Bustard Buzz

Last week one of those nice birdie surprises came to me in a rather large package. The first Great Bustard to be recorded in Catalunya for almost 14 years flew past me as I was out on the drylands of Lleida trying to get close to a couple of Great Spotted Cuckoos. Of course I had a good idea of the unusualness of the sighting, although I had to check the bibliography to get the full details: the previous record of the Great Bustard in Catalunya was that of 2 birds at Belianes between 15th and 22nd July 1995. The previous record to that one dates back to August 1987.

Great Bustard display

Displaying Great Bustard as depicted in “Flying over the Pyrenees, standing on the plains”

The sighting caused quite a stir among the local birders and forum-followers. I received congratulations, and even a couple of phone calls, their makers keen to get more details. And could the observation be used to illustrate importance of the remaining drylands in Lleida, threatened by a badly thought out irrigation scheme?

Who is not seduced by the idea of the Great Bustard making a comeback to Catalunya as a breeding bird, after an absence of half a century? But let’s get real: no more than 80 Great Bustards remain in the Monegros, the nearest regular site for the species, and the impending pincer movement of the Gran Scala casino complex and the Segarra-Garrigues irrigation scheme is most unlikely to leave them with many options for recolonisation of lost territory. 


Escriure una petita introducció sobre l’observació dels ocells al Montsec? Com començar? No ho sabia. Així, un dia esplèndid de primavera vaig agafar els prismàtics i vaig fer una visita als camps, bosquets i cims airosos de Montsec, buscant inspiració en la seva solitut i majestuositat.

La veritat és que la cosa no comencava massa bé. Hi havien moltes distraccions: grupets d’abellerols melosos de colors llampants, una guatlla cantant “set-per-vuit”, la seva veu ondulant com el blat en la brisa lleugera. Un destell repentí de colors quan una puput aixecà el vol. La dolça melangia d’un parell de cotolius.


Bee-eater by Joan Manel Puig 

5 espècies de tallarols estaven en plena forma anunciant-se propietaris de les mates, les alzines i els roures. 5 espècies! Silenci!! Tot aquell xibarri no em deixava pensar. 

Orphean Warbler

Orphean Warbler by Jan-Michael Breider 

Així vaig rependre el camí. Lluny cantava un hortolà, orgullós d’haver tornat de l’Africa a la seva terra natal. Després una volada de gralles de bec-vermell van interrompre els meus pensaments amb les seves acrobàcies aèries.

A dalt de la serrelada el pas de voltors era continuo, però vaig fer un esforç sobrehumà per no fer-los cas, al igual que la merla roquera que cantava insistentment al meu darrere. Però, quan un trencalòs va planejar davant meu mirant-me de fit a fit als ulls, aleshores vaig adonar-me’n que els ocells m’havien guanyat la partida.

Griffon vultures

Griffon Vultures by Franck Renard 

Steve West

Dalmatian Pelicans Display for Wild Wonders

Dalmatian Pelicans by Jari Peltomäki

Dalmatian Pelicans at Lake Kerkini, Greece. Photo by Jari Peltomäki. 

Jari Peltomäki

To all appearances Jari Peltomäki is a lucky man: he is an excellent wildlife photographer – and that fact is widely recognised – and he has recently spent 10 days at Lake Kerkini in Greece photographing the Dalmatian Pelicans.

Read a little about Jari’s encounters with the Pelican with the frizzy hairdo, fisherman Tom and more on the Wild Wonders blog. Days 9 and 10 have also been translated into Spanish by our translation team.

Una encuesta: ¿hay público español?

Pos, eso, como diría mi compañero Jordi Bas. Quiero saber si vale la pena escribir o traducir artículos ya existentes en el blog de BirdingInSpain.com en castellano, o incluso en català.

¿Hay una audiencia castellanoparlante que sigue este blog? ¿Quereís alguna cosita en vuestra lengua? ¿O entendeís perfectamente el inglés? O bien, quizás no hay nadie ahí fuera…

Si me enviaís algun comentario haré los ajustes necesarios. Si no, pos, sigamos así.

Need your ears tested?

