Monday, May 21, 2018

πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡Έ NE SPAIN 2018 ~ Days 9

πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡Έ☀️🌩21C Monday 21st May 2018 ~ Aiguamolls de l'EmpordΓ  Natural Park protects one of 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 and rice fields is an area we last visited in 2016. It forms part of the Bay of Roses and, like the Ebro Delta, was a malarial swampland. The marshland lies between the Rivers FluviΓ  and Muga and is the second largest wetland in Catalonia at over 4,800 hectares, established in 1983.

Nesting White Stork completely unfazed!
For the next couple of days, we'll been roaming various parts of this vast reserve beginning today at the Nature Centre in El Cortalet. Obviously, a good place to start to investigate the integral parts of the reserve. Things got off to a good start as while driving down the access road three Wild Boar crossed the road in front, forcing some evasive manoeuvres! All around the parking area and along the access lanes White Storks abound, the one above nesting in the car park.

Purple Heron ~ Unfortunately moving away
We began at the two hides which overlook Estany (lagoon) del Cortalet where the first birds of note were Black-winged Stilt, and a couple of Cattle Egret. Towards the rear of the lagoon Purple Gallinule, Purple Heron in flight and a couple of Whiskered Terns.

Cattle Egret doing what they do!
With too many cyclists up and down the track, we doubled back to take the trail that leads down to the Estanys del Mata, a great area for waders with plenty of shallow brackish water. Along the trail, there are various stopping points to look across the grassy meadows and rice fields. Species observed or singing along the route included Water Rail, Melodious Warbler, Nightingale, Blackcap, Bee-eater, Monk Parakeet, Cetti's Warbler and over the meadows Zitting Cisticola, Iberian Yellow Wagtail and Crested Lark.

Greater Flamingo on the Estanys del Mata
Our visit two years ago was in late April when the reserve was much quieter, with the local campsites not yet open. Today, with the sites now open it was incredibly busy. This included not only many of the nearby campsite visitors but several very noisy school parties, with even noisier teachers! The hides were a nonsense, I've never known any reserve to allow dogs in hides and the noise emanating as we approached made a mockery. The majority of visitors were non-birders, with several coach parties from France too and from my experience, both the French and Spanish do not know the meaning of stealth and can be heard from many meters away. This detracted greatly from the days birding but we persevered for a while but called time on the reserve when we reached Estanys del Mata.

Black-winged Stilt
We did get the chance to scan here when we found a relatively quieter spot and despite most birds to the far side of the shallows, I wonder why? we did manage a good count.

Ringed Plover ~ Over 30+
Wood Sandpiper
This included Squacco Heron, Grey Heron, Ringed Plover, Little-ringed Plover, Common Sandpiper, Wood Sandpiper, both Temminck's and Little Stint, two flyby Collared Pratincoles and both Whiskered and Gull-billed Tern.

Dazza's close up views of White Stork feeding on what looks like Crayfish
We found sanctuary to the north of the reserve after a 10-minute drive to the Estany Europa and spent the remainder of our visit here enjoying the three 'quieter' hides. Highlights included close up views of feeding White Storks and Coypu.

Coypu ~ Photo by Dazza