Sunday 26 July 2015

Pego marshes

At the end of my 10 days house hunting in Oliva, Sapin, I managed a third birding session. This one was with resident birder and local expert Jules Sykes. Jules is an international tour guide too so I was lucky enough to have a morning with him.

We started out birding at 5.30 am and it was still dark when we arrived at Pego marshes. The early start was for two reasons. One was to avoid the heat of the day. The second  was to see red-necked nightjar which is a strictly nocturnal hunter.

We were still on the main road just before meeting the marshes when we saw the first one. 

After turning off into the marshes we counted 14. My attempts at photography weren't so successful partly because I hadn't really woken up properly before the action started.

red-necked nightjar

This bird was a lifer for me and one of three during the day.

another red-necked nightjar

Among the nightjars was one seen briefly which appeared smaller and darker. It was probably a European nightjar. However the views were too fleeting to claim it.

We didn't stay at pego marshes but pressed on down the coast to Denia as dawn broke. Here we saw yellow-legged gull, black headed gull and a wandering juvenile gannet far out to sea. 

two northern raven at Cape San Antonio.

After Denia, we rose up the hills to Cape San Antonio where there was birding to be done on the cape itself and by looking down towards the sea.

On the top near the lighthouse were a pair of northern raven, several sardinian warbler in bushes, a melodious warbler in the lighthouse garden and many goldfinch. A male blue rock thrush was also sighted. Melodious warbler was the second lifer and I wish my views had been better.

goldfinch at Cape San Antonio.

On the cliffs, many pallid swift were doing sorties. I understand this is a breeding site. More yellow-legged gull were observed down in the near-by harbour alongside three European shag. A Scopoli's shearwater was seen with the aid of Jules's spotting scope out to sea. This was my third and last lifer of the day. However for me at least the best sighting there and arguably the day was a peregrine falcon flying round the cliffs.

Apparently, black wheatear are known visitors to this site but none were seen on our trip.

Next we moved back to pego marshes now in daylight. Both reed warbler and zitting cisticola were observed in the reeds. Moustached warbler was heard but not seen.

Some of the larger herons were easily seen: purple heron, grey heron, squacco heron, little egret and cattle egret.

The marsh is in a protected area but some rice fields are allowed to be planted. The most flooded of these and other flooded areas will be good for waders and even in July there was some useful activity.

black-winged stilt

All the flooded areas had attracted black-winged stilt. Perhaps more surprisingly several wood sandpiper were also present. These must be "autumn" returners.

White wagtail were common and two yellow wagtail were also observed.


Hoopoe were seen in a wide variety of terrain.

cattle egret at pego marshes

Mallard was especially common and it looks like I wrongly identified those seen on previous walks as domestic. Wild birds are seemingly very common indeed and can be tame.


We finished birding by 10.15 am as the temperatures started to soar. I am indebted to Jules Skyes for his guidance and hope to see him many times again if my house hunting comes off.

After this session, my recently Spanish list stands at 51 species. Those which contributed during the session with Jules are given below.

Pego marshes
Little bittern  
Purple heron 
Little egret  
Cattle egret  
Squacco heron  
Eurasian marsh-harrier     
Common moorhen  
Black-winged stilt  
Little ringed plover  
Wood sandpiper  
Common wood-pigeon     
European turtle-dove  
Eurasian collared-dove  
Red-necked nightjar     
Common kingfisher 
Eurasian hoopoe  
Iberian grey shrike 
Woodchat shrike   
Barn swallow  
Common house-martin  
Eurasian reed-warbler  
Zitting cisticola  
Spotless starling  
Western yellow wagtail  
White wagtail  
House sparrow  

Cape San Antonio
Scopoli's shearwater 
European shag  
Yellow-legged gull 
Pallid swift 
Peregrine falcon 
Common raven  
Barn swallow
Melodious warbler  
Sardinian warbler  
Black redstart  
Blue rock-thrush  
House sparrow  

Denia coast
Northern Gannet   
Yellow-legged Gull 
Black-headed Gull  

Saturday 18 July 2015

Oliva north side

I am in Oliva, Valencia, Spain at the moment house hunting for a winter home. This is not a birding trip but I have managed to snatch two sessions of birding over the past week.

As usual for me I start birding by walking directly out of my hotel before attempting any known birding hotspots. 

My hotel is on the north side of the town. There is a water channel a little further north I can walk along which goes virtually all the way to the sea before petering out 30 metres from the it. 

The heron family obviously likes the water channel. 

little bittern

The prize member was an adult little bittern which stayed exposed for a couple of minutes.

grey heron

At least three grey heron were accidentally flushed as I walked along. A single little egret was sighted briefly before disappearing down a side channel.

In that same side channel I glimpsed a common kingfisher.


In the main channel were several mallard which I presume were domesticated being very tame. In contrast both adult and young moorhen would rapidly take cover as I approached.

House martin are undoubtedly the most common hirundine in the town and over the near-by countryside. Yet I have yet to see one perched on a wire and ironically it was three sand martin which were perched on one alongside the water channel close to the beach. 

sand martin

They were indeed the only sand martin I have seen so far in Oliva.  Near the sand martin and close to the beach I saw two immature yellow-legged gull fly over.

young barn swallow

Barn swallow are more common than sand martin though much less so than house martin. However a trio of young ones sat on a branch over the channel allowing close approach.

distant kestrel

The water channel is along side a road which veers off another which runs through some orange groves towards the near-by village of Piles. Over the junction of these two narrow roads was where I saw the only bird of prey so far, a humble kestrel.

kestrel hovering

The orange groves mostly hold a different set of birds.

an orange in a grove

If you listen and then look carefully there are sardinian warbler about but they are very shy.


In much great numbers are goldfinch and greenfinch.

greenfinch looking left

Blackbird are surprisingly numerous in the groves too though not at all tame. House sparrow are everywhere and I also saw a single serin.

greenfinch looking right

On one of the two walks I reached the edge of Piles which is a village just north of Oliva. There are  collared dove there (also seen in Oliva).

collared dove

White wagtail were seen best there too.

white wagtail

It was the only place I have observed a spotted flycatcher so far.

spotted flycatcher

Back in Oliva there are plenty of hoopoe on the manicured lawns and the screams of common swift flying through the upper parts of the old town cannot be missed even by the most casual observer.

I hope to do some serious birding (as opposed to these informal walks) in the Oliva area over the years if my house search comes off.