Last month we were delighted to design and provide a tailor-made 7-day trip for two clients from Northern Ireland. This was their first birding trip to the Valencia region, and bird photography was to be the central theme of their visit. After communicating with them, we came up with a plan that would include many habitats and a great selection of species that our region can offer at this time of year.
Day 1 – Coastal Salt Marshes.
For the first half of the trip, Dave was to be their guide, before handing over to Yanina for the remaining days. They had an early flight into Alicante so on day 1, after collecting them from the airport we visited two local salt marsh sites.
Our first stop gave excellent views of one of their target species, Slender Billed Gull, as well as White Winged Black Tern and Whiskered Tern. We also had great views of a beautiful Curlew Sandpiper in its breeding plumage.
After a coffee break we moved on to the next site where we had a lunch whilst enjoying good views of Red Rumped Swallow, Spotted Flycatcher, Redstart and Serin. We then began our walk through the reserve where the low bushes and scrub gave views of Sardinian Warbler, Green Woodpecker, Woodchat Shrike and Crested Lark.
We spent some time in a hide overlooking the shore of a lagoon, and enjoyed some fabulous views of waders including Kentish Plover, Ringed Plover, Curlew Sandpiper, Little Stint and Black Winged Stilt. A very nice addition was a passing Stone Curlew, calling as it flew overhead.
After a stroll back through the reserve we headed for the village of Banyeres de Mariola where the guesthouse Alqueria del Pilar would be their base for the next 4 nights. Their stay coincided with the local fiestas, so before dinner we visited the village and enjoyed the processions through the main square.
Day 2 – Steppe.
A short drive from Banyeres de Mariola lies the vast steppe region of Castilla de la Mancha, a unique habitat that provides home to some excellent bird life. After a comfortable journey, we made our first stop at a small lagoon where we had views of Great Reed Warbler, Avocet, Whiskered Tern and Marsh Harrier. We also saw Pallid Swift, Tree Sparrow and Bee Eater.
The next stopping point gave views across farmland, including a selection of old barns and out-buildings. Here we saw Rock Sparrow, Rock Dove, Corn Bunting, Wheatear, Woodchat Shrike and Spotless Starling.
We then moved onto our lunch spot for the day which overlooked a sizeable lagoon, bordered by some small reed beds and surrounded by cereal fields. This proved to be a very positive location and gave views of White Headed Duck, Black Necked Grebe, Greenshank, Kentish Plover and Wood Sandpiper.
The rest of the day was spent exploring the higher steppe areas, and after a little patience and determination we were rewarded with good views of Great Bustard, Iberian Grey Shrike, Little Owl and Yellow Wagtail. As we neared the end of the day, the trip was brought to a great end with close views of a Short-toed Eagle.
Day 3 – Wetlands of Alicante.
Today´s trip was designed to hopefully get quality views of a few specific target species and to provide the opportunity to photograph White Headed Duck and Black Necked Grebe. After a leisurely trip, we arrived at our first wetland reserve where we enjoyed some fabulous views of the extremely rare Marbled Teal. Our walk into the reserve gave us good views of Great Reed Warbler, Purple Swamphen and Zitting Cisticola.
We then spent some time in some of the reserve´s hides from where we were able to get good views of Collared Pratincole, Little Bittern, Avocet, Squacco Heron and Little Stint. As we were returning to the vehicle to have lunch we were treated to close views of a pair of Booted Eagle as they circled above us.
Immediately after lunch we were treated to good views of two excellent birds – Great Spotted Cuckoo and Roller! Two species that certainly made the day one to remember.
The afternoon was dedicated to getting quality views and photographs of some key species including White Headed Duck, Black Necked Grebe, Black Tern, Whiskered Tern and Greater Flamingo, which we did successfully before making the return trip to Banyeres de Mariola.
Day 4 – Mountains and High Forests.
Day 4 dawned cloudy and very cool for the time of year, also with a strong breeze in the mountains. Therefore our morning wasn´t as successful as I´d hoped for. However, the high forest gave us views of Short Toed Treecreeper, Serin, and Sardinian Warbler. It was clear that the weather was against us to we made an unplanned move to lower altitudes where we visited a site that is often reliable for Little Owl and Bee Eater. It proved to be so today, so we were able to get some good shots of these very photogenic creatures.
In the afternoon the weather improved, so we moved back up into the mountains to visit one of our regular sites. After a short walk we enjoyed views of Griffon Vulture, Blue Rock Thrush, Raven, Chough, Black Redstart and Crag Martin.
Day 5 – Albufera de Valencia.
This morning we left Banyeres de Mariola and headed towards Valencia, where the clients´base for the next three nights was to be the guest house El Patio de las Cebollas in the old town of Segorbe. After a comfortable drive we met Yanina at Albufera. She was to be the guide for the remaining days of the trip.
