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A Report from

Bird watching around Barcelona, Spain, June 2007,

Graeme Charles

This is less a trip report than a commentary on the practicalities of bird-watching from Barcelona, reflecting my experience on a recent short break in Catalonia (15-18 June).

The first thing to say is that if (as I did) you do not have an up to date  map, get a new one as many of the road numbers have changed.

Around Barcelona

El Prat de Llobregat: the airport is under major redevelopment and the main roads in the area are being rebuilt.  Access by car to the reserve to the south of the airport has to be from the north-bound carriageway of the C31 Barcelona - Castelldefels road.  The REPSOL garage by the southbound carriageway is still the best sign-post. I didn’t spot  a sign to Campo Toro Bravo which guides refer to (the campo is still there so maybe I just missed the sign) but the reserve itself is signed (rather small turquoise signs just before the turn-off  so no warning and hard to do anything about at speed!).  If you come southward from Barcelona the turn-off to Gava allows you to get back onto the northbound side.

I didn’t find access to the northern part of the reserve as difficult as guides suggest. By car, I followed the signs to El Prat de Llobregat and then to El Prat Platja.  This took me quickly into the countryside by the airport and through an underpass shortly after which at a small roundabout there was a sign to the reserve on the left which led immediately to a car park from which access is on foot.  There is a bus service to the beach on this route. 

Montserrat: this is a major tourist destination but the mountain is by all accounts a very good bird location.  It is accessible by train to Monistrol (50km) and rack railway or cable car to the monastery.  A funicular railway (starting at 10am) takes you to the top (for San Joan chapel).  I found that 10 till 11 am was a window for investigating the monastery area. Large crowds were present  by 11.00.  On the top I found Black Redstart, Rock Bunting, Alpine Swift, Red-legged Partridge. By the monastery, there was Robin (the only ones I saw on my trip), Raven, Crag Martin.

From the car park at the monastery there are walks up the mountain for the more adventurous.  By car, on the road round the mountain (to El Bruc) there is a pass with a picnic area and car park which is also a good place to investigate. I found Cirl Bunting, Green Woodpecker, Song Thrush (again the only one on my trip) as well as scrub warblers and Nightingale.

I didn’t see a great deal but then didn’t explore far or for long.  What I did see made the effort well worthwhile.  I imagine that during passage this could be a particularly rewarding location for Barcelona visitors wanting mountainous terrain  and birds.

Garraf Massif:  This coastal mountainous outcrop is only 20km south from Barcelona and guides indicate that is good for wheatears, scrub warblers and the like. The access I used following other guides was at Ginesta (see internet for guide to the parc natural). I had no luck here – like so much of my trip I found a reasonable amount of bird song but hardly any movement, so my visit was memorable only for the views. However, my round trip onto the massif was only about 15km all told.  Again, during passage this is probably more worth the effort.

Ebro Delta:  If you have more time, the Ebro delta to the South and the Aiguamolls de Empuries to the North, are 300 km round trips.  I went to the Ebro,  The Ebro area was relatively quiet though still very special for herons, egrets, gulls and terns.  Easily the most productive area was around La Tancada where I saw a few waders and larks, my one Collared Pratincole, while on the road from there to Sant Jaume I had excellent views of Great Reed Warbler and Purple Gallinule. I found little additional interest on the North side of the delta.   Insect repellent is a must at this time of year – I was eaten alive without it. 

The Aiguamolls may have been a better choice at this time of year. One of the benefits is that the parc natural of Garrotxa is more or less en route – just north of Girona – with the potential of relatively accessible  mountain birds.

Finally a comment on birding in mid-June. I generally found a lack of bird movement so it was not easy to pick up smaller or more secretive birds visually.  There was however plenty of bird calls and song and I cursed my lack of skills in this respect. My three day trip included, as well as the above, a visit to the plains around Lleida - easily the best was the Cinca valley north of Fraga – and a round trip into the Pyrenees to Tremp - Sort – La Seu d’Urgell.  I found 115 species plus a handful of don’t knows which more than met my expectations, lacking a guide or other pairs of eyes and ears (and limitations in my ability to sort out the many bird calls that teased me).

Graeme Charles

London, June 2007


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