Participate in our birds and birders survey

Participate in our birds and birders survey!

At Birding In Spain we would like to conduct an informal survey of birders and birding. We are interested in getting insight into your birding experiences and outlook. If you can find the time help us by writing your answers and sending us an e-mail. Thanks!  

 Birders and birding survey

The questions are:

1. How long have you been birding?

2. What made you start?

3. What’s the best thing about birding for you? And the worst?

4. Does environmental education and promotion of birding make a difference to conservation? If so, can you give any examples?

5. Do you contribute with time, work or money to any conservation efforts? Which? How?

6. Does birding have any negative effects?

7. Is birding on the up in your part of the world? In general?

8. Which naturalists or birders do you admire the most, and why?

9. Is there somewhere you haven’t birded but would love to?

10. Would you like to make a prediction about the future of birding?

We invite you to complete and send us the answers via e-mail. A pdf version is also available on request.

Happy birding!

What, no selfies?

What, no selfies?

Or… when there are more interesting things to contemplate than one’s own image.

Peregrine Falcon, juvenile, on birding tour in Spain

This juvenile Peregrine was calling insistently from the top of the cliffs near Siurana. Worried about its vulnerability Roger and I tried to watch it without making it a public spectacle for the “normal” tourists wandering around and looking for something to focus their attention on.

Purple Shot Copper butterfly, on a birding tour in Spain

This Purple Shot Copper was a glorious dose of colour and pattern, and a memorable moment for us at Siurana.

Male Red-footed Falcon, Falco vespertinus, on a birding tour in Spain

On day 1 we came off the main road onto the drylands near Balaguer and the first 4 species we saw were all birds of prey: Golden Eagle, Hobby, Montagu’s Harrier and several delightful Red-footed Falcons. This spring there was an unusually large influx of these pretty little falcons, much to the delight of local and visiting birders.

Squacco Heron in the Ebro Delta, on a birding tour in Spain.

Bird photography is usually challenging because of the jumpiness of the subjects. Even when in a car if you stop the most usual response is for the bird to fly away. Just now and then though you can find a bird more absorbed in what it was doing, and less wary of your presence. Like this Squacco Heron in the Ebro Delta, looking for a snack in a rice paddy.

 Swallowtail Butterfly, on a birding tour in Spain.

A Swallowtail butterfly. Is beauty only in the eyes of the beholder? Or is there some intrinsic quality, some common denominator?

Common Tern in the Ebro Delta, on a birding tour in Spain.

A fishing Common Tern in the Ebro Delta. Another one of those opportunities when the bird is more concerned about food than human presence.

Two strange birds, on the southern Catalonia birding tour.

Not quite a selfie: Dr Buchanan on the left in the company of a lucky lesser mortal. All of the photos here are by Dr Buchanan. His company is also a generous gift.

Calming the beast within

Calming “the beast”

All photos courtesy of Dr Roger Buchanan. Roger calls his large telephoto lens “the beast”, which strikes me as a good leading line to show some of his photos taken during the last Ornitholiday’s Southern Catalonia Tour which we happily spent together. Along with his long-suffering wife, Jane, aka “the boss”. But that’s quite another subject…

Bee-eater, Merops apiaster, on a birding tour in Spain

A beautiful Bee-eater. What is man without the beasts? For if all the beasts were gone man would die of a great loneliness of the spirit. Chief Seattle.

Bee-eater’s lucky day, on a birding tour in Spain

The Bee-eater’s lucky day. The beast appears to be calmed.

Blue-spot Hairstreak, on a birding tour in Spain

Blue-spot Hairstreak. Whosoever is delighted in solitude is either a wild beast or a god. Aristotle. Maybe not “delighted” and maybe not real “solitude” but it’s surely a pleasing thing to get away from the crowds and to contemplate some of nature’s beauties, don’t you think?

Great Crested Grebe, on a birding tour in Spain

A Great Crested Grebe on nest. Every man has a wild beast within him. Frederick the Great.

