Little Bustard and Lammergeier photography in Catalonia

Jan-Michael Breider, from Sweden, was one of the first bird photographers to come on our photographic trip, especially organized for photographing displaying Little Bustard and Lammergeier.

He has kindly informed me that some of the results can be seen among his galleries at the following link:

Jan-Michael Breider’s photo gallery of his spring trip to Catalonia

I’m sure most of you would agree that he didn’t do badly at all! Enjoy!

Anyone interested in this and other bird photography trips in Catalonia should get in touch with

Pin-tailed Sandgrouse: Top 50 birds of Spain

Pin-tailed Sandgrouse Pterocles alchata

Photo of Pin-tailed Sandgrouse

Photo courtesy of Dr. Chris Gibbins

The Pin-tailed Sandgrouse is present all year round in steppe country in the Ebro valley, often forming large flocks in the winter months. Sadly though, it is declining in the region in both range and abundance, due mostly to habitat loss to intensive, irrigated farming. Pin-tailed Sandgrouse inhabit a single site in Catalunya, but are more widespread in Aragón.

Pin-tailed Sandgrouse map
Birding itineraries where the Pin-tailed Sandgrouse can be found: Drylands of Lleida, Monegros: Alcolea and Candasnos, Monegros: Bujaraloz, Belchite steppes.

Sly Birding with the Wife and Kids

Let’s face up to the facts: birders are mostly male. And most males grow up, many of them get married and form a family. At that stage they have to make a difficult decision: either give up birding or find a way of combining it with parental duties.

I consider the former option too drastic for general contemplation, so let’s look at how the latter can be achieved.

In between birding trips to exotic locations with the mates and bird clubs the birding father should assist in the programming of at least one family holiday where birds are not, apparently, the primary focus. In such cases it is better for the birding father to take an active part at the planning stage, rather than grumpily washing his hands of the whole thing and just going along with the plans the wife makes. Why? Well because then the birding father can actually have some say in the holiday destination.

If the wife is set on a classic beach holiday on the Costa del Sol but the father birder would much rather go to the Pyrenees then he has to offer something more than the possibility of seeing Lammergeier, Black Woodpecker and Citril Finch in order to tip the balance.

Rafting with Yeti Emotions

If the children are fun-loving and hyperactive, like most kids are, try tempting them with some of the activities that Yeti Emotions offer: rafting, hydrospeed, canoeing, ravine descent, mountain biking, horse-riding, archery, orienteering, even a trip in a hot air balloon.

Look at the full details on the Yeti emotions website

Or click on the link on the Aiguestortes East itinerary on the website.

It just so happens that the village of Llavorsí, where Yeti Emotions have their home base, is a short drive from the mountain village of Espot, the natural gateway to the eastern side of the Aigüestortes National Park. Here I can give you a very valuable tip: stay at the Roca Blanca Hotel.

I’ve stayed in this wonderful, tastefully furnished and very friendly hotel 3 times now. Twice with Naturetrek groups and once with the family. Josep and Anna are the proprietors and the managers of Roca Blanca and form an important part of the conspiracy that aims to make your stay an unforgettable one. Then there’s the fresh local produce offered for breakfast, with delicious croissants, yoghourts, cold meats and more; the mountain scenery, the peace and quiet, the spacious, delightful rooms and the local Scop’s Owls and Dippers too. Do not accept imations – there aren’t any.

From Espot do a spot of gentle trekking. There are too many options to mention, but one of my family favourites is to follow the path that goes from the car park at the Park’s entrance, follows a boardwalk through the forest, along the river, past meadows, a hermitage, and up to the lake of Sant Maurici. Recently we did this itinerary ourselves, and between competitions at finding the best formed pine cone, pine cone throwing contests, tree-girdling, orientation exercises, cooling off by the river, drinking from the spring and even a short introduction to bird song, we were at the lake before we realised. Excellent! And at the lake everyone had the chance of trying out their photographic abilities.

