Feel free to post questions or comments on this new blog about Birding in and around Barcelona and Catalonia, Spain. Although currently still in progress, I have uploaded Trip Reports up until November 2010... with videos and month-by-month 'quick look' summaries still to come. Stephen Christopher

Thursday 15 September 2011

Client Trip Report: Autumn Break, September 2010

15th - 20th September 2010: Birding in Catalonia, Spain: A Trip report by Jonathan Prochera

"We really had a brilliant time birding in this part of Spain and cannot recommend it enough.  We had birded in Spain several times before, but after our trip I think we would only return to Catalonia."
Jonathan and Robert Prochera, UK

DAY 1: Barcelona -  The Llobregat Delta

We arrived at Barcelona airport early afternoon, after a smooth two hour flight from Stansted airport and met up with Stephen Christopher.  It was beautifully sunny and warm but there was a strong breeze coming in off of the sea.

[Wood Sandpiper from the Ebro Delta]

The first birds we picked up upon entering the Llobregat Wetlands reserve, near to the airport, were the abundant Zitting Cisticolas, of which we managed to find a non-shy individual and were awarded lovely scope views.  As we progressed through the reserve towards the viewing towers, we recorded Mediterranean and Black-headed Gulls in good numbers mixed in with a small flock of Sandwich TernsMallard, Gadwall, Common Teal and a pair of rather shabby looking Red-crested Pochard were noted as well as a few more common water birds that we were used to back home in Norfolk.
Upon reaching the first of the towers we had spectacularly close views of a pair of Ospreys (photo is from the Ebro Delta) soaring together and being harassed by the odd black-headed gull - not bad having been here for only 20 minutes!

The wind had really begun to pick up now and scope viewing a top the tower was less than favorable.  Despite the wind we recorded: Little Stint, Greenshank, Redshank, Western Marsh Harrier, Spoonbill, Black-tailed and Bar-tailed Godwits and [after some assistance from Ferran, the reserve warden, who generously took us into the protected area in his landrover - SC] a vagrant Buff-breasted Sandpiper, a lifer for myself.

We spent the rest of the afternoon at the Llobregat reserve and recorded a few more common species of wader before returning to our apartment and getting some rest in preparation for an early start the following morning.

DAY 2:  The Pyrenees (Site One)

Our second day lead us to the Pyrenees.  We had only birded the French side before and so were excited to see what the Spanish side offered not only in respect to wildlife but also in scenery.  We picked up Blackcap, Pied Flycatcher, the common tits and Firecrest at our early morning and much-needed coffee and biscuit stop, shortly adding several Rock Bunting and Black Redstart.

As we gained height we began to notice small flocks of both Red-Billed and Alpine Choughs flying to and fro from the peaks, their harsh calls piercing the empty landscape.  The weather was cooler today and remained mostly grey throughout.  The larger raptors seemed to be hunkered down waiting for the sun with only a few Griffon Vultures seen, but two distant Golden Eagle were a nice treat in the late afternoon.

Apart from the cloud we had a good day in the mountains with a nice selection of birds being seen.  Other highlights included Cirl Bunting, Crested Tit, Alpine Swift, Woodlark, Black Woodpecker and a Peregrine feeding on what we thought must have been one of the fleeing Mistle Thrushes.

[Glossy Ibis, very common on the Ebro Delta]

DAY 3:  The Ebro Delta

Our third day in Catalonia lead us to the rice fields and waterways of the Ebro Delta and we were up and ready to go before dawn.  The weather forecast was less than promising but we managed to stay dry throughout the day, managing to escape the midday rain by retreating to a well-placed hide.

We spent the morning checking the freshly cut rice paddies for wintering and passage waders and water birds picking up Wood, Green and Common sandpiper, Black-winged Stilt, Little Stint, Purple Swamphen, Water Rail, Glossy Ibis, Greater Flamingo and scores of Grey and Night heron.

[Wood Sandpiper, Ruff, juvenile Little Ringed Plover, Ruff, Red Knot]

Mid-morning, we were treated to some warm Spanish sunshine and enjoyed watching a flock of Little Tern fishing between the thousands of Mallard, Gadwall and Red-crested Pochard.  A lone Common Pochard was recorded from a tower-hide. Bluethroat was also seen if only for a few seconds, as were Cetti's, Reed and Great Reed Warbler and another Osprey patrolling the waterways. A pair of Great Egret and a fleeting glimpse of a juvenile Little bittern added to our list also.

[Squacco Heron]

During the afternoon we circulated the agricultural areas of the delta some more and recorded Temminck's Stint, Dotterel, another [vagrant - it was a good year, SC] Buff-breasted Sandpiper, Booted Eagle (next photo), Lapwing and some juvenile Collared Pratincole, as well as scores of Yellow Wagtail with which we had fun determining which subspecies they were and thus, which had made the longest journey to get here.

