I’ve locked up Casa Libélule and begun my journey home to re-join Francine. I’m breaking the journey just a little by calling in to a reserve, the Marjal dels Moros, near Puçol, just above Valencia. It took me two hours to get here using Sally Satnav and I found ample parking at 12:30 PM. So, tomorrow’s journey to near Bilbao should be more like 6 hours than 8 hours.
I had inside information that the way into the marjal was “along the beach”, the beach being large pebbles, or along a track between two canals behind houses. I had a look at the latter first and decided to try the beach, largely ‘cos I spotted a small gaggle of birders armed with spotting scopes coming out that way. Tromping north along the beach, from my slightly elevated position, sort of a rough sea wall, I could see water bodies and above one I spotted a distant hawker hawking about. What I didn’t see was any ready access to said water bodies. Indeed, it took me some time to find any way in to the reserve at all. At one hopeful looking track beside a bird observation platform, I was blocked by a fence. There were a few Red-veined Darters (Sympetrum fonscolombii) flitting about in the nearby vegetation and also what turned out to be Southern Darters (Sympetrum meridionale), but I was beginning to feel a little underwhelmed.
Eventually I found a board advertising an Itinerari beginning with a boardwalk heading into the marjal. Hopes raised, I set off into the interior. Additional life seemed scant, though. I did spot one Broad Scarlet (Crocothemis erythraea) but that was all until I finally came to an access point beside a water body. At last, a place to watch Odos over water. Here, I amused myself for a time watching and trying to snap a male Lesser Emperor (Anax parthenope) on patrol. Pictures were only partially successful, at least in part because the lighting conditions were not great – glaring water, despite the cloud. Actually, I’d driven for 90 minutes in sun to get here only to find cloudy conditions at the marjal. Typical! Still, it was warm, about 27°C, and there was activity.
I’d been targeting this particular reserve before setting off from the UK, my main reason being to search for Orange-winged Dropwings (Trithemis kirbyi). As it turns out, I found them on my doorstep in Jalón. So, the apparently lack of them here, thus far, was not too much of a concern. I wasn’t actually spotting what I now thought of as their normal type of habitat, rocks beside streams. However, on the southern leg of my route, beside what I’d describe as a drainage ditch rather than a stream, I did actually find a couple. So, they do exist here.
What would be most handy, certainly on a first visit to the Marjal dels Moros, is a guide. Occasional “usted esta aqui” [you are here] maps would be a decent substitute. Unfortunately, both were in short supply. I began looking for a way out. I actually didn’t even know if I was still on the itinerari, so scarce were the maps. A man dressed in almost nothing, the only chap I’d seen other than me, tried to direct me in his English, which was less scant than my Spanish. I flipped a mental coin between back-tracking and trying to follow his instructions round the rest of the park. Perhaps foolishly, his instructions won. Eventually, after returning from yet another track blocked by yet another fence, I did find a second of the itinerari signs. Heartened, I continued, eventually finding myself on what I suspected was the southern edge track between the two canals. I was right and was fairly shortly reunited with my car with an unusual amount of relief.
I’m glad I visited en route to Bilbao. Had I done my originally planned 4-hour round trip from Jalón, I’d have been quite disappointed. This marjal really looks a bit like an RSPB reserve, great for birds (with observation platforms) but where the habitat is also enjoyed by dragonflies. Observing the dragonflies, though, is a bit more of a challenge. You need to get close to them and places where that could be done seemed a bit limited. I suppose, had this given me my first ever Orange-winged Dropwing, I’d have been feeling considerably more positive about it. As Jalón had proved better, I felt a bit so-so.
Fretting about an exit when I had no idea where I was didn’t help at all.