Arxiu de la categoria: Llobregat Delta

From Wallcreeper to Yelkouan Shearwater; amazing 2-days winter trip

This is a short trip report about a 2-days birding trip from Barcelona on 26th and 27th February, 2016. Early in the morning I picked my costumer, Jon, from his hotel close to the airport. We firstly drove North of Barcelona, to the Sant Llorenç de Munt Natural Park, a medium-size natural park protecting low bushered hills, pine woods and rocky slopes. Here we explored the area around Talamanca, where impressive conglomerate formations are a good winter ground for Wallcreepers. We started to walk the path up, crossing evergreen forests and low scrublands. Some Ravens called around while distant Long-tailed Tits were calling in the forest. We walked directly to an area where I was having a Wallcreeper with other costumers just two days ago. The planning was to arrive to a view point where one Wallcreeper was appearing these weeks early in the morning, sometimes really close. Even far before arriving to this view point qe spotted a favolous Wallcreeper really close in the conglomerate rock. The bird was not really in a cliff but in a huge rock, offering exellent chances for photograph the bird. Jon was really fast in taking his camera and got beautiful shots on the bird in the rock skyline! The bird showed up for some minutes, slowly creeping and looking for invertebrates under the small rocks in the slope and flickering the wings (but not so much). After some minutes the bird just kept walking until it was disappearing to the opposite side of the rock.

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Wallcreeper (Tichodroma muraria) showing really well in the conglomerate landscape around Barcelona. Image by Jonathan Mercer

Very happy about this first sight we kept walking up to look for the flock of Alpine Accentors overwintering there. After some minutes looking for the birds we spot a minimum of 14 of them in barren slope. As usual in this species, we enjoyed close views on them, and great shots! We were having a really productive morning so far… The dense undergrowth immediatly around gave us excellent views on Firecrest, Crested Tit, Sardinian Warbler, Blue Tit and Short-toed Treecreeper. Woodlarks were singing around, really active.

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Alpine Accentor (Prunella collaris), the second top bird appearing in the morning, so far! Image by Jonathan Mercer

We were back in the car at 11:30 so I drove back to Barcelona. Now it was time to explore the Llobregat Delta, a small but awesome wetland immediatly around the Barcelona International Airport facilities. It was 12:30 when we get inside the Natural Reserve, expecting to have some good birds (and lunch) inside the hides. We were directly going to one of the hides where a male Moustached Warbler had been showing really well the last two weeks. After a pair of minutes scanning the reeds, we listened the calls of a Moustached and immediatly after that the warbler was appearing and started to sing. The bird was showing in a small patch of reeds showing extremelly well and being really territorial against any other birds moving in the reed; Chiffchaff, Great Tit & Reed Bunting were all chased by the warbler. A Cetti’s Warbler moving in the area ( and showing well) was surprisingly not disturbed by the Moustached.

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Moustached Warbler (Acrocephalus melanopogon) is probably one of the most tricky warblers in Europe.We enjoyed go-away views on the bird! Image by Jonathan Mercer

Well, the visit to the wetland was already a success but this was only the beginning! Just beside the patch of reeds where the Moustached Warbler was still singing and preening quite high in the reeds a Bluethroat was briefly showing in previous days so I invested some time checking this tiny spot expecting to have a Bluethroat. And we were again lucky because a wonderful male Bluethroat came out of the vegetation and showed out very well, but briefly. Other species appearing in this hide included Green Sandpiper, Common Pochard, Common Teal, Marsh Harrier, Little Egret, Shoveler, Little Grebe and Water Pipit. We then tried the second hide, which provided an excellent combination of waterfowl. An amazing combination of birds at close range that included 12 Greater Flamingoes, 2 Spoonbills (1 adult + 1 immature), 1 Glossy Ibis in summer plumage and 2 drake Garganeis! Some other really good birds were present as well. A minimum of 5 Purple Swamphens were out of the reeds, 2 Ruff were feeding on the marsh along with 2 Dunlin. Several Common Snipes were testing the mud looking for food while a pair Water Pipits walked around in the shallow water. In one of the islands in the marsh a Golden Plover and Northern Lapwing mixed flock was roosting. A good variety of ducks was also noticed, this time including also Shelduck and Eurasian Wigeon. In the mud, 2 Little Ringed Plovers ran up and down, the first of the year! Up in the air, a big flock of swallows was flying over the marsh. Crag Martin was the most common but we also counted at least 7 House Martins, some Barn Swallows and at least 2 Sand Martins, not bad! A pair of Kingfishers crossed in front the hide, but didn’t stop. In the reeds, another Moustached Warbler was singing but unfortunately didn’t show at all.

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Thousands of crake Mediterranean Gulls (Larus melanocephalus) like this one were showing during the weekend. Image by Jonathan Mercer

It had been a wonderful trip so far, but it was time to drive down to Ebro Delta. Our time in Llobregat Delta was longer than expected (because of the excellent birding there) but we still had time to spot a pair of interesting birds at Ebro Delta. As normally happening in Ebro Delta, birds were appearing just arriving. Cattle EgretsCommon Sandpipers and Kingfishers were everywhere. We did a first spot to check the Ebro Delta northern bay. There we enjoyed a huge flock of thousands of Mediterranean Gulls, many of them showing their lovely breeding plomage. On the sea we could see our first Balearic Shearwaters, being a good start for what it have to come the next day. About 20 Black-necked Grebe were in the bay along with several Great Crested Grebe and, among them, 1 Slavonian Grebe! a rather rare bird that South. Soon after Jon spotted 1 Razorbill, another good bonus!!! We then moved to a new location not far from there. Here we fast recorded a good number of waders: Greenshank, Curlew, Common Redshank, Common Ringed Plover, Sanderling, Bar-tailed Godwit, Grey Plover and even 2 Little Stints in only 10 minutes. Along with them in the shallow salt water there were various Slender-billed Gull and a good number of LBB Gull. Flocks of Glossy Ibises were flying over us going towards their roosting place while Greater Flamingoes (hundreds) were feeding around. Despite the poor light we still spent ten minutes in a fresh water lagoon, expecting to have a Greater Bittern flying over the reeds. Unfortunately no Bittern was appearing but tens of Purple Swamphens were seen (and heard) appearing from the reeds. In the edge of the water, really close, a pair of Bluethoats were calling and we enjoyed really close views of a female moving by the edge of the water. A wonderful end for an awesome day! When getting inside the car we still listened a distant Moustached Warbleer singing in the reeds…

The next morning we left Ebro Delta quite early in the morning. We had to be in Tarragona harbour at 9:00 in the morning since the sea trip run by GEPEC was leaving at this time. Unfortunately we had no time to enjoy a bit more the huge variety of birds living in Ebro Delta; next time! 

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Once out of the harbour we soon spotted some beautiful Audouin’s Gulls along with several Lesser Black-backed Gulls (intermedia and graellsi races) as well as many Black-headed Gulls. At least 4 Atlantic Gannets were also appearing (showing a good variety of plomages, by the way!). It was not long until we saw the first of many Balearic Shearwaters flying around or flying in the back of the boat along with the tens of gulls that were following us. After some minutes we had our first Skua. A Parasitic Jaeger (dark form) that showed well but shortly in our side of the boat. Soon after a Great Skua was also showing really well, attacking Mediterranean or Audouin’s Gulls. The flocks of Balearic Shearwaters flying around the boat were also producing at least a pair of the more scarce Yelkouan Shearwaters! Also a really good bird.

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Balearic Shearwater (Puffinus mauretanicus), critically endangered, has its main winter grounds in Southern Catalonia & València. Image by Jonathan Mercer


The last part of trip was probably the best as we still enjoyed gorgeous views on all good birds plus a wonderful Pomarine Skua, a really scarce bird during winter in Catalonia (thought we already had one in January on one of our trips!). Along with the Pomarine, at least another two Great Skuas were also showing well and had really good “bonxie” fights!!