Family Birding in the Pyrenees

And the birds that we couldn’t help noticing? Citril Finch, Crossbill, Crested Tit, Black Woodpecker (calling). Well, not bad for a gentle introduction.

The next day, after an interesting and informative visit to the National Park visitor centre in Espot, follow the Son and Jou itinerary . For the first stop take a relaxed stroll around the tiny village of Estaís, admiring its narrow streets, stone houses and picturesque pocket-sized graveyard; and the surrounding fields, full of flowers and insect life. Try and get the family to help you spot the scarce and marvellous Apollo Butterfly and explain what the local Red-backed Shrikes do with grasshoppers when they’re not hungry.

Then continue on past Jou, and a little bit of adventure as you follow the track which winds its way up for more than 7 kilometres towards the forest refuge of Pla de la Font. Here father birder is in his element: take a walk through the black pine forest, gently imposing respectful silence on the family members, and if someone locates the scarce and shy Capercaillie, or the elusive Black Woodpecker, give them their just reward.

The grassy slope around the refuge is ideal for a picnic in the shade of a gnarled black pine, followed by a nice cup of tea or other refreshments in the forest refuge (if it’s open!). Take a sneaky look at the Ring Ouzel while eating your sandwich, and if you snooze a little try to keep one eye open for one of the Lammergeiers that often patrol this area. If so inclined, and able, climb and swing from a tree with the kids, and before heading back to the vehicle take in the breathtaking views from the nearby pass.

Lastly, put paid to the general idea that birders are insensitive to cultural heritage, monuments, or anything unrelated to birding, by stopping off at the village of Son to take in the wonderfully restored Romanic Church, and perhaps a party of Griffon Vultures sunning themselves on the rocks. Or a hovering Short-toed Eagle.

Remember the formula: Happy Children + Happy Wife = Happy Family Birding!

Try the Bird Photo Quiz

Country: Switzerland. A fellow bird guide and friend, Beat Rüegger, has been gathering thousands of bird and plant photographs over the years to make a fantastic identification quiz, which goes by the name of Biofotoquiz. He’s the bird specialist while his wife, Florence, is the plant expert.

Together they have assembled an enormous amount of photographic information to make a web page by which it is possible to train yourself in bird (or plant) identification, choosing between the different levels (Beginner, Advanced or Expert), different systematic groups, or different habitats.

And then you can test yourself to see if you really do know what you think you do about bird and plant identification. Try the quiz at your level (or what you think is your level!) and see where you come on the ranking list.

Here’s what the authors say:

Biofotoquiz offers the opportunity to train your skill to identify plant and animal species. It includes

* a learn mode with three levels
* four quiz modes with ranking lists
* series of images for printing

At the moment there are training units with plants and birds with 7169 photos of 966 species in 99 series available.

Have fun!

Nappies and Lesser Grey Shrikes

Dear Steve

Lesser Grey Shrike photo

Photo by Eva Solanes

I have just finished reading your book (Flying over the Pyrenees
Standing on the Plains
) and must let you know how much I enjoyed it. I
found it to be informative, interesting and very amusing in parts. I
must say I can empathize with you about the nappy incident as I had a
similar experience whilst on holiday on the beach in Puerto Pollensa
when our daughter got a touch (well a lot really) of Franco’s
revenge and I had to bury the remains of her clothing on the beach, we
have never been back there and I have always felt hugely embarrassed and
ashamed as I know the Med is not tidal like the North Sea!

You have found yourself a really lovely part of the world to migrate to,
my husband and I enjoyed our day out with you immensely on our last visit to Spain and wish you every success with your book and look forward to reading the next one.



What nappy incident is Kathleen refering to? And how can nappies be related to Lesser Grey Shrikes? The answers are in “Flying over the Pyrenees, standing on the plains” .

Audouin’s Gull: Birding In Spain top 50 birds

Audouin’s Gull Larus audouinni

Audouin’s Gull

Photo courtesy of Peter Dunn

The Audouin’s Gull is present in Catalonia (Catalunya), northeast Spain, all year round. The world’s most important breeding colony is in the Ebro delta and consists of more than 10,000 pairs. Much smaller numbers remain in the region in the winter. The Audouin’s Gull is frequent in small numbers elsewhere along the coast in Tarragona, becoming irregular or scarce further north to Cap de Creus on the coast of Girona.

