Arxiu d'etiquetes: Steppe-birds

Fuerteventura Birding Tour 2016. Trip report

Dates: December 6th to 10th, 2016

Number of participants: 3

Weather conditions: Sunny all long. We had, as usual, early morning clouds but breaking after 10am. A soft brise was also present most of the days. Temperatures; 18ºC to 24ºC.

Day 1. December 7th. After our late afternoon arrival to Fuerteventura from our Barcelona flight we woke up early in our seaside hotel in El Cotillo to enjoy a good breakfast before starting birding. Still, in the gardens of our hotel a first of many, many Spanish Sparrows (Passer hispanoliensis) was spotted doing its typical call. This is the only one species of Sparrow living in the island being really common in every single garden! After breakfast we did the short transfer to our first location. El Cotillo-La Oliva area is a well known area for steppe birds, hosting most (if not all) the especialities living in the island. In our first stop we soon located some Berthelot’s Pipits (Anthus berthelotii), the first Canary Islands endemic of the trip, along with several very vocal Lesser Short-toed Lark (Calandrella rufescens).

Some scanning around produced 2 Hoopoes (Upupa epops) landing on some rocks, one of them doing its wonderful song. A male European Stonechat (Saxicola rubicola) was spotted in the steppe and broke some hearts as a close relative of it was expected instead… still, this was the only European Stonechat of trip!

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Berthelot’s Pipit (Anthus berthelotii) is probably the commonest passerine in Fuerteventura.

In our way to our very first important stop we enjoyed views on Canary Islands Ravens (Corvus corax tingitanus), a superb and very different bird from European race due to their shorter tail, more rounded wings, smaller head and very distinctive (rather crow-like) calls. This a good candidate for a future split… In the distance, some Stone Curlews were calling but we could not locate them…

Once we stopped we immediatly spotted a magnificient Houbara Bustard (Chlamidotis undulata) preening about 100 metres away from us. The bird was really concentrated in cleaning its plomage so we could enjoy it as long as necessary to have excellent views. At the same time we kept scouting looking for some females but we had no luck… Instead we had some really confiding Canary Islands Shrikes (Lanius (elegans) koenigi) around. The status of this bird is still controversial. Nowadays there are two main theories; the first arguing to be a different species (Lanius koenigi), the second (and more accepted) arguing to be conspecific with Desert & Algerian Shrikes (Lanius elegans koenigi), and still some other theories. Wherever these birds were really cooperative and photographers appreciated very much really close views on them.

We kept scanning ditches around and our work proved not to be unhelpful since we had 2 Barbary Partridges (Alectoris barbara) feeding in one of the ditches. It was a great spot since this can be a difficult bird to spot so it was great to have so early in the trip!

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Canary Island Shrike (Lanius (elegans) koenigi) is a splitable endemic easy to find in Fuerteventura.

 

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Barbary Partridges (Alectoris barbara) can be difficult to spot but we had several good sights on them.

After such a good start we decided to explore a small canyon (barranco) close by. Several Berthelot’s Pipits were around and here we had very good views on some really confiding Spectacled Warblers (Sylvia conspicillata orbitalis). We decided to walk a bit up the “barranco” and, after only 100 metres of walk we found an extremelly close Fuerteventura Chat (Saxicola dacotiae) male on a Cactus. Soon after we found the beautiful female around and enjoyed of very long and close views on them. This is the only endemic bird of Fuerteventura and one of the main target birds for any single birdwatcher visiting the island…

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Fuerteventura Chat (Saxicola dacotiae) is restringed to this island and a must for any birdwatcher visiting it!

While enjoying the chats we also had another good encounter since a small flock of about 6 Trumpeter Finches (Bucanetes githagineus) came to stop only 20 metres from us! Again, we could enjoy them quite long while feeding on seeds in tiny bush. A few after a Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo insularum) appeared in the sky. This is again an endemic race of the Canaries, and a bird that looks like quite different from continental forms! In this barranco we also had our firsts Greenish Black-tips (Elphinstonia charlonia) moving around along with Painted Ladys (Vanessa cardui) and 1-2 Red Admirall (Vanessa atalanta).

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Trumpeter Finch (Bucanetes githagineus) is the commonest finch in Fuerteventura.

