Julian Sykes Wildlife Holidays

Plains, Cranes & Wildfowl

9th - 15th November 2007

Report by Julian Sykes

9th November :- Met Richard & Jane Palmer, Michael & Wendy Ball, Don MacBean, John Thorogood and John Tookey on time & set off straight away to Monreal del Campo & our accommodation for the next two nights. Due to their afternoon arrival we didn’t have much chance of any birdwatching but en-route we did see Common Buzzard, Sparrowhawk, Common Kestrel, Spotless & European Starlings, Crested Lark, Magpie and Carrion Crows.

10th November :- After a quick early morning coffee, we headed out to the plains of Blancas and during our pre-breakfast visit we saw 2 Red Kites, Common Buzzards, Kestrels, Little Owl, Lapwings, a large flock of Rock Sparrows and Linnets, Tree & House Sparrows, Calandra, Crested & Skylarks,  Spotless Starlings, Carrion Crows and Magpies. After breakfast we drove out the same way again, the weather conditions were perfect with clear blue skies and more surprisingly no wind. We soon added most of the same species plus 4 Hen Harriers including a gorgeous male, then beyond Blancas we climbed on to the steppes area and our initial birds included more Red Kites, Rock Sparrows, Thekla & Skylarks. Then an impromptu stop produced a fantastic hour's birdwatching with our first 6 Black bellied Sandgrouse as we got out of the vehicle followed by Griffon Vultures , Red bellied Choughs some superb views of a (2nd or 3rd year) Golden Eagle being tracked by a Red Kite, which then flushed 7 Little Bustards plus Southern Grey Shrike, 2 Little Owls, Thekla Larks & Raven. On a real high from this spectacle, we continued driving some of the tracks in the area finding another 15 Black bellied Sandgrouse plus more Thekla Larks and 2 Little Owls. The journey over the plains towards Gallocanta Lagoon produced our first Red legged Partridges, Hen & Marsh Harrier. Then a small lagoon just outside Bello produced our first 200+ Common Cranes along with Grey Heron, Common Coot, an amazing flock of 50+ Ravens, lots more Red Kites, Griffon Vultures, Goldfinches, Rock Sparrows and Linnets. We eventually left and drove the short distance to Bello for our lunch during which we watched a male Black Redstart plus Raven and Red Kite. After lunch we spent the afternoon visiting several watchpoints around the edge of Gallocanta Lake that unfortunately was mainly dry although we did find more than 10,000 Common Cranes, and as dusk fell lots more were flying in 'bugling' from the out-lying cultivated fields making a fantastic spectacle. Other birds we found in the area included Lapwings, Little Stints, Dunlin, 2 Merlin, Kestrels, Griffon Vultures, Rock, Tree & House Sparrows, Cettis Warbler, Stonechat, White Wagtail, Serins, Chaffinches, 5 Brambling, Goldfinch, Linnets, Zitting Cisticola, Great Tit, Reed & Corn Buntings, with (heard only) Water Rail, Bluethroat & Bearded Tits. However, one big highlight was finding a fairly rare bird for this region, a Grey Phalarope feeding actively in the mud, a very, very unusual bird to find in inland Spain.!!!! As darkness fell we returned to our hotel elated with such a fantastic day's birdwatching.

