A Birder’s View of Aigüestortes National Park

The Aigüestortes National Park was declared as such just over 50 years ago, and became Catalonia‘s first and only National park. It’s a marvellous place for trekking among the most breathtaking high mountain scenery in the central Pyrenees: dozens of lakes, rugged peaks, pine clad valleys and slopes and gushing rivers.

A birder’s view of Aigüestortes National Park

There are two main entrances into this National Park: one is via the Boí valley in the west, with its World Heritage Romanic churches, and the other is via the village of Espot in the east. Last year Birdinginspain.com led a group for Naturetrek to the Aigüestortes NP.
We stayed at Roca Blanca, Espot. And what a great time we had!

Black Woodpecker, Lammergeier, Capercaillie, Citril Finch, Ring Ouzel, Scops Owl (calling outside the hotel!), Dipper, Golden Eagle, Crested Tit, Crossbill, and even an Iberian Chiffchaff (the first possible breeding record for Catalonia!). And then there were the non-birds like Apollo Butterfly, Camberwell Beauty, Alpine Marmot and Chamois, and buckets of fresh air!

But don’t take my word for it: look at the itinerary on the Birdinginspain.com website and read the Naturetrek Catalonia Trip Report for 2007 for yourself.

Swedish Bird Club Birding in Northeast Spain

December isn’t over yet and already the Birdinginspain.com website has received some 45 direct-linked visits from the Swedish birdclub Värnamo Fagelklubb. It seems that they are planning a birding visit that will take in the Belchite steppes, the Ports of Tortosa and the Ebro Delta. That’s a pretty good selection, lads!

The combination of the sites and itineraries on the Birdinginspain.com website (with free downloadable maps and detailed descriptions), the quality recommended accommodation (from someone who knows a bit about decent birding sites and hotels) and the information in “Where the birds are in northeast Spain” to help you find the most interesting birds at a large number of sites, is the perfect birder’s guide to the region.

I sincerely hope that Värnamo Fageklubb have a great time birding in northeast Spain, and that they will make the most of our advice to get the very best out of this excellent birding area.

Happy Birding!

Dotterels in December

A band of Dotterels have been hanging around near the Alfés aerodrome this December. Now the place is not unusual, it’s a site well described for passage Dotterel in “Where the birds are in northeast Spain”, but the time of year most certainly is. The latest in the year that I have ever seen Dotterel in this part of Spain is in mid October. I also know of a record of a very large group in the nearby Monegros in early November. But this December record is at least a month later than any other in the region.

A sign of the times? A freak occurence, one of those that we birders are so fond of? Perhaps both.

When I came to live in Lleida in early 1989 there was just one pair of White Storks breeding in the city, on the cathedral. And that pair used to vacate the region in the winter. Now there are scores of storks nests, with around 20 nests on the cathedral alone. And most of those birds choose to stay here during the winter rather than set out on a long and hazardous migration to Africa.

Since I have been living here Red-rumped Swallows have colonized a number of areas in the vicinty of Lleida city. Black-winged Kites have also bred intermittently since their first recorded breeding in Catalonia in 1997.

Human migrations have also undergone dramatic changes.

We live in a rapidly changing world. Do you think the birds haven’t noticed?

Identify the hotspot

Does anybody know where the photo below was taken?

Identify the birding hotspot

I suspect not, so I’ll provide some clues:

It’s part of a natural birding hotspot with more than 120 species of breeding bird in a 25 kilometre radius.

The highest peak reaches up to 1668 metres. It is not in the Pyrenees.

Within the hotspot there are drylands with breeding Lesser Kestrels, Little Bustards, Black-bellied Sandgrouse, etc.

There are also birds of wetland areas such as Purple Heron, Little Bittern, Penduline Tit…

In the mountains there are Bonelli’s Eagles, Lammergeiers and Griffon Vultures.

It’s somewhere in Catalonia.

Any guesses? Why not send me an e-mail and see if you’re right?

Now Birding in Spain sounds great!

As of December 2007 the Birdinginspain.com website has incorporated a range of wonderful natural sounds to many of its most outstanding birding itineraries of northeast Spain. Thanks to a generous understanding with Eloïsa Matheu, the creator of Alosa – Sonidos de la Naturaleza, you can now read the birding itineraries, and look at the maps and photos while you listen to real sounds of nature.

The different ambients reproduced are representative of high mountain, Mediterranean scrubland, rocky gorges, coastal wetlands, woodland and steppes. Gallocanta has its own particular sound. We suggest that you go to the Birdinginspain.com website and listen to them now, and that you then visit the Alosa website to find out more about these recordings and the many others that are on offer.

Birder’s Library Review of “Flying over the Pyrenees…”

There’s nothing like a bit of self-promotion for inviting the critics to have their say. Especially those who have never had to lift a finger for themselves.

Flying over the pyrenees standing on the plains

Well, all you indolent nit-pickers, now’s your chance, as I’m going to mention two independent reviews that treat my last book “Flying over the Pyrenees, standing on the plains” in a most favourable light.

First of all is the Birder’s Library:

“…along the way we get glimpses into the author’s past, insight into our shared pastime, and information about Spanish birds, history, and culture.”

“…much of what he shares will resonate with all birders, no matter how old they are, or where they are from.”

To summarise all the good things that Grant McCreary says about “Flying over the Pyrenees…”

“Simply put, this book was a delight.”

“This is highly recommended to anyone who can get their hands on a copy.”

The original article can be seen at this link.

Colin Wright from Subbuteo Natural History Books reviewed the book in August and liked it so much that “Flying over the Pyrenees, standing on the plains” was made their “book of the month” in September 2007. Here is how Colin concludes his appraisal:

“This is an ideal book for the bedside, a wet day on holiday or whilst travelling, especially if you are heading for Spain. …Steve’s infectious enthusiasm for the birds will draw you towards this sometimes overlooked part of Spain.”

If you want to see Colin Wright’s full review follow this link.

Details about the book in question can be seen in the books section of the Birdinginspain.com website, or at it’s own special website http://www.flyingoverthepyrenees.info

Get it in time for Christmas!