Valencia diaries: Friday, day 4

Friday 13 March - Pego Marsh and Gandia
A slightly earlier (8:45) start to meet members of Pau's ringing group, Pit Roig, at Pego Marsh, as they'd set up the mist net before dawn. Driving there through dry paddy fields there were several glossy ibises with the expected little egrets, plus Audouin's gulls standing on a dry field. Juan from Pit Roig had four birds in bags, and Brian, a qualified 'C' ringer, was invited to 'process' them: check rings, measure and weigh. He started with two re-traps, a chiffchaff, released by Dawn, and a Cetti's warbler. The next bird was a new one for Brian: a female bluethroat. Another grade A bird followed: moustached warbler, a generally resident species with an important population added to by wintering birds from the Camargue. There was also a moustached warbler singing, like a slow, relaxed sedge warbler. A pale phase booted eagle flew over, a marsh harrier drifted by and the zip zip zip sound of a fan-tailed warbler preceded its tiny form flying past. Farther away a flock of some 150 glossy ibises was moving around. There was a big patch of a white labiate by where we'd parked, which later study revealed to be Stachys ocymastrum.

Group member Brian rings and releases a moustached warbler.

We drove a short distance to a circuit on foot through part of the marshes and around a small hill. Sue G saw a snake dash through, but despite some searching we didn't see it again. Everyone played hunt the mosquito fish: searching by eye for a tiny fish introduced here in the 19th century. In the end we saw lots in several places. Our first red admiral, a blue-tailed damselfly, more Iberian water frogs and a red-eared terrapin were other finds. We drove to Pego town for our usual coffee stop, returning to where we'd come from for a picnic on the tables under mulberry trees.

The afternoon was at the resort/port of Gandía. We parked by the cafe on the quay, where three stopped for a hot drink, soon catching up with the rest of the group who had walked to the end of the harbour wall. Sandwich terns flew over, but numbers were low compared with Honeyguide's previous visit.  Scanning the sea and sky revealed several gannets and cormorants, then a surprise as a great skua flew past. It looked like a quiet day generally and I had thoughts of leaving early, but then a trawler appeared in the distance, followed by a cloud of seabirds. Those birds included several gannets and many Audouin's gulls, all getting steadily closer. As the trawler come into harbour the group of gulls broke up, with a couple of lesser black-backed gulls and a Mediterranean gull settling on the sea.

There was much conversation back at the minibus and at the hotel later about the developing coronavirus situation, with news of a further spread at home and in Spain.

Gulls follow a fishing boat into Gandía harbour.


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