Birding In Spain’s Gift Pack – what a great idea!

About the Birding In Spain Gift Pack now available:

Looking for a Christmas gift that will leave the loved one(s) open-mouthed with delight?

You must know that birders already have bird books, binoculars and apps, but that nobody – even the most experienced birder – has travelled the whole world and seen all of its birds and natural wonders.

two birding together

                                     Two birding together

Have they ever been birding in Spain? If not, can you think of a better way to make them a gift that they’ll enjoy and remember for a long time?

Birding In Spain is easy, safe and really enjoyable. Here’s how to do it:

Birding In Spain gift card

                                  Birding In Spain gift card

  1. Look at the website, and download our brochure to see what kind of tours we put on offer, who we are, etc.
  2. Decide if you want to participate in one of the set tours, or if you want us to design a private tour for you.
  3. Decide how much you want to spend on your gift for now. The minimum of 50 euros won’t buy you a tour but it will ensure you a provisional place on one until all the details have been arranged and confirmed.
  4. Send us all the the details you can about yourselves, approximate dates, tour interest, etc, as well as what text and details you  would like us to incorporate on the personalized gift card.
  5. Birding In Spain Gift Pack Special! Purchase before 31st December 2018 and enjoy a 5% discount from the brochure price from any set tour, and a bottle of local wine or cava during your tour.
  6. Receive your personalized gift card from us. It’s a guarantee of our compromise with you. Merry Christmas!

Autumn Iceland Tour 2018? Yeah!

When planning this Iceland Tour for 2018 and 2019, I was asked why the autumn? Everybody knows that the best time for visiting Iceland is in the short summer, when the days are long and the birds are frantically set on their breeding activities and on raising their young. By September most of the migrants (those that there are!) have already gone, the weather can suddenly turn,…

Skogafoss Waterfall, Iceland

                          Skogafoss waterfall, Iceland

All that is true. So at the time I was less eloquent in my answer, babbling something about the Northern Lights (which are not seen in June, but there’s a reasonable chance in September), about Glaucous and Iceland Gulls everywhere, wintering and passage geese flocks, and the chance of some lovely autumn days. I don’t think I was that convincing.

White-tailed Eagle, Iceland

                            Immature White-tailed Eagle in northern Iceland

So now, after our first Iceland autumn tour I’ll let the photos do the talking – well, most of it! For the record though:

Humpback Whale

                                                   Humpback Whale spouting

  • We came close to Humpback Whales on a beautifully calm day, on a lovely old fishing boat, and with snow-capped mountains framing the photos
  • The Ptarmigans we encountered all had white “trousers” and were in different stages of donning their snowy winter plumage
  • We had flocks of geese: Greylag, Pink-footed, Greenland White-fronted, Brent and the vagrant Canada Goose.
  • On one day we saw 5 merlins and 2 White-tailed Eagles, among other things
Whale-watching boat and fjord, Iceland

                                   Whale-watching in northern Iceland

  • We had days when the scenery and the weather were aligned just perfectly (we also had days when it was windy and downright freezing!)
  • Glaucous and Iceland gulls were indeed all around, as were Common Seals
  • Gyrfalcon, Arctic Fox, Grey Seal, Barrow’s Goldeneye, Harlequin Duck, Purple Sandpiper, Black Guillemot, divers, scoters and more were all memorable features and moments
  • Good food, hotels in great locations, easy-going Icelanders and a really lovely group of participants made us just so content that everybody was going home happy
Iceland tour participants

                                    Autumn Iceland Tour participants 2018

All things permitting, we’ll be doing another Iceland autumn tour in 2019. Oh yes, and a summer tour as well.

August’s competition ends soon!

What species is the feather from?

Birding In Spain's feather competition August

                August’s competition: which species?

You don’t know? Well, enter the competition and you’ll see that there are only four options, so it’s easier than you might think. What’s more it’s completely free, and you can win some great prizes! And if you convince someone else to enter you get another go. All correct answers enter the draw for prizes.

