July and August are generally not the best months for birding here in Spain. This summer has been especially hot, even by our standards so we´re all looking forward to the autumn when migration is underway and the weather is much more comfortable. The diary is already filling up so it looks like being a great season.
However, whilst on holiday visiting family in our area in mid August, Nora asked for a day trip to see some typical Mediterranean species. A nature lover and general bird enthusiast, she was happy to see a few special target species rather than to maximise a tick list. With that in mind, and the summer heat, we decided upon a slightly modified “Mountains & Marshes” trip. We began the day with a couple of hours in a spectacular mountain gorge and although the path was a little steep in places, the cliffs did provide some welcome shade.
We were soon enjoying great views of Griffon Vultues, both in flight and on the high ledges of their breeding cliffs. Closer inspection of the cliffs revealed Crag Martin, Black Redstart, and eventually another of the day´s target species, the Blue Rock Thrush.
A little further into the gorge, we had good albeit brief views of Crested Tit and Black Wheatear followed by Black Redstart and Sardinian Warbler.
As we made our way back to the van for welcome cool drinks and sandwiches, a couple of Ravens passed low overhead. Whilst sat enjoying lunch, we were able to put the scope onto Bee Eaters that were perched on wires nearby, their stunningly colourful plumage showing beautifully in the sunlight.
After lunch we made the short journey to a relatively new reserve that comprises a lake and reedbeds whilst being surrounded by high and rocky mountains. As it´s still quite new it needs a little more time to fully develop, although progress can be seen with every visit so it´s always worth the effort to see what´s around. Initially we had good views of a family of Great Crested Grebes. Swallows and House Martins were swooping over the reeds and a Little Egret passed by.
Then, things became much more interesting and to my surprise, a Little Bittern flew up from the reeds and settled quite close to the hide. Then, as we were watching a group of Common Swifts, a much paler bird caught my eye – a Pallid Swift. That would have been good enough, but they were soon joined by four Alpine Swifts. These surprisingly large birds breed on the high mountain cliffs close to the reserve but it was fantastic to see them feeding at such close proximity.
A disturbance in the reeds took our attention. As we watched and waited, a Purple Gallinule steadily made its way into a clearing, a first for me at this site.
Despite my reservations about birding on such a hot day, we´d chose the sites carefully and had been rewarded with some great views of some iconic southern European species.
Written by David Warrington.
Bird Watching Guide at Valencia Birding.