Julian Sykes Wildlife Holidays

Plains, Cranes & Wildfowl

7th - 11th December 2007

Report by Julian Sykes

7th December :- Met Chris at Valencia Airport and drove the short distance to Moro Marsh where we spent a few hours checking the lagoons and the sea. Here we found Great Crested, Black necked & Little Grebe, Gannet, 2000+ Cormorants, a single Balearic Shearwater, Grey Heron, Cattle Egret, 4 Grey lag Geese, Mallards, 200+ Teal, 200+ Shoveler, Wigeon, Pintail, Gadwall, Coot, Marsh Harriers, Kestrels, Yellow legged & Black headed Gulls, Sandwich Terns, Skylarks, White & Grey Wagtail, Stonechats, Kingfisher, Black Redstarts, Chaffinches, Southern Grey Shrike, Spotless Starlings and Reed Buntings. After our lunch we headed towards Teruel and with the new highway now completed we were soon well north and inland, so en-route we stopped for a coffee and a quick look around the area, which produced 10+ Siskins, Goldfinches, Chaffinches, Mistle Thrushes, Raven, Carrion Crows and another 2 Southern Grey Shrikes. We continued north adding Common Buzzard to the list and we ended with a short trip out on to the Steppes of Blancas just before dusk which produced 4 Red billed Choughs around the farm buildings.

8th December :- The morning started with a drive towards Blancas and a couple of stops produced several Red Kites, Common Buzzard, Hen & Marsh Harrier, Kestrels, Rock, Tree & House Sparrows, Linnets, Skylarks, Calandra & Crested Larks, 4 Red billed Chough, Carrion Crows and Magpie. A drive around the tracks above Blancas paid dividends with 10+ Black bellied Sandgrouse, Thekla Larks, Southern Grey Shrike, Goldfinches, our first few Griffon Vultures and fantastic views of a Raven mobbing a sub-adult Golden Eagle. We returned to Blancas and headed out towards Gallocanta Lake finding a small flock of Cirl & Rock Buntings, lots more Tree & Rock Sparrows, Linnets, Calandra Larks, Skylarks, a group of 10+ Red billed Chough plus a Peregrine sitting on a pylon. At Gallocanta we first visited the information centre encountering our first large flocks of Common Crane plus a few more Hen Harriers and Common Buzzards. Next we had a coffee stop at the excellent Albergue Allucant before driving out to the Laguna de la Zelda, which was unfortunately dry but we did find two very large flocks of Calandra Larks and Linnets with more Kestrels, Hen & Marsh Harriers. We then returned to the Gallocanta Lake and spent some time searching the large finch and sparrow flock finding 3 Bramblings, Greenfinch, Serins, Chaffinches, Goldfinches, Linnets, Rock & Tree Sparrows. It was now time for lunch stop we drove through to Bello seeing a Sparrowhawk and an adult Golden Eagle en-route completing a wonderful mornings birdwatching. After lunch we started by driving the tracks to the east of the lake doing very well finding another Golden Eagle with lots of Red Kites, Common Buzzards, Griffon Vultures, Hen Harriers, large flocks of Calandra & Skylarks, Linnets, Goldfinches, Little Owl and a flock of 20+ Black bellied Sandgrouse feeding on the ground. It was now time to visit the observation tower on the south side of Gallocanta Lake and from here we saw most of the 11,000+ Common Cranes in the area, plus 15 Hen Harriers, 10 Marsh Harriers, Grey lag Geese, Lapwings, single Wigeon, 20+ Pintail, 20+ Common Teal, Mallards, Stonechats, Reed & Corn Buntings. Yet another fantastic day in this very special area.