Click on this link to enter:

https://www.birdinginspain.com/bis-competition/participate/

So far, the voting is as follows:

Great Bustard leads the voting

    Great Bustard leads the voting in the BIS                                     competition, with 57%

  • Great Bustard leads with 57%
Hoopoe is in second position

Hoopoe is in second position with 32% of the                        votes in the BIS competition

  • Next is Hoopoe with 32%

Outsiders are Common Snipe and Barn Owl, with 6% and 5% repectively.

Good luck!

Monthly competitions kick off in August

The Birding In Spain 12 Big Year monthly competitions kick off with the first starting on August 1st. Don’t miss this wonderful opportunity to win a free and easy prize, from among those detailed below. We are dedicating August’s competition to the theme of “British Wildlife” with the awarding of 3 free memberships of one of UK’s wildlife trusts. Other prizes include free fabulous Collins Bird Guide apps for Android or iPhone,  courtesy of Nature Guides plus a great hotel deal courtesy of Hosteria de Guara .  And there’s more…

Follow us on Facebook or Twitter, or on this blog. Or for more information send an e-mail to steve – squiggly a – birdinginspain.com .

And remember … August 1st!

 

Wonderful Winter Wallcreeper Tour and the Big Year Prize

We know, and we apologize. We haven’t appeared on the blog for months now. Now, it’s not as an excuse, but rather as information, that we can tell you we have been very busy working on a new Birding In Spain Tour brochure, and a great competition where prizes can be won every month. Additionally, there will be a Big Year Prize at the end of those 12 months, with the option of winning a place on one of our Wonderful Winter Tours Winter wallcreeper tour info (1) to take place in 2019 or 2012.

Wonderful Winter Wallcreeper Tour

Want to know more? Then get in touch via e-mail, or follow Birding In Spain on Facebook. There will be competition announcements on Twitter and Instagram, as well as on this blog.

How to Make Your Garden a Bird Sanctuary

The total number of wild birds in the world is somewhere between 100 and 400 billion according to an article published by Arbotopia. The fact that they are all around us in so many different shapes, colours and sizes is perhaps what makes them so fascinating. The migratory patterns of some birds or the peculiar habitats of others has spawned an interest in bird tourism. Going on a holiday in a bird hotspot, such as Northeast Spain, is decidedly attractive, but it’s also possible to create a home to many intriguing birds in your own garden.

Robins in your garden, photo by Andrew Alexander

Feed them

Birds have an eye for a tasty morsel and having flown thousands of miles in some cases will want to stop where it is safe and where they find food waiting for them. Furthermore, researchers believe feeding birds encourages flight patterns causing birds like the Blackcap to settle in the UK instead of going to Spain. With that said, you could try feeding them mealworms, as well as bits of fruit or peanuts to make the stay.

Give them a drink

Water is essential to birds. Not only to drink but also for the all important grooming of feathers and even for entertainment. They tend to be drawn to water in motion. If you want to attract a large variety of birds then you should consider a water feature. Keep it usable all year round by placing rocks in it to prevent the water freezing over and installing a solar powered version will make it conservation friendly. The Cuckoo and the Woodpeckers, although generally shy birds would both appreciate being offered a drink from the fountain.

Give them a shelter

The garden environment should also be considered as it is a shame to invite birds into the garden only to find that they are at risk from predators or the food on offer is being eaten by other animals. Consider where the food is being placed in order to attract a variety of birds. Even if you are not ready to completely redesign your garden you might be prepared to leave that old tree stump in place to accommodate a Woodpecker, or not cut back your bushes quite so neatly, and allow the Blackcap to roost there.

Birds are everywhere and there are many species worth exploring, particularly in Spain. But if you are concerned about your ‘ carbon footprint’ there is a lot you can do to attract birds to your garden and conserve the bird population.

Article by guest writer Sally Writes.

The Iceland Experience 1

Our Iceland Experience

A day out Whale-watching

Icelandic horses

Icelandic horses grazing near Akureyri, Iceland

I can’t confess to anyone how fast I drove our hire car along that almost deserted road running along the western shore of the fjord, hoping to get to the whale-watching harbour before the ship’s scheduled departure at 9.30 am.

“When they see us, or people like us, the locals must think that the tourists are crazy”, observed Florinda.