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Great Skuas (Stercorarius skua) showed that well in the sea trip. Image by Jonathan Mercer

We still invested some time scanning for scarce species or early arrivals (thinking about Scolopi’s Shearwater or Mediterranean Storm Petrel). No any good bird was appearing but we were enthusiastic after a wonderful sea trip.  Not easy to have three species of Skuas in the Med, thought!! After having lunch we just enjoyed a pair of hours of birding in the Llobregat Delta, where we were having mostly the same species that we already had the day before. Well, two really close, summer plomaged, Black-tailed Godwits were also a good bonus A pair of minutes of car were invested to arrive to the airport…. and was the end of a wonderful 2-days trip!!!!

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Yelkouan Shearwater (Puffinus yelkouan), a scarce bird in winter around Tarragona harbour. Image by Jonathan Mercer

 

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This gorgeous Pomarine Skua (Stercorarius pomarinus) was a good bonus in the sea trip, being a rare winter bird in Catalonia. Image by Jonathan Mercer

Just want to thank Jon for sharing some of the many, many excellent shots we had during the weekend!

Anuncis

Red-footed Falcon & Icterine Warbler influx in Catalonia

Between 15th May and 25th May we have had a huge influx of both Red-footed Falcons and Icterine Warblers in Catalonia. Both species are scarce migratory birds in spring, mainly in mid May. Influxes of both species are likely to occur when West winds dominate the Mediterranean, diverting some birds from their natural migratory routes throughout Italy.

Still, these days we haven’t had any special West winds in the Mediterranean but a rather dominant North wind that has been unusually strong, specially in mid spring.

Red-footed Falcon & Icterine Warbler irruption

The different Ornitho networks have ellaborated these maps showing the influx of both RF Falcons & Icterine Warblers. Source: ornitho.cat

Numbers of Red-footed Falcon kept more or less into normal parameters until 15th May, when some big flocks started to appeared in the country, especially in the North (near the French border) and in the West (steppe lands). Still, after 17th some really big flocks have been recorded in the steppes (over 100 individuals in Plans de Sió, Lleida) and several individuals and even small flocks have been recorded out of the normal localities for them (Llobregat Delta and other localities around Barcelona itself).

At the same time, a big influx of Icterine Warbler was noticable from 19th May, with tens of individuals singing along the Catalan coast, many of them inside Barcelona itself (over 16 males singing in Motnjuïc in 20th May) and Llobregat Delta (>6 males) as well as other localities around. Still yesterday a minimum of 3 males where singing in one of the Llobregat Delta Natural Reserves, allowing wonderful sights of the birds!

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Icterine Warbler (Hippolais icterina) at Montjuïc. Image: Daniel Roca

Catalonia & Aragon Grand Birding Tour, 2014 issue

DATES: 4th to 11th, May 2014

NUMBER OF PARTICIPANTS: 7 costumers (Check Republic) + 2 guides (Carles Oliver & Frantisek Pochmon)

SPECIES OF BIRDS: 196

Our 2014 Catalonia & Aragon Grand Tour issue enjoyed a really good weather and a really wonderful birding was possible in all main locations. These lines will be an approach of what we got those days.

Day 1. Cadí-Moixeró Natural Park. After the arrival of all costumers to Barcelona International Airport the two cars involved in the tour left the facilities. This first day (afternoon as costumers were arriving 14:00pm) we drove directly to Cadí-Moixeró Natural Park, placed right in the centre of Catalan Pyrenees.

We arrived to the alpine forests at an altitude of 1.950 metres about 17:00pm and the really first bird we could spot around was a 2nd year male of Ring Ouzel (Turdus torquatus). A good spot that was just the beginning of a wonde range of good birds. Walking a little bit around our cars was easy to find a gorgeous male of Rock Bunting (Emberiza cia) singing on a branch as well as some Common Crosbills (Loxia curvirostra) feeding on Mountain Pines (Pinus uncinata). This area of open high mountain forest provided also good views on Mistle Thrush (Turdus viscivorus), Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs), Crested Tit (Lophophanes cristatus) and Coal Tit (Periparus ater).

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Rock Bunting (Emberiza cia), a widespread breeder in the Pyrenees.

The ambient around was fresh and clear and as we walked along the lane some other birds were also appearing: Black Redstarts (Phoenicurus ochruros), Blackbird (Turdus merula) & Hedge Sparrows (Prunella modularis). A small flock of Red-billed Choughs (Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax) flew over us while Linnets (Carduelis cannabina) constantly moved around in small flocks.

Some raptors were moving in the sky: impressive Griffon Vultures (Gyps fulvus), a small Eurasian Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus) and a pair of Honey Buzzards (Pernis apivorus), perhaps in migration to Northern nesting sites, but may be some of the pairs nesting around. Over a slope, the unmistakable shape of 3 Bearded Vultures (Gypaetos barbatus) appeared to us as a wonderful view. All 3 birds were flying really slowly, taking advantage of the small termals over the grassy slope and then soaring over the grass lands in its typical and ellegant flight. The first sight on “Lamm” of the tour could not be better!

Other birds were appearing as walking the small lane: Stonechat (Saxicola torquatus), European Serin (Serinus serinus), Northern Wheatears (Oenanthe oenanthe). Several songbirds were still singing in the canopies around: Goldcrest (Regulus regulus), Short-toed Treecreeper (Certhia brachydactyla), Woodlark (Lullula arborea) while the unmistakable voice of one Black Woodpecker (Dryocopus martius) arrived to us from the valley.

All the group was happy with this very first contact of the Pyrenees and the good sights on some of the most characterystic of its wildlife. After such a good sensations we came back to the hotel to enjoy a home-made dinner and a wonderful sleep time. However, in the way back we still spot Eurasian Jay (Garrulus glandarius) and several Song Thrushes (Turdus philomelos).

Day 2. Cadí Moixeró Natural Park – Boumort Game Reserve.  After a nice breakfast we start our day by coming back to the same area that we visited the day before. A further exploration of it reported some other interesting birds. In the alpine grasslands both Tawny (Anthus campestris) and Water Pipits (Anthus spinolleta) were seen both feeding on ground and singing in flight.

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Lammergeier (Gypaetos barbatus) adult is not any more an uncommon view in some Pyrenean valleys.

Alpine Choughs (Pyrrhocorax graculus) were also feeding on the grassland as we could easily count 6 of them. In the barren slopes we listened the beautiful song of a Common Rock Thrush (Monticola saxatilis) and, after a rather long reseach, we found the gorgeous male singing from a pine top. Raptors flying around included some Griffon Vultures, 1 Honey Buzzard and 1 Goshawk (Accipiter gentilis). Other birds to be added to our list were Alpine Swift (Apus melba), Crag Martin (Ptyprodogne rupestris) and Grey Wagtail (Motacilla cinerea).

After such a wonderful start we then move to a different massif, but always inside the Pyrenees. In our way we still do a fast stop to scan the Segre River looking for Dipper (Cinclus cinclus) -actually not appearing- and Common Sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos). Once we arrive to our next spot (Boumort Game Reserve) different flocks of Griffon Vultures were already flying over the area. It was midday and we enjoyed our pic-nic while enjoying such a great view and scanning the sky for more raptors.

We didn’t have to wait so much to get the first Lammergeier (Gypaetos barbatus) of the day as two of them were flying over the barren slopes. We saw them for 20 minutes, chasing each other in a really gorgeous view. One of them a full adult, the second one probably a very old individual. From our view point we also got nice views of 2 Cinereous Vultures on ground, near a feeding station as well as tens of Griffons that were showing really well, flying over us all the time in an endless spectacle. Some minutes later we saw a different Lammergeier, probably a third to fourth year individual, showing really well the dark grey general coloration as well as the darker flight feathers in comparition with undercoverts. This bird show us well as it was actually “busy” by chasing a fourth Lammergeier, a third year by the way (darker and not so slimmer as the bird described before).

