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A Report from

Fuentes de Nava, Palencia, Spain 4 -12th September 2006,

Bob Swann

This report gives details of the birds seen and the sites visited during a eight day visit to Fuentes de Nava, near Palencia in Castilla y Leon, northern Spain. I was a volunteer with the Foundacion Global Nature, who run the Estacion Biologica de la Nava, and was helping with their bird ringing programme. I stayed at their self catering hostel in the village. It was fairly basic with dormitory accommodation, a small kitchen and two toilet/shower rooms. I helped with the netting from first light till lunch time and then again in the evenings. This gave me the afternoons to explore the surrounding countryside. I used Ryanair to fly from Stanstead to Valladolid and then hired a car from Europcar, pre-booked through Holiday Autos.

4th Sep. I arrived late afternoon and drove from Valladolid airport to Medina de Rioseco and then north to Mazariegos, then up the P940 to Fuentes de Nava. Enroute lots of Common Buzzard and Common Kestrel. Settled into the hostel, then went out to assist with the evening ringing at the la Nava wetland. This site has been reclaimed from arable land to re-create a wetland habitat, with lagoons surrounded by reeds, rushes and along the edge strips of bushes. In these bushes were lots of migrating Willow Warbler and Pied Flycatcher and with them a nice male Bluethroat and a juvenile Woodchat Shrike. In the evening thousands of Barn Swallows and hundreds of Yellow Wagtails came in to roost in the reeds and Grey Herons and White Storks drifted in to roost on the lagoon.

5th Sep. First net checks took place at 8pm. The bushes were moving with Pied Flycatcher, Spotted Flycatcher and Willow Warbler. Amongst them were smaller numbers of Common Whitethroat and Garden Warbler. We also had a Common Nightingale and a young Sub-alpine Warbler. In the reeds and rushes were lots of Reed Warbler, a few Great Reed Warbler, Cetti’s Warbler and Zitting Cisticolas. We also caught a Savi’s Warbler, an adult Aquatic Warbler and a Penduline Tit.

In the afternoon I went for a walk through the village and out into the fields to the east of the village. Lots of House Martin, House Sparrow, Spotless Starling and Collared Dove in the village. Crested Larks were present on waste ground at the edge of the village, with small flocks of Tree Sparrow and Corn Bunting in the adjacent fields. At the small water treatment works just beyond the village were 200+ Mallard, with a few Shoveler and one Gadwall along with 20 Little Grebe, lots of Common Coot and 4 Black-headed Gulls. Along the edge were about 500 Lapwing, with 2 Green Sandpiper, 2 Common Sandpiper, 7 Little Stint and a few White Wagtail. From a ditch I flushed a juvenile Purple Heron.

Back to the lagoon in the evening, where five Greylag Geese flew over and three juvenile Night Heron came into roost along with the Grey Herons.

6th Sep. The morning net rounds were still very busy with lots of birds being caught. Amongst them were Common Redstart, Blackcap, two Melodius Warbler, two Wryneck as well as another Sub-alpine Warbler, Savi’s Warbler and Bluethroat. In the stubble fields by the lagoon entrance was a flock of 20 Greater Short-toed Lark. Overhead were Common Buzzard, Marsh Harrier, a few juvenile Montagu’s Harriers, two Black Kite and a nice adult Booted Eagle

7th Sep. The morning net rounds were quieter than usual. They did include 4 more Bluethroat, another Penduline Tit and several Sedge Warblers. Waders on the lagoon included a Greenshank, 5 Ringed Plover, 3 Kentish Plover, 6 Dunlin, 2 Black-tailed Godwit and a Little Stint. Duck included 30 Shoveler and 20 Common Teal.

In the afternoon I went out the P953 road towards Becerril de Campos. Over the adjacent stubble fields were lots of Common Kestrel, Marsh Harrier, Montagu’s Harrier, Black Kite and Common Buzzard all preying on Common Voles. In a lucerne field I had nice views of three Great Bustards. I also flushed a Common Quail. It was too windy in the evening to open the nets.