After such a wonderful mid-morning we decided to have a change and go to Los Molinos reservoir, the main wetland in the island. In our way to the reservoir we stopped a pair of times to enjoy some flocks of Spanish Sparrows. Linnet (Carduelis cannabina), Eurasian Collared Dove (Streptopelia decaocto) and Robin (Erithacus rubecula) were also seen. Our last stop produced also 2 Laughing Dove (Streptopelia senegalensis) but, unfortunately I was the only one to see them…

Even before arriving to Los Molinos reservoir we started to enjoy the visit. Birding in this location is highly variable depending on water level but this time we were lucky, as water level was high and the whole “barranco” beyond the dump was having water running down. 1 Common Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus dacotiae) was gliding over and allowed us excellent views on this (again) endemic race! Ruddy Shelducks (Tadorna ferruginea) we common this year as we count no less than 60 of them in the lake! When approaching the reservoir we had really close views on them. Some of the birds around included Eurasian Coot (Fulica atra) +70, Common Sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos) 2, Greenshank (Tringa nebularia) 3, Little Ringed Plover (Charadrius dubius) 1, Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus) 1, Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula) 6, Eurasian Teal (Anas crecca) 2, Common Snipe (Gallinago gallinago) 2 and 3 Little Egret (Egretta Garzetta).

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Lesser Short-toed Larks (Calandrella rufescens) are good imitating other birds. This bird imitated Fuerteventura Chat, Stone Curlew and Berthelot’s Pipit amongst other birds.

The best birds in the wetland this time were +15 Black-winged Stilts (Himantopus himantopus) and one unexpected Garganey (Anas querquedula). Here we also had our only one Northern Wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe) of trip, perched on a wall along with Canary Islands Shrike & Hoopoe, good combination of birds! It was lunch time so we head to a close place to enjoy some food and, why not, some shade! Before that we had to do an emergency stop since a Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus majorensis) was spotted perched in one slope. Despite the bird was quite far away, we enjoy good views on the bird while feeding around joined by a pair of Ravens… This was a good spot and, surprisingly, our only Egyptian Vulture in this trip!

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Spanish Sparrows (Passer hispanoliensis) are the only sparrows in Fuerteventura.

After lunch we came to the semi-desert area around El Cotillo. Here we spent some time scanning some farming areas, where we had 2 Barbary Partridges and our only one Song Thrush (Turdus philomelos) of trip. A short drive around the area produced our main target that afternoon since 3 obliging Cream-coloured Coursers (Cursorior cursor bannermani) were located, doing their typical short runs. They were really cooperative and delighted the whole group! Nevertheless it was considered one of the birds of the trip!! corredor-sahariano-071216-1-copy   img_9876

We hept moving in this area, having always confiding Berthelot’s Pipit around. Not long after we had a flock of 5 Black-bellied Sandgrouses (Pterocles orientalis) flying not far away from us… They stopped in a hill but, as we had not so much light left, we decided to move.

We still had to have a last stop. After a short transfer we arrive to an area were one of the main targets of the trip is normally moving. A short wait was done in late afternoon light and then, with the very last light, it was appearing a wonderful Barbary Falcon (Falco peregrinoides) with a prey, flying fast around the valley! We were lucky as the bird decided to do a pair of rolls in the air so we could have good views on the falcon before desappeared! We were all really happy of having such a view on a bird that many birdwatchers visiting the island are missing!! The population here is tiny, probably only 2-3 pairs!! Happy after such a successful day, we head back to our hotel for some rest (& good food!).

Day 2. December 8th. After the success of the day before, we decided to do a pre-dawn start and go to the same place where we had our first Houbara Bustard the day before. When we arrived to the place the bird was immediatly located and we were delighted to see it in full display! It was evident that that place was his lek this year. Displays of Houbara Bustard are really spectacular and even funny. Males place the head rear on their back and then open and show all white feathers in their breast and along the neck. Once in this position, the bird starts running in small, 5-6 metres of diameter cercles. Like this, the bird looks like having no neck, neither head. It looks like a running snow ball, actually! We enjoyed very much of such a exhibition, that was repeated several times. Unfortunately the bird was a bit far away to take any proper photo… After such a good start in our second day we decided to do some further exploration in the same area, that was soon producing to more distant males displaying in different corners, in the semi-arid countryside. No females were spotted, suprisingly!

When we were about to leave the area we had a wonderful Stone Curlew (Burhinus oedicnemus insularum) sat down some meters away from our car! This was a wonderful spot and photographers in the group (once again) really appreciated it! Stone Curlews living in Canary Islands are, in average, darker and more contrasted than those living in Africa and are good candidates for a future split.

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Stone Curlews (Burhinus oedicnemus insularum) are not uncommon in Fuerteventurs, but always challenging to find.

After leaving the semi-desertic area we headed towards maybe the only one reliable spot for Atlantic Canary (Serinus canaria) in Fuerteventura. We arrived quite at midday to the place and soon after parking we had a male Sardinian Warbler (Sylvia melanocephala) singing close by. This sight was followed by our only one seen Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla) of the trip. After some meters of exploration we listened some Canaries moving up the slope, at the other side of the barranco, so we headed to that area and soon we were enjoying a wonderful, 4-5 metres away male singing and calling from its perch. As an interesting point, this male looked like being imitating the calls of African Blue Tits… never listened thst before. This finch is also an endemic bird but this time shared by Canary Islands, Maderia and Açores.

