Arxiu d'etiquetes: stone curlew

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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Anuncis

Catalonia & Aragon Grand Birding Tour, 2014 issue

DATES: 4th to 11th, May 2014

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

SPECIES OF BIRDS: 196

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

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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…

 

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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

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

The Very Best of Barcelona Birding Point 2013 Birding Trips

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

March

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

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

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

April

Massive birding morning in Llobregat Delta.

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

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Spotted Crake (Porzana porzana) in Llobregat Delta

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

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

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

May

East Europe passage birds in Catalan coast.

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

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Collared Flycatcher (Ficedula albicollis) female

June

Rüppell’s Vulture in Pyrenees.

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

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

July

Black-winged Kite nesting in Lleida Steppes.

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

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

August

Stone Curlew rescue!

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

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

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

September

Waders feast in Ebro Delta.

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

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

October

Semipalmated Plover in Ebro Delta.

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

December

Greater Spotted Eagle winters in Catalonia.

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

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

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

Do you want to experience it?

www.barcelonabirdingpoint.com

Lleida Steppes one-day Itinerary (April 2012)

Montagu’s Harrier (Circus pygargus) male. A locally common species in Lleida Steppes. Photo: Carles Oliver

Bruce  mailed me on early-March. He was coming from New York to spend some days with his family in Barcelona and, as any birder in any trip, he wanted to explore the wild around the city he was about to visit. He chose our 1-day Lleida Steppes itinerary in order to get as much nice views as possible of new/European birds. I picked him up in his hotel at 6:00 am, expecting to have a really nice birding day. In our way I was explaining him about the countryside and history around Barcelona both were chating about nature, conservation issues in our countries, and way to understand life in both sides of the Ocean.

Our first spot was some kilometers North of Tàrrega. In few minutes we found the first male of Little Bustard (Tetrax tetrax). It was standing up in the middle of a wheat field, a hundred metres from us. We could see how it was singing in the middle of the green and how its neck was moving with the rythm of its sounds, showing the beatiful neck black-and-white pattern. Some minutes later a second male was arriving to this same wheat field. They both stand beside, only few metres from each other. Every ten-twenty seconds one of them was moving towards its opponent. Males are strongly territorial in spring, defending some fields that they prefer to sing from and where they try to attrack females. Every male arriving to those points is just push it out. It is quite usual to see pursuits of three-four males trying to push out any single male that is appearing inside their headquarter.

It was only eight and a half but some raptors were already moving over the mild scenery; Marsh Harrier (Circus aeruginosus), Black Kite (Milvus migrans) and Goshwak (Accipiter gentilis) were all pratolling over the steppes, looking for mice or so. Some metres from the Bustards there were a pair of Stone Curlews (Burhinus oedicnemus) moving in an open field and beside them a Little Owl (Athene noctua) was watching us from a small, old wall.

Over the fields both Calandra (Melaconorypha calandra) and Crested Larks (Galerida cristata) were singing and flying around. There were also a good number of passerines (Subalpine Warbler –Sylvia cantillans, Northern Wheatear –Oenanthe oenanthe-, Winchat –Saxicola rubetra- Southern Grey Shrike –Lanius meridionalis). I guided Bruce to a corner were a pair  Great Spotted Cuckoo (Clamator glandarius) is moving year after year. This is a perfect place to locate them as the area supports a big number of Magpies (Pica pica). Great Spotted Cuckoos prefer to put their eggs on the nests of Magpies.

