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

Friday 11 February 2011

Client Trip Report: Winter Break, February 2008

February 11th - 15th 2008 - Trip Report written by Mark Dawson
"We would like to thank you for a really great trip [their second in 6 months] and we both hope to bird with you again in the future."
Mark and Lorna Dawson

11th February 2008, Arrival

Our flight arrived on time and Steve was there to collect us punctually as usual.  After a short trip to the well-stocked supermarket in Sitges to purchase provisions, we arrived at Steve's birding accommodation.

12th February 2008, THE GARRAF and LLOBREGAT DELTA

Refreshed after a good night’s sleep, we awoke to see Crested Tit, Black Redstart and (a first for Spain and somewhat out-of-context for me) a small flock of Siskin on the feeder outside the kitchen window!  What great birds to start our trip.

After a short drive to the Garraf, our first target species was a much-anticipated Alpine Accentor.  Following a false alarm of a Dunnock, we took a short walk down the hill and were rewarded with stunning views from a distance of approximately eight feet.  No illustration or photograph that I have ever seen could do justice to the subtleties of the plumage when seen at such close range (Thanks Steve!).

It was then on to Llobregat Delta where, after a very unhurried and enjoyable lunch provided by Steve,  Moustached Warbler was regrettably only heard and teasingly not seen on various occasions, although the reeds seemed to be alive with ChiffchaffKingfisher was glimpsed fleetingly, Purple Swamphen and Marsh Harrier were in abundance, but Penduline Tit seemed to elude us, until a stunning male performed its full acrobatic repertoire in the swaying reeds.  Definitely our bird of the day.  As we walked towards the sea, Crag Martin swept overhead, and Reed and Cirl Bunting vied in song in nearby bushes.   Black-Necked Grebe, Spoonbill, a very out-of-context White-Fronted Goose and a group of Night Heron all showed the diversity that a trip to Catalonia in winter can offer.

[Back into the Garraf and no sign of the wintering Wallcreeper, with only Rock Bunting, mediterranean Shag, Audouin's Gull and a single Balaeric Shearwater showing at Falconera.  Stephen C.]

13th February 2008, THE PYRENEES

We awoke earlier the next day still intrigued to see our friends visiting the bird feeders - the Siskin being particularly raucous.  We then drove to the Pyrenees, en route passing the almost unworldly Montserrat ridge. 

We arrived to bright sunshine and crisp mountain air and after a short walk we stationed ourselves in anticipation of the bird we perhaps most wanted to see.  After about forty-five minutes and half-a dozen Griffon Vulture, we were rewarded with the awe-inspiring sight of an adult Lammergeier.  Looking through Steve’s scope with a trembling heart, all the salient points were seen - the long diamond -shaped tail and long, broad wings were displayed as the bird obligingly banked.  Mission accomplished!

Many Alpine Accentor were seen at the side of the road, though none as close as on the previous day!  Crested Tit sang from the pine trees, and brilliant views of Common Crossbill, both male and female, in this beautiful, high Pyrenean valley, rounded off a magical day.

[Other highlights included Citril Finch, distant views of  a hundred Alpine Chough circling and breaking formation with military precision to land mountain-side and three albeit brief Golden Eagles.
Photo: Montserrat from the Pyrenees.  Stephen C.]


Our target species were sandgrouse and bustard but it proved far more fruitful.  We were greeted by the spectacle of many small flocks of Pin-Tailed Sandgrouse, both on the ground and in flight, giving us the opportunity to scrutinise their intricate plumage.  Flocks of wintering Skylark were in flight together with singing Calandra Lark, with their distinctive triangular black underwing, and equal numbers of Thekla and Crested Lark, where Steve’s expertise helped in distinguishing these two very similar species.

The next port of call was the local municipal dump, where the vista of hundreds of White Stork, Red Kites, Cattle Egret, Black-headed Gulls and thousands of Starlings was only slightly marred by the whiff of decomposing rubbish!  Another short journey and I had what turned out to be my bird of the day, a brilliant male Rock Bunting.  I defy any photographer or bird artist to reproduce the striking colours of this much under-rated bird.

We then drove to our next site, Los Monegros, and our lunch break.  Steve’s choice of cheeses, cold meats, gorgeous home-made soup, equally gorgeous home-made spinach and potato tortillas, and fresh salad pepped us up for the rest of the day.  I unfortunately missed the Black-Bellied Sandgrouse in flight, but this was more than made up for by the adult Golden Eagle by the side of the road, followed by two very obliging male Great Bustards that were seen very clearly for some minutes.  As we drove around to our final site, we had very close views of a female Merlin [in a tree by the car], our third of the day, and not a bird that one associates with Spain, followed some minutes later by a brilliant male Hen Harrier and a solitary Little Bustard in flight, our clearest view ever.

15th February 2008, half-day,

Sadly our last day.  We drove to the enigmatic Ebro Delta, where our first port of call was the hide adjacent to the visitor centre.  Here the familiar sound of a Wren competed with Cetti’s Warbler in the reeds below.  We were then rewarded with our second view of Penduline Tit, while in the distance flocks of Greater Flamingo fed on that most majestic of Spanish rivers. 

In the lagoons of La Tancada a wide selection of birds familiar to Northern Europeans were seen.  These included flocks of Avocet, Little Stint, Dunlin, Redshank, Spotted Redshank and Greenshank together with Grey, Kentish and Golden Plover, while Grey and White Wagtail were seen feeding on the periphery, as were Water PipitHoopoe and Caspian Tern reminded us, if we needed it, that we were very much in the Mediterranean. 

A solitary Booted Eagle dived, initially giving the impression of an Osprey, then circled for several minutes, allowing its black and white under wing to be clearly seen.  A great finale to our second trip with Steve and one that we hope to repeat very soon.

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