Finland & Finnmark Birding Tour 2018 Trip Report

Dates: 11th June to 20th June, 2018

Tour participants: 4


Day 1. As usual in this tour, all participants assembled at Helsinki Airport for an afternoon flight to Ivalo. After a quiet flight we landed in Ivalo, deep inside Arctic Finland late in the afternoon and headed directly to our accommodation in a cold and rainy weather. After dinner we went for short walk around and connected with some common birds. Here we got our firsts Yellowhammers singing but also Fieldfares and Redwings. A nearby lake offered also good views on Tufted Ducks and a pair of Goldeneyes.

Day 2. We wake up again in a cold, wet morning with only 4ºC. An early start was mandatory to catch up with some of the key species we were looking for during our techinically first day of the tour. After some pre-breakfast in our accommodation we drove some miles South of Ivalo, where a patch of mature forest host some of the main targets in the tour. We left the highway and started exploring the canopies in search of some birds. Everything was really quiet as a slim rain was falling down. We drove some miles, checking some corners with little result but, at one point of the lane we stop the van as one wonderful female Capercaillie was standing up by the lane, barely 10 metres away of the van and totally in the out! We enjoyed very much of that view. We slowly went a bit back, and as not raining any more we could enjoy with the view of the bird really long. The wonderful bird was studying as for a pair of minutes and then slowly started to move into the forest walking on a bare slope. We still had time for improve the view and the shots as the bird stoped a last time to take a last glance on us before disappearing in the vegetation.

This female Capercaillie (Tetrao urogallus) was really close to be the first bird of the tour. Image by tour leader: Carles Oliver

Absolutely amazed of having a Capercaillie as one of the first birds of the trip we kept driving up. Here there is a moment when the forest become really mature, having good old trees around. We parked the car and walked around. Bramblings were singing around and a Common Snipe was flying over. Here, we had also some common birds in this kind of habitat including Tree Pipits, Redwings, Willow Warblers and Common Cuckoo flying over. Bramblings were especially active that morning and several males were singing, flying around and dispalyinhg. We just walked a bit along a path slightly going up the slope. Here we had a bird flying away from us, and as briefly stopped, we discovered a wondeful Ring Ouzel that unfortunately almost inmediatly took off and disappeared inside the forest. From the top of the slope we could scan around and from there we got a male Capercaillie standing up in the middle of the path, some 400 metres away from us! What a wonderful view. Unfortunately the bird was fast in disappear and, despite our efforts, we could not relocate that massive grouse. We kept scanning and got lucky since 3 Siberian Jays came out of the forest and gave us wonderful views while feeding on the top of the trees and moving aroung in the canopies. Few metres away, a wonderful Siberian Tit was calling so we took advantage and enjoy wonderful views.

Siberian Tit (Poecile cinctus) is one of the main targets for many birdwatchers visiting Finland. In 2018 there were many of them! Image by Carles Oliver

After such a wonderful start we decided to drive a bit along the tracks. It was still cold and cloudy but with no rain for long. Along the driving we got some Green Sandpipers singing here and a pair of Greenshanks. Common Snipes look like being everywhere. After some kilometers we enjoyed another wonderful moment as one male Black Grouse was standing inside the forest, 20 metres away from the minibus! We again enjoyed walk-away views on the bird, having different angles on it so everybody could enjoy the bird. Suddenly, a second bird appeared from a small ditch in the forest, feeding on the berries. This second male had not see us at all and when saw us flew us, closely followed by the first bird. Wonderful! Black Grouse is a quite difficult bird to get in June and we were not expecting to see this species along the tour at all! We still had a pair of stops along the track, having a total of 5 more Siberian Tits along this way!!

Black Grouse (Tetrix tetrix) is a bird that we don’t expect to see along the trip, but this year got incredible views! Image by Carles Oliver

Happy after this wonderful start we went for coofee before driving South for some more birding. After some nice and warm coffee we started our transfer South towards Oulu, but before we still had a short stop not far away from the highway, since one pair of Northern Hawk Owl had been seen around. We did a short walk around, doing an accurate scanning. Northern Hawk Owls use to stop quite in the out, many times on tree tops, but they also can be hard to find out. After about half an hour of scanning we got nothing and we were really about to withdraw when one of the tour participants found a wonderful young Northern Hawk Owl standing up in the middle of one garden. It was a quite grow up chick, already capable to do a short flight… We all have wonderful views on the bird. Some minutes later we managed to find a second chick, deep inside the garden. Suddenly a Great Spotted Woodpecker called around and the shape of an adult Northern Haw Owl passed above us to stop in a close wire, allowing really good views. We all enjoyed very much of this moment. The adult was really garding the area so we went a bit away to make them feel better. After some minutes the adult came closer to the garden and stopped in a tree top nearby. It was moment for us to leave and keep moving South.

Northern Hawk Owl (Surnia ulula), one of the most sought-after birds of the trip. Images by Carles Oliver



Glad with the wonderful morning we had all enjoyed, the transfer South was really pleasant. We did some stops in the way, anyway. The first exploration of he tour in a typical wader nesting place was quite productive. We got (distant) views on 2 Common Cranes, some summer plomaged European Golden Plovers, Reed Buntings singing, several Meadow Pipits and 2 Whooper Swans. The second stop was a bit less productive: 1 Western Osprey flying around plus a really interesting Little Bunting singing in the low rank vegetation! We scanned hard trying to find this really bird but unfortunately we never found it… The transfer also produced some typical roadside birds in the way of 1 White-tailed Eagle, Goldeneyes and Red-breasted Mergansers.

Once in our accommodation we had a good rest before having dinner. After dinner we took advantage of the wonderful light outside so went for a short walk. In the fields, some Rooks were moving here and there, being this species quite scarce in Finland. Skylarks and Reed Buntings were singing and we enjoyed of wonderful views in a pair of Pied Flycatchers nesting inmediatly around the parking place. 1 Common Rosefinch was also singing from the top of a tree, but didn’t allow any photo… We went then for a short walk in a close marsh. There we had wonderful views on some male Ruff showing stunning summer plomages, moving in the tall grass. Common Snipes were displaying all around and a Lesser Whitethroat showed briefly inside a bush.

A short walk introduced us until a platform. In front of us had a wonderful view on Liminganlahti estuary. Flocks of Pintails were in the marshes. Wigeons, Eurasian Teals and Whooper Swans were all common. More distant, a huge flock of 300+ Common Cranes were roosting in the marshy area. Little Gulls were flying over in what was a wonderful scene to be admired! Several waders were moving around. Wood Sandpipers, Green Sandpipers and Eurasian Curlews were spotted. Also a wonderful flock of 20+ Spotted Redshanks in wonderful summer plomage! This is species is the one which is leaving before the nesting areas, located more to the North. The flock we saw were probably males already in their way South! Back in the marshes, a proper scanning revealed a Short-eared Owl flying over, being “joined” by 2 Hooded Crows.

Eurasian Curlew (Numenius arquata) is a common breeder in Liminganlahti. Image by Carles Oliver

Happy after such a wonderful end of the day we just came back to our accommodation for a good rest.

Day 3. We wake up with in a wonderful sunny morning and went off our accommodation for an early morning birding. Our first goal was to explore a pair of lagoons offering potential good birds. In the short transfer to the lagoons we had some nice birds. 100+ Common Cranes were feeding in a farmland along with Northern Lapwings and Eurasian Curlews. In the highway South of Oulu we got a wonderful male Pallid Harrier flying over, something quite unexpected and celebrated.

Hundreds of Common Cranes were seen around Liminganlahti. Image by Carles Oliver

Our first stop was in a lagoon. A fast scanning produced Common Scoter along with Goldeneyes. Distant Whooper Swans were also noticed. A second scanning produced good views on 4 wonderful Velvet Scoters and also the only 2 Goldcrests of the trip in the trees around the lagoon. Our second stop was also quite successful. Parked by a busy road we searched in a pair of ponds. We didn’t wait long since 1 Terek’s Sandpiper flew inmediatly in front of us producing really nice views! After a little while, the bird went to the opposite side of the lagoon but then we got 2 more Terek’s close enough to enjoy good views and some more shots! This was absolutely great since Terek’s Sandpiper has become really rare in Finland with only a handful of pairs around Oulu! Around the place of the Terek’s we got other nice birds including Common Whitethroat and Common Rosefinch.

Terek’s Sandpiper (Xenus cinereus) has become extremely scarce in Finland. Image by Carles Oliver

Satisfied for this rather unexpected success we scanned a bit around and got some Sedge Warblers in a nearby reedbed. The water body and shores around were having Common Ringed Plover, Wood Sandpiper, Common Redshank and Eurasian Teals. Before going to forest, we still had some time check the estuary itself, where we got several Little Gulls moving, a distant Greylag Geese, Western Osprey, and the very first Arctic Tern of the tour was delighting us with good views.

After such a great start of the day we moved to check for some owls. Not far away from Oulu there are several locations for many of the species living in the country. We first went to a place for Eurasian Pygmy Owl, located on a mature spruce patch. After few scanning we got absolutely amazing views on the bird as it was perched only three metres away from us. We enjoy it long views on this wonderful tiny owl and we left the place without disturbing it!

Eurasian Pygmy Owl (Glaucidium passerinum) delighted us with wonderful views deep in a mature forest. Image by Carles Oliver

We then went to check a place for Ural Owl but we had no luck and the nest was empty…No signal at all on this bird at the location. But around there it was also a nest of Great Grey Owl so went to try this bird. In the way, we had 3 Eurasian Woodcocks flying from the lane and 1 Eurasian Nuthatch showing really well as we parked the mini bus. We spend quite a long time looking for the nest this massive arctic owl but we finally got lucky and enjoyed incredible views on the Great Grey Owl lying on the nest. The nest was located in a really low location so we were not expecting to see the bird that close!! We still had some time looking for the pair of the Great Grey Owl as it had to be roosting nearby but despite our efforts we could not find it at all.

This Great Grey Owl (Strix nebulosa) was always vigilant to our movements. We never came closer and failed to find the male, probably nearby. Image by Carles Oliver

After a short stop to have some coffee we kept going our route. A nearby place was having a pair of nest boxes for Tengmalm’s Owl so we went to check. The first nest box was damaged so could not host anything. Second nest box was apparently in good conditions but looked like having no owls inside. We neither saw any signal of activity below the nest box. We started the way back to the van when a several calls of Tits and Blackbirds came from the direction of the nest box. We fastly went to check and found a wonderful Tengmalm’s Owl stiking its head out of the nest box! What a wonderful sight, especially after thinking we were going to miss this bird!!! We had good views on the bird for a pair of minutes, when it went down in the whole and disappear. Happy after another wonderful sight we came back to mini bus.

Tengmalm’s Owl (Aegolius funereus), probably the most difficult owl in Europe, was offering rather typical views while blocking the entrance of its nest. Image by Carles Oliver

In the way we had good views on 2 Spotted Flycatchers and had 2 Song Thrushes flying as well as Eurasian Treecreeper. In a nearby field, a Common Kestrel was hunting. We still had plenty of time so we went on driving for a way until a new place where to try Ural Owl. And this time we got lucky.

A Scottish Pine forest surrounded by farmlands is hosting a nest box. In our short walk until the area Yellowhammers and Tree Pipits were singing all around. Eurasian Jay was also seen, being the only was sight of the bird in the tour! Once in the place, we proceed with a proper scanning around. We got 1 Eurasian Treecreeper but little more out of that. About to leave the area, we did a last, desperate scanning and then we got a wonderful adult Ural Owl standing deep inside the forest!

The massive owl was a wonderful view inside the deep canopy and could enjoy the bird long. We had time to scan around and actually found a grown chick of Ural Owl closer to us, inside an area of young trees. This was already wonderful and really celebrated in the group! After enjoying the birds a good while we went back to the minibus to keep going on.

Ural Owl (Strix uralensis) proved to be, once more, a tricky bird. Image by Carles Oliver


We had good views on a passing Pallid Harrier in the early morning while driving towards Oulu so we decided to go back to that area and scan for eventually have better views. In the way, we got excellent views on Black-tailed Godwits in one of the very few nesting places in Finland! Once in the place we scanned the large fields and we fastly got noto ne but 2 males Pallid Harriers in diferent areas of the field! One of the birds moved our way and we had chances for some nice shots, despite the wind! 2 Short-eared Owls were also hunting in the area and were a nice add to our day list (5 owls in a day, not bad at all!).

Black-tailed Godwit (Limosa limosa) is a scarce nesting bird in Finland. Best populations to be found around Oulu. Image by Carles Oliver


It is a poor imatge but views on Pallid Harriers (Circus macrourus) were superb. Image by Carles Oliver

After this wonderful day we just had a 90 minutes transfer to Kuusamo. In the way we had first views on Black-throated Divers in splendid summer plomage. Once where arrived to the hotel we went for a good dinner and a long rest.

Day 3. This day we were concentrated around Kuusamo, where a number of key species can be seen. We had a really early start to look for Grouses. We drove around expecting to connect with some of them but we were unlucky that morning and we could not find any. We did a number of stops and enoyed good views in both Smew and Surf Scoter. Goldeneyes and Tufted Ducks were widespread. While enjoying one male Surf Scoter we got 2 Siberian Jays moving really close to our minibus and a pair of flocks of Common Crossbills feeding around and the common view of Mealy Redpolls flying around.

Siberian Jays (Perisoreus infaustus) can be really tame, once you find them! Image by Carles Oliver

We then went to explore Parikaala, one of the best places where to try Red-flanked Bluetail. Just arrived to the parking place we got a good views on a small flock of Parrot Crossbills moving up in the canopies. A walk around produced good views on Tree Pipits as well as the only one European Crested Tit of the trip! In our walk we were joined by the distant call of a Black-throated Diver and the display flights of Wood Sandpipers. After some walk we started looking for Hazel Grouses in one of their favourite corners. We carefully scanned around hoping to see the bird grazing or resting on a tree branch, No results until the clear call of a male came to us. It was not specially far away. More scan. Little walk. The bird was calling a second time. We waited long in the place, hoping for a movement to come out from the canopie but, unfortunately, it never hapenned.

Few minutes later a different song came to us. 1 Red-flanked Bluetail was singing around. We scanned the tree tops around and got distant views on males singing from a tree top! We tried to get closer but far before we arrived the bird was down again….


We kept going up and enjoyed really good views in a pair of Bohemian Waxbills feeding on berries in a small tree. 1 Scandinavian Willow Tit passed by, calling, and god good but brief views on the bird. But then everything went fast because 1 Tree-toed Woodpecker was calling in the distance. We gather until the area where the bird was calling and scanned around. Nothing. Moved to small elevation giving us a good view from where to scan the area and then we got the bird in a tree and inmediatly took off flying to out left, allowing really good views in flight! The bird went away quite far so we walked dow and track the area. Its call came out several times but we never could reconnect with the bird…

Numbers of Bohemian Waxwings (Bombycilla garrulus) had dropped since our visit in 2017. We hardly saw 10 individuals in the whole trip. Image by Carles Oliver

We then decided to try again the corner where the Red-flanked Bluetail was singing and this time we were lucky as the bird showed up really well, singing out from the top of a tree. This area is normally having different males (we counted no less than 6 in 2017) but this year it appeared to be only one… Happy after this successful views we went the way back to the car. Around the parking place the flock of Parrot Crossbills were still visible alowing good views.

This was the only one Red-flanked Bluetail (Tarsiger cyanurus) for us this year. Passerines overwintering in Asia proved to be really scarce. Image by Carles Oliver

After this productive morning we went for a good and early lunch and some rest. The afternoon came soon and before going for dinner we went for some birding not far from our accommodation. We were to enjoy some water birds in one of the many lakes near Kuusamo. Fieldfares, Hooded Crows and Redwings were all common views. The short track to the platform was having a close Little Bunting singing around and we were soon enjoying good views on this scarce bird!

Intimate views on Little Bunting (Emberiza pusilla) near Kuusamo. Image by Carles Oliver

From the platform we could enjoy Whooper Swans but also close views on Black-throated Divers, Goldeneyes and displaying Common Snipes.

Day 4. This day we had a really chilly and wet morning. Went to a different spruce area hoping for more Red-flanked Bluetails to be but, unfortunably was really windy. We only got some Bohemian Waxbills and 1 Scandinavian Willow Tit. Still, we decided to spend some more time by the road hoping for some activity. Song Thrush was singing and a Common Crossbills. A single Willow Warbler was singing in the canopy. Weather was stil cold and unfriendly but then we did lucky as suddenly 1 Three-toed Woodpecker passed by our side, allowing good views in flight and going inside the dense canopies! We scouted all the area around but the windy conditions were not the best to find anything on the trees. After some more time in this area we decide to leave for some warm coffee!

After a good warm coffee we just started moving North but stopping in a nice lake inmediatly North of Kuusamo. Once more we got excellent views on Whooper Swans, with Greenshanks and Reed Bunting singing around. 2 White-tailed Eagles were seen flying around and a small flock of Common Terns were feeding in the lake. Goldeneyes, Red-breasted Merganser and Tufted Ducks were all seen but the bird that was really celebrated was one wonderful Red-necked Grebe in nesting plomage, showing really well by the opposite shore of the lake.

Black-throated Divers (Gavia arctica) are a common view in Finish lakes. Image by Carles Oliver

Goldeneyes (Bucephala clangula) are the commonest ducks in most freshwater lakes in Northern Finland, along with Tufted Ducks. Image by Carles Oliver

After this great stop we kept driving North for some 90 minutes, until we crossed a patch of wonderful ancient spruce forest. This is also a good place were to stop so we did so to take a look. Bramblings and Redwings were all around along with Tree Pipits. A pair of Bohemian Waxwings flew over and 1 Common Cuckoo was heard singing nearby. Many Willow Warblers were singing around, some of them really road by road. In the low vegetation in the left side of the road we got something bigger moving and we were grateful to see 3 Pine Grosbeaks feeding on berries few inches from the ground. The birds came down to the road picking on the dart. The birds allowed us to come closer and we got excellent views in on them three bu thre group really enjoyed the male, showing really nice colours.

A small flock of Pine Grosbeaks (Pinicola enucleator) was feeding on dart in a minor road. Image by Carles Oliver

Back to the car we kept moving and scanning. Some more miles North we had to stop again, this time because of a small flock of Parrot Crossbills feeding also on the dart! After these happy findings we kept driving North for a pair of hours to arrive back to Ivalo, where we sleeping some miles of the town.

Day 5. This day we went to explore some bog areas for waders West of Ivalo. Here large areas are occupied by shallow water marshes. The dense vegetation around hosts several interesting species. We arrived early morning and scan around. Some really nice Wood Sandpipers were singing and displaying around and the sound o the displaying Common Snipes were constant. Some Mealy Redpolls passed by, calling. Then a small bird flew from the grass around to end a close tree and we found ourselves enjoying the very first Red-throated Pipit of the trip. The bird allowed good views, despite being a bit inside a small tree. Happy after this good start we kept scanning and found a Jack Snipe displaying in the sky, passin over us over and over and allowing excellent views. We did a small short walk in the marshy area and easily got 1 Red-spotted Bluethroat running in front of us. After some metres of run the bird just turn so everybody in the group had excellent views.
We still had some time around with the wonderful Jack Snipe still flying above us, displaying and diving into the dense vegetation. 2 Greenshanks were also singing in the bog and 1 European Golden Plover was also noted.

Red-spotted Bluethroat (Luscinia svecica svecica) was also a really celebrated bird in the group. Image by Carles Oliver

After such a good start for the day we went for a short walk in a nearby hill. Up in this hills the tundra dominates the landscape and it is possible to find really exciting species.

The short walk was dominated by dozens of Meadow Pipits singing and showing in the short grass lands. European Golden Plovers looked like being everywhere and 1 Eurasian Whimbrel was noted close to a small mountain pass.

From here we got an impressive view on this area of Scandinavian Alps, some sumits still with snow in the distance, while the Eastern part of the view was blocked by the rocky scarpment of a nearby peak. The scan around the area produced more European Golden Plovers and 1 Eurasian Dotterel showing really well in the Western part of the meadow. We tried to approach when something really floating passed over us: 1 Long-tailed Skua!

Long-tailed Skua (Stercorarius longicaudatus), a really smart bird both on the ground and in flight. Image by Carles Oliver

The bird just flew over to stop in some 100 metres away, in a tiny hill stiking up from the grassy plain. We had incredible views on the birds when a second individual came from the same side and both birds went to the sky for a full dispaly of flights, dives and
chasing. After this incredible sight we came back to the Dotterel. If was not there any more. A bit of scan was necessary to relocate the bird, but we all got it again in the bins, now definately more far away. We tried to approach but unfortunately the bird flew along with 2 European Golden Plover and we lost track of them.

Still having some time before lunch we decided to go a bit closer of the rocky scarpment, expecting species related with this kind of landscapes. We scanned all around with little feedback and were about to leave when 1 Snow Bunting appeared from somewhere! The bird just landed close to us, allowing some nice views while the bird was feeding.

Snow Buntings (Plectrophenax nivalis) typically favours the contact area of rocky scarpments with tundra grasslands. Image by Carles Oliver

Happy after this nice morning, we just went down for a nice lunch. But prior lunch we had a stop in a stop lagoo, where a nice flock of 17 Red-necked Phalaropes was feeding. Wonderful, some of them beautiful females! Along with them some male Ruffs but also Eurasian Teal. Bluethroats were singing around, including a brief view on a male. Here we also got a small flock of Arctic Terns in their way to nesting sites. Already really close!

All the group was delighted with the intimate views on Red-necked Phalaropes (Phalaropus lobatus). Image by Carles Oliver

Some male Ruffs (Philomachus pugnax) were at its best. We enjoyed a good variety of plomages. Image by Carles Oliver

After lunch we did a pair of stops in different ponds and bog but we did not have any other result out of the firsts Arctic Redpolls of the trip! 2 birds flying and perched low in a small tree that gave us really good views.

The rest of the afternoon we just took advantage of the feeders in our accommodation to enjoy excellent views on Pine Grosbeaks. The feeders also attrack large numbers of Mealy Redpolls and some Bramblings. The feeders also attrack Pied Flycatcher, Greenfinches, Common Redstart and Red Squirrels.

Day 6. Early morning once again to go North, into Norway. Still, before crossing the border we had a good stop along the way. A extensive area of bog is having small populations of Broad-billed Sandpiper. Here we had Wood Sandpipers, Ruffs, Golden Plovers and Common Snipe displaying. 2 obliging Siberian Tits were also a good addition along with Common Waxbills and distant Great Grey Shrike and 1 Black Grouse flying across. Unfortunately we had no contacts on the main target there…

Feeders are the best option to enjoy close views on Mealy Redpolls (Liniaria flammea). Image by Carles Oliver

One of the nine Siberian Tits (Poecile cinctus) seen during the tour. Image by Carles Oliver


Along the road we had some stops: Common Crossbills (always worth checking) but also Rough-legged Buzzards and Tufted Ducks were seen.
Once in Varanger we did a short stop in Nesseby. Here we had excellent views on a flock of Red-necked Phalaropes and some Ruffs. Common Ringed Plover, Bar-tailed Godwit and Dunlin were also nice addings to the trip list. Beyond Nesseby flocks of Red-breasted Merganser and Goosanders were seen on the fjord. Also large flocks of Common Scoters (200+) along side Surf Scoters.

