Birding in Spain: where East meets West

Some appreciative words from Jim Mori, an American birder living in Japan:

On March 1, 2008, I had a great day in the drylands of Lleida with the pleasant company of Steve West. He is very adept in finding the birds and most species are easy to see in the open terrain of the region. The early morning was slightly overcast but pleasant, and the many flowering almond trees provided a fragrant and colorful backdrop. Among the various birds, we had good scope views of larks to sort out the Crested and Thekla Larks. Later, the Calandra Larks were much easier. There were also Red-legged Partridge, Bullfinch, Spotless Starling, Red-rumped Swallow, Chough, Southern Grey Shrike, and a flock of Pin-tailed Sandgrouse.

We returned to the atmospheric La Garbinada hotel for a full breakfast,
which included a glass of the local wine. Feeling pretty mellow for the
rest of the morning, I was not greatly disappointed in missing the Little
Owl we were looking for. There were many birds for the rest of morning,
including good views of Great Spotted Cuckoo, Red Kite, and a flock of
Little Bustards. We saw numerous raptors with Buzzards, Merlin, Marsh
Harrier, Hen Harrier, and a Golden Eagle.

In the afternoon we headed for the Montsec area. Along the cliffs there
were Rock Bunting, Alpine Accentors, Black Wheatear, and a pair of
Peregrines. Close by along the Noguera River there was a beautiful
Penduline Tit in bright plumage.

As the light was fading, I was impressed that Steve could find a Stone
while driving and scanning the fields. The bird is not so easy to
see even when you know where it is. It was especially gratifying to end the
trip with this bird since we had been searching for it all day.

With recent splits and lumps it is sometimes hard to figure out what is a
seperate species. Using various field guides and webpages, I decided the
Red-rumped Swallow was not a new species for me, since we have the same
bird in Japan. However, the Buzzard turned out to be a new bird since it is
split from the similar Eastern Buzzard in Japan. Overall, the exciting day
had over 50 species with 21 new ones for me.

Jim Mori

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