Thursday, May 24, 2012

Lots going on in the Aiguamolls

After a two week absence today we returned to the Aiguamolls nature reserve. Even our drive through the countryside seemed much different with the grasses much taller, crops much higher and everything looking incredibly lush after all the rain.

At the first blind it was  quiet except for a turtle swimming, it's head bobbing up and down on the surface of the water. Then we spotted an old log with what can only be called an orgy of turtles piled on top of each other with a few taking real advantage of the situation. A moorhen was followed by five of her chicks, all with funny red heads just like regular hens, bobbing around her. There were a few shelducks and many mallards, some enjoying the comfort of the very long grass.

Then it was off to see the storks. Last time we saw only one chick. Today that was the first chick we spotted, and how it had grown. It's head looked very similar to its mother's. As we walked farther down the path we watched the storks nesting on the cow barn. There were probably six giant nests. Here we spotted one nest with four young chicks, which is very unusual. One of these chicks looked quite pink just getting its feathers, while the others had their first feathers. In the other nests there were some larger fluffy, downy chicks always alert looking for food. Each nest had at least two baby storks. The older babies would stand and try to flap their newly forming wings. Some of the older birds had the black markings of their parents on their wings. Further along the trail we passed many more stork nests all with chicks.

The cows had moved into the next field with their friends the white cattle egrets. Close by we spotted some great white and little egrets and their cousins the great blue heron. The vegetation was much more lush than on our previous visits. Some of the grasses were at least seven or more metres tall. Along with the brambles, bushes and flowers there were even fig trees with figs lining the  path. The denseness of the vegetation made it very difficult to see any of the song birds; although we spotted a few nightingales making music with their trills, whistling and gurgling sounds.

Perhaps the most enjoyable part of today was watching the white Camarague ponies. The two colts from a few months ago have now been joined by eight more colts. The newest were very brown, while the older ones become more beige as they shed their thick baby coats. Finally, they look quite grey before turning white. The smallest stayed very close to their mothers. With the twenty-eight degree heat several of the ponies went into the deep pond in the field, where they ate the surrounding tall grasses. The water came right up to the top of their legs. One of the mothers clambered into the water with her new colt following right behind showing no fear. The water came right to the top of the colt' s legs but it seemed very sure footed. When mother decided to leave he stuck very close coming out of the pond with exceptional ease.

We plan to return to the Aiguamolls before too long to check on the progress of the storks. Some should be flying soon. And we think that there may still be more colts to join the herd of Camarague ponies.

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