On 3rd January we spent a few hours at the Natural Park of Albufera de Valencia, a coastal wetland site just south of the city of Valencia. This site is of significant European importance and provides both critical breeding and wintering grounds for a vast range of species. Today´s trip was not so much an intensive day´s birding, in fact we only had a couple of hours as the main purpose of the visit was a meeting with the management team of a relatively new bird reserve within the park.
On the way, we made a brief stop at one of the nearby beaches where we were fortunate enough to watch a passing flock of Balearic Shearwaters, a bird that we´ve seen on a number of occassions over the winter.
Our first stop was to scan the (flooded) rice fields that surround the main lake. We saw the main three Egret species; Little, Cattle and Great White plus hundreds of Shoveler in amongst which were Shelduck. Yellow Legged, Lesser Black Backed and Black Headed Gulls were present in good numbers too. We then moved on to a hide overlooking a smaller, sheltered lake where hundreds of Teal were over wintering. We also enjoyed superb views of Marsh Harrier and Booted Eagle. The seemingly ever-present Stonechats entertained us for a while but soon fled for cover as the Marsh Harrier made a low pass over the reeds. We then scanned over the main Albufera lake where we enjoyed superb views of Red Crested Pochard, Pintail, Shelduck and a gathering of Sandwich Terns.
Time was running short so we headed off to our appointment where, following our meeting we were treated to a demonstration of a “green filter” project. This is a truly impressive and completely natural method of significantly improving water quality through the use of strategically situated lagoons that contain a specialised mix of plants that aid the cleaning process by absorbing significant amounts of organic compounds. The improved water quality and the knock-on effect of enhanced environment is already providing ideal breeding grounds for endangered species such as Crested Coot and Purple Gallinule. Even in the few minutes that we had prior to our appointment, we saw Glossy Ibis, Purple Gallinule and more Marsh Harriers than I´ve ever seen in one place.
Even though we´d crammed in a little birding into what was a busy day, we still managed to see 44 species. The list for the day comprised Balearic Shearwater, Black Headed Gull, Black Redstart, Blackbird, Booted Eagle, Cattle Egret, Chaffinch, Chiffchaff, Collared Dove, Coot, Cormorant, Crag Martin, Fan Tailed Warbler, Glossy Ibis, Goldfinch, Great Crested Grebe, Great Tit, Great White Egret, Grey Heron, House Sparrow, Kestrel, Kingfisher, Lesser Black Backed Gull, Little Egret, Long Tailed Tit, Magpie, Mallard, Marsh Harrier, Moorhen, Pied Wagtail, Pintail, Pochard, Purple Gallinule, Red Crested Pochard, Red Legged Partridge, Robin, Sandwich Tern, Shelduck, Shoveler, Spotless Starling, Stonechat, Teal, Yelkouan Shearwater, Yellow Legged Gull.