Wood Sandpiper (Tringa glareola) keeps good densities in Lapland bogs. Image by Carles Oliver

Kittiwakes were already a common view, with flocks of hundreds of them moving along the coast, along with Herring, Great Black-backed & Common Gulls. Along the road we had firsts views on nesting Parasitic Skuas, sometimes allowing really close views! Along the shore, White-tailed Eagles were a common views, sometimes alone but sometimes congregated in small flocks.

Rough-legged Buzzards (Buteo lagopus) are a common view in the lower areas of Varanger. Image by Carles Oliver

Our way to Vadso produced a nice surprise in the way of 2 Tundra Bean Geese resting by the road! This was a rather unexpected finding! Oystercatchers & Common Eiders were already everywhere, even along the acess bridge to Vadso. A short walk in the area produced wonderful views on Common Redshank singing but also lovely views on Arctic Redpolls and Red-throated Pipit feeding around. Some elusive male Ruffs were also spotted in the tall grass, althought they were reluctant to show properly. The small lagoon was having some Red-necked Phalaropes and the place produced good views in the only one Pomarine Skua of the trip!

Along the trip we enjoyed some good views on Arctic Redpolls (Liniaria hornemanni), always a wonderful bird to see. Image by Carles Oliver

Red-throated Pipits (Anthus cervinus) replace Meadow Pipits in the tundra areas in Finnmark. Image by Carles Oliver


Our attention was concentrated in trying to find Steller’s Eider (had one around in 2017) but no luck this time.

The final drive to Vardo still produced a Short-eared Owl by the road so another stop had to be made. Once arrived to our accommodation we got a good rest before dinner. After dinner, we still had 1 hour to enjoy the midnight light. A short drive was done and got excellent views on Little Stint, Temminck’s Stint, Horned Larks, Red-throated Pipits, Parasitic Skuas and a wonderful male Lapland Bunting!!! What an amazing end for the day!

A stop was required as this Short-eared Owl (Asio flammeus) was hunting by the road. Image by Carles Oliver

Parasitic Jaegers (Stercorarius parasiticus) nest in low tundra plains, not far away from the shore. Image by Carles Oliver

White-tailed Eagles (Hieraaetus albicilla) are always a superb view. Image by Carles Oliver

Day 7. This day we didn’t go for a really early start but have some time to recover. Our boat to Hornoya was our first appointment so after breakfast we went to the dek. Here we had a good scan around while Arctic Terns were flying around us. Black Guillemots were also a good attraction, but being a bit elusive this time. A second year Glaucous Gull was found roosting in one of the buildings at the other side of the harbour, providing with good views in the scope.

Once in the Arctic Ocean we were soon enjoying with thousands and thousands of Guillemots were carpeting the Ocean. Razorbills were also numerous and Puffins were also moving around in good numbers. As approaching the island, the noise and the smell becomes more intense. Here, 250.000+ are nesting in a huge colony. Atlantic Shags were also all along the shore, always in the big rocks protecting the island. Even before arriving to the island we got some Brunnich’s Guillemots showing really well along with other auks.

This is what you can expect when approaching Hornoya. 1000s of Guillemots but, can you find the Brünnich’s Guillemots in the imatge? Image by Carles Oliver

Once in the cliffs, Brunnich’s Guillemots tend to nest quite high so it makes more difficult to have excellent views on the birds. Still, with a bit of patience, the whole group enjoyed great views on them. A walk around easily produce ridiculous views on Atlantic Puffins. Several Parasitic Skuas were flying around, patrolling in search of a easy prey. Along with them and the hundreds of auks in the sky we also got 1 Gyr Falcon patrolling above the colony of Herring Gulls. Gulls were not happy about the presence of the predator and they made sure the Falcon to notice about! We had a good sight and the bird disappeared in the massive movement of birds in the sky. As the group was a bit disperse taking photos, not everybody enjoyed the Falcon. We hoped for the bird to reappear, but never happened. We kept enjoying the magnificient concentration of birds and also picked up really good views on Rock Pipit (littoralis) and really close views on Black Guillemot.

Atlantic Puffins (Fratercula arctica) and Razorbills (Alca torda) in Hornoya. Image by Carles Oliver


Brünnich’s Guillemot (Uria lomvia) was really celebrated for our clients. Image by Carles Oliver


General view of part of the colony at Hornoya. Image by Carles Oliver

Great Black-back Gull (Larus marinus) predating on Atlantic Puffin. A belt of predators surround the colony. Image by Carles Oliver

Black Guillemots (Cepphus grylle) avoids the big colonies and nest in small parties. Image by Carles Oliver

Scandinavian Rock Pipit (Anthus petrosus litorallis). a good adding for the list. Image by Carles Oliver


Once back in Vardo we went for lunch. In the afternoon we went along the coast, expecting some nices species. We again got nice views on Lapland Buntings, Temminck’s & Little Stints, Shore Larks & Whooper Swans in the tundra. In the coast, the firsts flocks of Long-tailed Ducks were seen along with Common Eiders and Red-throated Divers.

Temminck’s Stints (Calidris temminckii) were once the commonest wader in most of coastal tundra in Varanger. Now they have become scarce. Image by Carles Oliver

Lapland Buntings (Calcarius lapponicus), always a wonderful bird to see in summer plomage. Image by Carles Oliver

Day 8. This day we drove even more North to explore the Northernmost fjords in Varanger. Along the way we stopped several times. Roadside birding in this part of the world can inlcude Long-tailed Skuas but also Rough-legged Buzzard, Scaup, Long-tailed Duck, Red-throated Diver and others.

Arctic Tern (Sterna paradisaea), a urban bird in Varanger! Image by Carles Oliver

A selected stop in the higher plateau produced 3 Snow Buntings along with Dotterel, Tundra Bean Goose, Long-tailed Duck, Lapland Bunting, Golden Plover and Eurasian Curlew. A proper scan around allowed us to find the first Rock Ptarmigan of the trip! A short drive and we were having really close views on the bird, still showing a good number of white feathers.

Tundra Bean Goose (Anser rossicus) was also really celebrated by our clients. Image by Carles Oliver


Male & female Rock Ptarmigan (Lagopus mutus), a really nice finding. Image by Carles Oliver


Always worth to check the lakes when being in Varanger, Scaups (Aythya marila) can be around. Image by Carles Oliver


During the afternoon we arrived to coast. Here we had more scanning, this time in the shore. Several Common Eiders were roosting and feeding and we were lucky enough to find 1 female Steller’s Eider feeding along with them! We approached the group and everybody had excellent views on them despite the misty ambient!

An adult female Steller’s Eider (Polysticta stelleri) was showing really well despite the difficult weather conditions. Image by Carles Oliver

After enjoying long this lovely duck we just went to our accommodation for some rest and good dinner.

Day 9. This day we spent the morning in exploring a patch of coast producing good birding most of the times. But before we had a second visit to the Steller’s Eider, being now really more far away than the afternoon before. We also had another stop in the way, this time to explore a nice landscape for grouses. And we were right in our thoughts since we had 2 Willow Grouses flying around, one of them stopping for some seconds on a rock before disappearing in the grass! A brief view, but worth it! We scanned around trying to relocate them, but was impossible.

This female King Eider (Somateria spectabilis) didn’t stole the show despite the fog in our last full day of the tour. Image by Carles Oliver

Kept going our way. Once in the patch of coast, the area was totally foggy. We just kept driving until the closest village, where we had a coffee. The fog was not going to disappear so we moved to shore to scan for birds. A small corner looked like interesting and we cheeked all Eiders around, and we were lucky since a female King Eider was among them! This was one of the most celebrated bird of the tour, along with Steller’s Eider!! We had a good time enjoying this bird, most of the time sleeping but sometimes active and moving along with 2 Long-tailed Ducks and Common Eiders.

As it was foggy we started drive back until we found a window without fog. Stop and check. Beside the car, 2 Twites flew off up to the cliffs! In the sea, we fastly saw several Northern Fulmars moving along the coast. About 30% of them were of the beautiful blue form. There were still some fog. We did some scouting looking for Yellow-billed Divers, but never found them… and only got Black-throated Divers. Instead had several flocks of Common Eiders and Long-tailed Ducks. Also some Manx Shearwaters moving up and down. One of the tour participants found 1 Fin Whale moving close to coast. Wonderful spot!

After some more scanning in a pair of Windows in the fog we just drove South for a final overnight near Ivalo, where we arrived for some rest and a good dinner.

Day 10. Final morning of the trip and still some time to check for some birds. It was rainy and really chilly but went to a corner offering good chances for buntings. We waited under the rain but nothing happened for long. We were really about to leave when, suddenly, a bird came out of the vegetation to stop in a nearby tree and started singing: was 1 Rustic Bunting!

Light was poor and we were all wet and cold but this very last minute sight was absolutely worth it!!!

After this we just drove to the airport to take our flight home. Never tired of birding in Lapland. Join us!!!

Oman Birding Tour 2019 Trip Report

Dates: 29th January to 7th February, 2019

Tour participants: 5

Seen bird species: 210

Tour Leaders: Sergi Sales & Carles Oliver

After an afternoon flight we arrived to Oman beyond midnight. Passport controls were fast and we arrived to our hotel in Musqat after a comfortable shuttle transport from the aiport.

Day 1. After a good rest and a great breakfast in our hotel we went for a short walk in some tree just by our accommodation. It was time to have a first contact with some common species in Northern Oman. Probably the first bird of the tour were 2 Purple Sunbirds, seen feeding in the trees along a small gorge. Just around, a wonderful Indian Roller was hunting from the wires crossing the gorge. Indian Silverbill, Common Myna and several Laughing Doves were also seen and celebrated. We also had the interesting local race of House Sparrow, being smaller, duller and more grey in the upperside than the races we are more used.

Green Bee-eater (Merops orientalis), a wonderful small bee-eater to be found in Northern Oman. All images in this trip report by tour leader Carles Oliver. All rights reserved.

After this small taste by our hotel we drove a short distance to explore the Al Ansad Wetland. This is a small complex of lagoons with riparian vegetation that can be really productive. A first scanning produced Black-headed Lapwings, Crested Larks, Purple Sunbirds, White-spectacled Bulbuls and 1 White Wagtail. A juvenile Bonelli’s Eagle just passed over us giving excellent views in the morning light.

The firs lagoon was really productive. It hosted a good selection of ducks including Mallards, Gadwalls, Eurasian Wigeons, Pintails, Eurasian Teals, Tufted Ducks and Common Pochards. About 20 Greater Flamingos were roosting in the lagoon joined by 5 Eurasian Spoonbills. Black-winged Stilts, Ruffs and 1 Black-tailed Godwit were feeding inmediatly around. By the reedbeds we found 1 Eurasian Coot along with several Eurasian Moorhens and Little Grebes. Grey Heron, Cattle Egret and Great White Egrets were also present in small numbers.

Temminck’s Stints were common with at least 8 birds feeding along with some Little Stints. At least 3 Marsh Sandpipers were also present along with several Common Sandpipers. The good scanning of the area produced as well 1 Citrine Wagtail and 2 Yellow Wagtail (one of them being a male beema race). Some Common Snipes flought off and the Bonelli’s Eagle came back and had a second flight over the water. Was in that moment that the only White-tailed Lapwing of the trip came up from behind a sand bar and we all could enjoy good views on the bird for a pair of minutes. This was already a good start!

Graceful Prinias (Prinia gracilis) are a common view in a number of grassy habitats in Nortern Oman.

Unfortunably the bird was a bit far and came down again to the opposite side of the bank. We spent several minutes trying to relocate the bird, but was impossible.

Happy after such a good start we just moved on along the path. Not far from there we were distracted by the first of several Graceful Prinias singing from the top of a bus. A closer view was demanded so we moved on just at the moment than a flock of Sand Partridges flew off from under our feet! After some good shots in the Prinia our attention was concentrated by a very close Little Green Bee-eaters catching insects at short range. Its footage from the minor branches of a small tree was really productive in photographic terms!

The area was still producing interesting sightings. A group of White cheecked Bulbuls were moving in the bushland and 1 Indian Silverbill was busy while bringing nest material inside a small tree. The same juvenile Bonelli’s Eagle that we saw flying over the lagoon was now sheltered by the shade of a small cliff. A last walk in the area produced some Great Cormorants, the first Greater Spotted Eagle high up in the sky and good views in 1 rather unexpected Eastern Orphean Warbler skulking inside a bush!

Green Bee-eater (Merops orientalis) showed out really well in the firsts days of the tour.

We then went to the coast, where we had some food near the beach while we were scanning around. Here we had several Heuglin’s Gulls moving in the coast along with the commoner Black-headed Gull. Also some Caspian Gulls were seen, mainly adults. 2 Sooty Gulls passed by but unfortunately a bit far away for everybody in the group to enjoy them. At least 2 Great Crested Terns were moving in the coast and we had really good views as one approached the dock where we were scanning from. A tiny wady in our way was also providing good birds, special mention to our first Greater Sand Plover, Pacific Golden Plover along with Common Sandpiper and Common Redshank.

Common Myna (Acridotheres tristis) is a recent arrival to Oman, just arrived to Southern Oman a few years ago, where it is as common as in the North.


The slender Red-wattled Lapwing (Vanellus indicus) is the commonest Lapwing in the region, by far.

We decided to spend the rest of the day in Al Qurm Park. This is a well known birding spot in Musqat hosting some very interesting specialities. Our arrival to park was really good as 1 Indian Roller was hunting in the parking and only few metres inside the park we had our first Grey Francolin of the trip running up the slope. In the trees, a Common Chiffchaff was seen (here presumably all Chiffchaffs belong to abietinus or tristis races, thought now Siberian Chiffchaff is claimed as a diferent species for some). A small channel of water connects the big central lagoon of the park with the sea. This channel proved to be really productive as we fastly spotted 1 Striolated Heron hidden in the shady bank. Few metres away from it we found 1 Acrocephalus. Silence and check for some seconds before confirming that was a Clamorous Reed Warbler! This was a bird really celebrated by the group. The bird provided really good views in the out for quite long, moving always really low in the vegetation, but clearly in the out. The channel itself was attrackting some Pallid Swifts to drink water and we all enjoyed lovely views on these birds. A Purple Heron flew over and its shade made Common Sandpipers and Black-headed Lapwings move away. Inside the park we enjoy a new Indian Roller until a small shrike was located in the top of the tree. At first it looked like a Isabelline but finally it turned up to be a Red-tailed Shrike, a recent split from the former.

Two images on a 1st winter Red-tailed Shrike (Lanius phoenicuroides). Pair attention in the vermiculated extending all along the flank, with a tawny vental area contrasting with white undertail coverts. Uppertail coverts appear reddish, but not uniform as expected on Isabelline Shrike.


Clamorous Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus stentoreus brunnescens) was spotted a pair feeding in the out along the tour.


Striated Heron (Butorides striata atricapilla) is a scarce resident bird in dense vegetated marshy areas.

The central pond was low of water but as good as always. 1 Whiskered Tern was flying over and 1 Western Reef Egret was fishing along with some Cattle Egrets. Fastly our attention was for “Squacco like” herons around the pond. After some scanning we found the 2 firsts Indian Pond Heron of the tour, feeding along with 4-5 Squacco Herons. Little Grebes and Eurasian Coots were also present in the pond.

Indian Pond Heron (Ardeola grayii) is a scarce winter visitor but we got excellent views on Muscat itself. Image by tour leader Sergi Sales

We still had a further walk around the trees. Rose-winged Parakeets were everywhere and a Alexandrine Parakeet was heard in the air. It was time to go but then we found a wonderful tree full of Common Chiffchaff, Purple Sunbirds and at least two Lesser Whitethroats (Desert Whites?). As the area proved really interesting we decided to spend the rest of the afternoon in around. A short walk from the park allowed us to explore some tidal muds richly vegetated. Here we found some interesting passerines including Isabelline Shrike, 2 Bluethroats and Eurasian Reed Warbler. Some waders were present in the small mudflats including several Eurasian Whimbrel, 1 Eurasian Curlew, 15+ Spotted Redshank, Dunlin, Ruff, Little Ringed Plover and some Common Ringed Plover. 1 Intermediate Egret flew over us in its way to the sea and 1 Garganey took off from a tiny patch of marsh but the best bird in the spot was a Pin-tailed Snipe that took off along with 1 Common Snipe from the flooded areas. Some Snipes were moving around so we carefully checked every single bird leaving the area. At least 15 Common Snipes left in different waves and we got good views in 1 Spin-tailed showing the remarcable blackish uderwings and contrasted belly.

Purple Sunbirds (Cinnyris asiaticus) is one of the most unobtrusive birds in Northern Oman. Image by Carles Oliver

Happy after such a great encounteer we still looked for something else in this corner. Some Eurasian Moorhens were seen feeding in the grassy areas and 1 Grey Heron arrived for a evening meal. The time of our own evening meal was not far any more so we left the area for a good rest in the hotel and a dinner to go throught all the birds of our first day in Oman.

Spotted Redshanks (Tringa erythropus) at Al Qurm Park the first of the tour.


Day 2. After our good buffet breakfast we left our hotel to explore the Western coast of Northern Oman. But, as tyde was low, before going West we came back for a while to Al Qurm beach. Just arriving we found a small flock of gulls in the beach along with some terns. A fast scan revealed some Great Crested Terns along with Sandwich Terns. Most of the gulls were the splitable Steppe Gull (Larus fuscus babarensis) and got good views and comparision of structure with a lovely Caspian Gull adult. Heuglin’s Gulls were also present in the flock, including different ages and intermediate plomages. Not far after we found the first Palla’s Gull, a 3rd year bird. What a incredible gull! Not only the shape of bill but the general structure of the bird was simply massive. Here, all tour participants enjoyed very much with this flock of gulls and having adults of Caspian, Steppe, Heuglin’s and Palla’s all together in a small flock was really celebrated and appreciated for everybody! Small flocks of Slender-billed Gulls were also present at the beach.

Adults Caspian Gull (Larus cachinnans) -left- and 2 Steppe Gulls (Larus fuscus barabensis) -center and right- in Al Qurm.


Palla’s Gull (Ichthyaetus Ichthyaetus) was one of the most celebrated target in the crew and a wonderful bird to watch. Here an adult in winter plomage.

Around the flock of gulls there were some waders and it didn’t take long to spot some Lesser Sand Plovers moving in the sand. There were about 30 individuals in different smalls flocks. Here we also had  Greenshank, Kentish Plover, Whimbrels, Common Redshank, Western Reef Heron in light form (less common in the area) and Lesser Crested Tern. Again, we enjoyed views on Lesser Crested Terns side by side with Great Crested Terns so a good comparision on sizes, structure and colour could be made. Some Sooty Gulls were also flying around but we only had a single bird stopping on the ground. We spend some time enjoying these gulls and terns but also scanning around looking for other specialities. Some scouting inland produced 6 Common Snipe sleeping on the grass, Black-headed Lapwings, Common Kingfisher and Graceful Prinia and 2 Grey Francolins having a sand bath.

Lesser Sand Plover (Charadrius mongolus) in winter plomage. The combination of long legs, relatively thin bill and slightly contrasted lore allows to avoid confusion with Kentish & Greater Sand Plovers.

Back to the sea shore, we had big flocks of Great Cormorants flying around and we enjoyed how fast they moved as the nets of the fishermen were into the water. A nice espectacle to be seen! More plovers were arriving from the East, clearly bigger and heavier than all species around; 8 Great Sand Plovers! Again, a good comparision on size, shape and facial pattern was made with its relative the Lesser Sand Plover

2 Greater Crested Terns (Thalasseus bergii) -left- in an interesting comparative of sizes and structure with 2 Sandwich Terns (Thalasseus sandvicensis) at Al Qurm.

After such a wonderful stop we then drove to the West, towards the Sun Farms. These are water-assisted grassy crops being a magnet for a good number of species. Despite some reports of the explotation being abandoned from some years ago, we decided to approach and take a look. It was an excellent decision, as you will see.

We arrived to the area were the Sun Farms were and well, it was no sign of any grass anywhere. Still, even before arrived to the exact place we were obligated to stop the car and walk around as a family group of Arabian Babblers were moving just by the track. Unfortunately not everybody in the van enjoyed excellent views so we parked the car and walk around looking for this wonderful bird.

Arabian Babblers (Turdoides squamiceps) showed really well along the tour. Please note how coloration change depending on the light in these two images.

The flock of birds were still moving around in the semi-desert so we decided to do a short walk around expecting to improve our sight. Purple Sunbirds were everywhere and a nice flock of lined Indian Silverbills was welcome by the photographers in the group. A Common Kestrel was circling up in the sky among Pallid Swifts and Crested Larks were singing and moving all around. In a shade, a Tawny Pipit showed really well for a pair of minutes while 1 Hoopoe was diving its bill on the sand looking for warms, but still no signal of the Babblers. While searching for them we had another really good bird appearing. A characteristic “txac” call came from the acacias around us and, after some scanning, we all had excellent views on 2 Hume’s Whitethroat! This is a quite recent Split from Lesser Whitethroat inhabitating juniper formations in Iran and Afghanistan high mountains. They are easy to tell apart by calls but also due to the clearly darker head, auriculars and nape of the Hume’s if compared with Lesser. The back and mantle in Hume’s Whitethroat is also darker than in Lessers, showing really little contrast.

A further scanning in the area still produced a nice male Black Redstart of the Eastern phoenicuroides race and a superb male Pallid Harrier flying around and stopping in the low branches of a distant tree for some minutes. Namaqua Doves were passing over us and we could count up to 8 individuals of this beautiful bird. It was a very productive corner but since no signal of the Babblers around we decided to go on but, just when most of the people was in the car, we had 2 Arabian Babblers coming to us and stopping some 60 metres from us. More and more birds came front he tangles and we arrived to count up to 9 of them!

Indian Silverbills (Eudice malabarica) showing the white rumps in a typical group view.

We had the birds around for some minutes in what was a really unexpected encounteer in one of the most difficult species in the area! We moved but we didn’t really arrived that far away since we fastly found 1 male Black-crowned Sparrow-Lark some 35 metres from us. Not far, an obliging Isabelline Weathear was a good first for the trip.

It was time to go to our next location. A short drive allowed us to arrive to Liwa mangroves. This is home of two of the most wanted species for all birdwatchers coming to Oman: Collared Kingfisher and Sykes Warbler.

Red-vented Bulbul (Pycnonotus cafer) is a common bird in most of coastal Oman. Image by Sergi Sales

Tyde was low and we decided to go on with a short walk along the mangroves. Sooty Gulls were really common as walked in the beach and good numbers of Slender-billed Gulls were also seen flying around. Great Crested Tern was less common, with only few moving along the shore.

In the mangroves it was little movement. A small flock of Eurasian Whimbrels were looking for some food in the mud, joined by 4 Spotted Redshanks. A pair of Common Sandpipers were typically moving up and down along the shores. It was time for a bit of scan and most efforts were placed in the most suitable channel to host a Collared Kingfisher. After 15 minutes of scanning a chunky, white shade emerged from the mangroves to stop in outer skinny branches of a dead mangrove. This was a wonderful views even if not specially close. Things improved really much when the bird turned, showing the typical collar and the beautiful blue-greenish in the upperparts. This view was really celebrated by the group. A Common Kingfisher joined its relative for a better comparision of shape and size.

