Tuesday 10 March - arrival in Valencia.
It was a routine flight from Gatwick, arriving in Valencia at the same time as Karin and Brennan arrived from Germany. Meeting as the airport were local leader Pau and Jillian, who had travelled from her part of Spain and was picked up by Pau a little earlier. Most of us found our way out of the car park in our Europcar minibus then followed Pau's vehicle, with the remainder of the group, south-east towards Valencia's marshes. The paddy fields were poor for birds: draining ahead of rice being planted had started early. Nonetheless, Brian estimated we passed about 300 little egrets, mostly standing around in dry fields.
We parked at the Albufera's visitor centre and climbed the stairs to the elevated viewing area. Lakes with islands held black-winged stilts and shelducks. Turning through 90 degrees, out on the open water were red-crested pochards and Mediterranean gulls mingling with black-headed gulls.
|Black-winged stilt tucked in behind a shelduck.
We descended and followed the route that a school group had taken to a large hide, past helpfully labelled trees, such as Aleppo pines, and shrubby vegetation that included phillyrea, sometimes known as false olive though here with the English name of mock privet. We found a chiffchaff and heard several Sardinian warblers. From the hide we were close to the stilts: there was also a little ringed plover and Jill found a ruff. A pale phase booted eagle flew around a few times.
|Lunch, a Valencian treat.
Lunch at Restaurant Mateu was a very large Fideuà (a Valencian dish similar to paella but with pasta rather than rice) and a paella, plus salad and puddings.
There was a brief stop to look at water pipits on a muddy field followed by an unsuccessful attempt to see a usually reliable day time roost of night herons. Wren and blackcap in song and a couple of house martins flying over were the best we could do.
Time was moving on, so we set off on the hour's journey to Villalonga. This was the first Honeyguide group at Hotel Casa Babel, so it was good have time to settle in and begin to work out the lie of the land. Pau joined us for a sumptuous dinner: shared starters, quite a choice for main course then a selection of desserts. It was soon time to catch on sleep after early starts.