Birding in Spain: a land of surprises

A quick breather between tours. And so a quick note on some of the birds just seen on a birding tour organised by BirdingInSpain.com for Beat Ruegger, a well-known Swiss birder and tour leader for Liberty Bird.

The route: Barcelona - Ebro Delta - Lleida - Belchite - Plan in the Pyrenees of Aragón. All in northeast Spain.

The dates: from 12th to 20th April

The tour participants: a total of 14 birders, including myself and Beat Ruegger as the bird guides.

The numbers: 196 bird species detected, in spite of 2 days strong winds and 2 days of rain (we really need rain here in Catalonia so I won’t complain!).

What’s behind the numbers: we managed to see all of the special target birds the group was interested in seeing. And there were quite a few pleasant surprises along the way. And quality encounters all through.

Some of the birds:

No fewer than 6 Dupont’s larks were seen (yes, seen!) on the Belchite steppes, including 2 parent larks with 2 young Dupont Lark offspring. Additionally, two singing Dupont’s Larks allowed themselves to be watched at leisure by all in the birding group.

16 Lammergeiers (not a total, but all at once!) in the sky in the Ordesa National Park. And scenery to remember for a long time.

A last-minute Wallcreeper on the edge of the village of Plan, after we were turned back by the snow when trying to reach a known site for this incredible bird. In the same place as two Alpine Accentors the previous day!

About a dozen male Little Bustards fighting, chasing and displaying on the drylands of Lleida on a pre-breakfast outing.

A pair of Bonelli’s Eagles drifting over our heads in Montsec.

Then the surprises: a Baillon’s Crake watched at leisure in the Ebro Delta on the 12th April (what a way to start! Could we keep it up?).

A Red-necked Nightjar on the second day, again in the Ebro Delta. This time while we were eating our picnic lunches!

A Broad-billed Sandpiper in the Ebro Delta just before we made our way inland towards Lleida.

A Ring Ouzel in the Montsec range in the morning (only the third I’ve seen in the area after more than 15 years of regular birding around Lleida). Then a Red-necked Phalarope at an inland lake in the afternoon. Too much!

Two days later there was a late Crane by the River Ebro to the south of Zaragoza. And on the last day an early Ortolan Bunting on the edge of Plan.

One day all birding trips will be made this way!

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