Saturday, December 14, 2013

Birdlife and a birthday

It was another hot and cold week, not outside but in our house. Once again the heating died. This time we asked our agency for a place to shower. This finally grabbed the attention of the landlord, who offered the use of his house. 24 hours after filling our oil tank, the whole system cut out again. This time we were told that when refilling the tank the system should have been shut down for three hours, never something we had been required to do on previous occasions. What next?

With another beautiful day, we decided to visit the Aiguamolls nature reserve. As we left the car we could hear lots of quacking and honking from the main pond. When we arrived at the blind, we could see that it was almost "standing room only" in the pond with lots of greylag geese, a few Canada geese, mallards, shelducks, European wigeons, northern shovelers, teals, and northern pochards with their distinctive rust-coloured heads. There was plumage of almost every colour and the noise was almost overwhelming.

We headed off to another blind, on the far side of the pond, where we spotted about twenty flamingoes wading and shuffling along, looking for dinner. There were also two mute swans sleeping on a small island, cormorants taking pride of place on their log, great blue heron and a few storks. Some of the ducks and geese were intermingling with them.

As we walked deeper into the Aiguamolls we passed the still empty stork nests, then looking down into a marshy area we stopped and watched a long legged spotted crake tug, tug, tugging away at something that might have been a frog, finally winning and running deeper into the marsh with its trophy.

Since it was such a nice day, we decided to continue our walk down to the beach, stopping to watch the antics of the Camargue ponies. We were surprised to see so many foals since our last visit. The cattle egrets were happy to see the ponies since they kept flying in to perch on the ponies' backs. A black, glossy ibis went about its business in one of the ponds. We were very excited to see a flock of what looked like large, black birds fly and land in a field. Were they the elusive Grus Grus - European Crane? We raced off to their landing spot to find out that they were storks. They certainly look impressive when flying in formation.

Close to the beach, we followed a long, muddy path down to a blind that had not been available to us before. What a spot! We had clear views of a big pond, the marshes and the sea in the distance. From here we saw some swans flying in the distance as well as several marsh harriers cruising around in their search for dinner. On the other side of the pond were two trees that looked like they were decorated with black Christmas ornaments that turned out to be cormorants just hanging out. I kept hearing a horses neigh and sure enough straight across from us in the tall grass was a foal lying down munching with its mum nearby.

Finally, we crossed the long, sandy beach to the water. I thought it might be inviting but it really did look cold. Since the sun was moving lower in the sky it was time to retrace our footsteps.

Back in the village we decided to go for a glass of cava at the Nautica. There was a birthday party for one of the server's five-year-old daughters going on. Now for us it was very interesting to watch a birthday party Spanish style from our perches at the bar.  All the parents were socializing having a beer or glass of wine, while the partygoers were having their faces painted, eating, socializing or playing games in small groups. Everyone, young and old was having a good time. We felt very welcomed, when the uncle of the birthday girl offered us a little glass of home-made, not sweet, jello-topped with whipped cream and sprinkles and some homemade cookies. It  went quite well with the cava. There were a couple of gifts of toys and clothes and one big gift everyone had chipped in for. We couldn't clearly see what it was but maybe a dollhouse set. There was a set time for the end of festivities so that the restaurant could return to normal but we were long gone by then.

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