• BirdForum is the net's largest birding community dedicated to wild birds and birding, and is absolutely FREE!

    Register for an account to take part in lively discussions in the forum, post your pictures in the gallery and more.

Barcelona, Pyrenees and the Ebro Delta - February 2020 (1 Viewer)

GiG

Well-known member
United Nations
I wasn’t planning to go on a birding trip abroad this year. I went to Georgia last Autumn, with a group of mates, with just over a week around Batumi and then Svaneti for a couple of days. It was a fantastic trip and the raptor migration was something else; an experience I’d always wanted to encounter. As this was a big trip I’d had said to my mates that I wouldn’t be doing anything in 2020.

After showing photos of the adventure in Georgia to my parents, I was asked where to next year and when I said no plans my partner replied, why don’t you do something and see what the guys are planning. I jumped at the invite and spoke to one of my mates, Dave, who had been looking at different options for 2020, such as Pyrenees early in the year, Poland in May or June or Gambia later in the year. May and June were out due to other commitments between us and in reality the Pyrenees was first option due to unfinished business with three certain species; Wallcreeper, Lammergeier and Alpine Accentor. The former we’d seen reasonably well previously on a trip to Bulgaria in the Trigrad Gorge. We saw three birds, fairly well but high up above and then in flight. Wallcreeper and Lammergeier were potential birds in the Svaneti area last year but we were hampered by blizzards. I’d seen Lammergeier distantly with bins on Crete on a family holiday but this was a species Dave really wanted to see. Both of us had also been to places where Alpine Accentor was a potential species but have just never caught up with one.

Dave made contact with a bird tour company, Barcelona Birding Point and they had a week free so that we would do a four day Pyrenees and plains trip followed by two days at Ebro Delta. This was for four people and included pick up, all accommodation and transport, breakfast and evening meal. With Dave planning that side of things I sorted flights and, to make the most of the first day, I booked hotel rooms near the airport so we’d be in place for an early start.

During planning I thought it would be nice to do a city break in Barcelona for my partner and myself. It was something we’d talked about before and as I would flying in to Barcelona then I could precede the bird trip with a few days in the city. I found a nice flat on Airbnb and planned flights and transfers to the airport and in the end we decided to have four nights in Barcelona.

Both parts of the trip went well, Barcelona was a great city with lots to see and experience and some birding! The bird trip was a great success. Carles Oliver, our tour leader, was excellent and we were well looked after and had some real wildlife highlights during the tour plus not forgetting some beautiful scenery up in the mountains. Carles has written a report of the trip which can be found here - https://elpolitcantaire.wordpress.com/2020/04/04/catalonia-in-winter-birding-tour-2020-trip-report/ but I thought do a report of wildlife seen over my entire trip with a few extra bits and some photos.
 

GiG

Well-known member
United Nations
The Airbnb accommodation was in the L’Hospitalet de Llobregat district of Barcelona and was a great base to explore the city. It had the added bonus of being a top floor flat with a small terrace so it was great to watch the sun rise, listening to the sounds of the city and allowed a bit of birding. Serin was regular, with Black Redstart also singing on top of buildings. From there also had House Sparrow, Starling, White Wagtail, flyover Yellow-legged Gull, Wood Pigeon and heard Monk Parakeet.

The nearest metro station was St. Eulalia and on crossing the bridge saw three Monk Parakeets. Monk Parakeets seemed to be present across lots of the city, from the main ring of trees in Plaça de Catalunya at the top of Las Ramblas, various places including Diagonal when on a hop on hop off bus tour and down towards the water front after walking around the Gothic Quarter and down to Barceloneta. From here I saw further Yellow-legged Gulls along with Black-headed Gulls. From the hop on hop bus heard my first Chiffchaff singing of the year near the Nou Camp, 23 Cormorants flying north over the harbour and a Peregrine over La Sagrada Familia. At the latter site on another visit, Serin and Collared Dove in the adjacent park. A trip to Montjuic Park saw another Black Redstart and Chaffinch.

