen Harrier

As the day drew to a close, some patches of flood water gave good views of Kentish Plover and Red Crested Pochard. The day ended on a high with distant but clear views of a male Hen Harrier.

Red Crested Pochard
Red Crested Pochard

This area is always worth a visit at any time of year. With some effort and a little patience it reveals some superb species and today had been no exception.

The day´s list included :
Black Redstart, Calandra Lark, Chaffinch, Corn Bunting, Crested Lark, Goldfinch, House Sparrow, Magpie, Skylark, Spotless Starling, Stonechat, Tree Sparrow, White Wagtail, Hen Harrier, Iberian Grey Shrike, Little Owl, Marsh Harrier, Red Kite, Sparrowhawk, Great Bustard, Greater Flamingo, Kentish Plover, Lapwing, Red Legged Partridge, Coot, Mallard, Pochard, Red Crested Pochard, Shelduck, Shoveler, Teal

David Warrington

Written by David Warrington.
Bird Watching Guide at Valencia Birding.