Northern Spain: Mammals, birds and butterflies of Asturias and Cantabria

A trip report by Kathie Claydon. To read just click on this link:

Northern Spain: A trip report by Kathie Claydon

We were very happy to draw up an itinerary and guide Kathie and Mick Claydon around Asturias and Cantabria in early September this year. We saw plenty of birds, 40 species of butterflies and at least 7 Brown Bears! We had great weather and all shared enthusiasm for the fauna and flora we managed to encounter. The company was enjoyable too, so that it just did not feel like work – what else could we ask for (apart from wolves)?

Watching Brown Bears in Asturias

Watching Brown Bears in Asturias

Kath admiring the scenery in Asturias

Kath admiring the scenery in Asturias

Wolves in Cantabria

Searching for wolves in Cantabria

Birding In Spain Feedback and Reviews

More reviews from clients of Birding In Spain

Lee Wilkinson says:

Birding in Spain – 2 excellent tours

Three mates and I had a fantastic tour with Birding In Spain seeing 140+ species including all our targets including Bonelli’s Eagles, both Bustards and Wallcreeper. Steve West’s knowledge of the birds of the area is formidable, as are his call recognition skills. I remember one time he simultaneously identified by call three birds which sure enough popped into view. He’s also very good company. Great accommodation and comfortable vehicle. Later in the year I did their Lammergeier photography trip, which Florinda organised for me to perfection.

Winter Wallcreeper in SpainWallcreepers winter in the Sierra de Guara in Spain

Birding Sierra de Guara, Spain

Alquézar in the Sierra de Guara is a lovely place for a birding stroll. Photo courtesy of Lee.

Lee Wilkinson from the UK arranged a birding trip with Birding In Spain for himself and three friends in early April 2016. Then he returned alone later in the year to enjoy some hide sessions on his own taking photographs of Lammergeiers and vultures galore. You can see some of Lee’s birding trip photos at this link:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/45727856@N05/albums/72157664553377224

Birding In Spain

 

Birding In Spain says:

 

“Lee, thanks to you and the lads I had an excuse to be out and about in the countryside looking for birds just when things were on the move for the spring season. We managed to see the last wintering Wallcreeper, and the first Red-rumped Swallow, and the air seemed so alive and refreshing at that time of the year. So I should thank you for getting me out of the city! It was also fun playing the numbers game, although I can’t remember who the winner was, can you?

Another thing: Do you remember how thrilled Pete was at seeing the wild boar (the one you photographed, and included here)? And that you really have to return one day for another try at Black Woodpecker and Penduline Tit?”

Wild boar, run, Spain

Photo: Wild Boar on the run, by Lee Wilkinson

Our regards to Pete, Pete and Rick.

Rick kindly sent a list of the birds we saw on the trip, which can be seen here:

Birdwatching in Spain Lee

Birding in Spain in the Pyrenees

Pyrenees birders. Photo courtesy of Lee.

Birding In Spain Feedback and Reviews II

Following with more feedback and reviews from Birding In Spain clients.

Simone Wolthius says:

“Fantastic experience”

“Every time we visit Spain, we arrange a birdwatching tour with Steve West. We are never disappointed! He is a very good guide, who almost always finds the birds he has promised! So, we go out for a long half day touring in the beautiful Spanish countryside and are really happy when we return home. Steve even came all the way to the Pyrenees to be our guide. Birding in Spain is a special experience with Birding In Spain!”

Birding in the Pyrenees

Wryneck

Photos: Birding in the Pyrenees and Eurasian Wryneck

Simone and husband Alexander from the Netherlands are regular visitors to Spain. They contracted guided birding days around different parts of northeast Spain in 2012, 2013 and 2014. Apart from birding we have discovered that among Simone’s and Alexander’s other interests are those of playing golf and staying at lovely rural hotels.

Birding In Spain

Birding In Spain says:

“I still remember the Wryneck in the Sierra de Guara and how delighted you both were that we had come across it. It’s reactions like that that give us a gentle smile and a lot of job satisfaction. We hope you continue to enjoy birds like that for many years! On the negative side, we’re sorry about the long drive to the very disappointing salad on your last visit!”

