Day 1. Albufera de Valencia
We start the itinerary with strong winds. After picking Deidre up from her hotel in Valencia, we set off to the 3rd largest wetland of Spain: the Albufera de Valencia. Our first stop is in the boarding walks and hides where we get a good number of Ruffs, Black-tailed Godwits, Black-winged Stilts, Greater Flamingos and other shorebirds. We notice that one of the Godwits has colour and flag rings and Pau points out that it must be a bird from Netherlands. Hundreds of these birds overwinter in the Albufera. In addition, along the track we manage to see 3 gorgeous Firecrests, Chaffinch and other common birds.
Our visit to the beach is not a very productive one. It seems that the strong wind has encouraged some people to practise Kitesurf and that must have put the shorebirds off. Nevertheless, we see some interesting birds in the surrounding forest and meadows: Spotless Starlings, Booted Eagles, Serins and Meadow Pipits. After that, we move to the lagoon in la Devesa where we get a dozen Black-necked grebes, Dunlins, Little Stints, Greenshanks and Shelducks. On the way back to the car, Deidre finds 2 approachable Hoopoes.
We drive towards flooded paddy fields seeing thousands of gulls (Black-headed, Lesser black backed and Yellow legged), Snipes, Green Sandpiper and Marsh Harriers. Later, we search the stubble fields and find 4 Bramblings among thousands of Chaffinches and a group of Tree Sparrows.
Day 2. The Steppes of Albacete
Today we join forces with Bob and his colleague. After a quick coffee to wake us up, we start birding in this superb area. Our first birds are a group of Spotless Starlings with a Staling perched in the church’s vane. Few minutes later, we get Rock sparrows and Corn buntings perched on a wire. Before we take the first track, Bob spots some large birds which turn out to be 3 Great Bustards. Later, we take a stroll adding Dartford Warbler, Sylarks, Crested, Thekla lark a far distant female Hen Harrier which is sadly just seen by Pau. On a second track, we find a Little Owl hiding in a pile of rocks. No wonder that Deidre is delighted as owls are her favourite birds.
Unfortunately, this year has been very dry and many of the temporary lagoons that are scattered among the steppes are completely dry. Pau suggests visiting a lagoon which has water to look for some specialities but before reaching it, he has to pull over so everyone can get out of the car and see a wonderful immature Golden Eagle. Fantastic! Finally we reach the lagoon to have our lunch and to add some new birds such as Water Pipit, Wigeon and Lapwings. Bob and Deidre spot 3 Red Kites which disappear behind the hills.
Our last stop today is in another lagoon where we enjoy 15 globally threatened White-headed ducks, Red-crested and Common Pochards, Ferruginous ducks and other species of wildfowl. Before we get into the car, a Sparrowhawk flies in front of us chasing the numerous finches that are feeding in the fields.
Day 3. Pego marshes and Alicante mountains
A lovely clear day followed. We meet with Tonny in Oliva and drive to Pego marshes. The paddy fields are flooded and there are great numbers of Cattle, Little and Great White Egrets. After playing hide and seek with some warblers, we get nice views of Cetti’s Warbler, Zitting Cisticola and a gorgeous Bluethroat in the reeds. We are delighted by a group of 4 Common Cranes flying over us.
After a coffee stop we move to the mountains. Soon we get a cloud of 200 Red billed Chough, a Raven, a Hawfinch and a Sardenian warbler. Later, as we drive towards Alcoi, we make a second stop to take a panoramic photography of these beautiful and rugged mountains. Pau finds a Crested Tit and a Dartford Warbler which keep moving and making difficult to get a clear view of these nice birds. We carry on towards Alcoi to see the Griffon’s vultures and Crag martins in the ravines. Although it is a bit late, Pau suggests a last stop in the Mariola mountains. It proves to be a good decision as we find a couple of Woodlarks next to the track, followed by Blue tit (uncommon specie in this part of Spain), Fieldfare, Short-toed Treecreeper, Siskins and a group of 6 Common Crossbills.
Day 4. El Fondo and Santa Pola Salt Pans
Our first stop is in the hills near el Fondo where soon we find Black wheatear, Thekla lark and a beautiful male Blue Rock thrush singing from the top of a pole. While we walk back towards the car, Pau calls “there is a raptor soaring” and there it is, a magnificent Bonelli’s Eagle which is followed later by another. This sight fills us with joy! After a coffee stop near el Fondo, we head off to the hides. A Red-rumped swallow stands among the Crag Martins and a group of 15 Common Kestrels hunting together dragonflies as if they were Lesser Kestrel. Along the boardwalk we get fantastic views of Purple swamp hens, Glossy Ibises and a couple of Red-knob Coots.
We move back to the coast to our last stop in the Salinas, where we add some new species: Audouin’s and Slender billed Gulls, Sanderlings, Redshanks and a fantastic Water rail walking along the shore.
Day 5. Gandia harbour and Marjal del Moro
Sadly it is our last day in this wonderful region. After check-out, we take a stroll in Gandia’s harbour seing Sadwich Terns, Mediterranean Gulls and few Balearic Shearwaters. Then, we set off to Gandia’s mountains trying to see some of the wintering Alpine accentors. After some search, we find 3 shy birds, not being able to see if they are ringed. They are part of a project run (by Pau’s colleagues) which aim is to know more about this population in Valencia and Alicante mountains.
Finally, the last stop is made in Marjal del Moro where Pau wants to show Deidre a Barn Owl roosting. Our last new birds are a couple of Kingfishers.
Many thanks to Deidre, Tonny and Bob for joining this adventure. Guys see you in the Pyrenees trip in May!
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Great crested Grebe
Great White Egret
Little ringed Plover
Lesser black-backed Gull
Iberian Green Woodpecker (h)
Blue Rock Thrush