There was a highlight of yesterday evening’s slightly stressful approach to Grisel. As we were following Silly Sally Satnav on her route straight through Tarazona, as opposed to making the more sensible left turn, we were delighted to see many pairs of Storks building their massive nests of interlocked sticks on top of numbers of Tarazona’s high points. We’d previously seen Storks nesting on apparently dangerous high tension electricity pylons in the rural west of France but here they were in an urban setting. This morning the rain had dribbled its last overnight and had abated, for now anyway, so, grey and cold though it still was, after we’d checked out of our castillo, we set off first to a fuel stop – a full tank would be enough to get us to Jalón – and to try to get a better look at the Storks.
Free parking in a town/city: what a delight. We found a well paved free car park close to the centre of town to begin an exploration on foot.
We soon came across a modest river running through town. It was modest now but, given it’s deep side walls, I suspect this was doubling as a storm drain capable of channelling some serious flood water safely through town. Beside it was an “usted esta aqui” [you are here] map. I thought I recognized the junction where we’d driven past our nesting Storks on the previous evening. We began walking towards it beside the river/storm drain.
I have never seen such a large collection of Swallows zooming about low over the water in my life; there were literally hundreds of them. Every metre of Tarazona’s waterway was teeming with zooming, feeding shapes. I was mesmerized by the numbers. Actually, as we watched, I realized that this was a mixed swarm of (at least) three species. The majority were Barn Swallows (Hirundo rustica) but every now and then a bird with a white rump would swoop by; a House Martin (Delichon urbica). Then I noticed a slightly smaller, browner shape whizz past. This, I think, was a Sand Martin (Riparia riparia). The walls of this water channel were peppered with what I assume were drain holes for the surrounding ground and I spotted a couple of these opportunistic little birds enter one of the holes – ready made nest sites. A bird soon popped out of the same hole and I wondered if I’d witnessed a shift change sitting on a hidden nest, allowing a partner to come out and feed. The funny thing was, we couldn’t actually see any flies at all but there must’ve been masses of them, given the hundreds of birds feeding.
We could’ve watched the swarming Swallows for hours but we needed to move on to the Storks. These were White Storks (Ciconia ciconia).I’d have thought it a little disconcerting to have birds the size of a small private aircraft nesting on ones roof – these guys have a 2m wingspan – so the nests are necessarily rather large. I can’t help but wonder who gets to clear up after breeding season, assuming that someone does.
It was clear that the Storks did not mind a little noise; at least two pairs had chosen to nest on bell towers. As we wandered around the town, the bell in the tallest tower began ringing loudly but the resident Stork continued with its nest preparation apparently completely unfazed. Watching a 1m tall bird deftly manipulating twigs/branches that were almost the same length was quite fascinating. Such innate skill is remarkable.
Before heading back to the car to start out for Jalón, we wandered around, we finished our visit by wandering around some of the streets of Tarazona. It’s a pleasant town and in its network of narrow streets we stumbled across two fishmongers, alleyways, ornately decorated buildings and, of course, yet more Stork nests.
Back on the road, we headed off cross-country intending to call into Daroca, reputedly well worth a visit. Regrettably, though, the rain began again and, with temperatures topping out at 7°C, we bailed out and headed for the autopista towards Teruel. Here, what had been irritating drizzle became a thrashing downpour of biblical proportions. I slowed to avoid aquaplaning on the standing water in the tyre ruts. Welcome to sunny Spain. 😀
The weather had moderated as we approached Jalón. ‘T was still very grey, though. We’re here and this is the first time we have not been able to sit on our balcony on the day of arrival.