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Atlantic Canary (Serinus canaria) is Macaronesian endemic having a tiny population in Fuerteventura.

We counted up to 4 Atlantic Canaries in the slope, not a big number but enough for the small group! Several obliging Spectacled Warblers were also very active in that slope, singing from the bush land but also performing song flights so we invested some time in having even better views than the previous day!  Even before being back to the village we had our last target bird in this location, as 1 African Blue Tit (Cyanistes teneriffae ultramarinus) was seen flying over our heads. We followed this bird to have better views and soon were enjoying really close views on two individuals in a dense tree, joined by 2 Chiffchaffs (Phylloscopus collybita).

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African Blue Tits (Cyanistes teneriffae ultramarinus) are conspecific with those living in Morocco.

We also had some wonderful butterflies here, including the first Plain Tiger (Danaus chrysippus) of the trip, Geranium Bronze (Cacyreus marshallii) and +5 Bath White (Pontia daplidice). A Blue butterfflie was also flying around but couldn’t have proper views on it…

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Bath White (Pontia daplidice) is probably the commonest butterfly in the mountainous orchads in Fuerteventura.

We leaved Betancuria for our next stop, this time in the South part of the island. After lunch we arrived to the area around Oasis Park Fuerteventura, where so scaped birdlife can be seen. Just a few miles before arriving a new Laughing Dove was spotted crossing the road in flight. Again I was the only one in having the bird our efforts in recolate the bird were useless. Once we arrived to the are around Oasis Park we had some good views on impressive Monarch (Danaus  plexippus) joined by some Plain Tigers (Danaus chrysippus). These butterflies were really celebrated by the group! We did some walks around but only had 3 Chiffchaffs, +2 Blackcaps singing from some bush, 1 Robin and the omnipresent Spanish Sparrows & Collared Doves… A bit more of effort was done and we finally got something as 1 Red-vented Bulbul (Pycnonotus cafer) was appearing and showing well (although distant) in the top of one tree. It looks like there is a small population breeding around this zoo. We still had some more time around but only produced a small Common Waxbill (Estrilda astrild) flock calling inside a fenced area…

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Red-vented Bubul (Pycnonotus cafer), an scaped that is probably having a tiny self-sustained population.

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We decided to change our location and explore the urban “forest” at Costa Calma. We found the place really quiet and for 10-15 minutes we only had 2 Chiffchaffs… and Spanish Sparrows. But when thinking about leaving the area we spotted a wonderful Yellow-browed Warbler (Phylloscopus inornatus). We approached the bird until we could have really good views (and shots) and then is when we realised a second YB was calling deeper inside the canopies! That was a really good bird a quite celebrated. We still had some more time is this spot, hoping for something different but we only got a flock of 7-8 Eurasian Goldfinches (Carduelis carduelis).

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One of the two self-found Yellow-browed Warblers (Phylloscopus inornatus) at Costa Blanca.

It was only one hour left until dark so we decided to explore some semi-desert areas around Costa Calma. Right when arriving to the designated place we had a wonderful flock of 13 Black-bellied Sandgrouses that allowed a long sight while feeding on ground in the afternoon light. A short drive after this encounteer we also had really good views on 2 close Cream-coloured Coursers showing really well! We still had time for a further exploration and got what we were looking for… 2 magnificient females Houbara Bustards feeding close by, in lovely sunset light. This time we really enjoy the way they delicatelly feeding on the bush around and how they were running around in the middle of the steppe land!

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Houbara Bustard (Chlamidotis undulata) was showing really well almost daily along our trip!

An amazing view to end a wonderful second day of the trip!!

Day 3. December 9th. This day we were supposed to “jump” to Gran Canaria to add some different species and, especially, the really scarce Gran Canaria Blue Chaffinch (Fringilla polatzeki). Unfortunately this option was finally not possible and we had to stay in Fuerteventura. We invested the morning in scan the shore around El Cotillo. Here we spotted Eurasian Whimbrels (Numenius phaeopus) in several spots as well as Common Ringed Plover (Charadrius hiaticula). Along the coast several Yellow-legged Gulls (Larus michahellis atlantis), a slightly smaller and less powerful race if compared with the nominal race living in the Mediterranean. Other birds appearing here include 2 Sandwich Terns (Sterna sandvicensis), 3 Lesser Black-backed Gull (Larus fuscus) and my first ever Trumpeter Finch by the sea! The best birds along the morning, still, were located around El Cotillo, where we had +13 Kentish Plover (Charadrius alexandrinus), 3 Dunlin (Calidris alpina), 1 Little Stint (Calidris minuta) and 1 Grey Plover (Pluvialis squatarola).

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Kentish Plovers (Charadrius alexandrinus) is a good resident bird along Fuerteventura beaches.

