Saturday, 1 April 2017

Rice fields and marshes around Valencia, 3 good sites

One act of careless stupidity on my behalf, the consequence of which was a trashed laptop, has meant I haven't been able to post, tweet, process my pics or do anything at all computer related from the day after I arrived at El Pinet to now being back in France! Actually, once I'd cried my tears of frustration, I've rather enjoyed being 'off grid' for a while. One of the few times I've missed having a smart phone though!

From top to bottom - Prat de Cabannes, I'Alberfura, Pego-Oliva marshes.
So this is the first of a couple of 'catch up' posts and covers the week or so I took to get down from the Ebro to El Pinet and El Hondo. I'm very grateful to my sis & Mark for the lend of a big flat screen to sort stuff out - although battered, the laptop still kinda works if attached to a monitor, so here's the pics from the 3 sites I did around Valencia.

Singing Moustached Warbler, Prat de Cabannes, 13/03/17
A wet and windy morning at Prat de Cabannes (click for info) on the 13th March did not fill me with much optimism but birds were moving from early on and around the van in the car park I added Red Rumped Swallow, Sand & House Martin to the list before breakfast and then a walk around the reserve itself brought another, special addition - Moustached Warblers, 4 of them all singing and though elusive I managed a reasonable record shot of one of them after standing in the same spot for 30 minutes.

I remember coming to this place a couple of years ago on the hunt for these exquisite songsters and finding none, so 4 singing males and a half decent shot on a cloudy day was indeed a bonus.

On the fringes of Torrenostra & Torreblanca and their ever threatening resort developments, these marshes are vulnerable but I was pleased to see that habitat remains pretty much as it was the last time I was here.

Prat de Cabannes, on the edge of urbanisation
At the same site some small ducks in flight I couldn't quite identify turned out to be a small flock of Garganey, another new bird and further evidence of passage. I'd have loved to get a shot of them in flight but was so chuffed to get a good eyeful through the bins before they were gone and all that were left were the more abundant Red Crested Pochards.

Red Crested Pochard, Prat de Cabannes, 13/03/17
Prat de Cabannes
Next stop the area around Valencia's most prestigious reserve L'Alberfura. I may have missed a trick (entirely possible) but apart from the main visitor centre complex which is very sanitized, I found the best bits of the reserve to be inaccessible but some of the wet rice fields bordering the reserve around El Palmar were awesome places to wander around in. Found some great places to park the van and use as a mobile hide too!
Nr El Palmar, overnight and great viewing spot
Back end of a Booted Eagle booting it North, 14/03/17

More hirundine passage going on with scores of Barn Swallows, the occasional Sand Martin and single Osprey and Booted Eagle all over my van on the morning of the 14th March.

Wet rice fields around El Palmar

Rice fields at El Palmar with El Saler in the background
 In some of the wet rice fields around here I noticed large patches of what I at first took to be some kind of Water Violet but on closer inspection its a variety of Water Crowfoot ...
Water Crowfoot sp, El Palmar, 15/03/17

Nothing else out of the ordinary going on here though, although it was obvious that some birds were beginning to pass through it was by no means a torrent and judging by the number of Pipits, both Meadow and Water, and the absence of many warblers and still no Yellow Wags, wintering birds still predominate the rice fields here. A small flock of passage Ruff were good to stalk and get pics of and have to say if you want good views of Water Pipit  this is the time and the place!

Water Pipit, nr El Palmar, 15/03/17

Water Pipit, nr El Palmar, 15/03/17

Ruff, nr El Palmar, 15/03/17
El Palmar itself is predominantly a fishing village and much favoured by the Valencians because of its array of expensive fish restaurants. Me, I stuck to bread, cheese, pate and wine!
Traditional fishing boats, El Palmar

 The parque natural del Marjal de Pego-Oliva (click for info)was my final destination on this leg of the trip and like the previous time I was here it didn't disappoint. Walking around the reserve on the evening of the 15th I finally got my first Yellow Wagtails, circa 12 of them, amongst the many hundreds of White Wags, a single Penduline Tit and then a reeling Savi's Warbler plus plenty of waders dotted about in the fields all bode well.
Marjal de Pego-Oliva, 15/03/17

Alpine Swift, Pego-Oliva, 16/03/17

In the morning I had some very good passage birds, lots of Barn Swallows, House Martin and more Red Rumped Swallows, a high flying male Hen Harrier and a low flying Purple Heron (both beating NW) were good enough but then I was into Alpine Swifts flying quite low over the reserve, Booted and Short Toed Eagles, some late Common Cranes and another small flock of Garganey.

Alpine Swift, Pego-Oliva, 16/03/17

Garganey, Pego-Oliva, 16/03/17

Short Toed Eagle, Pego-Oliva, 16/03/17
Booted Eagle, Pego-Oliva, 16/03/17

Common Cranes, Pego-Oliva, 16/03/17

Common Cranes, Pego-Oliva, 16/03/17
 It was a gloriously sunny and hot day, birds singing (I had another Moustached Warbler plus Reed Warbler here) and wild flowers a blooming ...
Cistus sp, Pego-Oliva, 16/03/17

Glossy Ibis, Pego-Oliva, 16/03/17

Little Ringed Plover, Pego-Oliva, 16/03/17

Pink Campion sp, Pego-Oliva, 16/03/17
Blue Emporer Dragonfly, Pego-Oliva, 16/03/17
Although not photographed I was lucky to see a Marsh Sandpiper here too, courtesy of it being picked out by a member of the Costa Blanca birding club who were on a trip out on the same day as I was there - thanks guys!

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