Saturday, May 07, 2016

Birding Spain - Aiguamolls de l'Empordà

On completion of our first week here in Spain, where did that go? We headed towards the coast once more to visit the Natural Parc of Aiguamolls de l'Empordà. This Natural Park protects the most important remaining wetlands on the northern Costa Brava coast. Vital as a staging area for a wide variety of water birds, this network of freshwater and brackish lagoons, marshes, grazing meadows, rice fields etc. is an area we've been looking forward to visiting.

A few members of the White Stork colony
On the drive up to the nature centre we checked out a few open fields for Stone Curlew and weren't disappointed, with a couple of birds located. A Cuckoo was also perched up on a nearby fence, Zitting Cisticola overhead and distant calls of Bee-eater. As you approach the centre the amazing bill-clattering of White Storks alerts you to the large colony which resides here.

Whiskered Tern over the open waters
After checking out the centre we headed off onto the reserve, which is well equipped with observation areas, hides and is well signposted. The first hide provided an array of species and got the visit off to a terrific start. A couple of Great White Egrets first and at least a half dozen Whiskered Tern were feeding over the open water, a single Black Tern mingled in.

One of three Squacco Heron seen today!
Two Collared Pratincole were also over the pools, along with the usual Hirundines and Swifts, including Pallid Swift. The reedbed was alive with noise, the sedate sounds of a Reed Warbler muffled out by the gruffer song of Great Reed Warbler. Cetti's Warbler next, then Water Rail and the first of three Squacco Herons appeared out in the open!

Lost count of Nightingales today!
The 6km walk had a Nightingale singing every 20 yards, or so it seemed and sometimes showing very well. Along the tree lined paths observation areas had been thoughtfully cut and here Fallow Deer could easily be observed, some bouncing through the rice fields.

Fallow Deer
Occasionally a Yellow (Blue-headed) Wagtail Motacilla flava iberiae  would appear on top of the stalks and our first Purple Heron of the day, at least six in total. One area held five Cattle Egret, with a single Little Egret for company and a lone Hoopoe flew past. As we set off once more after having lunch on one of the observation decks a Little Bittern literally rose above the reed bed only yards from us. Terrific views as the bird disappeared into the undergrowth.

Dee's excellent photo of Melodious Warbler.
We paused for a while at another observation area, where a Melodious Warbler was hammering out his song. We finally connected after what seemed an age and enjoyed some excellent views before moving on. Dee managed a superb photo, dragging herself away from a European Green Lizard she'd been trying to photograph!

A resting Collared Pratincole
We finally emerged onto the Estanys del Mata, a large marshy area which was literally awash with waders! Black-winged Stilt were abundant and so too Wood Sandpiper. Also recorded in our first half hour were various numbers of Common Sandpiper, Greenshank, Redshank, Snipe, Little-ringed Plover, Ringed Plover and a solitary Glossy Ibis was feeding out towards the middle.

Wood Sandpipers everywhere during our visit.
After a while we caught up with a group of birders who seemed to be interested in a particular area and thankfully one or two were English. Birding is indeed a lottery as we arrived just in time to see a Red-throated Pipit, which offered excellent scope views before moving off. Shortly after at least three Collared Pratincole at rest and the final birds of note for the visit included Temminck's Stint and Marsh Harrier, plus Pied Flycatcher, Serin and a Golden Oriole was heard on route back to the centre.

A few other record images of the day

Black-winged Stilt

Glossy Ibis
Tree Sparrow

Purple Heron

Yellow (Blue-headed) Wagtail Motacilla flava iberiae

European Green Lizard