Visitors to Las Tablas

I´m talking about birds and people. Las Saturday I had the pleasure of a trip around las Tablas with Darío from DestinosManchegos, a tour operator in Daimiel. I was brought along to see how they give their tours as they have asked me to give one in English later in the month. They are extremely knowledgeable and two great guys as well. I am hoping to work with them in the future when I get my own accommodation and bird tours business going where the relationship will be two ways.
So we started at 08:30 and were greeted with a spectacular sight as soon as we entered the park. There were hundreds upon hundreds of Black-headed Gulls, some Little Egrets, various ducks, a stork and a number of the previously mentioned Squacco Herons.

2011_09_17 TD - Morning Flocks
Morning Activity
Stars of the morning though were the seven Glossy Ibis which are in the Tablas at the moment. They all put in an appearance for us flying around in the cool early morning air.

2011_09_17 TD - Glossy Ibis (Plegadis falcinellus) 02
Glossy Ibis (Plegadus falcinellus)
During the course of the walk Darío said that this year approximately 400,000 people have visited the Tablas. That is just an incredible number. I remember going there during the drought and you would hardly meet anyone. This year after all the rains and with the water level back up earlier in the year, many people called it an Attraction Park. It certainly was. Even as we were leaving, the car park was full and there were tour buses. You can certainly tell that they had a lot of people visiting throughout the year going by the damage to the walkways which they are starting to repair now.
Still though life goes on. Freshwater crays crawl about in the mud, small fish abound for the hungry birds, and for the first time I saw catfish. The latter was introduced into a reservoir further up the river and now are in las Tablas. I wonder what the ecological impact of this invasive species will be? We also got to see a Viperine Snake hunting fish in a puddle and eventually catching one and swallowing it down.

2011_09_17 TD - Viperine Snake (Natrix maura)
Viperine Snake (Natrix maura) eating a fish
The mud about the park is now more prominent than the water but reveals a myriad of tracks of all the birds, crays, foxes and wild boar. It´s ideal to practice your tracks and signs identification.
After the walk Darío brought me on the 4×4 tour showing me parts of the park only accessible to themselves and the park authorities. During this part of the trip we were delighted to see the Osprey which has been about for the past two weeks or so. It has rings on it and they are trying to see where it came from. It was fishing and swooping down by the southern end of the park and, fortunately, it sat on a tree allowing me some shots even though a Marsh Harrier was being a bit unwelcoming towards it.
2011_09_17 TD - Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) 02
Osprey (Pandion halieatus)
I´m not sure whether the Tablas is better with water and loads of visitors of the human kind as it also means we get many visitors of the feathered kind. It just becomes a problem when people treat it as a park rather than a National Park where sensitive wildlife live and stay when on passage. For those of us who are more serious about watching wildlife it is a great annoyance to have hundreds of loud people walking about the limited public areas, or who enter a hide for a minute or two, cause noise and go again without taking time to see what there is. I would be all up for limiting entrance to the park, but that would affect people who do sit quietly, observe, enjoy and are fully aware of the issues. Thankfully people like Destinos Manchegos are able to offer something that gets you to the quieter spots where you can see the Tablas without hundreds of brightly clad, noisy crowds. Thanks guys, talk soon.

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