Cranes in Spain flock over mountain and plain

Did you know? – Cranes in northeast Spain

Cranes at Gallocanta

Cranes at Gallocanta lagoon. Photo by Marten van DijlVisit his website here

The spring passage of Cranes in northeast Spain takes place from the latter half of February to the end of March, or more rarely into early April.

In autumn the largest influx of Cranes is from the end of October and in November, with the last birds passing through in early December.

In Catalunya flocks of more than 100 birds are uncommon.

Gallocanta in Aragón channels the passage of virtually the whole of the Western European population of the Common Crane, with up to 60,000 birds recorded together in late October and a pre-nuptial maximum of some 30,000 birds in mid-February.

Birds heading northwards in the spring often stop off at Sotonera before crossing the Pyrenees. Gatherings of more than 14,000 Cranes have been recorded here, principally between mid-February and mid-March.

Gurelur Bird migration centre, at the Alto de Ibañeta (1,057m), is situated at one of the most popular mountain passes in the Pyrenees for watching the autumn passage of Cranes. The centre is open from July 1st to the end of November.

Reference and further information: Where the birds are in northeast Spain

Where to stay and watch the Cranes:
Gallocanta – Allucant
Sotonera – Hospedería de Loarre
Alto de Ibañeta – Navarra Selección

Dutchman meets the Flying Pelican

I met up with Marten van Dijl from the Netherlands recently. We did a spot of birding around Montsec and then the drylands of Alfés, before going our own ways.

Marten was back in Holland for the New Year, but still found the time to send an e-mail with some of his photos.

The following are his photos of the White Pelican that’s been loitering with the local White Storks. Check out some of Marten’s work at his website.

 White Pelican with storks near Lleida

Preening is a very important task for any Stork, sorry, Pelican.

White Pelican on church roof with Storks

Can’t think why they’re ignoring me.

“I had a great time again, seeing some friends, birding and coming back with some good photos. I’ll tell you what I saw after I met with you at Alfes – first of all the white pelican, which was roosting at the church in Torres de Segre, until it flew off. You don’t have to be a psychic to predict it went to the rubbish dump, and there it was.

 White Pelican at rubbish dump

Oh! The promised land!

“Later, at the same spot the three little bustards were still there, in exactly the same spot, still not moving. There was also a flock of pin-tailed sandgrouse, I counted 70! Other good birds included a perched golden eagle at Bellmunt.

The next day I went to Laguna de Gallocanta – lots of cranes, hard to photograph, and after that I decided to spend my last day in the Ebro Delta. I was surprised by the number of chiffchaffs (everywhere, along the shores and canals) and kingfisher (10+). I had good photos of a circling booted eagle after a short chase in the car.

Like you suggested, I started reading your book during my flight back, I’ve now just finished the chapter about the Bewick’s Swan at Buda Island. I enjoy reading it, it’s a good read, recognizable stories and interesting because it deals with an area of Spain I’ve come to know. At the same time, it’s useful to refresh my English.”

BirdingInSpain wish you all a Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas

Swiss birders in Spain

Elisabeth and Mathias Danuser are a couple from Switzerland who came birding in northeast Spain with Beat Ruegger in April 2008. In fact they have been with me on 3 trips now: twice to Spain and once to Scotland.

They sent me the following photos of their last trip, which started in the Ebro Delta, passed through the steppes and ended in the high Pyrenees. The photos are theirs, the comments mine.

 Slender-billed Gull

Slender-billed Gull in one of the bays in the Ebro Delta. One of the special gulls of the region. Was this after or before we spotted the Baillon’s Crake?

Black-winged Stilts

Black-winged Stilts at the Estany d’Ivars near Lleida. We were lucky that day, as we managed to catch up with the Red-necked Phalarope at the same site the last day it was there.

Lammergeier, or Bearded Vulture

This Lammergeier came in for a closer look! We were up near Ordesa National Park and we didn’t know whether it was going to rain or snow. The sight of a dozen or so Lammergeiers against the spectacular backdrop of the Ordesa mountains was one of the last in a line of memorable experiences on this trip. 

Snow, shearwaters and stunning bluethroats

This is part of the description of Neal Warnock’s last few days birding in northeast Spain. I hope he took back some fond memories, because the trip started disastrously for him: all his possessions and money (except his optics) were stolen from his hire car in the Ebro Delta. Then he had to contend with fog, snow and strong winds.

Heavy snow overnight meant that only up to km14 of the road to Coll de Pal was passable.  This meant no lammergeier, citril finch or snowfinch.  But I did manage to see nuthatch and short-toed treecreeper in the lower pine forests.  From the lookout at km11 I saw 1 griffon vulture, and 3 alpine accentor and a few alpine chough.  I managed to walk up to the crossbill sign area (in the snow!) and got great views of crested tit.

The next day at Cap de Creus a strong NE wind brought large numbers of balearic shearwaters close to shore.  I managed to pick out 2 Yelkouan amongst them and then managed excellent scope views of a bird sitting in the water in the cove to the south of the headland.

 Stunning male Bluethroat

Male Bluethroat. Photo by Neal Warnock.

On my last day at Llobregat, the surprise bird of the trip I had mentioned turned up in the form of a juv goshawk over the main lagoon.  And finally, on my way towards another hide a stunning male bluethroat appeared (see photo) from nowhere.

Thanks for sharing the photo with us all Neal. And for not giving up on Spain after your unpleasant surprise!

Where in Spain are these birds? Or, “Yes, we Pelican!”

I’ve just come back from a spot of birding and of course I’ve seen a few birds.

So I thought we’d play a little birding guessing game: I tell you the birds I saw at a certain site, and you tell me where I was. The earlier you guess, the more points you get. OK?


