Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Birding in the reserves of Albufera de Valencia


Last Friday I had pleasure to providing a trip for two clients, one from USA and the other from England.  They were both extremely experienced birders and whilst at a congress in Valencia they were keen to fit in some guided birding in the reserves of Albufera de Valencia.
As they were on a very tight schedule, I opted to take them to three of Albufera´s best reserve areas, as a way of maximising the species that they would see.
The first stop was in an area of forest and lagoons, where we could had great views of a colony of Sandwich Terns and Common Terns.  In the breeding season, this is one of the hotspots of Albufera.  A hybrid Tern, very similar to an Elegant Tern was also nesting here.
Another amazing sight was the endangered Marbled Duck and the ever popular Sardinian Warbler.
Next stop was in a restricted reserve area within the marshes, where we were delighted to see Great Reed Warbler and Little Bittern, plus a rarity for Spain, the Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, a bird normaly found in Siberia.

On our way to the last spot, we made a brief stop to admire a pair of Turtle Doves, a species that is in decline, and for one of the clients, a new sighting.

To finish this great day, we visited a reserve area by the beach, where Kentish Plover and Collared Pranticole were nesting.  It was wonderful in so many ways…magnificent landscape with a blue Mediterranean sea and dozens of Sanderlings decorating the beach!
It was great to spend the day with these excellent birders, and I hope they will return to enjoy another trip with us.
Species List:
Flamingo, Glossy Ibis, Purple Heron, Grey Heron, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Great Egret, Squacco Heron, Little Bittern, Little Grebe, Moorhen, Purple Swamphen, Audouin Gull, Shelduck, Red-crested Pochard, Common Pochard, Mallard, Slender-billed Gull, Black-headed Gull, Mediterranean Gull, Sandwich Tern, Common Tern, Little Tern, (Hybrid) Tern, Avocet, Black-winged Stilt, Spotted Redshank, Black-tailed Godwit, Curlew Sandpiper, Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, Collared Pratincole, Sanderling, Little-ringed Plover, Kentish Plover, Swallow, House Martin, Sardinian Warbler, Spotted Flycatcher, Common Reed Warbler, Great Reed Warbler, House Sparrow, Tree Sparrow.

Birds and conservation in Valencia


One of our key operating principles, and something that we never compromise on is that we always endeavour to tailor every trip exactly to the needs, interests and wishes of the client.  It was therefore a great pleasure to provide a day of guided birding for a small group of clients from USA, who wanted to focus on bird watching, but who also wanted to learn something of the local conservation efforts, the local traditions and culture and to see the habiats and eco-systems of Albufera de Valencia.
After the short drive from their hotel in the city centre of Valencia, we began our day with a brief explanation of the geography and topography of the Albufera Natural Park.  We then visited one of the park´s best nature reserves, where we enjoyed some great views of species such as Purple Heron, Little Bittern and Glossy Ibis.  We enjoyed a particularly good view of a Squacco Heron.  This amazing bird appears to be a fairly indistinct creature from a distance, but upon closer viewing, reveals beautifully delicate tones and a stunning blue bill (in the breeding season).
Squacco Heron
Squacco Heron
All very knowledgable nature lovers, the group was interested to know how birding and conservation in Valencia is developing.  Some of the group were heavily involved with environmental education in the USA, so they were keen to see the work that goes on here in Spain.  After a walk through the reserve, we provided a presentation on the history, functionality and eco-systems of the reserve, together with a summary of the educational aspects of its work.
The wetland habitat of Albufera de Valencia
The wetland habitat of Albufera de Valencia
We then strolled back through the reserve, and enjoyed watching other bird species such as Fan-tailed Warbler, Red Crested Pochard, Greater Flamingo and Cattle Egret.  At this time of year, the rice fields are currently being sown and flooded.  After a brief discussion on the rice growing cycle, and its influence on the local bird life, we headed for a local village where we enjoyed a traditional Albufera lunch of paella and another local delicacy, eels.
Flooded rice fields at Albufera de Valencia
Flooded rice fields at Albufera de Valencia
Once re-fuelled and rested, we then made a short trip across the rice fields to visit another, smaller reserve, hoping to see Night Heron.  We were rewarded with quality views of a small colony of these extremely elegant birds.
Night Herons with a Squacco Heron
Night Herons with a Squacco Heron
To provide this trip had been a real pleasure for me, and to spend the day with such enthusiastic, knowledgable and indeed kind people added to the memory.
The species list for the day included…
Grey Heron, Purple Heron, Squacco Heron, Little Bittern, Night Heron, Little Egret, Cattle Egret, Common Sandpiper, Black-winged Stilt, Glossy Ibis, Moorhen, Coot, Greater Flamingo, Little Grebe, Mallard, Pochard, Red-crested Pochard, Yellow-legged Gull, Black-headed Gull, Audouin´s Gull, Common Tern, Little Tern, Gull-billed Tern, House Sparrow, Spotless Starling, Fan-tailed Warbler, (Cetti´s Warbler heard).