11th November :- After breakfast we loaded the vehicle and spent the morning travelling to Catalonia. The journey took us through some fantastic scenery & towns and en-route we saw Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, Buzzard, Griffon Vultures, Mistle Thrush Blackbird and White Wagtails until eventually we reached the road for Mont Caro, which is the highest peak in the Els Port Reserve. A drive to the top ( 1442m) was punctuated with stops where I saw a Peregrine (briefly), Griffon Vultures, Serin, Chaffinch, Firecrest, Long Tailed Tits and Ravens. At the summit we had a short walk to the viewing platform affording tremendous views out over the whole of the Ebro Delta. It was here that we got fantastic views of a pair of Crossbills drinking from a trough plus several Black Redstarts and more Griffon Vultures. Near the summit we went for our lunch 'al fresco' during which we saw Coal & Crested Tits, Chaffinches and a Robin then afterwards we left the mountain range and drove the short distance to the Northern Ebro Delta. It didn't take long before we were watching lots of Cattle & Little Egrets, Black headed, Yellow legged & Lesser Black backed Gulls feeding behind a tractor ploughing one of the many paddy fields in this area. Also while we were there we witnessed a Peregrine attacking a flock of European Starlings, plus Great White Egret, Grey Herons, Common Buzzard, Sparrowhawk, Lapwings, Green & Common Sandpipers, Ringed Plovers, Hoopoe, Woodpigeon and White Wagtails. Finally before going to our hotel near San Carles de Rapita we visited the lagoon at El Garxal where we found Cormorants, Great White Egrets, Shovelers, Marsh Harriers, Purple Gallinules, Moorhen, Grey Plovers, Common Snipe, 40+ Spotted & Common Redshanks, Greenshanks, 120+ Ruff, Audouin's Gulls, Sandwich Tern, Kingfishers, Crested & Lesser Short toed Larks, Meadow Pipits, Zitting Cisticolas, Stonechats, Magpies, Greenfinches and Reed Buntings.

12th November :- With the hotel situated on the coast with a scrubby area near the entrance a short walk before breakfast produced Audouin's & Black headed Gulls, Sandwich Terns, Hoopoe, Black Redstart, Robin, Sardinian Warbler and Blackcap. After breakfast we drove on to the south side of the Delta and another impromptu stop at a rice field being ploughed produced many of the previous day's species plus our first Glossy Ibis and our only Water Pipit. We then made a quick visit to San Jaume before heading out to L’Alfacada finding more Great White Egrets, 250+ Glossy Ibis, Greylag Geese, Shelducks, lots of duck including Mallard, Teal, Red Crested Pochard, Gadwall, Wigeon, Shoveler, Shelduck, plus Marsh Harriers, Booted Eagle, a Peregrine being mobbed by a Kestrel, Purple Gallinules, good views of a Water Rail, 3 Wood & Green Sandpipers, Lapwings, Common Snipe, Kingfishers, Tree & House Sparrows, Goldfinches and Reed Buntings. After lunch we then visited the excellent new reserve of Riet Vell before moving to the nearby Tancada area. The two sites produced Great Crested, Black necked & Little Grebes, Cormorants, Grey Herons, Great White, Little & Cattle Egrets, 2000+ Greater Flamingos, Mallard, Shoveler, Red Crested Pochard, Marsh Harriers, 50+ Purple Gallinules, Moorhens, Common Coots, several Grey, Kentish & Ringed Plovers, Bar tailed Godwit, 70+ Spotted & Common Redshanks, Greenshanks, Common & Green Sandpipers, 2 Turnstones, Little Stints, Dunlin, Sanderling, Mediterranean & Slender billed Gulls, Sandwich Terns, Woodpigeons, Kingfishers, Crested & Lesser Short toed Larks, Zitting Cisticolas, a single Moustached Warbler, Cetti's Warblers, a male Bluethroat, Black Redstarts, Magpies, House & Tree Sparrows. We had spent a lot of time at these two places so we made our way back to the hotel and came across a magnificent sight of 100,000+ Common Starlings coming together to roost. We watched for 30 minutes as these birds created a visual aerial display and for some of us the highlight of the day.

13th November :- We decided to spend our last couple of hours birdwatching on the Southern Ebro Delta at the huge lagoons of Encanyissada where we found lots more wildfowl including - 3 Red Breasted Mergansers, Tufted Ducks, 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, Green Sandpiper, Kingfishers, Zitting Cisticolas, Cetti's Warblers, Chiffchaffs, Black Redstarts, Bluethroat, and Reed Buntings. The journey back to Valencia Airport was fairly uneventful apart from 2 Booted Eagles seen over the miles and miles of orange grove on the Valencia coastline.


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