After enjoying such a gorgeous sight we continued our way. The small forests of Eurasian Black Pine (Pinus nigra) combined with the rocky, open slopes configures a really unique landscape in the upperparts of Boumort and allowed us to spot a good variety of good birds including a gorgeous pair of Common Rock Thrushes (Monticola saxatilis) as do so Western Bonelli’s Warbler (Phylloscopus bonelli), Woodlark (Lullula arborea), Firecrest (Regulus ignacapillus) and Northen Wheatear. All the time having an eye in the sky to prevent any other interesting raptor soaring around. In fact, we hadn’t have to wait so much to spot 2 Cinereous Vultures (Aegypius monachus) flying low over the valley in our left. The birds were probably the same that we saw some minutes ago on ground but this time much closer. They were young birds showing the characteristic black colour in their immense wings.

In our way out of the massif, the track was heading a long, green valley. This is a good place to spot some Lammergeiers as sometimes sleep in the cliffs around. It was 5pm so the moment was nice. Immediatly after stopping the car 2 Lamms were soaring really low over the pines (probably 3rd year individuals) and fastly dissapearing over the trees. That view was short but probably the most exciting of all of them! Still in our way to the lodge we spot 1 Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos). It was flying quite high but still was a nice first view of a bird that some days later was gonna give us unforgettable sights!

Subalpine Warbler

Subalpine Warbler (Sylvia cantillans) female can be really common in garrigues and open forests

Day 3. Boumort Game Reserve – Lleida Steppes – Los Monegros. After a good start we all were delighted to spend some more time in the outbreaks of the Massís de Boumort. Today we were going to spend the morning here and go to spend the afternoon in the steppes… The goal this morning was not so much the raptors but the variety of small birds living in the scrublands & forests of the massif. Here the landscape is really Mediterranean with several olive groves, almond trees and orchards combined with scrubby slopes and impressive cliffs. An early morning short walk produced some good birds: Crested (Galerida cristata) & Wood Larks (Lululla arborea) were giving us really nice sights and providing a future useful experience in identification of Larks to all those members of the group less experienced in such a difficult family of birds. Other good birds showing really well were Common Rock Sparrow (Petronia petronia) 6, Subalpine Warbler (Sylvia cantillans) +4 and Woodchat Shrike (Lanius senator)Western Orphean Warbler (Sylvia hortensis) is common here and we listened them singing several times in the canopies but it showed poorly to us. Golden Oriole (Oriolus oriolus) was, by contrast, an excellent sight of a minimum of 3 individuals (2 males) flying around. Other good birds showing that morning included European Bee-eater (Merops apiaster), Red-billed Chough +12, Cirl Bunting (Emberiza cirlus), Sardinian Warbler (Sylvia melanocephala), Greenfinch (Carduelis chloris), Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis), Blue Tit (Parus caeruleus), Willow Warbler (Phylloscopus trochilus) and Winchat (Saxicola rubetra). Raptors that morning were poor but still included Honey Buzzard, Sparrowhawk and Griffon Vultures sleeping on their nesting sites, an unforgettable view for most of the costumers!

It was time to head to the steppes. But before we still had time to visit a really special corner. Here we spot some interesting raptors, specially 2 Egyptian Vultures (Neophron percnopterus) preening on a electrical tower close to Boumort. We enjoyed this wonderful sight for quite long and, while scanning the sky, we spot a good range of raptors including 1 Short-toed Eagle (Circaetus gallicus) and 3 Booted Eagles (Aquila pennata) that were both new for the tour as well as over 30 Griffons and 1 Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo).

It was time to leave the Pyrenees behind so we drove South to our next location. Lleida Steppes is a huge area of more or less plain terrain scattered with some low, rounded hills. Here the natural vegetation is a low garrigue with sparse Juniperus and Pines. However, most of the plain is a farm land, being wheat the main crop. Wheat croplands are highly important for steppe living birds since these fields have become the most important nesting and roosting site for several of the most endangered birds living here. The first stop in the steppes was already producing really good birds: 2 Hoopoes (Upupa epops) flew from the road and this made us stop there. A fast scan of the sky produced a close view of 1 Booted Eagle (Aquila pennata) -light phorm- as well as 1 Common Buzzard. Crested Lark was also there as well as Eurasian Tree Sparrow (Passer montanus). The next stop keeped producing really interesting birds such as Melodious Warbler (Hippolais polyglotta), Bee-eaters (Merops apiaster) +8, Subalpine Warbler (Sylvia cantillans), Cirl Bunting, Woodchat Shrike and 1 Roller (Coracias garrulus), a bird really desired by most of our costumers. This stop also produced an excellent view of a Quail (Coturnix coturnix) singing in a wheat field and the first sight of a party of Red-legged Partridge (Alectoris rufa), 6.

Black-winged Kite

Black-shouldered Kite (Elanus caeruleus) is a really scarce nesting bird in Lleida Steppes. Photo: Carles Oliver

Raptors here were common: Western Marsh Harrier (Circus aeruginosus), Common Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus), Short-toed Eagle (Circaetus gallicus) 2 & Montagu’s Harrier (Circus pygargus) male were all present there. But the main reason to visit that spot was the beautiful and really scarce Black-shouldered Kite (Elanus caeruleus). Me and Frantisek spent quite a lot of time scanning for this bird.  I was personally seeing the bird here for the last two seasons and some days before  the tour I saw them again on their tree. At the last moment a pair was appearing, perched in an old tree. We all enjoyed the bird for 30 minutes and we could see several matings, with the male doing several exhibitional flights… It was a really special moment and one of the highlitghs of the tour!

I was personally really happy and satisfied. But the day was not off yet! We went to sleep to Los Monegros, the biggest and probably more famous steppe land in Western Europe. Due to long reseach and the longer view of the BW Kite we arrived later than planned to our guest house. Despite we all were tired, half of the costumers enjoyed our nocturnal tour. Long-eared Owl (Asio otus), Scops Owl (Otus scops), Little Owl (Athene noctua) and Barn Owl (Tyto alba) as well as several Stone Curlews (Burhinus oedicnemus) were all appearing, showing in an excellent way and allowing great photos. But the star of the night was the Red-necked Nightjar (Caprimulgus ruficollis), not only the 7 of them that we saw flying thanks to our light but especially the one we saw on ground 2 metres away from the car and that was providing perfect images!

Day 4. Los Monegros. New early start to explore some steppe lands immediatly around our lodge. Here we are in a flat land, trees are really scarce out of some almond and olive groves here and there and the natural vegetation is limited to some low and sparse scrubs. We directly drove to one special (and secret) location in the steppes. Our first stop produced several Thekla Larks (Galerida theklae), Southern Grey Shrike (Lanius meridionalis) 2, Black-eared Wheatear (Oenanthe hispanica) 3, Calandra Larks (Melanocorypha calandra) flying and singing all the time, Red-billed Choughs, Little Owl (Athene noctua) 2, a brief view of Great Spotted Cuckoo (Clamator glandarius) and some flocks of Black-bellied Sandgrouses (Pterocles orientalis) flying over us. But the most interesting sight was 2 beautiful males of Little Bustard (Tetrax tetrax) singing in a field, 80 metres from us. Again a bird really desired and that was delighting us in a Green, flowered field.

Little Bustard

A typical view of a singing male of Little Bustard (Tetrax tetrax). Photo: Carles Oliver

After enjoying such a wonderful start we stop in a second spot. A fast scan allow us to find 3 Stone Curlews (Burhinus oedicnemus), a pair of Black-eared Wheatear (Oenanthe hispanica), +10 Short-toed Larks (Calandrella brachydactyla) & 1 Tawny Pipit. Here were also appearing some interesting migratory birds; Winchat 2 & Pied Flycatcher (Ficedula hypoleuca) 3 and a fast Hooby (Falco subbuteo) trying to catch some birds from the fields.