It had been a nice spot!! I decide to change our location as Bruce was quite interested about birds living in cliffs. Few kilometers West there is a lonely and productive limestone cliff, a nice place to locate some interesting species. In our way we found time to see some species living around villages as Tree Sparrow (Passer montanus), Spotless Starling (Sturnus unicolor) and Common Kestrel (Falcon tinnunculus). We arrived to the cliffs. A pair of Blue Rock Thrush (Monticola solitarius) was moving in the area, quite close to our car. Some minutes later was the time of the jewel of these cliffs as a Black Wheatear (Oenanthe leucura) was moving on the top of the cliffs. It was still time to Stonechat (Saxicola torquata) moving in the shrubs around. Back to the plains I lead Bruce until a nice view-point, an incredible place to locate raptors: we invested twenty minutes and we got an amazing raptors list including Lesser Kestrel (Falco naumanni), Montagu’s Harrier (Circus pygargus), Griffon Vulture (Gyps fulvus), Short-toed Eagle (Circaetus gallicus), Black Kite and Booted Eagle (Hieraaetus pennatus) along with nice views of smaller birds such as Cirl Bunting (Emberiza cirlus), Dartford Warbler (Sylvia undata), Black-eared Wheatear (Oenanthe hispanica) and Calandra Lark.

Stone-curlew (Burhinus oedicnemus) is a common species in the cultivated steppes in Lleida. Photo: Carles Oliver

Mid-day was getting close. It was time to move to our next location, a huge wetland in the middle of the plains, a restored paradise after it was drained in the fifties. It was time to lunch and we both enjoyed the Iberian pic-nic that is Barcelona Birding Point offers to its costumer when enjoying a 1-day Itinerary. Taking advantage of the hides, we both had lunch and easily find some birds around this large lagoon. From that first hyde we located Little Grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis), Great Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus arundinaceus), Shoveler (Anas clypeata) and Cetti’s Warbler (Cettia cetti) aling with Marsh Harrier and Great Crested Grebe (Podiceps cristatus).

Once we end our splendid food it was time to explore some marshes around the lagoon. The flooded open redbeeds were really productive as they allowed us to locate a good number of waders on passage; the smart and delicate Black-winged Stilt (Himantopus himantopus), Redshank (Tringa totanus), Wood Sandpiper (Tringa glareola), Greenshank (Tringa nebularia), Ruuf (Philomachus pugnax), Ringed Plover (Charadrius hiaticula), Common Sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos), Green Sandpiper (Tringa ochropus) and Common Snipe (Gallinago gallinago) along with passerines such as Iberian Yellow Wagtail (Motacilla flava iberiae) and Water Pipit (Anthus spinolleta).

But the most interesting was still to come. Thirty meters South from “waderworld” the reedbed becomes dense and impossible to explore. I stopped there looking for something special. At March and early April Little Crakes (Porzana parva) move North to their nesting sites in Central Europe…

Great Spotted Cuckoo (Clamator glandarius) juvenile is a rather secretive species living in the steppes and areas around. Photo: Carles Oliver

We waited for five, ten minutes.. and was appearing. First we listenned its song. A Little Crake was singing in the middle of the reedbed. Astonishing as these birds use to sing at dusk and never use to sing at two o’clock!! Five, ten minutes more searching inside the reeds and finally the Crake was getting out. We both enjoyed a beatiful, long view of the bird, moving along the edge of the dense vegetation.

About two and a half was time to change our location. A second hide was allowing us to discover waterfowls such as White Stork (Ciconia ciconia), Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea), Little Egret (Egretta garzetta), Purple Heron (Ardea purpurea), Whiskered Tern (Chlidonias hybridus), Great Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo), Black-headed Gull (Larus ridibundus), Yellow-legged Gull (Larus cachinnans) and Greylag Goose (Anser anser).

The birch forest and reedbeds around the lagoon was also quite productive. Nightingales (Luscinia megarhynchos) and Blackcaps (Sylvia atricapilla) were singing at every corner and we got nice views of Great Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus arundinaceus), Penduline Tit (Remiz pendulinus) and Willow Warbler (Phylloscopus trochilus).

It was time to come back to Barcelona. We arrived to the city about six o’clock. Bruce was really happy as we had got about 80 species of birds in less far less than a day. The weather was also perfect as we enjoyed a sunny day and about 20-22ºc.

I left him in his hotel. You never know, maybe next time we’ll meet in New York.

