Arxiu de la categoria: wetlands

Catalonia in winter Birding Tour, 2020 Trip Report

Number of days: 6

Tour participants: 5

Dates: February 6th to 11th, 2020

All images along the tour by Brian Buffery, Giovanni Grieco and tour leader Carles Oliver.

The tour participants to the tour flew into Barcelona prior the tour started. We met the next morning in their hotel neat the airport for an early morning transfer to the Pyrenees. Temperature was high as a result of several days of high pressures, and temperatures escalating above 20C in the days before the tour started.

Day 1. Once in the Pyrenees, we drove up until 1600 metres high and spent some time in a rocky slope with small cliffs. There, we got good views on Rock Buntings, singing and showing up really well. European Crested Tits were also noted, but we didn’t have any other good bird. From there, the lovely lane brought us throught Mountain forests with small flocks of Mistle Thruses and Common Crossbills. Once the forests end, the lane crosses some alpine meadows show. Due to the long period of high temperatures, the snow was few, and concentrated in a certain slopes. We spent some time scanning, with little success. Only a few Eurasian Griffons were moving in the sky, joined by 1 Common Raven.

Black Redstart (Phoenicurus ochruros), a common but always wonderful flycatcher to see.

We spent some time scanning the snowed slopes with little luck, and we were about to leave when 3 Snowfinches flew from a spinned slope, really high up in the mountain. Despite teh birds were extremelly far away we decided to spend some time scanning the slope.  But nothing. Sowe drove half a mile, and scan again. And now we were more lucky as a nice flock of about 25 Snowfinches showed in the sky, flying from a close slope. The birds we actually doing some short flights to inmediatly reland in the slope, so we got excellent views on the birds walking on the snow, feeding and preening. Unfortunately all birds were a bit far up in the slope, so not really excellent chances for photography. We spent about half an hour waiting for the birds to eventually come down the slope and have closer views. Unfortunately the birds never came really closer.

Happy after the enjoying a species I was not expecting to find, we kept our way and came back to the mountain pass. There, there was a good number of Eurasian Griffons passing by, producing some really good views. Here we also got excellent views on a flock of Alpine Chough flying over, calling, and playing in the sky as only a Chough can do.

Only a pair of minutes after the Chough did its show, a large raptor was seen along with Eurasian Griffons. Moving slowly above the slope, an impressive adult Lammergeier was moving to our position. Everybody connected with the bird of prey way before the bird was close, so everybody enjoyed excellent views on the bird approaching us… The majestic bird just passed over us, the snow reflecting on the underwings so we all enjoyed the details of the axiles, the underwinds and its iconic moustache. The bird was around for some minutes, and we still had a second Lammergeier passing by before we moved to our accommodation for some rest.

We got our first views on Lammergeier (Gypaetos barbatus) in the first morning of the tour.

After some resting, we still had time to explore a wooded slope in search of some new species. The area was full of Common Crossbills, some of them singing. A lovely Iberian Green Woodpecker was a celebrated spot in the group. The area was full of birds: Eurasian Siskin, Mistle Thrush, Rock Bunting, Shorttoed Treecreeper and Crested Tit were also noted. Big flocks of migratory Common Chaffinches were around. We did a number of stops along the lane, and among them 2 Citril Finches passed over our heads, calling. Unfortunately only one tour participant had a view in these birds.

The afternoon was going away and as the night came we moved to a proper spot for the most difficult of the Owls in Europe. We didn’t have to wait long because soon after sunset we had a Tengmalm’s Owl singing quite close to our van! The bird started singing about 80 metres away so we just walked inside the open woodland, trying to find the small owl. We enjoyed a wonderful listening but despite our efforst, we never so this scarce owl!

Sunset is to arrive to the Pyrenean subboreal forest.

Day 2. After a good rest, we just started our second day by spending some time in the same lane where we were the last afternoon. Our goal was to have better views on Citril Finches. But that morning we were no lucky about them. After this we spent the rest of the morning in a mountain pass closeby. A huge flock of above 70 Red-billed Choughs was feeding on the greenish slopes that were supposed to be snowed. High temperatures for 15 days in a row right before the arrival of the group had been meltering the snow, and despite our efforts we were uncapable to find any Alpine Accentor, the main goal of the morning.

Crag Martin (Ptynoprogne rupestris) showinfg the tail markings.

After lunch we drove to the steppes for some afternoon birding. Our first stop was to check some corners looking for one of the most sought-after species in this habitat. Meanwhile, we enjoyed very much to find a large flock of over 150 Eurasian Tree Sparrows. Several other species were recorded around including Eurasian Reed Bunting, Corn Bunting, European Stonechat, Eurasian Skylark, Northern Lapwing, Common Kestrel, Crested Lark, Common Buzzard, Meadow Pipit and several more!

To spot Little Bustards (Tetrax tetrax) out of the nesting season can be difficult.

In our second stop we were more lucky, and after some scanning we found 12 Little Bustards in a nearby field. They were hiding in a filed with tall vegetation and we could only count them after a long wait and search of the small neck appearing above the grass. While enjoying them, we got other good birds around including 1 Great White Egret, Grey Heron , Mistle Thrush and Zitting Cisticola.

But a good surprise was to come. In a nearby field, a large flock of over 150 European Golden Plovers was resting. It look like the typcical large premigratory flock. While trying to count the Bustards, Gio was scanning the plovers and he was lucky enough to find out a 1st winter Eurasian Dotterel right in the center of the flock! What a nice spot!!!

Eurasian Dotterel (Charadrius morinellus) in a flock of Golden Plover close to Linyola.

After such a great spot we just moved to a nearby wetland for the last stop of the day. The large fresh water lagoon is placed in the middle of a large plain, and attracks good number os Western Marsh Harriers that roost in the reedbeds. We counted no less than 23 of them! Eurasian Teals, Northern Shovelers, Common Snipes, Reed Buntings, Water Rail, Northern Lapwings, Redcrested Pochards and big numbers of Great Cormorants and Western Jackdaws were all enjoyed, but probably the best birds for most of the tour participants were the Western Swamphens showing in the reedbeds, and noisily calling as the sunset approached. A wonderful end of the day!

During the afternoon we found this roosting place with +150 Eurasian Tree Sparrows (Passer montanus).

Day 3. This day we drove up a long valley, into the a Catalan shire called Pallars, to look for some Pyrenean especialities. Our first stop was in a huge gorge. There, we hope for the most wanted bird for many birdwatchers visting the Pyrenees in winter, the Wallcreeper. During a pair of hours we walked and scouted the rocks all around, hoping for any movement in the cliffs. Whitebellied Dippers were singing, very active in the river, and we counted 4 in single corner of the river! Some Eurasian Griffons were also moving in the sky, and didn’t take long until the massive silouhette of 1 Lammergeier appeared from the massive cliffs. Red Kite and Rock Bunting were also enjoyed.

After a long search, we finally found an extremelly distant Wallcreeper in a big, plain rock face. Only 1 tour participant saw the bird, so we all spent a lot of time trying to refind the bird. Some minutes passed away, and nobody was having the Wallcreeper…but suddenly a something moved in the rocks really close to us, inmediatly at the other side of the river: Wallcreeper!

Wallcreeper (Tichodroma muraria), always a challenging bird!

We were having a Wallcreeper right there, and this time everyone in the group found the bird without difficulties! We spent a pair of minutes enjoying of the bird moving in the rock face, beside a huge cavity. As always, it was great moment for anyone in the group!! After taking photos and recording videos we were enjoying the bird until it moved away from the rock face… and then came the typical question, was that the same bird that we were looking for extremely high up, or was it a different one? Who knows…

In this stop we still enjoyed a pair of other good birds before going for a coffee stop as Shorttoed Treecreeper and Eurasian Crag Martin showed really well in our way to the car.

After our pic-nic stop, we spent a pair of hours exploring a wooded lane, a wonderful spot for Citril Finches. Again, Common Crossbills were common and active. There were flocks of Eurasian Goldfinches and Common Chaffinches and, while scanning the flocks looking for something different, we enjoyed 2 superb Lammergeiers flying ove us in beautiful light. After a long, long scanning, 2 Citril Finches were seen when driving down the lane so we inmediatly stopped, with the finches calling around and moving in the trees for a some seconds before they moved away as they seemed associated to a huge flock of Common Chaffinches. We scanned over and over the flock but we were uncapable to refind them. Mistle Thrush, Fieldfare and Hawfinch were noted in the while.

One of the 4 Lammergeiers (Gypaetos barbatus) seen during that day.

The last stop of the day was to look for Eurasian Black Vulture. The Catalan Pyrenees holds a small population of about 50 individuals, concentrated in a pair of valleys but expanding in range and numbers. The whole day had been poor in raptor activity and, when we did arrive to the observation place, the raptor activity was minimal. Still, there were some Eurasian Griffons flying and after some hard scanning we found at least three distant Eurasian Black Vulture circling along with them. Another Lammergeier was also found, by the way. Here we also enjoyed some small birds including Cirl Bunting, Great Spotted Woodpecker and Sardinian Warblers. After this stop we drove back to our accommodation for a good dinner and rest.

Day 4. Early morning start to explore the steppes. After a transfer we did arrive to the dry lands where most of the specialities are to be found. Unfortunately the weather was not good at all, as it was extremelly windy… Windy days can be terrible in the steppes, being quite easy to miss most (or all) the good birds in such a conditions.

But we were confident so our first stop was in a corner were Sandgrouses use to feed in early morning. A first look to the area revealed no activity at all. Only 1 or 2 Calandra Larks were flying, almost no songs in the sky. A distant Red Kite was the most notiable… We moved slowly along the lane, carefully scanning the fields that were hurt by the wind. It took us a good while until we found the first Blackbellied Sandgrouse on the ground. A male. Did an effort to get the scopes out so everybody could enjoy despite the really strong wind. Some minutes later, a small flock of 5 Pintailed Sandgrouses moved from a nearby filed, coming closer to us. It took some time to put everybody in the birds as they mild so well even if it was so few grass! Our happiness was complete when we realised that there were also some Blackbellied Sandgrouses on the ground, only few metres away from the Pintailed’s!! So, at the end, we had both species together side by side, feeding, preening and enjoying the hard morning weather!

Due to very strong winds, this is the best image we got on a Pin-tailed Sandgrouse.

Black-bellied Sandgrouse (Pterocles orientalis) during one of the last tours to Morocco. No images during this tour…

A short drive in the area around provided us with good views on Thekla, Calandra & Sky Larks. Also Little Owl, Iberian Grey Shrike and Redbilled Chough. Due to the wind it was again little movement of raptors in the sky, or that is what it looked like until 4 Golden Eagles appeared in the sky at the same time! Two adults and 2 juveniles playing long time with the wind at short range.

This obliging Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) was the first of the 5 seen during the day!

After a coffee stop we still had time to enjoy some good views on Lesser Shorttoed Larks before changing the habitat to explore some cliffs nearby.

The short drive to the clay cliffs produced several White Storks, some of them in their nests, Spotless Starlings, and Common Buzzards. Once arrived, we were suprised by a bird moving in the cliff.A Wallcreeper!!! Amazing. It is not normal to see a Wallcreeper so low, and it is even more strange to see it in a clay cliff which is not especially in the middle of the plains! Again everybody enjoyed the bird while moving up. Higher, a Blue Rock Thrush was also really showy. After a pair of minutes enjoying the bird we lost it and spent some time looking for the Black Wheatears living in this spot. After some minutes we had a pair of Black Wheatear moving in the broken slope. Here we also got the firsts Black Redstarts and Common Chiffchaffs of the tour.

This Wallcreeper (Tichodroma muraria) was totally unexpected, and shared cliff with Blue Rock Thrush and Black Wheatear.

After such a wonderful stop, we faced our transfer to Ebro Delta, a pair of hours of driving with several surprises in the way. The area between Lleida Steppes and Ebro Delta is a complex, hilly area crossed by Ebro river. It is good nautral border and a natural corridor that many birds use between the Mediterranean coast and the Pyrenees. The afternoon was sunny and calm and soon we realised that it was a good number of birds of prey migrating. After a pair of stops we had 1 Short-toed Snake Eagle, 1 Black Kite, 1 Northern Goshawk, several Common Buzzards and a few Eurasian Sparrowhawks moving North.

Once in Ebro Delta, we spent the rest of the afternoon in the Northern Bay, where we enjoyed good views on a long list of species. Slender-billed & Audouin’s Gull were the most celebrated but the list also included Whiskered, Caspian & Sandwich Terns, Black-necked Greve, Red-crested Pochard, Kentish Plover, Greenshank, Common Sandpiper, Knot, Eurasian Oystercatcher, Bar-tailed Godwit, Eurasian Curlew, Little Stint, Dunlin, Common Snipe, Common Redshank, big flocks of Greater Flamingoes and Mediterranean Gulls plus ruff views on a female Bluethroat that showed shortly due to the strong wind! After such a great end of the day, we drove to our accommodation for a good rest and plentiful dinner. 

Day 5. After enjoying our breakfast we went out to take a fast look to a small pond just by our hotel. There, we had a good surprise as a male Little Bittern moved in the reeds providing good looks. Cetti’s Warbler and Little Egret were also seen there!