Birding in Ordesa, Spain

New Posts! Your Feedback and Reviews of Birding In Spain

Feedback and reviews of Birding In Spain

Here you can see new reviews from Birding In Spain clients!

Jean-Christian Pioch, bird photographer

Jean-Christian Pioch, bird photographer

Jean-Christian Pioch says:

Many thanks for a fantastic birding photo trip in Catalonia. From the first contact up to the accommodation and food everything was perfect and very well organised, in a professional manner.  Cherry on the cake the lammergeiers were present, and I came back home to France with beautiful pictures.

Jean-Christian is a French wildlife photographer who came to our hides on a raptor photo trip in December 2016. He photographed Bonelli’s Eagles, Goshawks, vultures and his “cherry on the cake” Lammergeiers.

One of Jean-Christian Pioch's photos from the Goshawk hideBirding In Spain Goshawk hide in Catalonia

Some of Jean-Christians photos are on display at this link.

http://www.fils-de-saone.fr

Birding In Spain

We at Birding In Spain say:

“We’re so glad that everything fell into place for you Jean-Christian, and that you got some marvellous shots of all those superb raptors. Of course it is our job to make that possible, and while we have delivered countless photographic opportunities to so many photographers over the years not all of them express their satisfaction so openly! It was a pleasure to share in your positive energy and enthusiasm for the birds and we hope that you will be able to return to us in the not-too-distant future for the like of Golden Eagles and more.”

Birding In Spain bird videos: Golden Eagle, Black Wheatear and Montagu’s Harrier

 

We at Birding In Spain have added 3 more short (10 second) bird videos to the growing collection. Taken from encounters with birds around the Lleida steppes, Catalonia, Spain, you can see Golden Eagle, Black Wheatear and Montagu’s Harrier.

The Golden Eagle is a juvenile bird filmed at the steppes to the south of Lleida. You can see the eagle swooping and landing, and being bothered by a Jackdaw and what looks to be like a Red Kite, or is it a Black Kite?

Golden Eagle, Aquila chrysaetos

                Golden Eagle, Aquila chrysaetos

The Black Wheatears depicted were filmed at two different steppe locations in the Lleida steppes, again just south of the city of Lleida. You can hear a very short splatter of Black Wheatear song if you listen carefully, and bear in mind that these are active birds, and are rarely still!

Black Wheatear, Oenanthe leucura

          Black Wheatear, Oenanthe leucura

The Montagu’s Harrier is a male bird which was filmed on the Lleida steppes, but to the north of Lleida. Watch as the Montagu’s Harrier comes flying in over a cereal field and actually lands on a branch perch in front of the camera! This lovely bird then starts preening.

Montagu's Harrier, Circus pygargus

            Montagu’s Harrier, Circus pygargus

Golden Eagle, Black Wheatear and Montagu’s Harrier are just three of the many interesting bird species that can be seen and filmed around the Lleida steppes.

The Golden Eagles are mostly juvenile birds which disperse over the steppes to hunt for more abundant food sources the area has to offer. Black Wheatears are resident breeding birds, holding their own in the more secluded, arid areas with barren, rocky slopes. Montagu’s Harriers are summer visitors to the Lleida steppes, arriving in April and often breeding in small numbers in cereal fields.

We hope you enjoy these videos and are looking forward to seeing more.

Hoopoes in the Lleida Steppes: Video

The next bird video in the 10 second bird video series is one of Hoopoes in the spring in the Lleida steppes, Catalonia, Spain.

Hoopoe on branch

             Hoopoe on branch in the Lleida steppes

You can see Hoopoes landing on a forked-branch perch when entering or leaving their nest nearby.

Listen out very carefully for the following birds: Corn Bunting, Hoopoe, Thekla Lark and Mistle Thrush. You may have to turn up the volume!

Dirk from the Netherlands was one of the photographers to use our photography hide for Hoopoes in the Lleida steppes with very good results. Although he wasn’t too happy that I had forgotten to bring a chair that day!

10 second videos: Little Bustard

The next video in the Birding In Spain 10 second series is the Little Bustard.

Little Bustard callingA short taster video of a Little Bustard on the plains in the spring. He’s not always facing the other way!