1.Sunrise from the apartment
2.Serin singing at the apartment
3.Collared Dove by La Sagrada Familia
4.Yellow-legged Gull at Plaça de Catalunya
 

Attachments

  • Sunrise in Barcelona.jpg
    Sunrise in Barcelona.jpg
    1 MB · Views: 27
  • Serin.jpg
    Serin.jpg
    1.2 MB · Views: 37
  • Collared Dove.jpg
    Collared Dove.jpg
    1.2 MB · Views: 37
  • Yellow-legged Gull.jpg
    Yellow-legged Gull.jpg
    1.9 MB · Views: 37

GiG

Well-known member
United Nations
One of the best places for birds, as well as being a lovely place to visit, was Park Güell. There were lots of Monk Parakeets about and during a walk around the park and up to the mirador saw Crested Tit, Goldcrest, Blue Tit, Chaffinch, Black Redstart, Chiffchaff and two Kestrels. Two Speckled Woods were my first butterflies of the year and webs from the caterpillars of Pine Processionary moth were noticeable on some of the pines.

1.Monk Parakeet
2.Monk Parakeet by nest hole
3.Chiffchaff
4.Speckled Wood
 

Attachments

  • Monk Parakeet.jpg
    Monk Parakeet.jpg
    1.5 MB · Views: 34
  • Monk Parakeet_1.jpg
    Monk Parakeet_1.jpg
    1.7 MB · Views: 45
  • Chiffchaff.jpg
    Chiffchaff.jpg
    1.8 MB · Views: 34
  • Speckled Wood.jpg
    Speckled Wood.jpg
    1.6 MB · Views: 32

GiG

Well-known member
United Nations
With the city break over I went to the airport to say goodbye to my partner and meet my mates coming in. We transferred to the hotel, in El Prat de Llobregat, dropped off our bags and explored the area. Partly to find somewhere to eat later in the evening but also get some birding in.

Not long I heard the unmistakable sound of Monk Parakeets and we found a few in some trees, a nice start with a new species for the guys. We found an area, fenced off, by an industrial area with lots of grass and plants including Purple Milk Thistle Galactites tomentosa. Scanning through the fence we saw four Black Redstarts and two Stonechats. In the adjacent trees were Serin and Goldfinch and we had three Cattle Egrets fly over. Next to the hotel was a play area and in the trees we had Chiffchaff and Blackcap. On going out to eat later the hotel said that a Carnival procession would go by, taking around 30 minutes. We stopped to watch the amazing spectacle, music pumping out and hundreds of people in procession behind the floats. It actually took overt two hours to pass by!

1.Purple Milk Thistle
2 & 3.Carnival procession
 

Attachments

  • Purple Milk Thistle.jpg
    Purple Milk Thistle.jpg
    299.8 KB · Views: 21
  • Carnival_1.jpg
    Carnival_1.jpg
    1.2 MB · Views: 39
  • Carnival_2.jpg
    Carnival_2.jpg
    1.2 MB · Views: 31

GiG

Well-known member
United Nations
After the excitement of the first afternoon we were up early to be picked up by Carles. It was nearly a two hour drive so we stopped en route for a coffee and breakfast, noting a Dipper along a fast flowing river. We climbed higher and higher and pulled over to the side of the road as we noted some bird movement. We picked up Rock Bunting, Crested Tit and Mistle Thrush. We were frustrated by butterfly that wouldn’t stop to be photographed; a very pale and small Clouded Yellow, but we couldn’t be sure of the ID.

As we continued there were more snow-covered areas although, due to higher than typical temperatures, there was a lot more snow-free land than expected. We had our first Griffon Vultures, a Peregrine and a couple of Ravens croaking across a valley when all of a sudden a small flock of birds flew, very pale underneath. These were three White-winged Snowfinches and as we watched more flew over the ridge and down the side of the slope. We moved along as the continued to feed, fly on and getting a bit lower each time. We had great views through the scope of around 25 birds. Carles said that with the receding snowline they would be a tricky species to see so we were very lucky. No luck with Alpine Accentor in the area though.

Back down along the road with wonderful views across the hills we watched a large flock of Alpine Choughs and noted more and more Griffon Vultures in the area, particularly over an escarpment. Within these a Lammergeier flew in to view, heading right towards us. It gave superb views as it flew overhead and we were to see it again as it flew back later on and we also saw a second bird further away. You couldn’t have asked for better views of one of our main target birds so were all really elated. A group of Pyrenean Chamois were down below us on the mountain side. We drove a half mile down the road to stop for lunch and a drink as it was very warm. Here were more Griffon Vultures around as we enjoyed the panorama and a Small Tortoiseshell was nice to see. As we descended back down the mountain we found a Wall Lizard at another stop, a flock of Red-billed Choughs and at least 10 Crag Martins.

