Mammal and bird track identification – help required!

Last autumn I took a series of photos of animal tracks while out scouting around my favourite drylands to the south of Lleida. I found a really productive dusty track, and it got me wanting to be an expert tracker, which I doubt I will ever be! Nevertheless, I would like to identify the authors of these tracks with some degree of certainty.

Drylands of Lleida

Track 10. Mammal and bird tracks.

Can anyone help?

Check out the album by following the link below, and if you do know the answers then please tell me in one way or another – comment on FB, this blog or an e-mail.

The link:

Photos of mammal and bird tracks

Thank you so much for your help!

Hoopoes and worms in the fridge

In May we discovered a Hoopoe nest site, just at the right time for us to set up a hide for our bird photographer guests.

A photo of one of “our” Hoopoes by Eric McCabe

Lovely, striking birds, which performed wonderfully for the photographers, perching on a branch with fat grubs in their bills before entering a hole in a stone wall where their nest was located. The perch was also much in demand by a local Corn Bunting and a singing Thekla Lark.

Hoopoe, Upupa epops. from the Hoopoe hide.

Hoopoe from the Hoopoe hide. Photo by Jordi Bas. 

After a few weeks on a recce visit it seemed to me that the Hoopoes had left the nest. But surely the young ones would be somewhere in the vicinity for a while yet? I had to check that idea, so I decided to get hold of some worms to tempt them back to the hide.


A day or so later I tried on the offchance at our local Decathlon store. I was amazed! In the fishing section they had a fridge with several types of worms or maggots that looked ideal for the purpose! Happy with my purchase I duly transfered them to our own fridge and waited for the right moment to act…

Hoopoe, Upupa epops, from the Montagu’s Harrier hide.

Hoopoe, but from the wrong hide (the Montagu’s Harrier hide). 

A couple of days later I was back at the Hoopoe scene, eager to see how effective the “worm ploy” would be. I placed the two classes of worms in strategic, visible places and waited. And waited…nothing. The Hoopoes had definitely moved on. And I still had two half-full tubs of worms. Some of them were left out for the Rollers, the rest went back into the family fridge.

And what did I see just as I was leaving the drylands? A family group of no fewer than 6 Hoopoes flying together over a small patch of pine trees. OUR Hoopoes, for sure, ungrateful lot!

I have to remember to take the rest of the worms out of the fridge and offer them to a local bird or two – there’s a shriek every time Florinda opens one of the pots thinking it contains paté!

15 years ago…

The first edition of the Anuari d’Ornitologia de Catalunya (Catalan Bird Report) was published in 1998, but covered observations for the year 1996. At the time it was edited by the Grup Català d’Anellament (Catalan Ringing Group), which later changed its name to the present-day Institut Català d’Ornitologia (ICO – Catalan Institute of Ornithology).

Catalan Bird Report 1996

The report compiled the observations of no fewer than 465 contributors, quite a remarkable landmark and a proud moment for ringing and birding in Catalonia. This was already a far call from the 129 observers involved in the making of the Breeding Bird Atlas of Catalonia and Andorra 1975-1983.

The Anuari compiled a total of more than 5,000 observations of rare and scarce birds, censuses, population estimates, migration dates, changes in distribution and the opportunity to publish observations from many areas around the country that would otherwise have gone unnoticed.

And 1996 was quite a good year as far as rarities are concerned: the Ebro Delta alone took account of Spain’s second Rough-Legged Buzzard, the country’s first ever overwintering Terek Sandpiper, Catalonia’s first Black-headed Bunting, Least Sandpiper and Greater Sandplover (together!), Citrine Wagtail, Lesser Yellowlegs….

Although Lleida is not in the same league, it certainly had its say: 2 White-headed Ducks that arrived in 1994 stayed until late winter, up to 1,000,000 starlings were observed at their roost at Utxesa (the site has never seen such numbers since), a winter Grey Phalarope, 21 of the 30 pairs of Montagu’s Harrier breeding in Catalonia were on the Lleida steppes, and a Ruddy Duck turned up at Utxesa at the end of the year.

With this first edition the figure of coordinador comarcal was also established, a position rather like a County Recorder, and a first compiler and filter of interesting records for his/her sphere of influence.

The report also included a summary of the ornithological year in English and in Catalan, as well as an annotated systematic list, with the most interesting or relevant observations of each species ordered by “comarca”. A complete bibliography could not be left out of course, and interest was maintained right to the end by the inclusion of detailed articles on identification problems (for example Yellow-legged Gulls and tristis Chiffchaff).

An excellent first edition, creating interest and cohesion and marking the way for additions and improvements in the following years. Long life!

Birding In Spain newsletter

We’re working hard to make sure you’re well informed before coming birding in Spain.

Birding In Spain

The summer edition of the Birding In Spain Birds and Birding Newsletter is available here.

Just click on the BIS logo or on this link to download the latest Birds and Birding Newsletter Summer 2011

The sections include:

Catalonia Bird Tour News – who, where and when?

Birders Like You – an engaging new section where visiting birders are the protagonists

 Birders like you

Bird News – from Catalonia. Red-footed Falcons, Little Bustards and more.

Birding In Spain Video Channel – we have almost 20 videos on our new You Tube channel. All birds, of course! Hoopoe, Montagu’s Harrier, a really entertaining pair of Little Owls and much more.

Bird fair auction – see what we are offering at the Bird Fair auction this year

Winter tours – explains the delights of winter birding in northeast Spain

Seawatching excursions – Balearic Shearwaters, Pomarine Skuas, and what else?

Best Accommodation for birders – don’t mess up your holiday by choosing the wrong place to stay. Take our informed advice. It’s free.

Accommodation for birders in Spain


Stone Curlew nest and chick

In the course of our plain birds photo trip season we set up a couple of hides for Bee-eaters. At one of these one of our guests told us that there was a Stone Curlew’s nest just a few metres behind the hide! He had watched and photographed the adult birds on and around the nest.


Stone Curlew, Burhinus oedicnemus.

We made careful note of the nest’s location, it was no easy task to locate without references, and made an additional hole in the back of the hide to allow our guests to photograph Stone Curlews and Bee-eaters in the same session. Entrance and exit from the hides was carried out with great care and efficiency to ensure minimum disturbance to the birds.

Stone Curlew nest with eggs.

There were two speckled eggs deposited in a tiny scoop in the soft earth. One day from the hide the occupant watched the eggs hatch, the next day there was no sign of adults or the nidifugous chicks.

A week or so later I was setting up a hide in a new location where there were largish gatherings of Stone Curlews. I had chosen a likely-looking spot and had already planted the hide when I noticed something at barely a metre from where I was standing. I looked closer, and saw a fluffy little Stone Curlew chick! It couldn’t have been more than a few days old, and was lying completely motionless, putting complete faith in its “invisibility”. After taking a couple of quick shots I made a hasty retreat to allow the adult birds to return and move their chick on to a safer spot.

Stone Curlew chick

Stone Curlews: the benefits and dangers of not being seen!