Posted by Birding In Spain on Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Little Bustard jumping

Male Little Bustard jumping by Bart Vercruysse

  1. What will you see? A male Little Bustard “singing”, ie blowing his raspberries.
  2. What can you hear? The Little Bustard call is obvious, and is repeated several times. However, you have to listen very carefully to hear Corn Bunting, Tree Pipit, and just a sliver of a Crested Lark.
  3. Where and when was this taken? In April and May on one of the remaining dryland areas of Lleida, Catalonia, where the Little Bustard still breeds.
  4. Where can I learn more? There’s nothing like photographing displaying Little Bustards from one of our photographic hides from late April to late May. You might even get a jumping male!
  5. And more, with a limited budget? You can join a spring birding tour to see the Little Bustards, or you can sit at home and watch the antics of Steve and the North Herts Birders birding the plains in the spring while being filmed for a Catalan TV programme. Here’s the link, it’s fun!

 

TV3 Tocats de l’ala. Dryland treasures.

10 second bird videos: Lammergeiers in flight

Once we manage to overcome a technical detail or two relating to optimizing the quality of the videos we can post Birding In Spain would like to offer a new series of home-made videos showing some of the birds of Spain and their habitats.

They are not BBC documentaries, but rather short 10 second looks at some of the bird delights this region has to offer. Some videos will be aesthetically pleasing, others that too but also educational, others entertaining, or posing a small challenge to the viewer.

We hope you like them, and welcome any feedback, questions, etc.

The first one is Lammergeiers in flight. All the clips of the Lammergeier (Bearded Vulture) incorporated here were taken in the Pyrenees of Lleida, Catalonia.

 

 

Lammergeierin flight

  Lammergeier in flight. Photo by Chris Schenk.

Lammergeiers in flight Facebook video

Here is the “Lammergeiers in flight” video card.

  1. What will you see? Several Lammergeiers of different ages in flight over the mountainside.
  2. Wait til the end? It’s only 10 seconds long, and the closest bird is in the last frames.
  3. What can you hear? Nothing, except the presentation Bee-eater, which has nothing to do with the action. In subsequent videos there will be birdsong and natural in situ sounds.
  4. Can I learn more about the Lammergeier? Yes, more Lammergeier videos will be coming, so that you can learn or practice identification of the species through its silhouette and flight action, and also see how plumage varies with age.
  5. And more? There’s a chapter dedicated to the Lammergeier in “Flying over the Pyrenees, standing on the plains” and it just so happens that it can be downloaded free of charge from the Birding In Spain website at this link:

Icemen and Lammergeiers chapter from “Flying over the Pyrenees, standing on the plains”

If you want to photograph Lammergeiers from one of our hides or see them flying over their mountain haunts on a guided birding tour just send us an e-mail. You can also work things out for yourself by using “Where the birds are in northeast Spain” and the free birding itineraries on the Birding In Spain website.

Happy Birding!

Birding In Spain gets Cross with Aussie birders

From Australia to Spain, and beyond

Featuring the Ken Cross Back to Europe Trip Log

This May past Ken Cross came from the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia, and brought his merry crew of Australian birders and companions with him to enjoy a superb classic spring birding tour of Spain.

After many months of e-mails and planning Ken and Steve finally met up in Madrid in mid-May, and from here was launched our tour of the best of Spain and its birds. Over the next 12 we toured and birded Extremadura, the Picos de Europa, the Pyrenees, the Ebro Valley plains and the Ebro Delta, finishing the tour in Barcelona. We also managed to organize a pelagic cruise one morning to look for shearwaters and petrels…How did we get on? 

You can read all about it here at Ken’s blog:

http://kceuropebirds.blogspot.com.au/2015/05/day-15-groups-final-full-day-in-spain.html

The first challenge that faced us was to work out a packing scheme; however if there’s one thing we have come to excel in in the birding circuit it’s just that. As we think the photo shows:

 Packing the bird tour van

A few days later another challenge arose: how to beat the hotel views, food and service that we had in the Picos de Europa. I don’t think we beat it in the subseqüent hotels, but we came reasonably close.