1.Beautiful Pyrenean scenery
2.Lammergeier
3.Griffon Vulture
4.Pyrenean Chamois
5.Wall Lizard
 

Attachments

  • 1 Pyrenees scenery.jpg
    1 Pyrenees scenery.jpg
    1.5 MB · Views: 44
  • 2 Lammergeier.jpg
    2 Lammergeier.jpg
    574.1 KB · Views: 65
  • 3 Griffon Vulture.jpg
    3 Griffon Vulture.jpg
    866.4 KB · Views: 44
  • 4 Pyrenean Chamois.jpg
    4 Pyrenean Chamois.jpg
    1.2 MB · Views: 53
  • 5 Wall Lizard.jpg
    5 Wall Lizard.jpg
    1 MB · Views: 39

GiG

Well-known member
United Nations
We descended much lower down, this time to a small farming village to look for Citril Finches that had been over-wintering in the area. Despite much searching we couldn’t find any but we had a nice selection of other birds such as a pair of Stonechats, a very smart male Black Redstart, Zitting Cisticola, Iberian Green Woodpecker and a couple of Meadow Pipits.

We then drove to our accommodation for the night, Cal Sams in the village of Olopte. It was a lovely old country house set in beautiful countryside. We were to unload and rest for a bit before heading out again but some of us went for a walk to explore and we thought it would be full of wildlife come Spring. We did hear many woodland birds and a Peacock was on a path.

On our next foray out we went back up to higher ground within pine forests. In some puddles of melted snow by the roadside we came across a number of finches; mainly Chaffinches but also a few Crossbills. We explored the area and saw Siskins, Crested Tit, Short-toed Treecreeper, Mistle Thrush, Rock Bunting and briefly two Citril Finches that flew by. We also heard a Black Woodpecker and found a Viviparous Lizard on a stump. As the sun was setting went tried one site for Tengmalm’s Owl but could not hear one. We tried another section of forest and as we waited in the darkness we heard a Tengmalm’s Owl in the distance. We walked towards it but then heard that, or another behind us back towards the vehicle. Although we never saw the owl it was a great experience to be out at night listening to it. We headed to a local restaurant for a very nice evening meal but the wildlife watching was still not over!

Back at the accommodation we were to stay up scanning as food is put out on a bird table and Beech Martin sometimes appears. We watched from an upstairs window overlooking the garden and a Roe Deer appeared around half ten and stayed in the garden for over 15 minutes. While still there some movement caught our attention as a Beech Martin came through. Over the next hour I had a further three sightings although with the light levels and it always being on the move I couldn’t get a good photo. It was certainly a jam-packed and wonderful first day in the Pyrenees.

1.Cal Sams accommodation
2.Viviparous Lizard
3.Forest view
4.Roe Deer
5.Beech Martin
 

Attachments

  • 6 Cal Sams.jpg
    6 Cal Sams.jpg
    1.6 MB · Views: 38
  • 7 Viviparous Lizard.jpg
    7 Viviparous Lizard.jpg
    1.7 MB · Views: 32
  • 8 Subboreal forest.jpg
    8 Subboreal forest.jpg
    1.4 MB · Views: 30
  • 9 Roe Deer.jpg
    9 Roe Deer.jpg
    1.8 MB · Views: 42
  • 10 Beech Martin.jpg
    10 Beech Martin.jpg
    1.7 MB · Views: 72

Scridifer

Registered User
Supporter
Bulgaria
Loving it so far GiG!

An area I would love to visit, several targets for me there! I'm very jealous of the Beech Marten - we have them here but I have never seen a live one, only the odd traffic fatality!

Keep it coming,

Chris
 

GiG

Well-known member
United Nations
Loving it so far GiG!

An area I would love to visit, several targets for me there! I'm very jealous of the Beech Marten - we have them here but I have never seen a live one, only the odd traffic fatality!

Keep it coming,

Chris

Thanks Chris. A great place and would recommend a visit.

The next instalment to follow.

