Sunday 24 June 2018

Damiel Wetlands

An early morning Fox
Saturday 23 June

Driving back to the UK on my own so the first night, Friday, spent in Damiel which gave me two opportunities to visit both the Tablas de Damiel and the even closer Laguna Navaseca.  However, having left home about 8.30 I first called in at Velez de Benaudalla to check the apartment and then fifteen minutes at the local picnic area.  Lots of Spotted Flycatchers, Chaffinches and even at least three calling Golden Oriole but not a Dipper in sight.  Have to keep my fingers crossed that I might pick one up at Canfranc in the high Pyrenees before crossing the border into France.  Then, on the way north to Damiel, the journey produced Azure-winged MagpieKestrel and a Carrion Crow as I approached my destination.

Roller Coracias garrulus at first light

First to the Tablas de Damiel at about 2pm and by jove it was hot in the clear blue sky and the sun blazing down.  Not the best of times but I did have a handful of Bearded Tits fly across the reeds almost as soon as I started out on the boardwalk.  Forget the Greylag Geese and numerous White Stork, I was more interested in all those singing Reed and Great Reed Warblers.  The Purple Heron was a rather pleasant addition.  Unlike previous visits at about this time of year, the latter were keeping very low in the reeds but regular sightings of both.  Most of the Nightingales were, presumably, on their second brood judging by the number of juveniles seen.  In addition to Cattle and Little Egret I also recorded successful breeding Red-crested PochardsPurple Swamphen, Roller and numerous Corn Buntings.  Did I mention that I finally found Stonechats for the month's record.

Purple Swamphen Porphyrio porphyrio

Then it was back to the "new" hotel to check-in and wait until the heat dissipated a little before visiting the Laguna Navaseca.  With a bus load of visitors at the main car park I drove on and parked by the little hide overlooking the small water on the right.  Even as I walked to check out the water I could see the scores of Flamingo and Black-headed Gulls on the main water on the other side of the road.  On my pool, I quickly found both Little Grebe and Purple Swamphen plus more of both Reed and Great Reed Warbler.  Across the road to check out the main water I could see that were were many Black-winged Stilts along with a good number of breeding AvocetBarn Swallows and Common Swifts feeding over the water and ducks included Mallard, Shoveler, Red-crested and Common Pochard, Ferruginous and White-headed Ducks along with breeding Shelduck.  In addition to more Little Grebes there were also Black-necked Grebe in full breeding plumage.  before leaving I also added Bee-eater, Hoopoe and House Martin having also previously seen a pair of Sand Martin.

Female Red-crested Pochard Netta rufina
Setting my alarm for 6am I was awake, showered, dressed and out by 5.45 so the first time I have started the day by filling up the car with diesel and the garage next door,  Even had time to clean front and back windows before heading back to the the Tablas where I arrived just after six and the first signs of light.  A great couple of hours and I had to smile at all he early birders arriving for 8 o'clock as I was departing!  Yes, all the expected birds put in an appearance and before finding my Savi's Warblers I was treated to a couple of Great Spotted Cuckoos.  Even better, in the early morning light, almost dark, as I arrived a party of thirty plus Black-bellied Sandgrouse were taking their departure from, presumably, having visited as is their custom for a pre-dawn drink.  A pair of Ferruginous Duck beat a hasty retreat before I had chance to get the camera up but the pair of Marsh Harriers quartered as I moved along the boardwalk.  Not just Great White, Little and Cattle Egrets but also a small number of Night Herons roosting in the dead trees on the small island.  Once again I was able to add Bee-eater and Hoopoes and on this occasion also added Tree Sparrow, Linnet and a juvenile Woodchat Shrike.

A closer view of a Great Spotted Cuckoo Clamator glandarius - just, as it beat a hasty retreat
Having got ahead of myself I made the turn to Laguna Navaseca to take a second look at this water.  Approaching the water a Little Owl posed nicely on the corner of a fence and rather than make a hasty stop decided I would photograph the bird on my back as I was only expecting to spend about fifteen minutes at the water.  The bird had flown when I returned!  All the ducks, Avocet, Black-winged Stilt and Flamingos present long with both Little and Black-necked Grebe, Reed and Great Reed Warbler but also a pair of Little Ringed Plovers.

Good numbers of Flamingos Phoenicopterus ruber on navaseca
  As the Cetti's Warblers let me know of their presence so the first Barn Swallows and Swifts put in an appearance.

Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis

All too soon to return to the hotel for breakfast and prepare for the long drive up to Zuera just short of Huesca for the coming night.

The drive was not without incident as I recorded Kestrel, Buzzard, Raven and Black Kite but, most strange of all as I passed Jaen, a Red-legged Partridge sitting on the crash barrier at the side of the motorway without a care in the world. Seventy species recorded including thirty new for the month.

Is that a Night Heron Nycticorax nycticorax I see creeping through the bushes?

Birds seen:
Greylag Goose, Shelduck, Mallard, Shoveler, Red-crested Pochard, Common Pochard, Ferruginous Duck, White-headed Duck, Red-legged Partridge, Little Grebe, Black-necked Grebe, Cormorant, Night Heron, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Great White Egret, Grey Heron, Purple Heron, White Stork, Flamingo, Black Kite, Marsh Harrier, Buzzard, Kestrel, Moorhen, Purple Swamphen, Coot, Black-winged Stilt, Avocet, Little Ringed Plover, Black-headed Gull, Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Rock Dove, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Great Spotted Cuckoo, Little Owl, Bee-eater, Roller, Hoopoe, Common Swift, Crested Lark, Sand Martin, Barn Swallow, House Martin, Nightingale, Stonechat, Blackbird, Cetti's Warbler, Reed Warbler, Great Reed Warbler, Savi's Warbler, Bearded Tit, Great Tit, Spotted Flycatcher, Woodchat Shrike, Golden Oriole, Magpie, Azure-winged Magpie, Jackdaw, Crow, Raven, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Tree Sparrow, Chaffinch, Serin, Goldfinch, Linnet, Corn Bunting.

Bee-eater Merops apiaster
Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea

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

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