Saturday, April 18, 2009

Easter in Spain - Day 2

Chastened by our birding experience last Spring, i.e. heavy rain, snow and sleet, through the end of March into April, we had wisely chosen a weeks break, again around Easter, though this time in mid-April and in Spain, so we're guaranteed good weather and good birding!

The weather disagreed. The forecast for the first half of our holiday, with Stephen of Catalan Bird Tours, was miserable, either rain or heavy rain and no respite, so Stephen planned around the weather on the basis we wanted to fit in a number of diverse habitats during our four day stay with him.

Friday started with an 05:00 (Central European Time – 04:00 BST!) alarm and an 06:00 departure to the Delta de l’Ebre, or Delta del Ebre or Delta del Ebro depending on your politics and linguistic sensitivity to this part of the world. As we arrived the sun had risen and the clouds seemed 'light' above, though looming:














We stopped off in the first hide to look about, Hirundines flew around in good numbers and the reserve seemed quiet. We set off along a path with various signs, one proclaiming with pride that due to the protected nature of the reserve only 12 hunts are allowed each year! So if you work that out that's one every 10 days in the hunting/killing season then, how very reasonable and constrained of them, just enough time for the wildlife to relax and move back in before they set out to slaughter everything again...

We walked alongside a man-made channel on the edge of the reserve and added our first new species of the day, a Squacco Heron:




















The bird has a very delicate blend of plumage colours, and in flight is very reminiscent of the Indian Pond Heron, showing almost all white on the wing and body:



















The next picture was a 'must' seeing House Sparrows moving amongst a reed bed appearing as native as Bearded Reedlings:




















As we walked along it started to rain, a portent of the week ahead. A Purple Heron flew past and settled in another channel, alongside a Little Egret:















Four Spoonbill flew overhead and though we hoped to see them later on they proved elusive, though I did manage a snap of a Caspian Turn, en passant:




















We also saw our first Cattle Egrets amongst other birds. Stephen got us back into his 4x4 for a drive to some specific spots on the Delta he's familiar with. Along the way we stopped off at various points, getting good views of Wood Sandpiper:

















here a Greenshank and a Spotted Redshank:
















Just off the road we spotted a female Redstart moving along the fence of a house:


















Our next stop was entirely unplanned though part of the overall aspirations of the day, a lone flooded field (soon to be a rice paddy) full of Little Stint, you can see a few birds here:


















With one a little closer-up for reference:



















It was in this field we also saw our first Yellow Wagtail of our Spanish holiday - a bird of the flava nominate species:

















As you can tell the light conditions were very poor so I'm glad how sharp the image is considering. Meanwhile the weather was closing in again:














From the same field we also got to enjoy the sight of a small group of Flamingo flying past, rather like the traditional three ducks on a wall:














A little further along we parked-up alongside another man made channel to watch the Barn Swallows zooming about, occasionally one perched-up for a rest:
















We also stopped at various pools and lagoons to see what was about - here a lone Greenshank mooched about, seeking a meal:


















Our last birding before lunch was along a stretch of beach on the delta, where we got to see a number of migrants including a Sub-alpine Warbler, this male Redstart:



















A Black-eared Wheatear, a Woodchat Shrike, Whinchat:




















and some resident birds including Kentish Plover:













Audouin's Gull:















and Slender-billed Gull:


















Here a pair of Slender-billed Gulls, coloured pink by their diet looked set to mate but mostly just walked around 'two tall' before separating again:
















Lunch was at an offical visitor centre on the delta with a hide overlooking a lagoon, which itself was a great spot for some warming coffee and food and to avoid the rain!

Numerous species included Purple Swamp Hen, flighty Black-winged Stilts:




















Glossy Ibis:

















Moorhen and Coots, Mallards, Reed and Cetti's Warblers and a lone Zitting Cisticola, feeding around the base of some reeds on the way back to the car:




















From here, with the rain building but a very good first day's birding behind us we headed back to the house to prepare for tomorrow, a day on the Steppe, and in time to photograph the Crested Tit before it flew onto the feeder:



New Species for the day:

Little Stint
Curlew Sandpiper
Spotless Starling
Subalpine Warbler
Adouin’s Gull
Slender-billed Gull
Woodchat Shrike
Kentish Plover
Squacco Heron
Zitting Cisticola
(European) Serin

New species for Europe:

Glossy Ibis
Purple Swamp Hen
Gull-billed Tern
Caspian Tern
Whiskered Tern

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