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RSPB Aberdeen Local Group Catalunya Trip, 30th April to 7th May, 2011,
Participants: Trevor Donaldson, Angela Gowdy, Hilary MacBean, Tim Marshall, Wilson McDonald, Eric Melrose, Bob Littlejohn, Meg Littlejohn, Wilma Rae.
Summit of Mont Caro: Wilson, Trevor, Wilma, Hilary,Meg, Bob, Angela, Eric
Photo Tim Marshall
1. Our trip to the Ebro Delta, Els Ports Mountains and the Lleida Steppes of Catalunya was timed to coincide with the start of the bird breeding season and at the same time pick up migrant passerines and waders, passing North through the delta area. This was successful as a number of passage birds were observed and the breeding colonies of terns and gulls were well under way. We were slightly early for some breeding birds such as Roller (due around 15th May) and Golden Oriole (a few observed but none calling) but overall, our timing worked well.
2. A party of nine from the RSPB Aberdeen Local Group travelled from Aberdeen via Schipol and Barcelona to St Carles de la Rapita, a small fishing town and coastal resort on the southern edge of the Ebro Delta, 200km from Barcelona. We stayed at the Hostal Agusti, a small family-run hotel with self-catering studios, conveniently located in the town. The hotel is well appointed and very clean and the owner and manager, Nuria Montanes Forne, most friendly and helpful. Her breakfast is excellent. Her husband, Simon Cheetham is English and similarly welcoming. He was able to advise on birding locations in the area.
3. The delta is made up of a myriad rice fields and tracks so we obtained 1:50,000 maps to assist with navigation. These were invaluable, although the main Reserves and observation platforms are well signposted and could be found with a smaller scale map.
We obtained information from:
Relevant trip reports, particularly by Peter Forewood.
Government of Catalunya information:
A Guide to Birdwatching Holidays in Catalonia by Consorci Turisme de Catalunya, a government agency, was particularly useful.
We also consulted;
Where to Watch Birds in Northern and Eastern Spain Rebane and Garcia, published by Helm,
Finding Birds in Northern Spain Dave Gosney, published by easybirder (covers Lleida only, although East Spain is in preparation),
Travellers Nature Guides, Spain Farino and Lockwood, published by OUP.
Saturday 30th April
4. A sunny evening and little traffic allowed for a straight-forward drive from Barcelona International to St Carles de la Rapita. On the way we noticed Red-Rumped Swallow and hundreds of Common Swifts in feeding flocks, whilst on passage. A single Black Kite over the rubbish tip at Tarragona was our first raptor, soon to be followed by Common Kestrel. We picked up our first Bee-eaters and Hoopoe of the trip and our arrival in town was greeted by a Little Owl flying over the roundabout from adjacent Erms or fields that marked the start of the Delta area. We also noticed many House Martins nesting on buildings facing the fields. It was getting late so we checked into the Hostal Agusti quickly and went out to eat. The wine lovers in the party were much taken by the 2004 Riocha, found on the first evening.
Sunday 1st May: South Ebro Delta
5. Sunday dawned a little overcast but warm. The sky was clearing and a fine day in the South Ebro Delta ensued. There are many points of interest, so time was of the essence. We headed towards Poblenou and first stopped at a lay-by and canal bridge at l’Havana Viscarro. We had the first of many sightings of Little Egret, Squacco Heron, Black-Winged Stilt, Coot, Moorhen, ever present Swallows (mainly Barn), Pallid Swift and House Martins, well known passerines such as Greenfinch and Tree Sparrow and our first sighting of Audouin’s Gull, this and Yellow-Legged Gull being the two most common in the delta.
6. We pressed on through Poblenou and stopped at Pont del Traves, one of the best known viewing platforms in the delta, giving fine views east and west over the l’Encanyissada and el Clot Lagoons. Where to look!