8th Sep. A fairly quiet morning at the nets, the highlight being two more male Bluethroats. In the afternoon I drove over to Becerril de Campos. On the fields adjacent to the road I had two more Great Bustard, lots of Northern Wheatear, one Black-eared Wheatear, lots of Yellow Wagtail (including both flava and iberiae), one Hoopoe and a flock of 60 White Stork. At the edge of Becerril de Campos, along by the canal was a strip of woodland. This held lots of birds, including Common Magpie, Collared Dove, Turtle Dove, along with flocks of Goldfinch. Migrants included the usual Pied and Spotted Flycatcher, Willow Warbler and Common Redstart. There was a family of Green Woodpecker in the poplars and I flushed a Barn Owl from a hole in an old tree, which was mobbed by the local Blackbirds.

We opened the nets again in the evening. Quite a few Sand Martin came into roost with the Barn Swallows. We also caught our first Grasshopper Warbler.

9th Sep. A busy morning with lots of birds caught. Mainly Pied Flycatcher and Willow Warbler, but also a new Wryneck, Blackcap, Bluethroat and our first Robin.  In the afternoon I checked the fields between Autillo de Campos and Guaza de Campos. Lots of Northern Wheatear and Skylark plus two nice Short-toed Eagles hunting over the stubbles.  Near Autillo de Campos I had 11 Great Bustards by a lucerne field. Evening thunderstorms meant no netting, but I did locate a family of Barn Owls flying around outside the hostel.

10th Sep. A damp misty morning. As we opened the nets I had two Short-eared Owls flying low overhead. Another quiet morning at the nets, with a new Grasshopper Warbler being the highlight. On the lagoon waders included 6 Ruff and 6 Black-tailed Godwit along with 15 Common Snipe and 3 Little Egret.

In the afternoon I drove up the P952 to Paredes de Nava and then out along the P961 for a few kilometres. I stopped by the church of Nira Senora de Carejas and checked the trees around it and the pines on the adjacent escarpment. Amongst the trees were Great Tit, Goldfinch, Turtle Dove and Wood Pigeon. Along the edge I located at least four family parties of Cirl Bunting and also a few Linnet. On the escarpment I had a male Sub-alpine Warbler and a Wryneck. The trees by the church were full of Pied and Spotted Flycatcher and Willow Warbler. I then checked out (by driving up and down tracks) the extensive agricultural land to the north of Paredes de Nava. In the fields were lots of Northern Wheatear and Skylark, along with 3 Tawny Pipit and a group of 6 Red-legged Partridge. Along the occasional field boundaries were Whinchat, a few Stonechat and some Linnet. In a lucerne field by the P9611 I located another 5 Great Bustard and in a weedy stubble field about 4km north of Paredes a dense flock of 150+ Calandra Lark.

No evening netting as it was too windy.

11th Sep. Another quiet morning at the nets. Birds of note caught included 2 Bluethroat, a Sub-alpine Warbler, a Melodius Warbler and a Water Rail. I had heard lots of the latter in the reeds, but this was the only one I actually saw. In the afternoon I checked the fields again on the P953 road towards Becerril de Campos. There are lots of lucerne fields here with 100s of feeding Yellow Wagtail and Barn Swallow as well as Whinchat, Northern Wheatear and a few Stonechat. Lots of Common Kestrel, Black Kite, Marsh and Montagu’s Harrier and a male Hen Harrier. East of the road I had a group of 17 Great Bustard.

In the evening on the lagoon were 6 Little Egret and 4 Spoonbill, as well as 10 Ruff and 2 Wood Sandpiper.

12th Sep. My final morning. Again quite quiet at the nets but a new adult Aquatic Warbler made up for it. Also caught another Grasshopper Warbler, a Bluethroat and two more Wrynecks, amongst the usual Willow Warbler and Pied Flycatcher. Two Great Cormorant flew over just as we were closing the nets.

It was then time to leave. The drive back to Valladolid airport was uneventful, bar seeing another adult Booted Eagle.

In all I had seen 95 different species. It had been a very good trip, the highlight being the Aquatic Warblers, Great Bustards and Calandra Larks. Spain is full of migrants at this time of year, feeding continuously as they put on fat prior to onward migration. This area was also very rich in raptors, mainly as a consequence of a high density of Common Voles. I got on well with the local Spanish ringers, and the other volunteers, mostly Spanish biology students. They were all very kind and friendly. It was a very enjoyable experience and one I hope to repeat sometime in the future.

Bob Swann

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