But the most interesting birds in this stop were two flocks of Black-bellied Sandgrouses (Pterocles orientalis) flying really close, 1 Little Bustard (Tetrax tetrax) that flew from one field and 1 Dupont’s Lark (Chersophilus duponti) singing in the steppe. I decided to don’t get inside the field where the Dupont’s was singing to don’t disturb this really endangered bird. Some Lesser Short-toed Larks (Calandrella rufescens) were also singing in this field but unfortunately most of the costumers didn’t get nice views on them. Then we went back to our lodge to have some midday rest but still we got some good birds in our village itself as Spotless Starlings (Sturnus unicolor) and White Storks (Ciconia ciconia) are common here.

After our midday break we continue our tour by looking for some birds living in rocky slopes. We first spot a pair of Blue Rock Thrushes (Monticola solitarius) and then a pair of gorgeous Black  Wheatears (Oenanthe leucura). In this same spot we got 1 Short-toed Eagle perched surprisingly close to us, several Bee-eaters nesting around and 1 Montagu’s Harrier (Circus pygargus) female flying around the cliffs.

Back to the plains we started to scan for Sandgrouses. After a short scan we spot a flock of 5 Pin-tailed Sandgrouses (Pterocles alchata) feeding on ground along with some Stone Curlews. We could aproach them until 80 metres, a distance that was providing an excellent view of the birds feeding for 20 minutes long. Despite of my interest to try a further approach the costumers decided to left and don’t disturb the birds. Good choice! Other birds here include good sights on Calandra Lark, Little Owl, Montagu’s Harrier and +10 Lesser Kestrels (Falco naumanni) hunting around us. After dinner the other half of the costumers went to the nocturnal tour with similar sights as the night before.

Red-necked Nightjar

Red-necked Nightjars (Caprimulgus ruficollis) nest on dry, low bush land and tree crops

Day 5. Los Monegros – Ebro Delta. After our breakfast we start the day by visiting a colony of Lesser Kestrels. Here at least 20 pairs nest along with Jackdaws, Spotless Starlings and a pair of pairs of Red-billed Choughs. Then we started to scan the fields around. Prontly I found a male Little Bustard singing in one of the fields. The bird was not so close as those we got the day before but still gave us a nice and long sight as the bird slowly walked on the flowered field. Not far from him, 4 Stone Curlews were resting on the field, although they steadely moved away because of our presence. As most of the costumers wanted to try a better photo on Roller, we decided to do a small drive around looking for some pairs moving in the steppes.

This short drive produced several good sights on Little Bustard (1 more male), Little Owl, Hoopoes (several), Black-eared Wheatears, Spectacled Warbler (briefly) and a pair of Black-bellied Sandgrouses resting just beside our track.

Once arrived to the area where Rollers live we fastly found three of them but, despite our attemps to get a little bit closer, the birds were really nervous and was impossible to get good images. Other birds here included Stone Curlew 3, Common Buzzard, Woodchat Shrikes and 1 Hooby & 1 Great Spotted Cuckoo flying through.

Before living Los Monegros we still decided to explore some sedimentary cliffs around our lodge. Here, the cliffs join a small river and the shadows of the trees along it are an excellent view point to scan the area. Here we found several interesting species including Spotted Flycatcher (Muscicapa striata), Penduline Tit (Remiz pendulinus), Cirl Bunting, Stock Dove (Columba oenas), Nightingale (Luscinia megarhynchos) and Alpine Swifts (Apus melba) but the best sight was that of an incredible Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) resting on the cliffs, giving unforgettable sights to our costumers via scope. Many photos were taken providing a phantastic end to our stay in the steppes…

 

Golden Eagle

Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) resting on its cliff at Los Monegros

The transfer to Ebro Delta from Los Monegros was also interesting. One of the costumers spot some Turtle Doves (Streptopelia turtur) from the car adding a new species to the tour list. Some miles ahead we had to stop the cars in the road itself. Some raptors were flying over the Ebro River, including a gorgeous Bonelli’s Eagle (Aquila fasciata), adult. This bird was not without controversia as most of the costumers fail to spot it as were confussed with 1 Short-toed Eagle (Circaetus gallicus) flying over the Bonelli’s… Some minutes later 1 Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus) was flying also over us.

Once arrived to Ebro Delta we begun to see some of the common birds inside this huge wetland. Purple (Ardea purpurea) & Squacco Herons (Ardeola ralloides) can be here really common and despite the unnormal cold early spring most of them were already back from their African winter grounds. Along with them tens of Whiskered Terns (Chlidonias hybridus) and many Gull-billed Terns (Gelochelidon nilotica) were flying over the fields, looking for fish or crabs. Among the young rice plants, Black-winged Stilts (Himantopus himantopus) were also looking for food. After leaving our package in our new lodge we went to look for some Flamingoes (Phoenicopterus ruber). We found tens of them roosting in one of the many salt lakes in Ebro Delta.

Day 6. Ebro Delta. Our first raising in Ebro Delta gave us some special birds. Flocks of Glossy Ibises (Plegadis falcinellus) and Flamingoes were flying over l’Encanyissada, the main fresh water lagoon in Ebro Delta. Other good birds here included our firsts Purple Swamphens (Porphyrio porphyrio), Night Herons (Nycticorax nycticorax), Red-crested Pochards (Netta rufina), Great Crested Grebes (Podiceps cristatus), Fan-tailed Warblers (Cisticola juncidis)Great Reed Warblers (Acrocephalus arundinaceus) and European Reed Warblers (Acrocephalus scirpaceus). Water Rails (Rallus aquaticus) were calling from the reeds and Little (Sterna albifrons) and Common Terns (Sterna hirundo) were all the time flying up and down, capturing fish here and there.

After some more birding here we moved to the salt marshes. Here we found several waders such as Turstones (Arenaria interpress), Oystercatchers (Haematopus ostralegus), Redshanks (Tringa totanus), Common Ringed Plovers (Charadrius hiaticula), Grey Plovers (Pluvialis squatarola), Green Sandpipers (Tringa ochropus) and 2 Wimbrels (Numenius phaeopus). With them we found one of the surprises along our tour, 1 Terek Sandpiper (Xenus cinereus) that we could enjoy as long as necessary!! Terek Sandpiper is an Asian bird with closest nesting grounds in Eastern Ukraine. In Catalonia it is considered as a rarity since we only get one bird every two or three years.

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Terek Sandpiper (Xenus cinereus) was the most unexpected bird along the tour. Photo: Frantisek Pochmon

We all were really satisfied because of this bird but we didn’t forget to pair attention to the bunch of birds in front of us. There were +20 Slender-billed Gulls (Croicocephalus genei) feeding on the salt lagoons as well as Little, Common, Gull-billed & Sandwich Terns (Sterna sandvicensis). A small group of gorgeous Caspian Terns (Hydroprogne caspia) were resting on ground and allowed us to enjoy its bulky body, specially when compared with the tiny Little Tern, which was side by side for long time. A drive along the dunes and beaches of Ebro Delta reported some interesting birds such as Sanderling (Calidris alba), Kentish Plover (Charadrius alexandrinus), Lesser Black-backed Gull (Larus fuscus) and the smart Audouin’s Gull (Larus audouinii) being this one the commonest gull in all the area -11.000 pairs in 2012.

It was lunch time, time to enjoy a wonderful paella from the Delta’s paddy fields and also time to discuss all the birds of the morning and the lasts days!!! To much stuff to do!

