Sunday, April 19, 2009

Easter in Spain - Day 5

Monday morning was another 06:00 start with a more distant trip, this time to a an area of mixed habitat but with the only good weather forecast of our stay in the Cataluña region, so we were all in a good mood as we set off.

On arrival at Aigua Molls we parked-up on the far side of the nature reserve and look around for waders. There were plenty of Wood Sandpipers, Black-winged Stilts and Redshank all joined by a single Spotted Redshank, which is the bird with the larger bill:

On the bank in front us, whilst we were watching the waders, a Cetti’s Warbler mooched around looking for food:

Marsh Harriers were present in remarkable numbers throughout the day:

Though as you can see from this shot the promised sunshine had yet to appear, in fact clouds were blowing across from the Pyrenees:

We sat in one hide with a Swallow’s nest inhabited by three Barn Swallows, the mystery was solved when on exiting the hide a little later the third bird followed us out leaving the nest's occupants in peace. Perched just outside the hide a pair of Barn Swallows were perched and communicating:

though it appeared one of them wasn’t listening to the other:

The noisy one was left on its own:

We walked around the reserve between the hides, looking for migrants and the more unusual birds typically located here and spotted Moustached Warbler amongst others. An adult Osprey flew over and landed on the far side of a flooded field and proceeded to bathe vigorously before taking off and then shaking itself dry like a dog about ten metres above the ground, which it did three times before soaring higher. We saw three Ospreys in all around the reserve. Bouncing around a tree in blossom a Willow Warbler:

We only heard a single singing Willow Warbler across the four days. Next up we cruised around a number of small ponds and reed-beds looking for Crakes and Rails but with no joy. The weather continued to close in and by now it was showering. We did however spot a new species, the Red-rumped Swallow, though it was moving too fast for a photograph, and saw a pair of Marsh Harriers and a female Peregrine Falcon sat in a muddy field. The water levels in most of the places we visited were the highest in memory and a lot of birds had therefore been pushed away from their usual spots. Next up we stopped at an entrance to Cap de Creus National Park, looking for Wryneck. The path was lined with wild French Lavender:

Unfortunately the field was covered, literally, in discarded shotgun shells. The number of spent cartridges was such that the impression was a group has stood in one area and shot anything that moved:

No sign of the Wrynecks or the Little Owls, just the abundant signs of the locals' 'love' of the countryside, with discarded shells everywhere, literally hundreds of them, it reminded me of some of the lakes and ponds in the UK where they shoot ducks. No sign of any resident birds in fact however a small group of migrant Blackcaps lifted the gloom and a lone Short-toed Treecreeper passing through:

We also found out on this trip that the RSPB’s Royal Charter forbids it from opposing shooting, as this was a condition of the charter upon grant. This means the RSPB (note the word protection) and all its members are conserving land and birds for those with guns to then shoot, which is a farcical situation, we’re actually helping preserve birds to be shot by the lowest form of life, people who choose to kill for pleasure. The RSPB should drop the R, and replace it with a B for British, renouncing any royal connections, and then oppose all those who kill birds whoever they are. Maybe then when a couple of young lads shoot a pair of Hen Harriers the BSPB might speak up against such willful destruction and against the royal family who use their vast land holdings for annual slaughters. They truly represent the nadir of humanity along with anyone else who kills for fun.

Oh and it was raining too.

We headed back to the main reserve via the formal entrance for our packed lunch, watched by Sparrows, Starlings, Serins and White Storks. This one was bored with the weather too:

From the main hide (number 10) we watched Purple Heron coming into land:

And spotted a Little Gull amongst the Whiskered Terns. This bird merited a closer look so we walked along the covered walkway trying to pick out the singing Nightingales to the next hide where I got this snap. Note the very black under-wing plumage that distinguishes the bird:

On our way back to the car a Reed Warbler settled in a tree above us, providing an unusually clear view of the bird:

More White Storks were hunting for food in the fields:

And at the last hide we stopped at a group of four Garganey drakes were keeping close to a lone female, who as well as enjoying all the attention appeared to have made a choice by singling out one male, which she was staying close to:

She climbed onto a small island for a rest and he circled back to join her. The reserve itself is in a beautiful location and one of the few places in Spain where shooting is banned. We’ll be back:

So back in the car as the clouds melted away and the sun shone, to pack for the onward trip on Tuesday morning to Seville and fingers crossed for some decent weather!

New Species for the day:

Red-rumped Swallow

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