Castles and birds in “sunny” Spain

A fine walk with a group of keen birding newbies from the castle of Montsonís was one of the last local activities I had the joy of organizing before starting serious tour work. We all enjoyed a beautiful spring day and a variety of good birds too: a pair of Egyptian Vultures making baby Egyptian Vultures, and also a pair of Bonelli’s Eagles. We had good looks at Bonelli’s Warbler, Chaffinch, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Swallow, House Martin, Crag Martin, Blackcap and Robin. I enjoyed it and, most importantly, so did the public.

Out birding near Montsonís

Then came Tom and his lovely lady from Germany. Tom is a photographer, and to make bird photographers at least moderately happy is by no means an easy job. Well, thanks to the weather I had an even more complicated task. Day 1 came down to a drive in the increasingly heavy rain. On Day 2 I convinced them to visit Loarre castle, where it had just been snowing! It was really cold and Tom was about to pack his bags and leave. Luckily we had a clear spell around midday when the discovery of a dead sheep on a farm allowed him to get some very good shots of Egyptian Vulture, Griffon Vulture and Red Kite. Another castle nearby also provided the goods in the form of Chough, Spectacled Warbler and Blue Rock Thrush.

Loarre castle

Unfortunately we were not together when I watched a Lammergeier breaking a bone later in the afternoon.  

On day 3 we were assailed by a buffeting wind – photos of Sardinian Warbler and Scarce Swallowtail were the hard-earned fruits of our labours that day.

Tom was then going to head on down to Extremadura. I hope he had better luck with this crazy spring weather!

Birding In Spain: 3rd Hotspot Report

March has come and gone again and so I’d better get in this 3rd Hotspot report before the guiding season comes into full swing and keeps me away from my beloved keyboard.

This March of 2009 there were days when spring was in the air; sometimes one could even feel the scorch of a summer sun; then there were days when we all took two steps back into winter. That was confusing enough for us poor mortal humans, so just imagine what fresh migrant birds must have felt like, just off the boat from Africa.

Nevertheless, the migrants did arrive. New Hotspot birds of the month included some of the usual common migrants: Yellow Wagtail, Tree Pipit, House Martin, Swallow, Black-winged Stilt, Subalpine Warbler and Willow Warbler. Great Spotted Cuckoos and Stone Curlews also returned early in the month and are now well and truly established. A single female Red-crested Pochard at the Estany d’Ivars was a hoped-for addition to the Hotspot list, and mid-month a small party of Garganeys also put in an appearance. Montsec attracted raptors in the form of Egyptian Vulture, Black Kite and  Short-toed Eagle. The biggest surprise I had though was spotting a female Little Crake at the Estany d’Ivars in the middle of the month. Great stuff!

Great Spotted Cuckoo Clamator glandarius

Great Spotted Cuckoo. Great bird, lousy photo.

The 50km Hotring seemed determined to keep in on the act, with the first Night Heron, Purple Heron, Osprey and Little Ringed Plover. Lesser Short-toed Lark was another species seen in the Hotring but unlikely to occur in the Hotspot. Oh well.

Osprey Pandion haliaetus

Fish-eating Osprey. Not Osprey-eating fish.

And on the note of species unlikely to occur in the Hotspot the prize went to a Great Bustard which came to meet me near Utxesa on the 17th March. One of the very few records of this marvellous species for Catalunya in the last few decades. What a shame it didn’t come with some friends to settle down and raise a family.

Mont-roig through the window.

Mont-roig through the window (fortunately not mine)