But our first serious stop of the day was by the largest fresh water lagoon in the delta, called l’Encanyissada. A pair of stops were enough to catch with some of the most sought-after species. While flocks of Greater Flamingoes were passing over, we enjoyed wonderful views on Western Swamphens. In the lagoon there were flocks of Blacknecke Grebes but out attention was focused in the reedbeds. Cetti’s Warbler was showing well in some small plants by the reeds and 2 Water Pipits were seen in a nearby channel along with Green Sandpiper. But all alarms went on when a “tak-tak” came from the reeds. There was a Moustached Warbler just along the edge of the reedbed, calling and moving really low in the brown steems. It didn’t take long until all tour participants were enjoying good views on this shy species!

But the bird spectacled kept going. A flock of 5 Wood Sandpipers flew over right at the same time that 1 Whitespotted Bluethroat male called from the reedbed. A bit of scan was required before all tour participants enjoyed excellent views on this bird. The male was actually quite showy and it was calling a pair of times as it was moving along the shore of the channel. A further scan along different channels revealed at least 5 Bluethroats, 2 of them being males in full summer plomage.

Bluethroat (Luscinia svecica) in typical winter habitat.

After such a successful stop we decided to move on to explore some salt marshes. The area is an important nesting place for several species, including Audouin’s Gull, and we could see that many of them were already back in the area. At least 80 Audouins’s were there along with Caspian Terns, Grey Plovers, Kentish & Common Ringed Plovers, 100s of Dunlins and at least 7 Little Stints in the middle.

Audouin’s Gulls (Ichthyaetus audouinii) already busy in their colony.

From there we end the morning by exploring a sand bar facing South. This is a good place where to enjoy waders, Terns and Gulls. Several Great Crested Grebes were on the sea, as the sand bar protects a large inner bay. Along with them, 4 Blackthroated Divers were fishing and offering great views, but the best was to discover 1 Great Skua resting on the sea, far away but still offering a god view. Closer, flocks of Dunlins & Kentish Plovers were really appreciated by the group, along with the Slenderbilled Gulls side by side to Mediterranean Gull. A good way to walk the path of telling them apart. Northern Gannet and Ruddy Turnstone were also enjoyed in this stop.

Western Swamphen (Porphyrio porphyrio) has become a common view in Ebro Delta.

To enjoy our picnic we went inside a wooded hide. From the hide, it didn’t look like a lot of birds, but we were having a good fun with the nice views on Western Swamphens and Cetti’s Warbler while a Booted Eagle was circling. Suddenly, a Great Spotted Cuckoo crossed the lagoon to stop right beside the hide! Wonderful!! This species of cuckoo arrives really early in the season and by the end of February you can expect some of them moving around, but due to the few time we had in the steppes, I was not expecting to see them at all!

Slim numbers of Booted Eagles (Aquila pennata) overwinter in Ebro Delta.

Great Spotted Cuckoo (Clamator glandarius) is a scarce migratory bird in Ebro Delta itself.

During the afternoon we drove up along a lane to explore a mountainous areas some 30 miles away from Ebro Delta. It is extremelly windy and we had to drive up and down the lane a pair of times before we succeed, but finally we got what we were looking for and 2 Alpine Accentors were seen in the lane, right in front of the car!!! The birds were just feeding by the lane despite the extremelly strong wind but unfortunately they flew off down the slope before we could take any image of them…

Spanish Ibex (Capra hispanica) in a typical view.

Really happy about this spot, we moved to our final stop. A lovely Mediterranean gorge hosts some really good specialities. Weather conditions were hard so bird activity was really low. Still, we got good views in a female Spanish Ibex and we were about to leave when a call came from high up the cliff and a wonderful male Bonelli’s Eagle came down to inmediatly display over the valley. It called again just when dramatically dived in the sky to come back to the cliffs in a fast movement!!! What a incredible sight to end the day!!!

Bonelli’s Eagle (Aquila fasciata) displaying in late afternoon.

But this was not all. After dinner we just went out to the hotel grounds, were the tour participants enjoyed wonderful vews on 1 Eurasian Scops Owl that is actually nesting in a nest box right there!!!

Eurasian Scops Owl (Otus scops) already at nest at the end of February!

Day 6. Our last day of the tour we spent the morning in the delta. In our first stop we were scouting a large marshy area: big flocks of Blackwinged Stilts and Pied Avocets were resting there along with Northern Shovelers, Pintails, Blacktailed Godwits, Common Kingfishers, Shelducks and other goodies. Beyond this spot, the paddy fields around provided good birding and an accurate scan we enjoyed good views on 30 or more Ruffs but also Dunlins, European Golden Plovers, huge flocks of Glossy Ibises, obliging Lesser Shorttoed Larks and 1 Peregrine Falcon (probably a calidus race).

Young Greater Flamingoes (Phoenicopterus roseus) love to feed in the paddy fields.

It was time to head back to the airport but we still had time for a pair of fast stops around Barcelona. Our picnic stop by the airport reported Water Pipit. The afternoon was rainy and cold but we still tried to get the impressive Red-billed Leiothrix, an alien species living in some well forested areas in Greater Barcelona. By the time we did arrive, the temperature was low but we still managed good views on Firecrest as well as Monk Parakeet, Coal, Longtailed and European Crested Tits.

Ans this was the end of this wonderful tour to the Pyrenees, despite the really high temperatures!! Already ready for our next adventure, happening very soon.

Do you want to join us?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spain Tour 2019

Tour Participants: 5

Dates: From April 15th to April 26th, 2019

Number of species of birds seen: 227

 

Summary

During the tour the temperature ranged from 02ºC to 29ºC. We recorded 7 mammal species, over 227 species of birds and 3 species of reptiles. The species mentioned in the daily summaries are only some of those seen.

Day 1: Monday 15 April: Madrid to La Mancha Humeda and onto Extremadura.

Our trip begun with us meeting for a breakfast at our Hotel in Madrid. After meeting our local Guide and driver Carles we negotiated the Madrid traffic and made our way for the Navaesca lagoon and wetlands. As we left the city and headed into the Winelands and agricultural fields on route we enjoyed sightings of: Common Magpie, Black Kite, Common Wood Pigeon and Crested Lark.

Our first stop after a well deserved coffee break was Navaesca Lagoon south west of Madrid and here we enjoyed some amazing birding with highlights being: 50+ White-headed Duck, Cetti’s Warbler, Common Shelduck, Black-headed Gull, Ruff, Common Greenshank, European Penduline Tit, Bearded Reedling, Greylag Goose, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Red-crested Pochard, Little-ringed Plover and European Goldfinch to name a few. Luck was on our side this morning as we had really top cracking views of these species, we managed brief views of a Moustached Warbler but this unfortunately avoided us despite numerous attempts to relocate. We enjoyed our lunch watching the Whiskered Terns and had a good fly by sighting of a Mediterranean Gull.

White-headed Ducks (Oxyura leucocephala) are a scarce resident duck in Central Spain and along the Mediterranean coast. Image by tour leader Carles Oliver

After lunch the wind picked up and bird activity died down so we made our way to the Extremadura region.  On our way to the Extremadura region we enjoyed road side sightings of: Booted Eagle, European Griffon Vulture, European Black Vulture, White Storks nesting, European Stonechat, Hawfinch, Western Marsh Harrier and Corn Bunting. At our accommodation in Extremaduta we enjoyed amazing next door birding including sightings of European Blue Tit, Black Kite, Red-rumped Swallow, Iberian Magpie, Common Cuckoo, Black-winged Kite, European Bee-eater, Mistle Thrush, Common Chaffinch, Great Tit, Woodchat Shrike, White Wagtail, and Booted Eagle.

We got daily great views on Black-winged Kites (Elanus caeruleus) during our stay in Extremadura. The fact that one pair nested in our accommodation grounds helped a bit 🙂 Image by Carles Oliver

What a great start to our tour as we enjoyed sunset over the snow capped Monfrague Mountains. Our dinner was enjoyed over a glass of red wine as we chatted about the excellent first day we have enjoyed. Also hearing common cuckoo call its characteristic cuckoo clock call again is always an enjoyable experience. We all slept well after a great day of birding.

 

Day 2: Tuesday 16 April.                             Monfragüe National Park.         

Our morning begun nice and early with breakfast at our lodge as we could hear the birds waking up. We could hear Common Cuckoo calling from the breakfast table, which is not to shabby. We made our way towards the open fields know to be a good spot for both Little and Great Bustards. Lady luck was on our side and one of the first birds we saw in the area was a stunning male Little Bustard which offered us excellent views and and a flight display- wow this was enjoyed by all as these birds are now critically endangered so getting good views of this male was enjoyed by all. Just as we thought what more could we ask for, we had an incredible sighting of a Great Bustard displaying, what a pleasure. After some scanning we found a lek of about 5 males displaying for one females attention, it’s was most comical and most enjoyable to watch this behavior. Other highlights included: female Montagu’s Harrier, Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Common Buzzard, Eurasian Skylark, Eurasian Tree Sparrow, Whinchat, European Stonechat and Red-legged Partridge.

A quick coffee stop was enjoyed overlooking the Gredos mountain range, here we enjoyed a spectacular sighting of both Spainish Imperial Eagle and Cinereous Vulture flying right over us and giving us amazing views. On route to Monfragüe National Park we enjoyed sightings of: European Griffon Vulture, Booted Eagle, Great Tit, Eurasian Wren, Eurasian Blackcap, Woodlark, Spanish Sparrow, Lesser spotted Woodpecker and we hade a brilliant sighting of Western Orphean Warbler- sometimes a difficult bird to see!. As we enjoyed our lunch in the Oak fields we were treated to stunning views of a pair of Short-toed Treecreepers– it was most enjoyable to watch their behavior and antics. As we made our way into Monfragüe we enjoyed a cracking sighting of a Short-toed Snake Eagle with a snake in its mouth as it flew by and over us.

Little Bustard (Tetrix tetrix) showing really well in our tour. Image by Carles Oliver

 

The Monfragüe National Park is a special protected area for Birdlife in Spain and we enjoyed some wonderful sightings of the Griffon Vultures flying over us and in-front of us. Other top sightings included: Cinereous Vulture, Blue Rock Thrush, Sardinian Warbler, Rock Bunting, Black Redstart, Subalpine Warbler, Crag Marting, Peregrine Falcon and Black Stork. It was truly an amazing day birding in Extremadura and we all had a wonderful and busy day. As we made our way back to our accommodation we all chatted about the various sightings we enjoyed and also got chatting about the various conservation efforts been made in Europe to protect birds.

 

Day 3: Wednesday 17 April.                            The Caceres Plains and Arrocampo wetlands.                                                                                                               

Our day started nice and early with breakfast and coffee as we got ready for another exciting day of birding in Spain. We made our way to Campo Lugar to improve our views of Great Bustard. On route in the town of Campo Lugar we had great views of Pallid Swift. In the grasslands we were rewarded with excellent views of Great Bustard which was enjoyed by all. Other highlights included: Gull-billed Tern, Northern Raven and Calandra Lark.

In the town we enjoyed a lovely coffee in a small Spanish coffee shop and were treated to exceptional views of Lesser Kestrel colony on a tower, we also had a good view of our first Iberian Grey Shrike of the trip. After our coffee stop we made our way to check the nest boxes put up for the European Rollers and we had good views of the birds nesting and even mating- these are incredible birds that make an extraordinary migration from Southern Europe to Southern Africa and its amazing to see the birds in Spain that we see in Southern Africa. We also enjoyed sightings of Eurasian Hoopoe and Iberian Grey Shrike.

One of the many Great Bustards (Otis tarda) that we enjoyed in Extremadura. Image by Carles Oliver

We made our way to Alcollarin Dam to see which migrant water birds would be around and enjoy our lunch. Our day just got better and better from this point and we enjoyed some incredible birding at the dam and we had sightings of: Collared Practincole, Northern Lapwing, Common Ringed Plover, Common Kingfisher, Temminck’s Stint, Kentish Plover, Common Kingfisher, Eurasian Spoonbill and Black Tern– this is some incredible birding for Southern Europe and everyone enjoyed the avian gems on show. Just as we thought things could not get better we had a lovely sighting of two European Otters swimming in water in front of this- truly amazing and a mammal lifer for all on the trip. As we travelled we chatted about our great day and I enjoyed learning from Larry A about North America and the great birding he enjoys in the State of California. It was also intresting to hear from Larry how the Black Tern in the States is a different tern to the one we have just seen in Spain. Larry also enjoyed the sighting of the Temminck’s Stint as it was a bird he wanted to see.

Spanish Magpie (Cyanopica coocki), a must-seen endemic to get when birding in Southern Spain and Portugal. Image by Carles Oliver

The views of about 30 Collared Practincoles impressed Pam as they flew over head. We enjoyed some down time at the accommodation before dinner and enjoyed a wonderful dinner and some good Spanish wine as we chatted about our wonderful day, birding stories and finished off our listing.

Thekla Lark (Galerida theklae) in the grasslands near Campo Lugar. Image by Carles Oliver

Day 4: Thursady. 18 April.           Extremadura to the the Ebro Valley.

