Saturday, November 9, 2013

Much to see in long overdue trip to wetlands

Our weather continues to be sunny and warm. In fact it is so warm that a friend of ours from Edinburgh actually complained about it, when we met him at the market this morning. He didn't complain that strongly but he is missing our wild, winter weather.

Yesterday we visited the Aiguamolls nature reserve for the first time in many months. It was a day for nature. As we drove along the road to Llanca, the next town, we had to stop the car to let three adult wild boar cross the road. You never see the shy wild boar so this was very special. Unfortunately, we weren't quick enough to take a picture of their lovely brown ugliness.

We drove to the Aiguamolls through vineyards painted in vibrant shades of red and yellow. Some people had nets down and were starting their olive harvest. Close to the road we spotted black water buffalo. There are a few herds of these in the area from which the the farmers produce wonderful cheese.

After a quick ham and cheese baguette at the Aiguamolls it was off to the first pond. The water was as high as we've ever seen it. The water in the Aiguamolls is controlled by pumps and dams. It certainly isn't from any rainfall.

The first pond was very busy and noisy with lots of Greylag geese, mallard ducks, rollers and off in the distance we spotted two adult deer. Above all the activity a marsh harrier patrolled the pond looking for his next meal.

From the blind on the other side of the pond we looked out on a pair of pure white giant mute swans sitting on an island right in front of us. They were surrounded by more mallards, common shelducks marked with their green heads and white plumage and a common pochard distinguishable with it's rusty head. A couple of cormorants were on their usual log but this had been taken over by little egrets. In the distance there were about twenty wading flamingoes in various shades of pink and greyish-white. One lone giant egret foraged for food along with two storks. We spotted several deer and were lucky to watch a stag walk into the water and wade to the next island feeding on grasses as he walked along. What a beautiful sight.

Walking further into the Aiguamolls I fed some grass to three young Camargue ponies. With them the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. Unusually, they were well behaved and didn't bite each other. Suddenly, the most rambunctious one stuck his head through the fence and bit my leg, actually breaking skin. I'm not sure why. At this I retreated to the nearby bench to watch them chasing each other, bucking and biting legs. They raced up the field turned and charged at the fence just stopping right before it. It was a bit alarming and I was hoping that jumping fences wasn't part of their repertoire. Then my biter pony became fascinated with a short log and kept picking it up and walking around with it. Very strange behaviour.

On our way down to the beach we spotted more marsh harriers, a falcon and a common kestrel. There are two new blinds near the beach, where we watched a red breasted merganser do a dance with a huge fish. The merganser would dive under the water and the fish would leap out of it. This went on for some time with no one winning.

By now the sun was getting much lower in the sky. It was time to return to the car after a delightful afternoon in the Aiguamolls. We once again passed the field with the Camargue ponies and noticed that they had managed to completely knock down a part of their fence but fortunately not to the part that we were walking on.

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