Spring Trip to NE-Spain, Rafiki Birdwatching Spain, as one ...· Spring Trip to NE-Spain, Rafiki Birdwatching

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  • Guided by : Rafiki Spring Trip to NE-Spain, 2017

    Spring Trip to NE-Spain, Rafiki Birdwatching

    2017 March 31st to April 9th .

    Given: The auspicious occasion of having met one another 12 years, 6 months, 1 week and 2 days ago for

    the first time, in Ethiopia. Additional information: We made many trips in Ethiopia, Kenya, The

    Netherlands, Extremadura. Conclusion: We should visit another area. Execution: We went birding in NE-

    Spain, as one of us just moved over there.

    A trip starting on March 31st and ending on April 9th, giving us eight and a half days to visit several areas.

    The total list is given below, as well as a listing of the areas visited. Now follows a per-day description.

    Friday, March 31st. Weather: Sunny most of the day, temperatures up to 15C. Wind from NW, up to 3

    Beaufort. The travel arrangements were such, that Stefan flew in from Amsterdam, after office hours,

    Robert took a camping-observation journey by train from Tortosa to Barcelona, seeing the chain of

    recreational camp-sites, holiday rental homes, permanent tents, caravan and camper sites, which now

    are not occupied, and are basically an eyesore. That line of plastic, polyester and canvas only to be

    broken by refineries at Tarragona and breaker yards near Barcelona. We met at the airport, where the

    rental car was made available to us. However, low-budget airlines are not known for accurate arrivals, so

    an extra wait of 30 minutes was taken in our strides. As a consequence, we only arrived in the Goya Park

    Hotel at 11PM, where a septuagenarian in-line dancing party had just taken off. The lady singer sang the

    right notes for some songs, but fortunately decided to stick to her contract and leave at midnight. We

    were forced from our table, our beers and pizzas because the light was turned out. On the third floor,

    the boy in the room next door, unfortunately, turned himself on. We contemplated the choice between

    an Albanian hitman and some free child-rearing advice, but his demanding voice slowly died down

    anyway. Next morning his Dad looked as bleary eyed as us, but a bit more physically developed, good

    choice after all.

    Saturday, April 1st, no joke. Weather: Started out with rain, but later had sun, part of the day,

    temperatures up to 20C. Wind from NW, up to 3 Beaufort, but we were sheltered from that wind. We

    dodged a couple of showers, from time to time. The main aim for today was to visit the Aiguamolls de

    Emporda. This is an important wetland area in NE-Spain. Though it is not a continuous area, the total size

    is still impressive and definitely is worth a visit. We went for the southern part between Castello

    dEmpuries and San Pere Pescador. An old rice growing farm has been turned into a good birding area,

    with plenty of hides, a threesome of concrete storage silos turned into an observation tower, and plenty

    to look at. First, we drive past towards the campsite, the drizzle still making us reluctant to leave the

    sheltered comfort of the rental car. At the car-park we hear our first Cettis Warbler, a constant

    companion for the following days. Water meant Cs warbler. It takes more effort to see them, but we

    managed a couple of times.

  • Guided by : Rafiki Spring Trip to NE-Spain, 2017

    Aiguamolls d'Emporda. Former rice silos with snow-capped Pyrenees in the background. Stilt in front.

    Walking towards the silos one passes the first swamp. Wood Sandpiper, Snipe, Glossy Ibis and Egrets use

    that to forage and rest. Barn Swallow, Sand Martin, and a small flock of Common Swift hunt for insects

    over the wetland. From the top level of the observation tower we can look 360 around. The list grows.

    An Osprey flies past, Marsh Harriers abound and some showers approach, but never hit us. The grassy

    marsh holds more waders, Spotted and Common Redshank, Greenshank, Green Sandpiper. The anatids

    are well represented: Teal, Garganey, Mallard, Gadwall, Shoveler and a couple of Greylag. The silos

    themselves are good for House Sparrow. Even a Booted Eagle flies past. We descend and continue along

    the paths (after the rain, these are actually shallow canals, with narrow banks offering drier footage). A

    Hoopoe forages close to the path and allows good

    views. Half a dozen hides offer views over other parts. A

    Spanish guide reports having seen Little Crake some

    minutes ago, the Japanese clients are sitting in front of

    the slats and do not move, we see nothing. At another

    hide we see Tufted Duck and some cleverly hidden

    Night Herons. If you see these birds in the guidebook,

    you think that these would stick out like a skunk in a

    field of marigolds. But a Night Heron in a Tamarisk tree

    can hardly be noticed, Stefan managed to find the first

    one, and we spotted a few more, later, in the same

  • Guided by : Rafiki Spring Trip to NE-Spain, 2017

    cluster of trees. Real hard work, birding. Each hide gave more views and better looks, the list got longer,

    but the stomach also played up.

