The Pyrenees – Part Six – Malcolm Palmer

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An early start from our hotel at Monreal del Campo, and Greta drove us efficiently down to Sagunto, where we took a detour through Puçol to the Marjal del Moro, undeterred by a race or some such that seemed to be taking place, requiring much police presence. Once at the coast, we took the path along the edge of the marsh and immediately began adding to our ‘trip-list.’ Black-headed, Audouin’s and Yellow-legged Gulls were present in numbers, the Audouin’s always nice to see at close range, their elegance in contrast to the lumbering Yellow- legs. I spotted the pure white wing-tips of an adult Mediterranean Gull amongst the other gulls. Sandwich and Common Terns were also feeding on what must be a fish-rich little bay. As we turned our gaze inland a regular back-and-forth movement of Glossy Ibis, in considerable numbers, was evident, and the odd raptor circling overhead was probably Booted Eagle, though too far off to be certain. Closer by, Whiskered Tern fed , dipping characteristically into the shallow pools, where Great Crested and Little Grebes were joined by Mallard and Red-crested Pochard. A pair of Little Tern flew past, then I was diverted by the gleaming white plumage of two Gull-billed Tern, flying north. Several Collared Pratincole came by from time to time, and Grey Herons were almost always in view. Coot were feeding young at the edge of the reedbeds, where Reed and Great Reed Warblers were singing lustily. A Purple Swamphen, then, all-too briefly, a Little Bittern, jumped up, and flew short distances before dropping out of sight. Turtle Dove, as always at this season, sang from tamarisk bushes just behind us. This had been a very suitable ‘coda’ to our Pyrenean jaunt, raising our list to ‘respectable levels.’ We decided to celebrate with lunch at a favourite ‘watering hole’ on the way back, l’Hostalet, in Cocentaina, where Salvador made us as welcome as ever. Our ‘northern jaunt’ had been, as all voted, a considerable success, despite a few omissions and setbacks – you never see all the birds you set out to see!