The bird showed for about 2 minutes and after that came back deep inside the mangrove. We still waited, hoping for a better view and some photo chances that never arrived. Still, the group was really happy to see such a scarce bird! Remember that Collared Kingfishers living at Arabian Peninsula are from “kalbaensis” race, an extremely endangered and more than a probable coming split from the nominal race living in most of Asia!!

Isabelline Shrike (Lanius isabellinus) male in Liwa mangroves.

More than happy about this wonderful sight we kept scanning the area looking for Sykes Warbler. All eyes were to the mangroves when a hard “tchak” came out from the dense vegetation. We scanned for long. First a Isabelline Shrike, after a Graceful Prinia showed nicely, but we didn’t get any other bird from the bush.
We still had some time before sunset so, decided to get somethin different from the area we just drove around the mangroves to the plains placed at the opposite site. A short drive around proved to be quite productive. A first small bush was having 2 White-eared Bulbuls, 2 Common Chiffchaff (not really grey ones) and a third species tha flew off. Not a long scan was necessary to enjoy the female Menétries Warbler. The bird stayed in a low bush for over 2 minutes so we had time enough for looking for the differences from this species and its relative, the Sardinian Warbler (a bird that was more familiar for some members of the group).

This female of Ménétrié’s Warbler (Sylvia mystacea) was the only one membre of its species to appear in the tour.

After driving for 5 minutes more we stopped in a different place and scanned around. 3 Isabelline Weathears were found along with the first Desert Wheatear of the trip. Up in a tree, a wonderful Southern Grey Shrike was looking for an evening meal. The last bird of the day turned up to be a Red-tailed Shrike!

Happy for the good birds of the day we just came back to our hotel for a good rest and dinner.

Day 3. Today we were leaving Muscat and starting our way South. Inmediatly beyond the city, an impressive spine of mountains goes up until 3000 metres high. This is area is home of very interesting birds, some of them unique. During that morning we crossed the mountains, spending some time in a key location looking for some of them.

Here the landscape is controlled by towering bare mountains speckled by small elevated plateaus. In the untouched valleys you can see sparse acacias in an semi-desertic ambient. Our first stop was really a random one. As always scanning the sky we finally got a good bird as 1 Egyptian Vulture was spot high up in the sky. It happen that it was a good place where to stop so we did so and, eventually, scanned around. At the other side of the road we got a Red-tailed Wheatear, a really good bird that may not appear in every tour. All the group was delighted with this little wheatear when a small, whitish bird appeared from the right, moving low in the scrubs. It was an Asian Desert Warbler! It was an amazing to see these two really good birds together! The Asian Desert Warbler flew off and, as not everybody in the group had got good views, we decided to do a short walk around. After some 5 minutes of scanning we relocated the bird and everybody had brilliant views on the tiny bird.

Asian Desert Warbler (Sylvia nana) in a typical view of the species.

Only a small point on the Asian Desert Warbler. I’m personally used to see African Desert Warbler and I was glad to see how different both species are. More than what you can expect from the plates. Asian Desert Warbler is far more grey than its African counterpart and the grey body is having an evident contrast with the orangish tail. In the African Desert Warbler, all body is strong sandy colourated.

Our road stop also produced Isabelline Shrike and Northern Wheatear. We still drove for about half an hour before arriving to our next stop, a gorgeous gorge with a wadi and a pair of oasis-like corners. This is a well known place for the recently discovered Omani Owl, one of the main targets in the trip. As we got inside the gorge we had several Striolated Buntings singing around as well as Lesser Whitethroats in the scattered trees, Purple Sunbirds, Pale Crag Martins and 4 different Egyptian Vultures. Here we spent several time scanning some roosting places of Omani Owl but with no result. Then we moved up in the wadi until a small oasis. In the way, a Bonelli’s Eagle made us stop and it was a good decision to do so since we had 1 Lappet-faced Vulture appeared high in the slopes and showing really well for half minute! This was a bird really celebrated by the group!!

Egyptian Vulture (Neoprhon percnoptreus) flying above a gorge in Northern Oman. Always nice to see that this species is doing well somewhere outside the Pyrenees!

Once arrived we walked a bit around. An obliging Red-tailed Wheatear was a good chance to compare the species with other wheatears while taking some shots. Nearby, 1 female Common Rock Thrush was also showy in the rocks. This is a quite scarce overwintering bird in Oman. A further walk lead us to a small group of trees. Here we easily located the firsts Plain Leaf Warblers and we had a good time enjoying the nervous moviments of this tiny Phylloscopus until the whole group had good views on them. There were al least 5 birds there! Here, a Hume’s Leaf Warbler was also calling in the canopies. We kept scanning but nothing different appeared until 2 Bonelli’s Eagles adults flew over soaring fast and disappearing beyond the gorge.

Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush (Monticola saxatilis) juvenile.


Hume’s Wheatear (Oenanthe albonigra) looked like common in a pair of gorges South of Muscat. Image by Sergi Sales


Red-tailed Wheatear (Oenanthe chrysopygia) was the commonest wheatear in the broken landscape of the Northen Oman mountain chains.

After lunch we left the mountains, crossing the desert in our way to our accommodation inland Oman. Before sunset we did a small stop in a suitable place. Here we got good views on Brown-necked Ravens, Desert Wheatears, 3 Black-crowned Sparrow-Larks (1 male, 2 females) and 1 Asian Desert Warbler.

After such a successful stop we came back to the place where Omani Owl has been seen in recent years. We searched quite long and waited until sunset, but nothing. We were about to leave, already quite dark, when suddenly an owl just appeared from the cliff, diving into the dark, we barely had a view with our torches before the bird disappeared in the dark. We still had 30 minutes more of reseach but unfortunately we could not have any other sight. At some point we decided to move to our next accommodation, with a convenient stop in the way so we could have some dinner.

We arrived to our accommodation, and recharged energy for the coming day.

Day 4. This day was basically a road day in our way to Salalah. After breakfast we headed to Qirbit for some morning birding. Once the oasis by Qirbit we did a walk around expecting some small birds. The desert around was hosting some Desert Wheatears and we got really good views on our 3rd Asian Desert Warbler for the trip. A aucheri race Southern Grey Shrike was calling from the oasis vegetation and several Eurasian Collared Doves were around. We spent about 25 minutes at the oasis and we only got 2 Lesser Whitethroats and 1 Black Redstart.
After such a disapointing numbers we came back to our Qitbit to explore the gardens. These gardens have been really famous for several years and a must for every single birdwatcher exploring inner Oman. Unfortunably the motel in Qitbit is now close and the gardens abandoned so the variety of birds here has collapsed. We didn’t know about we it was evident that the place had once better times. We still had a good surprise in the gardens since a Black-throated Thrush flew off from one of the trees!! The moved into a dense vegetated patch and we decided to follow it. After some wait we had the bird flying to a small pond of water and got good brief but good views on the bird while drinking water.

As Qitbit was disapointing for us in terms of birds we kept driving some more miles South to arrive to a number of farms where irrigation allows a variety of grassy crops. It was midday so quite hot but we still were expecting some good birds. Along the track accessing the farmland we had a number of good birds including several Isabelline Wheatears along with some Desert and Northern. The area was literally full of grasshopers so the presence of 1 Isabelline Shrike was justified. In one of the stops to check around we got 3 Black-crowned Sparrow-larks singing and moving around. Crested Larks were all over. A random stop produced wonderful views on 1 Long-billed Pipit by the car, and everybody enjoyed quiet long. Around, several Tawny Pipits were also seen, some of them performing superbly.

One of the 2 Pied Wheatears (Oenanthe pleschanka) noted in the ferms.

Once by the crops we noticed an even higher density on Wheatears and also Tawny Pipits. 2 Pied Wheatears including a moulting young male were an excellent adding to the tour list. A little walk by the grass produced several Yellow & White Wagtails and we all surprised to listen 2 Quails singing in the field! Several Laughing Doves were in the area, and this was the first place where we noticed the dark form of this beautiful species. The walk was not especially interesting until we got a bird landing in the field. It was a small lark. It was a Skylark actually. It was moving along with a White Wagtail and it looked clearly smaller, thin-billed than the European Skylark. Then a Common Kestrel appeared so all birds flew off to confirm the bird (birds as it was a second one!) to be Oriental Skylarks thanks to the wing patern when flying (mainly the lack of white stripe in the …..

We still spent some more time in the fields. The Oriental Skylarks flew really far away so no chance for a relocalization. After some time without any relevant activity we decided to leave to Salalah.

African Lime Butterfly (Papilio demodocus) were common in the farm land in the desert.

Before living we invested some time on butterflies. Here it was a great variety so we enjoyed some of them, taking good images. After a good driving we finally approached the incredible Jhoffar Mountains. Here, in the road mountain pass, we did a fast stop to enjoy some birds. The firsts of many Fan-tailed Ravens were seen around, offering good chances for photographers in the group. Also Tristam’s Starlings were really showy, with small flocks of about 10 individuals moving around. The short stop turned in a longer one since a small flock of Wagtails included some interesting ones. There were 4 White Wagtails and some Yellow Wagtails including a male Balkan Yellow Wagtail (feldegg). A proper scanning in the White Wagtails produced a Masked Wagtail (personatta) in winter plomage. Beyond the wagtails, an large area of graminea was covering part of the slope. There we saw a small flock of Singing Bush Larks moving around, flying up and down to disappear in the tall grass. Despite our efforts, we couldn’t have a view of the birds on the ground, yet.

Tawny Pipits (Anthus campestris) were common in around the grassy areas in the desert.

There were also some raptors in the area. 1 Common Kestrel was hovering in the area around and 2 wondeful males Montagu’s Harriers passed by the highway with lovely afternoon light. In the distance, 1 Short-toed Snake Eagle was also a good spot!

After such a productive end of the day we arrived to our accommodation in Salalah for a god rest after a long driving day!

Day 5. After a wonderful breakfast in our hotel in Salalah we left towards Raysut, expecting to spend the whole morning in the area. Still, before heading to Raysut we invested 1 hour in a small wetland near our accommodation. Here we got the first views of many of Rüppel’s Weavers, including a wonderful male building a nest. The ambient was clearly warmer than in Muscat. Along with Rüppell’s Weavers we got Graceful Prinias, as common as in the Northern part of the country.

Rüppell’s Weavers (Ploceus galbula) are really common in the Dhofar area. Image by Carles Oliver

The small wetland is in fact a river mouth, known many times as Eastern Salalah Wetland. Here, the floating vegetation was perfect for a number of species and many Eurasian Moorhens were seen taking advantage of it. A Great Reed Warbler appeared from the riverside vegetation while Wood & Green Sandpipers flew around. 7+ Citrine Wagtails were seen feeding, walking and a very obliging stopping really close. In the open water it was a good flock of 15+ Tufted Duck along with Northern Shovelers and Eurasian Teals. But the lagoon was having also one of the most celebrated birds of trip, a small flock of 8 Cotton Pygmy Geese were roosting in the center of the lagoon, providing good views when one of the males put its head up for a pair of minutes! Happy after this happy encounteer we kept scanning around. Both shores were having some Squacco Herons and, at least, 2 Indian Pond Herons were along with them. Some Gull-billed Terns were flying over the lagoon, joined by 1 Whiskered Tern. A further scanning in the right shore, where more floating vegetation was concentrated, produced 1 Pheasant-tailed Jacana swimming along Moorhens!

One of the many Citrine Wagtails (Motacilla citreola) seen around Salalah.

The group was really satisfied after these nice findings. In our way back to car a Common Chiffchaff came across our way and stopped in a branch, preening.

We left the area towards Raysut. The place is well known due to the great concentration of eagles, mainly Steppe Eagles, but also other interesting species. Even before arriving to the rubbish dump we had our firsts Steppe Eagles flying over in a wonderful variety of plomages that will make enjoy every single raptor lover! When being closer we counted hundreds of them circling in the sky, taking advantage of the first thermals. We knew that earlier that week somebody estimated about 500 Steppe Eagles to be in that rubbish dump. Well, they were probably right! Along with the Eagles we also saw a more impressive spectacle: Hundreds of Abdim’s Storks circling in two different flocks! Previous census numbered in about 150…Here there were at least 300 of them!!

Steppe Eagle (Aquila nipalensis) around Raysut, where hundreds of them can easily seen.

Happy about this incredible spectacle we drove a bit expecting to find some raptors on ground. No long drive was required. After some hundreds of metres we got at least 6 Steppe Eagles on the ground in a wonderful set! We took our time studying the plomages and structure of the birds and, after that, we drove to some lagoons SW from the dump. Unfortunately the lagoons seemed to be totally dry and only a handful Tristam’s Starlings and a pair of Desert Wheatears were left in the place.

Juvenile Steppe Eagle (Aquila nipalensis). This individual was flying on a flock of 50+ of them.

We then decided to move towards the coast, to find a different lagoon. Overpassing with the car it was evident that it was having water. A flock of 20+ Greater Flamingoes were there, feeding in the deepest part of the lagoon. At the other side, with small lagoon of shallow water and wide areas of rocks, a party of 150+ of White Storks were roosting, preening or tentativally trying to catch a fish or something from the minor lagoons.
We parked and walked until an apropiated view point. 2 Caspian Terns were flying up and down the river. Lower, 1 Whiskered Tern was doing so, stopping sometimes by a solitary Squacco Heron. Some Grey Herons were also in this part of the river. Tens of Rüppell’s Weavers were in the reeds and their whistles were a constant sound in our ears. In the sky, 2 Western Ospreys were patrolling the lagoon. One of them tried for 4 times to catch a fish but with no luck at all…Finally flew the area toward to sea in a short flight, probably to rest and wait until better times to come. The sky was providing a lot of activity. 4+ Black-eared Kites (race lineata of Black Kite) were also patrolling the sky, probably unhappy after the unsuccessful attemps of the Osprey. Waves of birds of prey were coming down the river from the rubbish dump, located some miles up by the river. They were mainly Steppe Eagles but along with them we spotted our firsts 2 Eastern Imperial Eagles of the trip! An intense scanning of the raptors produced also 8+ Greater Spotted Eagles circling and also stopping in the cliffs by the lagoons. They were clearly coming to take a bath and drink water. One of this Greater Spotted Eagles came down the lagoon and stopped right in front of us! An amazing view of such a incredible bird. Delighted after such a wonderful sights we walked a bit down the lagoons, approaching the area of pools were most of Storks and Herons were. We didn’t cover a long distance before we had to stop again due to 2 magnificent Great White Pelicans flying low over us. This a species considered as a rarity in Oman so we were not really expecting to enjoy them in this tour! The birds passed by us going to the see, joined by a small flock of Barn Swallows.

Greater Flamingoes (Phoenicopterus roseus) in Raysut.


Greater Spotted Eagle (Clanga clanga) near Raysut ponds.


Great White Pelicans (Pelecanus onocratus), a really scarce species in Oman, were another of the main attractions in Raysut.

The ponds were fullfilled with birds. There were 120+ Grey Herons roosting in the roocky river bed, beyond the ponds. Along with them there were some Western Cattle Egrets, 1 Little Egret, some Western Reef Egrets (both white and dark forms) and 1 Intermediate Egret. The ponds were hosting Common, Wood & Green Sandpipers but also Greenshanks, Common Redshanks, 3 Ruffs and some Temminck’s Stints. A wonderful Pheasant-tailed Jacana already developing the typical breeding long tail projection was really showy and allowed some record shots. Here we also had good views on the impressive Pearl Emperor (Charaxes varanes) female, a wonderful large butterfly that flew over our group!

Beyond the ponds, the massive flocks of White Storks and Grey Herons were, for sure, hiding something else so we started scouting them. 1 African Sacred Ibis was found, to turn into 3 individuals later in the day. Also 1 Glossy Ibis was discovered feeding in what we supposed was a tiny pond. Beyond the Herons and the Storks, 1 Greater White-fronted Goose was moving in the scattered rank vegetation.

Beyond this area a small estuary was concealling the stream and the sea. A fast scanning concluded some 1000s of waders but also 4 Western Ospreys and some Greater Spotted Eagles on the beach. We just decided to come closer abd have a good scanning.

The area was simply great. Thousands of waders were feeding in the mudbanks. Many Dunlins, tones of Little Stints but also Common Sandpipers, Common Ringed Plovers, Common Redshanks, Greenshanks, Bar-tailed Godwits and some Kentish Plovers of the witish local race. 4 Eurasian Oystercatchers were counted along with several Eurasian Whimbrels. Here, some Lesser Sand Plovers were seen but the most popular wader were the Terek’s Sandpipers moving around. We counted at least 23 of them, some of them doing their typical short runs in search of food. These birds are authentical runners!

The lower Raysut ponds were hosting a incredible variety of birds!

In the sea, flocks of Socotra Cormorants were moving up and down and we enjoyed a pair of their typical massive flocks. Greater Crested, Lesser Crested & Caspian Terns were all around but the most interesting were two Saunder’s Terns moving South along the coast in what it turned out to be the two only Saunder’s of the tour, a species we were expecting to be commoner.

The area was really interesting. Also for gulls. Here we had good views on Heughlin’s, Steppe Gulls and also Caspian Gulls. It was funny to go throught the flock of gull, with some unclear individuals and many other showing typical characters of any of the species. A solitary Palla’s Gull was also noted in the flock.

The bay also produced good views on Delphins. In fact we got two different species with a small party of Indo-Pacific Bottlenose Dolphins and at least 1 Indian-Ocean Humpback Dolphin moving close to them.

Pheasant-tailed Jacana (Hydrophaisanus chirurgus), one of the most celebrated birds around Salalah.

After such a wonderful morning we just had a break for lunch. After our break it was time to go up in the hills to look for a number of other species. Now the landscape changed a lot with mild hills covered by a carpet of small decidous trees, with the impressive Dhoffar mountains in the back.

Cinnamon-breasted Bunting (Emberiza tahapisi) enjoy huge densities in the Dhofar region. Image by Carles Oliver

Flocks of Rüppell’s Weavers jeweled the road as we were approaching the location. African Silverbills joined them. Few minutes later the whole group was enjoying wonderful views on Cinnamon-breasted Buntings and Abyssian White-Eyes. Many of them were coming to drink water in a small channel.
A short walk around was soon producing interesting birds including Palestine and Shinning Sunbirds as well as a lovely flock of African Silverbills. White-eyes were extremelly common , moving up in the canopies but also low in the branches, few inches from the ground. One of these flocks brought associated a lovely African Paradise Flycatcher, one of the most celebrated birds in the afternoon. In total, we counted up to 4 individuals, including one showing a full breeding tail in whitish colour!
The walk was being very productive, especially after 2 Blackstarts appeared really close to the path, delighting us with cracking views! The lower vegetation around was also promising so we went a bit out of the bigger trees to take a look. It proved to be a wonderful decision since we soon had 1 Arabian Warbler moving in one of the small trees. The bird showed nicely and its movements reminded us those of an Orphean Warbler. Right side by side from the Arabian Warbler we had another surprise since 1 Black-throated Tchagra pop up from the very dense vegetation to give us poor views. The bird was moving really low in the scrubland so a bit of wait was necessary until the bird decided to “jump” into the open for half a minute!


Abysssian White-ete (Zosterops abyssinicus), another common bird in bushland and forested areas.


Blackstart (Oenanthe melanura), another of the “African” specialities of the Dhofar region. Image by Carles Oliver

The locations was proving to be really productive and the landscape around was dominated by the impressive rock faces of the Dhoffar mountains. Here the cliffs were monitored by a good number of raptors. They were mainly Steppe Eagles but we could also see 3+ Eastern Imperial Eagles, 1-2 Greater Spotted Eagle and 1 Golden Eagle.

Arabian Warbler (Sylvia leucomelaena) showed really well despite the poor image.


African Paradise Flycatchers (Terpsiphone viridis) were not scarce but sometimes difficult to see, often moving associated with White-eyes flocks.


Black-crowned Tchagra (Tchagra senegalensis) appeared briefly in the low scrubland.

Before heading to our accommodation we still had a last spot to try to add something else but we only added 1 male Blue Rock Thrush and several Isabelline Wheatears along with a superb Greater Spotted Eagle overwatching the whole area from a pilon.

Day 6. This day we drove some miles North from Salalah to enjoy our sea trip in search of some of the specialities living in this part of the Indic Ocean. The small harbour from where we depart was full of Sooty Gulls, alowing really close views on this lovely species. Moreover, the harbour was also hosting several Heuglin’s Gulls and some Caspian & Steppe Gulls. Inmediatly after our small boat left the harbour we had the first surprise in the form of a flock of Black-crowned Black Herons roosting on the external deck boulders. There were not alone but joined by several Gulls, some Grey Heron and 2 Western Reef Egrets. As the boat passed by we had really good views on the Herons.

Sooty Gull (Ichthyaetus hemprichii) portrait in the harbour few momments before starting our offshore trip. Image by Carles Oliver

Once in the open sea we started a hard work to attrack the some sea birds. Soon, a number of Sooty Gulls were following the small boat. A few minutes later we had the first target appearing in the way of a small flock of 3 Persian Shearwaters flying above the waves. Unfortunately they appeared as not interested in our small boat and kept flying away. Encouraged after such a good start we kept going off shore. Flocks and flocks of Red-necked Phalaropes were all over on the extremelly plain sea and their pure white bodies were like tiny lighthouses in the deep blue sea.
We enjoyed several close views on them but take good photos on them proved to be more difficult than expected.

Flocks of Red-necked Phalaropes (Phalaropus lobatus) were moving in the sea offshore Dhofar region. Image by Carles Oliver

The boat trip was going well but even improved as the 2 Masked Boobies flew over our boat! Great views on a really celebrated bird that, unfortunately seemed to have no interest at all in the food we were offering them. We kept scanning and feeding for long, expecting to attrack a Jouanin’s Petrel, one of the top targets in the offshore trip, but we had no luck in this…
We enjoyed up to 14 Masked Boobies with some great views and a second flock of Persian Shearwaters passed by us but no signal of the Petrel. Midway in the sea trip we got excellent views on Indo-Pacific Bottlenose Dolphins and enjoy some great views on them while jumping in the waves and chasing tunas. A Green Sea Turtle was also a good addition to our list! It was a quite large one (about 1,5 metres) and it was in the surface only for few seconds…

Masked Booby (Sula dactylatra) was one of the most celebrated birds on our offshore trip.


Socotra Cormorants (Phalacrocorax nigrogularis) were moving in large flocks along the coast.


Heuglin’s Gull (Larus heuglini) in winter plomage during our offshore trip.


Indo-Pacific Bottlenose Dolphin during our offshore trip near Salalah. Image by Sergi Sales

Once back on the continent we just went for something to eat. Happy for the relative
good sights during the sea trip we just changed and went to the explore the highest area in the Dhoffar Mountains. A number of lanes go up in the slopes, allowing excellent birding all around. The way up produced excellent views on Long-billed Pipit, Blackstarts and Isabelline Shrikes.

This juvenile Eastern Imperial Eagle (Aquila heliaca) was one of the most iconical image of the tour to Oman. Image by Carles Oliver

Once in the high plateau we were lucky enough to enjoy a nice flock of Cinnamon-breasted Buntings, Long-billed Pipits and wonderful views on Singing Bush Larks. Beyond there, a male Arabian Wheatear Scanning the slopes inmediatly around we found a incredible flock of 20+ Yemen Serins feeding on the ground and showing wonderfully in a rocky area close to the road. We were amazed to have such a great views on this species, being this area the only one place in the world where it is possible to enjoy it!