One of the best birding hotels in Spain

 One of the best birding hotels in Spain

2 amazing and stimulating views from our hotel in the Picos de Europa

Our impressions were that Ken (Mr Cross) and his crew (Russ, Maria, Vince, Steve, Jan, Karen, Norm, June, Ray) had a good time all round, but in particular they really loved the mountains, and this is judging from the battery of “oohs” and “aahs” delivered by all when the Pyrenees and Cantabrian mountains came into view.

The final tour tally was 213 species of birds, with of course some very interesting and unusual sightings, and with fun and Aussie humour all the way.

Dupont’s Lark and Lammergeier were chosen as the group’s bird of the tour. Although we should remain impartial with questions of taste we are very glad that the Corn Bunting did not enter the competition!

The big surprise to me was that when I arrived home from a later trip I found 2 field guides to Australia waiting for me: one for the mammals, and another for the birds. A big thank you to our Aussie friends for that, and for their great company!

Now though I have to start saving up to go to Australia.

 Australian flag

A birding trip report by the North Herts Birders: Catalonia – Spain

North Herts Birders

Here are some excerpts of the trip report of the North Herts Birders’ visit to Catalonia this April.

North Herts Birders birding in Catalonia 2015

Catalonia – Spain. Ebro Delta, Lleida Drylands and Pre-Pyrenees

20th to 24th April 2015

“Arriving at the Delta Hotel we saw Pied Flycatcher and Redstart as we pulled into the car park and later Wood Warbler in the wooded area. The hotel has excellent grounds with a large reedy pond with an island and a small wooded area, so we would not have to go far for some pre-breakfast birding.”

Pied Flycatcher in the Ebro Delta, Catalonia.

“An early pre-breakfast start for Little Bustard and Lesser Kestrel on the Balaguer Drylands, in the company of a film crew from Channel 3 TV, Catalonia’s largest TV Channel. Making a programme about eco-tourism, the environment and Little Bustards, so they had arranged with Steve West to film and interview us watching Little Bustards. Well this turned into a game, something like Musical Chairs. You had to keep moving, if you stopped and looked through your bins too long, when you put them down the lady interviewer started to ask questions in a reasonable version of English, a sound recorder tried to put his large, fluffy grey microphone up your nose and all this while the cameraman was bobbing about trying to find your best angle.”

“A new chapter of the Entente Cordiale was written in the hide, when a French birder complained that our guide Steve was too loud,…”

“Arriving at the very fragrant Alfes Aerodrome, the scent of wild Thyme hits your nose and the myriad of colourful wild flowers catches your eye. The birds, Great Spotted Cuckoo, Calandra Lark, a song flight from Short-toed Lark, Crested and Thekla Larks, Kestrel, from a nearby wood calling Iberian Green Woodpecker, Western Bonelli’s Warbler…”

“Our second attempt to find nesting Eagle Owl was successful, with one adult and 2 very large chicks still in the nest high up on a cliff. Great views were had by all.“

Penduline Tit building nest near Lleida, Catalonia.

“We had excellent views of a male Bonelli’s Eagle dive bombing Griffon Vultures, we then walked the gorge road and added a feisty Firecrest, Wryneck, singing Nightingales everywhere, calling Golden Orioles,…”

“A long day with loads of excellent birds, Ray commented that this was his best days birding ever! We all agreed,…”

“This area is my favourite part of Spain and as we got closer we could see the snow-capped mountains of the Pyrenees.”

“Overhead adult and juvenile Lammergeiers, amongst the circling Griffon Vultures. Next, an adult Egyptian Vulture glided past and down the valley. Coming up the other way more Griffons, but one didn’t look right, bigger and darker and not a Griffon, but a Black Vulture which circled and gave good views. Four species of vulture in around 10 minutes.”

 Tawny Owl in tree in Catalonia.

“A quick tally up of the list gave a trip total of 192, with all of us getting at least one tick.”

“Arriving back at Barcelona airport, we all thanked Steve West for his hard work in making our bird filled trip fun and enjoyable, a second sucessful Happy Tours trip. Steve said we made his job easy and fun, and looked forward to our return.”

Steve Lane photographing birds in Catalonia.

From a Happy Tours Publication – written by Steve Lane

Download and read the full trip report, with lots of birds and butterflies here:

 North Herts Birders birding in Catalonia 2015: Trip Report