Early afternoon was to time to enjoy some grasslands. Here is the perfect place to look for scarcer birds. Iberian Wagtails (Motacilla iberiae) were common here and we could also spot Yellow wagtail (Motacilla flava), 3 Italian Wagtails (Motacilla cinereocapilla), 2 Red-throated Pipits (Anthus cervinus) & 7 Collared Pratincoles (Glareola pratincola) feeding on the grass along the wagtails. We then moved to an observation tower, a good view point to explore some of the most productive marshes in Ebro Delta. Purple Swamphens were common here as do so Glossy Ibises, Pied Avocets (Recurvirostra avossetta) & Shelducks (Tadorna tadorna). Other birds here included Curlew (Numenius arquata), Grey Plover (including one male in complete summer plumage), Wood Sandpiper (Tringa glareola) and a gorgeous pair of Little Bittern (Ixobrychus minutus) that were moving all the time in a channel beside our tower. A flock of over 23 Red Knot (Calidris canutus) flew over us, but most of our group was trying to discover the shy Little Bitterns among the reeds…

 

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Squacco Heron (Ardeola ralloides) a beautiful commonview at Ebro Delta

Day 7. Ebro Delta – Llobregat Delta – Garraf Natural Park. Big flocks of Herons oversleep in most of the main fresh water lagoons in Ebro Delta. During the raising we could see several Squacco, Purple, Night, Grey (Ardea cinerea) flying around as well as Cattle Egrets (Bubulcus ibis), Little Egrets (Egretta garzetta) and White Great Egrets (Egretta alba). One Savi’s Warbler (Locustella naevia) was calling from the reeds and a pair of Little Bittern was climbing the reeds. One of the most interesting birds that morning was 1 Reed Bunting (Emberiza schoeniclus witherbyi) female. This race is one of the most endangered of Reed Bunting (less than 50 pairs left). We then moved to explore the Northern half of the delta. Despite the sabotage of an ironman course that was making more difficult the access to the whole area we still could spot a good mixed flock of tens of Dunlins (Calidris alpina), Curlew Sandpipers (Calidris ferruginea) and Sanderlings as well as 8 Bar-tailed Godwits (Limosa lapponica).

It was time to leave the Delta behind us. Sadly we drove North and had lunch in our new lodge, close to Barcelona. After lunch we went to explore Llobregat Delta Natural Reserve. Here we could still find some new birds for the tour such as Sedge Warbler (Acrocephalus schoenobaenus), Common Pochard (Aythya ferina), Shoveler (Anas clypeata), Bean Goose (Anser anser) and Cetti’s Warbler (Cettia cetti). Other species we that we enjoyed in other spots we showing well. This was the case of Purple Heron (Ardea purpurea), Little Bittern (Ixobrychus minutus) & Audouin Gull (Larus audouinii). The nesting population of Collared Pratincole was even allowing excellent images for all keen photographers in the group.

Our afternoon ended by visiting some sea cliffs in the Massís del Garraf Natural Park. Here the sedimentary karstic rocks meet the Mediterranean Sea in a dramatic landscape that is excellent for some birds. Blue Rock Thrushes (Monticola solitarius) are common here and provided us with excellent sights (at least 3 males). Sardinian Warbler (Sylvia melanocephala), Spotless Starling (Sturnus unicolor) and Crag Martin (Ptynoprogne rupestris) ere also present here. When arriving was quite late afternoon and flocks of Pallid Swifts (Apus pallidus) were frenetically flying around, chasing each other in small flocks or getting inside the cavities that host their clunches. There were also some Common (Apus apus) and Alpine Swifts (Apus melba) but 90% of birds were Pallid! Here a pair of Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus) is nesting and we could enjoy the pair flying along the cliff and even attacking a young Shag (Phalacrocorax aristotelis) that was peacefully resting on a rock at the base of the cliff. To scape from the fast attack the Cormorant had to do a fast dive! After this stressing encounter, the young Cormorant decided to change the cliff and flew South.

Day 8. Garraf Natural Park – Sea Trip – Barcelona Airport. In our last morning we explored the scrubby slopes inside Garraf Natural Park. Here the landscape is really Mediterranean since many areas are covered by  low, dense scrub lands but with several barren slopes and small cliffs. Here we found some very interesting birds such as the common Dartford Warbler (Sylvia undata) and specially the delicious sight on 1 Ortolan Bunting (Emberiza hortulana) male singing from a tree top. Other birds of interest here included Thekla Lark (Galerida theklae), Pallid Swift  (Apus pallidus), Woodchat Shrike (Lanius senator), Southern Grey Shrike (Lanius excubitor), Black-eared Wheatear (Oenanthe hispanica) and Stonechat (Saxicola torquata).

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Scopoli’s Shearwater (Calonectris diomedea diomedea) off shore Barcelona. Photo: Jan Legner

At mid-morning we moved to Badalona harbour. Badalona is a big town inside Barcelona Metropolitan Area. Here we got in a gorgeous 100-years-old ship to enjoy the sea inmediatly in front of Barcelona. We went 4 miles off and was enough to get some interesting birds such as 8 Cory’s Shearwater (Calonectris diomedea), +20 Yelkouan Shearwater (Puffinus yelkouan) and at least 6 of the really endangered (less than 2500 pairs left) Balearic Shearwater (Puffinus mauretanicus) with good chances for photos! A Great Skua (Stercorarius skua) was also appearing but too far for most of the people joining us. Closer to the coastline commoner birds here were appearing such as Audouin’s Gull and Sandwinch Tern.

Back to the harbour we enjoyed a good lunch while commenting the busy morning, comparing the images and getting some final impressions of the whole tour. For me, I have to say that it was a gorgeous week and I’m proud and happy to be guiding a so gentle, funny, polite and passionate group of birdwatchers!!

I expect to see them again, here or there and enjoy some more birds together!

birdwatchers

The Very Best of Barcelona Birding Point 2013 Birding Trips

2013 has left and thus it is time to look forward and do a list of what was of interest this year. This is the very best of our 2013 birding trip! Do you recognise yours??

March

Over 200 species in our ten-days long tour through Morocco. 

Our March tour through Morocco listed over 200 species inlcuding most top specialities to be found in this Northern Africa country. We got great sights to highly endangered or poor known species such as Marsh Owl, Double-spurred Francolin, Dupont’s Lark, Houbara Bustard and Thick-billed Lark!

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Cream-coloured Couser (Cursorior cursor) is always a prime target to anyway visting Morocco

April

Massive birding morning in Llobregat Delta.

Do you know any place in the world where you can see Spotted Crake, Greater Bittern, Collared Pratincole, Little Bittern, Stone Curlew and Squacco Heron in 25 minutes? That place exists and its name is Llobregat Delta. Of course, this is not happenning every day but in 11th April, 2013 we had great views of all of them in 25 minutes and those were only few species among the over 95 we scored along our Wetlands & Wheatears 1-day Itinerary visiting Llobregat Delta and Garraf Natural Park!! That day list was filled up with gorgeous sights to Common Rock Thrush, Short-toed Eagle, Thekla Lark, Purple Heron, Black-eared Wheatear and many other. 

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Spotted Crake (Porzana porzana) in Llobregat Delta

5 species of Owls in our nocturnal trip through the steppes.

Our noctunal trip in Los Monegros for owls and Nightjars did a massive feedback on 13th April when we saw five species of Owls: Barn Owl 3, Long-eared Owl +5, Little Owl 2, Eurasian Eagle Owl 2 and Scops Owl 3!!! Furthermore we encountered over 8 Red-necked Nightjars in our way, with incredible chances for photographers in the group. And still we missed Short-eared Owl that left the area in early April!!!

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Long-eared Owl (Asio otus) photographiated in one of our nocturnal trip in Los Monegros

May

East Europe passage birds in Catalan coast.

In early May a small cyclone over the Mediterranean (an extremely rare weather feature in that sea) produce an “invasion” of East Europe species along Catalan coast. On 5th May, during a tour in Aiguamolls de l’Empordà Natural Park we saw Collared Flycatcher 3, Icterine Warbler 1 and Wood Warbler +7, a scarce species during spring migration season.

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Collared Flycatcher (Ficedula albicollis) female

June

Rüppell’s Vulture in Pyrenees.

Rüppell’s Vulture 1 flying along with Griffon Vultures over Boumort cliffs. This is the incredible sight we did near La Pobla de Segur on 8th June, 2013. This species is every time less scarce in South Spain and it seems it keeps moving North! That day we saw five different species of vultures: Egyptian Vulture 4, Black Vulture 1, Lammegeier 2, Rüppell’s Vulture 1 and Griffon Vulture +200. The raptor feast was full that day with sights of Booted & Short-toed Eagles as well as Red & Black Kites… not so bad!!