Here goes with the first clue (5 points):

1) 100’s of Black-headed Gulls, about 20 Yellow-legged Gulls and one or two Lesser Black-backed Gulls.

– Er, the Ebro Delta?

No. Next clue (4 points):

2) About 20 Grey Herons and 1,000 or so Cattle Egrets.

– Still sounds like the Ebro Delta. What about the Llobregat Delta?

No! You’d never see that many Cattle Egrets in the Llobregat Delta. Well, I never have anyway.  Next clue for 3 points:

3) A Griffon Vulture, 12 Red Kites, 2 Marsh Harriers and a Common Buzzard.

– Somewhere inland near Lleida I expect. But don’t ask me where.

OK. You’re getting close, but I’m sure you can be a bit more specific than that. Next clue (2 points):

4) About 350 White Storks and a White Pelican.

– 350 storks! Are you pulling my leg?! I thought White Storks were supposed to migrate to Africa in the winter. And a White Pelican! Wait a minute, this sounds familiar… storks, gulls, egrets and a vagrant/escaped Pelican. Wouldn’t be a rubbish tip would it?

Correct! Well done! Indeed, the Lleida landfill site. The Pelican’s been knocking around with the White Storks for more than a month now. The Griffon Vulture was a surprise though.

Spanish translations for the Wild Wonders of Europe blog have reached an agreement with the good people of the Wild Wonders of Europe project to translate some of the blog articles into Spanish. In fact we’ve already started with the translation of Magnus Elander’s recent blog entries on his visit to Spain to photograph the Lammergeier and the Griffon Vulture.


Photo by Magnus Elander

Magnus and his assistant Stefan came in early November and spent 3 days in the hide photographing Lammergeiers at Boumort before moving on to Ordesa for a week to continue the task in different surroundings. His blog entries outline the places he went to and the people he met in Spain, and also give us a sneak preview to some of his excellent work.

Magnus Elander

We won’t be translating every blog entry, as there are more than 50 photographers involved in the Wild Wonders project! But there will certainly be more translations of some exciting blog entries in the near future. It is rumoured that we have a soft spot for polar bears!

Viaje ornitológico a Bulgaria

Viaje ornitológico a Bulgaria para disfrutar, y también ayudar en la conservación del águila imperial oriental Aquila heliaca

Entre el 20 y 30 de mayo del 2009 podrías estar observando aves en Bulgaria, un país qua ha emergido en la última década como destino ornitológico de primero orden. En la compañía de uno de los mejores guías de Bulgaria y Steve West pasaremos 10 días disfrutando de montañas, cabos, humedales, bosques y una insospechada cantidad de aves muy interesantes. También estaremos contribuyendo directamente a la conservación del águila imperial oriental en Bulgaria.

Baja el pdf para ver todos los detalles y después contacta con Steve West :

Balearic Shearwater in Spain: did you know?

Did you know?

The Balearic Shearwater Puffinus mauretanicus is a species endemic to the Balearic Islands?

The Balearic Shearwater was regularly captured for human consumption until the late 1970’s? And that an estimated 2,400 to 2,700 Balearic Shearwaters were caught annually on Formentera alone? 

Predation by cats or genets is one of the main problems faced by the species, and is the reason why this shearwater disappeared from the interior of Cabrera?

There are only an estimated 2,000 pairs of Balearic Shearwater in the world, and that at the current rate of regression the species is likely to become extinct in about 40 years? 

Balearic Shearwater Puffinus mauretanicus

The photo of this Balearic Shearwater is by my friend Eva Solanes. To see more follow this link to Eva’s photo website.

After breeding on the Balearic Islands the Balearic Shearwater spends the summer in the Bay of Biscay? 

Much of the world population of this bird regularly winters along the coast of Catalonia?  

More information on the Balearic Shearwater, especially about where and when to see it in northeast Spain, can be seen on page 37 of “Where the birds are in northeast Spain”.

These itineraries from the main site offer good chances of observing Balearic Shearwater at the right time of the year:

Ebro Delta South 

Llobregat Delta and Garraf

Cap de Creus Natural park

And get everything right if planning a visit to the region – check out the recommended accommodation in the area where you plan to be. It’s recommended because it’s the best for birders, birdwatchers, nature lovers, families…. 

Birds in the Monegros?

“Blah!” is the name of a new category in the web scene.

Everybody knows that “Blah, blah, blah” means someone is talking too much. So “Blah!” is mostly images, and just a few words.

The first “Blah!” post:

Birds in the Monegros?

Drinking pool in the Monegros, Spain

Water in the Monegros used to be a precious thing. In the long hot summer it would look something like the above – a drinking pool.

Monegros tracks: old and new

Oh, look! A sandgrouse track! But what’s that next to it? A euro? Perhaps we can follow its trail around the Monegros.

European funding for transforming the remainig drylands in the Monegros

3 million euros. Not bad for a start….

European funding for transforming the remainig drylands in the Monegros

There’s 12 million euros. That’s more like it!

European funding for transforming the remainig drylands in the Monegros

And there’s 22 million euros. Those pesky dryland birds won’t know what hit them!

Bulldozers in the Monegros

Thanks guys! Couldn’t do any of this without you!

Irrigating the Monegros drylands

Sure signs that this is a humanitary mission. And that all those euros are being well spent.

Now don’t get me wrong, I like nature. Flowers and birds are very pretty. But no-one’s going to get rich by trying to make sure that sandgrouse and bustards don’t go extinct, are they? Just how much money do you think you can scrounge off the European Union for biodiversity conservation? Be serious!

Irrigating the Monegros drylands

One day all the Monegros will be like this.