3rd April 2010: The Llobregat Delta and Garraf Massis by Derek Gifford & Janet Hale (UK)
This was a guided day's birding with Stephen Christopher who runs
Catalan Bird Tours. We began the day at The Llobregat Delta which is a well-organised and designated wetland nature reserve.
Many of 'our' common UK species were present of course which aren't
mentioned here because I wanted to concentrate on some of the speciality
birds and our first annual sightings of a number of migrants.
One of the first birds heard was Cetti's Warbler but here, instead of the usual 'heard only' status we had good sightings of a number of individuals. Serin were also much in evidence and seen and heard throughout the reserve.
The first migrant we recorded was a fine male Common Redstart followed by a number of Barn Swallow and Common Swift. Other Redstarts were seen later. Sardinian Warbler were also noted although not in large numbers.
The first of the rarer species seen was a Little Crake
which constituted an addition to my European list. Although a little
elusive at first it eventually showed very well. More numerous were the Zitting Cisticola (I still think that the old name of Fan-tailed Warbler is better!), which were singing and displaying giving excellent views. Purple Swamphen were also much in evidence making a nice addition to the more common rails etc. that were present.
The next migrants to be noted were House Martin and White Wagtail followed by overflying Yellow Wagtail. We were able to study a variety of sub-species of the latter from one of the hides. These included the nominate Blue-headed flava race from central Europe, flavissima race for the UK and the iberiae for Spain. One of the Italian race cinereocapilla was also present although I wasn't sure that I could identify it as well as Stephen did!
Black-winged Stilt were good to see here, as were a number of Garganey
with them. The latter were much more obliging than the ones we see in
Britain as they came out into the open water to feed and I was able to
take a few 'long shots' of them with the camera. Other common duck
species were noted as well as 2 Little Ringed Plover and 2 Green Sandpiper both of which were year ticks for me, all viewed from the extensive hide.
Migrant warblers noted included a 'heard only' Reed Warbler as well as other common ones. On leaving the second hide Stephen heard and spotted a Western Bonelli's Warbler
which gave very good views of its very pale underside and a snatch of
song reminiscent of the opening notes of wood warbler. Definite ID and a
lifer for me!
The next lifer was found along the river estuary where a roost of Audouin's Gull
was seen. These handsome gulls were a delight to see as the species was
one of my 'must see' larus species. They didn't disappoint.
On the long walk round to bring us back to the reserve reception area we had a brief view of a Little Bittern which was another addition to my European list. A couple of Spotless Starling just outside the reserve were the last highlighted species seen. This is a superb reserve and we saw only a half of it!
We then drove to The Garraf Massis to look for Black Wheatear and it wasn't long before we found both a male and female on the rocky cliffs. Also here were a pair of Blue Rock Thrush
making it two lifers in a matter of minutes. The male treated us to a
quick sing too. More year ticks were obtained when we saw brief views of
Northern Wheatear and Black Redstart. Another Sardinian Warbler and a Peregrine Falcon completed the list on this brief visit.
We finished off the day with a couple of short walks in the high
sierras of the Garraf Natural Park looking for eagles and wheatears. On
the way we noted Stonechat (another year tick!), Woodchat Shrike (we'd already seen one of these in Barcelona earlier), swallows including a Red-rumped Swallow and a Short-toed Treecreeper, the call of which I heard for the first time - very loud and very different from 'our' treecreeper. A female Pied Flycatcher was also noted during the drive up to the high tops.
It was the second of the walks that produced at least one of the target species in the form of Bonelli's Eagle
with a pair flying close enough to 'scope. This meant that I'd seen
both species named after the Italian ornithologist Bonelli on the same
Just to add to the list, while waiting for the eagles, we found a Thekla Lark
which gave good views. The eagles were the most difficult of the
species to find for the day and we weren't able to find the hoped for
black-eared wheatears but a Dartford Warbler gave me another year tick on the way back from the walk.
We recorded over 80 species in the day which, considering we visited
only three habitats and were too early in the year (by a few days only)
for a number of other interesting migrant species, was an excellent
total which included 5 lifers and a few European ticks for me.
A red letter day's birding. Thanks Stephen!