Why should I visit northeast Spain?
Well the only real problem there is in answering that question is to make the answer brief enough for you, the birder, to want to read it.
Sorry, I tried, but it's too difficult:
Northeast Spain (here meant to include Catalonia, Aragón and Navarra) holds a greater diversity of birds per square kilometre than any other part of Spain, if not Europe. Catalonia alone can boast 232 species of regularly breeding birds, a figure which obviously does not take into account its regular wintering or migrating non-breeding bird species.
What? For good birding it's quality that counts, not quantity?
Well, one can hardly doubt the quality of the birds that can be seen on a birding trip to the region:
(i) Wallcreeper, Lammergeier, Snowfinch, Alpine Accentor, Alpine Chough, Red-backed Shrike, Citril Finch and Black Woodpecker in the high Pyrenees of Aragón, Catalonia and Navarra.
(ii) Raptors like Bonelli's Eagle, Booted Eagle, Short-toed Eagle, Golden Eagle, Egyptian Vulture, Griffon Vulture, Lesser Kestrel, Montagu's Harrier.
(iii) Steppeland birds in the Ebro valley steppes, including birds like Little Bustard, Great Bustard, Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Pin-tailed Sandgrouse, Dupont's Lark, Calandra Lark, Great Spotted Cuckoo, Stone Curlew, Roller, Lesser Grey Shrike, Short-toed Lark...
(iv) Wetland birds in great numbers and variety – Audouin's Gull (70% of the world population), Slender-billed Gull, Caspain Tern, Gull-billed Tern, Purple Gallinule, Great White Egret, Glossy Ibis, Little Bittern, Moustached Warbler, Savi's Warbler, Penduline Tit, Collared Pratincole. The Ebro Delta has all of these and is a Ramsar site of international importance.
(v) The concluding etcetera with interesting species for the birder like Black Wheatear, Black-eared Wheatear, Red-necked Nightjar, White-backed Woodpecker, Middle Spotted Woodpecker, Rock Thrush, Blue Rock Thrush, Orphean Warbler, Ortolan Bunting.....
Come and go birding with your own car or else fly to Barcelona's international airport, or one of the other airports which offer cheap international flights to a number of European destinations: Reus, Girona, Zaragoza and Pamplona.
The Pyrenees peak at Aneto, at an altitude of over 3,400m. From the pine forests, green valleys and rushing rivers of this emblematic mountain range down to the arid pseudosteppes of the Ebro valley the landscape is constantly changing. Remember that after Switzerland Spain is the most mountainous country in Europe. An abrubt and impressive mountain range or massif is rarely far away: Sierra de Guara, Montsec, els Ports....
Although much of the shoreline has been given over to mass tourism there are still towns, villages and stretches of coastline that have kept much of their character intact: the Costa Brava (Cap de Creus, Montgrí), the Ebro Delta.
The Iberian steppes are unique in Europe, as their array of birds attests. Belchite, Bujaraloz, Candasnos and the areas around the city of Lleida all hold birds capable of making a visit an interesting birding proposition.
Then there's the river Ebro with its gallery woodland, cliffs and meanders, along with the spectacular gorges chiselled by its lesser known tributaries.
In other words there is no shortage of excellent birding sites.
Getting around by main roads and motorways is relatively easy and efficient (even though there's always someone who complains about this road or that). Then there are innumerable dirt tracks in Spain just waiting to be discovered and explored to take you to doorstep of where the birding action is. Unless indicated otherwise, there's rarely any problem or restriction when birding along these tracks.
You can find out where the birds are with relative ease (what, haven't bought my book, Where the birds are in northeast Spain, yet?) by buying a birding book or guide, by searching on the internet, or by asking the right people about the birds and birding. The birding information is there and it is usually reliable.
Spain has been catering for all kinds of tourists for decades now, and is one of the most modern countries of the European Union. You will find all kinds of accommodation in hotels, apartments, rural houses, hostels, pensions, etc. to suit a range of tastes and pockets. Price per price the quality of such establishments in Spain is usually superior to their northern European counterparts.
For more details you should see the families page. If you're a father and a birder then you should be aware that northeast Spain will provide you with the perfect opportunity to combine a classic family holiday with a spot of birding:
“Hey kids, want to go to Port Aventura in Spain this summer?” (Birding thought: Red-necked nightjars breed in the grounds).
“We could go ballooning over Montsec.” (Birding thought: Lammergeiers are regularly seen in that part of northeast Spain).
“We can do a bit of trekking in the Pyrenees in the morning and then rafting in the afternoon to cool off.” (Birding thought: And I could spot Citril Finch and Black Woodpecker in the Pyrenees).
“The views from Mont-roig are breathtaking!” (Birding thought: And according to Where the birds are in northeast Spain Mont-roig is a reliable site for Black Wheatear and Blue Rock Thrush).
“Darling, in the Ebro valley area wines of international renown are produced, like Somontano or Raïmat.” (Birding thought: With a bit of luck we could get lost and bump into a Little Bustard or two).
And then you can always round off the day with a paella, or fresh fish washed down with an excellent wine....and make your birding…er….holiday plans for the next day.
While birding in Spain by no means should be restricted to protected areas there are certainly some amazing places that do enjoy protection under the figure of National Park or Natural Park. The national parks of Ordesa and Aigüestortes in the Pyrenees are among the most beautiful places in the whole of Spain, but the natural parks of the Sierra de Guara, Cadí, or els Ports, to name just a few, all have their own special character and little to envy of other areas.And then there are those birding hotspots like the Natural Parks of Cap de Creus and the Aiguamolls, or the unforgettable Ebro Delta.