Our day begun a little earlier than normal as we decided we would check out the Arrocampo wetlands before moving onto the Ebro valley. We enjoyed a lovely breakfast before heading to the wetlands. Lady Luck was on our side and as we arrived at the wetland and made our way to the hide, we had a great sighting of a male and female Ferruginous Duck fly up and give us brilliant views of this hard to see species of Duck in Europe. It’s estimated that there are about 7 pairs left of these birds in Iberia so seeing a pair was really exciting and enjoyed by the whole group. The birds also decided to come and land on the pond in front of us and we got some really good views of this beautiful duck. Other highlights at the wetlands included: a Purple Heron, Little Bitten, Western Swamphen, Savi’s Warbler, Sand Martin and we unfortunately only managed to hear Water Rail. We were soon back on the road and heading for the Ebro Valley, today was set aside as a day of travel and we had a good 5 hours drive to get to the Ebro Valley and our accommodation.

European Bee-eaters (Merops apiaster) were a common view in several areas along this tour. Image by Carles Oliver

On the way we had panned a stop to try and find Bluethroat and Rufous-tailed Thrush but unfortunately the weather was not playing along and we had cold and rainy weather high up in the mountains with temperature dropping to 3 degrees Celsius- not ideal for bird watching. We did however get sightings of: European Serin, Eurasian Jay and Eurasian Robin. Our efforts were also rewarded with a wonderful sighting of a Common Salamander- Salamandra salamandra. This was a great find and this amphibian gem was enjoyed by the group, especially by Pam and myself.

We made our way to the Ebro Valley slowly as most of the drive was in the pouring rain, which did not help our birding efforts. As we approached our accommodation we went to the site where Dupont’s Lark occurs and tried our luck in locating this sought after species. Unfortunately the weather didn’t help us and the gusting wild and cold made finding the bird impossible. We did however enjoy views of a Golden Eagle hunting European Rabbits. We enjoyed a quick shower and freshen up before enjoying a lovely dinner together and a good nights rest.

Day 5: Friday 19 April.              Ebro Valley and transfer to Pyrenees.

Our morning begun nice and early so we could get out and try for the Dupont’s Lark again. After breakfast we headed for the area we had been in the previous day searching for the Lark and our luck changed for the better. With the weather being calm and cool with no rain and wind we knew this was our best chance to see the bird. Lady Luck again was on our side and within 30 minutes we had spectacular views on a male Dupont’s Lark– this was just great and made up for our efforts from yesterday. The bird performed well and we could all enjoy this beauty. Larry was particularly chuffed as he had thought we would not see the bird- patience and perseverance paid off.

Other highlights for the morning included: Greater Short-toed Lark, Western Bonelli’s Warbler, European Turtle Dove, Calandra Lark, Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Pin-tailed Sandgrouse, Carrion Crow and Willow Warbler. After a short coffee break we made our way to an area to try and improve our views of Pin-tailed Sandgrouse and this we did with 5 birds showing well in the scopes- we then got treated to a fly by and all had awesome views of these magnificent birds. Another highlight was a male Pallied Harrier flying over the grasslands which we all managed to get good views of- this species is rare in Spain and was a good record for the tour.

In the tour we were lucky and enjoyed multiple and long views on Dupont’s Larks (Chersophilus duponti) in the wonderful steppes close to Codo. Image by Carles Oliver

We stopped to enjoy some of Spain’s old castles and made our way to lunch in the town of Bujaraloz and after a wonderful lunch enjoyed some birding at a nearby pond with us seeing: Green Sandpiper, Common Redshank, Common Sandpiper, Little Ringed Plover and Northern Shoveler. We made our way onto the Pyrenees and our accommodation. A strategical stop was made at a spot to try and find Black Wheatear and this paid off with us getting some good views on a pair, we also enjoyed sightings of good numbers of Griffon Vultures as well as Thekla Lark, Sardinian Warbler and Spectacled Warbler. We made our way into the Pyrenees Mountains and the birding that lay ahead of us was off the charts with us getting good views of Long-tailed Tit, Egyptian Vulture, Bearded Vulture and a male Wallcreeper moving along the rock face, this was a magical end for this day, probably one of the best days during the tour!

This male Wallcreeper (Tichodroma muraria) delighted us with great, but a bit distant views, just in our first stop into the Pyrenees. Image by Carles Oliver

We quickly freshened up and enjoyed a wonderful dinner at our accommodation at, the foot hills of the Pyrenees. What a brilliant day.

 

Day 6: Saturday 20 April.                                                 The Pyrenees.

Our morning once again begun nice and early so we could get into the high mountains of the Pyrenees and target some of the special birds of the high altitudinal areas. After a lovely home cooked breakfast we made our way to the Portalet mountain pass at about 2000m above sea level. We had a few high mountain birds to target.

Not really an average sight on Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus). Image by Carles Oliver

The snow capped mountains and the scenery was absolutely spectacular and we enjoyed taking in the magnificent part of Spain before crossing into France. Soon after entering France we enjoyed some good birding with us getting good views of: Bearded Vulture, Northern Wheatear, Red Kite, Yellowhammer, Water Pipit, Alpine Accentor which put on a wonderful display. We also enjoyed the antics of the Alpine Marmots on the cliffs. We also had spectacular close up views of both Alpine and Red-billed Chough. What a great morning of birding.

Lammergeier (Gypaetos barbatus) showing superbly during our tour. Image by Carles Oliver

We enjoyed launch overlooking the snow capped mountains and made our way further into France to continue our birding and try for the elusive White-backed Woodpecker- we unfortunately only could hear this bird and could not get any views on the species, we did however enjoy good views of: Ring Ouzel, Tree Pipit, Common Firecrest, Citril Finch– a good bird to see and with exceptional views which made Larry’s day, Eurasian Nuthatch, Coal Tit, Goldcrest and a Song Thrush displaying for us- all in all some good birding. We made our way back up the Pyrenees through the maze of tunnels and into Spain to get to our accommodation in time for a lovely home cooked traditional meal. This is exactly what the group needed and we all had a well deserved nights rest after another good days birding.

The very scarce and located Spectacled Warbler (Sylvia conscipillata) was really showy in the early afternoon. Image: Carles Oliver

 

Day 7: Sunday 21 April.                                                   The Pyrenees.

Another early start was on the cards for us in order to get out to the San Juan de La Monastery to try for the elusive Black Woodpecker. A quick walk around our accommodation after our lovely breakfast yielded us good views of Common Rock Sparrow– our first bird for the day and new for the trip. At the monastery luck was on our side and we managed to get several views of the hard to find Black Woodpecker. We also enjoyed very close up views of: Eurasian Treecreeper, Eurasian Crested Tit, Coal Tit and Eurasian Jay.

After a long search, we finally managed great looks on this Alpine Accentor (Prunella collaris). Image by Carles Oliver

Despite the rather poor light, Ring Ouzels (Turdus torquatus) gave us great sights up in the Pyrenees. Image by Carles Oliver

We made our way further into the Pyrenees towards Echo valley. Roadside birding included Griffon Vultures, a Booted Eagle being mobbed by a Red Kites and Egyptian Vulture. We headed high up into the mountains to our lunch stop and while having lunch enjoyed great sightings of Dunnock, European Robin and Coal Tit. We birded the area after lunch and had some really good birding with highlights being Citril Finch, Cirl Bunting, White-throated Dipper, Grey Wagtail, Short-toed Treecreeper, Marsh Tit and Common Chiffchaff. We all had some time to relax before dinner and enjoyed another wonderful home cooked meal by our host. The place we are staying is a traditional Spanish farm house that was built in the 1700s and had been tastefully upgraded and gives a lovely warm feel to it. The host is so welcoming and Larry S, Larry A, Pam and I really enjoyed staying here. The warm hospitality and traditional home cooked meals were welcomed and enjoyed by all. We all had a good nights rest after another great days birding in the Pyrenees.

 

Day 8: Monday 22 April.                                  Lleida Steppes.

We had a slightly earlier start today so we could get into the lower Step areas and Open fields of the lower Pyrenees to target a few birds we had missed. After a lovely home cooked breakfast we said our goodbyes to our wonderful host and headed out. The area in which we started our birding has some of the best Steppes and open grassland in Spain and as soon as we got into the area we had a wonderful sighting of a Short-eared Owl that was perched and proceeded to give us a wonderful fly by- a highlight for all on the tour and a great start.

We enjoyed some good birding with highlights being: Little Owl, Black-eared Wheatear, Calandra Lark, Common Redstart, Tawny Pipit, Whinchat, Thekla, Greater-short Toed and Lesser-short Toed Larks. The hard scan around pay off when we finally got 2 Great Spotted Cuckoos feeding in an open field. We managed to get long and wonderful views on both birds on the ground, but we could not get too much close of them since they were feeding on a sensitive field, nesting ground for Sandgrouses and Larks. After a slight drive and a short coffee stop we stopped along a small stream and enjoyed some more birding with our first views of: Eurasian Golden Oriole, Wood Warbler, Common Nightingale and Alpine Swift. We also had some really good views of Rock Bunting and Cirl Bunting.

Eurasian Eagle Owl (Bubo bubo) in a late evening sight that included some great vocalisation. Image by Carles Oliver

We made our way further south to Fraga, just outside or Lleida and checked into our accommodation for the night. We decided to take a slight afternoon break as tonight we are going to take a night drive and target some of the nocturnal birds in the area. We all deserved the slight bit of downtime and after a slightly earlier dinner went off into the late afternoon and night to see what nocturnal birds we could find. Luck was once again on our side and we had an incredible night drive with us getting great views of Eurasian Eagle-Owl, Western Barn Owl and Eurasian Scops Owl. We were very lucky to get great views of all of these species and it made it an Owltastic day, with us seeing 5 species of owl in the day, that being: Short-eared Owl, Little Owl, Eurasian Eagle-Owl, Western Barn Owl and Eurasian Scops Owl. We all enjoyed a good nites rest after another great days birding.

 

Day 9: Tuesday 23 April.                                       Lleida to Ebro Delta.

Another early start was on the cards for this morning so we could make our way to the Ebro Delta but still try and connect with a few birds we need in the area. After a lovely breakfast we were soon on the road and heading for the flowing step landscape just outside of Lleida. The break in the rain meant we could try see what birds were active and we had some good sightings with highlights being: Common Nightingale– finally some good views, Eurasian Hobby, Ortolan Bunting, Subalpine Warbler– great views, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Rock Sparrow and improved views of  Eurasian Jay.

Wood Warbler (Phylloscopus sibilatrix) is a scarce migratory bird in Catalonia. Due to a huge irruption, during the tour we enjoyed a good number of them. Image by Carles Oliver

A stop along the nearby stream yielded us with a great sighting of Hawfinch- a difficult and tough bird to see, and we got good views. We soon were back on the road, heading for the Mediterranean coast. A quick lunch stop was enjoyed at a local tapas bar before making our way to a spot to try for Dartford Warbler– luck was on our side and we enjoyed good views on a pair of birds and also got some good views on a Common Whitethroat– the first for the trip. We soon moved onto a local wetland to check for any migrating birds and got rewarded with good views of Wood Warbler, Western Bonelli’s Warbler and Eurasian Tree Sparrow.

We made our way down to the coast and arrived at the Ebro Delta in the late afternoon to some perfect weather conditions and we got treated to some exceptional and exciting birding. We enjoyed views of: Curlew Sandpiper( breeding plumage), Eurasian Oystercatcher, Grey Plover, Slender-billed Gull, Dunlin, Common Shelduck, Garganey, Western Osprey and Bar-tailed Godwit in breeding plumage which was enjoyed by all as no one had seen the bird before in breeding dress.

Curlew Sandpiper (Calidris ferruginea) in almost full summer plomage at Ebro Delta. Image by Carles Oliver

As we left the bay we had the most incredible sightings of Audouin’s Gull, Mediterranean Gull, Black-headed Gull, Slender-billed Gull and Eurasian Curlew all sitting in the open offering excellent photo opportunities and also gave us a chance to compare the different Gills next to each other and therefore learn how to ID them. Both Larry’s enjoyed this opportunity. We made our way to our accommodation close to the Ebro Delta, settled in and had a lovely dinner talking about our great day and completing our lists. We all had a good nites rest after another great day.

 

Day 10: Wednsday 24 April.                                                  Ebro Delta.

We begun our day once again with an early start and a lovely breakfast and then headed out to explore the Ebro Delta and surrounds for the day. A walk around our accommodation yielded us sightings of Black-crowned Night Heron, Mediterranean Flycatcher (a really good bird to have in Catalonia since is nesting in the islands of the Western Mediterranean), European Pied Flycatcher and Little Bittern. We made our way north into the Delta to the point and had some really good birding with highlights being: Icterine Warbler, Western Yellow Wagtail, Purple Heron, Collared Pratincole and Red-crested Pochard. Unfortunately the wind picked up badly and this halted our birding, we decided to stop for a coffee break and try plan B.