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Rüppell’s Vulture (Gyps rueppelli) flying over Sanetti Plateau, Ethiopia.

July

Black-winged Kite nesting in Lleida Steppes.

It seems Black-winged Kite has arrived to stay in Lleida Steppes. Along the last decade some pairs have been nesting through this area but always in small numbers. In 2013 3 pairs were nesting and raised a minimum of 3 chicks!! Let’s see if 2014 is confirming this a small population as a definitive new nesting species in Catalonia.

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Black-winged Kite (Elanus caeruleus) arriving to its nest in Lleida Steppes.

August

Stone Curlew rescue!

Normally we get out to see birds but, unfortunately, you have to stop the trip because a bird is in danger. That is what was happening on 25th August during a tour in Los Monegros. We found a Stone Curlew just 20 metres to us in the middle of the steppe. Obviously the bird was injured so we decided to rescue it and bring it to the Environment authorities.

The story has a double happy end. The (female) Stone Curlew was released to the wild some weeks later after recovering of a severe nutritiousness and, despite the time lost, we manage to find all targets that day, including Roller, Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Spectacled Warbler, Lesser Kestrel, Cirl Bunting, Black Kite, Lesser Short-toed Lark, Crested Tit and, of course, Stone Curlew!

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Stone Curlew (Burhinus oedicnemus) female rescued in Los Monegros. Despite the bad sensation this bird was released after recovered.

September

Waders feast in Ebro Delta.

Early September brought us huge combination of rarities and megas in Ebro Delta. Along many days some really scarce waders were all present in a small area of this huge wetland. On 8th September we enjoyed an unforgettable birding day listing Pectoral Sandpiper 1, Dotterel 2, Pacific Golden Plover 1, Buff-breasted Sandpiper 1, Marsh Sandpiper 1 and Temminck’s Sandpiper +50. Other really interesting birds included Eleonora’s Falcon 1 (light phorm), Collared Pratincole +100 and flocks of both Squacco & Night Heron facing South at sunset!!!

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Dotterel (Charadrius morinellus) juvenile in Ebro Delta in September 2013.

October

Semipalmated Plover in Ebro Delta.

Back again in Ebro Delta on 19th October we listed a new mega. This time a juvenile Semipalmated Plover resting within a flock of Ringed Plovers resting in the marshy area known as La Tancada! This is one of the first records of this wader for Catalonia. Unfortunatelly no image of it was taken…

December

Greater Spotted Eagle winters in Catalonia.

Greater Spotted Eagles are summer visitors to East Europe and they fly back to Africa as soon as autumn seems to appear. As Eastern species they fly by Greece and Turkey in their ways up and down from their winter grounds. Although this is well known, some years ago some Greater Spotted Eagles started to appear during in winter along Spanish Mediterranean coast… After several reports of birds wintering around València and other Mediterranean provinces, this year it seems the time for Catalonia. From late November a 1st winter Greater Spotted Eagle has been reported in some Catalan wetlands. At the time of writing (2nd January) this bird is still present in Aiguamolls del Baix Empordà area, a small wetland placed in the heart of renamed Costa Brava. On 12th December we had the chance to show this bird to some of our costumers, that were really interested in getting a new and unexpected lifer. What is to be known is if this is the start of a new winter ground for Greater Spotted Eagles along Western Mediterranean coastline!

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Greater Spotted Eagle (Aquila clanga) flying over Llobregat Delta in late November.

Thanks to our costumers to make us go further!!!

Do you want to experience it?

www.barcelonabirdingpoint.com

2013 most wanted bird specialities

Barcelona Birding Point ends 2013 after scored 62 bird trips from Barcelona. It has been an exciting year full of interesting sights that we will endow you in a coming post.

At the end of the year it is time to list what have been the most requested species. Here it is the TOP TEN LIST of 2013 most wanted birds of Barcelona Birding Point:

1. Pin-tailed Sandgrouse (Pterocles alchata)

2. Dupont’s Lark (Chersophilus duponti)

3. Lammergeier (Gypaetus barbatus)

4. Black-bellied Sandgrouse (Pterocles orientalis)

5. Wallcreeper (Tichodroma muraria)

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Wallcreeper is one of the most wanted birds living in Pyrenees. Photo: Carles Oliver

All of them with at least 15 costumers whom specifically asked for them.

6. Black Wheatear (Oenanthe leucura)

7. Common Rock Thrush (Monticola saxatilis)

8. Lesser Short-toed Lark (Calandrella rufescens)

9. Black Vulture (Aegypius monachus)

All them with at least 9 people asking for them.

10. Bonelli’s Eagle (Aquila fasciata)

11. Little Bustard (Tetrax tetrax)

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Common Rock Thrush is an elusive species living in high mountains. It has arrived to number seven of 2013 top ten most wanted birds; first time for it in our top birds list.

Both of them with 7 people asking for a good sight on them.

Other specialities scoring over 5 people include Great Spotted Cuckoo, Blue Rock Thrush, Rock Bunting, Ring Ouzel, Audouin’s Gull, Moustached Warbler, Crested Tit, Golden Eagle, Bluethroat, Lesser Kestrel, Calandra Lark, Subalpine Warbler, Little Bittern, Spectacled Warbler, Alpine Accentor, Purple Heron, Snow Finch, Black Woodpecker, Roller and Snow Finch.

A good variety of specialities covering different ecosystems (wetlands, high mountain birds, steppe lands, Mediterranean low bush country…) all of them to be found less than two hours from Barcelona’s city centre.

What will be the 2014 TOP TEN LIST? I’m sorry but you will have to wait for one year… some tracks anyway, steppe birds seem to go directly to the top!!! Get involved and guess what will be 2014 Top Three Birds for our costumers!!!!

2012 Ebro Basin in Winter Tour

This is the report Barcelona Birding Point’s Ebro Basin in Winter Tour (2012 edition) which started in December, 10th and ended in December, 16th. During the tour we spot 158 species of birds despite two windy/rainy days.

Cetti's Warbler (Cettia cetti) is a common bird along Catalan reedbeds and it is easier to spot during winter.

Cetti’s Warbler (Cettia cetti) is a common bird along Catalan reedbeds and it is easier to spot during winter.

Day 1. Once we picked up all costumers from their hotels in Barcelona we start the birding week expecting to find most of the more delighted specialities of Mediterranean, high mountain & steppe areas. Our first spot was in Llobregat Delta, a small wetland only ten kilometres South of Barcelona. A short-walk allowed us to find some interesting birds. First we encountered two Common Waxbill (Estrilda astrild) small flocks. Common Waxbill is a small, funny bird living along small rivers and channels in Catalonian coastline. Despite its scaped conditionit, this African speciality have steadily increase its populations since XX 80’s. It was also interesting our first Sardinian Wabler (Sylvia melanocephala), a small warbler related to coastal garrigas but also to thickets, farm lands and even gardens. European Serin (Serinus serinus) was also singing on a dead tree. Despite it is a fairly common bird, Serin is mostly a coastal species during winter. Other interesting species appearing included Fieldfare (Turdus pilaris), a scarce winter visitor, especially along the coast; Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus), Green Sandpiper (Tringa ochropus), the elusive Cetti’s Warbler (Cettia cetti), Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula), Gadwall (Anas strepera) and Monk Parakeet (Psittacula krameri).