Gi
 

GiG

Well-known member
United Nations
Despite staying up late for mammal-watching I was up early after a good nights sleep to listen to the dawn chorus and go for a short walk - got to make the most of it when on a birding break! Vocal Robin and Song Thrush and then a Nuthatch were part of a selection of birds heard. After breakfast it was time to head out, initially to the section of forest where we had the Citril Finches the afternoon before. Still lots of finch species; singing Crossbills, flyover Siskins and lots of Chaffinches. We then moved to a more open mountain pass area, seeing Stonechat along the side of the road. We had a couple of stops, predominately looking for Alpine Accentor, but like yesterday, there was little snow about. We did have Griffon Vultures overhead and a lovely flock of Choughs.

We decided to head higher, so went to a nearby ski resort, La Molina, to take the ski lift up to more snowy areas. As we got our tickets a couple of Crag Martins flew around, often landing on posts and we had great views of them including the spots on the tail. We took a gondola up, noting a Lammergeier on the way. Despite searching around we had no luck with accentors. Again it was a warm day, walking around in polo shirt in the snow and on the restaurant at the top it said 16C! It was time to move on as we had a long drive to the next accommodation with plans to stop en route.

1.Crossbill
2.Crag Martin
 

Attachments

  • 11 Crossbill.jpg
    11 Crossbill.jpg
    1,007.2 KB · Views: 39
  • 12 Crag Martin.jpg
    12 Crag Martin.jpg
    1.2 MB · Views: 61

GiG

Well-known member
United Nations
Once at the plains we stopped at one section of fields to look for over-wintering Little Bustards. No bustards, but the area was alive with birds – a fantastic, noisy flock of 150 Tree Sparrows, several singing Corn Buntings, Meadow Pipits and Reed Buntings. At the next stop we had a couple of White Storks flyover, then more with some landing in the fields and we heard a Cetti’s Warbler. Our next stop was successful, initially seeing a couple of Great Egrets and Grey Herons. In a ploughed field we found a flock of over 150 Golden Plovers and as I scanned through them I found a Dotterel, a scarce spring migrant. Carles then found some Little Bustards, initially three birds but then we could see further birds just behind a ridge and reckoned on at least 12 birds in total.

Our final stop of the day was to visit a wetland on the edge of a village. Parking up we heard the clacking bills of a White Stork in a nest above and a further Cetti’s Warbler. Scanning across the reedbed and wetland we had an array of birds; hearing Water Rail, several Purple Swamphens, quite a few Red-crested Pochards, Teals and Shovelers and a Water Pipit flew around a couple of times. Further out Little and Great Crested Grebes with Lapwings flying over and lots of Cormorants and Jackdaws on some dead trees. Several Marsh Harriers coming in to roost was a great sight, with some landing on some reedy islands along with more White Storks. These unexpected hidden gems of sites are always a wonderful to place to encounter. We finally had to leave with the light going to head for accommodation for the next two nights, Cal Monic. This renovated 17th Century old wine store building was a beautiful place to stay in.

1.Tree Sparrow flock
2.Little Bustard
3.Dotterel
4.Cormorants and Jackdaws
5.Marsh Harriers
 

Attachments

  • 13 Tree Sparrows.jpg
    13 Tree Sparrows.jpg
    1.4 MB · Views: 38
  • 14 Little Bustard.jpg
    14 Little Bustard.jpg
    1.6 MB · Views: 62
  • 15 Dotterel.jpg
    15 Dotterel.jpg
    1.2 MB · Views: 55
  • 16 Roosting birds.jpg
    16 Roosting birds.jpg
    1.1 MB · Views: 35
  • 17 Marsh Harriers.jpg
    17 Marsh Harriers.jpg
    1.4 MB · Views: 38

