News, Trip Reports, etc

P N del Prat de Cabanes-Torreblanca, Spain, 18/3/2016 and 31/3/17

Vagrant Emperor (Anax ephippiger) male, near visitor centre
Vagrant Emperor (Anax ephippiger) male near the visitor centre

Location of P N del Prat de Cabanes-Torreblanca, south of the Ebro delta and Tortosa

Whilst staying at the Ebro delta one hour to the north, we first took the opportunity to visit this lesser known wetland in the province of Castellón in March 2016. We visited again in March 2017. The site is covered in WWBNES and briefly in BGES (see reference sources). Vastly overshadowed by more famous sites to the north and south, the province itself is no doubt overlooked by most visiting birders. However, as is often the case in Spain, the site proved impressive, even though it rained all morning and part of the afternoon (2016). These were only day trips, the area merits far more time than that, even in mid-March.
On both visits, we began at the north end, the NEW visitor centre is on the outskirts of Torrenostra. Note that the reference sources listed refer to the old visitor centre at the southern end, Torre de la Sal. This northern area proved very productive, so much so that in 2016 we barely had time to explore the other main area at the southern end. The centre itself has a viewing area and info desk overlooking a superb scrape (see photo gallery); well managed with plenty of birds including new arrivals like Little Ringed Plovers and Yellow Wagtails (2016). The staff there were very helpful and spoke English, a booklet (in English) and an equally useful large scale map were obtained there. Stairs lead to an upper level/observation tower with extensive views looking south over the reserve. Outside, a sort of wildlife garden borders this part of the reedbed. This has two wooden observation towers overlooking the same scrape and reedbeds, and inland west towards the mountains. Viewing from here we had a break in the weather (2016) for nearly an hour, the breeze turned SW, and visible migration was observed; 1 White Stork, 1 Osprey, 1 Pallid Swift, 3 Alpine Swifts, 2 Red-rumped Swallows and many other hirundines all heading NE. The pebble beach here also has some interesting plants. Prior to this we walked the northern trail (2016), about 5 kms, in pouring rain, but still saw a good number of species on the lagoons.
2016 - We then drove south down the N-340 to the southern end at Torre de la Sal, where two trails start, one 2.5 kms the other 6 kms. With Easter looming and the associated school holidays, there was plenty of activity here, mostly human and all emanating from motorhomes and caravans, for which there is ample parking! On a brief recce, these trails looked very interesting, with canals, ditches, wet meadows, reedbeds and the shingle beach. A fine day in May outside of holiday periods would be perfect.
2017 - We walked the 2.5 kms trail, interesting although still a month or so early to see most migrants. The wetlands to the landward side are much encroached upon, although that does at least create some habitat diversity, with the land often being used for fruit trees.
Generally a very promising area, probably best in late April/May as is usually the case.
By the amount of cartridge cases we saw this wildfowl-rich zone is probably best avoided from October to the end of January.

Spain; P N del Prat de Cabanes-Torreblanca 18/3/2016, 31/3/17 gallery

Details of trails in WWBNES (see reference sources) and free map and booklet from visitor centre


We used our accommodation at L'Ampolla (Ebro delta - see trip report), just under an hours drive north.


'WWBNES' - Where to Watch Birds in Northern & Eastern Spain. Michael Rebane & Ernest Garcia. Helm, 2008.

'BGES' - A Birdwatching Guide to Eastern Spain. Malcolm Palmer/Luis Fidel. Arlequin, 2001.

The free booklet (in english) and 1:15,000 scale map from the visitor centre are invaluable.

Park info (English)

BirdLife factsheet Use search engine

BIRDS - 71 species

Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope - 5 31/3/17.
Gadwall Anas strepera
Mallard Anas platyrhynchos
Northern Shoveler Anas clypeata
Red-crested Pochard Netta rufina - 100+ 18/3/16.

Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis
Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus

Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo
Little Bittern Ixobrychus minutus - 2 (m, f.) 31/3/17.
Squacco Heron Ardeola ralloides - 1 31/3/17.
Little Egret Egretta garzetta
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea
Purple Heron Ardea purpurea - 1 31/3/17.
White Stork Ciconia ciconia - 1 mig. active 14h 18/3/16.
Glossy Ibis Plegadis falcinellus

Western Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus
Eurasian Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus - 1 14h 18/3/16.
Common Buzzard Buteo buteo
Osprey Pandion haliaetus - 1 over beach 13h 18/3/16.
Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus

Water Rail Rallus aquaticus
Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus
Purple Swamphen Porphyrio porphyrio - heard 31/3/17.
Eurasian Coot Fulica atra

Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus
Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius - 4 18/3/16.
Kentish Plover Charadrius alexandrinus - 1 18/3/16. 2 31/3/17.
Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago - c10 18/3/16. 2 31/3/17.
Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus - 1 18/3/16.
Common Redshank Tringa totanus

Black-headed Gull Larus ridibundus
Mediterranean Gull Larus melanocephalus - c30 18/3/16.
Audouin's Gull Larus audouinii
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus
Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis

Common Wood Pigeon Columba palumbus
Eurasian Collared Dove Streptopelia decaocto

Pallid Swift Apus pallidus - 1 from visitor centre
Alpine Swift Apus melba - 3 near visitor centre at 14-15h, then moved off NE 18/3/16.

Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis
Hoopoe Upupa epops

Sand Martin Riparia riparia
Eurasian Crag Martin Ptyonoprogne rupestris
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica
Common House Martin Delichon urbicum
Red-rumped Swallow Cecropis daurica - 2 near info centre 14-15h 18/3/16.

Tawny Pipit Anthus campestris - 1 31/3/17.
Meadow Pipit Anthus pratensis - 1 31/3/17.
Water Pipit Anthus spinoletta - numerous 18/3/16. 1 31/3/17.
Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava - 2 18/3/16. 2 31/3/17.
White Wagtail Motacilla alba

European Robin Erithacus rubecula
Black Redstart Phoenicurus ochruros
European Stonechat Saxicola rubicola
Northern Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe - 1 male 31/3/17.

Cetti's Warbler Cettia cetti
Zitting Cisticola Cisticola juncidis
Moustached Warbler Acrocephalus melanopogon - heard only, in heavy rain 18/3/16. 1 31/3/17.
Sardinian Warbler Sylvia melanocephala
Eurasian Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla
Common Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita

Eurasian Penduline Tit Remiz pendulinus - occasionally heard, one seen near visitor centre 18/3/16.

Common Magpie Pica pica
Spotless Starling Sturnus unicolor
Common Starling Sturnus vulgaris

House Sparrow Passer domesticus
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus 4+ 31/3/17.
European Serin Serinus serinus
European Greenfinch Carduelis chloris
European Goldfinch Carduelis carduelis
Common Reed Bunting Emberiza schoeniclus


Painted Lady Vanessa cardui - 3+ 31/3/17.
Speckled wood Pararge aegeria - 1 near visitor centre 18/3/16.
Geranium Bronze Cacyreus marshalli - 1 31/3/17.

Vagrant Emperor Anax ephippiger - 1 male near visitor centre in a brief sunny spell 18/3/16. 5+ 31/3/17.
Red-veined Darter Sympetrum fonscolombii - 10+ near visitor centre 31/3/17.

Coastal (Sea) Medick Medicago marina
Sage-leaved Rockrose Cistus salviifolius
Mediterranean Catchfly Silene colorata