We then moved to Pyrenees, where we first stopped in some open fields looking for some birds flocking around farm lands. Here we discovered beautiful Rock & Cirl Buntings (Emberiza cia & Emberiza cirlus) moving with large amounts of Chaffinches (Fringilla coelebs), Goldfinches (Carduelis carduelis), Tree Sparrows (Passer montanus) and Stonechats (Saxicola rubetra). We moved then to the upper areas of Cadí-Moixeró Natural Park, where we expected to find some high mountain birds. A short walk allowed us to encounteer  small groups of Chamoises (Rupicabra rupicabra) roasting on the alpine grasslands. These beautiful wild coat are one of the most common herbivorous in high mountain grasslands. Birds began to appear, first a small flock of three Alpine Accentor (Prunella collaris) moving on barren slopes, its favourite winter ground. At the same moment a gorgeous Lammergeier (Gypaetus barbatus) was appearing flying over us, its light orange body shinning and reflecting on the snowed slopes and its slow, low flight as a dance over the forest edge. We spend some more time walking around and those forest edges provided Coal, Long-tailed and Crested Tits, Treecreeper (Certhia familiaris), Mistle Thrush (Turdus viscivorus) and some gorgeous Griffon Vultures (Gyps fulvus). A latter riberine short-walk provided nice views of Siskin (Carduelis spinus), Brambling (Fringilla montifringilla) and more Rock Buntings as well as lovely a Dipper (Cinclus cinclus) with its characteristic “jump-dance” among the rocks of a high mountain stream.

Lammergeier (Gypaetos barbatus) adult is not any more an uncommon view in some Pyrenean valleys.

Lammergeier (Gypaetos barbatus) adult is not any more an uncommon view in some Pyrenean valleys.

Day 2. An early start was required to explore the huge Boumort National Game Reserve. A small stop in the road reported some forest species and fastly arrived to the most productive points. We found our first crowd of Griffon Vultures  flying around. The sunny (but cold) day was important to get nice views of those huge birds of prey. Before midday some massive Cinereous Vultures (Aegypius monachus) were appearing. A total of four of them were spotted along the day, including both juveniles (2) and adults (2). There are only about 30 of them in those massifs, being the only population on both Catalonia and the whole of the Pyrenees. Opositte to Griffon Vultures, Black Vultures use to move in pairs or small (4-5) flocks looking for small carrions. Lammergeier was also appearing. Once again we could enjoy the flight of the Eurasian most elegant vulture. A beautiful adult moving over Scots Pine forests and, later, two more (immatures). Other raptors flying over the wild valley included an adult Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) as well as Northern Goshawk (Accipiter gentilis).

Wallcreeper (Tichodroma muraria), one of the most strikking birds living in high mountains.

Wallcreeper (Tichodroma muraria), one of the most strikking birds living in high mountains.

A lovely small walk leaded us to impressive cliffs that hosts numbers of nesting Griffon Vultures, Golden Eagles, Lammergeiers and, in summer, Egyptian Vulture. This location provided one of the prime targets and most delighted birds for European birders: Wallcreeper (Tichodroma muraria). Wallcreepers nest in inaccessible high mountain cliffs and ravines. In winter they come to lower altitudes searching for warmer areas. They are solitary birds due to the low productiveness of the habitat where they live. We counted to be lucky as we got a two-minutes-long-view of one of these incredible birds just at the moment of arriving to our view point in the cliffs. Other highlights of the cliffs included a male Hen Harrier (Circus cyaneus) our first record of Red-billed Chough (Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax), Rock Sparrow (Petronia petronia) as well as unforgettable sights of both Griffon Vulture and Lammergeier. Here was also the place to find Blue and Great Tits, Song Thrush (Turdus philomelos) and Short-toed Treecreeper (Certhia brachydactyla), a fairly common resident in all kinds of forests in Catalonia.

Day 3. Last day in the Pyrenees. From our hotel, and while having breakfast, we found Great Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos major) and, few meters away, both Hawfinches (Coccothraustes coccothraustes) and Bullfinches (Pyrrhula pyrrhula) moving along a wooded stream. These species are somehow scarce and thus they are always appreciated by all birders. Our first stop that day was the cliffs and riberines North of Camarasa. Here we found the striking Blue Rock Thrush (Monticola solitarius) in the sedimentary cliffs. A pair moving around the cliff, being very active in with the midday sun. Some other specialities appearing here included Firecrest (Regulus ignicapillia), Dunnock (Prunella modularis), Siskin, Rock Bunting and a nice couple of Sardinian Warblers moving in the bushed cliffs. But before we spent some time in the firsts plains we encountered in our way. Even from the road we found an important amount of birds including our first Iberian Grey Shrike (Lanius meridionalis), Corn Bunting (Miliaria calandra) and a juvenile male of Yellowhammer (Emberiza citrinella), a scarce species only living in Northern Catalonia. A further short-walk reported us a glimpse onto a Red-legged Partridge (Alectorix rufa) flock.

Boumort is an unique view-point over the Pyrenees and its valleys.

Boumort is an unique view-point over the Pyrenees and its valleys.

After lunch we visited  the huge Estany d’Ivars i Vila-Sana, a 60 hectarees wetland in the middle of the plains that reported our first beautiful Purple Swamphen (Porphyrio porphyrio) in the reeds, a nice pair of the recently split Iberian Green Woodpecker (Picus sharpei) along with Penduline Tit (Remiz pendulinus) –after an intense reseach-, White Stork (Ciconia ciconia), Reed Bunting (Emberiza schoneiclus), Great Egret (Egretta alba) as well as nice sights of Cattle Egrets (Bubulcus ibis) and a intense activity in the Marsh Harriers (Circus aeruginosus) roosting site.

Day 4. Time to explore to lonely plains of Los Monegros. This huge cereal-steppe provided some of the best birding moments in the tour. It was nine o’clock in the morning when we approach those immense fields and we surprisingly fast found our first flock of Great Bustards (Otis tarda). After several counts we finally decided that there were 23 individuals in the flock. Number of birds was highly important as this is a really endangered species in Los Monegros with about 30 individuals left. After enjoy long enough watching those giant birds peacefully eating on the fields we moved a bit to scan some fields around in order to locate some of the numerous larks living here. Along the next minutes we got nice views of Crested Lark (Galerida cristata), Calandra Lark (Melanocorypha calandra), Skylark and some minutes later the scarce Lesser Short-toed Lark (Calandrella rufescens), heavily linked to small spots of primary Thyme and steppe-like vegetation.

The morning was still going on when we found several flocks of birds roasting in a huge field. Apart from a large flock of finches (mainly Linnets –Carduelis cannabina– but also Goldfinches –Carduelis carduelis-) there were at least 52 Red-billed Choughs roasting along with Starlings (among them some Spotless StarlingsSturnus unicolor-), Lapwings and Calandra Larks. We were just trying to find the Calandra Larks when a female Merlin (Falco columbarius) appeared attacking some of the birds… All birds on the field fastly flew off. It was the moment to find out a new field…

Some kilometers ahead we listened a pair of Black-bellied Sandgrouse (Pterocles orientalis) flying over the area. These birds can be extremely difficult to locate on the fields so we didn’t miss the chance to try an approach. The pair stopped some 1,5 kilometres from us so we didn’t lose time and drove as close as possible. Our determination gain for us a beautiful ten minutes long view of both male and female roasting on ground!!

Just a few minutes latter a big flock of over 30 Sandgrouses flew over us. There were both species Black-bellied and also the slighter Pin-tailed Sandgrouse (Pterocles alchata) flying East in an awesome chorus of calls. It was about midday and we began to go for lunch, a bit silent and sad because Little Bustard (Tetrax tetrax) was not appearing yet. But a last trial in some open fields of their liking produced a nice (although a bit far) sight of a flock of eight of them!! Little Bustard, as all steppe-living specialities, can be highly striking, but we got a not-so-bad sight of them.
Black-bellied Sandgrouses (Pterocles orientalis), a wonderful bird living in cereal-steppes, Los Monegros.

Black-bellied Sandgrouses (Pterocles orientalis), a wonderful bird living in cereal-steppes, Los Monegros.

In the afternoon it was time to visit a lagoon close to Candasnos, which provided nice sights of several ducks (including Red-crested PochardNetta rufina– and Ferruginous Duck (2) –Aythya nyroca-) as well as Common Crane (Grus grus). Before in our way to the lagoon we found some beautiful Thekla Larks (Galerida theklae), maybe the most delighted Iberian lark (apart from Dupont’s) for most European birders.

