Last week we were delighted to provide a 2-day birding break in Valencia for a group of 3 clients with whom we´ve been in touch with for a while. All living apart (France, England and Wales) they had arranged to meet up in Valencia and to include in their holiday a 2-day guided birding trip with us. We´d been fortunate enough to meet one of the group at Birdfair in the UK in August, so were really looking forward to welcoming them to Valencia.
To provide two very different trips, we´d decided to spend one day at the extensive wetland site of Albufera de Valencia and the second up on the high steppe. Very different habitats indeed.
On day one, I collected the group from their apartment in the city and we made the short journey to Albufera, discussing their wishes and priorities for the trip. We drove into the Natural Park and made our first brief stop by some rice fields where we discussed the rice growing cycle whilst watching Cattle Egrets and Marsh Harriers. A Lesser Black Backed Gull passed over us and a large flock of Spotless Starlings entertained us with their wonderful murmurations.
We then moved into one of the area´s restricted and protected reserves, where we spent the morning. Our first sightings were Great Egret and White Stork which got the visit off to a great start. We settled in the shade of some trees and carefully watched the next lagoon. This gave us views of Snipe, Avocet, Glossy Ibis and Fan-tailed Warbler. We heard Cetti´s Warbler in the surrounding scrub.
The next lagoon was a treat with great views of Purple Swamphen, one of the day´s target species, plus Green Sandpiper, Ringed Plover and Little Ringed Plover. We also enjoyed nice views of a Booted Eagle soaring overhead.
Our next stop gave views of yet more Snipe, plenty of Wood Sandpipers and with a little patience, Little Stint. The weather was unusually warm for October so we made for a hide where we could spend a little time in the shade. Whilst doing so we had views of Great Crested Grebe, Little Grebe, Greater Flamingo and Gadwall as well as a European Pond Turtle. As we left the reserve we had more views of Booted Eagle, as well as Common Buzzard.
We spent a while enjoying a picnic lunch in the shade whilst listening to Cetti´s Warblers in the nearby bushes. This was followed by a coffee break in the local village of El Palmar, the birthplace of paella. Once refreshed I suggested a change of habitat and a short walk through the forest. This gave views of Spotted Flycatcher, Grey Wagtail (thought to be first-winter), Sardinian Warbler plus hundreds of passing House Martins, Sand Martins and Barn Swallows. They were also joined by the resident Crag Martin.
We ended the day at a small lake where we turned our attention to waders, particularly focussing on the differing stages of moult and plumage variation.
This provided a very interesting session on ID and also gave us super views of Dunlin, Little Stint, Sanderling, Kentish Plover, Greenshank and Redshank.
What had been a truly lovely day was brought to a close by watching Black Necked Grebe, then a small group of Red Crested Pochard followed closely by a White Headed Duck.
We then returned to Valencia, happy with our sightings which included :
Iberian Grey Shrike, Wood Pigeon, Goldfinch, Cetti’s Warbler (h), Fan Tailed Warbler, Willow Warbler, Spotted Flycatcher, Great Tit, Sardinian Warbler, Grey Wagtail, Spotless Starling, Magpie, Crag Martin, Sand Martin, Barn Swallow, House Martin, Kingfisher, Coot, Moorhen, Purple Swamphen, Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Black Necked Grebe, Shoveler, Mallard, Gadwall, White Headed Duck, Red Crested Pochard, Lesser Black Backed Gull, Audouin’s Gull, Black Headed Gull, Cormorant, Sandwich Tern, Snipe, Avocet, Wood Sandpiper, Green Sandpiper, Little Stint, Redshank, Greenshank, Kentish Plover, Ringed Plover, Little Ringed Plover, Sanderling, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Great Egret, Grey Heron, Glossy Ibis, Greater Flamingo, Black Winged Stilt, Marsh Harrier, Kestrel,
Booted Eagle, Common Buzzard.
On day-2 Yanina took the group up onto the steppe, a very different habitat that holds some fascinating species.
This area is huge, and needs some effort but we always enjoy the trips there and have had some amazing sightings. Today was not going to disappoint – the day began with views of some of the key target species – Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Little Bustard and Great Bustard!
It´s always very rewarding to get quality views of these species as it often requires effort, but they never fail to provide some great birding memories.
A Red Kite passed overhead, and a little later a Common Buzzard. The stone piles that are dotted around the fields are reliable spots to see Little Owl, and today they provided some great views.
The old farm buildings and surrounding fields gave good views of some typical farmland species including Stonechat, Wheatear, Meadow Pipit, Linnet, Corn Bunting and another target species, Rock Sparrow.
Apart from being able to enjoy some fabulous bird watching experiences, we´re also fortunate to meet some great people throughout the year, and this 2-day trip with such lovely clients had indeed been a pleasure for us. We hope to see them again here in Valencia.
The species list for day 2 included…
Great Bustard, Little Bustard, Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Marsh Harrier, Red Kite, Common Buzzard, Kestrel, Little Owl, White-headed Duck, Shoveler, Gadwall, Mallard, Common Pochard, Red-legged Partridge, Little Grebe, Black-necked Grebe, Flamingo, Lapwing, Green Sandpiper, Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Magpie, Carrion Crow, Crested Lark, Sand Martin, Great Tit, Cetti’s Warbler, Stonechat, Wheatear, Starling, Spotless Starling, White Wagtail, Meadow Pipit, Corn Bunting, Chaffinch, Linnet, Goldfinch, Serin, House Sparrow, Rock Sparrow.
Written by David Warrington.
Bird Watching Guide at Valencia Birding.