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Urdaibai is the name given to the estuary and salt marsh located on the Bay of Biscay coast in the Basque Country, in the north of the Iberian Peninsula. The territory is characterized by a hydrografic basin of small streams that merge in a great salt marsh surrounded by high sheer cliffs.
Despite being an area of human activity, it maintains a well-preserved natural environment, housing an interesting variety of habitats within a relatively small physical extension (220 km2).
The main geographical feature is a watershed whose main river is the Oka, which flows from south to north through varied Atlantic countryside which is occupied by meadowland, oak groves, leafy woods and especially by plantations of fast-growing conifers.
The Urdaibai Bird Center, located in the town of Gautegiz de Arteaga, has been set up to study the birds and the habitats in the area, and conduct scientific projects on their habits and migration. The studies have the aim of getting to know a lot more about the species that inhabit and visit the bay and making these studies known to the scientific world and in some cases the general public. Visitors to this special Basque Birding Centre thus become privileged witnesses to the bird projectsthese teams of scientists are working on. It is indeed a living center, where every day brings something new, as the course of events is set by the birds.
I was lucky enough to visit this fantastic place for one of the events celebrated here: the Txacoli Wine Tasting. We all enjoyed drinking good Basque white wine while we watched a beautiful sunset facing the marsh. I think it´s an ideal place for everybody, and not just ornithologists, to find out and learn a bit more about the birds and animals of the area. It really is fascinating. I didn’t realize there were so many things to see in this lovely natural environment. The best time to come bird watching here is from September to November. As it is in autumn when the Atlantic birds fly down south and make a stop here on their way. Many different species take advantage of the shelter and the food that the bay and the marshes offer to make a stopover on their journey south. We took advantage of the invitation to find out all about it from the guides and the additional touch of a Txacoli at sunset made it a perfect Basque day.
Western Osprey Project
The Bird Centre team is starting out on this new project with great enthusiasm. The project will last a total of five years. The objective is to observe the behavior of the spectacular Osprey in the surrounding wetlands as it takes flight and captures prey.
Besides recovering and re-introducing this species the project also has other aims including recovering other species that make a stop in these marshes on their migration route. The project was initially started up when an Osprey from the UK called Logie was monitored on its migration route and was discovered making a stopover in 2008.
The natural facilities director José Maria Unamuno has reported in an article in the newspaper Deia, that the Osprey project will make a positive difference to the economic growth and development of ornithology and people interested in bird watching coming to visit this area and the Birding Centre.
I encourage all of you bird watchers or people with a general interest in nature to come and visit this still untapped area as far as ornithology is concerned..
Bird Centre offers guided visits in many languages, have a look at their webpage for more information:
Logie´s Story. BBC article about the life and journey of the Osprey:
Right now we are preparing our own new ornithology activities and tours for this autumn. I´ll let you know more soon.