Black-crowned Night Heron (Nycticorac nycticorax), a common nesting heron at Ebro Delta. Image by Carles Oliver

Baillon’s Crake (Porzana pusilla), a wonderful sight close to Ebro Delta! Image by Carles Oliver

We did have some excitement in one of the Subalpine Warblers we saw and photographed as we thought it could have been the recently split- Moltoni’s Warbler but after extensive checking and sending pics to experts we decided that is was a Western Subalpine Warbler. We also enjoyed watching a flock of about 50 Yellow Wagtails in a field close to the car and this gave us a chance to study the different races and we decided we have races from Italy, Iberia, NW Africa and Central Europe all in one spot- interesting stuff which was enjoyed by all but especially Larry S as he could also photograph the birds well. Our plan B kicked into place and we decided to enjoy lunch in a near by hide and boy did this work out as we had some exceptional birding which included: Little Stint, Baillon’s Crake, Spotted Redshank, Ruff, Marsh Sandpiper, Temminck’s Stint, Little Ringed Plover, Common Ringed Plover, Common Snipe and Wood Sandpiper. What a lunch stop!

Ebro Delta is always a guarantee and this time provided with really close views on Collared Pratincoles (Glareola pratincola). Image by Carles Oliver

The biggest surprise of our lunch was the Jack Snipe that showed up and was on display feeding right in front the hide offering exceptional views- this was truly amazing as this is a hard bird to see and to see it so well was amazing. The bird was also a lifer for all on the trip. We decided to take a slight break from the wind before heading out again in the late afternoon. The afternoon was enjoyed coming to grips with the different Gulls and Terns of the area, and we enjoyed the late afternoon watching the terns coming into roost, we enjoyed good sightings of Caspian, Little and Whiskered Terns. We enjoyed a lovely traditional dinner at the lodge while we chatted about the excitimng day and also enjoyed working through our checklists and rounding off another great day. After dinner we enjoyed a slight walk around the accommodation and got good views of the nesting Eurasian Scops Owl.

And this Jack Snipe (Lymnocriptes minimus) was probably the most celebrated bird of the tour. Image by Carles Oliver

Although this Temminck’s Stint (Calidris temminckii) moulting to summer plogame (see the Black center in the wing feathers) was also a hit! Image by Carles Oliver

 

Day 11: Thursday 25 April.                         Ebro Delta and Tortosa Beseit Natural Park.                                                                                                                      

We started our day once again nice and early with a lovely breakfast before heading out for some birding. The weather looked promising and we enjoyed great views of Black-crowned Night Heron at our accommodation. We made our way into the Delta and had a good sighting of Common Reed Bunting at the local wetland, the species we saw is actually Iberian Reed Bunting, the race is know as Witherbyi and could in the close future become a new split and species so it was really good to get good scope views on this endangered species. Other highlights included: Common Shelduck, Caspian Tern, Eurasian Penduline Tit, Great Reed Warbler and Lesser Black-backed Gull.

Bonelli’s Eagle (Aquila fasciata) controlling its territory from an advantatged point. Image by Carles Oliver

We made our way off the Delta towards Tortosa Beseit Natural Park to try a spot we know of for Bonelli’s Eagle. Luck was on our side and we arrived at the nesting area and had great views of the pair sitting up on the rocks, we also managed to get great scope views on a chick sitting on a neat nest- wow what a great sighting of this endangered Eagle. We made our way down into the Delta for lunch and had some good road side sightings of Short-toed Snake Eagle and Booted Eagle. Just before we lunch we got lucky and had a Red-footed Falcon fly by us while driving and we managed to relocate the bird and have exceptional views. The bird was flying and hawking insects and also perched close to us. We enjoyed lunch in the field and had our first European Honey Buzzard for the trip fly pass and offer decent views.

Red-footed Falcon (Falco vespertinus), again a scarce migratory bird in Catalonia that we were lucky yo enjoy in Ebro Delta. Image by Carles Oliver

We decided to take a short break before heading out in the afternoon to do some shore birding. Our afternoon birding was a great success with us enjoying some top birding at one of the local hides. Highlights at the hide included: Melodious Warbler, Water Rail, Eurasian Spoonbill, Temminck’s Stint, Marsh Sandpiper, Willow Warbler and fabulous views of the Jack Snipe in-front of us in the open purring on a show. We had a fabulous sunset over the water with the Greater Flamingoes and Pied Avocets offering us great shots as we got the reflections off the water- what an incredible way to spend our last evening on tour. We enjoyed a lovely dinner and chatted about the great day and tour we have had and how it’s sad that it’s already over. We all enjoyed the wine on offer and took a short walk outside to locate the resident Eurasian Scops Owl and we all have good views of the bird on the nest box. We all have a good nites rest after another great day.

Melodious Warbler (Hyppolais polyglotta) showed really in Ebro Delta along with its much scarcer relative Icterine Warbler (Hyppolais icterina). Image by Carles Oliver

Eurasian Scops Owl (Otus scops) provided with great sights in our accommodation at Ebro Delta. Image by Carles Oliver

 

Day 12: Friday 26 April.                             Ebro Delta to Barcelona via Llobregat Delta.                                                                                                                     

Our final day of the tour started with a lovely breakfast and a walk around our accommodation. The weather was juts perfect for our last day and our walk after breakfast rewarded us with great views of a Garden Warbler which was new for the trip. We were soon on the road and made a short stop along the coast to scan for sea birds and this rewarded us with scope views of a Mediterranean Storm Petrel, closer to the shore we enjoyed views of Lesser Black-backed Gull and a European Shag sitting on the rocks giving us wonderful views.

Mediterranean Shag (Phalacrocorax aristotelis desmarestii), a splitable race to take in count. Image by Carles Oliver

Soon we were back on the road towards Barcelona and the Llobregat Delta to see what we could find. We decided to bypass Barcelona and spend some time at the Llobregat Delta before ending the trip later in the afternoon in Barcelona. A stragic stop just outside of the Llobregat Delta rewarded us with good sightings of a pair of Iberian Green Woodpeckers; we got some really good views of these birds. We also enjoyed views of Monk and Rose-ringed Parakeet. Larry S took some time to enjoy and photograph the Common Swifts flying over head. We moved onto the Delta to enjoy our lunch in one of the bird hides. This worked our really well and we enjoyed some good views of: Northern Shoveler, Garganey, Collared Pratincole, Ferruginous Duck, Common Shelduck, Ruff, Common Greenshank and Common Redshank. What a way to enjoy our final lunch of the tour. We then knew we had to make our way into the hussel and bussel of Barcelona City to get to our hotel for the night.

After negotiating the Barcelona traffic we made it to our hotel in the city center and it was time to say our goodbyes after an incredible birding trip through the country of Spain. It’s always sad saying bye to lovely guests like Larry S, Pam and Larry A and it’s was an end to an incredible tour. We had a great time together, the trip was enjoyed by all and I had a great time. Our goodbyes were said and it’s always rewarding to have guests say they loved the tour and will back with us again. I would like to thank Larry S, Pam and Larry A for a wonderful trip, for the Enthusiasm, patience and all the laughs and good times we enjoyed.

And this was the end of the trip. Please contact us for more birding in Spain and other countries by info@barcelonabirdingpoint.com or visit our website with plenty of information about, http://www.barcelonabirdingpoint.com

 

 

 

Czech Republic Spring Tour. 2017 issue

Dates: March 8th – 12th, 2017

Number of participants: 3

Number of species: 84

Day 0. After our arrival to Prague and assemble with the rest of the group on March 8th, we started driving South towards Sumava National Park. The transfer is normally of about 120 minutes, but due to some works in the highway, our transfer was a bit longer than expected.

Because to this delay we were arriving during the night to our accommodation and lost the chance of searching for some owls around. We still had a short time around but unfortunately we got nothing of interest.

Day 1. After a very early breakfast we headed directly to look for one of the main target species of the trip: Black Grouse (Lynurus tetrix). After a short driving we arrived to the proper habitat and we started scanning all around looking for some birds already lekking in the meadows.

It didn’t take long to located the first 4 males in the open, standing up and very showing. After enjoying this very successful start we decided to move a bit to have a better view. This movement allowed us to find 2 more males even closer to us. One of them was in full display, showing the beautiful white feathers of the open tail and also heard the calls of the male.

Black Grouses in their leck in Sumava National Park. Image by participant Bauke Kortleve

Records shot showing the complex wing pattern in Black Grouses. Image by participant Bauke Kortleve

 

It was a quite active morning for birds and these same fields we had the firsts of many Yellowhammers (Emberiza citrinella), Mistle Thrushes (Turdus viscivorus), Skylarks (Alauda arvensis) and Common Buzzards (Buteo buteo). A distant European Green Woodpecker (Picus viridis) called from a lane of poplars.

In the while, 4 Black Grouses were flying over the field, showing their long, lyre-like tail and their wing white band, and stopped near the displaying male, reacting quite agresively…  This was one of the best moments of the trip! Wonderful.

Delighted for such as fast a wonderful sight in one of the main targets of the trip we decided to spend more time scanning some other of the favourite places for this species to display in the Sumava area. After a short drive we scanned different places around for them but we had no other views on the birds. Still, we got white-headeds Long-tailed Tits (Aegithalos caudatus caudatus) showing very well around as well as Marsh Tit (Poecile palustris), Great Tit (Parus major), Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs), Redwing (Turdus iliacus) and Fieldfare (Turdus pilaris) as well as Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) and 2 Common Teal (Anas crecca).

This area also produced lovely views on Great Grey Shrike (Lanius excubitor) showing very well in the taller bush while overwatching the open fields for preys. A further exploration of the area only produced some groups of Roe Deers (Capriolus capriolus), a pair of Ravens (Corvus corax) and a lovely flock of Eurasian Bullfinches (Pyrrhula pyrrhula europaea) feeding on ground.

After this we decided to try a pair of places for Hazel Grouse (Bonasia bonasa), a very shy species, very shy and thus many times not appearing. A first trial brought us to a typical habitat of spurce forest with some fir and, of course, hazel trees. Here it was a lot of activity with several Crested (Lophophanes cristatus) and Coal Tits (Periparus ater) moving around as well as Common Treecreeper (Certhia familiaris), European Nuthatch (Sitta europaea), Marsh Tit, Goldcrest (Regulus regulus) and Great Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos major) moving around. Unfortunately we found no grouses in this spot but our effort was not lost since we had good views on 1 Hawfinch (Coccothraustes coccothraustes).

When coming back to the car we listen a Grey-headed Woodpecker (Picus canus) calling by the minor road we came by so we decided to go fast to try this really good bird. Once we arrived the bird was calling really close so we decided to walk a bit inside a field to try have the best view possible. We walked about 200 metres inside the area scanning all around but the bird seemed to move further away, clearly out of patch we were in. We were about to withdraw when a Black Woodpecker (Dryocopus martius) called from really close so we walked few metres towards the area where the huge woodpecker was calling from and, suddenly, two birds flew off from the ground, ten metres in front of us: Mistle Thrush to the left… and Hazel Grouse to the right!

We immediatly concentrated in the Hazel Grouse. The bird typically flew some 20 metres to stop inside a low fir. We decided to envolve the tree and scan very carefully the inner branches… nothing.

We decided we get a bit closer and then the bird flew off rear. We decided to do some waiting… 5 minutes and nothing. We are about to withdraw when, suddenly, the bird started singing from the canopy! It had to be really, really close (less than 20 metres!!). Still some more waiting (and taping) to try to attrack the bird, a main target for anyone in the group! Our waiting proved to be useful since the bird was suddenly appearing flight and stopping deep inside a fir, right in front of us!! We still waited, breathless. Some seconds after the bird flought immediatly above us in a impressive view, showing the very long neck and typical small crest of the males!! The bird stopped for a while in a visible place up in a fir, unfortunately too short for any shot right before it did a second flight over us!!

We had really good views on Hazel Grouse, despite it was really hard to photograph. Image by Bauke Kortleve.

What a view!! We all agreed we would not get a better views on that male as it was quite unlikely to do anything else but fly over us over and over. Very content with such a great (and rather unexpected) sight we headed to our accommodation for a wonderful garlic soup & gulash and some rest before concentrate in woodpeckers during the afternoon.

After lunch & rest we still had some three hours before dinner and we went directly to try to have good views on woodpeckers. After a short drive we arrived to one of the best places for them in Sumava and the place fastly proved its value since immediatly after leaving the car we had a Black Woodpecker calling really close to us. This time we enjoyed of really close views on it! Excellent start!

Black Woodpeckers are common in most of the forest in Bohemia. Here one obliging view in Sumava NP. Image by participant Bauke Kortleve

We kept going on and walked a mile or so, carefully scanning and listening for the main target, Grey-headed Woodpecker. We went into two different territories, trying to locate them, but everything we got was Great Spotted Woods, Nuthatches and a pair of Peregrine Falcons (Falco peregrinus) mating not far from us. Still, a wonderful sight! Landscape here was also impressive, with a mature Beech forest with some impressive Maple trees (Acer sp.) as a secundary tree.

As our scan was being not very successful we decided to come back to car and try somewhere else. But only 200 metres after walking we had a Grey-headed Woodpecker calling really close from the path! After some waiting we had excellent views on both male & female, perched in the trees around!!