The light was good and this was a veritable “lost world“ of reed beds and open water, covering a huge area. Flights of Flamingo, revealing deep pink plumage, were striking, along with diving Whiskered and Gull-Billed Terns, both common over the delta. A Caspian Tern flew over. On the water there were Great Crested Grebe, Little Grebe, Mute Swan, Shelduck and Red Crested Pochard, as well as the ever present Coot and Mallard. In the reeds, Great Reed Warblers were easy, as they sang well up the reeds. Sedge Warblers were more skulking, but were evident and Willow Warblers were in the Tamarisk and Willow, on passage. There was a distant but very lively Black-headed Gull colony and there were several Purple Heron about. Little and Great White Egret and a Marsh Harrier were also seen and to top it off, a Little Bittern did an almost complete circuit of the observation tower, allowing very good views.
7. We visited the Ebro Delta Information Centre at la Casa de Fusta and admired the simple but highly effective rebuild of a traditional farmhouse, to house the centre. In the adjacent rice field we saw Yellow Wagtail (iberiae) and Common Tern and then climbed the centre tower for more great views. A third observation tower, on the north side of el Clot was particularly productive. We immediately focussed in on a mixed heron and egret roost where around twenty Night Heron, Grey Heron, Squacco Heron, Little Egret and Cattle Egret competed for perches in a favoured patch of reeds. We also saw a passing Peregrine Falcon and noted a high density of singing Great Reed Warblers. We also realised the ever-presence of Zitting Cisticola and debated the pronunciation. They became affectionately labelled “Zitters” by Eric and “Pepsicolas” by Tim. We saw hundreds through the week. We picked up Gadwall and passage Whinchat, Turtle Dove and Collared Dove, as well as the ever present Spotless Starling and close up views of a fine male Hedge Sparrow.
8. After a stop in Poblenou to buy fruit on the market and allow Trevor to negotiate a “slow food” takeaway from a local tapas restaurant, we pressed on to the coast and drove along a seemingly interminable sand road to the Salinas de la Trinidad, out on the La Banya spit. The reserve is closed to the public due to sensitive, ground nesting gulls and terns, but we obtained fine close views of one of the largest Audioun’s Gull and Slender-Billed Gull breeding colonies, holding hundreds of pairs.
9. Six Slender-Billed Gulls and two Avocets flew over and Redshank and Kentish Plover occupied the sandy scrapes in the low salt scrub. The spit reminded us of Spurn Head and passage birds such as Northern Wheatear, Redstart and Willow Warbler occupied the scrubby areas. There was a Great Crested Grebe in the bay and scores of Crested Lark in the scrub at the head of the bay. Collared Pratincole eluded us here but the habitat looked good for them.
La Salinas de la Trinidad
Photo: Trevor Donaldson
La Tancada Lagoon
Photo: Trevor Donaldson
Avocet at la Tancada
Photo: Tim Marshall
10. At the hide at the East end of la Tancada Lagoon things seemed a little quieter but five pairs of Avocet graced the lagoon, as well as Grebes, Black-Winged Stilt and Grey Heron. There were more Crested Larks, but still no Pratincoles or the Lesser Short-Toed Lark, known in the area. An aggressive Coot and a Purple Swamphen squared up to one another; the Coot won.
Purple Swamphen and Coot square up Red Crested Pochard duck orchestrates
Photos: Tim Marshall
11. Next stop was the Sociedad España de Ornitología (SEO) and Bird Life International Reserve at Riet Vell, on the TV 3405 (K18) just outside l’Eucaliptus. This was founded to promote organic rice cultivation, sensitive to the needs of delta birds. We had hoped to meet SEO representatives and lend our support, as RSPB visitors, but it was past closing time. It was not closing time for the birds, however, and a walk down the track to the hide produced a number of birds, notably the first two of twenty or so passage Wood Sandpiper for the trip in the, still shallow, rice fields. There were also a beautiful male Whinchat in fine breeding plumage, 12 or so Purple Swamphen feeding in the rice fields, passage Pied and Spotted Flycatchers in the trees, Redstart, Woodchat Shrike, and a mixed party of passage Willow Warbler and Yellow Wagtails of the thunbergi race, foraging in a ploughed field. Skylarks sung overhead. The hide overlooked a good lagoon, with close views of a range of birds, including Red-Crested Pochard, Gadwall, Flamingo and Little Bittern. Swallows nested in the hide.
