The Costa Blanca Bird Club had scheduled their March outing to Pego before the catastrophic ‘gota fría’ hit the province, so water was to be the theme of the day, even if the sun shone brightly in a gentle northerly breeze as sixteen members met on the marsh. All the fields looked ‘well irrigated,’ but no sooner had we disembarked than Pete called from across the road and we all hurried to see 16 Cranes, which flew off northwards after a few minutes, calling. We set off to do our usual walk along the path to the west, and were soon noting the big numbers of Glossy Ibis feeding everywhere, together with lots of Audouin’s Gulls, Little Egrets and a few Mallard and Grey Herons. It wasn’t long before Water Pipit was found, then Barry spotted a Yellow Wagtail. A little further along, a stop was much more productive, as the Mallard were accompanied by a small group of Garganey – the small migrant duck that is never a common sight in our area – and, looking over to our left, we found waders in a muddy field. Firstly two Little Ringed Plover and a Common Snipe, then, when we searched more, two Marsh Sandpipers and a Wood Sandpiper were discovered. The odd Booted Eagle, Buzzard and Marsh Harrier floated over, one being mobbed by Pallid Swifts, as we approached the reed-beds, above which big numbers of House Martins made their way north.
Our party split up, the more energetic taking the longer circuit, whilst those of us in more need of repose sat around and enjoyed the peace for a while. Thus I heard my first Reed Warbler of the year, whilst the ‘long distance party’ saw a couple of Red-rumped Swallows. It was soon time to make our way to lunch, and, after a small geographical ‘hitch’ – not guilty! – we arrived at the lovely little village of Forna, for a grand meal at the ever-welcoming ‘Nautilus.’ Afterwards we returned to the marsh, taking a different route, and finding no less than two White Storks (one of which was somewhat less than white!) and three Great White Egrets, as well as many more Glossy Ibis, Little and Cattle Egrets, and a good few Marsh Harriers. As we were about to leave the marsh, we again found the party of 16 Cranes, back in much the same area they had been feeding in during the morning. – clearly in no hurry to return to their northern breeding haunts.