Grey-headed Woodpecker has been decreasing in several spots accross Europe but is still having good population in Czech Republic. Image by tour leader Carles Oliver

Everybody was really happy after such a excellent and long views on the bird! But, as it took longer than expected, we decided to directly come to our accommodation in order to have dinner and to enjoy longer time to scan for owls during the sunset and dusk.

After an, again, wonderful dinner (salad & stew, good combination!) the group headed to our first place for owls. We didn’t have to wait long since even after we closed the doors of the car we were hearing a Pygmy Owl (Glaucidium passerinum) some 100 metres from the parking place. We immediatly go for it and, after some minutes of accurately scanning of the canopies we got the male singing from one of the trees! It was a beautiful image kept singing for several minutes, watching us at times but mainly taking an eye around… what a view!

Encouraged for this early success we then moved to an open area around, were Ural Owls (Strix uralensis) are likely to be hunting at dusk… unfortunately we had no luck this time… Still, we had a very close Ural Owl singing from the canopies but, despite we tried to find the bird, our efforts produced nothing. A further exploration of another territory still produced a good listenning in 1 Tengmalm’s Owl (Aegolius funereus), also known as Boreal Owl, singing in the area. Unfortunately, we got no sights in any of them…

Got really good views on Pygmy Olw despite the poor light! Images by tour leader Carles Oliver

Day 2. New very early start this time to scan in the highest areas of the Sumava National Park. After a good breakfast and about 40 minutes of driving we arrived to our first location of the morning. This is an open spurce forest where it Capercaillies are likely to show up in the tree branches during very early morning. Unfortunately, weather didn’t helped us so much, since it was quite foggy at times, windy when not foggy…

Despite our efforts scanning all canopies around we could not have any Capercaillie… only a distant Ring Ouzel (Turdus torquatus) and a overflying Northern Bullfinch (P. pyrrhula pyrrhula) were of interest. But just when thinking about leaving for a coffee, we listened a very, very distant Nutcracker (Nucifraga caryocatactes) calling in the large forest… We then decided to invest some time scanning and taping, and after some efforts, the bird came close and it was briefly located while calling from the top of a spurce tree!!! Excellent! The bird was very showy and turned up the white tail while calling, as normally Nutcrackers do when marking its territory. This sight was really short and, unfortunately, not every one in the group enjoyed the bird… We still invested quite long scanning all canopies around but no new signal of the bird was found…

After a short break for a coffee and warm up we headed to our next location. Our main goal was Three-toad Woodpecker, a really endangered species only living in mature conifer forests. Unfortunately, when arriving to the location was really windy and, during the two hours that we spent walking in the impressive primary forest we had no contact on any woodpecker at all! The best bird here was a pair of Willow Tits (Poecile montanus) quite showy when walking up the trail.

After lunch we started the transfer to Moravia (Eastern Czech Republic) but, before, we had time to visit an enclousure where about 25 Eurasian Bison (Bison bonasus) are living in half-freedom. A free population has been already living not far from Prague during the last years but unfortunately they are inside a military area so they are not possible to visit. Still, we were lucky to see the Bisons so well, as they were out of the forest and allowed good views on them! White Wagtails (Motacilla alba), Fieldfares and Yellowhammers we also all around!

A small herd of Eurasian Bison is visible in some enclousures near Sumava National Park. Unfortunately not released, yet. Image by tour leader Carles Oliver

After this and short stop in Holasovine village (UNESCO site) we drove to Nové Mlyny area for two more overnitghts.

Day 3. After a good rest we soon realised that this was in the way to become a great day. Even before leaving the parking place of the accommodation we had a fast-flying Syrian Woodpecker (Dendrocopos syriacus)!! We searched for the bird, but was lost quite far away…

A pair of minutes later we were enjoying a large flock of some hundreds of Tundra Bean Geese (Anser fabalis rossicus) and White-fronted Geese (Anser albifrons). A carefully scanning of the flock produced at least 2 Taiga Bean Geese (Anser fabalis fabalis)!

Winter Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes), Common Gull (Larus canus), Marsh Tit, Hooded Crow (Corvus cornix), Magpie (Pica pica), Common Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus) and Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo) were also around.

White-tailed Eagles gave us several good views during the lasts days of the trip. Images by participant Bauke Kortleve

After such a wonderful start we decided to take a look to the lake. Just few metres after leaving the car we had a Black Woodpecker overflying us! Wow! Once in the lake, we got even better views on the geese and also Mallard, several Goldeneye (Bucephala clangula) and drake Smews (Mergellus albellus) and Goosander (Mergus merganser). Black-headed Gulls (Chroicocephalus ridibundus) were flying around and, a bit more far away, wonderful Caspian Gulls (Larus cachinnans) were also easily spotted along with Great Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo), Great Crested Grebe (Podiceps cristatus), Eurasian Coot (Fulica atra) and a flock of Common Pochards (Aythya ferina). Here Bauke spotted probably the only one Reed Bunting (Emberiza schoeniclus) of the trip, while Eurasian Jays (Garrulus glandarius) were all around…

A second stop along the Nove Mlyny lake produced a wonderful view on thousands of geese that were probably resting in their migration back to the North from their winter grounds in South East Europe. Here we also enjoyed our firsts 14 White-tailed Eagles (Haliaeetus albicilla) of the trip! One of them showing really well while perched on a tree but most of them flying above the lake. What a impressive birds!!

Still with plenty of time that morning we decided to explore a pair of smaller ponds for geese and ducks… Our first stop was really, really impressive since a not very large flock of mainly White-fronted Geese were in front of the hide. A fast scanning produced 4 Shelducks (Tadorna tadorna), 6 Northern Shovelers (Anas clypeata), Great White Egrets (Casmerodius albus) and Grey Herons (Ardea cinerea). A carefully scanning of the geese was promptly reporting the first surprise: one superb Red-breasted Goose (Branta ruficollis) was swimming along with them!! The whole flock was moving quite fast left to right and we soon got blocked by the reedbed. Still, everybody in the group had really good views in this impressive goose!!

Red-breasted Goose is a rarity in Czech Republic. I was told it was one in Nové Mlyny this winter but I didn’t think we could be lucky enough to have the bird, especially after the news informing of massive geese migration flying back to the far North in the previous days before our arrival to Nové Mlyny!!!

Red-breasted Goose among Greater White-fronted Geese in Nove Mlyny. Image by participant Bauke Kortleve

A further scanning of the flock was still even more surprising, since our local guide located what it looked like a Lesser White-fronted Goose (Anser erythropus) sleeping along with White-fronteds!!! He was not totally sure, thought. But we all pointed our scopes and, yes, it was a wonderful Lesser White. What a spot! The bird was actually sleeping but, even when doing so the yellowish ocular ring was obvious and the shape and coloration of the bill were also indicating to a Lesser White-fronted Goose. A bit of patience and finally the bird showed the full neck and head. Excellent views!

Lesser White-fronted Goose (the bird with the head up) is a globally endangered bird and we were really lucky to pick up one in Nové Mlyny. Image by participant Bauke Kortleve.

Especially because only 30 seconds after the whole flock flew out (because of an overflying White-tailed Eagle) and didn’ show any more as we were totally blocked by the reedbeds… The wonderful views of the White-tailed Eagle fishing in the lake and latter being chased by 3 other WT’s didn’t compensate the rather short views on the geese… Still, we had been extremelly lucky. Only five minutes later and would miss these really good birds!

The last stop in this long morning was in a small quarry. And well, I felt as being at home, as our target bird was a Wallcreeper (Tichodroma muraria). We were told one of them was overwintering in this area so, as having time, we decided to invest some time and try to have this wonderful bird. Once again that day we were lucky and even before arriving to the quarry we could easily spot the bird, a male, that was showing very well and even singing!!!

After some minutes enjoying the bird around us and having incredible views with the scope we decided to go for lunch and a bit of rest. It had been a wonderful morning!

We also enjoyed this very showy male Wallcreeper, a really scarce species in Czech Republic. Image by tour leader Carles Oliver

Our short siesta time brought us back to the field full of energy so, before taking the car, we just did a short-walk around our accommodation. 3 Black Redstarts (Phoenicurus ochruros) were feeding in the orchads around and a Meadow Pipit (Anthus pratensis) flew off around us.

Soon after we had a Syrian Woodpecker (Dendrocopus syriacus) flying around a line of poplars. The bird was not really cooperative but we finally got long and excellent views on the bird! After that we decided to spend some time in some large gardens, expecting to have more woodpecker. Surprisingly the gardens were quite busy and we failed to have any woodpecker. Instead of that we enjoyed several views on Hawfinches, some of them really close! Here we also took a look to a Long-eared Owl winter roosting place for but, as expected, was already empty.

After enjoying for a while the magnificient XVIII gardens in Lednice we decided to come back to our accommodation for an early dinner. This was allowing us a better rest and an earlier start in our last morning, when we were having less than two hours of light before heading to the airport!

We got nice views on Syrian Woodpecker not far from our accommodation in Moravia. Image by tour leader Carles Oliver

Day 4. Very last morning! Priority to woodpeckers. We directly headed to an oak forest since our goal was to have good sights on Medium & Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers.

When we arrived to the area several Great Spotted Woodpeckers were drumming around. After some scanning we got nice views on 1 Green Woodpecker (Picus viridis). Black Woodpcker was also calling in the distance. After some scanning we soon had a Medium Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopus medius) showing really well and, with a bit of patience, we got excellent views on the bird! Wonderful sight!

Middle Spotted Woodpecker is not scarce in riberside forests as long as having some large oaks. Image by tour leader Carles Oliver

We then moved a pair of miles up the same minor road. Once we went out of the car we enjoyed scoped views of a male Eurasian Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus) sitting on a branch deep inside the canopy. After much scanning for LSs we finally managed to have one Lesser Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos minor) in the top of an oak, calling and drumming. Some 3 more males were listenned drumming around!

We still had time to stop for a final view on the lake, with good views on Smew, Goosander, Tufted Ducks (Aythya fuligula) and the only 3 Eurasian Wigeons (Anas penelope) of the trip!

It has been a wonderful birding break! I’m already looking forward our 2018 issue, it will be even better, for sure!

Feel like joining us?

 

 

Morocco: from Atlas to Sahara tour. 2016 issue

 

Dates: from April 1st to April 10th, 2016

Number of participants: 5

Number of species: 189 + 4 races

This is the official report of the 2016 issue Moroccan early spring trip by Barcelona Birding Point led by Carles Oliver. Our trip started this year in 1st April, some weeks later than in previous issues but having more or less the same itinerary.

Day 1. After a good breakfast in our hotel in Marrakech we head to the Atlas. Here the landscape becomes more wet than around the city and the valleys start to show river side forests along every single stream while the slopes around are covered by juniper scrub lands.

Our first stop in this ambient fastly produced the first birds of the trip. A pair of Great Spotted Woodpeckers (Dendrocopos major numidus) showed really well in the popplars. Right behind us we had 5 Hawfinches (Coccothraustes coccothraustes buvryi) showed out in the top of a close orchad tree. Some other birds around included African Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs africana), Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita), Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla), European Serin (Serinus serinus), Greenfinch (Chloris chloris) and African Blue Tit (Cyanistes teneriffae ultramarinus), what a beauty!

Common Nightingales (Luscinia megarhychos) were singing around but we could not get any view on them, yet! Cattle Egrets (Bubulcus ibis) and White Storks (Ciconia ciconia) were all the time flying around while the firsts Red-rumped Swallows (Cecropis daurica) of many during the trip showed well flying over the orchads. Andreas spot also the first Grey Wagtail (Motacilla cinerea) of the trip calling from the top of a roof!

The main goal of the stop was, still, not hard to find out as a male Levaillant’s Woodpecker (Picus vallantii) was appearing along the tree line and showing really close. We all got excellent views on the bird moving along the tree and even drumming! What a bird!!

The African Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs africana) is a common view in the Moroccan forests and it is also a possible future split. Image: Carles Oliver tmp_P11104861704765193

Levaillant’s Woodpecker (Picus vallantii), a scarce near-endemic living in the Atlas Northern slope. Image: Bauke Kortleve tmp_162995014.opV1uoPM20175606

Our second stop of the day produced also a really good list of birds. Only after getting out of the car we got +4 Sardinian Warblers (Sylvia melanocephala) along with 5 migratory European Bee-eaters (Merops apiaster). Soon after we got excellent views on the local race of Subalpine Warbler (Sylvia cantillans inornata) singing and hiding, as tipically, really well, in the scrublands. A short walk in the area produced a Common Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus), a briefly seen pack of Barbary Partridges (Alectoris barbara), a male Cirl Bunting (Emberiza cirlus) singing from a perch,+4 Red-rumped Swallows (Cecropis daurica) and one wonderful Common Cuckoo (Cuculus canorus) singing from a really tall perch and flying away. But the best of the stop were the awesome views on Tristam’s Warbler (Sylvia deserticola) when a male came out from the bush land around. We were lucky as we could follow the bird among the vegetation for some minutes!!! This bird is also a Moroccan near-endemic and, well, sometimes not easy to spot.

tmp_P1110354672025633

Tristam’s Warbler (Sylvia deserticola), a tricky near-endemic warbler living in mountanious open scrubs. Image: Carles Oliver

After that we just head to Oukaïmeden, the main stop of the day, since it is the best place for high mountain birds in Morocco. Still, even before arriving to Oukaïmeden we had to stop three times. The first spot to enjoy a flock of +8 Lesser Kestrels (Falco naumanii). The second stop produced a wonderful combination of raptors in the sky with both Long-legged Buzzard (Buteo rufinus cirtensis) and Booted Eagle (Aquila pennata) soaring over the slopes and a wonderful flock of over 40 Red-billed Chough (Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax). In the last stop we enjoyed a pair of light forms Booted Eagles (Aquila pennata) disturbed by Ravens (Corvus corax).