Spring quick trip to Los Monegros

Marek mailed me two days before our quick trip started. He and two friends of him were coming to Barcelona to see two football matches. They were expert birders in Poland so as they had two days in Barcelona they wanted to enjoy some birding.

Little Bustard about to disappear inside the green fields in Los Monegros. Photo: Carles Oliver

They asked me for watch most of the steppe specialities in one day and a half as they wanted to be back in Barcelona at two o’clock in our second day. In the list was Pint-tailed Sandgrouse, Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Little Bustard, Thekla Lark, Dupont’s Lark, Calandra Lark, Lesser Short-toed Lark, Black Wheatear and Spectacled Warbler.

As they had their own car I offered them a special price so I joined them in their hotel at 6:30am on April 22th. After a quick breakfast we arrived to our first location, a gorgeous area with extensive corn fields and mild garriga slopes few kilometers North of Tàrrega. Just two minutes after arriving we found our first Little Bustard (Tetrax tetrax). A magnificient male singing fifty metres from our car. It was singing for the next half-and-hour so my Polish costumers could take nice photos of it. In the same field we located a pair of Red-legged Partridge (Alectoris rufa), 4 Calandra Larks (Melanocorypha calandra) singing and purchasing each other, some Short-toed Larks (Calandrella brachydactyla) and some passage birds as three Winchats (Saxicola rubetra) and some Northern Wheatears (Oenanthe oenanthe).

We spent several minutes with the nice view of that Little Bustard feeding on the open field and singing every five, six minutes. Other males replayed it and more Little Bustards were moving in the fields around as we saw a small flock of four of them flying over the green fields.

In those same farm land there was a pair of Stone Curlew (Burhinus oedicnemus) calling quite nervous as a juvenile Marsh Harrier (Circus aeruginosus) was enjoying a small rodent that had captured some minutes ago. After a so nice start we explored some houses near there. Those buildings are home to Tree Sparrow (Passer montanus), Little Owl (Athene noctua) and Hoopoe (Upupa epops). Nice sight of Iberian Green Woodpecker (Picus viridis sharpei), Western Bonelli’s Wambler (Phylloscopus bonelli), Sardinian Warbler (Sylvia melanocephala) and Black Kite (Milvus migrans) came to complete this first stop.

Greater Short-toed Lark, a common summer visitor in Los Monegros. Photo: Carles Oliver

We came to the car and drove four hundred meters to stop around a nice slopes covered by low Thyme garriga. Those areas are really interesting for Thekla Lark. Just stoped the car we located a 3th year Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) perched on ground just 80 metres from us! An incredible sight of this magnificient raptor. It was clear that it has won a prey as many Magpies (Pica pica) were trying to disturbed it but the gorgeous bird of prey didn’t move at all nor for them neither for us.

We climp up the slopes to discover at least two different pairs of Thekla Larks (Galerida theklae)singing and moving quite active in those hills. Several Western Bonelli’s Warbler were moving in the area; it was clear it was the passage bird of the day. Those hills still gave us some surprises as we saw a nice Fox (Vulpes vulpes) moving in the fields and raptors as Hobby (Falco subbuteo) -a pair, Red Kite (Milvus milvus), Griffon Vulture (Gyps fulvus) -4 of them, Common Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus) and Short-toed Eagle (Circaetus gallicus).

It was already 11 o’clock in the morning. We came back to the car and drove to Los Monegros. Before to re-start our birding activities we decided to have lunch in a mid-way town; Fraga. At two o’clock we were about to visit some clay cliffs South to Fraga where we found Rock Bunting (Emberiza cia), Crag Martin (Ptynoprogne rupestris), Common Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus), Jackdaw (Corvus monedula), Alpine Swift (Apus melba) and the elusive Black Wheatear (Oenanthe leucura). Moreover the riberines beside the cliffs gave us nice sights of Short-toed Treecreper (Certhia brachydactyla), Pied – (Ficedula hypoleucos) & Spotted Flycatchers (Muscicapa striata), Little Ringed Plover (Charadius dubius), Common Sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos) and White Stork (Ciconia ciconia) while in the fields around we found out some Bee-eaters (Merops apiaster), Black-eared Wheatears (Oenanthe hispanica) as well as a pair Iberian Grey Shrike (Lanius meridionalis) -nesting in the same valley since 2009- and Ortolan (Emberiza hortulana).