Birding at the Wetlands of Valencia


Last week, Yanina and I teamed up to provide a day of guided birding at the wetlands of Valencia for a very experienced couple of birders from the Netherlands.  They wanted to combine a short break in this magical Mediterranean city with a day of birding in the local costal marshes and lagoons.
After the short drive from the city centre, and a morning coffee stop by the beach, we began to explore the coastal lagoons and surrounding reed beds.  As one of the clients was a very knowledgable bird photographer, we concentrated our efforts on a relatively small area of the reserve, hoping for some key target species and aiming to obtain some quality photos.
One of the highlights of the first lagoon was the extremely rare White-headed Duck.  We also had good views of Little Bittern and Great Reed Warbler.
As we headed along the coast, we were treated to some superb views of the fascinating Collared Pratincole.  The coastal scrub also held Stonechat, Whinchat and Crested Lark.
Collared Pratincole
Collared Pratincole
The next lagoon gave good views of waders including Ringed Plover, Kentish Plover, Curlew Sandpiper and Little Stint.
After lunch on the pebble beach, we headed for the day´s final lagoon where we enjoyed great views of Purple Swamphen, Glossy Ibis, Red-crested Pochard and Whiskered Tern.
Glossy Ibis
Glossy Ibis
It had been a great day, and we´d seen some of Valencia´s classic wetland species.  As is so often the case, the blend of wonderful bird life, great habitat, and good company had made the day very special.
The species list included…
Common Tern, Little Tern, Sandwich Tern, Whiskered Tern, Black-headed Gull, Black-winged Stilt, Common Sandpiper, Wood Sandpiper, Redshank, Ringed Plover, Little Ringed Plover, Kentish Plover, Avocet, Glossy Ibis, Collared Pratincole, Little Stint, Gadwall, Pochard, Red-crested Pochard, Mallard, White Headed Duck, Black-necked Grebe, Little Grebe, Coot, Moorhen, Purple Swamphen, Grey Heron, Purple Heron, Squacco Heron, Little Bittern, Greater Flamingo, Little Egret, Cattle Egret, Crested Lark, Stonechat, Whinchat, Reed Warbler, Great Reed Warbler, Fan-tailed Warbler, Spotless Starling, Yellow Wagtail, Swallow, Swift, House Martin.

Steppe Birds of Spain


Last week, we provided a guided birding trip for a couple from Yorkshire, UK.  They were keen nature lovers and were very interested to see the steppe birds of Spain whilst they were on holiday in Valencia.

Typical steppe habitat
Typical steppe habitat

Having collected them from their hotel in the city, we made the journey inland and up onto the high plateau of Castilla de la Mancha.  After a morning coffee stop and a briefing on the species that we were likely to see, we headed across the rolling plains where had great views of Crested Lark and Calandra Lark.
Crested Lark
Crested Lark
The first lagoon of the day held Common Tern, Whiskered Tern and Gull-billed Tern and Greater Flamingo.  We enjoyed some typical sounds of summer, including the song of Skylark and Corn Bunting.
We spent the rest of the morning at another great spot, a lagoon fringed with reed beds.  Here we had wildfowl including Shelduck, Gadwall and Red-crested Pochard.  We also enjoyed two especially colourful species, the Hoopoe and Bee Eater.
Before we headed up onto the higher steppe, we made a brief stop at a small lake where we had views of Little Ringed Plover, Wood Sandpiper, and a Rock Sparrow on nearby ruined barn.
The high steppe eventually gave us views of one of the day´s key species – the Great Bustard.  Initially we spotted two males, albeit at long range.  Then our patience was rewarded with great views of a group of 12 birds.  At the same time, we were also fortunate enough to see two Lesser Kestrels, another typical steppe bird.
Great Bustards
Great Bustards
The trip was brought to an end at one of the regions larger lagoons, where we finished the day with views of Black-necked Grebe, Avocet and Common Sandpiper.
The species list for the day included…
Skylark, Crested Lark, Calandra Lark, Bee Eater, Hoopoe, Corn Bunting, House Sparrow, Rock Sparrow, Goldfinch, Spotless Starling, Crow, Jackdaw, Magpie, Whinchat, Collared Dove, Swallow, Swift, Yellow-legged Gull, Black-headed Gull, Common Tern, Gull-billed Tern, Whiskered Tern, Greater Flamingo, Common Sandpiper, Wood Sandpiper, Little Ringed Plover, Redshank, Black-winged Stilt, Lapwing, Avocet, Great Bustard, Mallard, Shelduck, Red-crested Pochard, Pochard, Gadwall, Coot, Moorhen, Little Grebe, Black-necked Grebe, Buzzard, Kestrel, Lesser Kestrel, Iberian Grey Shrike.