Once in Oukaïmeden we promptly had our first Common Rock Sparrow (Petronia petronia) and the near-endemic Seebohm’s Wheatear (Oenanthe seebohmi), counting over 20 of each of them at the end of our stay in Oukaïmeden. A flock of over 200 Alpine Choughs (Pyrrhocorax graculus) were flying over the opositte slope, impressive! A short walk around produced a good flock of Common Rock Sparrow and, alomg with them, Linnets (Acanthis cannabina), 2 Mistle Thrush (Turdus viscivorus deichleri) and our 3 Common Chaffinches (Fringilla coelebs) along the trip. Soon after Bauke spot the first Atlas Horned Lark (Eremophila alpestris atlas) of the day! Walking around we spot about 30 of them and didn’t have to wonder more to have our 2 firsts African Crimson-winged Finches (Rhodopechys alienus) showing close but briefly!! Still expecting a better views we walk a bit more further when Bauke spot, in a private moment, wonderful flock of 5 finches perched on a rock. What a view! This was to rank among the highlights of the trip!

tmp_162996002.DsgjDv2O-800227594

Seebohm’s Wheatear (Oenanthe seehbomi), again a near-endemic living in the high mountain grass lands in Morocco and Algeria. Image: Bauke Kortleve

tmp_P111039661063234

Atlas Horned Lark (Eremophila alpestris atlas), an endemic race (and possible future split) endemic of NW African high mountains. Image: Carles Oliver

tmp_P1110398-886624818

African Crimson-winged Finches (Rhodopechys alienus) has been recently split from Asian Crimson-winged Finch. This was, of course, one of the highlights of the trip! Image: Carles Oliver

After a good lunch around we still enjoyed of the beautiful view of over 100 Choughs feeding on the grasslands around. They were mainly Alpine but some Red-billeds were providing really close views! A little walk further away still produced some really good birds. 1 Blue Rock Thrush (Monticola solitarius) was singing from the top of a ridge. Below, 4 Water Pipits (Anthus spinolleta) were feeding along the stream along with a pair of Grey Wagtails (Motacilla cinerea), Winter Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes) and Mistle Thrush. A wondwerful Rock Bunting (Emberiza cia) male was really celebrated in the group and gave us excellents while moving on ground. The last bird in appear up here was a distant but good view on a Dipper (Cinclus cinclus), a bird which has here its southermost population. Before coming back in our car, we still had 1 Booted Eagle in the sky.

tmp_162995895.zArcEkQ4379124863

Booted Eagle (Aquila pennata) light form flying. This species nest in good numbers around Marrakech. Image: Bauke Kortleve

A new stop in a phantastic Spanish Fear (Abies pinsapo) spot produced some birds regarded to canopies. Coal Tits (Periparus ater) and Firecrests (Regulus ignicapilla) showed really well. A flock of 4 Siskins (Spinus spinus) was a really good bonus!

Lanner Falcon (Falco biarmicus), a gorgeous bird that we could enjoy up to 4 times along the tour. Image:Bauke Kortleve tmp_162989808.9rq534VV524274501

Day 2. An early morning start for our transfer to the area around Agadir. In our way we could see some flocks of European Bee-eaters in their migratory way and both Woodchat (Lanius senator) and Algerian Shrikes (this last a probable future split from Northern Grey Shrike).

Once arrived there we did a stop in the Tamri Stuary. From here we could see our 2 firsts Northern Bald Ibises (Geronthicus eremita) preening by the water. It was a far but really intense view because all the extremely delicated situation of this species worldwide! A fast view on the stuary produced a flock of 5 Eurasian Spoonbills (Platalea leucorodia), Grey Herons (Ardea cinerea), Little Egret (Egretta garzetta), 2 Ruddy Shelducks (Tadorna ferruginea) and a good flock of gulls and terns roosting on the beach.

We decided to do along the beach to have better views on the Ibises. Soon we discovered a pair of Kentish Plover (Charadrius alexandrinus) that provided excellent views along with Moroccan Wagtails moving on the beach while several Lesser Black-backed Gulls (Larus fuscus) were moving over us. During the walk we had at least 2 Subalpine Warblers (Sylvia cantillans) in the scrubs along the sandy area. When arrived closer to the stuary we had excellent views on the Ibises but also good views on +20 Audouin’s Gulls (Larus audouinii) sleeping on the beach along with +20 Sandwich Terns (Sterna sandvicensis) along with Yellow-legged Gulls (Larus michahellis), 2 Great Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo), 2 Common Ringed Plovers (Charadrius hiaticula) and Eurasian Coots (Fulica atra). In the way back to the car we had more views on Subalpine Warblers and a pair of flocks of Spanish Sparrows that had wonderful views on some males showing full summer plumage.

Not satisfied with the views we had on Northern Bald Ibises we went to explore the fields around expecting to find any group feeding on the sandy areas or going for water somewhere. After a short exploration we had some individuals flying around. Finally, we had at least 7 individuals moving on the slopes, feeding on ground and enjoyed of really close views of birds flying around us!!!

tmp_162990663.wCPk9nM7-1417787750

Above & below Northern Bald Ibises (Geronthicus eremita) flying in some of the really close views we enjoyed in Tamri. Images: Bauke Kortleve

tmp_162990203.eytMTA9q-1674484015

These slopes are also great for other birds as we had at least 2 Spectacled Warblers (Sylvia conscipillata), Thekla Larks (Galerida theklae) and wonderful views on at least two pairs of Black-eared Wheatears (Oenanthe hispanica). Before leaving the area we had to stop again since a Long-legged Buzzard was soaring really close of the car, along with 1 Common Kestrel. Close by we also enjoyed 1 Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus brookei).

Our next stop was in Cape Tamri, expecting to have some migratory sea birds. We did not do a long stay because of the strong (and cold) wind but still we had +100 Northern Gannets (Morus bassanus) flying North along with +3 Manx Shearwaters (Puffinus puffinus) and, the best, 1 Razorbill (Alca torda). This bird was my first Razorbill so far South, despite during this winter it had been some sights along this coast.

Last stop of the day was to explore the Souss River just beside Agadir. This really well known site is excellent to locate gull, terns and waders that cannot be located anywhere else during the trip! Before arriving we had some beautiful views on Laughing Dove (Streptopelia senegalensis) and Moroccan Magpie (Pica pica mauretanicus). The mudflats along the river had +30 Grey Plovers (Pluvialis squatarola), 1 Common Redshank (Tringa totanus), Curlew (Numenius arquata), 2 Whimbrels (Numenius phaeopus), several Eurasian Oystecatchers (Haematopus ostralegus), Common Ringed Plovers and good views on 5 Bar-tailed Godwits (Limosa lapponica), a pair of them showing a wonderful summer plomage.

There were several flocks of gulls in the mudflats. Scanning them we had 5 Mediterranean Gulls (Larus melanocephalus), 2nd year all of them, +15 Slender-billed Gulls (Chroicocephalus genei) and Black-headed Gulls (Chroicocephalus ridibundus) along with Yellow-legged and Lesser Black-backed Gulls. A big flock of over 50 Gull-billed Terns (Gelochelidon nilotica), some of them offering great views all around. Here we also had our firsts Zitting Cisticolas (Cisticola juncidis) of the trip. When arriving to our hotel we still had a wonderful view on a flock of over 40 Glossy Ibises (Plegadis falcinellus) flying over the area. Without doubt was an incredible end for our second day of the trip!

Day 3. Even before getting inside the car we already had a pair of really good birds. A pair of Moussier’s Redstart (Phoenicurus moussieri) was showing really well (and close) and, beyonf them, a pair of wonderful Stone Curlews (Burhinus oedicnemus) were sleepping in the bare slope. After a good view from the scope we just got inside the car and approached the birds, getting excellent views on them without disturbing them!

During the trip we had estremely close views on a pair of Stone Curlews (Burhinus oedicnemus) roosting just by one of our accommodations. Image: Carles Oliver tmp_P1110474874202186

Our first stop in the morning produced an amazing range of birds. A small pond in the river Massa produced our Savi’s Warbler (Locustella naevia) and Little Crake (Porzana parva) listened in the reeds around. Here we also had good views on +3 Isabelline Warblers (Iduna opaca), Iberian Yellow Wagtail (Motacilla flava iberiae), 2 Cetti’s Warblers (Cettia cetti), 2 Western Bonelli’s Warbler (Phylloscopus bonelli), Sedge Warbler (Acrocephalus schoenobaenus), several Subalpine Warblers (Sylvia cantillans) and Blackcaps (Sylvia atricapilla) as well as commoner birds including Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus), Little Grebe (Tachybaptus ruficallis), African Chaffinch, Sardinian Warbler, Common Bulbul and several Laughing Doves (Streptopelia senegalensis). The area around was being highly productive and we could wish to do not move from there in the whole week!! We came out of the vegetation to have a better view on the pond when a Little Bittern (Ixobrychus minutus) appeared flying over the small pond. The bird was really celebrated although the best bird in the stop were two wonderful Black-crowned Tchagras (Tchagra senegalensis) appearing really close to us. We could enjoy of really close views on the birds while moving on ground and around us. What a start for the day!

tmp_P1110301658253305

The Black-crowned Tchagra (Tchagra senegalensis) has in Morocco its most Northern population and the only one in the whole Western Palearctic. Image: Carles Oliver

Moussier’s Redstart (Phoenicurus moussieri), a wonderful near-endemic that can be surprisingly common in some areas. Image: Carles Oliver tmp_P1110574-597447472

 

tmp_163009098.5Wen19qi-1281162645

This was our only one Marbled Duck (Marmaronetta angustirostris) during the trip. A bird that was highly celebrated by the group. Image: Bauke Kortleve

The transfer to our next stop produced wonderful views on a group of 4 European Bee-eaters (Merops apiaster) in the wires along the road. New stop, new pond. First sight here were two beautiful Black-crowned Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax) sleeping in a tamarisk with a wonderful Turtle Dove (Streptopelia turtur) singing right beside them. What a good combiation of birds! Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea) and Little Grebe were also present here.

In the fields around we spotted a pair of European Stonechat (Saxicola rubicola) and Corn Buntings (Miliaria calandra) while both Black-crowned Tchagras and more Turtle Doves were singing around us. A new Little Bittern was appearing from the reeds and flying over the pond but unfortunately we couldn’t relocated when stopping again among the vegetation. At the same time a Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis) joined the pond, stopping close to the Grey Heron. Again some Isabelline & Subalpine Warblers were moving by the edge of the reeds and our only one Purple Heron (Ardea purpurea) of the trip flew over us moving to the West…

Last stop of the morning. A tiny pond that was really productive for migratory birds. Again Subalpine Warblers and Blackcaps were moving here as well as Western Bonelli’s Warbler. A carefully scan of the area produced Isabelline Warbler, European Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus scirpaceus), Sedge Warbler, Willow Warblers (Phylloscopus trochilus), Cetti’s Warbler as well as 3 Squacco Herons (Ardeola ralloides), 1 Great White Egret (Chasmerodius albus), Common Sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos) and Italian Yellow Wagtail (Motacilla flava cinereocapilla). The third Little Bittern (this time, a male) appeared from the lush vegetation! Here we also had the “rarity” of the trip; a Lesser Whitethroat (Sylvia curruca) showing really well, but rather shortly, in a tamarisk along with other warblers. This is a quite scarce bird in migration in West Europe and NW Africa so we can considered as the “best” bird of the trip! After such a successful morning we just came back to our accommodation for a good lunch and a bit of rest! During the afternoon we just travelled back to Marrakech after enjoying a bit of the dunes in the National Park.

Day 3. This day we were just crossing the Atlas to start exploring the Southern slope of this huge mountain range. But before and during the crossing we had some good stops.

First stop of the morning we did some birding in the olive orchads immediatly around Marrakech. Here we had some of the near-endemic Spotless Starlings (Sturnus unicolor) as well as several Common Bulbuls (Pycnonotus barbatus). Sardinian Warblers, African Chaffinches and Greenfinches we also present along with Africcan Magpies. Flocks of Little (Apus affinis) and Pallid Swifts (Apus pallidus) were flying over us. Here we had a good selection of migratory birds. Subalpine & Willow Warblers were common and we had also 2 Common Whitethroats (Sylvia communis) and Western Bonelli’s Warbler. The first of many Common Redstarts (Phoenicurus phoenicurus) were also showing out here and we also enjoyed the first Melodious Warbler (Hippolais polyglotta) of the trip showing really well in the out and even allowing good comparitions with both Willow and Isabelline Warblers!

