This is one of a series of 4 reports that cover a 4-day birding holiday in Valencia that we recently designed and provided for a client from London, UK. Charles, a young but experienced and knowledgable birder had contacted us earlier in the year to explore the possibilities of designing a bespoke birding break. Together, we designed a trip for him. He opted to stay in Valencia city, but we put together a plan that included guided birding trips to diverse habitats including steppe, forest, mountains, coast and wetlands.
This report covers “Day 1” which was a day on the steppe and lagoons of Castilla de la Mancha. We left Valencia city centre at around 8am and in less than 90 minutes drive we were up on the steppe. The weather was perfect for birding if not unseasonably warm for December.
After the usual coffee stop, our first birding spot was a relatively high vantage point overlooking the rolling fields and wide open space of this wonderful region. At over 900 metres in altitude, it can be a harsh place in which to live and work, but its bird life is fascinating.
Amongst the first species of the day were Corn Bunting, Tree Sparrow, Hoopoe and Crested Lark. A Merlin suddenly appeared and past quickly by, darting around an old farm building. We then had a good view of a Southern Grey Shrike on an overhead wire. Although we hoped for better views, we also saw in the distance a flock of Great Bustards.
We moved on to the day´s first lagoon where we enjoyed great views of Water Pipit, Wood Sandpiper and Lapwing. A little effort scanning a sizeable covert of Coots revealed a couple of the extremely rare Crested Coots, one of the trip´s “lifer” species for Charles.
We then moved on to the next lagoon, were we saw a good selection of wildfowl including Teal, Shoveler, Shelduck and Red Crested Pochard. As we were scanning the water, we were fortunate enough to enjoy views of a Booted Eagle that suddenly appeared, apparently hunting over the reeds.
After a brief lunch break, we then headed out onto the high steppe, still hopeful of better views of Great Bustard. Along the way, we stopped to admire a great view of a Rock Sparrow. After some time spent exploring the usual spots, we did get some views of Great Bustards but they were all at quite a distance. However, our efforts were very well rewarded with first of all some great views of a small herd of Crane, then a brief but good view of a flock of Black Bellied Sandgrouse, followed by very close views of Dotterel.
Very happy with the day´s sightings we headed for home, not before taking a detour along some farm tracks that lead through another area that´s usually reliable for Great Bustards. Not far from the end of the tracks and indeed the end of the trip, we were blessed with some fabulous views of a group of male Great Bustards, strolling gracefully through a field. This wonderful view was made all the more special by the beautiful winter evening light, and provided a great end to our first day together.
We headed happily back for Valencia, pleased with the day´s species list….
Spotless Starling, Corn Bunting, Stonechat, Hoopoe, Magpie, Crow, Crested Lark, Skylark, House Sparrow, Tree Sparrow, Rock Sparrow, Linnet, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, White Wagtail, Water Pipit, Collared Dove, Crane, Moorhen, Coot, Crested Coot, Little Grebe, Black Necked Grebe, Grey Heron, Southern Grey Shrike, Merlin, Buzzard, Kestrel, Marsh Harrier, Booted Eagle, Lapwing, Dotterel, Great Bustard, Dotterel, Snipe, Green Sandpiper, Wood Sandpiper, Flamingo, Red Legged Partridge, Mallard, Teal, Shoveler, Shelduck, Gadwall, Red Crested Pochard.
Written by David Warrington.
Bird Watching Guide at Valencia Birding.