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Garraf Massif, Barcelona - Catalonia, Spain, Stephen Christopher


Catalan Bird tours

Stephen Christopher


If you'll forgive the pun, the Garraf Massif is massive. So when I first visited I had absolutely no idea where to start looking for the Bonelli's Eagle, Eagle Owl and Black Wheatear that the park is famous for.

To make things worse, unlike in the Ebro delta where birds simply flock into your notebook, I soon learned that nature is different here. Birds are either elusive, evasive or both and tracking them down is more like going on safari.

So one could do worse then than to mimic the birds you're hunting for and a patient, watchful eye will soon reveal a Southern Grey Shrike or two doing likewise from the tops of bushes.

Similarly, a little 'pshing' may lure out Spectacled and Subalpine Warblers curious to know who's making that ridiculous noise, silently blending into the background will tempt out Cirl and Rock Bunting and tracking a flock of Long-tailed Tit will provide amazing close-ups of Firecrest, Crested Tit and Short-toed Treecreeper.

With a little extra effort it becomes clear that there's just as much spectacle here as anywhere else as a second look magically reveals a pair of Golden Oriole in the nearby oak, that those swifts are actually Pallid Swift and that little cracking noise that's been bugging you for twenty minutes is a flock of feeding Hawfinch.

Since I moved to the Garraf permanently to live, of course I've come to realise that it’s not all down to skill.  If a little local knowledge means you know there's a waste tip in the middle of the park, then finding Audouin's Gull, the rarest gull in the world, is easy.

And depending on the time of year you can do nothing but trip over Turtle Dove, Black Redstart, Serin, Raptors and may be even, high in the september sky, Black Stork.

Then there's luck of course, but then again, it does help if you can count many of the species above, as well as Hoopoe, Alpine Swift and Booted Eagle, as garden birds!

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