A couple of days ago I accompanied a couple of our guests to the Ebro Delta. Within minutes of getting onto the Delta we saw Whiskered Tern, Glossy Ibis, Black-winged stilt and more. We visited bird hides at Riet Vell reserve and around La Tancada lagoon. Just some of the birds seen were: Greater flamingo, Purple Swamp Hen (Purple Gallinule), Common coot, Little Grebe, Great-crested Grebe, Shoveler, Marsh Harrier, Audouin Gull, Cattle egret and Dartford Warbler.
But, as often happens it was when we were done and heading home off the Delta that we enjoyed our treat of the day. Close to the road, on the bank of one of the canals running at right angles we saw a Purple Heron . We stopped the car and immediately realised that the heron was wrestling with a snake, which in a valiant effort to escape was wriggling madly and twisting itself around the herons beak. The heron then held the snake down on the ground and stabbed it repeatedly with its beak. Next, it picked up the now-limp snake and carried it down the bank to the edge of the canal, where it dipped it in the water to wash off the grit and dust. It was so engrossed in the kill and the washing that we were able to slowly creep forwards in the car until we were looking down the canal and virtually level with the heron. We watched enthralled for several minutes until it finally manoeuvred the whole thing into the right position to swallow:
The Purple Heron (Ardea purpurea) is a striking looking bird. It has a chestnut-coloured neck with distinctive black stripes and a long, narrow, yellow bill. It is smaller and slimmer built than a grey heron and its longer skinnier neck gives it an overall more elegant look. It has a dark grey body and the wings have a purplish-brown tinge. It inhabits reed beds and rice fields (such as on the River Ebro Delta) where it has a varied diet of fish, crustaceans, frogs, insects, lizards and snakes. The Purple Heron is migratory, overwintering in Africa. It is generally an easy bird to spot on the Ebro Delta from April -September. They can also be seen at suitable spots further inland on the River Ebro and at Sebes Nature Reserve where they nest in the reed beds.