Singing Bush Lark (Mirafra cantillans) offered lovely views on our exploration of Dhofar Mountains. Image by Carles Oliver


Tristam’s Starling (Onychognathus tristamii) is a scarce urban bird in Salalah and around. Image by Carles Oliver


The group enjoyed long views on a flock of the near-endemic Yemen Serin (Crithagra menachensis) in the Dhofar. Image by Carles Oliver


Female Arabian Wheatear (Oenanthe lugentoides) showing the orangy patch in the ear-coverts and the difusely barred breast. Image by Carles Oliver

Happy after such a good views on many key species we kept moving in the slopes. Inmediatly around a small village we found 1 Eastern Imperial Eagle on a wood pilon. The bird showed nicely and allowed really good shots! Up in the sky, raptor action was increasing. In less than 15 minutes we counted 7 Eurasian Griffons, 10+ Eastern Imperian Eagles, Steppes Eagles, 1 Short-toed Snake Eagle and 1 Bonelli’s Eagle!
Still, the most wanted Eagle was not showing…yet. In our way up we did also a short stop in a pond and got one of the surprises of the trip.

The impressive landscape up in the Dhofar Mountains. Image by Carles Oliver

After such a great found we decided a proper stop in a pond and scan around. Many Abyssian White-eyes were moving around and 2 Shinning Sunbirds delighted us with its incredible colours.
Our last stop that day brought us to a wild scarpment. It was really windy and foggy so we were expecting little that afternoon. Fan-tailed Ravens were moving all around the cliffs and the area around produced wonderful views on Tristam’s Starlings. The scanning around was producing little else and we were already considering to leave when an enormous black and white shape emerged from the fog to fly up in the cliff: it was a Verreaux Eagle! The bird was just playing with wind, moving up and down in the cliffside. Few seconds after a second Verreaux Eagle appeared as well from the fog and we all enjoyed wonderful views in what is one of the most espectacular eagles on Earth! The birds kept appearing and disappearing from the bog for at least 15 minutes, doing incredible acrobatical flights and even stopping in the cliffs for short!!

We got some impressive views on Verreaux’s Eagles (Aquila verreauxii) despite the intense fog! Images by Carles Oliver

Happy after such a successful afternoon we just headed back to Salalah, where a good last stop was waiting for us. Urban birding in Salalah can be really good so we went to one of its urban parks, close to our accommodation, to finish the day. Out of the common Laughing Doves, one of the first birds we got were to Plain Rock Martins resting in one of the buildings of the complex. They offered good views on a bird we could see in flight so far. Beyond the building a small lagoon offered really good views on a flock of Whiskered Terns and also a pair of Caspian Terns. Citrine Wagtails were quite common in the flooting vegetation and 1 Palestine Sunbird showed superbly in low rank vegetation. 2 Indian Pond Herons were also present, catching the afternoon light in a wonderful way. Passing over the lagoon by a small bridge, we explored a palm tree orchad. Here we got one of the main targets of the visit in the way of 2 Bruce’s Green Pigeons showing in a wondeful way, first in a wire, later on a tree while feeding on fruits. This was again a really celebrated bird for everybody in the group.

Bruce’s Green Pigeons (Treron waalia) on a feeding tree in Salalah. Image by Carles Oliver

We kept moving in the area. An open field beyond was hosting waves and waves of Yellow Wagtails, including some nice summer plomaged “feldegg” and “beehma” birds. 1 Isabelline Weathear was also really showy in the area, as it was a Graceful Prinia. The channel around is an interesting roosting place for waders and, at that time, tens of Common Sandpipers were concentrating in the area along with 15+ Greenshanks and several Green Sandpipers. Sun was starting to go down but before we left we still had another top target appearing in the way of 2 Spotted Thick-knees posing for us under one fot he small olive trees in the garden.

Pale Crag Martin (Ptynoprogne obsoleta) is much a urban bird in areas of Muscat and Salalah. Image by Sergi Sales


Citrine Wagtails (Motacilla citreola) were again a major attraction for the tour participants. Image by Carles Oliver


Spotted Thick-knees (Burhinus capensis) resting on an urban park in Salalah. Image by Carles Oliver

After such a great views we just came back to our hotel to enjoy another great buffet dinner.

Day 7. This day we had a very early start with a small tranfer back to the desert, were in a small oasis we were expecting to find Grey Hypocolius as well as other top target birds. After our transfer we enjoyed our packed breakfast while scanning around. Not long at all until we got the first good bird in the way of a gorgeous mal Nile Valley Sunbird just around our car. Not many time for photographs in this wonderful bird because 1 Grey Hypocolius just flew over us (!!) stopping about 200 metres away from us. We just moved on and after some searching in the area we got brief views on a wonderful male up in a palm tree! But was a brief view as the bird pop down and disappear. Spent some time around with little result out of more views on the male Nile Valley Sunbird, joined now by a female!

Nile Valley Sunbird (Hedydipna metallica) showed superbly, including this male singing and displaying. Image by Carles Oliver


Grey Hypocolius (Hypocolius ampelinus) female. A flock of 3 individuals were seen in our day in the desert. Image by Carles Oliver

We walked around hoping to have the Hypocolius appearing again but we got nothing but a pair of glimpses on 3 of them moving around. Blackstarts were singing around as the sun was getting higher.
Suddenly, a flock of birds appeared moving in the sky, Sandgrouses! A flock of 30 of them was moving in the distance, apparently moving down to drink water in a small pond beyond the vegetation. We just drove down the area, stopping in a decent distance to the pond. And then it came waves and waves of Sandgrouses, calling and flying extremelly fast around the pond. They were mainly Chestnut-bellied but also Spotted Sandgrouses were mixed with them.
First it was a flock of about 30. But then it came a second flock, and a third, and a fourth. Suddenly the sky look like full of them, with flocks coming in and out, landing, walking, flying fast from few inches to the ground or flying up in the sky while calling. This was propably one of the most remarcable momments of the tour. We estimated about 150 Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouses and 30+ Spotteds! In one the last flocks coming in we also got at least 1 Crowned Sandgrouse! It could not be better. Wrong. It could.
Right when all Sandgrouses were flying around with their noisy call, 2 Grey Hypocolious jumped on the wire just by our car, allowing some great views on them. ! female in particular stayed in the wire for about 5 minutes, allowing great images! We especially enjoyed the female, being there for some minutes while the male was only a little while…

Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouses (Pterocles exustus), the commonest Sandgrouse in Oman in our 2019 tour. Image by Carles Oliver

More and more flocks of Sandgrouses were coming down to drink water. Now not only in this corner of the oasis but also in many other areas around. So we moved a bit to try to get better views on the different flocks and, maybe, something different. But we were already at the end of the spectacle and we only got closer views on a small flock of Chesnut-bellied Sandgrouses walking right in the tarmac. They were there for a pair of minutes and after that they flew off. Very little movement of Sandgrouses were left already…2 Blackstarts were singing in nearby cliffs. Got a nice view on them before heading back to Salalah.

Back in the coast we decided to spend some time in ponds in Raysut. There we were compensated with great views in a big flock of Abdim’s Stork, a species that we had only in flight until that moment. But in the ponds we had a flock of 200+ having a bath or simply resting in the gravel shore. Along with them, a good number of waders including several Temminck’s Stints and some Little Stints. Little Ringed Plover, Greenshanks and Common Sandpipers were also there.

Abdim’s Storks (Ciconia abdimii) at Raysut ponds. Up to 200 were seen! Image by Carles Oliver

After an early lunch we just got back to the hills. This time we went a bit inside the fabulous decidous forests covering much of Dhoffar Mountains Eastern slopes. Here we enjoyed with several flocks of Abyssinian White-eyes and some African Paradise Flycatchers. A pool in the forested areas produced good views on a male Shikra posted in the shade, waiting for potential preys to come. The trees around were hosting good numbers of Cinnamon-breasted Buntings, Blacktarts but also 1 Siberian Chiffchaff that was calling in the canopies, making much easier to identify the bird. A small walk was done in nearby meadow, where we had a Red-throated Pipit flying over us.

This day we waited until dusk, and then we were to explore an interesting point for Arabian Scops Owl. We just waited until dark and after some minutes we got a wonderful Arabian Scops Owl calling really close to us. It was a question of minutes to get excellent views on the bird, and with the help of special lights we got incredible shots in the owl!

Arabian Scops Owl (Otus pamelae) gave us excellent views on our nocturnal trip around Salalah. Image by Carles Oliver

Happy after such a nice views we came back to the hotel for some dinner and rest.

Day 8. That sunny morning we went to try a different place for Arabian Golden-winged Hawfinch. In our way to the little pond were the birds use to come to drink we had a stop as 2 Arabian Partridges were standing by the road in lovely morning sun. Once in the pond, good numbers of Cinnamon-breasted Buntings and African Silverbills were attending the water. We decided to wait a bit. 1 male Namaqua Dove passed by the pond at the same time that a Greater Spotted Eagle was flying over. Few more minutes of waiting and a female Shikra appeared up in the sky, offering good views.We kept scanning around the ponds, were some flocks of Abyssinian White-eyes were also coming. Then, something moved fast around one of the ponds, and a fast scanning produced a Grey-headed Kingfisher! This was a surprising sight since this species is suposed to arrive in Oman during early April (!!). We anyway enjoyed very much this really unexpected bird as was flying around the pond, chasing dragonflies in a really effective way! The bird showed really well for up to 20 minutes, until a big herd of cattle came to drink water.

Grey-headed Kingfisher (Halcyon leucocephala) was an unexpected goodie in our tour. Image by Carles Oliver


African Silverbills (Euodice cantans) came to drink water in a pond at the Dhofar Mountains foothills. Image by Carles Oliver

It was already quite and it was clear that Hawfinches were not coming to drink water, so we decided to move, missing this wonderful bird. This day we were facing a transfer North but before that we were still having some time to check the Salalah farms.
We checked s two of them before driving North. In our first location we got Clamorous Reed Warbler and up to 5 Graceful Prinias. The grasslands were hosting several Singing Bush Larks that were singing and performing around. Up in the sky, 4 Forbes-Whatson Swifts passed over us, offering good views in both the general colour and the white spot in the throat. Out of this, the grasslands were poor in birds so we decided to move to a second farm. A drive around this second place produced Hoopoe, Green & Wood Sandpipers and the only one Yellow-billed Kite of the trip. Still, the area was poor again in birds so we decided to leave the area and start moving North.

Southern Grey Shrike (Lanius meridionalis aucheri), a resident shrike in Omani deserts. Image by Carles Oliver

In our way North we did one stop midway. A short walk in the desert produced 1 Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse, 2 Black-crowned Sparrow-lark and 5+ Greater Hoopoe Larks chasing each other and doing acrobatical flights in a lovely afternoon light. After this good sight we just drive until Duqm, arriving a bit after sunset.

Day 9. This day we ha dan early breakfast and left North to explore the …… Bay. This is huge estuary concentrating hundreds of thousands of waders. When did arrive tide was low and birds very distant. Still, we had good views on several Bar-tailed Godwits, Kentish Plovers, Dunlins, Grey Plovers, Eurasian Curlews and Lesser Sand Plovers. Flocks of Greater Flamingoes were roosting in the water, just few inches inside the Ocean. There were several Caspian Terns flying up and down the area and there were flocks of Sanderlings all along the shore.

Despite this, and after 45 minutes of scanning, we were uncapable to connect with our main target in this point, the Great Knot. So, we finally moved some miles North to keep scanning the estuary but from the Northern side. We drove some 40 minutes scan around the deck where some ferries are connecting with Marisah Island.

Impressive flocks like this of Sooty Gulls but also Steppe & Heuglin’s Gulls were a common view on the estuary around in front of Marisah Island.


Flocks of Crab Plovers (Dromas ardeola) were moving in the inter mareal plateau along with several other waders.

In the beaches around there were literally thousands and thousands of Sooty Gulls. Along with them, huge flocks of Slender-billed Gulls were also a good views. Probably more than 7000 Slender-billeds and number even higher of Sooty Gulls! This wonderful espectacled were complemented by 100s of Caspian and Heuglin’s, being Steppe Gulls the less numerous in the area. A scan along the bridge giving access to the ferries produced a small flock of Common Terns, and not far away from them our only one White-cheeked Tern of the trip! Once in the deck we also enjoyed excellent views on Greater Crested Terns. Back in the mainland it was time for the tide to go down once more. Loads of waders came in. And along with the most common species we had wonderful views in 50+ Crab Plovers feeding in the shore and moving along with Bar-tailed Godwits. They were a bit distant but still this was definately one of the images of the tour for some of the tour participants and for sure a wonderful way to end the trip!

Brown-necked Raven (Corvus ruficollis) were showing really well in our way back to Muscat. Image by Carles Oliver


The best views on Black-crowned Sparrow-Larks (Eremopterix nigriceps) came right before heading back to Muscat. Image by Carles Oliver

In our way out of the area we still had a final stop since a really close Brown-necked Raven was offering nice views. Close by, a lovely Black-crowned Sparrow-lark gave us the best views on the trip, joined by a small flock of Tawny Pipits! These were the very last birds of the trip. After this we just drove back to Muscat for a nocturnal flight back home after a wonderful tour in Oman!

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The Gambia Tour January 2019 Trip Report

Dates: 15th to 22nd January, 2019

Tour participants: 7

Seen bird species: 243

Day 1. We wake up on 16th January at our accommodation by the Gambian coastline. We just arrived the day before in an evening flight from Barcelona, where the tour participants had being assembling during the day from different countries.
Our first morning in The Gambia, and as the whole tour, was sunny and calm so we headed to the restaurant of the hotel for a good breakfast. While enjoying the coffee, we also had firsts contacts with some common birds in the area.
Yellow-billed Kites were ovicous in the sky along with Pied Crows. Speckled Pigeons were spotted in the roofs around and some Hooded Vultures were overflying the hotel grounds. Western Cattle Egrets were taking an eye to our tables and at some point they looked like seriously considerin to join us for breakfast… Flocks of Village Weavers were passing along with some Purple Glossy Starlings. The surprise of the morning came along with our second coffee in the form of 3 Royal Terns. A good surprise to get in the terrace of the hotel.

Egyptian Plover (Pluvianus aegyptius) was the most celebrated of all targets appearing in the tour. Image: Philippe Marchessou

After breakfast we moved to the nearby Kotu Bridge. This is one of the main spots in coastal Gambia as it combines mangroves nicely preserved with paddy fields and scrubs. From the bridge we easily went on some common species: Pied Kingfishers were all around along with Long-tailed Cormorants and Pink-backed Pelicans. Several Western Reef Egrets were fishing in the shores along with some Squacco & Grey Herons and a single Great White Egret. In the muddy areas we spotted a flock of 20+ Common Ringed Plovers and 4 Little Ringed Plovers. Spur-winged Plovers were all over, calling and chasing each other. Around the bridge we found a obliging Broad-billed Roller and everybody in the group enjoyed excellent views in wonderful morning light. In the bush around we also had good views on the active Beautiful Sunbirds, including 2 wonderful mails, few inmature males and several female type birds. A proper scanning in the mangroves rapidly produced 1 Striated Heron down the river, joined by 1 Squacco and some wonderful Black Herons, some of them in the darkest area of the river banks.
Up in the sky there were Hooded Vultures and Yellow-billed Kites along with African Palm Swifts. A fast scanning produced also 2 Mottled Spinetails, a rather scarce bird in the area, and some Wire-tailed Swallows that happenned to come to the bridge, where they came down to stop in the wires around.
The bush land around the bridge kept producing good birds: Blackcap Babblers were seen flying over and 2 Long-tailed Glossy Starlings showed in glorious morning light. A pair of minutes after 1 Golden-tailed Woodpecker came out showing in some nearby branches. This was a quite celebrated bird as it was the first important target in the trip to appear. But the bird festival was not out, of course.

Giant Kingfisher (Megaceryle maxima) is a massive kingfisher not always linked to water coursers. Image by tour participant Philippe Marchessou

A further scanning in the mangroves revealed 30+ Senegal Thick-knees roosting in the shade. Also 2 Malachite Kingfishers were pointed out. It was coming up a wonderful morning and was only to improve as the scanning from the bridge revealed 1 male Subalpine Warbler and close views on African Darter. One of the tour participants listened a Eurasian Reed Warbler so we came to try to have good views in the bird. This was a nice decision as we got the Reed Warbler but also a showy Northern Puffback male scattering inside the bush and finally crossing the small road with a short flight. Lovely views.
We started to scan beyond but before we even got any bird with the scope we had 2 Giant Kingfishers flying over our heads and heading the scrubs beyond the bridge. These massive Kingfishers can be difficult to spot but we were lucky enough to enjoy them for long, as one of the individuals came back to one of the wires of the bridge for a while. At this time we also got 2 stunning Blue-breasted Kingfishers coming out of the mangroves to stop in a low post inside the water, just by the bridge.
Scanning up the river we still got excellent views on Western Grey Plantain-Eater and African Grey Hornbills.
It was time to move and enjoy a walk in the paddy fields but we were again retained in the bridge. This time was a second male Subalpine Warbler showing well in the ranked vegetation and a small group of Red-chested Swallows that arrived to feed around.

This Broad-billed Roller (Eurystomus glaucurus) was the first thw group enjoyed as step down from the van. Image by Carles Oliver

We finally got to move from the bridge and started a short walk around. We inmediatly connected with the first of many Yellow-billed Shrikes while Senegal Coucals seemed to be common around. The followed a thin path getting inside rice fields and crossing a number of small marshy areas. Squacco Heron, Sedge Warbler, Reed Warbler, Yellow Wagtail and Wood Sandpiper we all seen at this point. The place is known as a good spot for Little Bittern. Unfortunately we were uncapable to enjoy any of them. Flocks of Bronze Manninkins were flying around and we soon found ourselves enyoing Little Bee-eaters. They offered wonderful views when stopped in the low branches, sometimes few inches from the ground. The dense scrubland around is good for a variety of birds and we enjoyed more Manninkins, Red-billed Firechin, 2 Little Weavers, 1 Black-headed Weaver building a nest and 1 male Splendid Sunbird. A Common Whitethroat female came out of the dense vegetation and offered good but short views to most tour participants.

Blue-breasted Kingfisher (Halcyon malimbica) -below- and Western Reef Egret (Egretta gularis) are two main targets for anyone visiting The Gambia. Images by tour leader Carles Oliver

Up in the air there were small parties of African Palm Swifts. The air was starting to be worm so more birds of prey were moving. They were all Hooded Vulture, Yellow-billed Kites and 1-2 Black Kites but we also got a Red-necked Falcon that gentlenly perched on the top of a tree, allowing excellent views in the scope. In our way back to the main road  2 African Spoonbills showed up in the sky.

Now we headed to a nearby pond while surrounded by Yellow-billed Shrikes, Senegal Coucals and Blue-checkeed Bee-eaters. Soon after a bright blue flash came from a palm tree and turned out in being a Blue-bellied Roller. This bird was particularly celebrated by the group and we kept enjoying it for some minutes. Belong the palm tree there were some scrubs and here we found out up to 4 Tawny-flanked Prinias that also performed really well.

We just kept going, enjoying Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters and Beautiful Sunbirds. Our next stop was a little pond near Kotu Bridge but before arriving we found a Lizzard Buzzard perched in our way. 2 African Pied Hornbills were trying to disturb it from that place, and they got it! The pond itself restulted a bit disapointed: 3-4 African Jacanas were in the shore but, out of this, we only got Greenshanks, Green Sandpiper and 2 Eurasian Moorhens (the only ones in the tour).

A beautiful dialogue was set up between Lizzard Buzzard (Kaupifalco monogrammicus) and 2 African Pied Hornbills (Tockus fasciatus) as the Hornbills were concentrated in disturbing the small raptors. They succeed. Images by tour participant Philippe Marchessou

Our way back was equally as productive as the way in. A Green Wood-Hopooe appeared in the wire around, allowing some excellent shots. Along with this bird we got a flock of 4 White-billed Buffalo-Weavers. But the most celebrated bird at this point was a pair of Pearl-spotted Owlets found by the path. These small owls, with close relatives in both North America and Europe, were one of the main attractions of the day! Around them, several Senegal Coucals were visible, Blue-bellied Rollers were still up in the palm trees and a delicate Fork-tailed Drongo was scanning the sky from a bush. But probably the most interesting bird of the way back was a lovely Grey-backed Camaroptera showing in excellent way really low in a bush and also moving on the ground while collecting nesting material. All members in the group enjoyed very much (as I did myself) with this wonderful bird and such a good views!

Pearl-spotted Owlet (Glaucidium perlatum) was the first of many species of owls appearing in the tour! Image by tour leader Carles Oliver

Green Wood-hoopoe (Phoeniculus purpureus) is common in a palm trees groves and semi-arid countryside. Image by tour participant Philippe Marchessou.

Back in Toku Bridge we just went to the nearby water point, kept by the Gambian Bird Association staff. This tiny water pond attracks good numbers of birds and it is a really productive. In 15 minutes of wait in the shade we got Vinaceous Dove, Red-chekeed Cordon-bleu, Red-billed Firefinch, and Northern Grey Sparrow. The waiting there was even more productive as we got an Isabelline (formerly Western Olivaceous) Warbler moving in a small tree inmediatly above the pond and a Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird up in a kind of fig tree.

All the group was delighted after such a wonderful morning! But it was lunch time so we moved into a nearby restaurant by the beach. Here we enjoyed some good food and had some rest from midday heat while scanning the sea. The sea watching was more or less productive as we got some Sandwich Terns moving up and down in the coast and 2+ Pomarine Skuas chasing terns far offshore. When about to leave we got the first Lesser Crested Tern of the tour perched on a floating balloon and everybody got nice views in the scope.

One of the 3 males Greater Painted Snipes (Rostratula benghalensis) roosting in the mangroves near Toku Bridge. A rather unexpected sight. Image by tour leader Carles Oliver

After our lunch we just headed to a new pond. The walk produced first views on the spectaculars Yellow-crowned Gonolek and Red-bellied Paradise Flycatchers along with Village Weavers and African Thrush skulking on the ground. Here we also got good views on a quite remarcable Nile Monitor feeding on some rubbish in the ground. At the pond itself, we scanned hard looking for our main target and we soon could enjoy good views on 3 male Greater Painted Snipes in the scope! They were really hard to see but we were lucky enough as one of them just moved a bit and we catched this movement. A severe scanning of the bank finally produced the three birds. At the same pond we also had Wood Sandpiper and Greenshank.

Little Bee-eaters (Merops pusillus) are a common view in coastal The Gambia. Image by Philippe Marchessou.

Just happy after such a good views on one of the main targets of the trip, we just came back to the small water point we visited earlier in the day. A different set of species were seen there: Red-cheeked Cordon-bleu, Red-billed Firefinches, Yellow-fronted Canary but also White-crowned Robin Chat! A final walk into the palm trees groves produced excellent views on Beautiful Sunbirds as well as the first sight on Senegal Parrot, a wonderful way to end the day.

