Waiting for spring in Mérida

So far, I have been spending a fair amount of time in Extremadura, Spain and in particular it’s capital city, Mérida. I have a lot of familiarity with the city having visited it for the past six years. During that time I have amassed a city list of 72 species thus far.

Mérida is a small city of 100,000 or so inhabitants and is essentially surrounded by countryside. Most tourists visit the city to see its rich Roman heritage as there are plenty of ruins around, not least the Roman Bridge – the world’s longest of its kind. It cuts across the Guadiana River seperating the old town from the more recent part of the city on the westside.

Birders also come here, primarily to stand on the Roman Bridge to search for Purple Gallinules foraging alongside the reedbeds. It is indeed, one of the best places in the whole of Extremadura for this oversided moorhen.

Currently the water levels are artificially low because the local council are clearing the margins of a Water Hyacinth, a virulent invasive alien plant that has been choking everything in its path.

The draining has created some interesting looking muddy margins that I was hoping would have yielded a few waders. Instead, I have only been treated to a Common Sandpiper once and a scarce Pied Wagtail or two.

My patch is essentially the riverbank on the western side of the Guadiana from the Roman Bridge to the Iron Bridge (a railway bridge) 1.5 miles north downstream. There’s an interesting area of land that is currently being churned up by bulldozers. Despite that there are some small areas of thick vegetation, muddy puddles and piles of compost. All looking very inviting to passing migrants. The compost heaps have been crawling with Chiffchaffs with at least 30 snapping up the insects the other day.

I have flushed Snipe and found two Little Ringed Plover from the muddy pools and in the vegetated bits I’ve watched Hawfinch, Sardinian Warbler, Cetti’s Warbler and Spanish Sparrow. From the Iron Bridge sing Spotless Starling and on a reeded island in the middle of the river a pair of Marsh Harriers display.

Anyway, here are a selection of the birds that I have seen in the last month – and spring is not even here yet!

The draining has created some interesting looking muddy margins that I was hoping would have yielded a few waders. Instead, I have only been treated to a Common Sandpiper once and a scarce Pied Wagtail or two.

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