And in truth, driving like that did seem out of place, taking into account that in this part of Iceland all roads except the main ring Road 1 were virtually empty, and that we had not encountered anybody speeding over the last week while driving in the country. I was no expert in the Icelandic temperament, but the people didn’t seem to do stress the same way I could.

We sped past a few local ladies out for a walk on the edge of the harbour-side settlement which passes as a village in these parts. I imagined their surprised comments as we pulled up into the harbour and spotted the likely looking vessel comfortably moored by the sea wall. That’s funny, we couldn’t see the activity one would normally associate with a whale-watching cruise about to depart in a few minutes’ time.

We dithered between the moored vessel and a large warehouse which was obviously the commercial base. The only person we could see was a blond middle-aged man in an anorak, walking calmly towards us. He was smiling gently, and to me he looked like a skipper.

“Hello, is this where we get the tickets for the whale-watching?” I asked.
“Yes” he said, “You’re a bit early though, we don’t depart until 1.30 in the afternoon”.

About half an hour later we were back at the guesthouse. Slightly deflated. We approached the reception desk, our source of local information, including the whale-watching enterprises and their timetables.
“Um, the departure from Dalvik is in fact at 9am, not 9.30. And at Hauganes they only do an afternoon departure at 1.30 pm,” I pointed out to the attentive young lady who had previously provided us with some slightly inaccurate information.
“Oh really?”, she smiled, “Thank you for telling me”.

So what could we do for the next 3 hours? We retired to our room to consult leaflets and things over a quick cup of instant coffee. I thought hard while staring out of the window watching some of the numerous and noisy Redwings feeding in the clump of Rowan trees within metres of our room. There were Common Redpolls there too, I could hear them, but they moved so fast it was so hard to get a decent view of any of them.

Iceland fjord

Florinda, a Black sand admirer, Akureyri, Iceland

Our solution was to take a gentle walk along the shores of the fjord – unfortunately we were also just a little too late to go horse-riding. As a complete beginner I’m not sure whether I was relieved or not about that. Still, the walk was enjoyable, the waters were calm and we spent some good time watching Long-tailed Ducks, Common Eiders and Glaucous Gulls at close range, and in calm, gentle sunshine. I kept scanning for the Diver (Great Northern?) I had seen from the guesthouse the previous evening, but it seemed to have moved on. Turning inland and reaching the local road was not enough to call us towards the “forest”, which, by Icelandic standards was obviously quite an eye-catcher, but by my Anglo-Catalan standards was a rather lifeless rectangle of land planted with single-aged spruce trees, where the only birding appeal might be to get close to a slow or unwary Redpoll.

Some time later, we pulled into a parking space in the harbour well before 1 o’clock: we weren’t taking any chances! The possibility of seeing whales was one of the major highlights of this trip for Florinda, we knew there were no guarantees, but the pressure was on. We paid, each found a red jumpsuit which fit us and, feeling slightly awkward in this unfamiliar attire, filed out towards the vessel among a growing group of similarly-clad visitors. The captain was there again, with his enigmatic smile.
“What are the chances of Humpback Whales?” I asked, searchingly.
“That depends on them, but should be good”, came the not-quite reassuring reply.

As our ship set off we could feel a breeze working up and see grey clouds gathering – the lovely calm conditions of the morning were changing and the forecast was for overnight snow. Hopefully we still had a few good hours before things got rough, time enough for us to see a Humpback Whale or two, and to get back to dry land without Florinda having cause for getting seasick!

We had just turned into the open fjord when the first mate shouted to the skipper, who immediately announced that there were Humpback Whales, 3 or so, and gave full throttle across the fjord towards the whales. Could that really be true? He wasn’t having us on, was he? Some of us held on the rails and peered out past the stern, following our line of travel to try and spot a Humpback Whale, and yes! There was a huge watery spout being blown high into the air! Then a tail fin breaking the surface and disappearing below! There really were whales out there!