Senegal Parrots (Poicephalus senegalus) are surprisingly noisy, even for a Parrot. Image by Carles Oliver

After such a great day we just came back to our accommodation for a great dinner and wonderful rest!

Day 2. This day we just headed North from our accommodation, arriving as far as the Northern border with Senegal. Our fist stop was at Kartong Mining Area. This is a former grave mining place, now closed and hosting a great birdlife. Just arrived we started enjoying good birds. Flocks of Piapiacs and Long-tailed Glossy Starlings seemed to be everywhere around, joined by Purple Glossy Starlings. Here we also got or first group of Callythrix Monkeys, a recent split from Grey Monkey. A first scanning around produced up to 3 Senegal Coucals, a common view in this location, as well as several Western Grey Plantain-eaters, Beautiful Sunbirds and 1 stunning Abyssian Roller perched on a fence. A White Wagtail passed by and stoped close by our van. This was moment that a Rufous-crowned Roller just punched the Abyssian Roller from its post! A walk around the area produced Tawny-flanked Prinia but also a Fine-spotted Woodpecker, both Greater and Lesser Blue-eared Glossy Starlings, Isabelline Warbler, 2 Zitting Cisticolas, 2 Black-rumped Waxbills and Woodchat Shrike. The water level in the whole area was really low and bird activity, limited.

You simply cannot get tired of Beautiful Sunbirds (Cinnyris pulchellus). Image by Carles Oliver

Scanning a second pond we had some African Jacanas, Malachite Kingfisher and 1 African Swamphen (the only one of the tour!) feeding out of the vegetation in a muddy area. Happy with this nice spot we all kept scanning around while taking a look to the skyes. It was already 10:30 and quite warm so it was a nice moment for raptors to move. As always, several Yellow-billed Kites and Hooded Vultures were seen soaring or circling in the sky but a proper scanning of the tree line in the distance revealed a mínimum of 3 Palm-nut Vultures, all of them wonderful adults.

This is a very special bird of prey spending most of the time in forest and palm-tree areas, where they look for palm-nut fruits, the base of their diet. They also scavenger, especially along water bodies and eventually predate on a long list of small animals, from invertebrates to young birds.

Senegal Coucal (Centropus senegalensis) -below- and Eastern Grey Plantain-Eater (Crinifer piscator) performed really well in morning light at Kartong marshes. Images by Carles Oliver

The views on the bird were great, although a bit distant. We also enjoyed two of them flying around and showing their wonderful plumage. While enjoying this raptors I listened both Black-crowned Tchagra and Sulphur-breasted Bush-Shrike singing from the far tall thickets, about 300 metres away. Despite our efforts to locate these birds, it was impossible to find out. Our effort was conpensated by a Grey Kestrel that kindly came to stop in a nearby palm tree. All the group enjoyed great views on this bird!

We still spent some time scanning a pair more of pools but with really poor results so we decided to move on and take a look to the nearby beach in search of some major targets. Once parked by the beach we all walked down to the shore, ready for a shortwalk along the beach. A first scanning easily produced several Sanderlings, 2 Eurasian Whimbrel, Ruddy Turnstones and 1 Grey Plover. The sky was full of terns moving up and down. As we walked North it was easy to find out Sancwich’s & Caspian Terns. Small flocks of Grey-headed Gulls were visible roosting on small rocks in the ocean or flying overs. We were fast in locate the first of many Lesser Crested Terns as well as several Caspians. We kept moving North with the wonderful blue of the sky and ocean as an unforgettable frame until we arrived to an area where the beach comes wider. A small scanning easily reveleaded 1 adult White-fronted Plover along with 3 Kentish Plovers. We all enjoyed great views on the tiny plover while moving on the beach. Again scanning the sea we got a female Western Marsh Harrier and the first small flock of Royal Terns moving along with other terns. We counted not less than 17 of them! A good number of birds where moving North in the bay. A Little Tern flying along with some Sandwich’s and Caspians. About 45 Pink-backed Pelicans where resting on the beach and the sea and then is when one of the local bird guides came to us to advice us on a group of Bee-eaters flying above the scrubland beyond the beach.

Eurasian Whimbrel (Numenius phaeopus) is a common overwintering bird in coastal The Gambia. Image by Philippe Marchessou

I think I was not the only one to missunderstand “Common Bee-eater” so I thought they were having a small flock of European Bee-eaters. Good spot but I personally kept concentrated in a far flock of gulls including some Audouin’s Gulls and other beauties. The surprise turned out when the “Common Bee-eaters” turned on to be Northern Carmine Bee-eaters so I fastly adviced the guys and moved inside the bushland. Everybody followed us and all the group was enjoying these wonderful birds in a pair of minutes. There were 5 of them, catching insects with fast flights from the thin branches of a 4 metres tall dead tree, A small partie of Blue-checkeed Bee-eaters were moving alongside and allowed excellent comparatives of such incredible species.

A gorgeous flock of Northern Carmine Bee-eaters (Merops nubicus) showed really well during our tour. Image by Carles Oliver

Structural differences between Northern Carmine Bee-eater (left) and Blue-checkeed Bee-eater (Merops persicus) are evident in this imatge. Image by Carles Oliver

Photographers were specially delighted with the views on these species of Bee-eaters and we spend enough time to scan around in a proper way. A good number of Pink-backed Pelicans were resting on the beach and we had good views on them and also a in some Hooded Vultures nearby. A Common Sanpiper, Eurasian Whimbrels and 2 Grey Plovers were around in the small ponds of the tiny estuary but probably the best bird were a pair of Senegal Eremomela moving quite fast in the dense vegetation.

After such as good spot it was time to head back to our van. It was already quite hot and the flock of gulls was not any more in the beach. Still, the walk back provided us with really good views on a juvenile White-fronted Plover and on a small flock of Mosque Swallows that were chasing insects above the scrubs.

White-fronted Plover (Charadrius marginatus) is a scarce coastal Plover in West Africa. Image by Carles Oliver

Once arrived by our we still had time to enjoy a good refreshment. Natural orange juice or some soda before going to our restaurant for lunch! But even in this resting time we got our small piece of good bird since 1 Tawny Eagle was spotted at the beach. Unfortunably the bird just flew off but we still had good views on the bird flying away from us. It turned to be the only one of this species along the trip… Amazed after this lucky encounteer we just finish our drinks and drove for about 20 minutes until a small and lovely restaurant by the river that works as Southern Gambian border. Here we enjoyed the best fish (and probably the best meal) of the trip while having some good birds. At the opposite bank of the river was Senegal so those (me included) working on list per countries were delighted with this!

So, in the Senegalese side of the river we enjoyed 2 Bar-tailed Godwits that were also new for the trip. There were several Pied Kingfishers, Western Reef Egrets, Great White Egrets and 1 Eurasian Oystercatcher (the only one of the trip!). A pair of other good surprises appeared as we spotted 1 Great White Pelican and a really distant Goliath Heron (this one in the Gambian side) walking along the shore.

Western Ospreys were extremelly active at the site and we had several wonderful views in two adults performing and calling around. After lunch we just sat by the river, in a good shade and scan around. 1 Slender-billed Gull appeared in the river (not sure what side) and a small flock of Gull-billed Terns were a non-top show up and down the river. Also Common Ringed Plovers, Spur-winged Plovers and the closest views on an Eurasian Whimbrel I have ever had! From were I was I could listen a call up the trees, behind our position so I went for a small walk and found 1 Isabelline Warbler (formerly Western Olivaceous Warbler) moving up in the riverside vegetation. A second bird moved along with and after some minutes the bird was finally showing well; it was a Brown Sunbird! A fast call and the whole group joined to have an excellent sight on the bird preening and standing for long. And then we realised there were two Brown Sunbirds and not only one.

As most Eremomelas, Senegal Eremomela (Eremomela pusilla) were moving in small parties. Image by Carles Oliver

We left the area really happy after such a good combination of good birds and excellent food. Our next stop was in Tanji Beach. Here we decicated a good walk around the coastal scrub looking for Four-banded Sandgrouses. Unfortunately and despite our efforts we could not find any of them… Still, the area was really rich in birdlife. Senegal Eremomelas looked like being everywhere, including a good flock of 11+ moving in the scrubs. Common Nightingales were calling in the dense thickets but we never got any view on them. One of the first birds in the area was our first Violet Turaco of the trip, that kept moving agaisnt the sun all the time! Black-billed Wood-Doves were also common and got several of them being flushed while looking for Sandgrouses. In the middle of our search a fig tree kept being full of birds, including two wonderful Bearded Barbets moving along with Common Bulbuls (local race called now Upper Guinea Bulbul). It is always a pleasure to enjoy such a wonderful birds!

The wonderful Bearded Barbet (Lybius dubius) occurs in a variety of habitat in The Gambia. Image by tour leader Carles Oliver

The area was also rich in finches, allowing excellent views on Red-billed Firefinches but also in Red-cheeked Cordon-bleu and Orange-cheeked Waxbills. A mixed flock of both species along with Bronze Manninquins was one of the hits of this afternoon. Back to the van we just drove back to the esturary were we scanned the flock of gulls looking for something special. Unfortunately we only got a pair of Black-headed Gull amongst several Grey-headeds’. It was a bit late in the afternoon and some fishermen were coming back to the beach. The Tanji fish market was waiting for them and the treasures they were bringing from the Ocean. It was an excellent decision because we enjoyed very much with the activity and the colours of the fish market but also because many gulls were attackted to the fish market, including 2+ Kept Gulls. We had really good views on the birds and a good comparative with a 1st winter Lesser Black-backed Gull. Well, don’t forget we got our first flock of House Sparrow of the trip!!!

Red-billed Firefinch (Lagonosticta senegala) is the commonest finch in The Gambia. Image by Carles Oliver

The Tanji fish market is a wonderful way to understand how coastal human comunities live in West Africa. Image by Carles Oliver

Happy with this rather last minute addings we came back to our hotel for a good rest and dinner.

Day 3. This day we were going the explore inland Gambia. Despite we didn’t check out of our coastal hotel we were not coming back to sleep there but going to Tendaba Camp, probably the best option to explore inland Gambia while avoiding long transfers. Well, the planning of the day was a bit difficult. Due to the drought most of the Egyptian Plovers were already back far inland or in Senegal but we were still having chances in a small pond at the Northern bank of the country. So we left our accommodation and headed to the main ferry crossing the Gambia River near Banjul. Unfortunately that day it was a meeting between Senegalese and Gambian PM so the ferry was overbooked! The result of this was a long, long wait first to get the tickets and then to cross River Gambia.

In our way to the ferry we had far away views on a flock of Greater Flamingoes and we passed by one of the only 2 Black-headed Herons of the tour.

During our wait we enjoyed views on some Cape (Kept) Gulls in the decks along with absolutely wonderful views on Pomarine Skuas (at least 11 of them!!!) chasing gulls and terns (mostly Lesser Crested Terns) by the beach, many times passing over the fishermen in the beach itself. We enjoyed very much these views but probably not enough to forget about the four hours long wait… To see these Skuas chasing all those terns and stopping right by the beach or on the sea was one of the most unexpected sights for many of our clients, and very appreciated!

Once at the Northern bank we drove up the river and after some miles we did our first stop. The first Dark-Chanting Goshawk was up in a pylon so enough reason to stop and take a look. At the same place we had some Namaqua Doves flying around, a common view in Tendaba area. Another road stop allowed us to connect with the first 4 Black-headed Lapwings of the trip. We kept driving a bit more and got “typical” road birding such as Brown Snake Eagle and Gabar Goshawk.

Dark Chanting Goshawk (Melierax metabates) during our exploration in Gambian Northern Bank. Image by Carles Oliver

A fast stop at Kaur produced flocks of thousands of Red-billed Queleas flying into the reeds that were dramatically chased by a Lanner Falcon. Squacco Heron, Wood Sandpiper and Pied Kingfisher were also showing nicely. Soaring above the reeds and the floodplains we also got 2 Montagu’s Harriers (juvenile and male) and 1 Western Marsh Harrier. Before our main destination we still had another road stop, this time for 4 Black-headed Lapwings posing by the road.

We finally arrived to the small pond where we were specting to have our target. We all jumped out of the car and inmediatly were enjoyed walk-away views on 1 Egyptian Plover!!! It was worth the extra effort, after all! The bird was moving in the shore along with other waders (Common Sandpiper, Spur-winged Plover, Green Sandpiper) and was extremelly tame, allowing all member in the group to enjoy suberp views and not worst images. It was also incredible to see the behaviour of the bird, a mixture between a Plover and a Stone Curlew…

Egyptian Plover (Pluvianus aegyptius) cooperated to get a wonderful series of shots! Images by Carles Oliver


The pond itself was really rich in birdlife. While we were approaching the Plover we had 2 Pale Flycatchers moving low in the rank vegetation. A really short walk around allowed some excellent and unexpected specialities. 1 Brown Snake Eagle showed really well and the dead branched os a pair of trees were a true magnet for a good number of species. 2 Bearded Barbets were showing well, promptly replaced by 2 African Collared Doves! The largest tree was the most interesting small birds (mostly finches) were all the time moving around. A small group of 10+ Cut-throat Finches was moving around, also Red-billed Queleas and Red-billed Firefinches. 3 Exclamatory Paradise Whydahs showed up in the trees, 2 of them showing full lenght tails!! This was a very celebrated bird in the group. Finches were coming and going. A flock of 3 Northern Grey Sparrows came in but something smaller, rather yellowish appeared along with them; it was a female Sudan Golden Sparrow!! Wow, this was quite unexpected and an excellent bird to see, really! Next flock came in, this time lovely Namaquas Doves that were moved by 2 Long-tailed Glossy Starlings. It took a pair of minutes the finches to came back, this time more Cut-throat Finches than before but this time along with 3 White-backed Seedeaters.

Bearded Barbet (Lybius dubius) was one of the many species enjoyed at the tiny pond where the Egyptian Plover was. Image by tour leader Carles Oliver

This was a great spot and I’m just looking forward coming back there next year! But it was time to move. Time to go back to the Southern bank of Gambia. This time the ferry near Tendaba was fast and still allowed us a final stop in the savannah before going to our accommodation. Dark-Chanting Goshawk was showing again superbly so we did a random stop, trying to find something else. I we did it. Nearby it was a small flock of 3 African Wattled Lapwings moving in the semi-arid contryside. Not easy to see and took us some time until everybody in the group enjoyed good views on them. Before going back to our van, 2 Bruce Green Pigeons flew over allowing fast but intense views on these magnificient birds.

Vinaceous Dove (Streptopelia vinacea) -left- and male Namaqua Dove (Oena capensis) in a lovely comparative. Image by Carles Oliver

By the time we arrived to Tendaba it was almost dark but we were happy after enjoying excellent views on the Egyptian Plover and other great birds!

Day 4. Early morning start this time to enjoy the mangroves by Tendaba Camp. The mangroves are part of the large Kiang National Park. Here we enjoyed wonderful views on Western Reef Egret, Striolated Heron, Blue-breasted Kingfisher, African Fish Eagle, African Cormorant (lucida race of Great Cormorant), White-throated Bee-eaters, Wahlberg’s Eagle, Collared Sunbird, hundreds of African Darters and the only one Purple Heron of the trip. The boat trip goes in a laberinth of channels penetrating in the mangroves and it is wonderful way to explore such a incredible habitat.

The group enjoying the mangroves at Kiang National Park. Image by Carles Oliver

A quite hard scan was necessary to discover some of the White-backed Night Herons roosting in the mangroves but after some minutes everybody in the little boat got great views and some shots in the birds. We counted 4 birds in different spots, a number quite low if comparin with other times. Soon before living the mangroves we listened 1 African Blue Flycatcher so we stopped, scanned trying to find out the bird. Unfortunately it was no way and better views on the bird were relicted to a flash of a shadow moving up in the canopy. Back to the river we experienced how strong the wind was. The river at this point is about 1 quilometer wide so it can take some time to cross. It was quite hot and a pair of waves brought a kind of not very wellcome refreshment to some of the tour participants. Fortunalety was only a pair of times and we came back fast to Tendaba, where went to enjoy a walk around.

White-backed Night Heron (Gorsachius leuconotus) showed well despite being really deep inside the mangroves. Image by Carles Oliver

African Darter (Anhinga rufa) is a common view at Kiang National Park. Image by Carles Oliver

The hill beyond Tendaba Camp can be quite good for birding. Despite being quite windy we still had lovely views on Abyssinian Roller, Pygmy Sunbird (male and female), Beautiful Sunbird and European Bee-eaters. A pond equiped with a small hide provided excellent views on both Namaqua Doves and several Black-billeds Wood-Doves. Here we also had Red-billed Queleas, Northern Red Bishop, Black-rumped Waxbills, Red-chekeed Cordon-Bleus, 2 Bush Petronias and Northern Grey Sparrows.

Pygmy Sunbird (Hedydidna platura) ranks among one of the most espectacular Sunbirds in The Gambia. Image by tour leader Carles Oliver

It was quite midday and time to move on. Our next stop was the famous Raptor Bridge, where we stopped for a pic-nic. Here we enjoyed the best raptor action of the trip. Just arrived we had a good troop of Hooded Vultures and Yellow-billed Kites moving over. Also 4+ Rüppell’s Vultures, 10+ White-backed Vultures and 2 Eurasian Griffons were flying over. 3 African Harrier Hawks were also well visible, including 1 juvenile. One pair of Grasshoper Buzzards was also appearing two or three times in the sky. The tree that was offering us its shade had 1 Isabelline Warbler and close to the bridge it was also 1 Black-headed Heron, Squacco Heron, Intermediate Egret and 1 White Stork (!). White Stork is a commonview on passage but really scarce in winter time in The Gambia so always a really good bird to see!! We kept scanning for raptors. Our efforts were compensated with a Wahlberg’s Eagle showing well as well as with 1 Palm-nut Vulture cincling along with White-backeds’.

Palm-nut Vulture (Gypohierax angolensis) is one of many targets of the trip. We enjoyed several views on the bird. Image by Carles Oliver

After our canned pícnic we moved to our last stop of the day, to visit a small patch of untouched native forest. The walk around was really good and produced good views on Swallow-tailed Bee-eaters, a juvenile Greater Honeyguide, Fine-spotted Woodpecker, ruff views on Double-spurred Francolin (one of our client got moret han ruff views), Blue-spotted Wood-Doves, Western Bonelli’s Warbler and wonderful Green-headed Sunbirds attending a small pond.

Green-headed Sunbird (Cyanomitra verticalis) is a scarce resident in a gallery forest and other habitats. Image by Carles Oliver

But these wonderful birds were not the real reason of our visit. When arrived a local guide was waiting for us. The first bird he showed us was a pair of Greyish Eagle Owl roosting low in a tree. 5 minutes more of walk were mandatory to arrive to our next target, and we got excellent views. Both female and male Standard-winged Nightjars gave us amazing views, the male showing the penants in the wings…Unforgettable! Last stop, deep in the forest, allowed us to enjoy 1 African Wood Owl up in the trees. Wow, a think these were the best 90 minutes of the tour for some of our clients!!

Greyish Eagle Owl (Bubo cinerascens) at its roosting place. Image by tour leader Carles Oliver


Standard-winged Nightjar (Macrodipteryx longipennis) female (above) and male (below) was a nice and unexpected finding. Please pair attention in the male wing projections! Images by Carles Oliver

African Wood Owl (Strix woodfordii) was surprinsigly hard to find up in the gallery forest canopy! Image by Carles Oliver

After this wonderful last stop we just headed back to our hotel, where we had a wonderful extra long shower and also extra long dinner!

Day 5. In a new sunny and lovely day we directly went to the famous Abuco Natural Reserve. Several good birds to be discovered. A first scanning from one of the view points allowed to see Broad-billed Roller, Osprey (extremelly close), Giant Kingfisher (even closer), Squacco Heron, African Darter, African Grey Woodpecker, Black-necked Weaver and Heuglin’s Masked Weaver. The place was having a good activity and didn’t take long until one of the tour participants talk about a dark-and-reddish bird skulking on the ground…A fast scan in the area produced great views on 2 Western Bluebills! The small patch of vegetation was having a good activity and we also enjoyed Little Greenbul and Black Crake. 1 juvenile African Harrier-Hawk came into the trees nearby, moving into the water the only one Nile Crocodile that we saw along the tour.

We enjoyed obliging Western Osprey (Pandion halietos) -above- and Giant Kingfisher (Megaceryle maxima) -below- at Abuco Natural Reserve. Images by Carles Oliver

A small walk around proved to be really productive. A tiny pond rich in floating vegetation produced excellent views on a pair of Western Bluebills along with Bronze Manninkin and a gorgeous Oriole Warbler feeding really low in the vegetation. A female Common Wattle-Eyed was also moving along with the Oriole Warbler, allowing good views to all tour participants. Here we also got excellent views on both male and female Grey Woodpecker working on a tree. 1 Snowy-crowned Robin Chat was quite showy for some time, alway on the ground under dense cover. Both African Paradise and Red-bellied Paradise Flycatchers were common in the forest, many times associated with White-eyes. Our walk deep inside produced also 2 Grey-headed Bristlebills moving low in the vegetation. This is a quite shy Babbler that can be quite difficult to see. Blackcap Babblers are not that difficult but always a pleasure to enjoy. A pair of flocks gave us good views. Our walk deep in the forest brought us until a place with really big trees. Was time to scan. Not long until we got a Westen Grey Plantain-Eater flying over…and then appeared the 1st Green (now called Guinea) Turaco. First one, but then more Guinea Turacos were joining the trees. Violet Turacos came also along. The birds were looking for the fruits they typically feed on so were moving slowly in the branches or “jumping” from one branch to the next. That corner was still rich in small birds and we catch up with a nice flock of 5+ Yellow-breasted Apalis moving up in the canopies.

Violet Turaco (Musophaga violacea), always in search of mature fruits, was showing really well in Abuco Natural Reserve. Image by Carles Oliver

Guinea Turaco (Tauraco persa) was always moving high up in the canopies. Image by Carles Oliver

Still time for exploring a pair more of corners so we went on and find an open space with good activity. Here we enjoy great views on Swallow-tailed Bee-eaters, nice views on a Lesser Honeyguide and a small flock of Lavender Waxbills moving in and out in the low branched of a dead tree. Fanti Saw-wings were flying low in the clearing and eventually stopped by the Bee-eaters. A bit beyond we still had time check a last tree. Not less than Bearded Barbets were in the place!

Swallow-tailed Bee-eater (Merops hirundineus) inhabits dense forest edges, normally moving at low level. Image by Carles Oliver

Little Greenbul (Adropapus virens) is common in gallery forest and dense mangroves. Image by Carles Oliver

Western Bluebill (Spermophaga haematina) is one of the most spectacular passerines living in the gallery forest. Image by Carles Oliver

For lunch we went to the nearby mangroves, where a restaurant in the tide area offered a good selection of food and shade plus obliging Callythrix Monkey feeding on the fish and Beer (!) and, in fact, anything they could get.

Mudskipper (Periophtalmus koelreuteri) -above- and Callithrix or Green Monkey (Chlorocebus sabaeus) -below- were two of the main attractions in our last visit to the Gambian mangroves. Images by Carles Oliver

In the afternoon we went to spend some time in Brufut Reserve. Here a local guide was waiting for us to guide us into a special tree. Both Brown and Blackcap Babblers were around, Western Red-billed & African Grey Hornbills appeared and some African Thrush showed briefly in the vegetation. In the tree, a superb pair of Northern White-faced Owls. All tour participants got again wonderful views in this unique owl. Great!

