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Friday, January 9, 2015

Regreso a España... Emporda and its many marvels ..Bluethroat, Penduline Tits and the biggest bird hide ever!

First post from my second road trip to Spain, and about time ... been giving it the big easy since leaving my sisters house in Montmorillon, France and 4 days of merriment and music making over New Year. Before crossing over into Spain I spent a few days around the wetland areas around Narbonne and filled my boots with some nice Flamingoes
Greater Flamingoes, St Pierre, nr Narbonne
Plenty of birds about and some great weather once I cleared a belt of mist and rain across central France, lovely light and a chance for some landscape pics nr port Leucate
Port Leucate, with the Pyrenees in the background

Dartford Warbler, early morning shot.

My best effort yet of a Dartford Warbler and some nice flying Great White Egrets were useful sign off pics from my last good outing in the south of France, but I could sense Spain beckoning, and I crossed the Pyrenees on the 5th Jan. Didn't stop ... it was dark and just too cold and bitter this time of year, be better on the way back!

Great White Egret

...and so to my first landing spot in Spain - Aiguamolls D'Emporda.

Been here 5 days now (so it must be good!)... just exploring this rich and varied coastal area in Catalunya. There's a major 'parc naturel' at 'El Cortalet' but the whole area between the 2 rivers Muga and Fluvia is impressive, well managed and in this part of Spain second only to the Ebro Delta in terms of wildlife importance.

Marsh Harrier, El Cortalet
El Cortalet is a wetland area to rival the best ... all the usual suspects I guess but I never tire of watching Marsh Harriers do their stuff...

Marsh Harrier, El Cortalet
....Water Rails all over the place but as ever - the devils own business to photograph! Of half a dozen seen and more than treble that heard, these were my best efforts -

Water Rail, El Cortalet

Water Rail, El Cortalet

The White Storks here are just about to start breeding and making a right racket with all that bill rattling! There was a big nest just above my van in the car park at the reserve but right across the patch they weren't exactly difficult to photograph!

Like I say, tis the breeding season here for storks ... think she's giving the nudge to a slow starter?!

Penduline Tit, El Cortalet
Last time I was in Spain (Nov/Dec 2013) I was totally thrilled to get my first ever Penduline Tit in the Brazo del Este. It was a good view, but fleeting and no chance to get the camera out. Double, nay treble my thrills, add ecstasy and a bar of Cadbury's Whisper Gold for good measure and what you get is not one but a flock of said Tits... and I got to take pictures!

Penduline Tit2, El Cortalet

Penduline Tit3, El Cortalet

Penduline Tit4, El Cortalet

 I was totally captivated by these fantastic wee birds, counted 8 in total, feeding on mast heads and actually stripping some kind of goodness out of the reed stalks (pic3). At the risk of sounding like David Attenborough, as I watched them flit from reed to reed, I was struck by how totally adapted they are to this environment.. swaying and sinking down on mast heads (like a pendulum doh!) and the way their feet fit the exact diameter of a reed stem... awesome!

Bluethroat, El Cortalet

First day in Spain was already beyond expectations and it kept going.... fancy a bit of Bluethroat?

Bluethroat2, El Cortalet

Bluethroat3, El Cortalet

Amazingly, my dear mother had given me a framed picture of a pretty bird she stumbled across in an antique store ... turned out to be a limited edition print of a Bluethroat! She wasn't to know but I love these cunning little birds ...aren't mums brilliant!

Chiff Chaff, El Cortalet
Sticking with wee birds and as with the last time I was in Spain, the wintering numbers of Chiff Chaffs here is as staggering as ever, along with Starlings, Stonechats and Reed Buntings they are the most populous bird out here.

A few more Willow Warblers than last time too but not got a decent pic yet!

Every remaining fruit bearing bush and tree has some kind of bird in it and if its not a Blackbird its a Blackcap ... here's a female devouring a fruit I should be familiar with. Blueberry?

Female Blackcap, El Cortalet

The terrain is dominated by salt loving shrubs and plants, with lots of saltmarsh rocket, sea bindweed and tree-wise the short and stubby Salt Cedar trees.

Great for Meadow Pipits, Linnets, Goldfinch, Wood & Crested Larks

Although there's an abundance of wet fields I've not had huge numbers of wading birds .. a few Spotted Redshank, Green & Common Sandpiper, Curlew and Lapwing

Lapwing, El Cortalet
and from the highest and most impressive bird hide I've ever clambered into, and I was breathless when I got to the top of this one ...
Mega bird hide at El Cortalet!

.....some cracking views of the reserve
El Cortalets from the tower hide

Not the prettiest, but of all the bird hides on all the reserves I've ever visited, this is certainly the tallest .. and with the Pyrenees behind mighty impressive!

Common Snipe flock, El Cortalets
.... and from the top of that very hide, a passing Marsh Harrier put up a ton of Common Snipe ... not the sharpest of pics by any means but as a spectacle I enjoyed every frame ... when was the last time you saw a flock of 200+ Snipe!

Common Snipe flock, El Cortalets
Wow, nearing the end of my first week in Spain and I haven't hardly moved from Emporda, believe me I could have doubled the number of pics in this post with worthwhile shots but not bad for a start and already topped 100 bird species.

Hoopoe, San Pere Pescadore


  1. A great BLOG with a terrific selection and class shots

  2. Cheers Brian, I try and have much fun in the meantime ... yourself? You blog / take pics?