Some of us are happy to get the new birding month underway and perhaps wander off somewhere during the first week or even on the first day of the month. Not Derek and Barbara; they are up in the early hours and on site at Zapata before daylight on the the first day, yesterday. But when you see the end result you have to admit that it makes sense and it leaves Derek free for the rest of the day to go shopping, help in the house and complete all those other jobs that we chaps are expected to do without too many hints form 'er indoors.
Zapata: Sunday 1 May
Barbara and I planned an early morning trip to our patch [Zapata] knowing it would be peaceful as it's a Public Holiday. Meeting Micky Smith [another insomniac] at 0630hrs in Lidl's CP we set off on our way.
Our first encounter was with a Red Necked Nightjar, in fact we almost squashed it as none of us noticed it on the track until the last minuet! They seemed in large numbers around the track divergence, a slightly different place than usual. 4 or 5 birds were flying around and were easy to pick up in torch light, whether they were displaying or feeding was, however hard to tell. Moving on down the track several Crested Larks were seen on the ground and the early ones singing. At the end of the track we now turn and drive down the bank to the bottom open area this gives us views of the bank where the Nightjars like to roost in daylight hours. Still dark we picked out a few with car headlights and torch from a distance and then carried on to the ford. In the still dark Night Heron, Little Ringed Plovers and Moorhen were coping well enough to feed and from the middle of the river. Common Sandpipers flew past and an early Cetti's Warbler called the day.
Crossing back from the ford we retraced our steps down the side of the landing light pier in the growing light of day to find Great Tit [with juicy caterpillar in beak] and Woodchat Shrike poised to strike. House Sparrows and Serins were everywhere by now and so we continued our usual journey under the pier and scoured the reed bed. Many Reed Warblers were awake, Goldfinches busy feeding young, Barn and Red-rumped Swallows, Zitting Cisticolas, Sardinian Warblers were busy flitting around. Parking in our normal area we soon found Short-toed Larks but then suddenly a raptor caught our attention. A Ring-tailed Hen Harrier, was it the same bird that we had recorded a few times over the past six months? Who knows because some Spanish birders have apparently recorded it as a Pallid but from our 400 mtr distance we could only say Hen. Maybe we said this knowing one had been present all winter so it was an easy option, however checking 'Collins' we noticed a small band on the distribution maps that indicate some Hen harriers do migrate through this area. I doubt the issue will be finalised but it's an interesting debating point.
This made us decide to park up and find our ways across the fields to where the bird seemed to land. Many more Short-toed Larks were about, Greenfinches with young and a few pairs of Mallard in the field. Hoopoes went about their business flying with food in beak and although we searched for the Harrier our luck was not in. Walking back to the car it was spotted again now flying away and toward the motorway so we'll never know! Before arriving at the car a gorgeous Black-eared Wheatear sat on the fence and sang for us and Cattle and Little Egrets and Cormorants flew over. Back to the car and on to where the Little Bitterns have been very active in the past few weeks, wait ten minuets and one obliged [a male] by flying past us and landing high in the reeds before dropping down out of view.
A drive back up the track and again down the bank to the bottom open area provided us with a close by pair of Spotted Flycatchers, loads more Short-toed Larks and European Bee-eaters. Scanning the bank bought us our first Whinchat of the year [brings our total to 237] a fine male in the early morning sunlight and in the adjacent oleander bush a male Pied Flycatcher. Red-legged Partridge and Hoopoes were on the ground below these birds, all good viewing. Continuing to drive through the basin we stopped to view the many Bee-Eaters and noted the hole digging in a small bank, fingers crossed for them.
Heading back out for a now well-deserved breakfast much activity at the side of the track found us a fine Whitethroat and bushes full of juvenile Serins.
A good breakfast, bacon and egg pitufo and 2 cups of coffee [4.50 euros] and it was a parting of the ways with a final tally of 44 species in just under 3 hours. Back home to prepare for the big match on Sky Sports.
Great report Derek and makes me really envious when I think of the birds seen that I have yet to record this year; Spotted Flycatcher, Whinchat, Hen/Pallid Harrier.
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