Several stops were done to scan the sea, looking for Shearwaters or other sea birds but, unfortunately, nothing of interest was spotted along the whole morning… After lunch we came back to the semi-desert area, trying to have a second look on Barbary Falcon. We explored the same area where we had the bird a pair of days before but we had no luck. Instead we got a new flock of 4 Black-bellied Sandgrouses, really close views this time, as well as a lovely view on a pair of Barbary Partridges that, this time, was allowing good shots.

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Barbary Partridge (Alectoris barbara), always a good bird!

Day 4. December 10th. Last morning in the island. We decided to have a last look to the semi-desert specialities. 3 Houbara Bustards were located again easily but the best of that visit was 1 Stone Curlew close by the dart road. After this good start we decided to go for Laughing Dove (Streptopelia senegalensis), a species that had been escaping from us, so far. We stopped in the same area I spotted two individuals a pair of days ago and we were lucky since we had a really good view on a bird perched in a wire even before leaving the car!

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Laughing Dove (Streptopelia senegalensis) is a pretty scarce dove in the Canary Islands, and beautiful bird!

As we were close to Los Molinos reservoir we spent some time there, as well. New and excellent views on Fuerteventura Chats and Trumpeter Finches were done and allowed good photos. We also added some new species to the tour list. 5 Mallards (Anas platyrhynchos) were seen along with 2 Pintails (Anas acuta), 2 Eurasian Wigeons (Anas penelope) and 4 Grey Herons (Ardea cinerea) but the best birds in this stop were the flocks of at least 18 Black-bellied Sandgrouses flying really low all around and stopping to drink water around the reservoir! It was a lovely view and quite unexpected, actually! img_0187

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Female & male Fuerteventura Chats (Saxicola dacotiae), personally the besg bird living in Fuerteventura!

Right before arriving to the airport we still had time to do some exploration in some Golf courses nearby. 2 Ruddy Shelducks were walking along the greens, a very different sight! 2 Common Sandpipers, 3 Common Ringed Plovers and 1 Common Redshank (Tringa totanus) were also seen as well as 2 White Wagtails (Motacilla alba), 2 Grey Wagtails (Motacilla cinerea), 1 Chiffchaff and a pair of Greenfinches (Chloris chloris) flying around…

And this was the end of a really successful trip, expecting to have a even better trip in 2017 or early 2018, when we will look for the very scarce Gran Canaria Blue Chaffinch!

Join us for more fun & birds!!!

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Marató Ornitològica 2016. Emberiza & cia Team

Número d’espècies: 162           Observadors: 4

Un any més ens hem animat a participar a la marató ornitològica. Amb un itinerari bastant estudiat i un equip amb molt ambient vam intentar batre el nostre propi rècord de 175 espècies, establert l’any 2015.

Els participants d’aquest any vam ser en Víctor Sanz, en Mike O´Neill, en Ramiro Aibar i un servidor, Carles Oliver. Aquest post en un resum de l’esperiència viscuda al llarg d’aquella jornada.

 

Els integrants d’Emberiza & cia d’enguany. D’esquerra a dreta: Victor Sanz, Carles Oliver, Mike O´Neill i Ramiro Aibar.

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Vam escollir la data del dia 1 de Maig per a realitzar la marató, bàsicament perquè era la que més s’ajustava amb els nostres respectius calendaris laborals. Per segon any consecutiu visitaríem diferents localitzacions del Pirineu, Delta de l’Ebre i Franja de Ponent per tal d’aconseguir el major número d’espècies possibles.

Malauradament, la metereologia no va estar de part nostra. Al llarg de tota la jornada vam patir vent del Nord entre moderat i fort, que va fer molt incòmode l’observació d’ocells. A més a més, el fort vent va estar acompanyat, de matinada, per una intensa nevada al Pirineu, que va fer pràctimanent impossible assolir els objectius previstos a les localitzacions escollides. La neu també ens va acompanyar al Pirineu i, de fet, al llarg de tot el dia. Les temperatures van oscil·lar entre els -5ºC i els 12ºC, en un ambient més propi del mes de Febrer que no pas de començaments de Maig. 

 

Aquesta parella de cuabarrades ens va donar un bon espectacle i va merèixer una bona parada en el trajecte Delta de l’Ebre-Franja de Ponent. Imatge: Victor Sanz

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La jornada la vam començar a la 13:44 a la Ronda de Dalt amb molta il·lusió i molt, molt orgullosos de les nostres samarretes (gràcies Víctor!). Un cop tots reunits i apilats els trastos en un dels vehicles vam fer una primera parada a peu de Ronda. Aquí ja vam poder comprovar les baixes temperatures (només 11ºC!!!) i la baixa activitat d’aus que seria la tònica general de jornada. 