The group enjoyed 2 Northern White-faced Owls (Ptilopsis leucotis) roosting in a tiny tree. Image by Carles Oliver

We then kept scanning around. We got ruff views on Yellow-throated Leaflove and African Pygmy Kingfisher. A Grey Woodpecker didn’t stole the show and, with a perfect light, was the main character of several shots. A short walk around brought us (again) to a huge fig tree. Several sunbirds were feeding there including Beautiful, Variable and 2 Copper Sunbirds showing typical black, rather long undertail. The tree was full of Common Bulbuls, Yellow-fronted Serins and Village Weavers but also had some Western Grey Plantain-Eaters. Finally we got really good views on 2 African Green Pigeons feeding high up in the tree.

Copper Sunbird (Cynniris cupreus) male moulting to breeding plomage. Note the long, black tail. African Green Pigeon (Treron calvus) attended a busy fig tree (below). Images by Carles Oliver

Then we had a small walk around. 1 African Golden Oriole flew over while a obliging flock of Orange-cheeked Waxbill showed up in perfect light. A juvenile Greater Honeyguide also flew over our heads. Our guide brought us to another special corner where, after some reseach, we enjoyed Long-tailed Nightjars male and female. The birds looked like quite nervous so we worked quite hard to not disturb the birds at all. I have to say that the all tour participants did really well on this, despite being a bit challenging since the female was a bit to close to the path! Still not out because a final walk produced Klaa’s Cuckoo, another Copper Sunbird and several Red-chested Swallows. At the end we just sat down by a pond. Several birds came to it. Good numbers of Blue-spotted Wood-Doves, Lavender Waxbills, African Paradise Flycatcher, Guinea Turaco, African Yellow White-eyes, Yellow-throated Leaflove, African Thrush, Little Greenbul and Eurasian Reed Warbler all came our of the dense vegetation!

Yellow-throated Leafloves (Chlorocichla flavicollis) were one of the most celebrated birds from our visit to Brufut. Image by Carles Oliver

Red-cheeked Cordon-bleu (Uraeginthus bengalus) is one of the commonest small finches in The Gambia. Image by Carles Oliver

Black-necked Weaver (Ploceus nigricollis) inhabits well forested habitats in The Gambia. Image by Carles Oliver

Red-bellied Paradise Flycatcher (Terpsiphone rufiventer) at Brufu Natural Reserve. Image by Carles Oliver

Long-tailed Nightjar (Caprimulgus climacurus) was one of the most wanted birds by the group! Image by Carles Oliver

Well, happy all after such a wonderful day, we just came to our accommodation in a short transfer to enjoy the rest of the evening.

Day 6. The las full morning in the trip we went to explore Pirang National Forest. This is one main spot for the always extremely difficult White-spotted Flufftail. Best time for the bird is, probably, October-November. Despite this, we dediced to go and try (in Catalonia we say “let’s throught a stone and see what happens”). Well, this time nothing happened. We wait a long time but unfortunately nothing came out of the jungle. Despite this, Pyrang was giving us some good birds. The first was (finally) proper view on a Double-spurred Francolin when we were arriving to the location. Inside the forest we enjoyed a pair of excellent views Green Hylia and excellent views on African Pygmy Kingfisher on a water pond. A Little Greenbul was also really obliging despite the pond was quite deserted (probably 2 African Harrier Hawks were the responsable on this low activity). Deep in the forest we also got ruff views on a Buff-spotted Woodpecker. Once again we were brought to one of these special places. Deep in the forest, a Chattering Bluebill was listened callin but, despite our efforts, we could never conect with this small cuckoo. A nest of Verreaux’s Eagle Owl, where we could see one adult (probably a female) along with a chick. What a incredible view on such impressive bird.
At this corner of the forest it was a lot of activity. A flock of 30+ African Yellow White-Eyes were moving up in the canopies. Along with them Paraside FLycatchers, Common Wattle-Eyes, Isabelline Warbler and Yellow-breasted Apalis.

Green Hylia (Hylia prasina) was personally one of the birds of the trip. Look at the massive supercilium and the bulky, rather sunbird-like bill. Amazing for a warbler! Image by Carles Oliver


Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird (Pogoliunus chrysoconus) appeared is a common bird in The Gambia, always in low densities. Image by Carles Oliver


A flock of Orange-cheeked Waxbills (Estrilda melpoda) delighted us while searching for African Pygmy Kingfisher. Image by Carles Oliver


Our best views on Palm-nut Vulture were deep inside the Pyrang forest! Image by Carles Oliver


We got intimate views on Verreaux’s Eagle Owl (Bubo lacteus) at its nest. Wonderful and rather unexpected! Image by Carles Oliver

A tiny African Pygmy Kingfisher (Ceyx pictus) was one of the most celebrated birds of the trip. It took as a long search! Image by Carles Oliver

Not a bad end to our visit to Pirang. For lunch we decided to go to another pícnic as this was allowing us to spend more time in interesting spots. A drive brought throught interesting places with some impressive butterflies. This little transfer was having a small and unexpected break since my cap get off my head and actually went off the car so we, of course, had to stop and went back (in a quite busy road) so I was able to get my cap back. Fortunelly I think only a pair of cars went over the cap before I could get it back!!!

Only got ruff views on 1 Guinea Baboon (Papio papio) despite being very vocal at Pyrang Forest. Image by Carles Oliver

Finally arrived to the place, a pair of selected stops produced some good birds, including a pair of views on Beaudouin’s Snake Eagle, one of the main targets of the tour and quite celebrated in the group!

Some road birding was really productive with nice vice on Scarlet-chested Sunbirds, ruff views on Mottle Spinetail & Stone Partridge, Little Weaver and Variable Sunbird.
Once we arrived to the savannah we started adding some new species. A Black-winged Kite was really close to the road, as it was a Long-crested Eagle. Some skinny trees produced excellent birds including Striped Kingfisher, Northern Black Flycatcher, Dark-Chanting Goshawks, White-rumped Seedeaters and a very distant African Hawk Eagle. The final drive to our accommodation was still successful, with Fork-tailed Drongo, Shikra, Rufous-crowned Roller, Yellow-billed Shrike and Gabar Goshawk as road birds!

Dark Chanting Goshawk (Melierax metabates) in typical tree. Image by Carles Oliver

Fine-spotted Woodpecker (Campethera punctuligera) joined a flock a Sunbirds attending the blossom in the savannah. Image by Carles Oliver

Black-winged Kite (Elanus caeruleus) was one of the many raptors appearing in our afternoon in the savannah. Image by Carles Oliver

Striped Kingfisher (Halcyon chelicuti) is one of many species of Kingsfishers living far away from water cousers. Their main prey are grasshopers and dragonflies. Image by Carles Oliver

Long-crested Eagles (Lophaetus occipitalis) are a common view in Sub-Saharan Africa but always a wonderful bird to see. Image by Carles Oliver


This wonderful male Shikra (Accipiter badius) just turned out while enjoying a colony of White-billed Buffalo-weavers close to our accommodation. Image by Carles Oliver

Day 7. Last day of our tour. This day we were concentrated in the grounds of our hotel. After breakfast we just went down to the gardens, where we had really good views on Oriole Warbler, White-crowned Robin-chat, Bronze-tailed Glossy Starling, Grey Woodpecker, Piapiacs, Broad-billed Rollers, a surprising Blue-breasted Kingfisher, Lesser Honeyguide, Village & Black-necked Weavers, Hamercop, Little Swifts, Purple Glossy Starlings and both Blackcap & Brown Babblers. Many of them allowing good photo chances. A short scanning in the sea produced a Great White Pelican, only the second of the trip!

Grey Woodpecker (Dendropicos goertae). Image by Carles Oliver


Western Red Colobus (Piliocolobus badius). Image by Carles Oliver


African Thrush (Turdus pelios). Image by Carles Oliver


Lesser Honeyguide (Indicator minor) was one of the main attraction of our morning in the gardens. Image by Carles Oliver


Oriole Warbler (Hypergerus atriceps) did really well in hiding. Images by Carles Oliver


Bronze Mannikins (Spermestes cucullatus) were really tame in the gardens. Image by Carles Oliver


White-crowned Robin Chats (Cossypha albicapilla), one of the most common and noisy birds in the gardens. Image by Carles Oliver


Long-tailed Glossy Starling (Lamprotornis caudatus). No comments. Image by Carles Oliver


Laughing Dove (Streptopelia senegalensis) are extremelly common, even for this species. Image by Carles Oliver


Long-billed Shrike (Corvinella corvina) was also hunting in our hotel grounds. Image by Carles Oliver


Blue-breasted Kingfisher (Halcyon malimbica) was showing superbly at the grounds. Image by Carles Oliver


Purple Glossy Starlings (Lamprotornis purpureus) are the commonest Lamprotornis in The Gambia. Image by Carles Oliver


Yellow-crowned Gonolek (Laniarius barbarus) is one of the most espectacular bush-shrikes in Africa. Image by Carles Oliver


Tawny-flanked Prinia (Prinia subflava). Image by Carles Oliver


Hooded Vultures (Necrosyrtes monachus) are extremely common in The Gambia. Image by Carles Oliver


Bronze-tailed Starlings (Lamprotornis chalcurus). Please note the short primary projection and the contrast between uppertail, rump and vental area. Image by Carles Oliver

After enjoying the grounds and a good lunch in the beach we just took off to the airport, where our plane back to Barcelona was waiting for the group!

It has been a gorgeous 1st issue for our The Gambia tour.
Remember, in December 2019 we go on with the 2nd issue!! Join us for birds & fun!!!!

The group, happy after some great birding days! Image by Junkung Jadama of Birding Gambia.


List of mammals of the tour:

  1. Guinea or Red Baboon (Papio papio)
  2. West Red Columbus (Piliocolobus badius)
  3. Patas Monkey (Cercopithecus patas)
  4. Callithrix Monkey (Cercopithecus sabaeus)
  5. Gambian Sun Squirrel (Heliosciurus gambianus)
  6. Striped Ground Squirrel (Euxerus erythropus)

List of reptilians of the tour:

  1. Gambia Agama (Agama weidholzi)
  2. Brook’s House Gecko (Hemydactylus brookii brookii)
  3. Nile Monitor (Varanus niloticus)
  4. Nile Crocodile (Crocodylus niloticus)

    One of the three diferent Nile Monitors (Varanus niloticus) that we saw along the tour. Image by Carles Oliver


Maghreb Magpie split from Eurasian Magpie

The population of Magpie living in North Africa and commonly known as Moroccan Magpie has finally been split from Eurasian Magpie (Pica pica) under the name of Maghreb Magpie (Pica mauretanica). Range of the “new” species comprises Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia with a small and isolated population in Western Sahara.

IOC World Bird List, in its paper Version 8.2 (Jun 27, 2018) includes Maghreb Magpie (Pica mauretanica) as a new species from Eurasian Magpie (Pica pica).

Maghreb Magpie (Pica mauretanica) is quite unmistakable bird in the field. Out of the wonderful and evident bare blue skin beyond the eye, the bird is noticeable smaller and shorter winged than Eurasian Magpie. Thus, proportions are similar than the Iberian Magpie (Pica pica melanotos). The typical white patch in the wing coverts is also smaller in the Maghreb Magpie than in Eurasian Magpie.



Maghreb Magpie (Pica mauretanica) near Agadir in our trip in 2016. Image by Carles Oliver


Habitat selection is also different. Maghreb Magpie prefers open woodlands, gardens, and periurban lands in plain areas, with better densities in some coastal areas, avoiding or appearing in low densities in farm land.

This split comes to join a long list of forms inhabitating Morocco than have been upgraded to full species in the last years: Atlas Flycatcher (Ficedula speculigera), Maghreb Lark (Galerida macrorhyncha), Moroccan Wagtail (Motacilla subpersonata), African Crimson-winged Finch (Rhodopechys alienus) and Maghreb Wheatear (Oenanthe halophila) have been some of the last.

Other races occurring Morocco very likely to become full species in short include African Short-toed Treecreeper (Certhia brachydactyla mauretanica), North-African Tawny Owl (Strix aluco mauretanica) and North-African Hawfinch (Coccothraustes coccothraustes buvryi).


Rhodopechis 2 copy

African Crimson-winged Finch (Rhodopechys alienus) in High Atlas, Morocco, during one of our tour. Image: Carles Oliver


How to see these birds? Barcelona Birding Point offers a trip to Southern Morocco every late March and along the trip you can see all these species out of Atlas Flycatchers which occurs later in the season.

Emberiza & CIA a la Marató Ornitològica 2018

Aquesta és la crònica de la participació de l’equip Emberiza & CIA a la Marató Ornitològica organitzada per SEO/Birdlife. Els integrants del grup enguany van ser en Víctor Sanz, Ramiro Aibar, Antonio Martínez i Carles Oliver. També el fill de l’Antonio, l’Oriol Martínez, que amb només 11 anys va estar sempre alerta i assenyalant rapis al cel!!

Durant tota la jornada vam gaudir de molt bon temps. Tot i la previsió de pluges disperses més o menys generalitzades, vam tenir sol quasi tot el dia, gens de vent i cap gota d’aigua. Condicions idònies, tret de la temperatura un pèl massa alta al migdia. Només una coseta abans de començar, algunes de les localitzacions les mantindrem en secret…secret professional, vaja.

La jornada comença unes hores abans que comenci el termini pròpiament dit per fer la Marató. La nostra data escollida és el dia 6 de Maig i ens trobem a les 21:00 del vespre del dia 5 a Sant Andreu de la Barca. La idea és trobar-nos abans per fer un àpat més o menys en condicions i acabar de perfilar el que serà l’itinerari i els tempos a seguir durant la marató. També és moment d’estrenar l’equipació d’enguany, disseny exclusiu de samarretes by Victor Sanz!

Ens posem en carretera direcció a Lleida i deixem enrere Sant Andreu. Aprofito aquest espai, i crec que parlo en nom de tot el grup, per mostrar tota la nostra solidaritat amb la comunitat educativa d’aquesta vila arran dels vergonyosos atacs patits al llarg de les últimes setmanes. Des d’aquestes línies us diem que no esteu sols!

De camí cap a Lleida toca fer parada per sopar. Tot va amb normalitat, més enllà de que el restaurant escollit inclou Cobaia al Forn com a segon plat del menú…estranyament ningú no escull rosegador com a plat principal de l’àpat nocturn…particularment em quedo amb ganes de veure com la serveixen…

Un cop sopats enfilem cap a la primera localització. Aquesta primera parada és molt important quan fas una cursa com aquesta. La localització nocturna (o les localitzacions nocturnes) han de permetre treure les màximes espècies de nocturnes (mussols i caprimulgus) possibles sense haver de recórrer a les últimes hores del dia per empaitar-los, quan el temps escassejarà, tots anirem molt més cansats i cada espècie pot suposar un sobre esforç.

A les 00:07 arribem a la primera localització, dins territori aragonès. Abans no baixem del cotxe ja sumem la primera espècie: Xot (Otus scops). Perfecte. Aparquem i escoltem al voltant. Un parell de rossinyols (Luscinia megarhynchos) canten a la foscor acompanyats d’un parell de xots. Deu minuts d’escolta no produeixen res més. Hi ha un punt de nerviosisme…Un torlit (Burhinus oedicnemus) reclama en la distància però no alleugera la pressió. De cop, al lluny, un siboc (Caprimulgus ruficollis) canta. Molt bé. Enguany als Caprimulgus els hi ha costat d’arribar des d’Àfrica però a nosaltres amb un ja en tenim prou. Tot seguit una cria de mussol banyut (Asio otus) reclama des d’una taca de pins llunyana. Només ens en falta un. I arriba. Una òliba (Tyto alba) fa el seu reclam característic en passar per sobre nostre. Perfecte!

Ens movem una mica. Fem una mica de prospecció per mirar de trobar uns mussols emigrants (Asio flammeus) que es mouen per la zona, sense sort. No tenim massa temps i toca parar orella en una llacuneta propera. En la distància se senten més rossinyols però també rascló (Rallus aquaticus), cabusset (Tachybaptus ruficollis), polla d’aigua (Gallinula chloropus) i fotja (Fulica atra) reclamant. Però se sent un altre reclam així ens movem una miqueta i escoltem millor per esclarir i si, tenim un rascletó (Porzana parva) a la llacuna. Això és excel·lent perquè és una mica inesperat. Però encara tenim més, perquè un bitó (Botaurus stellaris) canta unes quantes vegades darrera la sorollada de rossinyols que canten des dels tamarius! Anem molt i molt bé, tot i que ens queda molt per patir. Cal perseverar!

Fem un curt recorregut un cotxe per mirar de trobar un dels ducs (Bubo bubo) que viuen a la vora. Voltegem un territori. Els ducs acostumen a estar per aquí però no els podem trobar.. Decidim fer una passejada per la zona, aviam si tenim molta sort i els fem moure. Res. En comptes d’això sentim, des del turó, un altre bitó cantant en un estany diferent de l’anterior!! Plaga de bitons… Tornem tots a la furgo. Amb tot ja són quasi les dues. Toca començar a moure’s cap al Pirineu. Aquí hem fet bo i massa!

De camí cap a la Vall Ferrera fem una paradeta ràpida a prop de Tremp. En un paisatge de màquia i roureda fem una escolta ràpida que ens permet sumar gamarús (Strix aluco). De fet, en sentim 3! L’enganyapastors (Caprimulgus europaeus), l’altre objectiu de la parada, no apareix. Preocupació menor, al vespre. Seguim.



En Ramiro Aibar i en Víctor Sanz gaudint del primer escorxador (Lanius collurio) de l’any moments abans de marxar cap a Collegats.


Arribem a algun punt de la Vall Ferrera i fem escolta. Són quasi les 5:00. Deu minuts i els ding! de la becada (Scolopax rusticola) anuncia el seu vol al nostre voltant. Les llunes de Júpiter són testimonis del seu vol feixuc mentre continuem sondejant el silenci a la recerca de més espècies. Hi ha una mica de cansament però la temperatura és agradable i la nit està sent profitosa. Tot i així ja queden molt lluny les nits sense dormir de quan érem més joves.

Cap a un quart de sis comencen a cantar els Túrdids. Tord comú (Turdus philomelos), griva (Turdus viscivorus) i merla (Turdus merula) són dels primers. Una mallerenga petita (Periparus ater) molt matinera es deixa sentir i els pit-rojos (Erithacus rubecula) no fan tard a les primeres tonalitats ocres del cel. Cotxa fumada (Phoenicurus ochruros), reietó (Regulus regulus), merla de pit blanc (Turdus torquatus) i mallerenga emplomallada (Lophophanes cristatus) són detectats en un lapse de pocs minuts. Però cap espècie de pes (amb el permís de la merla de pit blanc).

Decidim fer una caminada amunt, aviam què trobem. Hi invertirem massa temps, en part perquè la foscor fa que em desorienti (…) Però tindrà els seus fruits. Caminem vessant amunt en un paisatge dominat per un bosc de pins emmoquetat per nerets i nabius així que a ningú ens estranya quan en la profunditat del bosc sentim els típics sorolls d’un gall fer (Tetrao urogallus). Excel·lent! Caminem molt poquet més i fem una mica més d’escolta. La caminada pren tot el seu sentit quan el reclam d’un mussol pirinenc (Aegolius funereus) arriba a les nostres oïdes! Perfecte! El mussol pirinenc és una de les espècies més difícils per una marató així que poder-lo incloure és sempre un luxe i un orgull.

Decidim començar a baixar i fer una petita volta. Crasso error. Perdem temps. El rellotge corre, ja és dia obert. Pardal de bardissa (Prunella collaris), picot negre (Dryocopus martius), pinsà comú (Fringilla coelebs), gaig (Garrulus glandarius), cucut (Cuculus canorus), sit negre (Emberiza cia), picot garser gros (Dendrocopos major), bruel (Regulus ignacapillus), trencapinyes (Loxia curvirostra), cargolet (Troglodytes troglodytes) i raspinell comú (Certhia brachydactyla) són agradosament afegits a la llista de la nostra marató. Però ens falla el lluer (Spinus spinus). Nidificant escàs i localitzat al Pirineu, aquesta espècie acostuma a ser fàcilment detectable a la localització on som. Però no avui, no ara.



Llucareta (Serinus citronella) mascle lluint disseny alar a la Vall Ferrera.


Arribem tardíssim al cotxe. Marxem, marxem, marxem. Són les 7:15 però no cal entrar en pànic. De baixada, quasi a la carrera, hem vist i sentit llucaretes (Serinus citrinella). Hem tret quasi totes les espècies que havíem de treure. Quasi totes. Abans de marxar, però, fem un mos al costat del cotxe. Última oportunitat per lluer i raspinell pirinenc (Certhia familiaris) per unir-se a la festa. No ho faran…Marxem, marxem, marxem!

De baixada per la pista afegim tallarol de casquet (Sylvia atricapilla) i 1 puput (Upupa epops)… una puput en un bosc dens, molt dens de pi roig a uns 1300 metres d’alçària (!!!). Puput en hàbitat de picot negre… Per a mi, l’observació més curiosa de la jornada.

Parades ràpides en diferents prats. Alguna de gens productiva. Entrem a un prat i pam! un pinsà borroner (Pyrrhula pyrrhula) marxa volant de la capçada d’un bedoll. Parem per fer un cop d’ull. El prat ha estat pres per una horda de trencapinyes que sotmeten el prat als seus designis, desfoliant les capçades de bedolls, àlbers i qualsevol arbre que hi hagi. Què fan aquí baix? Repassem el prat. Parella de mallerenga carbonera (Parus major) i alguna mallerenga blava (Cyanistes cyaneus). Res de especial. Però vet aquí que surt un bitxac rogenc (Saxícola rubetra). Serà l’únic del dia! Continuem baixant. Següent prat. Sembla que res, tret d’un fantàstic colltort (Jynx torquilla) que s’arregla el plomatge al sol… De nou, l’únic del dia! Toca paradeta al riu: cuereta torrentera (Motacilla cinerea), picot verd (Picus sharpei), mallerenga cuallarga (Aegithalos caudatus), tudó (Columba palumbus), orenetes cuablanca i vulgar (Delichon urbicum – Hirundo rustica) i també roquerols (Ptynoprogne rupestris). On és la merla d’aigua? És tard. Marxem.