 Glossy Ibis, on a birding tour in Spain

A Glossy Ibis in the Ebro Delta. I think the healthy way to live is to make friends with the beast inside oneself, and that means not the beast but the shadow. The dark side of one’s nature. Anthony Hopkins.

Moroccan Orange Tip, on a birding tour in Spain

Moroccan Orange Tip. The beast, once calmed, can be harnessed as a force for good. Steve West.

Birding In Spain gets Cross with Aussie birders

From Australia to Spain, and beyond

Featuring the Ken Cross Back to Europe Trip Log

This May past Ken Cross came from the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia, and brought his merry crew of Australian birders and companions with him to enjoy a superb classic spring birding tour of Spain.

After many months of e-mails and planning Ken and Steve finally met up in Madrid in mid-May, and from here was launched our tour of the best of Spain and its birds. Over the next 12 we toured and birded Extremadura, the Picos de Europa, the Pyrenees, the Ebro Valley plains and the Ebro Delta, finishing the tour in Barcelona. We also managed to organize a pelagic cruise one morning to look for shearwaters and petrels…How did we get on? 

You can read all about it here at Ken’s blog:

The first challenge that faced us was to work out a packing scheme; however if there’s one thing we have come to excel in in the birding circuit it’s just that. As we think the photo shows:

 Packing the bird tour van

A few days later another challenge arose: how to beat the hotel views, food and service that we had in the Picos de Europa. I don’t think we beat it in the subseqüent hotels, but we came reasonably close.

One of the best birding hotels in Spain

 One of the best birding hotels in Spain

2 amazing and stimulating views from our hotel in the Picos de Europa

Our impressions were that Ken (Mr Cross) and his crew (Russ, Maria, Vince, Steve, Jan, Karen, Norm, June, Ray) had a good time all round, but in particular they really loved the mountains, and this is judging from the battery of “oohs” and “aahs” delivered by all when the Pyrenees and Cantabrian mountains came into view.

The final tour tally was 213 species of birds, with of course some very interesting and unusual sightings, and with fun and Aussie humour all the way.

Dupont’s Lark and Lammergeier were chosen as the group’s bird of the tour. Although we should remain impartial with questions of taste we are very glad that the Corn Bunting did not enter the competition!

The big surprise to me was that when I arrived home from a later trip I found 2 field guides to Australia waiting for me: one for the mammals, and another for the birds. A big thank you to our Aussie friends for that, and for their great company!

Now though I have to start saving up to go to Australia.

 Australian flag

A birding trip report by the North Herts Birders: Catalonia – Spain

North Herts Birders

Here are some excerpts of the trip report of the North Herts Birders’ visit to Catalonia this April.

North Herts Birders birding in Catalonia 2015

Catalonia – Spain. Ebro Delta, Lleida Drylands and Pre-Pyrenees

20th to 24th April 2015

“Arriving at the Delta Hotel we saw Pied Flycatcher and Redstart as we pulled into the car park and later Wood Warbler in the wooded area. The hotel has excellent grounds with a large reedy pond with an island and a small wooded area, so we would not have to go far for some pre-breakfast birding.”

Pied Flycatcher in the Ebro Delta, Catalonia.

“An early pre-breakfast start for Little Bustard and Lesser Kestrel on the Balaguer Drylands, in the company of a film crew from Channel 3 TV, Catalonia’s largest TV Channel. Making a programme about eco-tourism, the environment and Little Bustards, so they had arranged with Steve West to film and interview us watching Little Bustards. Well this turned into a game, something like Musical Chairs. You had to keep moving, if you stopped and looked through your bins too long, when you put them down the lady interviewer started to ask questions in a reasonable version of English, a sound recorder tried to put his large, fluffy grey microphone up your nose and all this while the cameraman was bobbing about trying to find your best angle.”