    So, we went for lunch in St Pere Pescador, a village aimed more to catch the unsuspecting tourist. After

    that we drove back to the main gate of the park. Since very little time was left, we did not enter, but

    returned to the hotel in Roses. A thorough bit of admin gave us a nice list of 77 species for that day. We

    noticed a few songbirds, but not a lot of species that one normally finds in reeds during the breeding

    season (e.g. Reed Warbler, Nightingale). Dinner along the boulevard, few restaurants were open, but the

    food was quite good and the celebratory drinks were well earned. The boy next door was only a little bit

    less vocal, still, we slept reasonably well.

    Sunday, April 2nd. Weather: Started out with sun, just a few clouds anyhow over most parts of the day,

    temperatures up to 20C. Wind from NW, up to 6 Beaufort, where we went, we were not sheltered from

    that wind. Cap Creus is a promontory, formed by the submerging eastern end of the Pyrenees. It is a

    unreal landscape of cragged rocks with sparse vegetation. Not easy on feet under normal circumstances,

    but in a howling gale, one gets easily blown out of equilibrium, with dire results. Keeping ones

    binoculars steady, let alone a telescope, under these conditions was a nightmare. Taking the wrong path

    did not help either, so after a while we decided that going to the restaurant next to the lighthouse was

    the better option. A wee bit of lee, next to the concrete lighthouse, gave us the chance to tick Yellow-

    legged Gull and Shag. The coffee in the restaurant was a godsent, strong, black and very tasty. On the

    way back we reached shelter from the wind on the southern side of the ridge, much more to our liking.

  • Guided by : Rafiki Spring Trip to NE-Spain, 2017

    The road from Cadaques to Roses is a raceway to some drivers, and one is apt to become a hindrance in

    their quest for glory. Stopping is only allowed on few spots, cyclists in suicidal moods and octogenarians

    in electrified wheelchairs make for a complete obstacle run, until

    the road reaches the plain again. A sense of normality returned.

    Then the Aiguamolls dEmporda was on the menu again. This time

    we entered at the Information Centre, north entrance. Quite busy

    with visitors and their parked vehicles. Still, the Storks did not

    mind, we walked some two kilometers to the silos again. A Monk

    Parakeet was seen entering a nest in the top of a high voltage

    post. Hoopoe again, and a good selection of waterfowl from out

    of a hide. The marshes hold numbers of tortoises, clusters of

    several individuals were seen. We visited the Little Crake hut

    again, but with a very strong wind in our faces, were not able to

    remain there for long. On the way back to the parking it was more

    quiet, we saw Yellow Wagtail in numbers. We opted to lunch

    again in St Pere. Unfortunately, Stefan chose a local specialty,

    stuffed cuttlefish, that was indeed a collection of small decapods,

    stuffed, but with mashed beef and gravy, not rice. He barely

    finished the dish, something to be righted later that day. After lunch we went to an area just south of

    Empuriabrava. A road leading to a campsite passes a water treatment plant and opposite is a hide,

    looking out over marshy ponds. More ducks for the day list. Very few songbirds had arrived at that time,

    probably in a few weeks it will be teeming with them here, prime area for Acrocephalus, Hippolais and


  • Guided by : Rafiki Spring Trip to NE-Spain, 2017

    Continuing on our avian quest, we went back to the main road, passing over a ford to cross the Muga

    river. The area we aimed at was Vilaut, north of the Roses to Figueres road: reached through Castello

    dEmpuries, you follow the GI-V-6103, which leads you through the Estanys. At one point, where the

    road reaches rocks on your left, under a power cable and starts climbing a bit, there is a sign, on your

    left, leading to Vilaut, by a small narrow footpath. It proved better to have continued some distance,

    park at the Restaurant and walk back on the road. Anyhow, we parked on not the best spot, we took the

    red path on the map below and went back the yellow way. Wellington boots would have been nice, as