Propera parada, a prop de Sort. De camí cap allà, típiques espècies de carretera. La primera, una merla d’aigua! Tres dels cinc la veiem en una curva. Bé. Garsa (Pica pica), Cornella (Corvus corone), pardal comú (Passer domesticus), colom roquer (Columba livia), falciot comú (Apus apus) i estornell vulgar (Sturnus vulgaris) “cauen” a diferents antenes i similars de Tremp. D’aquí agafem una petita carretera que ens fa guanyar alçada (però perdre temps, Déu meu que llarga que es fa…) i arribem a localització a les 9:00 tocades. S’ensuma el desastre del timing…

Però el lloc val la pena. En 14 minuts contats d’observació sumem: tallarols emmascarat (Sylvia hortensis), de garriga (S. cantillans) i vulgar (S. communis), escorxador (Lanius collurio), còlit gris (Oenanthe oenanthe), bitxac comú (Saxícola rubicola), merla roquera (Monticola saxatilis), cotoliu (Lullula arborea), passerell comú (Carduelis cannabina), Cadernera (Carduelis carduelis), mosquiter pàl·lid (Phylloscopus bonelli), hortolà (Emberiza hortulana), perdiu roja (Alectoris rufa), gralla de bec vermell (Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax), capsigrany (Lanius senator) i gratapalles (Emberia cirlus) tot i que els ocells quasi no canten aquest matí. Un escaneig ràpid del cel produeix un trencalòs (Gypaetos barbatus) i un grup d’abellerols (Merops apiaster) en migració ens passen a tocar. Primer rapinyaire del dia! I just en marxar una alosa (Alauda arvensis) ve a aterrar a la nostra esquena. Tot un detall. Agraïts.

Baixem. Encara anem tard. Propera parada; Collegats. Cuereta blanca (Motacilla alba) i Corb (Corvus corax) a la carretera. Voltors comuns (Gyps fulvus) al cel. Dins la furgo discutim si parar o no a Collegats. Guanya que parem, encara bo. De camí (encara no hi som?) una parella d’àguiles calçades (Aquila pennata) ens fa mig parar un moment. Són una fase clara i una fosca. Bé. Una mica més avall un aligot comú (Buteo buteo) es creua al cel amb una àguila marcenca (Circaetus gallicus). Sembla que hi ha moviment de rapinyaires.

Collegats. Tothom fora i mirada a l’infinit. Voltors. Milans negres (Milvus migrans) en migració cap al Nord. Aufrany (Neophron percnopterus) contra els penya-segats. Bon dia maco! Algú veu un falcó peregrí (Falco peregrinus). Poc després un esparver vulgar (Accipiter nisus) remunta amb uns voltors. Una probable àguila daurada (Aquila chrysaetos) se’ns escapa per mil·lèsimes. Qui l’ha vist no pot confirmar. Com la trobarem a faltar! Llàstima! Mallarengues al nostre voltant. Res de l’altre món fins que un picot garser petit (Dendrocopos minor) tamborileja a tocar del grup. 1, 2, 3 vegades. Molt bé! No hi comptàvem. Marxem, que fem tard!

Ja són tres quarts d’once quan enfilem cap al Sud. Destinació; estepes! Tenim una tiradeta…De camí, típiques (i no tant típiques) espècies de carretera. Entre Àger i Balaguer oriol (Oriolus oriolus), tórtora turca (Streptopelia decaocto) i ballester (Apus melba). Entre Balaguer i Àger estornell negre (Sturnus unicolor), cogullada vulgar (Galerida cristata), ànec coll-verd (Anas platyrhynchos), cruixidell (Emberiza calandra), gafarró (Serinus serinus), gralles (Corvus monedula), xoriguer comú (Falco tinnunculus), arpella vulgar (Circus aeruginosus), falcó mostatxut (Falco subbuteo) i aligot vesper (Pernis apivorus). Hi ha força rapinyaire al cel, el que és d’agrair en un dia com avui. Ja a prop de la nostra destinació un fantàstic astor (Accipiter gentilis) vola a prop d’una marcenca aturada en un torre d’electricitat.

Ja passem clarament de les 100 espècies. Arribem a les estepes. Ara l’objectiu és arribar ràpid a la primera localització i, com a mínim per a mi, menjar. La bateria interna està baixa i si volem rendir a la tarda bé hauríem de menjar alguna cosa! A un parell de quilòmetres del lloc a on parem ja entrem en zona molt bona. Seguim sumant. Còlit ros (Oenanthe hispanica), Cogullada fosca (Galerida theklae), Guatlla (Coturnix coturnix), Pardal roquer (Petronia petronia), gaig blau (Coracias garrulus), tòrtora (Streptopelia turtur), trobat (Anthus campestris), calàndria (Melanocorypha calandra) i, just en aparcar, terrerola vulgar (Calandrella brachydactyla).



Merescut descans de l’equip a Monegros després d’un matí molt intens!


Fa sol i bastanta calor. Estem a uns 24ºC i, tot i que la previsió era de ruixats dispersos, només plou vitamina A. No hi ha massa activitat. Són les 13:20 quan ens aturem, no precisament la millor hora…Durant el quart que estem aturat només sumem milà reial (Milvus milvus). No són bones notícies. Les aloses becudes (Chersophilus duponti) que tenim bastant a prop no es deixaran sentir amb aquesta calor tant sobtada…

Ens movem. Tenim una llarga llista d’espècies i el temps és curt. Tombem i la perseverança ens premia amb increïbles observacions de terrerola rogenca (Calandrella rufescens). Fem unes quantes fotos. Val molt la pena. Seguim tombant però no hi ha quasi activitat. Anem a un raconet a on podem tenir sorpresa i bingo!, dues xurres (Pterocles orientalis) es mouen en un guaret. Seguim al guaret. Terreroles vulgars arreu i 3 xurres més, però sense senyals de les gangues (Pterocles alchata). No tenim més temps per a elles. Una llàstima!



Petita llicència fotogràfica el plena marató però és que aquesta terrerola rogenca (Calandrella rufescens) bé s’ho valia!


Ens movem uns quilòmetres. Una prospecció ràpida (molt ràpida) a una zona arbustiva produeix tallarol trencamates (Sylvia conspicillata). Una mica més enllà mussol comú (Athene noctua). Fem un cop d’ull a una colònia de xoriguer petit (Falco naumanni) però sense rastre d’ells. S’olora el pànic dins la furgo! Sense temps per a més baixem a uns tallats vora un riu. Última oportunitat per a un bon grapat d’espècies. El Delta de l’Ebre ens espera, ens crida! Parem al peu dels tallats i seguim afegint noves espècies. Un parell de bosquetes vulgars (Hippolais polyglotta) cantes a les bardisses vora el bosc de ribera. Verdum (Chloris chloris), rossinyol bord (Cettia cetti), tallarol capnegre (Sylvia melanocephala) i sit negre canten al voltant. A dalt del turó una tallareta cuallarga (Sylvia undata) fa un vol curt d’un arbust a un altre. Amb això n’hi ha prou. Als tallats raspem un parell de xixelles (Columba oenas) i un mascle d’esparver cendrós (Circus pygargus) ens passa per sobre. Ja són les 15:00. Hora de marxar!

Pugem a la furgo, 400 metres i hem de parar! 3 xoriguers petits volen als tallats. Així que aquí estàveu! Ara sí, marxem! Poc després un segon mascle d’esparver cendrós vola en paral·lel a la furgo. Silenci mentre tothom mira per les finestres. Quina meravella d’ocell…Anem cap al Sud. Hi ha qui aprofita per dormir. El dia està sent intens i fa estona que tenim la sensació d’anar tard. Ara és el moment de relaxar-se una mica. Uns esplugabous (Bubulcus ibis) en un lloc indeterminat ens marquen el camí a la terra baixa.



Moral alta en els trajectes. Aquí la comoditat del transport s’agraeix!


Passat Flix fem una paradeta de 3-5 minuts. Només sortir de la furgo una merla blava (Monticola solitarius) ens passa volant per sobre mentre un trist (Cisticola juncidis) va fent al cel. Repassem en busca de rapinyaires. Res. Corb marí gros (Phalacrocorax carbo) al Riu Ebre. Marxem.

-Espera.  Qué pasa?   -Rapaz en la torre de electricidad. Da la vuelta! Da la vuelta!

Tornem carretera amunt uns centenars de metres i sí, una àguila cuabarrada (Aquila fasciata) està aturada en una torre d’electricitat. Bé! De camí entre Flix i el delta no afegirem res de nou tret d’un falciot pàl·lid (Apus pallidus) que es deixa prou bé per ser identificat. Els nostres esforços (anar a 87km/hora en comptes de 95km/hora) per veure una oreneta cua-rogenca són debades…

Són les 17:35 quan arribem al Delta de l’Ebre. Aquí la desfilada d’espècies és ràpida i àmplia. Són a la zona Nord. Hem decidit que ens mourem de Nord a Sud. Martinet comú (Egretta garzetta), gavià argentat (Larus michahellis), pardal xarrec (Passer montanus), bernat pescaire (Ardea cinerea), cames llargues (Himantopus himantopus), gavina riallera (Chroicocephalus ridibundus), cabussó emplomallat (Podiceps cristatus) i capó reial (Plegadis falcinellus) són dels primers a caure.

Anem de camí a El Goleró. El nivell d’aigua està baix i està mig ennuvolat. És una bona combinació. Ens sentim contents i frescs, descansats. Hem arribat prou d’hora al Delta, el que ens garanteix temps per fer un cop d’ull a uns quants hot-spots. Tota la sensació d’estres que hem acumulat al llarg del matí es fon amb la brisa del mar per donar pas a un ritme compassat i natural d’anar sumant. El Goleró es mostra benèvol amb nosaltres però sense escarafalls. Gavines corses (Larus audouinii) i capblanques (Larus genei),  gavians foscos (Larus fuscus) i fumarells carablancs (Chlidonias hybridus) són evidents arreu. Gamba verda (Tringa nebularia), gamba roja vulgar (Tringa totanus), garsa de mar (Haematopus ostralegus), pigre gris (Pluvialis squatarola) i territ menut (Calidris minuta) són els primers limícols afegits a la llista. Al voltant nostre hi han molts xatracs comuns (Sterna hirundo), bastants de bec-llargs (Sterna sandvicensis), 2 de grossos (Hydroprogne caspia) i 1 de menut (Sternula albifrons). Als canyissars de darrera nostre canten balquers (Acrocephalus arundinaceus) i boscarles de canyar (Acrocephalus scirpaceus). Flamencs (Phoenicopterus ruber) i xibecs (Netta rufina) també es deixen veure. Una inspecció més detallada de la zona produeix becut (Numenius arquata), tètol cuabarrat (Limosa lapponica), corriol camanegre (Charadrius alexandrinus) i corriol gros (Charadrius hiaticula). Ens movem cap a l’Est i, en una parada per repassar limícols, ens sorprèn el cant d’un borcarler comú (Luscinia luscinioides). Una mica més enllà la sorpresa és més gran quan un blauet (Alcedo atthis) surt volant d’un pont per perdre’s en un canal. A la última parada aquí gaudirem de remena-rocs (Arenaria interpres) en lluent plomatge nupcial a més de sumar territ gros (Calidris canutus) i agró blanc (Egretta alba).



Els últims remena-rocs (Arenaria interpres) en pas són sempre els que llueixen un plomatge més espectacular. Aquest bé es va merèixer una paradeta!


Ha estat un bon començament. Bona part dels camps del Delta comencen a tenir aigua i es poden veure alguns limícols aquí i allà. La temptació de parar cada pocs camps és molt gran i de vegades no tenim més remei que fer-ho. De camí entre Goleró i Alfacada veiem valona (Tringa glareola), xivitona (Actitis hypoleucos), martinet ros (Ardeola ralloides) i curroc (Gelochelidon nilotica).

Un cop arribats a l’Alfacada ens acantonem a la torre, a on corre una brisa que ens va refredant a mesura que passen els minuts. Tots menys els més llestos baixarem gelats…El privilegiat punt d’observació ens permet sumar un bon grapat d’espècies: ànec blanc (Tadorna tadorna), ànec cullerot (Anas clypeata), griset (Anas strepera), batallaire (Philomachus pugnax), bec d’alena (Recurvirostra avosetta), mosquiter de passa (Phylloscopus troquillus), polla blava (Porphyrio porphyrio), martinet menut (Ixobrychus minutus) i martinet de nit (Nycticorax nycticorax). Des de dalt la torre repassem el mar, que se’ns mostra com un fantàstic desert blau amb alguna taqueta bec-llarga que es cabussa i torna a tirar amunt… Una potencial fotja banyuda (Fulica cristata) es deixa estimar durant quasi mig minut a Buda, davant per davant de la torre, però uns tamarius dificulten l’observació i no podem extreure una conclusió definitiva… al llarg de l’estona que estem dalt intentarem relocalitzar-la, debades. En baixar de la torre notem que les cames pesen. Estem cansats. Són més de les 18:30, no ens queda massa temps.



Últims moments de llum. Moments per comentar el dia, fer bromes, rascar alguna última espècie i menjar alguna cosa a les Salines de Sant Antoni. Feia fresca!


Tirem cap als Eucaliptus. Una ràpida inspecció dins el camping produeix xarrasclet (Anas querquedula), ànec cuallarg (Anas acuta), morell xocolater (Aythya nyroca) i ànec xiulaire (Anas penelope). Un cop fet el tràmit comentem si anar a l’arbreda de la zona d’acampada o a Riet Vell per migrants. Optem per Riet Vell i dóna un gran resultat: Papamosques gris (Muscicapa striata), mastegatatxes (Ficedula hypoleuca) i cotxa cua-roja (Phoenicurus phoenicurus) són tots afegits en 5 minuts junt amb una gavina capnegra (Larus melanocephalus) que reclama en el camp del costat. Bravo!

D’aquí volem a Sant Antoni, la nostra esperança per un grupet de limícols que semblen no voler aparèixer. De camí cap allà, ja amb el sol molt baix, apuntem un grupet de 7 tètols cuanegres (Limosa limosa). En arribats a les salines repassem bé cercant corriol petit (Charadrius dubius) o territ variant (Calidris alpina) però sense ser capaços de trobar cap d’aquestes espècies. Mentre sopem gaudint d’un màgic capvespre a les Salines de Sant Antoni encara sumem perdiu de mar (Glareola pratincola). Ens sentim genial. En part perquè un error al sumar ens fa pensar que hem superat de llarg les 200 espècies… En realitat estem una mica per sota.

Un cop acabats de sopar fem un parell de parades a la sortida del Delta, ja camí de Barcelona, per mirar de sumar l’enganyapastors. Però no surt. Al final decidim (bueno, jo ja estava bastant fora de combat) de provar sort a Sant Andreu de la Barca. Arribem justets, justets de temps. 23:47 comencem escolta…23:53 un enganyapastors canta a la vall que tenim a l’esquerra. Espècie número 196!

Tothom a dormir!


Com a resum crec que puc dir tranquil·lament en nom de tots el membres del grup que estem molt satisfets per aquesta edició, la primera en la que hem inclòs el Pirineu de Lleida en l’itinerari. De ben segur que no serà la última!

El timing se’ns ha anat una mica al Pirineu, en bona part per la passejada una mica massa llarga a primeríssima hora del matí. Això ha fet que no poguéssim tenir tot el temps que haguéssim volgut per explorar les estepes i, el que és pitjor, ens ha fet arribar a una hora que feia molt difícil sumar espècies com el sisó (Tetrax tetrax), especialment amb el sol picant tal i com ho feia al migdia! Però bueno, que consti que ja tenim la clau per superar-nos el 2019. Amb il·lusió!

En defitiva, que una cursa ornitològica pot ser molt divertida. No cal fer-se mala sang amb el que facin els altres equips (fins a cert punt) i és sempre molt millor si vas amb amics! Això sí, requisit indispensable, estar tocat de l’ala…

Com a últim apunt, un reconeixement especial a l’Oriol, un birder de només 11 anys que va gaudir com el que més, que ens va aguantar a tots 4 durant 24 hores i que de ben segur esdevindrà un naturalista de primera! Felicitats Oriol!


HORA INICI: 00:00                 HORA FINALITZACIÓ: 23:59                  INTEGRANTS EQUIP: 5


  1. Ànec blanc (Tadorna tadorna)
  2. Ànec xiulaire (Anas penelope)
  3. Ànec griset (Anas strepera)
  4. Xarxet (Anas crecca)
  5. Ànec coll-verd (Anas platyrhynchos)
  6. Ànec cuallarg (Anas acuta)
  7. Xarrasclet (Anas querquedula)
  8. Xibec (Netta furina)
  9. Morell xocolater (Aythya ferina)
  10. Gall fer (Tetrao urogallus)
  11. Guatlla (Coturnix coturnix)
  12. Perdiu roja (Alectoris rufa)
  13. Corb marí gros (Phalacrocorax carbó)
  14. Bitó (Botaurus stellaris)
  15. Martinet menut (Ixobrychus minutus)
  16. Martinet de nit (Nycticorax nycticorax)
  17. Martinet ros (Ardeola ralloides)
  18. Esplugabous (Bubulcus ibis)
  19. Martinet blanc (Egretta garzetta)
  20. Agró blanc (Ardea alba)
  21. Bernat pescaire (Ardea cinerea)
  22. Agró roig (Ardea purpurea)
  23. Cigonya blanca (Ciconia ciconia)
  24. Capó reial (Plegadis falcinellus)
  25. Flamenc (Phoenicopterus roseus)
  26. Cabusset (Tachybaptus ruficollis)
  27. Cabussó emplomallat (Podiceps cristatus)
  28. Aligot vesper (Pernis apivorus)
  29. Milà negre (Milvus migrans)
  30. Milà reial (Milvus milvus)
  31. Trencalòs (Gypaetos barbatus)
  32. llistat en construcció. Us remeto al text per saber més 😉

Is April the best month for birding in North-East Spain?

Every little time we got requests of birdwatchers that, interested about coming to do some birdwatching in Catalonia, ask us about what it is the best time to come.

Well, this is always depending on what do you want to see… But it is not wrong to think on spring as being probably the best time for birdwatching. In the Mediterranean this means a combination of excellent, sunny weather with pleasant temperatures, high activity of the nesting species (resident or not) and tones of migratory birds in their way to Northernmost nesting grounds.

I personally love April. It is just because of the really good general birding. This is probably one of the best moments in the year for Crakes. And not talking about listen them, but talking on seeing them! Migration goes in excellent numbers along Mediterranean wetlands and, along with warblers, waders and raptors, it is always possible to enjoy Spotted Crakes (Porzana porzana) or Little Crakes (Porzana parva). Early April is also a good time to look for Iberian Chiffchaffs (Phylloscopus ibericus) as they hang around in their way to their nesting grounds. Along the month waves of Short-toed Eagles (Circaetus gallicus), Black Kites (Milvus migrans) and Montagu’s Harriers (Circus pygargus) are to arrive to their nesting grounds. Egyptian Vultures (Neophron percnopterus) are already defending their territories as they arrive as early as early-mid February.



Spotted Crakes (Porzana porzana) show up all along March and April in all kind of wetlands. Numbers are highly variable depending on the year. Image: Carles Olive




Egyptian Vultures keep expanding in Catalonia. They arrive as early as February. Image: Carles Oliver


By mid April Woodchat Shrikes (Lanius senator),  Spectacleds (Sylvia conspicillata), Subalpines (Sylvia cantillans) and Orphean Warblers (Sylvia hortensis) will be all at their nesting grounds, but it is mandatory to keep searching for not-that-common birds in migration that can easily include Wood Warbler (Phylloscopus sibilatrix), Garden Warbler (Sylvia borin), Lesser Whitethroat (Sylvia curruca) along with some Balearic Flycatchers (Muscicapa tyrrhenica) to be discovered among the many Spotted Flycatchers (Muscicapa striata).



Western Subalpine Warblers (Sylvia cantillans) are a common migratory bird all along April. From 10th onwards they can also be found at their nesting grounds around. Image: Carles Oliver




Wood Warblers (Phylloscopus sibilatrix) are exclusivelly migratory birds in Catalonia, an rather scarce! They normally are to be found in mixed migratory warblers flocks. Image: Carles Oliver


But probably the best is that all of that can be done while still enjoying on Wallcreepers (Tichodroma muraria) in the Pyrenees as they still goes up. They are not that “easy” to find as in winter but still is mandatory to check some spots! And now, while looking for them, it is likely yo see superb Common Rock Thrush (Monticola saxatilis) or Rock Buntings (Emberiza cia) singing around!

In the wetlands, Bluethroats (Luscinia svecica) keep going North and more active as never before so it gets easier to locate them, and Iberian Reed Buntings (Emberiza s. whiterby) are also showing well within its tiny range! Small flocks of waders and beautiful ducks such as Garganeys (Anas querquedula) can be seen in every wetland and you can enjoy male Ruffs (Philomachus pugnax) going up with their splendid spring plomages. Few days ago we just got a mixed flock of Black-winged Stilts (Himantopus himantopus) along with Pied Avocets (Recurvirostra avosetta), Ruffs and Black-tailed Godwits (Limosa limosa) only 30 minutes after enjoying a Dupont’s Lark (Chersophilus duponti) singing right in front of us…



Garganeys (Anas querquedula) show up in good numbers all along April. Image: Carles Oliver




Dupont’s Lark (Chersophilus duponti) in flowering steppe vegetation. April at its best. Image: Carles Oliver


No mention to the steppes… they are never as beautiful as are in April. And are really productive! Many areas are carpeted by yellow, red and white flowers and Little Bustards (Tetrax tetrax) sing in the middle of the flowers while flocks of Sandgrouses (Pterocles sp.) and Stone Curlews (Burhinus oedicnemus) feed around. You will listen some 100s of Calandra Larks (Melonacorypha calandra) and Corn Buntings (Emberiza calandra)… you may think; “it would not be 100s!”. Yes, 100s

In the fields, flocks of Yellow Wagtails (Motacilla flava spp.) feed along with Pipits (meadow, tree, red-throated?), Great Spotted Cuckoos (Clamator glandarius) will always be really busy and noisy at this time while small parties of tiny Lesser Kestrels (Falco naumanii) move up and down in the air…



Great Spotted Cuckoos (Clamator glandarius) are superb birds! Arriving along March, they are especially active in early April. Image: Carles Oliver


Yes, spring is here and, maybe is not that important whether April is the best moment to enjoy birds in Catalonia or not. It is still a wonderful time to come and enjoy!

Check out our birding trips at our contact us to design your birding adventure at

Tour Winter Birding Break in Catalonia, 2018 issue

Dates: 13th to 16th February, 2018

Number of participants: 5 

2019 dates: February 19th to 23rd. Join for great birding and good fun!

Day 1. February 13th

We start our tour by picking up the tour participants from their hotel and about 7:45 we were already out of the city. This time the first destination was the farmland plain of Llobregat Delta. This worked really well and it was done to allow some clients to join the trip as they were landing in Barcelona minutes before 9:00.

So, after a fast coffee we went out to have some birds. Temperature was 10ºC with clear sky. We explored a farming area extremely close to the airport combining small fields and patches of decidious forest. We soon had the first flocks of finches of the trip. Mainly Common Chaffinches (Fringilla coelebs), Eurasian Goldfinches (Carduelis carduelis) and Eurasian Greenfinches (Chloris chloris) but also several European Serins (Serinus serinus) feeding on ground. Our quest bird for the site was Iberian Green Woodpecker (Picus sharpei), a recently split species from European Green Woodpecker being endemic of the Iberian Peninsula.



European Serin (Serinus serinus) is common bird in Catalan lowlands. Image: Carles Oliver


We soon had some birds calling around and it was not long until we got nice views on one individual perched in a tree for long. That was a really nice view followed for 2 more birds flying around and interacting.

The fields kept producing good birding as there were several Black Redstarts (Phoenicurus ochruros) and some Sardinian Warblers (Sylvia melanocephala) moving around. Also Common Chiffchaffs (Phylloscopus collybita) and the firsts of many Crested Larks (Galerida cristata) of the trip were appearing.

