BIRDS IN GALLOCANTA LAKE

 

Gallocanta Lake is a shallow inland saline lake of 1.400 Ha. It is located at high altitude in the heart of the Iberian Chain. It takes up the bottom of a large endorheic basin of gentle topography, except towards the NE where is closed by the Valdelacasa and Valdellosa mountain ranges.

Anatidae are very abundant in Gallocanta Lake, especially on wet years when the number of aquatic birds can reach over 200.000 in addition to the breeders staying in spring and summer. During winter it receives birds from northern latitudes increasing the numbers and variety of this group of birds.

Cranes

Photo: Agustín Catalán

 

Waders have in Gallocanta a vital stop in their migration route; the species we can observe during spring and autumn are plentiful and varied. A few species breed in the lake, such as the northern lapwing (Vanellus vanellus), the Kentish plover (Charadrius alexandrinus) and the black-headed gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus).

And we cannot forget the cranes; they visit us in big numbers during the whole winter (around 25.000 individuals winter here), with occasional peaks of 130.000 at the time of the pre-breeding migration. Other migrating birds like storks and flamingos use the sheet of water to rest.

On the shores and especially in the places where fresh water enters the lake, among rushes and reeds, we can find insectivore birds like Sylviidaes. Even though they are virtually absent during summer some of them breed here, but it is with the post-breeding migration at the end of summer that the numbers swell, being possible to observe the rare aquatic warbler (Acrocephalus paludícola).

On the fields of cereals is easy to find Alaudidae and Fringillidae, which form big flocks during autumn and winter, and other steppe birds: great bustard (Otis tarda), little bustard (Tetrax tetrax), black-bellied sandgrouse (Pterocles orientalis) and the Eurasian stone-curlew (Burhinus oedicnemus) which usually gathers in small numbers at the end of summer and the beginning of autumn to travel further south where they winter. In the shrubbery no taller than 40 cm. a discreet bird, scarce in the rest of the world, keeps here a healthy population; it is very difficult to see, even during the breeding season when it is really easy to hear its song.

There are also specimens of other families such as corvidae, turdidae and picidae.

The birds of prey inhabiting this territory are the typical of open country with a few species characteristic of woodland. In this year (2014) there has been a substantial increase in the population of common vole (Microtus arvalis), and therefore, it is being a remarkably good year to observe this kind of birds in the area, both because of the numbers (tripling that of a normal year) and the diversity: it has been detected the presence of species uncommon in this place like the short-eared owl (Asio flammeus), the black-winged kite (Elanus caeruleus) and the Bonelli’s eagle (Hieraaetus fasciatus). Moving around the heaps of stones and old constructions in the country we can find the more and more unusual little owl (Athene noctua).

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Look for the birds seen in Gallocanta

Besides birds, in Gallocanta Lake it is not difficult to see several species of mammals. Fox, roe deer and wild boar are particularly easy to spot at dusk and dawn. Others like the European badger (Meles meles), the beech marten (Martes foina), common genet (Genetta genetta) and the wildcat (Felis silvestris) are much more elusive.

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