9th December :- An early start saw us driving through to Alcañiz on very quiet roads. Just outside Monreal we encountered a large flock of Jackdaws along with 40+ Red Kites, several Common Buzzards and Griffon Vultures. We had our breakfast not far from Alcañiz, then continued on to Els Ports Mountain Reserve but before getting there we stopped at the Rio Matarraña finding Meadow Pipit, Sparrowhawk, Chiffchaff, Cormorants, Kingfisher, Blackcaps, Sardinian & Cetti's Warbler, Song Thrushes, Cirl Buntings, Rock Sparrows, Robins, Goldfinches & Chaffinches. At Els Ports, we drove into the heart of the reserve, first stopping at the view point where we found yet another adult Golden Eagle perched on the cliff-top plus Griffon Vultures, Ravens, Mistle Thrush, Blackbirds and Chaffinches. Further along the valley we stopped and went for a walk which produced more Griffon Vultures, Sparrowhawk, White & Grey Wagtails, Wood Pigeons, Firecrests, Goldcrests, Dunnock,  Blue Rock Thrush, Song Thrushes, Blackbirds, Robins, Black Redstart, Long tailed, Crested, Great & Blue Tits, Short toed Treecreepers, Nuthatches, Jay and a single Common Crossbill, plus we also saw 3 Iberian Ibex and a Red Squirrel. The drive through to the Ebro Delta produced a few Serins and a couple of Crag Martins along the River Ebro. At the Delta we visited the area around Fangar Bay where we found 500+ Balearic Shearwaters, Great Crested Grebes, Cormorants, Grey Herons, Little & Cattle Egrets, Marsh Harriers. Moorhen, Common Snipe, Lapwings, Yellow legged, Lesser black backed & Black headed Gulls, 10 Whiskered Terns, Kingfishers, Crested Larks, Meadow Pipits, Zitting Cisticola, Cettis Warbler, Bluethroat, European Starlings, House Sparrows, Goldfinches and Reed Buntings.

10th December :- Today the weather was going to be a feature with gale force winds blowing all day, despite this we still had a great day. The morning was spent on the south side where we visited Riet Vell, Laguna de Tancada and Alfacada, and at El Garxal on the north finding Great Crested & Little Grebes, 1000+ Balearic Shearwaters, Cormorants, Grey Herons, Little, Cattle & Great White Egrets, Greater Flamingos, Shelducks, Mallard, Red Crested Pochard, Gadwall, Shoveler, Pintail,  Marsh Harriers, Kestrels, Purple Gallinules, Moorhens, Common Coots, 200+ Avocets, 250+ Golden, 50+ Grey, 200+ Kentish & 50+ Ringed Plovers, 70+ Spotted & Common Redshanks, 20+ Greenshanks, 20+ Wood, Green & Common Sandpipers, Lapwings, Common Snipe, 300+ Little Stints, Dunlin, 200+ Sanderling, 40+ Turnstones, 30+ Ruff, Black headed, Yellow legged, Black headed,  Audouin's & Slender billed Gulls, Sandwich Terns, 10+ Kingfishers, Lesser Short toed & Crested Larks, Skylarks, White Wagtails, Grey Wagtail, Meadow Pipits, Zitting Cisticolas, Cetti's Warbler, Chiffchaffs, Sardinian Warblers, Robins, 2 Bluethroats, Black Redstarts, Stonechats, Magpies, European & Spotless Starlings, House & Tree Sparrows, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, and Reed Buntings. Our return at dusk was back across to the south side and at  Encanyissada we found 40+ Marsh Harriers roosting together making a brilliant end to the day.

11th December :- Our first good bird of the day was a Common Scoter flying south past the hotel along with lots of gulls and Sandwich Terns. Again it was very windy but we decided to spend our last few hours birdwatching at the huge lagoons of Encanyissada where we found lots more wildfowl including - a female Tufted Duck, Wigeon, Red Crested & Common Pochards Teal, Gadwall, Shoveler, Mallard 2000+ Common Coot, plus Great Crested, Black necked & Little Grebes, Great White & Little Egrets, Marsh Harriers, Purple Gallinules, 20+ Common Snipe, 12 Grey Plovers, Kingfishers, Zitting Cisticolas, Cetti's Warblers, Chiffchaffs, Black Redstarts, and Reed Buntings. We now headed south and just beyond Sant Carles de la Rapita we stopped for lunch and saw Great Crested Grebes, Audouin's & Yellow legged Gulls over the sea, the journey back to Valencia Airport was quiet arriving back in plenty of time for Chris's flight.


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