Currently we are suffering another heatwave here in Spain, with today’s temperatures reaching 41ºC around Lleida and in other parts of the Ebro Valley. Most sane people spend their time indoors, not coming out until the evening, when things cool down enough to walk around the neighbourhood and maybe enjoy a meal or a drink on a terrace somewhere. Others take refuge by the pool, or the beachside.
However, some of us have that obsession called birding. And when some of us go abroad we want to see some new birds, whether the month be a Saharan August or an Antarctic January. This month we’ve already had 5 visitors from northern Europe looking to get a bit of birding in during their summer hols in Spain. The idea is admirable, but how do you cope with hairdryer heat that races up into the 30’s before you have time to digest the first excting sightings of the day? And how do you expect to handle the afternoon haze, heat and drowsiness that you know is in store? Here’s some advice that we think is sound. Well, sound enough for anyone who is inclined to go out looking for birds in Spain during a heatwave!
Make sure you have plenty of cool water with you. A couple of litres per person is not excessive. So that means a single big bottle per person or lots of those piddly little bottles that seem so convenient to pop into your backpack, but which are little more than tongue-wetters. Dehydration is a serious issue, and one that many northern Europeans take too lightly.
How to keep the water cool, and for free? Well, not for free, if you want to know you’ll have to send us an e-mail to ask for our secret. We will tell you that it really works a treat.
Suncream, of course. A couple of times a day.
Plan your route. Are you looking for altitude birds? A difference in altitude of 1,000 metres can mean a gasp-saving difference of 10ºC. That’s a “tolerable” 30ºC compared to an opressive 40ºC. So if you can get up high plan to be there around the hottest part of your birding day.
Get up early and be on-site for just after dawn. That’s when it’s coolest, and best for you and for the birds. Eat breakfast late, standing up or before you leave home.
Plan for a late lunch, and not a picnic lunch! Rather go to a nice cool air-conditioned bar, sit and relax and enjoy your food and drink in the knowledge that you have already done all or most of your day’s birding. Most bars and cafés will serve you sandwiches and snacks throughout the day, so there’s no sense in stopping birding at noon to have lunch when you can still bird comfortably until around 2 pm. Birding at 4pm is only for those who know or can do no better.
If your program will allow it take a siesta between 4pm and 7 pm, and then explore the possibility of a spot of late evening birding as the temperature starts to drop.
Park your vehicle in the shade whenever possible. Open the windows before getting back in, drive with them open and the air-conditioning on for a while before closing them and letting the air-conditioning take control. What – you haven’t got air-conditioning?! Then see the advice on the use of horse and carts.
Black-bellied Sandgrouse can cope with a heatwave, but can you?