12. On the way back to St Carles, we travelled through the rice fields, where slow flooding was under way. This is particularly good for waders and we saw more Wood Sandpiper and large groups of feeding Moorhen. (Later in the week, as the flood deepened, Curlew and Curlew Sandpipers showed up). We then stopped at fish traps at Canal de San Pero, the main outlet from l’Encanyissada to the sea (pull in to track on South side of the road, West of the bridge). Here we saw Common Sandpiper, Skylark and Bee-eater as well as various waterfowl and our best views of 6 Collared Pratincole, over the derelict works on the East side of the canal.
What a day!
Monday 2nd May: North Ebro Delta
13. The day started overcast and a little wet so the North Ebro Delta, with the best forecast, was the obvious choice. We set off for Bassa de les Olles, a lagoon reserve in the north-most part of the delta. First, we tried for shore waders at lo Golero but a strong on-shore wind and high tide contrived to produce only a few Sanderling, Ringed Plover, Turnstone, Kentish Plover and an Oystercatcher, the latter being relatively infrequent in Catalunya, with a few Slender-Billed Gulls.
14. We turned our attention to the fallow and partly flooded rice fields behind the foreshore. These provided shelter for waders and came up trumps with 2 Temminck’s Stint, nesting Black-Winged Stilt, good views of 10+ Little Terns, a pair of Yellow Wagtails (iberiae). Three Wood Sandpipers flew over. There were Crested Lark in the dunes and a good range of heron and egret as well as loads of Mallard and a few Red-Crested Pochard in the lagoon. Sand Martins coursed over the main sluice gate and Great Reed Warblers and “Zitters” were abundant, giving good close views.
El Garxal Reserve and Ebro Mouth from Far de Buda
Photo: Tim Marshall
15. The sun came out and we went on to the outer point of the Delta, where the Ebro opens to the sea, at Far de Buda and el Garxal. A huge observation tower with a resident population of House Sparrows gave fine views all around. On the el Garxal Lagoon we were impressed by a large raft of Gadwall and Red-Crested Pochard. There were 100’s of Coot but we couldn’t see the Red-Knobbed Coot reputed to be over the river at I’lla de Buda. Most impressive was a fishing flock of hundreds of Whiskered Tern, with many Little Terns mixed in, all fighting the wind as they made many plunges into the water. There were numbers of heron and egrets and a flock of 15 Yellow Wagtail (iberiae) fed amongst the scrub. A Woodchat Shrike took a good perch to give a clear views and a Spotted Redshank flew over (the only one of the trip).
16. We decided to cross the river via the ferry to call in at I'lla de Gracia for its, reputably, fine riverine trees. How things change! The ferry was closed and a brand new bridge graced the river at Deltebre. After crossing we easily found the small road from St Jaume, inland, to Balada. The I'lla de Gracia is now intensively farmed with orange orchards but we came across a new foot and cycle way along the south side of the river, linking Amposta, Balada, St Jaume and ending at lo Migjorn Arm confluence with the Ebro at I’lla de la Buda. The walkway is fringed with mature scrub and fine Poplars as well as new native planting. This is a great initiative and will produce, in time, a much-improved galleried woodland fringe to the river. The walkway at Balada was alive with passage birds such as Whinchat, Redstart, Spotted Flycatcher and Pied Flycatcher. There was one newly-fledged Spotted Flycatcher and Cetti’s Warbler and Nightingales competed in song, from the scrub woodland. Goldfinch flashed around and Bee-eaters flew back and forth over the river, catching bees. A few more Wood Sandpiper, a Gull-Billed Tern and a Woodchat Shrike showed in the rice fields behind.
Ebro River from I’lla de Gracia Bridge
Photo: Hilary MacBean
17. From I’lla de Gracia Bridge we noted a colony of Night Heron downstream, accompanied by an elegantly perched Purple Heron and Little Egrets. Across the river a Little Bittern was clearly seen on a perch. Blackbirds and Moorhen surprised us in the orange groves on the Island and Meg spotted our first Glossy Ibis flying over. Trevor then flushed a mystery bird from the large Poplars. A later sighting from back across the river showed it was likely to be a Turtle Dove leaving a nest.
