Vagrant Emperor (Anax ephippiger) male near the visitor centre
A little known coastal wetland in the province of Castellon
Location of P N del Prat de Cabanes-Torreblanca, south of the Ebro delta and Tortosa
Whilst staying at the Ebro delta one hour to the north, we first took the opportunity to visit this lesser known wetland in the province of Castellón in March 2016. We visited again in March 2017. The site is covered in WWBNES and briefly in BGES (see reference sources). Vastly overshadowed by more famous sites to the north and south, the province itself is no doubt overlooked by most visiting birders. However, as is often the case in Spain, the site proved impressive, even though it rained all morning and part of the afternoon (2016). These were only day trips, the area merits far more time than that, even in mid-March.
On both visits, we began at the north end, the NEW
visitor centre is on the outskirts of Torrenostra. Note that the reference sources listed refer to the old visitor centre at the southern end, Torre de la Sal. This northern area proved very productive, so much so that in 2016 we barely had time to explore the other main area at the southern end. The centre itself has a viewing area and info desk overlooking a superb scrape (see photo gallery); well managed with plenty of birds including new arrivals like Little Ringed Plovers and Yellow Wagtails (2016). The staff there were very helpful and spoke English, a booklet (in English) and an equally useful large scale map were obtained there. Stairs lead to an upper level/observation tower with extensive views looking south over the reserve. Outside, a sort of wildlife garden borders this part of the reedbed. This has two wooden observation towers overlooking the same scrape and reedbeds, and inland west towards the mountains. Viewing from here we had a break in the weather (2016) for nearly an hour, the breeze turned SW, and visible migration was observed; 1 White Stork, 1 Osprey, 1 Pallid Swift, 3 Alpine Swifts, 2 Red-rumped Swallows and many other hirundines all heading NE. The pebble beach here also has some interesting plants. Prior to this we walked the northern trail (2016), about 5 kms, in pouring rain, but still saw a good number of species on the lagoons.
2016 - We then drove south down the N-340 to the southern end at Torre de la Sal, where two trails start, one 2.5 kms the other 6 kms. With Easter looming and the associated school holidays, there was plenty of activity here, mostly human and all emanating from motorhomes and caravans, for which there is ample parking! On a brief recce, these trails looked very interesting, with canals, ditches, wet meadows, reedbeds and the shingle beach. A fine day in May outside of holiday periods would be perfect.
2017 - We walked the 2.5 kms trail, interesting although still a month or so early to see most migrants. The wetlands to the landward side are much encroached upon, although that does at least create some habitat diversity, with the land often being used for fruit trees.
Generally a very promising area, probably best in late April/May as is usually the case.
By the amount of cartridge cases we saw this wildfowl-rich zone is probably best avoided from October to the end of January.
Spain; P N del Prat de Cabanes-Torreblanca 18/3/2016, 31/3/17 gallery
Details of trails in WWBNES (see reference sources) and free map and booklet from visitor centre
We used our accommodation at L'Ampolla (Ebro delta - see trip report), just under an hours drive north.
'WWBNES' - Where to Watch Birds in Northern & Eastern Spain. Michael Rebane & Ernest Garcia. Helm, 2008.
'BGES' - A Birdwatching Guide to Eastern Spain. Malcolm Palmer/Luis Fidel. Arlequin, 2001.
The free booklet (in english) and 1:15,000 scale map from the visitor centre are invaluable.
Park info (English)
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BIRDS - 71 species
Anas penelope - 5 31/3/17.
Netta rufina - 100+ 18/3/16.
Great Crested Grebe
Ixobrychus minutus - 2 (m, f.) 31/3/17.
Ardeola ralloides - 1 31/3/17.
Ardea purpurea - 1 31/3/17.
Ciconia ciconia - 1 mig. active 14h 18/3/16.
Western Marsh Harrier
Accipiter nisus - 1 14h 18/3/16.
Pandion haliaetus - 1 over beach 13h 18/3/16.
Porphyrio porphyrio - heard 31/3/17.
Little Ringed Plover
Charadrius dubius - 4 18/3/16.
Charadrius alexandrinus - 1 18/3/16. 2 31/3/17.
Gallinago gallinago - c10 18/3/16. 2 31/3/17.
Tringa ochropus - 1 18/3/16.
Larus melanocephalus - c30 18/3/16.
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Common Wood Pigeon
Eurasian Collared Dove
Apus pallidus - 1 from visitor centre
Apus melba - 3 near visitor centre at 14-15h, then moved off NE 18/3/16.
Eurasian Crag Martin
Common House Martin
Cecropis daurica - 2 near info centre 14-15h 18/3/16.
Anthus campestris - 1 31/3/17.
Anthus pratensis - 1 31/3/17.
Anthus spinoletta - numerous 18/3/16. 1 31/3/17.
Motacilla flava - 2 18/3/16. 2 31/3/17.
Oenanthe oenanthe - 1 male 31/3/17.
Acrocephalus melanopogon - heard only, in heavy rain 18/3/16. 1 31/3/17.
Eurasian Penduline Tit
Remiz pendulinus - occasionally heard, one seen near visitor centre 18/3/16.
Eurasian Tree Sparrow
Passer montanus 4+ 31/3/17.
Common Reed Bunting
Vanessa cardui - 3+ 31/3/17.
Pararge aegeria - 1 near visitor centre 18/3/16.
Cacyreus marshalli - 1 31/3/17.
Anax ephippiger - 1 male near visitor centre in a brief sunny spell 18/3/16. 5+ 31/3/17.
Sympetrum fonscolombii - 10+ near visitor centre 31/3/17.
Coastal (Sea) Medick