“A new chapter of the Entente Cordiale was written in the hide, when a French birder complained that our guide Steve was too loud,…”

“Arriving at the very fragrant Alfes Aerodrome, the scent of wild Thyme hits your nose and the myriad of colourful wild flowers catches your eye. The birds, Great Spotted Cuckoo, Calandra Lark, a song flight from Short-toed Lark, Crested and Thekla Larks, Kestrel, from a nearby wood calling Iberian Green Woodpecker, Western Bonelli’s Warbler…”

“Our second attempt to find nesting Eagle Owl was successful, with one adult and 2 very large chicks still in the nest high up on a cliff. Great views were had by all.“

Penduline Tit building nest near Lleida, Catalonia.

“We had excellent views of a male Bonelli’s Eagle dive bombing Griffon Vultures, we then walked the gorge road and added a feisty Firecrest, Wryneck, singing Nightingales everywhere, calling Golden Orioles,…”

“A long day with loads of excellent birds, Ray commented that this was his best days birding ever! We all agreed,…”

“This area is my favourite part of Spain and as we got closer we could see the snow-capped mountains of the Pyrenees.”

“Overhead adult and juvenile Lammergeiers, amongst the circling Griffon Vultures. Next, an adult Egyptian Vulture glided past and down the valley. Coming up the other way more Griffons, but one didn’t look right, bigger and darker and not a Griffon, but a Black Vulture which circled and gave good views. Four species of vulture in around 10 minutes.”

 Tawny Owl in tree in Catalonia.

“A quick tally up of the list gave a trip total of 192, with all of us getting at least one tick.”

“Arriving back at Barcelona airport, we all thanked Steve West for his hard work in making our bird filled trip fun and enjoyable, a second sucessful Happy Tours trip. Steve said we made his job easy and fun, and looked forward to our return.”

Steve Lane photographing birds in Catalonia.

From a Happy Tours Publication – written by Steve Lane

Download and read the full trip report, with lots of birds and butterflies here:

 North Herts Birders birding in Catalonia 2015: Trip Report

Birder’s house for sale in southern France: the photos

Birder’s house for sale in France: the house, the photos.

Birder’s house for sale in southern France: the photos

A charming sun deck and birdwatching spot!

 Birder’s house for sale in southern France: the photos

The house front: but what lies beyond?

 Birder’s house for sale in southern France: the photos

Comfort and homeliness, and plenty of natural light

 Birder’s house for sale in southern France: the photos

A room with a view

Birder’s house for sale in southern France: the photos

The green touch, the natural look.

Birder’s house for sale in southern France: the photos

Tea on the terrace, anyone? 

 Birder’s house for sale in southern France: the photos

To the south: the Pyrenees

Birder’s house for sale in southern France: the photos

Wildlife galore in the grounds and surrounds: a Bee Orchid

Birders house for sale in southern France

House for sale in France

Early retirement gave us the opportunity to pursue our dream of living in France. Tipped off by a French friend I met in Kuala Lumpur, we started our search for somewhere to live in the lovely city of Toulouse.  We would drive into the countryside exploring the surrounding areas and, to cut the story short, after 3 months we started renting a cottage near the town of Lavaur. Just over a year later we moved into the house which has been our home for 15 years. Being nature lovers we had found paradise!

Facing due south, situated at just over 300m, we have a magnificent view over the Agout valley and on clear days on to the Pyrenees. We have almost 1ha of land, with mature oaks and pine trees, a natural habitat for lots of wildlife. Roe deer and wild boar pass through, and we’ve also enjoyed pine martens and red squirrels, bats, lots of birds and wild flowers, particularly wild orchids. It’s a delight to sit on the large deck in spring and listen to the cuckoo, and then a bit later to hear that the Golden Orioles have arrived.  Hen Harriers, buzzards, Short-toed Eagles and kites often fly overhead, and we even saw Griffon Vultures one time. Nuthatches visit the bird tables in winter ,along with the usual robins, tits, etc.  Black Redstarts return in the spring and are a joy to watch, and we have had an occasional Hoopoe.

Now it is time for us to embark on another adventure and we are selling En Mimosa. Conveniently situated in a small community, only 6 kms from the nearest villages with shops, schools, market, Mairie and railway station, for easy access to Toulouse.  With lots of activities locally – golf, riding, etc., walks in the woods straight from the house, it is an ideal holiday location.