We were proved correct on the weather, our day turned out fine, sunny and warm, whilst it had rained hard in St Carles.
Tuesday 3rd May:
El Ports Mountains, Barranc de la Galera and Mont Caro
18. The weather looked settled and fine so we made for the hills in the guise of El Ports. This is a mountainous area, including Mont Caro (1442m), to the North West of Sant Carles. Our hosts at Hostal Agusti recommended the Barranc de la Galera, accessed via Mas de Babarans, for its beauty, landscape drama and its birds.
Barranc de la Galera Photo: Angela Gowdy
Upper Barranc de la Galera, El Ports Tim Marshall
19. We headed North to Amposta, then inland to Santa Barbara and Mas de Barbarans. As we drove through the olive and orange groves, the terrain got increasingly rugged and dry. Over head we spotted a Black Kite, again over a rubbish dump and a Montague’s Harrier, at close quarters. Had we stopped in this area the tally would have been higher but the distant peaks drew us on.
20. We took the track into the Barranc de la Galera and soon climbed up through a dramatic valley of mixed woodland, mainly Holme Oak and then Pine. The river was dry and scattered amongst the trees were small clearings and olive groves. Periodic stops revealed a variety of passerines including many singing Nightingales, Blackcap, Chaffinch and Cirl Buntings. Further on our first sight of soaring Griffon Vulture led to another pull in where we soaked up the many bird calls, the beautiful woodland and the sunshine. Some spotted a probable Western Orphean Warbler take off through the trees. There was a lot more to do but we all wanted to linger. Ravens were soaring high up along the cliff tops. At closer quarters, we found Great Tit in quite large numbers, Pied Flycatcher and Firecrest. A Sparrowhawk passed overhead. Trevor and Wilson disappeared into a small olive grove where Trevor was determined to find a Wryneck he had heard calling. We spent time listening and looking for the first of many Sardinian Warblers. Crag Martins coursed in front of the cliffs ahead. Further on again the valley opened up to give some spectacular long views. In a small tree by the road, a close Subalpine Warbler prompted another stop. We saw more Firecrest, a Spotted Flycatcher and Wren. A further scan of the cliffs revealed a high Red-Billed Chough and Blue Rock Thrush as well as distant Spanish Ibex. High on the skyline a male Ibex stood out, with its large horns curling up, against the blue sky.
Spanish Ibex (f) and kid
Photo: Hilary MacBean
21. We reached a picnic spot as a large European Red Squirrel crossed our path and disappeared into the trees. Griffon Vultures circled a huge rock on the skyline, which we labelled “The Head”. The picnic place and the adjacent, surface flowing, river were oddly bereft of birds, so we retraced our steps down the valley and headed to the Mont Caro road.
22. This involves a steep climb through a variety of habitat zones, to the summit of Mont Caro (1442m). Our first stop was an interesting, dry gulley at the foot of the climb. Again, this seemed oddly quiet and the Black Wheatear and Western Orphean Warbler we hoped for were absent. A patient walk up a dry valley revealed nesting pairs of Black Redstart, Spotted Flycatcher and Blue Rock Thrush and as we returned to the cars, a nice male Black-Eared Wheatear turned up amongst the rocky scrub.
Monument a la Cabra Salvatge
Hairpins on Mont Caro
Photos: Hilary MacBean and Tim Marshall
23. Higher up, we stopped to admire the endless hairpin bends and an impressive male Ibex, this time a statue at the Monument a la Cabra Salvatge, mounted at the head of a fine limestone column. Who ever got him up there was brave indeed. He made a splendid sight, with the Ebro Valley dropping away behind. Up the slope, Tim spotted a Rock Bunting and most of us saw its tail as it disappeared into the scrub. Sadly, it failed to show again.
