Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Birding Spain - Aiguamolls de l'Empordà Pt2

Having visited Natural Parc of Aiguamolls de l'Empordà for the first time on Saturday Dee and I returned today to cover the areas we'd missed around this vast Natural Parc and to try and catch up on a few missed species.

White Stork - An icon of the area!
We began near the River Muga and drove along the C-260 to the southeast corner of Castelló d'Empúries. Here there are three bridges with reeds and open water that are well worth investigating. Three raptors circling overhead turned out to be Common Buzzard and within the reeds Cetti's Warbler and the grating song of Great Reed Warbler. At least four Little Egret, Cuckoo calling and we unfortunately spooked a Purple Heron, which took flight and perched for a while on a nearby tree, a couple of White Stork flew overhead.

Woodchat Shrike - Always a delight!
About a half mile further on the terrain breaks out and offers some excellent habitat with flower meadow, trees, rocky areas and olive groves. There is an excellent walk, around 3km and in the gorgeous conditions Dee and I thoroughly enjoyed our time here. First species of note was a Woodchat Shrike, then two birds on the overhead wires turned out to be Lesser Kestrel, five seen in total. Plenty of butterflies on the wing mostly Wall Brown, Clouded Yellow, Red Admiral and Painted Lady, plus one or two Small Heath. A couple of Melodious Warblers were in full song and even a Common Chiffchaff joined in.

Record (heat-haze) shots of Roller - thanks to Dee!
More birds took the eye and in particular two, which turned out to be European Roller, in fact there were probably four in the vicinity while we were here. We stayed for a while to enjoy the birds and then took refuge from the sunshine for a while in a hide overlooking L'Estany de Vilaüt. Although there was still plenty of water here the best we managed was Greenshank, Redshank and Wood Sandpiper. When we emerged from the hide a Short-toed Eagle was perched on one of the pylons before moving off after a short stay.
Hoopoe - Heard most of the time but strangely seldom seen!
As per usual Nightingales were singing from every bush and Zitting Cisticola overhead! By the time we'd returned to the car Corn Bunting, Sardinian Warbler, Tree Sparrow, Crested Lark, Stonechat, Serin, Hoopoe and a Common Quail calling were all recorded.

Black-crowned Night Heron at La Massona
After a glorious morning and early afternoon the weather had begun to deteriorate and so our last ports of call were the hides at La Massona and Estany Europa. La Massona was pretty quiet but yielded Squacco Heron and our first Night Heron of the visit. The drive across to Estany Europa produced some excellent views of Golden Oriole and the pools and reedbeds held Little Bittern and a few additions to our holiday tally including: Kingfisher, Red-crested Pochard and even a Mute Swan.

Record shot of Bee-eaters at Estany Europa!
As we headed back to the car for our journey back to the Villa a surprise in the form of a Lesser-spotted Woodpecker and around a dozen or so Bee-eaters delighted us while feeding over the grassland area.