La Safor Birders are a small group of Birdwatchers based in the mountain village of La Drova in the La Safor region of the Valencian Community. The key members have a long experience of birding both here in Spain, the UK and elsewhere. The purpose of the blog is to provide a forum for recording species seen throughout the year in La Drova whilst also acting as a base upon which to record specific birding trips throughout our local area.
Last week I had the pleasure of providing a couple of days of guided bird watching for a client from UK. He was staying close to the town of Xativa, a short drive from Valencia and had previously contacted me to arrange two specific trips.
His choice for the first of his 2 day birding trip in Spain was a day on the high steppe and plains of Castilla de la Mancha.
A very keen and experienced birder, he was eager to see the species that this very special environment holds, especially the Great Bustard. He was accompanied by his wife on our first day, also a knowledgable birder and nature lover.
After the obligatory morning coffee, we headed out across the plains and made our first stop to scan this vast area. The first sighting was of a Hoopoe and a small flock of Crested Lark. As yet…no Great Bustard!
The plains of Castilla de la Mancha
We then travelled to one of my favourite lagoons of this area, and opted for a lengthy stay here as it´s a spot where patience is often rewarded. Upon scanning the water, we enjoyed views of Black Necked Grebe, Teal, White Headed Duck and Greater Flamingo. The shoreline held Ruff, Black Winged Stilt, Little Ringed Plover and Little Stint, and also gave a brief view of Water Rail.
Black Necked Grebe
We then turned our attention to the tall pines on the edge of the lagoon and were rewarded with good views of a Melodious Warbler. As we watched the mixed flocks of Swallows, House Martins and Swifts that were passing through on migration, we were fortunate to pick out a few Alpine Swifts.
After lunch we spent the afternoon on the high steppe. The first thing to catch our attention was a sizeable flock of Lesser Kestrels that were slowly moving from pylon to pylon, and perching for enough time to give us some great views. Whilst watching these graceful little falcons, we also had a view of an Iberian Grey Shrike.
Iberian Grey Shrike
As we moved higher onto the steppe, we stopped at another of my favoured spots where we were fortunate to see Stone Curlew and a Black Bellied Sandgrouse.
As our day drew to a close, we´d still not seen the day´s main target, the Great Bustard. Despite taking a detour and scanning the steppe, still no luck. However, we were satisfied with some great views of some superb species, so headed for home.
Then, just a couple of kilometres prior to joining the motorway something caught our attention. We pulled off the road, took out the scopes and focussed in on a group of male Great Bustards! What a magnificent end to a great day. We celebrated with a coffee before making the journey back to Valencia.
The choice of venue for the second day was Albufera de Valencia. This wetland of significant importance is home to some of Valencia´s best nature reserves. We were fortunate to spend the morning in one such reserve where the staff treated us to a very special visit. First, we walked through the reserve, looking out over the reedbeds and lagoons which gave views of Glossy Ibis, Squacco Heron, Little Bittern, Purple Heron, Great Crested Grebe and Gadwall. We also had views of an Osprey on passage.
We were then accompanied to a highly protected area of the reserve where we had views of Marsh Harrier and a passing Honey Buzzard. The reserve staff were manning a ringing station and had Reed Warbler and Bluethroat in the mist nets. We had been told of a rarity that had been spotted that morning, a Citrine Wagtail. After a few moments, a little patience and some good fortune gave us views of this delicately marked wagtail.
Glossy Ibis and Little Egret
After lunch we made a brief visit to a spot that often gives good views of Glossy Ibis, Squacco Herons, and Black Tailed Godwit. Today was no exception. These were also joined by Cattle Egret, Purple Heron and Common Sandpiper. We ended the day at a small protected reserve where we enjoyed some great waders including Temminck´s Stint, Little Stint, Wood Sandpiper, Dunlin and Curlew Sandpiper.
It had been a pleasure to spend a couple of days with such an enthusiastic birder, and to provide something bespoke for him.
The species list for the two days included :
Kestrel, Lesser Kestrel, Marsh Harrier,Iberian Grey Shrike, Osprey, Honey Buzzard, Swift, Alpine Swift, Swallow, House Martin, Sand Martin, Magpie, Crow, Wood Pigeon, Kingfisher, Citrine Wagtail, Spotless Starling, Hoopoe, Great Tit, Crested Lark, Skylark, Melodious Warbler, House Sparrow, Stone Curlew, Black Bellied Sandgrouse, Great Bustard, Greater Flamingo, Black Winged Stilt, Ruff, Ringed Plover, Little Ringed Plover, Little Stint, Temminck´s Stint, Water Rail, Glossy Ibis, Curlew Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Wood Sandpiper, Dunlin, Black Tailed Godwit, Grey Heron, Purple Heron, Squacco Heron, Little Bittern, Little Egret, Cattle Egret, Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Black Necked Grebe, Coot, Moorhen, Mallard, Teal, Gadwall, White Headed Duck, Shoveler, Cormorant, Audouin´s gull, Black Headed Gull, Yellow Legged Gull, Gull Billed Tern, Common Tern, Whiskered Tern, Little Tern