Juvenile Short-Toed Eagle Large Psammodromus Lizard
Photos: Tim Marshall
24. At the summit we expected a cold wind but T-shirt weather prevailed. The view was stupendous and we soon saw a number of Griffon Vultures soaring round, above and below us. This was a good place for a raptor watch and we saw two Honey Buzzard,on passage and an adult Bonelli’s Eagle and a juvenile Short-Toed Eagle, with some debate over the latter’s identity. A Red-Billed Chough flew in below us and was calling from an invisible perch. We returned to the montane pine forest below, at el Mascar, where the elevation and cooler, temperate conditions allow for a familiar range of passerines (Blackbird, Robin, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Coal Tit, Crested Tit and Woodpigeon). Common Kestrels frequently occurred, at all levels.
On the way back we paid more attention to the valley olive groves, particularly those that looked a little neglected, with a scrubby under-storey. Sharp sighted Trevor saw three Golden Orioles speed away and we searched a derelict building for a Hoopoe hole, concluding that the old olive trees themselves provided the best nest holes. A Wood Chat Shrike showed well and we all enjoyed the call of a Corn Bunting, common in Spain, but sorely missing in our own countryside.
What an impressive day, with striking landscapes and a good range of birds.
Wednesday 4th May
25. The weather was calm, warm and sunny, perfect for a trip to the Lleida Steppes (or “pseudo steppes”, the true steppes being in Aragon, to the West); a drive 130km to the North. By now the group had realised that, with Hilary planning and navigating, our itinerary was nothing if not adventurous! The Lleida Steppes are a plateau area of low intensity sheep and cereal farming lying to the South of Lleida City, interspersed with the farming there are rock outcrops and uncultivated scrub, criss-crossed with gullies and small river valleys. The area is famous for Sandgrouse, Bustards and Larks. We were thwarted by a flat battery before we left town but, that sorted, we set off full of anticipation. We were further thwarted by a serious coach crash that held us up for two hours on the C12 North. During our enforced stop we listened to Nightingales and Trevor heard Stone Curlew from across the fields. As we drove into the steppes area we saw a nice Little Owl perched on a small building and Lesser Kestrel swooped overhead. We finally got to the Canal d’Urgell, just north of Alfes Aerodrome, in time for lunch.
Canal d’Urgell, Lleida
Photo: Hilary MacBean
26. This was a lovely quiet spot. We were temporarily stumped by the contact call of a Nightingale. That resolved, we saw distant Bee-eater and started to search round for the Lesser Grey Shrike, for which this place is known. A walk into a pine wood revealed Common Cuckoo and great views of a Greater Spotted Cuckoo, a first for most of us. Amongst others, Nightingale, Goldfinch and Serin all sang and we heard a Scops Owl, learning later that they do strike up during the day. We walked along an idyllic canal path, listening for Golden Oriole and looking for Shrikes.
27. A van pulled up in a cloud of dust and the occupant was very eager to help us. He was Juan Castillo, a field ecologist, studying Sandgrouse on the steppes. He informed us that there are no longer Lesser Grey Shrike at the locus, the nearest and only remaining Catalonian pair being 50 Kms away, to the North East. Too far for us. He also thought it would be another 10 days before the Golden Orioles would be heard. He talked about the Pin-Tailed and Black-Bellied Sandgrouse, there being only around 120 of the former and 20+ of the latter left on the Lleida steppe. He pointed us in the direction of the water pool identified by David Gosney and the Mas de Melons. He thought we should see Little Bustard, as they are quite common. Great Bustard are rare and better seen further west. He sped off and we continued, picking up Lesser Kestrel, a party of 8 Cattle Egret, 2 White Storks flying high over us, 2 Short-Toed Eagle, a Black Kite and a Spoonbill. Closer to hand we saw Greenfinch, Spotless Starling, Swallow, House Martin, Whinchat, Cirl Bunting, Melodious Warbler and Northern Wheatear. This was quite a haul, despite the regrettable absence of Lesser Grey Shrike.
28. We moved to the steppe area south of the aerodrome and scanned the area. We had good views of a large population of Calandra Lark and regretted the absence of Dupont’s Lark, that used to be seen in this area, but no more. A Hare popped up and a number of Crested Lark showed well. A falcon that, after some discussion, we concluded to be Red-Footed Falcon, flew over. We heard our first Little Bustard.
