Sunday Desember, 4th, 2011. We arrive early in the morning to the main Delta lagoon, l’Encanyissada. It has been a one an a half long way by motorway from Barcelona. The landscape is calm and quite. Many different twits come to us from the reedbeds as many passerines have slept there and they have not left yet. We get many Reed Buntings (Emberiza schoneiclus) coming out the reeds. Paddy fields around are plenty of White Wagtail (Motacilla alba), Meadow Pipit (Anthus pratensis), Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita), Water Pipit (Anthus spinolleta), Robin (Erithacus rubecula) and Black Redstart (Phoenicurus ochruros). In the channels beside the lagoon there is also movement as Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea), Little Egret (Egretta garzetta) and Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis) are fishing, or trying to do so. We search over the reeds looking for Purple Swamphen (Porpyrhio porpyrhio). There is no luck at this point, but we get nice views of Water Rail (Rallus aquaticus), Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus), Little Grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis) and Cetti’s Warbler (Cettia cetti).
It is 9 in the morning and there is many movement around. A variety of ducks are in the lagoon out of the vegetation: Teal (Anas crecca), Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos), Gadwall (Anas strepera), Shoveler (Anas clypeata), Red-crested Pochard (Netta rufina), Pochard (Aythya ferina) are all common. A seven Pintail (Anas acuta) group is moving among Gadwalls and several Tufted Ducks (Aythya fuligula) join the Pochard main flock. Some Great Crested Grebe (Podiceps cristatus) and Coots (Fulica atra), thousands of them, complete the scene while Great Cormorants (Phalacrocorax carbo) and Great Egrets (Egretta alba) fly in every way to everywhere else in the immense Delta landscape. Flocks of Flamingos (Phoenicopterus roseus) are leaving the lagoon every few minutes and their in-flight calls create an incredible atmosphere.
In the middle of this duck-mass a special shape is taking our attention… It is amazing but we have got White-headed Duck (Oxyura leucocephala), one of the seven ducks flock that are in the delta since the end of November!! Our duck was sleeping for a time and then fishing beside a flock of Pochards. We spend several time comparing the characters of this species with its relative; the Ruddy Duck (Oxyura jamaicensis). Incredible but also a lifer for me… although only a lifer in Catalonia, of course!!
We got 6 Hoopoes in paddy fields. Photo: Carles Oliver
This location is giving us still more surprises… Beside the observation tower there is a channel and many wagtails move along it. Among White Wagtails we find one adult winter Yellow Wagtail (Motacilla flava). This is a common species in summer, but is passing over the Sahara to spend the winter down there. Beyond the channel there is an arable land where some Lapwings (Vanellus vanellus) are resting. Further a 13 Eurasian Marsh Harrier (Circus aeruginosus) flock are also resting on ground. In the middle of the group a Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus) is appearing!
After so many surprises we leave “l’Encanyissada” lagoon to visit the next location I propose to explore. It is a salty steppe next-the-sea which is a gorgeous area for Larks. In the way we stop several times because of some Squacco Herons (Ardeola ralloides) small flocks feeding on paddy fields; Curlews (Numenius arquata), Lapwings, Spotless Starlings (Sturnus unicolor) and Hoopoes (Upupa epops) are also appearing. Special mention is done to a mixed Swallow flock flying over the main street of Poblenou del Delta; 3 Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica) joining at least 10 Crag Martin (Ptyonoprogne rupestris).
At our small steppe stop we get Woodlark (Lullula arborea), Skylark (Alauda arvensis) -tones of them- and not less than 7 Lesser Short-toed Lark (Calandrella rufescens). Zitting Zisticola (Cisticola juncidis) were everywhere, as Black Redstart (Phoenicurus ochruros), Linnet (Carduelis cannabina), Meadow Pipit and White Wagtail. Some raptors flew over our heads, Common Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus), Booted Eagle (Hiearaaetus pennatus) -2-, Marsh Harrier and 1 Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus) female that was actually perched on a tree line two hundred meters away from us.