Birding at Albufera de Valencia


One of the most enjoyable aspects of being a birding guide is meeting some truly nice people, and spending time in fabulous surroundings, combining the bird life with great company.  This certainly proved to be the case last week when I was fortunate enough to provide a day of guided birding at Albufera de Valencia for a family from Belgium.
All experienced ornithologists, they were on holiday in Valencia and were keen to see the areas bird life and habitats.
We began our day at one of my favourite reserves, and were immediately treated to views of a pair of Merlin.  This was closely followed by Glossy Ibis, Purple Heron, Snipe and Black-winged Stilt.
As we walked through the reserve, scanning the reed beds and lagoons, we had great views of Purple Swamphen, Marsh Harrier, Squacco Heron and Fan-tailed Warbler.  Although not seen, we heard the calls and song of Cetti´s Warbler, Savi´s Warbler and Reed Warbler.
Purple Swamphen Photo courtesy of Ewout Ruysbergh
Purple Swamphen
Photo courtesy of Ewout Ruysbergh
Perhaps the highlight of the trip for our clients was a great view of an Osprey.  These magnificent birds of prey regularly stop at Albufera de Valencia during their Spring and Autumn migration.
Osprey Photo courtesy of Ewout Ruysbergh
Photo courtesy of Ewout Ruysbergh
We then drove the short distance to another little known reserve area, that is usually good for waders and wildfowl.  Today was no exception with great views of Garganey, Ruff, and Black-tailed Godwit.
Garganey Photo courtesy of Ewout Ruysbergh
Photo courtesy of Ewout Ruysbergh
The day had been a success, with a species list of almost 40 species, including…
Merlin, Marsh Harrier, Osprey, Booted Eagle, Buzzard, Glossy Ibis, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Grey Heron, Purple Heron, Squacco Heron, Little Bittern, Snipe, Purple Swamphen, Black-winged Stilt, Dunlin, Ruff, Black-tailed Godwit, Greater Flamingo, Common Sandpiper, Redshank, Garganey, Mallard, Red-crested Pochard, Gadwall, Shelduck, Coot, Moorhen, Little Grebe, Great-crested Grebe, Fan-tailed Warbler, (Cetti´s, Reed and Savi´s Warbler all heard), Swift, House Martin, Sand Martin, Blackbird, Spotless Starling.

Easter Birding in Valencia


On Easter Saturday, Yanina and I arranged a day of guided bird watching to the Valencian Coastal Wetlands.  At Easter Birding in Valencia is especially rewarding as many of the summer visitors are returning to their breeding grounds in our local wetland reserves.
We gathered in central Valencia before making the short journey to the reserve that we´d selected for today´s trip.  After a morning coffee, looking out across the calm waters of the Mediterranean, we began our walk along a coastal dune system.  The first lagoon gave good views of waterfowl including Pochard, Red-crested Pochard and Little Grebe.

Little Grebe
Little Grebe
As we walked further into the reserve, the second lagoon provided a spectacular sight of seven male White-headed Ducks, one of Europe´s rarest and arguably most attractive ducks.  We also had great views of Flamingo, Purple Heron, Glossy Ibis and Marsh Harrier.
White Headed Duck
White Headed Duck
We then took in an area of coastal scrub, and were treated to views of Wheatear, Stonechat, Whinchat, Sub-alpine Warbler and Spotless Starling.  We also had a good view of Audouin´s Gull and the beautiful Collared Pratincole.
Collared Pratincole
Collared Pratincole
After a picnic lunch on a pebble beach, we headed inland to an area of pasture with a couple more small lakes.  We had a good view of a Woodchat Shrike, whilst a Booted Eagle passed overhead.  The shallow lakes held Ruff, Wood Sandpiper, Black-winged Stilt, Garganey and Shoveler.
Yellow Wagtail
Yellow Wagtail
Whilst scanning over an area of reeds we were then treated to what was for many, the highlight of the day – a pair of displaying Hen Harriers.  Their close proximity and the spectacular flight display was indeed a memorable sight.
Birding in Valencia
The trip ended with a short visit to another lake, where we brought the day to a close with views of Purple Swamphen, Little Ringed Plover and Hoopoe.
It had been a fantastic way to spend the day ; great habitat, fabulous weather, some amazing birds and fantastic company.
The species list for the day topped 50 species, and included :
Pochard, Red-crested Pochard, Mallard, White-headed Duck, Garganey, Shoveler, Little Grebe, Great-crested Grebe, Moorhen, Coot, Cormorant, Yellow-legged Gull, Black-headed Gull, Audouin´s Gull, Common Tern, Greater Flamingo, Purple Heron, Grey Heron, Little Egret, Glossy Ibis, Black-winged Stilt, Little Ringed Plover, Kentish Plover, Wood Sandpiper, Ruff, Collared Pratincole, Purple Swamphen, Robin, Blackbird, House Sparrow, Tree Sparrow, Collared Dove, Ring-necked Parakeet, Spotless Starling, Magpie, White Wagtail, Yellow Wagtail, Fan-tailed Warbler, Sub-alpine Warbler, Chiffchaff, Wheatear, Stonechat, Whinchat, Hoopoe, Swift, Swallow, House Martin, Booted Eagle, Kestrel, Marsh Harrier, Hen Harrier, Woodchat Shrike.