29. We spent time near the watering pool but knew it was too late in the day for the Sandgrouse. We continued to hear the odd Little Bustard but try as we might, we could not pick one out. Perhaps the barley was getting a bit too high. We saw Hoopoe, Woodpigeon, Iberian Grey Shrike and both Common and Greater Spotted Cuckoos, presumably targeting Larks nests.
30. We returned via Rui Sett a small river valley on the South of the steppes. This is a beautiful setting but a shortage of time prevented more than the briefest search. Red-Rumped Swallow, Spotted Flycatchers, Bee-eaters and an enticing assemblage of bird song emitted from the stand of mature White Poplars by the river. The Black Wheatear on the left-hand rocky slopes failed to materialise but we pushed on to return West from Castelldans, via a long and rocky track through the Val de Matxerra, in the Mas de Melons. This was a slightly risky venture for the vehicles and drivers, 4 x 4’s would have been better, but well worth it. A Jackdaw (unusual here) mobbed a juvenile Golden Eagle that we continued to encounter as we moved west. We stopped briefly to admire a close Bee-eater colony in a sand bank and a nearly dry pool was an obvious attraction for a number of birds including Black-Eared Wheatear and possible warblers, in a small reed bed in the pool. There was no time stop investigate further.
Greater Spotted Cuckoo
Photo: Tim Marshall
31. A Greater Spotted Cuckoo pair showed really well in a small tree by the track and we saw Thekla Lark in the rocky areas. Despite our continuing efforts, we saw no Sandgrouse. There were many Magpies in the area, no doubt predating the bird community. As we came over a brow, a brilliant red poppy field came in to view, enhanced by back-lighting, through the petals, as the sun set. This was a stunning sight and end to another wonderful day.
Poppy field on Lleida Steppe
Photo: Tim Marshall
32. Delays meant we had to miss the Utexa Reservoir, Sebes Reserve and Flix Meandre. The latter looked promising from the bridge at Flix; one for another visit. As we drove back in the evening sun, we enjoyed spectacular views of the Ebro River. A fine male Golden Oriole flew across, to top off the day.
Thursday 5th May
33. Two ventures inland and a lot of kilometres by car, over the previous two days, led to a vote to return to South Delta, especially as we had not yet got to the I’lla de Buda, at the mouth of the Ebro. Despite this, a return to the mountains in pursuit of Egyptian Vulture, Citril Finch, Rock Sparrow and better views of Rock Bunting and Western Orphean Warbler, were tempting to some, but would have to be reserved for another visit.
34. We headed through the increasingly flooded rice fields, towards I’lla de la Buda, on the way picking up some of the wetland species seen on Sunday and Monday. At the North West corner of the Migjorn Arm, a small but attractive reed bed reserve has been developed with perimeter paths, perhaps off-setting some of the disappointment of no public access into the I’lla de la Buda Reserve itself (other than by boat from the north bank of the Ebro). The small reserve appears to form the outer most point of the new pathway along the south side of the Ebro River. This area was dominated by Reed Warbler, as opposed to the Great Reed Warbler, found elsewhere. There was no sign of the Penduline Tits mentioned on the information board, but we obtained good views of Wood Chat Shrike, Whinchat, Redstart and a mixed Willow Warbler and Chiff Chaff flock, on passage. A Garden Warbler was heard. Zitting Cisticola were every where, as were Moorhen and Coot. There where no Red-Knobbed Coot. Perhaps these are restricted to I’lla de la Buda proper?
35. A nice pair of Little Bittern and a Purple Swamphen bounced out of the reeds. Greenshank and Redshank were visible in the adjacent rice fields and Gull-Billed Terns were about. Along the canal we searched for Penduline Tit in the over-hanging trees but without success. Very large Carp showed in the irrigation ditch and a feeding flock of 10 Glossy Ibis showed well in the fields.