Només vam poder sentir 3 Xots (Otus scops) i 1 Rossinyol comú (Luscinia megarhynchos). Malgrat els nostres esforços per sentir alguna cosa més, enguany l’Enganyapastors (Caprimulgus europaeus) va fallar a la seva cita habitual, sent la primera baixa del dia…

Una mica després de les 4:00 arribem a la nostra segona parada, a l’alt Pirineu. Aquí, sota una important nevada, vam fer diferents parades per escoltar nocturnes, amb un resultat totalment negatiu. Després d’una hora de intents sota la neu i el fort vent vam fer una petita escapada a la vall per intentar el Gamarús (Strix aluco) que sí que vam sentir (tímidament) malgrat el vent. Aquí també va cantar una Cotxa fumada (Phoenicurus ochruros).

De tornada a les alçades vam un últim intent per aquelles nocturnes més altimontanes, sense èxit. A l’albada ens van arribar els primers cants i reclams: Pit-roig (Erithacus rubecula), Griva (Turdus viscivorus), Pardal de bardissa (Prunella modularis), Pinsà comú (Fringilla coelebs), Mallarenga petita (Periparus ater), Tord comú (Turdus philomelos), Mallarenga emplollada (Lophophanes cristatus), Bruel (Regulus ignicapilla) i Raspinell comú (Certhia brachydactyla). 

Una miqueta més avançat el matí s’hi van sumar un segon grup, no tant matiner: Reietó (Regulus regulus), Picot verd (Picus sharpei), Picot garser gros (Dendrocopos major), Pica-soques blau (Sitta europea), Sit negre (Emberiza cia), Cucut (Cuculus canorus), Corb (Corvus corax), Merla (Turdus merula), Mosquiter comú (Phylloscopus collybita), Trencapinyes (Loxia curvirostra) i Llucareta (Carduelis citrinella). Van fallar algunes espècies però, tenint en compte les pèsimes condicions metereològiques, no ens podíem queixar!

De camí a la vall encara vam sumar alguna que altra espècie com la Cuereta blanca (Motacilla alba), el Tudó (Columba palumbus) o la Cornella negra (Corvus corone). Un cop arribats a la vall la nostra primera parada va ser en un petit estany que va ser molt, molt productiu. Aquí en Mike va veure una parella de Morell de plomall (Aythya fuligula) i, a prop seu, també hi havia Cigne mut (Cygnus olor), Ànec coll-verd (Anas platyrhynchos) i Ànec mandarí (Aix galericulata). Al voltant de l’estany hi havia Xivitona (Actitis hypoleucos) i Gamba verda (Tringa nebularia), una espècies gens habitual a la zona! A les arbredes del voltant hi vam afegir Gaig (Garrulus glandarius), Tallarol de casquet (Sylvia atricapilla), Verdum (Chloris chloris), Mastegatatxes (Ficedula hypoleuca), Mosquiter pàl·lid (Phylloscopus bonelli) i Mallarengues blava (Cyanistes caeruleus), carbonera (Parus major) i cuallarga (Aegithalos caudatus). 

La següent parada va ser uns quilòmetres més avall de vall. Aquí vam afegir a la llista Verderola (Emberiza citrinella), Gratapalles (Emberiza cirlus), Tallarol de garriga (Sylvia cantillans), Cargolet (Troglodytes troglodytes), Passerell comú (Carduelis cannabina) i una molt tardana Titella (Anthus pratensis). Aquí també vam veure els primers rapinyaires del dia, en concret Xoriguer comú (Falco tinnunculus), Milà negre (Milvus migrans) i Aligot comú (Buteo buteo). 

La última parada a la vall ens va reportar molts Voltors comuns (Gyps fulvus), Milà reial (Milvus milvus) a més a més de Cuereta torrentera (Motacilla cinerea), Pardal roquer (Petronia petronia), Pardal xarrec (Passer montanus), Cadernera (Carduelis carduelis) i Roquerol (Ptynoprogne rupestris).

Martinet ros (Ardeola ralloides), un dels ardèids més comuns al Delta de l’Ebre

Squacco Heron

Abans d’enfilar fins a un coll de muntanya vam, però, decidir de fer una paradeta als afores d’un poble, en un lloc de petits camps de conreu que acostumen a ser molt productius. Va ser una de les decisions més encertades de la jornada, ja que amb prou feines bufava vent. 

Aquí vam poder afegir a llista Cotoliu (Lullula arborea), Bitxac comú (Saxicola rubicola), Bitxac rogenc (Saxicola rubetra), Garsa (Pica pica) i un molt aclamat Hortolà (Emberiza hortulana); el primer de l’any per a tots nosaltres! 

