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|A Report from birdtours.co.uk|
Catalonia September 2010,
Day1: We arrived at Barcelona airport early afternoon, after a two hour flight from Stansted airport and met up with Stephen. It was beautifully sunny and warm, but there was a strong breeze coming in off of the sea. We decided to start our trip by birding at the Llobregat Wetlands reserve relatively near to the airport. The first birds we picked up upon entering the reserve were the ever abundant zitting cisticola, of which we managed to find a non-shy individual and were awarded lovely scope views. As we made our way to the first viewing tower we recorded Med. and Black headed gulls in good numbers as well as a small flock of fishing Sandwich terns. We also added Mallard, Gadwall, Teal and Moorhen, as well as a few common water birds that we are more used to back home In Norfolk.
As we progressed through the reserve towards the viewing towers we had spectacularly close views of two ospreys soaring together and being harassed by the odd black headed gull, not bad having been here for only 10 minutes. By the time we had reached the first observation tower the wind had really picked up, making scope viewing less than favorable. Despite the wind we recorded: little stint, Greenshank, Redshank, Western Marsh Harrier, Spoonbill, both Godwits and a distant Buff-Brested 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.
Day2: 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 followed by 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- only a few griffon vultures were 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 crested tit, woodlark, black woodpecker and a peregrine feeding on what we thought must have been one of the fleeing mistle thrushes.
Day3: Our Third day in Catalonia lead us to the rice fields and waterways of the Ebro Delta and we were up and rearing 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 and scores of grey and night heron. Mid-morning, we were treated to some warm Spanish sunshine and enjoyed watching a flock of little tern, thousands of mallard, gadwall and red crested pochard and a lone common pochard from a tower-hide. Here a bluethroat was also seen, as were Cetti's, reed and great reed warbler and yet another Osprey. A pair of great white egret and a fleeting glimpse of a Juv. Little bittern added to the excitement also. During the afternoon we circulated the agricultural areas of the delta some more and recorded Temmincks Stint, Dotterel, another buff Breasted Sandpiper, Booted Eagle, Lapwing and collard 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 fishing and slender billed gull, as well as Turnstone, Spot. Shank and a pair of Whinchat.
Day4: An even earlier start today as we set off to the remaining steppe areas of Catalonia and neighboring Aragón. We were in search of bustards and sandgrouse and by lunchtime had managed to see both Great and little bustard and a flock of pintailed sandgrouse. All species were seen in double figures, although the little bustard were unfortunately flying quite high and away from us. 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, though distant Black shouldered Kite sitting in an oil olive tree. As the day warmed, raptor numbers grew. A pair of first year golden eagle were first up, as were multiple buzzard, red kite, 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 kestrel and migrating hobby above our heads. As we traveled past isolated farm houses we picked up Little owl and a flock of 20+ stone curlew, which was a brilliant sight. Tawny Pipit, Southern Grey and Woodchat shrike were also ticked.
Day5: On our final full day we headed back to the Pyrenees. This time around the weather was perfect and as we approached this magnificent 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 10m 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 bird due to the lightness of its brest 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. 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 be both thought straight away that it looked like a redfooted falcon! I shan't count it though.
Day6: Our final day was spent on the coast and in the Costa Garaf were we picked up several new species for the trip including:Shag, Rock Sparrow, Redstart, Spotted flycatcher, Subalpine, Dartford and Spectacled warbler, Whitethoat, Cirl bunting 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 wryneck, maybe just two meters away and we had some comical views of Iberian green woodpeckers scaling palm trees as well.
I really had a brilliant time birding in this part of Spain and cannot recommend it enough. Our guide, Stephen was incredibly knowledgeable and I came back from this trip having learnt quite a fair bit.