Thursday, March 9, 2017

Escaping wet, wild & windy France for the tranquil peace of Emporda

So I've made it into Spain at last, way behind any schedule I may have aspired to and already I've had to accept that my travels will not take me any further than somewhere south of Valencia - its not worth chasing about and a leisurely 3 weeks on the east coast of Spain in Spring is the best option I have after my various disruptions.

I've already made it down to the Ebro Delta but that I'm saving for my next post. My first Spanish destination is the wetlands of Emporda, deep into Catalan country.

The weather all the way from Saint Flour into southern France was totally dire, I'd wanted to stop around Perpignan but it was cold, raining and very windy so I didn't bother. I pressed on, skirting the Pyrenees at Perthus and into Spain. The Aiguamolls d'Emporda in Cataluna is one of the best wetland areas in northern Spain. Last time I was here was just a fleeting visit en route to Ebro, I was impressed then, so gave the place a good couple of days this time around.

Corn Bunting, nr Empuriabrava, 04/03/17
Farmland nr Empuriabrava
After a grueling 4 hr drive all I wanted to do was stop the van, have a cup of tea and get my feet up - so that's just what I did (one of many benefits of campervan!). Anywhere will do and I found myself in a patch of typical Spanish farmland just outside Empuriabrava. Couldn't rest, had to walk and was straight into singing Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps, Cattle Egrets, Crested Larks, Corn Buntings, Meadow Pipits and huge flocks of House Sparrows - nothing special, just lots of birds and in sharp contrast to the neat and tidy, intensively farmed fields in the UK. Fat chance of it ever happening but a bit more mess around our farms and farmland and we might get our flocks of Sparrows and Corn Buntings back.
Farmland nr Empuriabrava


Farmland nr Empuriabrava

Farmland nr Empuriabrava

Farmland nr Empuriabrava

Farmland nr Empuriabrava - old style irrigation methods

Wild flower fields nr Empuriabrava with the Pyrenees in the background




Later on I found a good overnight for the van in a car park next to the beach at San Pescadore and took a walk down the beach. Earlier on, the Pyrenees, an ever present force on the skyline around here were looking serene and majestic but come late afternoon a huge thunderstorm with lots of fork lightning made for some great light for these wader shots ....







Dunlin & Grey Plover, San Pere Pescadore, 04/03/17

Dunlin, San Pere Pescadore, 04/03/17

Throughout the day and alerted by their constant calling, I'd had several flocks of Common Cranes heading north high overhead. This small flock made it over the Pyrenees ok but a similar sized group an hour later hit the storm and I watched them make a swift u turn!

Common Cranes, very high & northward bound, over Empuriabrava, 04/03/17



Estany de Vilaut, 05/03/17
Next day and the day after I did the two main birding sites in the area - El Cortalets and Estany de Vilaut. The former being the main, visitor centre type thing, and the later the more wild wet fieldy sort of thing!


Estany de Vilaut, 05/03/17

El Cortaletts, 06/03/17
Cracking birding without anything megatastic at both, lots of ducks including Wigeon & Pintail and Greylag Goose is always a good record for Spain. About 10 Water Pipits, lots of Water Rail, White Stork, Black Tailed Godwit, Green Sandpiper and a pair of Egyptian Goose mating whilst I was snapping some nice male Shoveller were some highlights.

Mating Egyptian Geese, El Cortalets, 06/03/17












White Storks, El Cortaletts, 06/03/17

Grey Herons coming into roost, Estany de Vilaut, 05/03/17

White Storks into roost, Estany de Vilaut, 05/03/17
 El Cortalet has to have one of the highest and most spectacular bird hides ever ...
Bird hide at El Cortalett with the Pyrenees as a backdrop!

In one of the other hides there I was buzzed by this bee, big black thing I don't know the name of but probably quite common around here ...


Bee species, El Cortaletts, 06/03/17


Cattle Egret with frog, Estany de Vilaut, 05/03/17

Northern Shoveller, El Cortaletts, 06/03/17

Pintail, El Cortaletts, 06/03/17

Marsh Harrier, El Cortaletts, 06/03/17
Although its nice and warm by UK standards and lots of sun, Spring is only just beginning even here ... some but not a profusion of wild flowers, some but not clouds of butterflies and only the odd Swallow every now and then. Not a single Yellow Wagtail or any warbler other than Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Sardinian and ubiquitous Zitting Cisticolla. No worries, its good to wait!


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