Common Redstart (Phoenicurus phoenicurus) is a common (and beautiful) migratory bird in Morocco. Image: Bauke Kortleve tmp_163012942.08mAHsr0957271599

 

The second stop of the trip was even more interesting. While driving the road up to Ourika Valley Bauke was having a new pack of Barbary Partridges by the road and a Black-shouldered Kite (Elanus caeruleus) was appearing in the sky. We stop, of course. We all had excellent, but short, views on the Kite flying around. Scanning the fields around we had a Short-toed Eagle (Circaetus gallicus) on a post. Also a really good bird. There, European Stonechats (Saxicola rubicola), Cirl BuntingsZitting Cisticolas and Corn Buntings were all showing well.

A bird calling not far from us decided us to explore a bit further away, just at the moment that 2 Great Spotted Cuckoos (Clamator glandarius) were appearing, calling both of them, from the olive trees! We had great views on the birds flying and, after some wait, we had them also on a tree top, calling, preening and giving us a really good show!!

Great Spotted Cuckoo (Clamator glandarius), sometimes a tricky bird, gave us an excellent view and was considered as one of the highlitghs of trip by some members of the group. Image: Bauke Kortleve tmp_163013527.9VbkDwtG-1955674302

 

While driving up the Atlas we still had to stop a pair of time. The first because of a really close Short-toed Eagle flying over the car and the second because Andreas spot 2 European Rollers (Coracias garrulus) on a wire just by the road. Those birds gave us excellent views (and shots) during a pair of minutes. After they were living we just came out of the car to enjoy the landscape and at this moment a small flock of 6 migratory? Lesser Kestrels (Falco naumanii) passed over us, flying North!

European Roller (Coracias garrulus) was an unexpected (and very wellcome) bird while crossing the Atlas. Image: Bauke Kortleve tmp_162991385.KQmAv8yO-235324741

 

Moment to have lunch, and some birds. 2 Booted Eagles were flying over the terrace while waiting to be served. Around the restaurant 1 Common Nightingale (Luscinia megarhynchos) was singing quite close so we decided to try to have a look on the bird. And what a look!! We could see the bird calling and singing during 5 minutes, extremely close (4 metres?). Not bad for be waiting in a restaurant!

This Common Nightingale (Luscinia megarhynchos) was the first of many of them during the trip. Image: Carles Oliver tmp_P1110591244564080

Our driving along the Atlas still gave us some more birds. Louise spot 2 Ravens and 1 Long-legged Buzzards. We did a pair of stops expecting to have, soon or later, some migratory raptors. Unfortunately we had nothing and our only migratory success were over 25 European Bee-eaters and a big flock of +100 Western House Martins (Delichon urbicum).

Once in the Northern slope we did a first stop in a typical migratory area. Here we had close views on common migratory birds such as Subalpine Warblers (Sylvia cantillans), Western Bonelli’s Warblers, Woodchat Shrike and great views on 2 Western Orphean Warblers (Sylvia hortensis) skulking inside a tiny almond tree along with Great Tit. The bird was also really celebrated! This place also offered our first of many Maghreb Larks (Galerida macrorrhyncha), a recent split from Crested Lark.

tmp_162991676.OWkvO9FT1193768910

After some minutes of scanning a tiny almod tree this Western Orphean Warbler (Sylvia hortensis) was finally giving us wonderful views! Image: Bauke Kortleve

A last stop of the day was done along the road to look for the near-endemic, and very scarce, Maghreb Wheatear (Oenanthe lugens). After some scanning of the slopes around we got a really nice male up in the ridge of the cliff, moving in and out of some big hollows. What a bird! A probable female was also moving down in the slope but couldn’t be confirmed because of the wind and because the bird was disappering in the slope. We still had some more scanning trying to have better views but was impossible to relocate the birds and only got White-crowneds

Stream in the Atlas Northern slope. This kind of ambients can be really productive. Image: Bauke Kortleve tmp_163035790.Y1nud5AF182175417

 

After such a good day we just did the short transfer to our accommodation, located in a wonderful oasis-like area. During the short transfer we still had a Common Redshank (Tringa totanus) and 1 British Yellow Wagtail (Motacilla flava flavissima) in some fields being irrigated as well as several Maghreb Larks and some family groups of White-crowned Black Wheatears were spotted as well as a pair of migratory Northern Wheatears (Oenanthe oenanthe) as well as our firsts Fat Sand Rats (Psammomys sp.).

Day 5. Early morning start and first scanning of the area around our accommodation. In the stream nearby we found 2 Little Ringed Plovers (Charadrius dubius) and 1 Green Sandpiper (Tringa ochropus) along with Grey Heron. A first stop in the steppes around produced 2 Desert Larks (Ammomanes deserti) and a first look on Desert Grey Shrike (Lanius excubitor elegans) despite the really, really strong wind…

The day before, by passing with the car, we just saw a good place with some water so we decided to do a stop there and enjoy the birds moving around. We had a good flock of over 20 Yellow Wagtails (mainly Iberian), 3 Little Ringed Plover, +4 Common Sandpipers and one pair of Ruddy Shelducks being this the first close view on this species so far.

After that we just went to the big dam immediatly South of Ouarzazate. Here, as always, there were tones of birds. Andreas spot 5 Eurasian Spoonbills roosting in the edge of the water while +100 Greater Flamingoes and +60 Glossy Ibises were feeding around. Here we also had our firsts Black-winged Stilt (Himantopus himantopus) as well as +15 Collared Pratincoles (Glareola pratincola) roosting in the mudflats. Other birds here include 1 Common Ringed Plover (Charadrius hiaticula) and our only one Dunlin (Calidris alpina) of the trip. Our only Calidris, actually…

Great White Egret, Little Egret, Grey Heron and Cattle Egret were all around the dam and 1 Gull-billed Tern (Gelochelidon nilotica) was also flying over.

Maghreb Lark (Galerida macrorhyncha), a recent split and a common bird in farm land ambients South of the Atlas. Image:Bauke Kortleve

tmp_163005170.R7pnM3YZ309794029

Also in the mud around, several Yellow Wagtails were feeding… and along with them were pipits… I think the very first pipit we had that day was a meritory Red-throated Pipit (Anthus cervinus), being this species a scarce migratory bird in Morocco. At least 3 Water Pipits (Anthus spinolleta) were there along with the wagtails along with 2 Meadow Pipits (Anthus pratensis), a rather late birds.

Migratory birds were moving around and Bauke spotted the first Blue-checkeed Bee-eater (Merops periscus) of the trip and the unfortunately only sight on Montagu’s Harrier (Circus pygargus), a female. A small flock of Common Swift (Apus apus) was also moving here along with several House Martins and Sand Martins (Riparia riparia) and some beautiful Red-rumped Swallows (Cecropis daurica).

On the water, huge flock of +200 Red-knobbed Coot (Fulica cristata) gave us good views and a distant Great Crested Grebe (Podiceps cristatus) was a good bird to add to the bird list of the trip. Around the water, in the tiny riparian vegetation we had a Chiffchaff moving on ground as well as the most strange sight on Savi’s Warbler (Locustella luscinioides) I’ve ever had. The bird was clearly nervous and moving in the open, showing really well despite the really strong light. It was moving also on ground for a while, a behaviour quite common, but normally impossible to see in the field.

tmp_162999202.rOO7G09Y1866016626

During the trip we also enjoyed other wildlife, like this wonderful and impressive Bell’s Dabb Lizzard (Uromastyx nigriventris). Image: Bauke Kortleve

After arrived to our accommodation in Boulmane du Dades, we still had the afternoon to enjoy the famous Tahdild Road. That afternoon we had our firsts sights of many Temminck’s Lark (Eremophila bilopha), a wonderful, beautiful bird for me. We had also our only 2 Cream-coloured Coursers (Cursorior cursor) in a long, wonderful sight of the birds running in the steppe-lands. 1 Thekla Lark (Galerida theklae) was also showing well and we had our firsts 2 Thick-billed Larks (Rhamphocoris clotbei) flying over the steppes. Unfortunately only Gerda had them along with me so the next day our goal was to find a better ones!

Day 6. Full day in the steppe-lands around Boulmane and also some time to enjoy the Gorge du Dades. A first stop in the steppe land immediatly around Boulmane produced 3 Red-rumped Wheatears (Oenanthe moesta) and wonderful views on +6 Trumpeter Finches (Bucanetes githagineus) along with with Thekla, Temminck’s and our only one Greater Short-toed Lark (Calandrella brachydactyla) of the trip. 2 Seehbom’s Wheatears and 2 Woodchat Shrikes were a nice bonus, especially the wheatears!

tmp_P1110650-1067284061

Temminck’s Lark (Eremophila bilopha) a wonderful beauty living in the highland steppes. Image: Carles Oliver

A second stop around produced +3 Desert Wheatears (Oenanthe deserti) and wonderful views on Lesser Short-toed Larks (Calandrella rufescens) & Fat Sand Rats. 1 Long-legged Buzzard was moving around and he had good views on the bird while perched in the steppe. 4 more Trumpeter Finches were also a good bonus here.

Third stop, this time in a good corner for larks and sandgrouses. We walked along one “stream” and got really nice views on Desert Wheatears and a favolous male of Thick-billed Lark (Ramphocori clotbei) that Andreas spot moving on the sand. We all enjoyed really good views on the bird while typically moving in the open areas, looking for food. As always, several Temminck’s Larks were also around and, when coming back to car, we still had a wonderful Wryneck (Jynx torquilla) moving on ground and providing us with really good views while following it!!

In this issue we have had, again, wonderful views on Thick-billed Larks ( Ramphocoris clotbei) being this male the first we had on ground. Image: Bauke Kortleve tmp_163002769.naPwKCbi859924125

After lunch and some rest we just went around to explore one gorge just by Boulmane. Here we start to scan around when, suddenly, the impressive call of a Pharaon Eagle Owl (Bubo ascalaphus) came to our ears. The bird was really, really close so we just ketp slowly moving and scanning around until Bauke was finding the bird in a hollow in the cliffs! We all enjoyed the bird while sleeping and calling every 4-5 minutes… What a view!!

Pharaon Eagle Owl (Bubo ascalaphus) at its roosting place. It is wonderful to remember it singing among the rock while sleeping! Image: Bauke Kortleve tmp_162999255.FM967Sc9634381549

In the gorge around we also had some other birds including Common Kestrel, White-crowned Black Wheatears, Crag Martins (Ptynoprogne rupestris) and Desert Larks that showed really well and allowed really close views! An impressive Bell’s Dab Lizzard (Uromastyx nigriventris) was also a good bonus for all the group.

Desert Lark (Ammomanes deserti), a common bird living in semi-desertic areas. Image: Carles Oliver tmp_P1110741356951003

After that we still had some time to explore the Gorge du Dades. A first stop here looking for a better view on Barbary Partridge produced nothing at all… Despite this and along the road, we had some Blue Rock Thrushes and Black Wheatears as well as +10 Crag Martins (Ptynoprogne rupestris).

The next stop provided us with a distant but good view on a Barbary Falcon (Falco peregrinoides) right in the top of a cliff. The bird didn’t stole the show and after a pair of minutes just left the cliff to directly fly towards a really distant Booted Eagle that was on ground! After some fight in the air, the Falcon just left the area a second Booted appeared in the sky, stopping both of them on a dead tree up in the top of the cliff. A really different view from those I’m more used in the Pyrenees!

Still in our way back to the hotel we had to do a stop in the road since another Barbary Falcon was flying just over the car and did an incredible flight down chasing a small bird and losing itself in the palm orchards around the Dades River…

Black Wheatear (Oenanthe leucura) is a near-endemic bird living in cliffs and bare slopes. Image: Carles Oliver tmp_P1110361-2024504895

Day 7. Early morning start with the main goal to locate some Sandgrouses, a bird that was scaping us, so far. A pair of stops during the morning provide us with good looks to many interesting birds including +8 Red-rumped Wheatears, Desert Wheatears, Trumpeter Finches, Temminck’s Lark, Greater Short-toed Larks, 4 Long-legged Buzzards (including 2 juveniles) and 4 migratory Black Kites (Milvus migrans) but so signal of Sandgrouses any where…

Typical semi-arid countryside at the Southern slope of the Atlas mountains. Image: Bauke Kortleve tmp_163035764.KotVvjuH-770739485

Finally we arrived to one place with some water… we didn’t have to wait for long until the first flock of Sandgrouses was appearing flying around! 4 Black-bellied Sandgrouses (Pterocles orientalis) showed their great way of flying! We decided to go closer to the water and had really close, wonderful views, on a pair of Black-bellieds, great! After some waiting there we could determine that at least 25 Black-bellied Sandgrouses were moving there in different flocks and we enjoyed of great views on some big flocks in the slopes around the water. Unfortunately we had to leave the area without signal of Crowned Sandgrouses (Pterocles coronatus), a bird that we finally missed during the trip, despite the many efforts to find one!

tmp_P11107851528891148

Black-bellied Sandgrouse (Pterocles orientalis). This year we enjoyed of extremely close views on this bird. Always a wonderful experience! Image: Carles Oliver

Male (left) and female (right) Black-bellied Sandgrouse approaching to a pool in the morning light. Image: Carles Oliver tmp_P1110790-461008862

After such a wonderful encounter we just drove some mile East to explore a point where in 2015 we had Scrub Warbler. Unfortunately, a walk around only produced Spectacled Warblers, Woodchat Shrike, Maghreb Lark and a distant Lanner Falcon.