The Great Spotted Cuckoo is always a gorgeous sight wherever it appears. Photo: Carles Oliver

After this succesful area we moved near Ballobar to explore a some nice areas for steppe birds. We first went to find Spectacled Warbler (Sylvia conspicillata) and we found a nice pair moving around a pool in the middle of the steppes. Some Tawny Pipit (Anthus campestris) were also moving in the area. Then we visited some nice areas for Pin-tailed Sandgrouse (Pterocles alchata). We got incredible sights of them, two pairs moving less than eighty metres from us!!! We enjoyed that sight for a couple of minutes and then we left the area surrounded by several Greater Short-toed- & Calandra Larks. It was five o’clock and then we found an incredible pair of Great Spotted Cuckoo (Clamator glandarius) just moving on the steppes. This is typical place for them, coming back year after year at this same point. But this time they were really calm and we could watch them for over ten minutes and we had the chance to watch them in a copula!!!

It was already six o’clock. We took a short break for a drink and I told them to leave Black-bellied Sandgrouse for next morning as it will be better so we went to a nice area for Lesser Kestrel (Falco naumannii). We saw several pairs moving around their colony. At the same time we got nice views of Chough (Phyrrocorax phyrrocorax) while two Little Bustards were singing and well visibles in the fields. Those fields are also nice for Rollers but it was clear they were not yet in the area.

At seven-and-a-half we arrived to our hotel in Castejón de Monegros. A perfect rest in Casa Rural La Madre after an intense birding day. We started April 23th at 7:00 am. Just beside our hotel there are some Rock Sparrows (Petronia petronia) nesting in a half destroyed house. We got nice views of them and inmediatly moved to some incredible open fields where Black-bellied Sandgrouses (Pterocles orientalis) likes to move around. Just two minutes after arriving there we found some pairs feeding on them. We enjoyed for several minutes, in this time we also located Golden Oriole (Oriolus oriolus), Calandra Larks and Lesser Short-toed Lark (Calandrella rufescens).

Two pairs of Pin-tailed Sandgrouse. This species is easy-disappearing on Los Monegros fields. Photo: Carles Oliver

Later we went to explore around the village of Monegrillo. A pair of Booted Eagle (Hieraaetus pennatus) use to go there for hunt. We easily found one of them and some other raptors including Golden Eagle, Griffon Vulture, Red Kite, Black Kite and Marsh Harrier. After take some breakfast we decided to visit some wetlands, the wind was getting stronger so we decided to refuge inside a hide. Many waders were moving in the area, a quick view allowed us to discover Kentish Plover (Charadrius alexandrinus), Greenshank (Tringa nebularia), Spotted Redshank (Tringa erythropus), Redshank (Tringa totanus), Ruff (Phylomachus pugnax), Little Stint (Calidris minuta), Dunlin (Calidris alpina), Black-winged Stilt (Himantopus himantopus) and Little Ringed Plover and also Yellow Wagtail (Motacilla flava), Meadow Pipit (Anthus pratensis) and Common Whitethroat (Sylvia communis).

It was too windy to spend more time in the steppes. We decided to move back to Barcelona to avoid the wind and spend some more time trying to locate some intesting species. We arrived to Llobregat Delta at 13:00 pm; Mediterranean Gull (Larus melanocephalus), Audouin’s Gull (Larus audounii), Cetti’s Warbler (Cettia cetti), Gull-billed Tern (Gelochelidon nilotica), Shelduck (Tadorna tadorna), Greenshank, Little Stint and Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis) were the more interesting species before my costumers decided to come back to Barcelona.

It was a great birding break reporting 119 species of birds !!!!