Day 5. This day weather was not a good mate and from early morning we didn’t have good sensations about. We explored some steppe areas in Western Monegros. This spot is noted for several steppe-living specialities. We encountered here some specialities including Little Owl (Athene noctua), Iberian Grey Shrike (Lanius meridionalis), Red-legged Partridge (Alectoris rufa), Hoppoe (Upupa epops) and Dartford Warbler (Sylvia undata). Special mention to the beautiful and absolutely unexpected pair of Spectacled Warbler (Sylvia conspicillata) that we found in perfect summer plumage (male) and actively moving around. This warbler is supposed to be a summer speciality in both Aragón and Catalunya, leaving their nesting areas in early September!! There are some sedentary populations in South-east Spain but there are only three records for winter individuals in Catalonia (related to coastal areas) and no records have been found in Monegros in winter.

In the afternoon was the time to search for both Eurasian Eagle Owl (Bubo bubo) and Black Wheatear (Oenanthe leucura), two delighted specialities living in cliffs and barren slopes. Black Wheatear was appearing quite fast as they favours small rocky areas facing South as winter grounds. Eurasian Eagle Owl was more difficult but finally its impressive silouhette was emerging from the cliffs…

Amazing winter raising time in Ebro Delta...

Amazing winter raising in l’Encanyissada, the main fresh water lagoon in  Ebro Delta.

Day 6. Our first morning in Ebro Delta. This huge delta host troops of gulls, herons, ducks and seabirds. Almost the first bird we found in our way was an Audouin’s Gull (Larus audouinii), an elegant gull mostly wintering in South Spain with only a few winter birds in Ebro Delta (thought Ebro Delta concentrates over 65% of world’s population between February-March and September-October). After such a good start we stopped several times along the road to have views of some common birds in Ebro Delta including Great Egret and huge flocks of both Greater Flamingo (Phoenicopterus roseus) and Glossy Ibis (Plegadis falcinellus). We then decided to visit one of the main fresh water lagoons to search for more birds and that spot offered us nice views of Water Rail (Rallus aquaticus), Purple Swamphen (Porpyrhio porpyrhio) -+20-, Common Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis), Cetti’s Warbler (Cettia cetti) and Squacco Heron (Ardeola ralloides), another summer visitor that is becoming a normal winter bird last years. Number of ducks, grebes and Marsh Harriers were also appearing.

We continued the day visiting paddy fields around the lagoon that were full of Egrets and Herons, including a small flock of eight White Storks (Ciconia ciconia) (again a former only-summer-bird) and over 10 Curlews (Numenius arquata). We spent a pair of hours checking flowed fields having nice views of Water Pipit (Anthus spinolleta), Spotless Starling, Glossy Ibis, Redshank, Greenshank and 3 Marsh Sandpiper (Tringa stagnatilis), a very scarce winter species in Ebro Delta. By exploring those areas we also got incredible sights of singing Bluethroat (Luscinia svecica) and some gorgeous Penduline Tits (Remiz pendulinus).

Sanderlings (Calidris alba) and Dunlins (Calidris alpina) are common winter visitors along Ebro Delta coastline.

Sanderlings (Calidris alba) and Dunlins (Calidris alpina) are common winter visitors along Ebro Delta coastline.

After exploring some fresh water marshes we started to search for the species living in the salt plats and salt marshes. In La Tancada, one of the main salt plats in Ebro Delta, we found several Grey Plovers as well as some beautiful Slender-billed Gulls (Larus genei) feeding on the small salty lagoons along with Common Shelducks (Tadorna tadorna) and Greater Flamingos. Along the coast line we found several flocks of Dunlin (Calidris alpina) and Saderling (Calidris alba) along with some Kentish Plovers (Charadrius alexandrinus), Common Ringed Plovers (Charadrius hiaticula) and Little Stilts (Caladris minuta).  At the same time we were checking the bay looking for sea ducks. Over fourteen Red-breasted Mergansers (Mergus merganser) were spotted in the bay along with numbers of Black-necked Grebes (Podiceps nigricollis). Among them one Slavonian Grebe (Podiceps auritus) was discovered, which was a really nice unexpected species as it is a really scarce winter bird in Catalonia (0-5 birds per winter). Some hundred meters ahead eight Common Scoters (Melanitta fusca) were sleeping in a big flock of Mallards, Teals, Red-crested Pochards and Northern Shovelers. Some meters beyond a gorgeous Black-throated Loon (Gavia arctica) was also fishing in the never-ending bay.

It was already half afternoon and a perfect moment to check for one of prime targets in the tour. The elusive and secretive Moustached Warbler (Acrocephalus melanopogon). We found it out in a gorgeous, two-minutes long sight, moving really low along the reedbed edge. Greater Bittern (Botaurus stellaris) was not appearing but a male Little Bittern (Ixobrychus minutus) made a nice flight over the lagoon with the sunset light.

This Osprey (Pandion haliaetos) was one of the last surprises during our time in Ebro Delta. It allowed some excellent images from all keen photographers in the group. Regarding to plastic rings was released in France.

This Osprey (Pandion haliaetos) was one of the last surprises during our time in Ebro Delta. It allowed some excellent images from all keen photographers in the group. Regarding to plastic rings was released in France.

Day 7. The final day started with some re-checking in the salty marshes to locate new species. Here we found several Dunlins and Sanderlings along with Turstone and one beautiful Osprey (Pandion haliaetos) with a morning fish as a prey.

Taking advantage that Ebro Delta is close to really interesting garrigas we took a walk over some slopes trying to locate the scarce Bonelli’s Eagle (Aquila fasciata). Although the large Eagle was not appearing we had some nice views of Sardinian Warbler, Goldcrest (Regulus regulus) and Eurasian Crag Martin (Ptynoprogne rupestris).

The last stop in our tour was in some small cliffs immediately South of Tarragona. This small cape gave us gorgeous views of Sardinian Warbler, Hoopoe, Mediterranean Gull (Larus melanocephalus), Northern Gannet (Sula bassana) and Arctic Skua (Stercorarius parasiticus) chasing a gull in the sunset light. Various flocks of Mediterranean Shearwaters (Puffinus mauretanicus) were also appearing as well as Shag (Phalacrocorax aristotelis) even when their view was not so spectacular as expected.

It was a great final spot for a incredible birding tour. We then went to drink a warm coffee. It was the end of an intense seven days birding, a great time that provided incredible sights and allow to all of us to know make new friendships!!!

The point is what surprises are waiting for us in 2013 edition?

 

More than 300 pairs of Audouin’s Gull breeding in Llobregat Delta

Audouin’s Gull (Larus audouinii) nesting colony is increasing year after year in Llobregat Delta, a small marshy area only 5 quilometers South of Barcelona. In 2011, 380 pairs were breeding in an artificial island in this wetland. The figure is very important since it is numbering more than whole population in countries such as France, Turkey, Croatia, Portugal or Cyprus (2008 World Audouin’s Gull Population Census).

 

IMG_4665

Audouin’s Gull (Ichtiaetus audouinii) is a typical coastal bird. Here an adult in flight along with a YL Gull (Larus michahellis). Image: Carles Oliver

 

Nowadays, and now talking on 2018, the bird can be easily seen from March to September along Barcelona coast line, often stopping at the town beaches few metres away from the people. Moreover, a overwintering population is to be found along the coast in the Northern Metropolitan Area.

First breeding record in Llobregat Delta is dated in 2009, when four pairs nested inside one of the Natural Reserve. In 2010 the colony moved to the current placement and 140 pairs breeded there. In 2011 their number have increased until 380 pairs with a rate of survival since over 300 young Audouin’s flew from the colony.

This is already one of the largest Audouin’s Gull colonies in the world. Ebro Delta (15.000 pairs in 2008) keeps being, by far, the largest one. Second largest colony is located in  Torrevieja (Alacant, Spain), where up to 3.823 were counted in 2008. The colony at Llobregat Delta had surpassed one of the most traditional nesting places for the species, the one located at Illes Columbretes (120 pairs in 2010).