Birding by underground

Barcelona is a dense town where 1.6 million inhabitants. Moreover the city expands over a huge Metropolitan Area covering 1.000 square quilometres where 3.4 million people are living.

Still, Barcelona offers excellent birdwatching. The underground net offers good chances to explore forgotten areas and provides good general birding with some interesting key species.

Itinerary 1. Can Masdeu – Turó Blau.  

Underground Station: Canyelles, L3 (green line)

This itinerary cover a good variety of ecosystems in the recently formed Collserola Natural Park. From Canyelles metro station we have to walk West by Via Favència until Karl Marx Square. When walking around we can better have a look to the sky as Alpine Swifts (Apus melba) have an important colony in Canyelles neightborhood. Other birds that can appear in our walk are European Serin (Serinus serinus), Common Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus) and White Wagtail (Motacilla alba). From here we should walk towards the mountain by the small Camí Antic de Sant Llàtzer Street, immediatly left from a children Hospital. We careful not to get inside the Hospital facilities!

Once we have walked the small strecht of the Sant Llàtzer Street we turn right (Carretera Alta de les Roquetes) and after 150 metres we should face a dart road signposted as “Can Masdeu”. This is the start of our itinerary.

The very beggining of the itinerary is already a good place for some key species. In the small canyon to the right of road Melodious Warbler (Hippolais polyglotta) nests in good numbers as it does Sardinian Warbler (Sylvia melanocaphala) which is likely to appear at any moment all along our walk. At the left of the path some Western Orphean Warblers (Sylvia hortensis) may be found, although they are scarce and striking. Cirl Bunting (Emberiza cirlus) uses to nest around, too.

Subalpine Warbler

Subalpine Warbler (Sylvia cantillans) female at Collserola Natural Park

The road crosses a dense Aleppo Pine (Pinus halapensis) forest. This is an excellent place for Western Bonelli’s Warbler (Phylloscopus bonelli), Crested Tit (Lophophanes cristatus), Coal Tit (Periparus ater), Firecrest (Regulus ignacapilla) and Short-toed Treecreeper (Certhia brachydactyla). This forest hosts also Wryneck (Jynx torquilla), Scops Owl (Otus scops), Tawny Owl (Strix aluco), Golden Oriole (Oriolus oriolus) -1 pair- & Iberian Green Woodpecker (Picus sharpei). Great Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos major) has arrived here only five years ago, as Common Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs) did.

After 300 metres we arrive to Can Masdeu country house. The farmland around is fairly interesting as it is likely, especially in winter, when Hawfinches (Coccothraustes coccothraustes), Common Crossbills (Loxia curvirostra) and Rock Buntings (Emberiza cia) can be seen around. The house itself hosts a wintering Blue Rock Thrush (Monticola solitarius).

Keep walking after the house and you will soon arrive to an open slope, low bushered area. Here an old basin can be seen. Around it Fan-tailed Warbler (Cisticola juncidis) is nesting and its zit-zit song can easily be heard around. Here is also a good place for Red-rumped Swallow (Cecropis daurica) as one pair nests in an small, abandoned house.

The path is now more steep and crosses several open lands (Stonechat -Saxicola torquata) and crossroads. We keep going by the main road. This area is being colonised by Subalpine Warbler (Sylvia cantillans) although best areas for them are to be found ahead. Dartford Warbler (Sylvia undata) can be found here in winter time.

After some metres you should arrive into a parking place in a small mountain pass. Once here you should walk under the bridge crossing the road. Inmediatly after underpassing the bridge you should take the path going to the right. This is a dart road leading to some interesting Mediterranean scrubland. After  200 metres you should arrive to an area of tall, dense scrub lands. This is the best area for Subalpine Warbler. Males use to sing close to the top of tall bush and small trees.

The area is also excellent for Garden & Melodious Warblers, Firecrest and Red-billed Leiothrix (Leiothrix lutea), an scaped bird living in dense undergrowth.

Now you should leave the dart road by taking the first path going right. This path is going clearly up and leading us to a small mountain pass. From here we can have a really impressive view of Barcelona. In this mountain pass and around Hoopoes (Upupa epops) can be seen really often as a pair nests around. At the end of summer Bee-eaters (Merops apiaster) come here in good numbers as start to flock before going South. Once in the mountain pass you should turn right following the path that is joining a number of small hills.

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Map of the suggested itinerary. Enjoy it!

You are iver 300 metres high and here the vegetation is a mixed of steppe-like herbs and low scrub land. At your left you can see both Barcelona and Mediterranean Sea, at your left the large forests of Collserola Natural Park. In a clear day you can have nice views of the Pyrenees. Birds here are really interesting. Sardinian, Fan-tailed, Melodious, Subalpine & Dartford Warblers they all nest around in different numbers. Iberian Grey Shrike (Lanius meridionalis) nested until reaaly recent years and Black-eared Wheatear (Oenanthe hispanica) do so depending on the year and European Nightjar (Caprimulgus europaeus) is common and not difficult to see at dusk. If going in late afternoon you are likely to see thousands of Common Swifts (Apus apus) flying really low over the hills as they come back to their colonies in Barcelona. Tens (sometimes hundreds) of Alpine Swifts (Apus melba) are among them.

This area is also excellent for migratory birds. Northern Wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe) and Common Redstart (Phoenicurus phoenicurus) are common in both spring and autumn. September is the best month for raptors. In a good day up to 300 of over 10 species may be seen. Rarities recorded here in recent years include Red-footed Falcon (Falco vespertinus), Lanner Falcon (Falco biarmicus) or Greater Spotted Eagle (Aquila clanga). Commoner species include Honey Buzzard (Pernis apivorus), Marsh Harrier (Circus aeruginosus), Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus) and Common Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus).

To come back to the metro station you only have to rewalk the previous itinerary.

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