Un cop guanyada alçada vam comprovar les pèsimes condicions meterològiques, amb cops de vent molt fort que amb prou feines ens permetiren de sortir del cotxe. Malgrat això vam poder sumar alguns dels objectius principals, com Gralla de bec groc (Pyrrhocorax graculus), Gralla de bec vermell (Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax), Còlit gris (Oenanthe oenanthe) i Merla roquera (Monticola saxatilis) amb un parell d’exemplars volant increïblement alt malgrat el vent. 

Algunes de les espècies que no van aparèixer i amb les que hi comptaven són, entre d’altres, Merla de pit blanc (Turdus torquatus), Lluer (Spinus spinus), Picot negre (Dryocopus martius), Trencalòs (Gypaetos barbatus), Grasset de muntanya (Anthus spinolleta), Pinsà borroner (Pyrrhula pyrrhula), Alosa (Alauda arvensis) i Guatlla (Coturnix coturnix)…

Les últimes parades al Pirineu, abans de sortir “volant” cap al Delta, ens van reportar Tallarol gros (Sylvia borin), Esparver vulgar (Accipiter nisus) i Merla d’aigua (Cinclus cinclus), una espècie aquesta que només va poder gaudir en Víctor.

Cap al migdia vam arribar al Delta de l’Ebre. En sortir del Pirineu superàvem les 80 espècies, així que la cosa no anava tant malament… De camí cap al Delta vam sumar unes quantes espècies, pescades en vol com el Ballester (Apus melba) i la Cotorreta de pit gris (Myiopsitta monachus) a l’alçada de Sant Cugat o  les Orenetes vulgars (Hirundo rustica) i cuablanques (Delichon urbicum).

En arribar al Delta hi havia una munió de Falciots negres (Apus apus) i Orenetes de ribera (Riparia riparia) per tota la zona. En arribar allà i malgrat el vent, ràpidament vam sumar un bon grapat d’espècies com Martinet ros (Ardeola ralloides), Martinet blanc (Egretta garzetta), Esplugabous (Bubulcus ibis) i Agró roig (Ardea purpurea) així com Cames llargues (Himantopus himantopus), Fumarell carablanc (Chlidonias hybridus), Curroc (Gelochelidon nilotica), Gavià argentat (Larus michahellis), Gavina riallera (Chroicephalus ridibundus) i Gavina corsa (Larus audouinii). 

Un petit passeig al voltant d’un canyissar no va donar els fruits dessitjats però encara i així Boscarla de canyar (Acrocephalus scirpaceus), Polla blava (Porphyrio porphyrio), Polla d’aigua (Gallinula chloropus), Fotja vulgar (Fulica atra), Arpella vulgar (Circus aeruginosus), Xibec (Netta rufina) i Cabusset (Tachybaptus ruficollis) no van fallar a la cita. 

En arribar a El Goleró vam veure un gran estol de +100 Xatrac comú (Sterna hirundo) acompanyats d’alguns Xatracs bec-llargs (Sterna sandvicensis). La zona, com és habitual, era ben plena de larolimícols. Aquí hi havien alguns exemplars de Gavina capblanca (Chroicocephalus genei) i +120 Territs becllargs (Calidris ferruginea) acompanyats de Territs variants (Calidris alpina) i Territs de tres dits (Calidris alba) junt amb alguns Territs menuts (Calidris minuta) i nombrosos Corriols grossos (Charadrius hiaticula). A la llunyania hi havien estols de Flamencs (Phoenicopterus roseus). Aquí també vam poder veure l’únic Trist (Cisticola juncidis) de la jornada a més del primer estol d’Abellerols (Merops apiaster) en migració.

Vam continuar ruta pel Delta apropant-nos a l’Aufacada per tal de mirar de sumar algunes espècies més, sobretot de limícols. Abans d’arribar vam poder veure nombrosos Capons reials (Plegadis falcinellus) i +30 Perdius de mar (Glareola pratincola) i Cueretes grogues (Motacilla flava) junt amb estols d’Estornells negres (Sturnus unicolor) i alguna Cogullada vulgar (Galerida cristata). En arribar a l’Aufacada vam poder sumar Bec d’alena (Recurvirostra avosetta), Ànec blanc (Tadorna tadorna), Papamosques gris (Muscicapa striata), Cotxa cua-roja (Phoenicurus phoenicurus), Ànec griset (Anas strepera) però res més…

Una mica decebuts per la baixa tònica general de la jornada vam fer una última visita al Delta, a les Salines de Sant Antoni. Aquí vam veure les primeres Gambes rojes vulgars (Tringa totanus) de la jornada junt amb Corriol camanegre (Charadrius alexandrinus) i +15 Remena-rocs (Arenaria interpres). Aquí en Mike va localitzar el nostre únic tètol del dia, un cuabarrat (Limosa lapponica) i en Victor va localitzar al seu costat un Gamba roja pintada (Tringa erythropus) i un Xatrac gros (Sterna caspia) una mica més enllà.