As we were next-the-sea we explored a couple of interesting points to search sea birds. We were quite lucky as we got several gulls flying over the sea or resting on the beach: Black-headed Gull (Larus ridibundus), Mediterranean Gull (Larus melanocephalus), Yellow-legged Gull (Larus michahellis), Lesser Black-backed Gull (Larus fuscus) and a small Audouin’s Gull (Larus audouinii) 7 individuals flock. No more Audouin’s Gulls were seen as most of them move the South Spain in winter. We saw other sea birds: Sandwich Tern (Sterna sandvichensis) and Gannet (Sula bassana) were both common over the sea, while some Great Crested Grebe (Podiceps cristatus) and Razorbill (Alca torda) were on the sea’s surface. But the most interesting sight off sea were the different Shearwater flocks flying towards South. They were mainly Yelkouan Shearwater (Puffinus puffinus) -about 30- but when we were about to leave we got a small 5 individuals Balearic Shearwater (Puffinus mauretanicus) flock.
American Flamingo (Phoenicopterus ruber) -left- with some Greater Flamingo (Phoenicopterus roseus) in La Tancada, Ebro Delta. Photo: Carles Oliver
After so many interesting sights we went to our small accommodation, a lovely and peaceful bed&breakfast in Poblenou del Delta. It was midday so we left the package and we enjoyed and incredible paella in our accommodation’s garden. In Ebro Delta you taste some of the best paellas in Catalonia as they are specialist about rices, that they cook in many different ways. As we have some time left we even could sleep for half-an-hour in order to get back some energy before going out for waders and many other birds.
Around two in the afternoon we left the bed&breakfast and directly drove to La Tancada salty area. An incredible area with different salty lagoons and plains where hundreds of waders use to feed. We got an incredible number of waders: Avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta) -20-, Oystercatcher (Haematopus ostralegus) -3-, Ringed Plover (Charadrius hiaticula) -8-, Grey Plover (Pluvialis squatarola) -1-, Knot (Calidris canutus) -+5-, Sanderling (Calidris alba) -a flock of 14 individuals-, Turnstone (Arenaria interpress) -6-, Dunlin (Calidris alpina) -a +60 big flock-, Little Stint (Calidris minuta) -+25-, Wood Sandpiper (Tringa glareola) -2-, Green Sandpiper (Tringa ochropus), Common Sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos), Redshank (Tringa totanus), Spotted
Grey Heron is a common resident species in Ebro Delta. Photo by: Carles Oliver
Redshank (Tringa erythropus)-4-, Greenshank (Tringa nebularia) -+10- and Curlew. A quite complete list of waders that were mainly feeding on the muddy plains. Other birds in the area included Shelduck (Tadorna tadorna) and Slender-billed Gull (Larus genei) -+20-.
As the area was so interesting we decided to spend some time in one of the hides beside the road. Our choice was really clever as we got from this point the very best sight of the weekend. The lagoon was full of Greater Flamingo but in the middle of one of those flocks there was an amazing American Flamingo (Phoenicopterus ruber). The bird was mainly sleeping and cleaning its plumage (as the rest of the flock) but its incredible rose plumage made it unmistakeable!!! It was 14:57 when we located it and we spend more than a quarter watching how was cleaning and cleaning its feathers. It was a lifer for all three of us!!!
In the lagoon there were many other birds, mainly waders and ducks: Shelduck, Mallard, Gadwall, Wigeon (Anas penelope), Teal, Pochard, Red-crested Pochard, Avocet, Oystercatcher or Snipe (Gallinago gallinago) and many others. We finally left the lagoon, the all felt winners as we were having an incredible birding experience that day. I was bringing them to our last location that day, the Illa de Buda tower. In the way we stop several times. Once because of a flock of Golden Plovers (Pluvialis apricaria), later because a White Stork (Ciconia ciconia) feeding on paddy fields and once again to take some photos of different herons and egrets.
Grey Heron, Great and Little Egret feeding on salt lagoons. Herons are common in Ebro Delta all year round. Photo: Carles Oliver
We arrived to Illa de Buda about 16:15h. Immediately we located a large (up to 100) flock of Glossy Ibis (Plegadis falcinellus) feeding on the marshes around. They flew in small groups to settle back again tens of meters away. In the same area there were Purple Swamphen (up to 20) and some Greylag Goose (Anser anser) roosting in the reed beds and meadows around. We spend the rest of the afternoon enjoying the flocks of Flamingos, Great Cormorant or Yellow-legged Gull moving in and out of the Illa de Buda. We got a small Penduline Tit (Remiz pendulinus) flock moving in the redbeeds, but sun was almost gone so we move back to our hotel. Tomorrow was waiting for us…
The morning started with a breakfeast as I cooked some fried eggs, bacon, beans, orange juice, nice Iberian ham and the Catalan incredible “pà amb tomàquet” (spreaded fresh red tomato on bread slices) and, of course, coffee.
