Arxiu d'etiquetes: Little Bustard Spain

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.

 

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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

 

 

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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).

 

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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

 

 

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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…

 

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

 

 

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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…

 

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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 barcelonabirdingpoint.com our contact us to design your birding adventure at info@barcelonabirdingpoint.com

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Little Bustard (Tetrax tetrax) group display, an uncommon behaviour

The Little Bustard (Tetrax tetrax) is a medium size member of the Otidae family of birds. The range of this bustard in Europe is concentrated in the Iberian Peninsula and France with smaller (relictual?) populations in some areas of Italy and Macedonia. As much as half of the world’s population of this bird lives in Russia and Central Asia, wintering in large numbers in Azerbayan. In Iberia the bird nests in traditional wheat field areas and in the few remaining patches of natural steppe. In winter, most of the birds moves to crops offering them green leaves (their main food during winter) such as alfalfa.

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Little Bustards (Tetrax tetrax) in a classical winter flock

  During spring, Little Bustard males display in an individual lek, defending it agaisnt other males. In the lek, the males sing and do their famous “jumps” as an exhibition to other males and females. These jumps, about one metre high, have an important rule in indicating the hierarchy of the males and, at the same time, shows out their health. Little Bustards, as an interesting point from most of their relatives, don’t display in comunal leks. This is an important behaviour difference and it is probably the result of a predation press over comunal leks (Little Bustards are sensitive to predation from Foxes). That’s why is so uncommon to see different males to display together when being in a flock. The past 25th October we could see, during one of our trips, over 12 different males displaying in an alfalfa field! Both the date and the number of males involved makes this sight simply unique. At 10:20 we located a flock of over 40 Little Bustards in the Lleida Steppes, near Balaguer. The flock contained males, females and 1st winter birds.   tmp_20151025-_MG_2851ret1844806311

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Two images showing the awesome interaction of these males. The image above shows two males displaying in a way that reminds the close related Houbara Bustard. The image below shows two males “jumping” while a third male (far left) shows a clear pre-jumping behaviour. Images by Josep Call

After 20 minutes of observation we started to see how some of the birds were taking a part from the flock. They looked like being all males. About 10:45 they started to make their typical jumps, starting the juveniles and following the adult males. It was a lot of ritualised agressivity among the males and even some fights were seen (see photos). The figths were preceded by long seconds of tension with the two males involved standing up side by side, in a typical behaviour of the males when defending their leks against an invasor male.

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A fight involving two males. A quite uncommon behaviour, more likely to happen during March. Image by Josep Call

The scene was about 30 minutes long and at least 12 different males were “displaying”. See the video posted in youtube by following this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cDVFu_nKe_w