Listening is an intrinsic part of birding – hearing is one of the senses that should not be ignored. The listening birder can often make interesting discoveries: try doing a nighttime census, and you’ll be surprised at how far a dog’s bark will carry, how noisy the local motorway really is, and what strange sounds the Long-eared Owl makes!

Eloïsa Matheu has dedicated decades to listening to and recording wildlife sounds, mostly birds but not exlusively so. She has recordings of most of the bird species of the Iberian Peninsula as well as others from both the European and African continents. Hers are the CDs that the Catalan Institute for Ornithology (ICO) distributes to its members to help them identify the calls of the birds they may encounter while doing their Common Bird Counts. Hers are the wonderfully atmospheric wildlife sounds that grace the best pages of the BirdingInSpain.com website. I could go on, but I’m sure most of you get the idea…Eloïsa is THE bird sound recorder in Spain.

Paisajes Ibericos

Eloïsa and I met up recently on a rather hopeful mission: I had heard the Wallcreeper singing at a wintering site in Montsec, a nice quiet spot, with no traffic, loud running water or barking dogs. It was a long shot, but Eloïsa was willing to give it a go.  Luckily she knows that birds have wings and don’t always use them to our convenience: no Wallcreeper this time, but she did manage to get Peregrine Falcon for the records.

Practical guide to the bird songs of Spain

Eloïsa’s CDs can be purchased from most major wildlife publication outlets, and from her directly at her website Alosa.

Reseña de “Flying over the Pyrenees, standing on the plains”

Reseña de “Flying over the Pyrenees, standing on the plains”

Reseña publicada en la Garcilla nº.137, invierno 2008.

Some Fair Birding in Extremadura

The 3rd Bird Fair in Extremadura was a good excuse for me to make the long haul in my “trusty” white Rover from Lleida to Cáceres province for the last weekend in February.

So it was not really a birding trip – I was not there to make a concerted effort to search for interesting birds, but rather to check out a few new areas, to drive back and forth from the fair, to take some landscape shots, etc. Even so I still managed to see a pretty good selection of our feathered friends. Here is the roll of honour:

Imperial Eagle at Monfragüe

 Imperial Eagle

The Imperial Eagle is the one in the middle 

Bonelli’s Eagle – 2 soaring over the fair car park on Saturday

Short-toed Eagle – the first of the year in Monfragüe

Golden Eagle – 1 at close range in Monfragüe

Black-winged Kites – 5 different birds in one day, to the north of the park.

Great Spotted Cuckoo – 1 noisy bird, another first of the year.

Egyptian Vulture – 2 in Monfragüe, also my first for 2009

Black Vulture, Hawfinch, Azure-winged Magpie – relatively easy at various locations

 Azure-winged Magpie, Cyanopica cyanus, Rabilargo

Azure-winged Magpies seem to be very conspicuous at this time of the year 

Spanish Sparrow– groups at 3 different sites

Spanish Sparrow, Passer hispaniolensis, Gorrión moruno

Spanish Sparrows – aren’t they cute? 

Black Stork – 1 at Monfragüe

Black Stork, Ciconia nigra, Cigüeña negra

The timid Black Stork 

Great Bustard – 7 or 8 on the plains near Cáceres

BirdingInSpain.com Hotspot Report February 2009

More of a brief summary than a report, as new species have been few for me this February. That is not because the birds are not there: other observers have already reported first sightings of House Martin, Swallow, Spoonbill, Great Spotted Cuckoo, Crane, Lesser Kestrel and even a couple more Jack Snipes. So, mea culpa – I haven’t been out and about enough to really get to grips with the current birding offer in my local hotspot.

OK, what have I seen? New species I recorded in February were Nuthatch and Eagle Owl, both in the Montsec area, and both recorded in the course of a family outing.

Waiting for the Eagle Owl

Meanwhile, in the Hotring things have been just a little more exciting, with the addition of Moustached Warbler (3 birds singing at Utxesa), Bearded Tit (6 birds together), and Fan-tailed Warbler, or Zitting Cisticola if you like, on the edge of Lleida. The latter, surprisingly, is the only record I have of the species in the area this year, surely a sign that it has been hard hit by the cold periods over the last winter.


Local weather conditions didn’t always help me in the pursuit of the hotspot ideal.