Monday, 22 August 2016

Back in Spain: The Basque Country

Friday 19 August

View over Salburna from the hide


As I happily crossed the border back into Spain at 15.55 on Thursday afternoon having driven from Stamford via the Channel Tunnel and France (overnight stop in Tours), I was looking forward to warmer weather and the opportunity to see some new birds.  Just a little cloud but the promise of great things to come the following morning.  Glancing to my right at the motorway toll booth I noticed a few more cars waiting to make their payment and as I drove away I realised that the "exiting " queue stretched back a bit filling all lanes.  Indeed, it continued on up the hill and the motorway was till blocked when I reached Irun.  And so the queue continued and passing San Sebastian it was now a question of three solid lanes of traffic.  Not till I swing away, a good ten miles after crossing the border did I finally see the end of the queue and could not but help thinking that most of these cars had at least a four hour wait ahead of them.  Why?  No idea, perhaps the French were checking every single car for illegal immigrants or Brits wanting to get out of Europe!

But my entertainment soon turned sour as having found my booked overnight accommodation in an out-of-the-way mountain top chalet suggesting the Swiss Alps I discovered that the message had not reached here and there was, literally, no room at the inn.  had to hang around for thirty minutes whilst the owner arranged alternative accommodation back down the mountain in the lovely old town of Onate.  And all for free including a fabulous breakfast.  So, morning saw me on my way to Fuenmajor near Logrono taking in the reservoirs at both Ullibari-Gamboa and Salburua, both relatively close to the area capital of Vitoria-Gasteiz

The morning started well with many Barn Swallows, House Martins and Buzzards on the journey along with Collared and Rock Doves and, unlike here in Malaga province, very many Carrion Crows; they were a regular sighting.  It was very evident that even in the north water levels were down but on arrival at the large Ullibar-Gamboa embalsa I soon saw many Coots as I made my way the birding area.  All relatively quiet but the, now dry, marsh area soon produced both Spotted Flycatcher and Blackcap.  A Garden Warbler had already welcomed me as I parked the car next to its favourite bush but, apart from the Common Kestrels feeding in the neighbouring recently harvested corn fields very little else to note.

White Storks Ciguena Blanca Ciconia ciconia
I then drove on along the track to get a view of the shallow end of the water and found some rather lovely water birds including my first Tufted Ducks in Spain this year.  Also on the water were both Common and Red-crested Pochards, Gadwall and very many Great Crested Grebes. I did see the occasional Grey Heron and Yellow-legged Gull and a handful of Whiskered Terns were busy feeding over the water.  But immediately below me feeding low down in a bush was a pair of Isabelline (Western Olivaceous) Warblers.

White Storks Ciguena Blanca Ciconia ciconia to the left and Spoonbills Espatula Comun Platalea leucorodia to the right 
The smaller, overgrown with reed embalsa of Salburua on the outskirts of Vitoria was a very different habitat.  Two good hides but I simply visited thew first which overlooked open water rather than just reed beds.  Indeed, feeding close by to my left a Red Deer made an impressive sight.  In front of me numerous resting White Storks and away to the right a similar number of Spoonbill on the small island.  Hiding behind the latter I noted a couple of Lapwing and to their right a solitary feeding Marsh Sandpiper.  In addition to the Great Crested Grebes there were a number of Little Grebes plus both Coots and Moorhens.  Black-headed Gulls to the back of the water and a good number of both Little and Cattle Egrets.

Presumably a Red Deer Cervus elaphus coming down to graze and drink
Overhead, feeding Barn Swallows and House Martins plus a smaller number of Sand Martins.  No shortage of small, marauding flocks of Spotless Starlings and even a White Wagtail put in an appearance.  Ducks included (mainly) Mallard and Teal along with a male Gadwall but the special sighting here was of a lone Golden Plover on the far bank.  Checking out the bare distant trees I found a small number of Bee-eaters and returning to the car to collect the camera I noted both a Mistle Thrush and Wood Pigeon. For good measure a pair of Kingfishers flashed past the hide and ere long it was time to move on to Fuenmayor the tomorrow's birding.

Just a chance to look at a Moorhen Gallineta Comun Gallinula chloropus
Come Saturday morning, no water at the nearby lakes but I did see a trio of Red-legged Partridges. By now, just about 9 am it was cool and cloudy and the promise of rain so I decided to cut my losses and move on down to Extremadura rather than stay a further night.  Just as well as it was solid light rain all the way to Burgos but once heading south in the direction of Valladolid the skies began to clear, the sun came out and the temperatures soared to the high thirties.  And not a  bad journey as the Hoopoe that dashed, well flopped, over the road in front of me was followed by sightings of many magpies, then Booted Eagle, Red Kite and, at last, a Raven.  Even better, as I approached Trujillo for my two-night stay, I had Rollers on the wire that, judging from their omission the following day, had presumably been away feeding during the day but returned to their respective nest boxes for the night.  The final bird was a rather magnificent Short-toed Eagle that simply refused to be photographed no matter where I tried to park the car alongside the busty road!  And that brought the total for the day up to 51 species.

Now from where had these Spoonbills Espatula Comun Platalea leucorodia arrived?


Birds seen:
Gadwall, Mallard, Teal, Red-crested Pochard, Common Pochard, Tufted Duck, Red-legged Partridge, Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Heron, White Stork, Spoonbill, Red Kite, Short-toed Eagle, Booted Eagle, Buzzard, Common Kestrel, Moorhen, Coot, Golden Plover, Lapwing, Marsh Sandpiper, Black-headed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Whiskered Tern, Rock Dove, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Kingfisher, Bee-eater, Roller, Hoopoe, sand martin, Barn Swallow, House martin, White Wagtail, Blackbird, Mistle Thrush, Isabelline Warbler, Garden Warbler, Blackcap, Spotted Flycatcher, Magpie, Carrion Crow, raven, Spotless starling, House Sparrow, Goldfinch.



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