Sunday, 14 June 2015

Ebro Delta - First Visit

Sunday 14 June

Squacco Heron Ardeola ralloides
Up early, and when I say "early" I mean very early, and out of the hotel and on the road by 6am. (When was the last time you had breakfast delivered to your room at 5.30 am?)  With empty roads we arrived at the Ebro delta by just after 9 o'clock and had a very enjoyable three hours exploring some of the more well-known sites where we found the extensive rice paddies under water and the fresh green shoots standing at about 20cm.  A lovely, pleasant morning in calm conditions and quite sunny, which was a little bit of bad luck as we always seemed to be looking in to the sun when it came to taking photographs.  As an aside, having placed the dusty car in a private garage below our Egyptian-themed apartment last night it missed out on the heavy shower so was still "grubby" this morning. Then, guess what, we paid the extra 5 Euros for private underground parking in the locked garage rather than spend hours unpacking, left the car in its still dirty exterior condition and watched the rain absolutely poor down in a couple of very heavy storm showers.  What chance we might get the car wet tomorrow before we arrive in Germany?

Whiskered Tern Chlidonias hybridus
As soon as we arrived in the delta we were greeted by the usual House Sparrows, Collared Doves, Blackbirds and Spotless Starlings but within minutes had added numerous Little Egrets, Grey Heron and the first of at least a handful of Squacco Herons along with the plentiful supply of Magpies.  Coots and Barn Swallows were in good numbers and then the terns started to appear.  Numerous Whiskered and a small number of Gull-billed Terns which we continued to see everywhere but, perhaps, the best sighting was the single Black Tern.  A single Moorhen took some time in exposing itself but once recorded they cropped up at very regular intervals.

Magpie Pica pica
Following a narrow track alongside a main water canal we stopped to admire the single Sedge Warbler and, on getting out of the car to check out the main laguna, found the first Great Crested Grebe and a Great Reed Warbler happily sang to us from a nearby reed. Opposite, the Whiskered Terns seemed to be building/strengthening their water-bound nests and Mallards came out to greet the sun and introduce their ducklings.  Next up, not only the first Purple Heron flying over but also a single Glossy Ibis.  Meanwhile, Jenny was busy listening to a couple of Golden Orioles on the opposite side of the water amongst the Eucalyptus trees.

Little Egret Egretta garzeta
As with the Moorhen, once we had seen our first Black-winged Stilt we were suddenly being plagued by these long-legged screamers as they tried to drive us away from their, presumably, breeding territory.  A trip to the southern Information centre and a look at the nearby water produced, in addition to many of the above, our first Shelduck, a small flock of Glossy Ibis and a number of Herring Gulls, albeit most of the gulls were of the Black-headed variety.

Black-headed Gull Larus ridibundus
Returning in order that we could drive to the beach and look at the distant water we recorded both Crested Lark and Common Kestrel but little else other than more terns and a small flock of Flamingos.  On the other hand we did find a lone Great White Egret and there was a handful of Sanderling running up and down the beach and I almost forget to mention the trio of Redshank, a single Oystercatcher and the lone Collared Pratincole seen by Jenny.

Common Tern Sterna hirundo and at nest and in flight
Working our way north to cross the Ebro we stopped at a small reserve managed by SEO and came across not only good numbers of Tree Sparrows making use of the provided nest boxes but three pairs of Barn Swallows nesting in the large hide.  Below the hide, in addition to the Whiskered Terns we found breeding Common Terns, Moorhens, Little Grebe and more Mallards along with a pair of Shoveler. The paddy field opposite contained numerous Purple Swamphens along with a young Night Heron and a single Little Bittern.  Almost made me forget to look at the Grey Herons and Little Egrets!

Great Reed Warbler Acrocephalus arundinaceus
And that was just about it.  A lot of driving to cover much of the souther side of the Ebro delta and a final total of 41 species.  An interesting area and probably more productive in the winter months but I still prefer the combination of the Donana National Park and nearby Odiel Marshes.

Redshank Tringa totanus

Birds seen:
Shelduck, Mallard, Shoveler, Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Little Bittern, Night Heron, Squacco Heron, Little Egret, Glossy Ibis, Great White Egret, Grey Heron, Purple Heron, Flamingo, Kestrel, Moorhen, Purple Swamphen, Coot, Oystercatcher, Black-winged Stilt, Collared Pratincole, Sanderling, Redshank,Black-headed Gull, Herring Gull, Gull-billed Tern, Common Tern, Whiskered Tern, Black Tern, Rock Dove, Collared Dove, Crested Lark, Barn Swallow, Blackbird, Sedge Warbler, Great Reed Warbler, Magpie, Golden Oriole, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Tree Sparrow.

Check out the accompanying website at for the latest sightings, photographs and additional information.

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