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Autumn Passage in Catalunya

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Old Wednesday 17th October 2018, 10:49   #76
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Without a 'scope some of the waders here are tricky because they are quite distant. We felt that there was at least a Spotted Redshank.

We thought it might be worth returning to the Migjorn area as our last proper stop of the day.

97. Reed Warbler, Migjorn tower hide
98. Snipe, Migjorn tower hide

We met a couple of experienced Dutch birders/ringers who had been doing quite well. They'd heard Great Reed Warbler that morning, just down the road and had seen multiple Bonelli's Eagles including a group of nine in the hills adjoining the delta.

99. Slender-billed Gulls, not numerous but at various locations seen whilst driving around.
100. Common Sandpiper, close to the track to the Migjorn grassfields.

We decided not to walk the track to the grassfields because
1. We were unsure of access.
2. There was a closable barrier and a sign indicating that it was a private road.
3. There were a lot of biting flies and
4. We thought that if the work being done was moving the birds away from the fields our appearance on foot probably wouldn't help.

There were lots of crayfish in the irrigation canals in this area. Unfortunately they all looked like the invasive American Crayfish although I'll happily admit that my crayfish ID skills are limited.

As it was getting late and close to sunset we drove to our hotel, the Delta Hotel which is just east of Deltebre. A few metres before pulling into the hotel car park and in the dying light we saw a Pied Flycatcher in the trees on the right as it darted out over the road and back.

101. Pied Flycatcher, Delta Hotel
102. Scop's Owl, Delta Hotel.
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Old Wednesday 17th October 2018, 11:11   #77
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We were out before sunrise. At 07:30 exactly we saw a very large bird flying over the flooded fields across from the hotel. Our immediate reaction was that it was an owl and the only possibility, other than an escape from a collection, was European Eagle Owl. Now we've seen various Eagle Owls around the world (and even a Bengal Eagle Owl around the corner from my house in Shrewsbury - the cat was very lucky to escape!) but we've only definitely heard European Eagle Owl. We bumped into the guided birding tour later in the day and asked one of the guides about the possibility, because the habitat was not exactly what we'd expect. The response was a bit dismissive (only two records a year in the delta, no food for them), although he backed off later with "I wasn't there. I didn't see the bird." and confirmed that they are in the hills quite close by. He suggested that it might have been a Long-eared Owl, which nests in the hotel grounds but we're familiar enough with this much smaller bird to be comfortable that in terms of size alone it was not a LEE (or a Tawny, or a Barn Owl). Anyway I guess it's my list and having watched several videos of Eagle Owl and LEE I'm satisfied that we saw an Eagle Owl.

103. European Eagle Owl, Delta Hotel.

It's good to have a bit of controversy.

We had a quick look in the trees where we'd seen the flycatcher last night but no sign of any birds.
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Old Wednesday 17th October 2018, 11:27   #78
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Our pre-breakfast destination was Riumar. I went there in later October 2017 and started the day with an Osprey and then saw thousands of birds (egrets, ibis, gulls) in the fields and sky around the village and on the tracks around Canal Vell. Not so much doing in Riumar, though we did have a rather nice coffee (and a donut for me) in a bakery that was nearly open when we passed (I think it was Mfrequet on Carrer de Flamenc). We walked to the hide in the Garxal reserve but there was not much to see, with the only new bird for the trip being

104. Shelduck, Garxal reserve, Riumar

so we moved on. There were signs that I followed last year to a tower hide at Canal Vell, only to find that access to the hide was blocked, somewhat annoying after a short walk with lots of mosquitos, however there were plenty of birds in the area, so we had a drive around. There were lots (hundreds) of Common Sandpipers in just about every field we passed on the drive north, possibly on Sequia Bombita, with a few Greenshanks and a supporting cast of herons, gulls and ibis. At a point where the road turned right to cross an irrigation canal there was a small area of dry open grass and sand and we were delighted to find two Hoopoes here (our Dutch informants from yesterday had seen lots).

105. Hoopoe, Canal Vell area.

We'd paid for breakfast at the hotel, so we went back for it. It was ok.
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Old Wednesday 17th October 2018, 12:08   #79
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After breakfast and check-out we set off for Punt del Fangar where there were lots of Sanderlings on the beach but we didn't find much else of interest.

106. Sanderling, Punt del Fangar
107. Lesser Kestrel, 2, somewhere on the road between Sant Jaume d'Enveja and Els Muntells.

Having been convinced by the Dutch birders that the drive along the sand spit towards Punta de la Banya would not result in the loss of our rental vehicle, we decided to do it. Lots of common waders on both sides, visible at close quarters if you use the car as a hide.

108. Ringed Plover, sand spit towards Punta de la Banya
109. Grey Plover, sand spit towards Punta de la Banya
110. Turnstone, sand spit towards Punta de la Banya
111. Northern Wheatear, sand spit towards Punta de la Banya

We had a late and excellent lunch at the Ida Can Machino restaurant in Els Muntells which was considerably more upscale than we'd expected.

With a little time left we wanted to explore the tracks leading south from the Sant Carles de la Rapita to El Poblenou del Delta road. Not much around here although we did manage to find a single Curlew.

112. Curlew, fields near Sant Carles de la Rapita.

A Twitter notification (@rarebirdscat) had come through about a Lesser Flamingo having been seen in the Punta de la Banya area. We were pretty certain that there were no flamingos visible there when we were there, although there is no public access to the western end, where presumably salt production is taking place. We had time to look at the flamingo flocks from the hides that we'd visited yesterday and quite quickly found an individual that was smaller than any of those around it. However it was way too distant for us to get a proper look at its bill, which was the clincher. Of course there were no other birders around so no telescopes for us to borrow. We stopped along the road at a point where we thought we might get a closer view, but although we'd made a mental note of some markers we couldn't relocate either the bird or more worryingly the place where we'd seen it.

After that it was time to start towards the airport and our flight home (which was delayed by over two hours meaning we finally got home after 3 a.m., with work the next day :)

In summary, although raptors migrating over Tarragona were down in numbers from several years ago, it seems that anywhere along the coast south of Barcelona there is a chance of seeing something with patience. Birding on the delta remains very entertaining. I've really only mentioned first sightings of most species but over two days we saw Ospreys on at least seven different occasions and kingfishers perhaps 40 times. Three flew in front of the car in the space of about 15 seconds on one track we drove down. We always found Moustached Warblers difficult in the area but this time we had a couple of sightings and heard them several times. A few eagle species got away because of poor/brief views, distance or bad light.

I'm sure that we'll be back and the Delta Hotel is likely to figure if we decide to overnight.
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