The wetlands at Padul can be a highly productive location at this time of year…and our latest visit once again put some brand new species on our lists for the new season.
Some members of the Rallidae such as the Coot and the Moorhen are widespread, year-long residents, with familiar, easy-to-spot plumage and quite open habits and behaviour. Others are far more retiring and difficult to find…and so it was with the rather beautiful species we have for you today.
The Spotted Crake Porzana porzana is perhaps not the most likely looking long-haul migrant, but many of these remarkable little birds cross the Sahara every year from wintering grounds in east Africa, and return to their breeding grounds in the spring.
Their stronghold is in the northeast of Europe, but they do have a very localised and patchy summer distribution across Spain, France and up into Germany, Scandinavia and elsewhere. They nest in boggy patches of sedges and flooded meadows – often avoiding reedbeds as such – but on passage regularly appear on stretches of suitable wetland, and each year the marshy margins of this wonderful reserve provide the perfect, temporary habitat.
The Spotted Crake is notoriously shy, and spends much of its time in thick cover, quietly feeding on shoots, seeds, insects and other invertibrates. With a bit of luck however great views can occasionally be enjoyed, and watching this individual pecking away contentedly only a few metres away from the path was without a doubt highlight of the birding year so far! The photography was difficult – but we saw enough of this secretive bird to enjoy the intricate detail of its markings. The brown back is covered in dark streaks and white flecks and spots, and there are black and white bars along the flanks.
Note the slate-grey plumage on the face and the throat – just visible in some of the shots shown here – and the rather short, yellow bill, a helpful detail that distinguishes it fron the longer, red bill of the similar Water Rail.
Another first-ever sighting from this fantastic reserve…we’ll be sure to return here again as the season unfolds. Keep reading our posts for all our latest news…and click here if you would like more information on how to join us on one of our birdwatching trips and holidays, we’ve got some of the best birding southern Spain has to offer right on our doorstep!