A couple of days ago, I had a wonderful day out bird watching in Valencia – something that none of my family thought I would do (let alone enjoy the experience).
Well, it was a revelation!
Probably like most women, I tend to get caught in the house during the Christmas period, barely able to escape from the constant round of meals, entertaining and tidying up. And then, of course, there are the children to keep happy and my husband occupied (not that he always appreciates it!). It all means that I end up having little time to myself to relax.
However, to my amazement, this year my husband bought me a day out with Nature Trails Spain, who run bird watching tours in Valencia!
Well, you can imagine my surprise at receiving a bird watching tour as a present, particularly as I know next to nothing about birds. That is not say that I do not like the countryside nor that I have no interest in wildlife, both of which I do. However, I rarely know what I am looking at, why it is unusual and what the creature I am looking at does – making any sustained interest in local wildlife in Spain frustrating and a touch pointless. Certainly, my husband is of no use at all, as he cannot tell the difference between a bat and a budgerigar and considers walking anywhere an insult to the inventor of the combustion engine!
In any event, with a small party, we set off last Tuesday with Dave Warrington from Nature Trails Spain as our guide. Dave is an expert birder (I think that is the right term!) and very soon displayed an astonishing knowledge about the bird-life of Valencia and where best to go at different times of the year to see a dazzling variety of birds in Spain in their natural or migratory habitats.
Over a coffee, just before we set off, Dave described to us what we were likely to see and why – whilst warning us to keep a sharp look out for anything we considered unusual. He then issued us with binoculars and we set off on a walk around the marshlands of northern Valencia – with me wrapped up like the proverbial Michelin man (which I was to regret later as, the day became surprisingly warm).
The plan was to take a gentle 7 km walk around the Valencian marshlands along routes that Dave clearly knew intimately, whilst visiting various hides and viewing platforms. We would stop at these and along the way, as we spotted birds of interest. To help us see the birds better, Dave had a large telescope and tripod, which was to prove very useful during the course of the day.
In fact, I was really surprised at the number of different birds that we saw right from the start of the walk. Moving slowly and carefully, Dave was scrupulous about not just pointing out individual birds but also describing what they were, what they were doing and their particular characteristics. Each species we saw started to have a real personality of its own beyond simply being pretty or a curiosity.
One of the joys of the walk was seeing a flight of Flamingoes. These were beautiful and took on a gorgeous pink glow as their wings caught the sun. Really tremendous!
Later on we saw a Purple Gallinule (huge red feet!), which Dave told us was a rare sight. This was complemented by coming within almost touching distance of a beautiful Kestrel, which seemed not to care at all about our presence. Meanwhile, for long periods of the day, a magnificent Booted Eagle circled overhead, thankfully not disturbing one of my favourite birds, the Hoopoe (which eats just about anything, including Procession Caterpillars, which I hate!).
In all, we saw a total of 33 different species during our bird watching tour in Valencia, which Dave considers a reasonably good number for this time of year. Certainly, I was astonished that so many could be seen in one day and delighted by a really lovely, relaxing day out within beautiful countryside. This was enhanced by Dave who was wonderfully good humoured and tolerant, whilst providing a day that ended with a really pleasant sense of achievement. Lovely!
I would never have thought that I would say this but my day out with Dave, bird watching in Valencia, has sparked an interest that I shall really enjoy building upon (I have just bought a book about birds!). I may even try to persuade my husband to accompany me next time – actually maybe not! There is quite a lot to be said for having a selfish day out, doing something completely different…
Finally, if you want to go out with Dave on a bird watching tour then he can be found at Valencia birding or Nature Trails Spain or you can e-mail him directly at: NatureTrailSpain@gmail.com Have a great time – and I may see you there!