Humpback Whale tail fluke

Whale-watching: Humpback Whale tail fluke

The next couple of hours were better than we had even dared to dream: we came into close contact with at least a dozen Humpback Whales of different ages, one time so close that one surfacing whale blew its watery spout into my gaping mouth. It was light and salty. We saw the barnacles growing on their bodies, the nicked fins of some, and could tell when they were just swimming or going for a dive. Another vessel had sped up from Akureyri to join us, and after many close contacts with the Humpacks the skipper could see we were all well-satisfied and offered coffee, biscuits and buns to all.

Humpback Whale submerging. Whale-watching north of Akureyri, Iceland

Someone’s just caught a fish!

Great Northern Diver, or Common Loon, Iceland

Turning back to the western shore we hadn’t finished yet. There were good numbers of gulls in flight over the water, including Black-legged Kittiwakes, Glaucous and Iceland Gulls – I’d never imagined I’d see so many in one place- , and a single Great Skua. Common Eiders seemed to be more common closer to the shore, and didn’t seem too put off when we dropped anchor to do a spot of line fishing.

Result: the Chinese tourist was exultant as he caught a fish – and took a selfie; I too caught my first-ever fish; and what about Florinda, would she catch a fish too? Maybe next time – she had already seen so many Humpback Whales, better than a dream come true, so how much more can you ask for?!

7 Marvellous Days in May

New 7 Marvellous Days in May Tour

How do you get from Storm Petrels to Lammergeiers in 3 easy steps?

See the pdf here to find out!

 

Marvellous May (1)

Or should it be 7 Days in Marvellous May?

Poble Style Birding 1

Making a pool for birds

“Making a small drinking pool to attract birds to your garden is such an easy thing to do! Just make a hole in the ground, line it with plastic, and fill it with water.”

“Then you can enjoy watching the birds coming down to drink or bathe at your own conveniece – Just imagine: Cirl Buntings, Hawfinches, Nightingales, Rock Sparrows, Blackbirds, Chiffchaffs, Chaffinches, Robins, Dunnocks, and so much more…”

Nightingale

Rock Sparrow

Wait a minute – Cut! Cut! Before we continue with this script from “Brave New World” or whatever, there are some hard realities to take into account when you’re hands-on with a drinking pool. For example:

  • Stabilize the banks – you’ve dug out all that earth, on a slope, and you’ve just realized that at the first drop of rain it will become a mudslide collapsing into your beautifully crafted pond.
  • Plant plants around the edge, and try to keep them alive despite drought, frost, herbivores, trampling, etc.
  • Deal with a leak without giving up. Undo your craftmanship and start all over again.
  • Keep the pool topped up, in the heat of the summer when water seems to evaporate almost faster than you can pour it in, and when you go on holiday for a couple of weeks to get away from it all
  • Deal with the overflow from the sheep farm at the top of the slope seeping into your pool and turning it all into a foul-smelling sludge.
  • Remove leaves and debris from the cold water and between the stones you laid out to make it look nice.
  • Combat the mosquitoes that see your little pool as their promised land.
  • Keep out unwanted mammals – boars, rats, hunters.
  • Aerate the water
  • Patiently replenish the water after every visit by a wintering flock of some 2,000 starlings, which have descended on it for a bath, a drink and their social event of the week.

Are you sure you’ve got a good site?

Then and only then might you get Hawfinches, Sparrows, Chaffinches, Black Redstarts, Chiffchaffs, Robins, Blackbirds, and even Starlings. Enjoy! 

Getting started

Almost finished (again). Stones, aerator, water feeder.

Iceland Autumn Tour 2018 – with contact info!

Iceland Autumn Tour 2018

Sorry to be repetitive but we have an excuse! Here is a link to download all the information about our 2018 autumn Iceland tour, this time with contact information, which we forgot to publish last time. We apologize for any inconvenience and take the opportunity to show a few more photos of this marvellous experience!

Autumn Iceland 2018 contact

horses-andrew-maranta

Icelandic horses near Akureyri (photo by Andrew Maranta)

iceland-bird-sign

Birds! Shades of Hitchcock?

iceland-godafoss

Godafoss waterfall. Godly.

iceland-hellnar

Headland near Hellnar

iceland-whale-2

A Humpback Whale has just spouted into my open mouth!

iceland-snaefellness

The Snaefellness Peninsula glacier

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