GiG

Well-known member
United Nations
Today was to be a find a Wallcreeper day and we drove to the Pallars Jussa area to look. Leaving early, waiting to get in the vehicle we had a few Red Kites fly over, obviously coming out of roost to head out to feed for the day. A bit of a drive to our first stop in the hills where it was relatively quiet bird wise with a showy Cirl Bunting and we had our first Long-tailed Tits of the trip. We decided to move on and as we headed down the road we noted a Rock Sparrow. Our next stop was a gorge and we spent a bit of time there scanning the rock faces looking for one of our target birds, Wallcreeper. We had several Griffon Vultures over and the odd Red Kite and a Lammergeier drifted through. Down by the water four White-bellied Dippers and two Grey Wagtails and a Rock Bunting up in some trees. Eventually a call from Carles and we watched a Wallcreeper distantly move up a rock face. Good views in the scope before it flew left and we frustratingly lost it. We continued searching and then on heading back to the vehicle a shout of Wallcreeper, this time one across the gorge at head height. We had fantastic views of this superb bird and felt we’d now seen one properly. Delighted with our success we moved on a bit further for lunch and had close views of Short-toed Treecreeper as it moved from tree to tree. We stopped at a small town for a coffee break and, while sitting there, were treated to another musical carnival along the street and a Scarce Swallowtail butterfly flew by.

1.Cirl Bunting
2.Wallcreeper
 

Attachments

  • 18 Cirl Bunting.jpg
    18 Cirl Bunting.jpg
    791.3 KB · Views: 35
  • 18 Wallcreeper.jpg
    18 Wallcreeper.jpg
    1.3 MB · Views: 66

GiG

Well-known member
United Nations
We know climbed up again, in to a pine forested area to have another look for Citril Finch. Our first area produced Raven over followed by two Lammergeiers. We had to stop the car quickly as two Citril Finches were noted just ahead. As we got out they moved on and unfortunately not everyone in the group got to see them. We walked up the road noting a lot of finches along a ride within the trees that held pylons. Scanning through, birds were in the trees and then flying down on to the ground. There were mainly Chaffinches, a few Crossbills flying around and then at least one Citril Finch on the ground, although distant. A Hawfinch also flew through. We tried to get closer but the flock of birds moved away but we did notice large amounts of Mistletoe in the pines, something I’d never seen before, always associating them with deciduous trees. Back at the car we had Crested Tit and another Short-toed Treecreeper.

We returned to the first site we'd visited in the morning. The hope was that, as it had warmed up, we would see some raptors. We had Cirl Bunting again plus Sardinian Warbler and up above the rock face Griffon Vultures circled, Kestrel and Red Kite plus our fifth Lammergeier of the day! Further away we then found three Cinereous Vultures, a species we were hoping to see there. So ended another memorable day and back at the accommodation we arrived in the dark but I did note a beetle on the wall, a species of long-horned beetle, Vesperus xatarti.

1.Mistletoe in pine
2.Vesperus xatarti
 

Attachments

  • 19 Mistletoe.jpg
    19 Mistletoe.jpg
    1.8 MB · Views: 28
  • Vesperus xatarti.jpg
    Vesperus xatarti.jpg
    1.3 MB · Views: 27

JWN Andrewes

Poor Judge of Pasta.
Sounds like a very nice variety of habitats, good selection of species too. Enjoying the report sounds like a good trip.
 

MKinHK

Mike Kilburn
Hong Kong
Gripped by your Dotterel - haven't seen one since a rain-washed juvenile on Scilly in 1980-something.

Also loving the general mix of species, stunning scenery, and the Rock Martin showing it's ID made me smile.


Cheers
Mike
 

GiG

Well-known member
United Nations
Great stuff GiG, congratulations on nailing the Wallcreeper, a wonderful bird!

Chris

Sounds like a very nice variety of habitats, good selection of species too. Enjoying the report sounds like a good trip.

Gripped by your Dotterel - haven't seen one since a rain-washed juvenile on Scilly in 1980-something.

Also loving the general mix of species, stunning scenery, and the Rock Martin showing it's ID made me smile.


Cheers
Mike

Thanks all. Better get on and finish this report.

Gi
 

GiG

Well-known member
United Nations
It was time for the next leg, a travelling day to our next accommodation in the Ebro Delta with stops on the way. We were treated to several Red Kites overhead again, leaving their roost site early morning. Our first port of call was to the steppes and as we passed through a town saw some wonderful murals on walls. We travelled for about an hour when we noted a large raptor on a mound by the side of the road, slowing down we pulled over to have fantastic views of a Golden Eagle before it flew off. Frustratingly my photos came out poorly as I was set in macro mode from taking photos of the beetle the night before!

