Visitors to the BirdingInSpain.com website may have noticed a section called “Hotspot Holidays” (if they haven’t how can they come to Spain and expect to find sandgrouse on the drylands?!). The underlying concept is that there are bird hotspots in northeast Spain where the visiting birder can expect to see a great diversity of birds in a small area (within a 25 kilometre radius of a given centre). The birding areas I have chosen for the web page are Montsec and the Ebro Delta and surrounding mountains.
I’ve been pretty busy over the last month or so leading trips, day excursions and doing bird counts, especially in the area between Lleida and Montsec. I’ve not got round to counting the number of species, but as an example last week in the space of 30 hours I did two bird counts in wetland areas near Lleida and then guided friends around the Alfés drylands. The diversity was quite exciting, with the wetlands yielding birds such as Squacco Heron, Little Bittern, Night Heron, Purple Heron, Kingfisher, Cattle Egret, Golden Oriole, Penduline Tit, Black-winged Stilt, Melodious Warbler, Wryneck, etc. Then on the drylands we saw Lesser Grey Shrike, Roller, Little Bustard, Red-footed Falcon, Bee-eater, Calandra Lark, Red-rumped Swallow, Black Wheatear and another etc.
That got me thinking: instead of a county list, year list or similar, why not start a birding hotspot challenge? The idea would be to draw a circle with a radius of 25 kilometres around the home/workplace and then count the bird species you see in that area over a course of 3 years.
The 3-year idea is so we oldies can take it easier, and don’t have to go into overdrive frantically looking for missing species or a lot of twitching just in case. Of course, there should be no law against twitching in the given area, or the amount of time that one spends birding. However the main focus of the birding hotspot list would be for birders to go about our abnormal lives, making a note of all the birds we see and then to compare lists after 3 years.
Who has the hottest birding hotspot? How many species are on that list? Will anyone take up the challenge?