Wednesday, January 18, 2012

No flamingoes yet

Today was shopping day in Empuriabrava where there is a great hardware store run by Germans. When they open up they even play oom-pa-pa music. After a quick trip to the hardware store and the neighbouring supermarket, where we stocked up and bought the makings of a picnic, we were ready to visit Parc Natural dels Aiguamolls, the wetland bird sanctuary. We are hoping to see flamingoes.

Instead of driving directly to the main information centre, we decided to hike in from Empuriabrava. But first, our picnic. We found a picnic table in the sun right by the Muga river and broke out our multigrain baguette, slabs of different tasty Spanish cheeses and our mini bottles of Rioja. Delicious. Dessert was an Eclefechan tart, which is a Scottish butter tart packed with sultanas, almonds,currants and cherries. Next time we really must pack a healthier picnic at home. Mañana.

After crossing the Muga river we quickly came to the first blind, where we had a perfect view of the pond and a pair of huge, pure white, adult Bewick's swans. The wetlands are on a migratory route from Scandinavia and Iceland and all these birds were escaping cold, northern winters. There were several big, black coots who lumbered around the pond and a moorhen kept digging his head in the mud looking for food. After watching for awhile we continued further into the parc.

Although it is a nature preserve, large sections are still farmed. In the fields shoots were already sprouting. We passed a farm with a tiny lamb asleep by its mother. This was followed by a field of at least five hundred sheep packed in a field. It seemed that we walked and walked through fields but still hadn't reached the centre of the parc where most of the ponds are. This caused some silent whining, which very gradually gained in intensity.

Finally, a field full of white storks and some camarague ponies; we have arrived! The huge storks flapped their wings as they walked around the field but they didn't seem too bothered by our presence. The bird song became louder and louder as we moved towards the blind overlooking a huge pond filled with little grebes, common shelducks, mallards, teals, northern shovelers, northern lapwings, common snipe and some other unidentified species. We visited the information centre where we discovered that no one had sighted any flamingoes yet.

Finally, it was time to return to the car. We passed the farm with the lamb only this time he was awake and frolicking around the field leaping and jumping while bleating the whole time. None of the of the sheep paid any attention to him. I hope this first spring wooly lamb gets some friends soon. We stopped at the last hide where I admired two northern shovelers performing like synchronised swimmers as they dove back to back and then reappeared on the surface. Before crossing the river we were serenaded by five, large ring-necked doves perched high in a tree.

As I watched five or six large birds fly overhead I was hoping they were flamingoes but in my heart I know they weren't. Back at the car we decided to come back in the next few weeks to see if we could spot those elusive pink birds.

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