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.
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.
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.