First stop was a restricted reserve area within the Albufera de Valencia Natural Park. This gave views of Collared Pratincole, Mediterranean Gull, Black Tailed Godwit and Red Crested Pochard. We then moved on to another protected reserve which is excellent during migration periods. Today was no exception, with views of many waders including Temminck´s Stint, Pectoral Sandpiper, Curlew Sandpiper, Spotted Redshank and Green Sandpiper.
We also enjoyed views of many of the park´s herons and egrets, including Purple Heron, Squacco Heron, Night Heron and Cattle Egret.
Passerines for the day included Sub-Alpine Warbler, Great Reed Warbler, Yellow Wagtail and Pied Flycatcher.
Day 6 – Mountains of Valencia
Today we visited the lesser known sierras of inland Valencia. A haven for some specialist mountain species. After a beautiful day yesterday, the weather took another unusual turn for the worse so the morning of day 6 was unseasonably cold with rain showers. Although this didn´t help in terms of photography, we managed to get good views of Rock Bunting, Iberian Chiffchaff and Chough.
After a while the day improved and the rain stopped. We drove up a mountain track to one of our favourite viewing points from where we eventually enjoyed views of some of the days target species, including Griffon Vulture, Egyptian Vulture, Raven, Alpine Swift and Short Toed Eagle.
Day 7 – Valencia´s Coastal Wetlands & Forests
This was the final day of the trip so we hoped for some good views and photograph opportunities of some great birds. Our day began at a very special location where we had good views of Eagle Owl, a magnificent creature, followed by Hobby.
We then moved to the coast where we visited one of the regions best coastal wetland systems. One of the first lagoons gave views of Garganey and White Headed Duck. Waders included Kentish Plover, Little Ringed Plover, Avocet and Wood Sandpiper.
We moved onto another favourite spot where we had great views of many of the region´s gulls including Mediterranean, Audouin´s and Slender Billed. The colony of Collared Pratincole were delightful as ever, and we also enjoyed watching Common Tern, Sandwich Tern, Little Tern, Gull Billed Tern and Black Tern.
The reed beds provided views of Great Reed Warbler, Cetti´s Warbler and Zitting Cisticola.
It had been a fabulous week and despite a couple of unusually chilly mornings, we´d managed to see and photograph some amazing birds in fantastically diverse habitats. It had been a pleasure for Yanina and I to provide this trip for two great clients who were not only enthusiastic and knowledgeable birders, but great company throughout the week.
The species list for the week totalled 135 and included…
Gadwall, Garganey, Mallard, Marbled Teal, Pochard, Red Crested Pochard, Shelduck, White Headed Duck, Black Necked Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Little Grebe, Moorhen, Purple Swamphen, Coot, Great Bustard, Red Legged Partridge, Stone Curlew.
Audouin´s Gull, Black Headed Gull, Mediterranean Gull, Slender Billed Gull, Yellow Legged Gull, Black Tern, Common Tern, Gull Billed Tern, Little Tern, Sandwich Tern, Whiskered Tern, White Winged Black Tern.
Booted Eagle, Short Toed Eagle, Buzzard, Eagle Owl, Little Owl, Egyptian Vulture, Griffon Vulture, Kestrel, Hobby, Peregrine Falcon, Marsh Harrier.
Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Night Heron, Purple Heron, Squacco Heron, Grey Heron, Little Bittern, Avocet,
Black Tailed Godwit, Black Winged Stilt, Collared Pratincole, Curlew, Dunlin, Glossy Ibis, Greater Flamingo, Ringed Plover, Kentish Plover, Little Ringed Plover, Little Stint, Temminck´s Stint, Ruff, Snipe, Turnstone, Common Sandpiper, Curlew Sandpiper, Green Sandpiper, Wood Sandpiper, Pectoral Sandpiper, Redshank, Spotted Redshank, Greenshank.
Swift, Alpine Swift, Pallid Swift, Barn Swallow, Red Rumped Swallow, House Martin, Sand Martin, Crag Martin.
Bee Eater, Roller, Cuckoo (H), Golden Oriole, Great Spotted Cuckoo, Green Woodpecker, Hoopoe, Blue Tit, Coal Tit,
Long Tailed Tit, Crested Tit, Great Tit, Chough, Crow, Collared Dove, Rock Dove, Wood Pigeon, Jay, Magpie, Raven, Iberian Grey Shrike, Woodchat Shrike, Cetti´s Warbler, Great Reed Warbler, Iberian, Chiffchaff, Reed Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Subalpine Warbler, Zitting Cisticola, Corn Bunting, Rock Bunting, Serin, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, House Sparrow, Rock Sparrow, Tree Sparrow, Crested Lark, Skylark, Redstart, Black Redstart, Blackbird, Blue Rock Thrush, Song Thrush, Pied Flycatcher, Spotted Flycatcher, Robin, Stonechat, Wheatear, White Wagtail, Grey Wagtail, Yellow Wagtail, Short Toed Treecreeper,
Wren, Spotless Starling.
Written by Dave Warrington.
Bird Watching Guide at Valencia Birding.