After lunch, we explore a second location for Scrub Warbler. A walk around was extremely productive. Along the ouadi (local name for the dry river beds in the desert and semi-desert) we had some flocks of Trumpeter Finch, Woodchat Shrike, 2 pairs of Spectacled Warbler, several Temminck’s Lark and one wonderful Thick-billed Lark moving around us!!

The scanning of the many scrubs around was not producing the desired bird until Bauke spot 3 Scrub Warblers (Scotocerca inquieta saharae) about 50 metres from us. It was probably a family group and the birds showed out for some seconds. We fastly moved there to re-scan all the area but unfortunately we couldn’t have again the birds. Still, when looking for them, we got again a distant Lanner Falcon and a  really unexpected Bar-tailed Lark (Ammomanes cinctura) moving in the sandy area!! A good bonus, anyway!

This Bar-tailed Lark (Ammomanes cinctura) was a great surprise while scanning for Scrub Warblers. Image: Bauke Kortleve tmp_163002617.48BUvk1R1540056097

In our way down to our hotel in Merzouga we still had time to admire some of the many flocks of Blue-checkeed Bee-eaters moving in the oases along the road including some really close views!

Definately not a bad view on Blue-checkeed Bee-eaters (Merops persicus). Male and female that were also maiting by the car. Image: Carles Oliver tmp_P11108091577880534

Day 8. Our day in the desert started in an excellent way. While waiting for some of the group, Gerda and I had a wonderful Lanner Falcon perched on ground directly in front of our hotel!! The bird just flew off and came to us, flying really close to the main building, going behind it and reappearing soon after joined by… a second Lanner!! Amazing!

The first stop of the day produced some typical migratory birds such as Common Redstart, Subalpine Warbler, Willow Warbler and European Bee-eater. Still, the main sight here was a phantastic pair of Desert Sparrow (Passer simplex) showing out really well while perched along with House Sparrows (Passer domesticus) or while looking for food in the dunes around… what a beauty!

Desert Sparrow (Passer simplex) was one of the highlights of the trip and we enjoyed of walk-away views on them. Image: Bauke Kortleve tmp_163002416.lzGjpXr798094972

In our second stop that day we explore a “ouadi”. Here we had our first of many (+8) Greater Hoopoe Larks (Alaemon alaudipes) that day. The birds were singing and displaying in a wonderful view, despite being a bit far away. Other birds here include Desert Grey Shrike, 3 Black Kites migrating North, Woodchat Shrike and 1 Greater Short-toed Lark. Still, no signal of the main goal in this stop… Some minutes later we had one of them calling and, finally, our local guide spot 1 African Desert Warbler (Sylvia deserti) about 200 metres “down” the ouadi. After a fast run towards the bird (and after a second running, actually…) we finally had really good views on one of the warblers (there were two moving around).

African Desert Warbler (Sylvia deserti) was finally appearing, despite required a long scanning (and some running!). Image: Bauke Kortleve tmp_163040525.JSQhrLFN-1391371798

Happy for the good bird and the good exercise we came to the car. In the transfer we had some Brown-necked Ravens (Corvus ruficollis) flying here and there as well as several Barn Swallows (Hirundo rustica) flying North.

In our next stop we had 2 Egyptian Nightjars (Caprimulgus aegyptius) roosting on ground under the scarce vegetation of another ouadi. We, of course, had really long views on them and observed how they were oppening the eyes every minute or so, to check the area around… Other birds here included African Desert Warbler and Hoopoe Larks singing around and 3 Bar-tailed Larks! After some driving we also got 2 Spotted Sandgrouses (Pterocles senegalus) showing really close. It was also an excellent sight and very good for photographers in the group. After some more driving we had up to 8 Spotted Sandgrouses in different locations… Still, we didn’t get any Crowned, that was again the main goal of the driving.

Egyptian Nightjar (Caprimulgus aegyptius), again one of the highlights of the trip. This year we enjoy two birds while roosting. Below, Spotted Sandgrouses (Pterocles senegalensis), a “common” sandgrouse living in the desert. Images: Carles Oliver   tmp_P1110870-1473069912

 

tmp_P1110893586568729

After a good lunch we just kept looking for birds. In the oasis-like areas we had several Maghreb Larks, Blue-checkeed Bee-eaters, Turtle Doves, Greenfinches, White-crowned Black Wheatears, House Buntings, Laughing Doves and Common Kestrels but probably the best birds there were 1 Little Owl (Athene noctua) roosting in a tiny cliff and two family groups of Fulvous Blabblers (Turdoides fulva) skulking really low and inside the low palm trees, moving on ground and performing their really characterystic calls. Again a wonderful bird! We just finished the day with some relax in our hotel and, who wanted, enjoyed also the Common Nightingale and even Orphean Warbler showing in the grounds of the hotel.

Day 9. Just when opening the door of my room that day I could see a good day was waiting for us since a Grasshoper Warbler (Locustella naevia) was right in front of me, 5 metres to me, moving in the open! Unfortunately I didn’t have my bins ready… well, I was not expecting such a sight!!! I have to say that it was the first of the day, but not the last. The first stop of the day was in an oasis-like area, just following a small stream surrounded by large tamarisks. Here we soon listened our first Saharan Olivaceous Warbler (Iduna pallida reiseri), a race that some argue as being a different species from Eastern Olivaceous. A minimum of 5 individuals were singing around and, after some carefully scanning of the canopies, we all had good views on the birds! Other birds moving here included also Isabelline, Willow, Subalpine & (many) Western Bonelli’s Warblers. Blue-checkeed Bee-eaters were flying around along with European Bee-eaters, a nice combination!

Rufous Bush Robin (Cercotrichas galactotes) was again one of the highlitghs of the trip and a bit unexpected sight due to the dates of the trip. Image: Carles Oliver tmp_P1110938 copy1137287082

After spending quite a long time enjoying the birds in the stream we spent the rest of the morning trying to locate Crowned Sandgrouse around. Unfortunately we had no contact with this species althought we still got 2 Trumpeter Finches and really close view on 2 Hoopoe Larks and +30 Brown-necked Ravens, many of them really close.

tmp_163002753.ImQjzJT1788667931

Brown-necked Raven (Corvus ruficollis) can be common around the desert. Image: Bauke Kortleve

Even before having lunch we had time to take a look into a pool in the desert. Here we had no big surprises out of Sedge & Eurasian Reed Warblers singing in the reeds, Little Ringed Plover and Little Grebe enjoying the water and 1 Marsh Harrier flying over…

tmp_P1110953-606422891

Greater Hoopoe Lark (Alaemon alaudipes), a quite common bird in the desert that gave us great views on its wonderful display flights. Image:Carles Oliver

During the afternoon we just did a walk in a forested land close to our hotel. This was probably one of the best spots in the trip… here we had +6 Common Redstarts moving along with both +2 Spotted (Muscicapa striata) and +5 Pied Flycatchers (Ficedula hypoleuca). We spent some time enjoying really close views on both Savi’s (Locustella luscinioides) and Grasshoper Warblers (Locustella naevia), both of them skulking in the vegetation and showing really close! Bauke spot two new Scrub Bush Robins moving on ground! Willow, Western Bonelli’s and Subalpine Warblers were all around us and we also got Turtle Dove and Eurasian Reed Warbler in the orchads. While walking in the area Louise spot a Golden Oriole (Oriolus oriolus) moving in the canopy. After several scanning we finally managed to have the birds (there were two!), first in a short flight and finally both of them flying up in the sky and moving to the North, hopefully expecting to arrive to South-West Europe in the next days!!

Laughing Dove (Streptopelia senegalensis), a common bird in the oases-like areas. Image: Bauke Kortleve tmp_163035084.a2k58pWH256717357

This was a really wonderful end of our really last birding day in the trip… I could personally be there for weeks but it was already dark so we came to our accommodation to have a good dinner and rest!

Day 10. The very last day of the trip was a long, but good, transfer from Merzouga to Marrakech. In the way up we still had some good surprises, like a wonderful Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus) flying really low over the car around Rissani! It is always nice to see them in Morocco, since there are really few left of them in the country…

White-crowned Black Wheatear (Oenanthe leucopyga) becomes a common view immediatly South of the Atlas mountains. Image: Bauke Kortleve tmp_163002691.I9YQHCrV-1320209401

One stop after lunch produced several warblers. Out of the “normal” migratory birds down here we got again nice views on Western Orphean Warbler, Goldfinch and Saharan Olivaceous Warbler.

While crossing the Atlas we had a pair of stops to try to find some raptors. Again we were not really lucky and we only got a really distant eagle moving East. It was a Bonelli’s Eagle (Aquila fasciata) but unfortunately nobody in the group had good views on the bird. A second stop in the Atlas was more productive. Here we had African Chaffinch, Grey Wagtail, +5 Nightingale, Blackcap, Winter Wren, Great Tit, European Robin (Erithacus rubecula) and our only one Garden Warbler (Sylvia borin) of the trip! Probably the best birds in this stop were a gorgeous Booted Eagle, dark form, hunting in the fields around and 3 Hawfinches showing really well just by the road. Excellent!

tmp_P1110970-596736897

The very last stop of the trip was in some open fields, no very far away from Marrakech. Here we had good views on Stonechat, Woodchat Shrike and a new Western Orphean Warbler was showing a bit far, but well, good views after all. The best bird was, still, the 4 Barbary Partridges enjoyed while moving on ground in the fields. This bird didn’t offer any good view during the trip so far so it was a wonderful end for the trip!!

When we finally arrived to our hotel we were a bit tired of the long trip but we really satisfied of the wonderful trip we had. Weather this year was perfect all the days and we all enjoyed a good group of birdwatchers with really interesting chatings about the natural and human history of Morocco…

tmp_P11109651961468438


Sunset in Ourika Valley, in our very last stop of the trip… Image: Carles Oliver

Well, this was the trip… 2017 issue of the trip will run from 21st March to 30th March. Do you really wan to miss it?

You can have more images of the trip by following this LINK Many thanks to Bauke Kortleve for sharing his excellent images!!

To see the report of the 2015 issue please follow this LINK

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.

tmp_040-685370292

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.

tmp_176-5-1434386521

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.

tmp_348-8-1321093368

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.

tmp_849-4-1922379595

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! 

tmp_1116-41284469315

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.

tmp_1283-5-1820201914

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!!

tmp_1273-4-2096001186

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!!!!

tmp_1212-51514118688

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

 

tmp_1046-7-2145757631

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!

Ferruginous Duck nesting in Catalonia; 1st pair in 50 years!

The Ferruginous Duck is a diving duck, closely related to Common Pochard. Ferruginous Ducks inhabit fresh water ponds and lakes with a meter of more depth. It feeds on algae but also on small invertebrates that captures by diving, sometimes at night.

Despite the range of the species strenghts in most of Eurasia, it is considered as a Near Endangered bird because of the steadly lost of population in the last decades. In Europe, the most of the population is to be found in Romania (>4.000 pairs), Croatia (>2.000) where inhabits shallow and eutrophic ponds and lakes (less common in temporary marshes) but especially, fishponds. No more than 30.000 pairs of this birds are left in the wild. The Asian population is suposed to be the largest, but there is no data about its current situation.

In Western Mediterranean is a really scarce bird. Less than 10 pairs are actually nesting in Spain and, despite some new birds are now nesting in Switzerland and France, the population for all the area is still really small.

Moretta tabaccata; Ferruginous Duck; Aythya nyroca

Ferruginous Duck male on Po Delta. Image: Daniele Occhiato

With this data we can all consider as a wonderful new the found of one pair nesting in Utxesa, the major inland wetland in Catalonia. This wetland, located in the middle of the impressive steppe land area known as Lleida Steppes, is hosting some locally endangered birds such as the Bearded Tit (the species was colonizating this spot in 2008), the Moustached Warbler and the highly endangered Reed Bunting North-Eastern Iberian race (Emberiza schoeniclus whiterbii).

The pair of Ferruginous Ducks were first found on April, and relocated on 4th June by Sergi Sales while monitoring the endangered birds living in the dump. The Ferruginous Ducks are nesting by the main channel arriving to the dump, in an area of eutrophic water, as they prefer. This is the first nesting pair in the country in the last 50 years, since the last record of Ferruginous Ducks nesting in Catalonia was in 1962, when a pair was found in Ebro Delta.

In Catalonia, the species is considered a scarce winter and migratory bird. Some hybridation with Common Pochards have been noticed in the last years in the country (Llobregat Delta) what can indicate the presence of some sparse individuals in the country. In 2008-11, 1-2 pairs were nesting in the Marjal del Moro wetlands, some 130 kilometres South of Ebro Delta.

It is a great new! A new that is to focus us on how big the potential of our wetlands would be with a even acurate management and how long is the way to understand the ecological requirements of all different wildlife living on them.