Sense més temps per a dedicar-ne al Delta, vam marxar en direcció a Los Monegros. Anàvem una mica moixos ja que, també al Delta, havien fallat moltes, moltes espècies com el Martinet de nit (Nycticorax nycticorax) -tot i que ens vam aturar davant una colònia…-, Martinet menut (Ixobrychus minutus), Xatrac menut (Sternula albifrons) a més de nombroses espècies migratòries comunes com el Batallaire (Philomachus pugnax), la Valona (Tringa glareola) o el Pigre gris (Pluvialis squatarola)…

Així doncs vam enfilar carretera amunt. Durant el trajecte havíem de mirar de sumar dues espècies des del cotxe mateix, i ho vam aconseguir. Primer 1 Oreneta cua-rogenca (Cecropis daurica) ens va passar per sobre i, poc després, en Ramiro va localitzar 2 Àligues cuabarrades (Aquila fasciata) volant molt a prop de la carretera i barallant-se amb una marcena, en el que va ser un dels highlights de la jornada! Una mica més endavant de la carretera ens van passar fins a 3 Oriols (Oriolus oriolus), genial!

La moral va pujar ràpidament i encara ho va fer més quan, als voltants de Lleida, en Ramiro va fer parar el cotxe per un rapinyaire volant sobre els camps… era un Esparver d’espatlles negres (Elanus caeruleus). Fantàstic! Vam poder gaudir una miqueta del bitxo abans no marxés en direcció Sud. Ara la moral la teníem alta!

 

Esparver d’espatlles negres (Elanus caeruleus), un nidificant escàs a la Plana de Lleida. Imatge: Carles Oliver

Black-winged Kite

En arribar a la zona de Monegros a explorar la moral va tornar a baixar. Aquí també bufava el vent! Malgrat tot algunes espècies van començar a sortir: Cigonya blanca (Ciconia ciconia) i Rossinyol bord (Cettia cettia) van ser els primers a afegir-se a la llista a la zona. 

Una primera parada en uns tallats per cercar Merla blava (Monticola solitarius), Còlit negre (Oenanthe leucura), Tallareta cuallarga (Sylvia undata) i Xixella (Columba oenas) va ser totalment negatiu i només vam poder sumar Cogullada fosca (Galerida theklae) i Còlit ros (Oenanthe hispanica)…

Clarament desanimats vam començar a explorar l’estepa. Aquí la cosa no va estar gens facil però encara vam poder salvar Capsigrany (Lanius senator), Terrerola rogenca (Calandrella rufescens), Terrerola vulgar (Calandrella brachydactyla), Calàndria (Melanocorypha calandra), Guatlla (Coturnix coturnix), Botxí meridional (Lanius meridionalis) i Torlit (Burhinus oedicnemus). Els rapinyaires estaven desaparescuts… En Mike va localitzar un Mussol comú (Athene noctua) i va esclatar l’alegria, fins i tot patíem per aquesta espècie!!

Una mica més d’exploració va afegir Tallarol trencamates (Sylvia conspicillata), Xoriguer petit (Falco naumanii), Sisó (Tetrax tetrax) i Xixella a la nostra llista.

 

Estols de Capons reials (Plegadis falcinellus) són facilment observables al llarg de la carretera que mena a l’Aufacada. Imatge: Carles Oliver

Morito - Capó reial    

A última hora del vespre ens vam dirigir a un riu proper. Aquí, in extremis, vam afegir Falcó mostatxut (Falco subbuteo), Bosqueta vulgar (Hippolais polyglotta) i Tallarol capnegre (Sylvia melanocephala), del que només vam veure una femella en vol just en el moment de fer-nos la foto de grup!!!

Passat vespre ens vam apropar al mateix lloc que l’any 2015 havia produit Siboc (Caprimulgus ruficollis), Òliba (Tyto alba) i Mussol banyut (Asio otus) amb extrema facilitat però malgrat la nostra espera i esmerçar-hi molta atenció i energia, no vam aconseguir res…

El trajecte final cap a Barcelona va ser com una mena de miratge en el que quatre zombis compartien vehicle i monosíl·labs…

Així que la cursa va acabar amb 162 espècies. La conclusió final és que les dures, molt dures condicions meteorològiques (més pròpies del mes de Febrer que del Maig) van fer que no gaudissim a plaer de cap de les localitzacions i, tot i passar una bona estona, hem de tenir un pla d’emergència per a dies de vent!!

Com a highlights del dia ens queden l’Hortolà, l’Esparver d’espatlles negres i la parella de cuabarrades tenint més que paraules amb la marcenca. 

Esperem que l’any que ve la temperatura pugi fins als 20ºC en algun moment del dia 😉 Sense vent, esperem millorar, de llarg, els resultats d’enguany!!!

