Return from The Maestrazgo – By Malcolm Palmer

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Returning from our successful visit to the lovely mountainous region of the Maestrazgo, Barry and I drove down to the coast, trying first, without success, to find decent accommodation north of Castellón. We eventually decided to drive through to Puçol, and didn’t regret it, as the Hotel Alba proved an excellent choice. Next morning, we were right on the spot for the Marjal del Moro reserve, and had seen Collared Pratincole in fields before we even got there. Once we had arrived, and clambered along the uncomfortable track – nobody in authority seems to care much about my dodgy hip! – we installed ourselves on the observation platform. Never at a loss for something to see there, we had soon logged Squacco, Purple and Grey Herons, as well as a brief view of Little Bittern. Whiskered Terns were plentiful, and the odd Little and Common Tern flew past. Scarcer were Gull-billed Terns – we only saw three – but Glossy Ibis was a frequent sight, and a Great White Egret flew past majestically. The reeds were alive with raucous Great Reed Warblers, Zitting Cisticola flew over, and a Turtle Dove purred from the same tamarisk it had inhabited the previous year. Only one Marsh Harrier was seen, and a lone Shag flew over the sea.

We succeeded in getting comprehensively lost in Valencia – not difficult, in a city seemingly devoid of signs (or, at least, helpful ones) – but eventually found our way out to El Palmar and the flooded rice paddies. Glossy Ibis were plentiful, but there was an inexplicable dearth of waders, until we arrived at the remains of la Ratlla, where at last a Greenshank, a fleeting glimpse of a Wood Sandpiper and a couple of Little Ringed Plovers were our reward. An Arabian-style dust-storm, under black skies, drove us south, and we finished off our three day trip with a visit to the Marjal de Pego. Again Glossy Ibis wasn’t hard to find – they are indeed becoming a common sight at all our wetlands – but apart from a lot of Mallard, there was little to detain us. It had been a good trip, however, and I can thoroughly recommend the Maestrazgo to all and sundry.