Friday 17 February 2023

Valencia to Santander via Gallocanta

Common Crane Grus grus

 Tuesday 14 & Wednesday 15 February

Time to start out on the long drive back home, leaving our son in Lliria to tale the road into Valencia and then north-west from the Mediterranean Sea to the Atlantic coast in Santander where our ferry back to Portsmouth awaited us. Given that most of he journey would be completed on the Tuesday, our lunch break was calculated to have us near the Laguna de Gallocanta where, all being well, we would encounter some Cranes.  And indeed it did!

Another cool and cloudy start to the day as we said goodbye to the local Collared Doves, Magpies and our friendly male Black Redstart with no other birds until we were on the A23 from Valencia.  Birds only came occasionally and mainly Magpies and Carrion Crows but not before our first bird on this motorway which was a splendid Iberian Grey Shrike posed atop a small tree next to the carriageway. Having added both Spotless Starling and a Woodpigeon our first raptor was a Buzzard and, not long after, the first Red Kite of the day.  Approaching the turn off to Gallocanta we added a Kestrel and a Raven along with a few Crested Larks.

Overlooking the western end of Laguna Gallocanta

Approaching the laguna itself we first saw hundreds in the sky and then a massed flock of Cranes feeding on the fields to our left.  Our conservative estimate was over 500 individuals and arriving at the Visitors Centre we were informed that the "official" count undertaken two days previously recorded 6,400!  Lots of watching and use of the camera before moving on where we found hundreds more at the other end of the water.  Also at this site more Crested Larks and White Wagtails along with Chaffinch. Leaving the area to resume our journey north-west to our overnight stop at Haro we were delighted to add a pair of Red-legged Partridges.

Hundreds of Cranes Grus grus overhead

North of Zaragosa and crossing the sierras produced both Griffon Vultures and a Booted Eagle as well as more Buzzards.  Naturally, more Collared Doves and a Blackbird as we approached our destination.

The final three hours of our drive to Santander the following morning recorded more Carrion Crows plus a Marsh Harrier and a Kestrel, and then crossing the Ebro both Little Egret and Heron. Whilst awaiting to embark our ferry we saw many Black-headed along  with a dew Yellow-legged Gulls.

And some refused to fly with the masses!

Birds seen:

Red-legged Partridge, Little Egret, Heron, Red Kite, Griffon Vulture, Marsh Harrier, Booted Eagle, Kestrel, Crane, Black-headed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Rock Dove, Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Crested Lark, White Wagtail, Black Redstart, Blackbird, Iberian Grey Shrike, Magpie, Carrion Crow, Raven, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Chaffinch.

Cranes Grus grus less than 30 metres away and quite happy

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