On our return journey we headed to the coast and managed to pick up Caspian Tern - another lifer for me, an Osprey (making a total of 6 today) fishing and Slender-billed Gull, as well as Turnstone, Spotted Redshank and a pair of Whinchat.

[Black Tern photos, above and top photo (with a Whiskered Tern), taken on 23rd September in the Ebro Delta.  Little Bustard, next photo and two below.  SC]

DAY 4: The Steppes of LLEIDA and LOS MONEGROS

An even earlier start today as we set off to the remaining steppe areas of Catalonia and neighbouring Aragón.  We were in search of bustards and sandgrouse and by lunchtime had managed to see both Great Bustard and Little bustard and a flock of Pin-tailed Sandgrouse.  All species were seen in double figures, although the Little Bustard were unfortunately flying quite high and away from us - I managed to identify them as geese until we had gained a better view. . .

Rain during the night had brought down flocks of migrating Turtle Dove, one which managed to fight off the clutches of a female Sparrowhawk right next to our vehicle.  Growing flocks of Corn Bunting, Linnet and Goldfinch added to the early morning count, as did Sardinian warbler and a beautiful Black-shouldered Kite sitting in an old olive tree, alert and watching for prey.

As the day warmed, raptor numbers grew.  A pair of first year Golden Eagle were first up, as were multiple Common Buzzard, Red Kite, Western Marsh Harrier and Booted Eagles, then to be joined by Griffon Vultures and a solitary Short-toed Eagle.

The afternoon was spent in Aragón and a huge bloom of insects brought flocks of roving Common Kestrel and migrating Hobby above our heads.  As we travelled past isolated farmhouses we picked up Little Owl and a flock of 20+ Stone-curlew (above) a few meters from our vehicle, which was a brilliant sight!  Tawny Pipit, Honey-buzzard and Southern Grey Shrike and Woodchat shrike were also ticked.

DAY 5: The Pyrenees (Site Two)

This time around the weather was perfect and, as we approached this magnificant range, we began picking up more species. The first birds of the day were Firecrest, Blackcap and a flock of feeding Citril Finch mere meters from the car and oblivious to us snapping away at them with our cameras.

As the morning progressed we left the mountain roads and spent some time on the alpine meadows searching for ring ouzel.  No luck, but Stonechat and Dunnock were added.  As mentioned the weather was a lot better in the mountains on this day and birds of prey were in much more evidence. Several Griffon Vultures took off from nearby to us and we managed fabulous views of them no more than 5m above of us, they looked fabulous in the light and at such a close distance, but of course... my camera was in the boot of the car.

As we progressed through the alpine meadow I spotted our first Lammergeier of the day sailing across the top of a ridge.  It was lit up perfectly and we could see that it was young-ish bird due to the lightness of its breast-colouring.  2 other Lammergeier were seen that morning, one shadowing a flock of griffons.  Other highlights included a golden eagle being mobbed by a Raven, many hundreds of chough and our third wagtail of the trip - a Grey Wagtail by a pristine Pyrenean stream.

On our return trip we spotted a falcon shaped bird in a tree but unfortunately were moving too fast to get a good look or stop, however we both thought straight away that it looked like a red-footed falcon! I shan't count it though..

Day 6:  The Garraf Massis and The Llobregat Delta

Our final day was spent on the coast and in the Costa Garraf where we picked up several new species for the trip including: Shag, Rock Sparrow, Common Redstart, Spotted flycatcher, Sub-alpine, Dartford and Spectacled Warblers, Whitethoat and small flocks of honey-buzzard lazily soaring south.

We had fabulous views of a Peregrine soaring out at sea and returning to the cliffs, a family of kestrels play-fighting in the wind and abruptly disappearing at the sight of the aforementioned Peregrine and a Hobby perched in full view on a Pylon.

As our trip neared to its close we had one final stop at the wetlands on the other side of Barcelona Airport, the only new bird was a fabulously close Eurasian Wryneck, maybe just two meters away and we had some comical views of Iberian Green Woodpeckers scaling palm trees as well.

We had a more than impressive 170+ bird species in our five full days birding with Stephen.

The range of habitats and scenery is worth the trip alone, not to mention the great number of such impressive birds availableStephen managed to find all our target birds for the trip and provided us with great views of Great Bustard, Lammergeier and "off-course" Buff-breasted Sandpiper.

Our trip not only let us experience this wonderful corner of Spain and its great wildlife but increased our identification skills when birding - especially when identifying waders and for which I cannot give enough thanks.
A wonderful trip.  I'm sure we'll be back.
Jonathan and Robert Prochera, Norfolk, U.K.

The Autumn itineraries can be views here.

[This Two-tailed Pasha, rare in Spain apparently, was seen in the Garraf throughout September.  SC]