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  

Catalonia & Aragon Grand Birding Tour, 2014 issue

DATES: 4th to 11th, May 2014

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

SPECIES OF BIRDS: 196

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

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

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

Rock Bunting

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lammergeier

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

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

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

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

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

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

Subalpine Warbler

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

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

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

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

Black-winged Kite

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

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

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

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

Little Bustard

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

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

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

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

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

Red-necked Nightjar

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

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

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

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

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

 

Golden Eagle

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

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

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

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

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

Terek Sandpiper

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

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

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

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

 

Squacco Heron

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

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

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

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

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

Scopoli's Shearwater

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

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

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

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

birdwatchers

Gallocanta; the crane spectacular (2014 February tour)

In late February, 2014, Barcelona Birding Point set up a three days long tour to explore the Gallocanta lagoon, at SouthWest of Aragón. The tour reported unforgettable sights on Cranes and a short visit to Los Monegros allowed us to add to our list most steppe birds specialities such as Great Bustard, Little Bustard, Black Wheatear and Pin-tailed Sandgrouse!

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The first and second we mainly explored the main Gallocanta salty lagoon as well as the farm land around. At winter time this area hosts interesting specialities while huge flocks of Cranes feed on the farm land around. The tour enjoyed mild temperatures that were always over 0ºc.

The last day of our tour, after enjoyed the massive flocks of Cranes facing North, we visited some interesting steppe spots in Los Monegros. The main goal was to find both species of Sandgrouses and both species of Bustards living there. Even before lunch we had already got really nice sights on three of them, and fourth (Black-bellied Sandgrouse) was appearing few after lunch.

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Main specialities included:

+50.000 Common Cranes, 33 Pin-tailed Sandgrouses, 5 Black-bellied Sandgrouses, 29 Great Bustards, 4 Little Bustards, 1 Dupont’s Lark, 2 Golden Eagle, 2 Short-eared Owls, +7 Hen Harriers

, 12 Choughs, 2 Merlins, +70 Pintails, +10 Lesser Short-toed Larks, 2 Blue Rock Thrushes, 1 Black Wheatear as well as several Calandra Larks and Rock Sparrows.

Mammals: Iberian Hare & Roe Deer (4).

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Great Bustards (Otis tarda) winter flock taking off from the steppes in Los Monegros.

New birding trip for Owls & Nightjars

From mid-2013 we have implemented a new nocturnal birding trip in Los Monegros renamed steppe land. This trip is 2 to 3 hours long and provides unforgettable views to some very striking nocturnal birds including huge specialities such as Red-necked Nightjar (Caprimulgus ruficollis) but also spread but difficult to spot owls such as Long-eared Owl (Asio otus).

The tour is lead by two different local guides on a special 4wds vehicle to explore a variety of landscapes in Finca Sant Miquel (Zaidín), a private land that is implementing a owl protection scheme within its territory, taking special care in the protection and preservation of Long-eared & Barn Owls.

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Long-eared Owl (Asio otus) at Finca Sant Miquel (Zaidín)

Some of the habitats that we run around include steppe lands, berry orchards and grass lands. Along them we will locate a wide variety of Owls including also Barn Owl (Tyto alba), Little Owl (Athene noctua), the very scarce Eagle Owl (Bubo bubo) and, in winter, Short-eared Owl (Asia flammeus). European Nightjar (Caprimulgus europaeus) it is far scarcer but still is sometimes appearing!

Although this nocturnal trip is a huge attraction by its own, we normally include it in our tours visiting the steppe lands. Those tours are two or four days long and provide excellent sights of all main steppe-living birds such as Sandgrouses (Black-bellied & Pin-tailed), Bustards (Great & Little), Roller, raptors & Larks (Calandra, Thekla, Dupont’s, Lesser Short-toed…)

Our nocturnal trip throughout Los Monegros is an unique and unforgettable opportunity to see Owls & Nightjars in their normal behaviour during the hours they are more active! And, of course, birds are not to be disturbed!!!

More info and booking at info@barcelonabirdingpoint.com

Caprimulgus ruficollis

Red-necked Nightjar (Caprimulgus ruficollis) at Fica Sant Miquel

2013 most wanted bird specialities

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

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

1. Pin-tailed Sandgrouse (Pterocles alchata)

2. Dupont’s Lark (Chersophilus duponti)

3. Lammergeier (Gypaetus barbatus)

4. Black-bellied Sandgrouse (Pterocles orientalis)

5. Wallcreeper (Tichodroma muraria)

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

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

6. Black Wheatear (Oenanthe leucura)

7. Common Rock Thrush (Monticola saxatilis)

8. Lesser Short-toed Lark (Calandrella rufescens)

9. Black Vulture (Aegypius monachus)

All them with at least 9 people asking for them.

10. Bonelli’s Eagle (Aquila fasciata)

11. Little Bustard (Tetrax tetrax)

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

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

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

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

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