Centrally heated accommodation (170 m2) comprises 4 bedrooms, two en-suite, bathroom, fitted kitchen, large double height lounge/diner with wood-burning stove (self-sufficient in wood) and mezzanine. There are covered north and south facing terraces, each room has access to the outside, plus the large deck for entertaining or just sitting soaking up the tranquility and beauty of the surroundings.  We also have a full sized basement (150m2) with windows at one end, suitable as a studio, workshop or garage.

Mary Davis 

For further information please contact us as follows:-

En Mimosa


81220 Damiatte


+33 563421528

Mary and Clive in the Pyrenees

* Steve’s note: Mary and Clive are long-standing clients of Birding In Spain, and we wish them all the best in their new life venture.

First International Meeting on Raptor Conservation, Photography and Responsible Tourism

At Montsonís

International meeting on Raptor Conservation at Montsonís

The First International Meeting on Raptor Conservation, Photography and Responsible Tourism was held at Montsonís, Catalonia, between the 16th and 19th March 2015. For a first of its kind it was undoubtedly a resounding success.

First International Meeting on Raptor Conservation, Photography and Responsible Tourism

The meeting itself was held at Montsonís castle and reception area on Thursday 19th March, and featured talks by photography and nature tourism wizard Staffan Widstrand from Sweden, Norwegian photographer and nature entrepreneur Espen Lie Dahl, and two Catalan raptor researchers, Joan Real from the University of Barcelona and Àngel Bonada of the Lammergeier Research and Study Group.

Among the rapt audience were representatives from the Generalitat de Catalunya, Diputació de Lleida, local mayors, barons of L’Albi, members of La Sabina, the organizers, and others. The baron and baroness very kindly contributed to the act by allowing it to take place in their home, the castle of Montsonís.

During the two days leading up to the meeting, special guests made good use of different raptor photography hides. The invitees included bird and wildlife tour operators from the UK, the editor of the digital magazine Wild Planet Photo Magazine, a photo tour operator from Slovenia, and the sales representative from a major camera and optics retailer in the UK. In the course of their visits they enjoyed encounters with birds such as Goshawk, Lammergeier, Bonelli’s Eagle, Wallcreeper, Griffon Vulture, Egyptian Vulture, Red Kite, Black Kite, White Stork and more.

La Sabina’s reason for organizing the meeting was to promote good practices in development and promotion of nature tourism products, especially raptor photography, as well as to involve the local community and administrations by demonstrating the benefits of this kind of tourism for the environment and the local economy.

First International Meeting on Raptor Conservation, Photography and Responsible Tourism

According to speaker Staffan Widstrand the number of people enjoying nature tourism in the USA is greater than the sum of sports fishermen and hunters, and nature-oriented tourism is growing rapidly in other countries too.

Biased about birding in Navarra

I’m biased about birding in Navarra, it’s true…


Birding in Navarra: The Bardenas Reales

 The Bardenas Reales 

… and perhaps that’s a good enough reason for me to answer the question put to me recently “Where would you go birding in Navarra?”

Navarra is a small part of Spain, and to give you a very rough idea it houses the westernmost parts of the Pyrenees and the Ebro valley.  I lead birding tours to Navarra and quite surprisingly those birding tours haven’t been fully booked for the last two years. If after reading this short piece you are half as surprised as I am at this situation then I’ll be satisfied. 

In my mind’s eye I can draw a line transect from the Bardenas in the south of Navarra to the Pyrenees in the north. Now the remarkable thing revealed by such an exercise is that the drive between one and the other can be done in less than two hours and takes me from sun-baked dusty plains, past gorges and lakes, to lush deciduous forest and snow-covered peaks.

The Bardenas Reales, when not being used for military manouevres, is an excellent place to concentrate a patient search for larks (personally I’ve seen 7 species here, including the much-vaunted Dupont’s Lark), as well as both species of European sandgrouse. With a bit of luck you could also expect Black Wheatear, Black-eared Wheatear, Spectacled Warbler, and a few species of raptor at least.