I’lla de la Buda Reserve from Mas de Buda
Photo: Tim Marshall
36. At the tall observation tower at Mas de Buda we enjoyed a cool breeze and fine views of the wetlands in I’lla de la Buda to the east and L’Alfacada Lagoon, to the west. Even the less than scantily-dressed tourists on the beach were visible.
Little Egret, Squacco Heron and Purple Heron in flight
Photos: Tim Marshall
37. Sixteen Purple Swamphen were foraging in a small cultivated field and many of the marshland and wetland birds, already reported, were present. Avocet, Flamingo, 2 Ruff, 2 Great White Egret, Black-winged Stilt and Shelduck stood out. Purple Heron were a regular sighting. Sandwich Terns flew over the canal and Whiskered Terns were ever present. We went down to the beach at Migjorn for our picnic and a sea watch. Most of us carefully avoided the nude sun bathers with our optics and instead focussed on the fishing boats, out at sea. Sandwich, Common and Whiskered Terns were there in numbers. The Gulls were Yellow-Legged. Strangely, as throughout the week, there were few Mediterranean Gulls. The sharp-eyed also picked out Balearic Shearwaters scything around the flocks.
38. We attempted to reach Platjola Lagoon from the east but were thwarted by a road closure, official or not. The only way to this promising-looking area appears to be from the north, as there is no canal bridge from Eucaliptus, to the west. We had no time to investigate further but, whilst crossing the rice fields we saw Collared Pratincole, Curlew Sandpiper, Curlew, Greenshank, Lesser Kestrel, Sedge Warbler, Purple Heron, several Yellow Wagtails (iberiae) and lots of Squacco Heron, standing sentinel.
39. Our last port of call on the Delta was a return to the north-most observation platform at el Clot Lagoon, where we had previously had a rich haul. We listened carefully and picked up two Savi’s Warblers and then found them in the scopes. There were a number of the now familiar water fowl and the Heron roost remained active. Of greatest interest were the number of small passerines on passage and resting up in the marshes. We found Spotted Flycatcher, Melodious Warbler, 2 Redstart, 2 Willow Warbler and a female Pied Flycatcher, that rested on an open branch and gave us excellent views.
Female Pied Flycatcher Great Reed Warbler
Photos: Tim Marshall
We left reluctantly, to the sound of Great Reed Warblers ringing in our ears.
Friday 6th May
40. Today we left St Carles de la Rapita and headed towards Barcelona. The literature recommended a visit to Roca Falconera, part of the Garraf Natural Park on the coast at Garraf Marina. The Catalunya literature refers to a cliff at Ginesta Marina, but there is no cliff there. The rock is massive but after a difficult task navigating our way there, without a good map, we were disappointed to find few birds. The cliff seemed too exposed to the sun for marine bird nesting activity but we did see a nice pair of Blue Rock Thrush, a Sardinian Warbler and a Melodious Warbler. We planned to go on to the Remolar Filipines and La Ricarda-Ca l’Arana Reserves at Llobregat, on the remnant areas of wetland on the delta now occupied by Barcelona International Airport. Despite their small size, they are renowned for passage birds and regular sightings of rarities. We were thwarted by the need to deal with our battery receipt at the car hire office. Could we find it amongst the sprawling motorways and commercial buildings surrounding the airport, not without a rather better map than provided by the car hire company. We got there eventually and we all finally ended up at our hotel at Castelldefells, rather exhausted, having seen no more than the enticing signs to the Llobregat Reserves, during our search for the office. We finished with a pleasant walk to a food court, through a small park, where we added White Wagtail to the list and heard a Common Sandpiper. We spent a jolly evening laughing off the day’s misadventure.
41. Friday was frustrating, but the rest of the week was a great success, timed to capture a good mixture of wetland, sea and passage birds. Some birds, notably Black-Winged Kite and the Sandgrouse, eluded us, but an impressive list of 150 species, with lifers for some, was obtained. The week was characterised by good company and a harmonious atmosphere, as well as a variety of birds and habitats and our adventures in seeking them out. My thanks go to all who assisted, in whatever way and to our hosts, Nuria and Simon, at Hostal Agusti.