Birding itineraries from the web site where the Audouin’s Gull can be seen: Ebro delta north and south, Llobregat delta.
Distribution of Audouin’s Gull

Black Woodpecker

Black Woodpecker photo

Photo courtesy of Chris Hardingham

The Black Woodpecker flight call rang out above the noise of the torrent. Brian raised his binoculars just in time to focus on the bird before it disappeared from view into the forest of fir and pine.

“Typical! You take a party of birders half way up the mountains of Ordesa National Park and the bird turns up right next to the car park when you go down to look for Geoffrey Pringles’ damn pills!”

He crossed the wooden bridge over the torrent and started making his way to the van. Two middle-aged tourists crouched near the river bank caught his eye and beckoned him over. They spoke to him in English.

“Hello. You wouldn’t know what to do with this hedgehog, would you? It seems to be sick or injured. It’s breathing but hardly moving.”

Brian looked down at the hedgehog, which effectively seemed to be gently rocking from side to side. He was surprised: the Ordesa valley seemed a cold place for a hedgehog to survive the winter.

“I don’t think there’s much we can do. Just move it to a place where it can rest without coming to too much harm.”

“Not an easy beast to transport. I mean, apart from the spines hedgehogs are usually infested with fleas.”

“Hmm. I’ll be back in a minute.”

Brian made his way to the van, picked up Geoffrey Pringles’ pills from the glove compartment and then reached over and grabbed a fur-lined jacket slung over the back of a seat. He went back to the river bank and coaxed the hedgehog onto the jacket lining. One of the tourists looked at him rather bemused.

“I hope you weren’t planning to wear that jacket today!”

“Not even if it rains, ” Brian answered with a smile.

Brian carefully placed the hedgehog in a small, bushy area off the main path, rolled the jacket up with the lining inside, and crossed the torrent by the wooden bridge once more.

Although the clouds were closing in, the wind had picked up, and the temperature had dropped considerably in the last hour or so, Brian made no move to don the jacket. Instead he puffed his way up the steep path, winding upwards through innumerable hairpin bends, pausing briefly to catch his breath now and then and to spot a bird or two. As he got closer to the treeline he encountered small parties of Citril Finches, Crossbills and a Ring Ouzel hopping around a small, sheltered meadow.

The Black Woodpecker call echoed up from further down the valley, reminding him of his earlier exchange with Geoffrey Pringle, just after they had pulled up in the Park’s car park…

“Whenever I’ve seen Black Woodpecker at Ordesa it’s been along that path”, Brian had told Geoffrey Pringle, pointing to the left.

“Yes, that’s very interesting, but the information I have points us in the other direction, to the right”

“That paths very steep you know,” said Brian.

“Maybe. But that’s where I want us to go,” sentenced Geoffrey Pringle.

So Brian had had to lead the group towards the waterfall along the steepest path. Not an hour had passed, though, before Geoffrey Pringle had something else to say.

“I’m getting quite a headache. And I left my pills in the van.”

“We’ve come up a long way now Geoffrey. Do you really need them?”, asked Michael, Geoffrey Pringle’s closest companion.

“Yes I do. Perhaps Brian could go down and get them. What about it Brian? I’m sure you won’t mind, after all you are the fittest of the group. We’ll meet again at the waterfall.”

The wind was blowing and the air was decidedly chilly when the path evetually levelled off. Brian thrust one hand into a pocket and instinctively tightened his grip on the rolled up jacket with the other. When he reached the foot of the waterfall the group was dotted around seated on rocks, finishing off their packed lunches.

Geoffrey Pringle looked at him.

“Hello. The pills? And is that my jacket you’ve got there rolled into a ball ?”

“Oh yes! I’d almost forgotten I had it. I thought you’d be cold. Here you are.”