Friday, April 20, 2012

Spring has arrived in the wetlands

After days of high winds and mixed weather it was a pleasure to spend the afternoon at the Aiguamolls. We enjoyed our picnic of ham and goat's cheese on a multigrain bun and a glass of red wine, while being entertained by two ring necked doves making a high pitched crooning sound that accompanied their vigorous mating ritual. Then it was off to the first blind.

All the leaves were now out on the trees and were enveloped in that lovely green tropical smell that occurs after rainfalls. Just before we entered the blind we encountered a huge clump of  brilliant yellow irises. Once in the blind, we immediately noticed that most of the geese have disappeared but there were still lots of mallards, shellducks, pochards, and little and great egrets. In the distance we spotted the flamingoes nearer the next blind, our next stop.

Many of the foraging  flamingoes were brilliant pink or an orangey-pink colour. When they spread their wings this, with the combination of black was quite breathtaking. There were many more immature flamingoes than we had seen previously that were still quite whitish grey in colour. Immediately below us we watched a black coot patiently sitting on its nest.

As we returned to the main path we could hear the clacking of the white storks' beaks. Some of the nests had grown considerably in size since our last visit but there were a couple of nesting platforms without any nests. We wondered if they had been swept away in gale force winds. Each nest had a stork sitting in it with other storks perched around in the trees. One nest had two storks that appeared to be feeding chicks. We observed a shift change on the nests as the male or female came to exchange places on the nest.

When we came out of the white stork blind there right in front of us was a whole field of yellow irises. They were actually growing in the wetlands and all along the path. Water levels throughout the aiguamolls are carefully controlled, and today the little streams bordering our path were quite full. As we passed a grassland area we spotted the bright red and green head of a pheasant accompanied by a female, then luckily, we spotted two more pairs.

One newly flooded field was filled with black winged stilts, black and white waders with long legs, and avocets that are quite similar in appearance. There were several egrets in among the stilts, whimbrels, green sandpipers and even a glossy ibis. In a pond nearby were several shags.

As we neared the beach we watched black and white Caspian terns, barn swallows and swifts swooping above the canals in the wetlands. We were entertained by a great crested grebe, easily spotted with its orange crest, diving under the water and then reappearing quite a distance away.

Once down on the beach we climbed the lifeguard tower to look over the beach, a large section of which is now roped off to protect nesting birds. We spotted gulls and sandpipers  on the beach quite a distance away. As we looked back over the canals it was hard to spot anything over the three metre high grasses.

On our return journey we spotted a pair of grus grus or common crane flying overhead. Some white storks were feeding near the fence separating the path and farther away there was a large black bird. It was a lone black stork wading in the field. By now the clouds were rolling in and as we neared the car the first sprinkles of rain came down. Perfect timing.

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