We noted it was windy but in the open steppes we got out of the car to find it extremely blustery and we could not let go of our scopes. We initially saw some Calandra and Short-toed Larks and scanning back and forth across the fields we found a pair of Black-bellied Sandgrouse followed by two Pin-tailed Sandgrouse. It was very difficult to view with the wind as there was so much shake but I did manage to get a videograb image. We then headed to look for Dupont’s Lark, parking up and remaining in the car to listen. Despite waiting for a while the wind did not help with locating them. We did have more Calandra Larks and at one point two Rangers came up to ask us what we were doing. Carles explained and they said they were checking up on people as they’d found some photographers had been illegally playing Dupont’s Lark recordings to view them.

We moved on to another area seeing Thekla Lark, Little Owl and Iberian Grey Shrike. We picked up a couple of Golden Eagles flying then two more came in to view; two adults and two juveniles and it was brilliant watching them flying around, absolute control in the windy conditions. We added another species of lark, this time Skylark over some other fields. After a coffee stop we went for a last stop for larks, this time Lesser Short-toed Larks before continuing our journey. It didn’t take long and with a bit of patience two Lesser Short-toed Larks walked out in to the open to give us good views.

1. & 2.Bird murals
3.Pin-tailed Sandgrouse
4.Calandra Lark
5.Golden Eagle
 

Attachments

  • 21 Village mural.jpg
    21 Village mural.jpg
    91.3 KB · Views: 30
  • 22 Village mural.jpg
    22 Village mural.jpg
    112.6 KB · Views: 30
  • 23 Pin-tailed Sandgrouse.jpg
    23 Pin-tailed Sandgrouse.jpg
    788.1 KB · Views: 35
  • 24 Calandra Lark.jpg
    24 Calandra Lark.jpg
    1 MB · Views: 35
  • 25 Golden Eagle.jpg
    25 Golden Eagle.jpg
    589.2 KB · Views: 29

GiG

Well-known member
United Nations
Our next stop was a large cliff face and while en route we’d noted some Spotless Starlings plus some White Storks on nests. At the cliff face we scanned and initially couldn’t find anything but in the scrub behind us a couple of Chiffchaffs working their way through and a showy female Black Redstart with the male less confiding. A shout went up from Carles that he’d found a Wallcreeper, a species we weren’t expecting. We all got good views before the species did its disappearing act again. We saw it fly to the left but just could not relocate it! During the scanning we did then find Black Wheatear and Blue Rock Thrush; two species we were hoping to see there.

Thrilled to have seen another Wallcreeper it was time for us to carry on as we had a couple of hours drive ahead and we wanted to get some birding in on the delta before the end of the day. We’d made good progress and got to a wooded, hilly area when we noted a couple raptors overhead. We decided to pull over and check them out and were glad we did as a number of raptors passed over on migration including a Short-toed Eagle, Black Kite, Goshawk and some Sparrowhawks and Buzzards.

Once at the Ebro Delta we headed to the northern bay area and Carles remarked how the layout had changed due to Storm Gloria earlier in the year which had shifted the sand around. Directly ahead on sand bars were Common Sandpiper, Little Egret and Cormorant, along the shore numerous waders and gulls including Greenshank, Redshank, Knot, Little Stint, Dunlin and Kentish Plover with Slender-billed and Audouin’s Gulls. Further out Greater Flamingos, Mediterranean Gulls and on a sand bar Curlew and Bar-tailed Godwit. On the water at least three Black-necked Grebes and flying around Caspian, Whiskered and Sandwich Terns. In a pool behind us we saw several Red-crested Pochards and along the track that had almost disappeared under the sand a brief Bluethroat while a Water Rail ran across. With the light going we were wowed by numerous White Wagtails flying past going to roost, numbering a couple of hundred or so.

1.Wallcreeper cliff
2.Black Redstart
3.Little Egret
4.Cormorant
5.Slender-billed Gull
 

Attachments

  • 26 Wallcreeper cliff.jpg
    26 Wallcreeper cliff.jpg
    1.3 MB · Views: 26
  • 27 Black Redstart.jpg
    27 Black Redstart.jpg
    1,018 KB · Views: 19
  • 28 Little Egret.jpg
    28 Little Egret.jpg
    993 KB · Views: 22
  • 29 Cormorant.jpg
    29 Cormorant.jpg
    1 MB · Views: 38
  • 30 Slender-billed Gull.jpg
    30 Slender-billed Gull.jpg
    949 KB · Views: 34

Users who are viewing this thread

Top