Birding in Navarra: Pitillas lagoon, an inland lake good for birds.

Birding at Pitillas lagoon 

The second point on my carefully-selected transect would be Pitillas lagoon.  Once away from the road one of the most striking things about Pitillas is its placid, scenic setting. I often feel that this is one of those places where the birds now and then take second place to the sensation of just being there, especially if the sun is shining, as it should be. Of course there are interesting birds: the sheer din kicked up by singing Skylarks and Calandra Larks is at times overbearing; small parties of Bearded Reedlings often ping enough to attract my attention to the surrounding reedbeds; then on or next to the water itself I would expect to find a good variety of water birds, including Red Crested Pochard, Black-necked Grebe, Purple Heron, ducks and a few waders perhaps.

Leaving Pitillas but before going too far I would set my sights on birding through a patch of Mediterranean scrub: this is often good for warblers like Sardinian and Subalpine Warblers, Cirl Buntings, Quails in the cereal fields, and maybe a Woodchat Shrike or two, a hovering Short-toed Eagle and the music of the lonely-sounding Woodlark.

Then comes Lumbier gorge. Easy birding on a flat, level walk with the promise of views of Red-billed Chough, Rock Sparrow, Alpine Swift, Blue Rock Thrush and plenty of Griffon Vultures at very close range; in the winter months there is always the lure of looking for, and hopefully finding, a Wallcreeper.

Birding in Navarra: Enjoy birding the Pyrenees of Spain and France

The Pyrenees are green green green in June

The Pyrenees now beckon, and probably with two main bird departments in mind: alpine species and woodpeckers. At the forefront of the former are species such as Lammergeier, Alpine Chough, Alpine Accentor, Citril Finch, Ring Ouzel and possibly even Snowfinch; for the latter I’d be very content to see Wryneck and both Black Woodpecker and the rare White-backed Woodpecker on the same trip.

Then for a fuller picture of the naturalist in Navarra I really should mention Great and Little Bustard on the plains, the meanders and gallery woodland of the lowland rivers, tributaries of the River Ebro, and the 50 species of butterflies we casually identified on our Ornitholidays tour last year, and without trying too hard. Hopefully it won’t be necessary to go into that kind of detail just yet, because I’m sure you already have the idea.

Sunday birding? Give it a rest!

 Sunday birding? Give it a rest!

Sunday birding? Give it a rest!

February ends and with it the Spanish hunting season is finally over. Now, once again, I should be able to approach a bird-rich lake to the north of Lleida and watch its birds without them flying into each other in a panic to get as far from me as possible. This panic effect is really dramatic in early October at the beginning of the hunting season: one day the Coots are almost eating from your hands and the next they’re cowering behind a reed 2 lakes away from you.

So, it’s a sunny weekend in March, the hunting is over, let the fun begin.

Fun, indeed!

I pulled up beside the lake and stayed in the car, to give the birds a chance to assess the situation as a relatively low risk one. Sure enough, a male Merlin which took off on my arrival returned almost to the same spot before ten minutes had passed. Then the cyclists arrived: just a middle-aged couple, well kitted out of course with all the skin-clasping gear, matching helmets and goggles. They were out for a ride, and rode past me, stopping by the lakeside to take a photo or two. Click, click! Post on Facebook, and off we go again. About 5 minutes later they were on the other side of the lake at the viewing area, inadvertently scaring off the birds they had previously scared to that side. Then to my annoyance they took to circumscribing the lake along non-existing paths.

I moved on to the viewing area myself. Within minutes a family arrived in a car, 3 children and 2 adults jumped out and merrily made a bee-line straight for the most secluded part of the lakeshore. Just as a flock of 120 Common Cranes were coming in to land. I left quickly so as not to hear my own grumbling.

Back on the other side I paused on my way out to gaze at the cranes from inside the car, and within a minute another car passed me, made directly for the cranes, which flew up, and then it just as quickly turned and left the scene. I decided it was time to do the same, but in the other direction. Sunday should be a day of rest.