While moving in the area we had a distant male Hawfinch (Coccothraustes coccothraustes) perched in the top of a tree while some Eurasian Siskins (Carduelis spinus) flew over us with no change for a proper view. Was time to go to the airport but we still had time to enjoy 3-4 Hoopoes (Upupa epops) feeding on the ground and we could enjoy how the birds were digging on the sandy soil while looking for warms and small insects.



Iberian Green Woodpecker (Picus sharpei) was the first quest bird showing nicely in the tour. Image: Carles Oliver


Hoopoes are mainly summer visitors in Catalonia but in the last 20 years more and more birds are staying all year round. Now, in Llobregat Delta, there are a pair of winter roosting places and they normally move in small flocks at the beggining of the day.

Soon after one of the members of the trip had 2 Red-legged Partridges (Alectoris rufa) and the whole group enjoyed the birds. That was a really good start of the trip but now was time to pick up the rest of participants and go up to the Pyrenees.

After a two hours long transfer from the coast we arrived to Catalan Pyrenees to explore the high mountain slopes. That afternoon we were cofused in a mountain pass about 2000 metres high to look for the main targets of that day; Snow Finch and Alpine Accentor. Weather was still okay but it was broadcasted a huge weather change for the afternoon including heavy snow and Siberian-like temperatures, and the extremely dark cloudes coming from our left were the prove that the broadcast was right, this time. So, we were not having a lot of time, probably 2 hours or so…

After some exploratory stops we just decided to walk a bit along the lonely road. Both species use to move in flocks in winter and the size of the flocks can be really variable, from 2-3 birds to 100 of them! We were lucky this time and didn’t have to wait much until we found some birds moving in the open, grassy slope. It was a small flock of 4 Alpine Accentors (Prunella collaris) feeding in the slope! We walked a bit up, and enjoyed extremelly close views on the birds that produced really good images! Unfortunately it was no signal of Snow Finches, which may be appearing along with Alpine Accentors, sometimes.



Alpine Accentors (Prunella collaris) close up. A small flock allowed us really close views at our first attemp in Catalan Pyrenees. Image: Carles Oliver


Back to road we decided to keep exploring up the road. Weather was getting much and much worst and we were having some Snow and wind. A new stop some half a quilometre beyond produced lovely views in a herd of Pyrenean Chamoises (Rupicabra pyrenaica) while enjoying with the calls and moviments of a small flock of Red-billed Choughs (Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax). Here we also enjoyed the first raptor of the trip: a juvenile Lammergeier (Gypaetos barbatus)! The bird just appeared at the other side of the valley and we all had its majestic flight for some time before it became difficult to track due to the falling snow…

Lammergeiers are nesting not far from the place and a mininum of two juveniles plus the adults are likely to move in these slopes, and this despite the density of the bird is lower than in other areas of the Catalan Pyrenees!

Out of a pair of small flocks of Mistle Thrush (Turdus viscivorus) and 1 or 2 Fieldfares (Turdus pilaris) there was not much other activity in the mountain pass as the weather was turning really bad so we decided to start going down, always really slow to allow some scan around and try to get something else! And we got something else…. Suddenly, a big flock of about 80 Snow Finches (Montifringilla nivalis) came down from one of the slopes, and extremelly fast passed by the van! What a great view of the birds showing its really long, white-and-black wings and the interesting white pattern in their tails! We stopped and could enjoy the call of the birds in the snowy landscape. We were even luckier since some ten of them stopped in the snow for some seconds, some feeding on the teasels sticking up from the Snow. It took 20 seconds before the birds followed the whole flock moving down the slope. What a magical view!! And just in time!!



This Snow Finch (Montifringilla nivalis) posed for about 10 seconds before following the whole flock down the slope! Image: Carles Oliver


Happy about our success we decided to stop in a coffee shop where we had a rather late lunch. This kind of places sometimes attrack high mountain birds and this time we got a Water Pipit (Anthus spinolleta) and 1 White Wagtail (Motacilla alba), nice combination.

After lunch we head down the valley where weather was better so we decided to explore the fields around the village where were going to sleep. One hour of exploring was enough to get a really nice set of species. We were in La Cerdanya, a lovely Pyrenean valley that is many times concentrating large flocks of finches and buntings.

We just visited an area where birds go to roost and found good number of Yellowhammers (Emberiza citrinella), Tree Sparrows (Passer montanus), Corn Buntings (Emberiza calandra) alongside 35+ Rock Buntings (Emberiza cia), a good number of Cirl Buntings (Emberiza cirlus) and 8+ Bramblings (Fringilla montifringilla). What a wonderful combination of birds! The trees nearby were hosting a small flock of 6 Hawfinches and we also listened the distant call of an Iberian Green Woodpecker

That was the end of the day and we just drove 10 minutes more until our accommodation, where we had a good rest and an excellent local cuisine dinner.

Day 2. February 14th

Our second day of the trip started with a massive snowfall in all the area around teh Pyrenees. We were actually lucky to leave our accommodation quite early in the morning since weather conditions kept getting worst and worst in La Cerdanya for the next hours and many people were incomunicated and even the village where we were staying was incomunicated for about 1 day!

But when the worst was coming we were already in the road and all roads we were passing by were clear enough to guarantee a fluent, although slow, traffic. This day we were explorig a diferent valley, called Pallars. The area is considered as the best for raptors in the whole Pyrenees, not only for the massive numbers of vultures but also because it hosts a healthy population of Eurasian Black Vultures.

Our first target bird was the famous and wonderful Wallcreeper (Tichodroma muraria). During previous trips this year we were having a bird showing quite well in a gorge about 11:00 to noon so about 11:00 in the morning we were already scanning the rocks. This is a bird that can be really difficult to find so a carefully scanning of the cliff faces is mandatory if you want to keep your changes on the bird high.

While scanning around we got 4-5 Dippers (Cinclus cinclus) singing and moving in the river crossing the gorge. Some tits were also showing well including Long-tailed Tit (Aegithalos caudatus rosaeus), Firecrest (Regulus ignicapilla) and Short-toed Treecreeper (Certhia brachydactyla). Raptors were not moving so much because of the snowfall and only a few Eurasian Griffons (Gyps fulvus) were showing in short views moving along the cliffs. The ambient was really cold (-6ºC) but, fortunately, with no wind. The scanning kept the same until we got a moviment high up in the cliffs. Only a brief glimpse in a bird moving in and out the rocky slope. We all stick together and scanned around but with no feedback for about 2 minutes, and then a wonderful Wallcreeper showed out, and flew down the cliff the emerge not far away from us!

The bird was moving for a while, getting in and out a pair of wholes and finally stopped in a rock, preening for about one minute. After that the bird just flew and crossed the gorge, getting to the opposite site and flying up the slope so we alll lost the bird. It was a really nice view of about a pair of minutes. Excellent.

Happy about this nice views in such a difficult conditions we decided to go to the closer village, get a coffee and scape the bad weather.

In the afternoon, and after a rest of a pair of hours in our accommodation, where we had our packed lunches, we decided to go out and try something else. Weather conditions were improving. No snowfall any more and small patches of blue sky were a good start to think that afternoon could be good for raptors.

So, about 15:00 we arrived around Boumort Game Reserve, where there was “some” activity. And that “some” activity included about 40 to 50 Griffons circling and try to get higher as well as 7 Red Kites (Milvus milvus) in our way up to the area. We parked around and started scanning the cliff faces and all around.

Soon, we found our first adult Lammergeier (Gypaetos barbatus) soaring along cliff Ridge and this bird was immediatly followed by a second adult, and by a juvenile! More and more Griffons were now in the sky and also 2 Eurasian Black Vultures (Aegypius monachus) joined them. Soon, more Blacks were coming from the far side of the cliff and we counted a mínimum of 8 individuals moving around. Mainly juveniles, showing really black but also some adult, with a dulkier coloration and a wing profile not as extremelly squared as the juveniles.



Adult Lammergeier (Gypaetus barbatus), one of the at least 8 individuals we had along the tour. Image: Carles Oliver


The fields around were having a good moviment of birds including Woodlarks (Lullula arborea) singing out in the surprisingly sunny afternoon, Mistle Trush, European Serins, Cirl Buntings, Rock Sparrows, Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus), Linnets (Carduelis cannabina), Eurasian Nuthatch (Sitta europaea), Great Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos major) and a fast-flying Citril Finch (Carduelis citrinella). This bird, a main target of the trip, was unfortunately not stopping at all and only a pair of the participants could notice it and get some details on the bird (larger than Serin, longer tailed and showing a clear wing bar). The bird flew pas us up the valley but it was no chance to follow it since the track was closed due to the snowfall…

Back to the cliffs we could still enjoy more and more vultures, with Lammergeiers passing every whiles and Black Vultures and Griffons circling above us. Small flocks of Red-billed Choughs were also moving around and 1 Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) and 1 male Hen Harrier (Circus cyaneus) were both a good adding right before we started coming back to our accommodation

Day 3. February 15th

Early morning start, this time to explore some high mountains woodlands before going South to Lleida Steppes! Main quest bird of the morning was Black Woodpecker. Never easy! The original plan was to explore a really wonderful place north in the same shire but, due to the Snowfall, the track was probably block…So, we changed the plan and went to a tarmac lane leading to a sky resort that is was for sure clear.

We arrived there a bit before 10:00 with a cloudy but quiet weather (about 0ºC). The area to explore is about 1700 metres high and much warmer than in the valley due to the typical thermical inversion of the high mountains.

Some birds were moving around and we soon had good views on some Crested Tits (Lophophanes cristatus), Coal Tits (Periparus ater), Short-toed Treecreepers, Goldcrests (Regulus regulus) and one Firecrest. A small flock of Common Crossbills (Loxia curvirostra) were showing well in the top of some pines including a long-staying singing male!

We just kept searching for the main goody up the there and did a pair of walks, still having more small birds moving in the canopies but with no new addings to our list, out of some Mistle Thursh. It was taking a bit long with and the rather boring moment was broken by a Lammergeier soaring extremelly low over the slope in what it was propably the closest view we have had in the whole winter on the bird!

The group was still magnetised by the smart raptor when a clear call of a Black Woodpecker (Dryocopus martius) came up from the slope. The bird was quite close, actually. We stood there for a while and the bird came to us and perched some 50 metres away, high up in a tree so everybody had excellent views on the bird. The bird was still calling a pair of times more and then flew to our left and gave us excellent views on it in flight!



Black Woodpecker (Dryocopus matrius) was showing surprisingly well despite an extremelly windy and snowy previous day! Image: Carles Oliver


We were all satisfied with such a good views on a bird that is famous for being shy and rather unobtrusive so we started moving South, and explore the plains known as Lleida Steppes and located inmediatly South of the Pyrenees. Less than 90 minutes of drive were enough to produce a massive change in the landscape, and to lead us to our accommodation for the last night of the trip.

Along the way we enjoyed of several Griffons and Red Kites flying around and we had a nice to stop to enjoy the two firsts Iberian Grey Shrike (Lanius meridionalis) of the trip. These birds are endemic of the Iberian Peninsula so they are always a must-see bird!

Iberian Grey Shrike are slightly smaller than Northern Grey Shrikes are, and show less powerful, more compact due to a slightly shorter tail, and clearly darker especially in the undersides, where it shows a pinkish buff which is not always easy no notice. It has also a shorter bill, plainer culmen on it and a thin supercillium if compared with Northern Grey. When flying, looks like smaller bird with smaller white patches in the wing coverts.

Our first movement in the steppes was Utxesa, a wetland surrounded by large reedbeds. Far before stopping the car we were having about 10-12 Marsh Harriers (Circus aeruginosus). Main quest birds here were all living in the reedbeds. The afternoon was a bit chilly but with no wind, something really important when exploring these kind of habitats. It didn’t take long until we listened the firsts calls of Western Penduline Tits (Remiz pendulinus) and Cetti’s Warblers (Cettia cetti) and a proper scanning of the reedbeds and riberside vegetation produced good views on them as well as Sardinian Warblers and several Chiffchaffs. A Cirl Bunting was moving in the crops nearby and it was even singing for a pair of times. A small walk in the area showed extremely productive, and a group of 8-10 Bearded Tits (Panurus biarmicus) showed up in the reeds. A further channel produced 1 Water Pipit (Anthus spinolleta) and 1 male Bluethroat (Luscinia svecica), white medal, running in the mud and showing well in the reeds around! That was one of the main targets of the trip and we really good views on this bird! Here we also had a Green Sandpiper (Tringa ochropus), maybe a overwintering bird or maybe an early migratory bird going back to their nesting sites in Northern Europe.



Male white medal Bluethroat (Luscinia svecica) at Utxesa reservoir. A beautiful sight! Image: Carles Oliver




Western Penduline Tit (Remiz pendulinus) at Utxesa reservoir, Lleida. Note this male is still not showing totally in full adult plumage, with not fully contrasted head-neck colours. Image: Carles Oliver


Next movement was to visit a small valley immediatly South of Lleida city. A road stop some kilometers before arriving to the main place was mandatory as we spotted 1 Little Owl (Athene noctua) perched on a tree. We all enjoy with this view and, as being some movement around, we got out the van to have a 5-minutes walk. This produced good views on Crested Larks, 2 lovely Hoopoes (Upupa epops) feeding on ground and 2 Dartford Warblers (Sylvia undata) skilking in the low, sparse vegetation. The only ones of the trip! Few metres beyond, already all back up in the van, we had a second Little Owl really close to the van, producing really good views on the bird!



We just had this Little Owl (Athene noctua) in our way so we just had to stop and enjoy. Image: Carles Oliver




And we were leaving we just found a 2nd Little Owl 80 metres beyond! Image: Carles Oliver


And we arrived to our main stop in the area! We were in a landscape totally diferent was the morning. Landscape South of Lleida is a dry, semi-arid traditional farming with plenty of wheat fields and almond orchards. Here there are almost no water courses and the few streams have some poplars and riberside vegetation while the slopes around are rocky, dry and covered by low, dense scrublands. It was 16:40 and a lovely light was bathing the valley.

Main quest here is a pair of Eagle Owl (Bubo bubo) nesting around in the cliffs. We carefully scanned the cliffs and finally found one adult sleeping deep inside the vegetation. It was a wonderful view despite the poor images we could get on the bird. We all kept an eye on the owl in the case it was moving while enjoying the birdlife around. The slopes around were full of Blackcaps (Sylvia atricapilla) and Song Thrush (Turdus philomelos) but we also got lovely and extremely close views on 8 Hawfinches (Coccothraustes coccothraustes). 2-3 Redwings were also around and a proper scanning in the slopes around was soon producing 2 wonderful Black Wheatears (Oenanthe leucura), again one of the main targets of the trip! The male was quite active and moving up and down in the slope, stopping the same in rocks but also in the top of well exposed branches. So, we were having at the same time Eagle Owl, Black Wheatears and Hawfinches!



White Storks (Ciconia ciconia) are a common view around Lleida, also in winter. Image: Carles Oliver


In this place, a tiny stream is going down the valley so we decided to walk down for 400 metres until a crossroad nearby. Midway down, a small pond was attracting tones of Chaffinches and also more Hawfinches were coming down to drink. A short time there, waiting, produced a wonderful male Brambling but also 2 Cirl Buntings coming to drink water. Blue Tits and Long-tailed Tits were also around. Arrived to the crossroad we had the chance to scan at the other side of the valley. Here some Crag Martins (Ptynoprogne rupestris) were patrolling along the cliffs searching for insects and here we also had excellent views on a male Blue Rock Thrush (Monticola solitarius). An Iberian Green Woodpecker was calling around but we could not get any view on the bird. In the nearby village, loads of Spotless Starlings (Sturnus unicolor) were singing and performing, coming down to tha valley and many times stopping in the banks around so we could have really good views on them. Several Jackdaws (Corvus monedula) and 3 Red-billed Choughs were also present. Back to the cliffs, there were still more surprises since in the top of an old house we got 6 Rock Sparrows (Petronia patronia) in lovely light. Around the cliffs some Thekla Larks (Galerida theklae) were singing and callin and we got also good views on the birds. Still surprised how many birdwatchers consider this bird as being really scarce…In Catalonia and the Iberian Med coast is a common bird as long you look for them in the proper habitat: scrubby slopes and steppe lands.



Male Hawfinch (Coccothraustes coccothraustes) in Lleida Steppes. A massive irruption of them has arrive this winter to Western Europe! Image: Carles Oliver




Cracking Blue Rock Thrush (Monticola solitarius) in lovely afternoon light in Lleida Steppes. Image: Carles Oliver


Back to car we still had time to take a look on the Eagle Owl, still roosting in the same place so we just decided to start going to our accommodation…

But we still had time a for 5-minutes stop just before arriving to our accommodation in a farming area, where a flock of Little Bustards (Tetrax tetrax) was spending the winter. It didn’t take long to locate them and we could all enjoy great views on the birds while moving in the well-vegetated fields. The group was counting 37 individuals including males, females and juveniles, easy to tell apart by the design in the upperparts and other details.
A five minutes scan around allowed us to have other interesting birds including several White Storks (Ciconia ciconia) moving around, Grey Herons (Ardea cinerea) as well as a flock of Meadow Pipits (Anthus pratensis) and Eurasian Skylarks (Alauda arvensis). That was the end of a gorgeous day and time enjoy a good dinner and drinks!

Day 4. February 16th

Last morning of the this rather short version of our winter trip (normally it should run for 5 days) and time to explore some amazing spots looking for some top target birds. Early morning breakfast and transfer to the West, getting inside Aragón for some miles to explore a lovely patch of steppes. In our way, the highway was always full of Cattle Egrets (Bubulcus ibis), Red Kites and White Storks.

Arrived to the area to explore about 9:00 we just had a first stop in some fields concentrating Sandgrouses in winter. That morning was a bit quiet but our scanning was still producing a flock of 8 Pin-tailed Sandgrouses (Pterocles alchata) forraging on the ground. We all enjoyed of wonderful views on them and listened the typical “ga-ga” in our left so another flock was moving nearby.

The firsts Calandra Larks (Melanocorypha calandra) were starting singing here and there and soon we had several birds flying around, flying, singing and displaying along with Thekla Larks. We just drove 5 minutes to one of the places where Dupont’s Lark (Chersophilus duponti) is still to be found. All the way, Calandra, Thekla and also some Lesser Short-toed Larks (Calandra rufescens) joined with their songs. It was definately a good moment to go for Dupont’s Lark.



Thekla Lark (Galerida theklae) in a previous tour. Note the well contrasted face markings, including a kind of “eye ring”. Also the “pure” whitish belly and flanks if compared with Crested Lark. Image: Carles Oliver


This Lark is a bit a mistery. It is reluctant to fly, and when do it, it normally flies short distances. It calls few times and spend most of its time running on the ground where it looks for insects, warms and spiders. Its rather dark coloration make the bird extremely difficult to find.

So, we drove really slowly, listening for any singing bird. As everything was quite we just arrived to one of the typical places and stop and stay inside the car for some minutes. Nothing singing but Calandra, Theklas and Lesser Short-toeds (not bad, anyway). 2 Black-bellied Sandgrouses (Pterocles orientalis) pass by us but unfortunately nobody in the group noticed the birds. 5-10 minutes and nothing. Scanning all around and nothing. Well, went out of the cars and prepared the scopes. Nothing. Plenty of Calandra singing and a distant, really distant Stone Curlew (Burhinus oedicnemus) calling. We just waited for half an hour, in silence and by the car, and nothing. But then a song came to us. Dunpont’s Lark singing. Difficult to listen because of the massive activity in Calandras and so on but still was there, in somewhere. Some more wait and got two males singing. One at our right, another at our left. Good! Everybody scanning and nothing. 2-3-4 minutes of wait and nothing, only Calandras and Theklas in an endless wave of songs and then a Dunpont’s again at our left, closer. Many times they just sing between run and run, every 2-3 minutes scan  really tricky! Again some wait, a really distant bird was singing, as well. More Calandras everywhere and then our Dupont’s started singing really, really close! It looked like being just-in-front-of-us! The bird went on singing of almost one minute, good. And then we found it, standing up quite in the open and singing about 35 metres from us!! What a view!!! Make sure that everybody in the group was having the bird (not easy to find) and try to get some images. Now there were 3-4 males singing but it is always difficult to say due to the Calandra & Thekla songs and, in fact, because the Dunpont’s song itself is designed to make the bird more difficult to spot. We all enjoyed a quite long view on the bird and then the lark was moving in the steppe vegetation so we could track the bird for some metres before it was disappearing…Wonderful!



The always elusive Dunpont’s Lark (Chersophilus duponti) was giving superb views few metres away from the car. Image: Carles Oliver


Well, happy all the group for such a successful morning we then invested some time in enjoying good views on Lesser Short-toed Larks and trying to find a flock of Black-bellied Sandgrouse but we had no luck in this second species. We then decided to move to a nearby wetland where have our packed lunches. But before arriving we had a stop in the road, a Marsh Harrier was diving on a juvenile Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos), and attacking it in a really agressive way. We could not figure out was the goldie did to deserve such a treatment but Marsh Harrier was extremely ungry. Maybe starting to defend a nesting territory?

Once in the wetland, inmediatly South of Candasnos, we start having our lunch while scanning the diferent ducks around. Mallards (Anas platyrhynchos) were the most common by far but we also got Gadwalls (Anas strepera), Eurasian Teals (Anas crecca), Northern Shovelers (Anas clypeata) and 8 Common Pochards (Aythya ferina). Still, the best was a flock of 12 Red-crested Pochards (Netta rufina) including some drake ones.

After lunch, a short walk around produced Reed Buntings (Emberiza schoeniclus), 2 Penduline Tits (Remiz pendulinus), and a walk along a channel gave 1 female Bluethroat and 1 Jack Snipe (Lymnocriptes minimus) that flew out and circled us to dive at our back. This was a really nice surprise since is a fairly scarce bird down here! The corn fields around the lagoon where carpeted with Northern Lapwings (Vanellus vanellus) and 1 Merlin (Falco columbarius) came to this area in a really fast Flight when we were scanning around!

Last birding movement of the tour was to drive further West to look for Great Bustards (Otis tarda). A small populations lives in Los Monegros and a proper management is likely to do this population increase number in coming years. Nowadays, less than 80 individuals are left.



Part of the flock of Great Bustards (Otis tarda) that we enjoyed in our last afternoon at Los Monegros. Note the central bird already having being “moustached”. Image: Carles Oliver


So, we just drove around a proper place to find them, always joined by Calandra Larks and huge flocks of Linnets (Carduelis cannabina) and Corn Buntings (Emberiza calandra) and we were lucky to find a flock of 14 males quite easily. It is always wonderful to enjoy such a magnificient birds in the endless farmed plains where do they live. Despite what many people thinks about these gorgeous birds, Great Bustards are not really steppe birds, but grassland birds, and their habitat selection is less exigent than Little Bustards or Pin-tailed Sandgrouses so are (technically) capable to live in a wider range of habitats.

We just ended the trip with the wondeful view of these giant birds in the cereal crops, hoping them the best in their fight for surviving and started coming back to Barcelona, where we arrived a bit after sunset!

A wonderful end for a really successful trip despite the extremely challenging weather conditions…

2019 dates: February 19th to 23rd. Join for great birding and good fun!

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