Yet we had had a complete breakfast it was time for a deep explore of Ebro Delta. It was 7:30 in the morning and sun was about to raise. Rush hour in l’Encanyissada, the main lagoon in the delta. Flamingo, Red-crested Pochard, Purple Swamphen, Little Grebe and many other birds were easily seen. A flock of 17 Marsh Harrier passed over our head. They came from the western reed beds were they use to sleep and were crossing the lagoon towards some paddy fields to look for their own breakfast. The more interesting from the tower were the big (about 40-50 birds) Glossy Ibis flocks flying over the bridge, just few meters from us. About eight we passed to explore the reed beds. First we had nice sights of Penduline Tit and Serin (Serinus serinus). This was not the speciliaty I was searching for. It took us ten minutes until we had our first Moustached Warbler (Acrocephalus melanopogon) just beside the road!! A few minutes later we got another two of them at the opposite side of the road, full of reed beds as well. Cetti’s Warbler (Cettia cetti) was common all the way. I decided to change location to look for the other speciality of the morning. At the end of the road there is an incredible paddy field with some water. In one side of the field there are some scattered bushes, a suitable location to find out Bluethroat (Luscinia svecica). There were lots of Meadow Pipit, White Wagtail, Spotted Starling, Robin and others around. Behind one of the bushes we found two different Bluethroats. They has a exclusive war against one Robin that pretended all the area was of its property. Hundred meters away other birds were located; Squacco Heron, Spotted Redshank, Dunlin, Curlew, Black-headed Gull, Mediterranean Gull…
Cetti's Warbler, a common bird in Catalan wetlands. Photo: Carles Oliver
It was a nice final “shot” in Ebro Delta. It was the moment to take the car and explore a totally different landscape! We moved about twenty kilometres inland. At this distance the landscape quickly change from paddy fields and marshes to olive groves and scrubs at the same time we face at the first slopes of the Tortosa-Beseit range of mountains. Our first short-walk in scrubs and olive groves gave us tones of Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla), Song Thrush (Turdus philomelos), Mistle Thrush (Turdus viscivorus). Sardinian Warbler (Sylvia melanocephala) all of them feed on the many olives they find on the ground or in the trees. This short-walk allowed us to see Black Redstart as well as some Redwings (Turdus iliacus), Dunnock (Prunella modularis), Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes), Great Tit (Parus major), Blue Tit (Parus caeruleus), Long-tailed Tit (Aegithalos caudatus) and Cirl Bunting (Emberiza cirlus). In the ravine we had nice sights of the couples of Blue Rock Thrush (Monticola solitarius), Crag Martin and some Spanish Ibex (Capra pyrenaica) including two big males and 4 females that were locking at us from the opposite side of the ravine.
Some kilometres ahead we arrived to a perfect place to look for Alpine Accentor. Two minutes after stopping the car we saw three Alpine Accentor (Prunella collaris) moving in a rocky, open slope. We got some nice photos and we followed the road. At this
There are some pairs of Griffon Vulture nesting in Tortosa-Beseit mountains. Photo: Carles Oliver
point there is an amazing area to search for Wallcreeper. We spent some minutes trying to find it but we decided to leave as it was too windy and I found it was risk for us to stay up there. Five minutes in the woodlands around gave us Jay (Garrulus glandarius), Common Wood Pigeon (Columba palumbus), Firecrest (Regulus ignacapilla), Short-toed Treecreeper (Certhia brachydactyla)
Eleven in the morning. It is a nice moment to explore the ravines and cliffs as raptors are already moving around. We arrived there at eleven thirty. Eight Griffon Vulture (Gyps fulvus), two Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo) and one Bonelli`s Eagle (Hieraaetus fasciatus) as well as Rock Bunting (Emberiza cia) and Blue Rock Thrush were the main records in these ravines.
We had no more time left. We went to have a nice meal in Tortosa and, after that, I drove back to Barcelona.
Anyway it has been a really nice birding weekend as we got over 120 species of birds in less than 2 days!!!!
If you want to experience a birding trip like this contact with Barcelona Birding Point.