Catalonia Today: Eagle Owl

Birding in Catalonia – The Eagle Owl

Birding is a pastime where no two days are ever the same. Regardless of whether you want them to be or not.

I was reminded of this recently. Returning home after escorting our youngest son to school I had hardly re-entered the flat when my wife urged me to grab my binoculars and telescope and to undertake the 15-minute drive to the village of Castelldans.

A group of 4 Swiss birders were eagerly awaiting my arrival. They were keen to see some of the key birds of the drylands of Alfés, above all the elegant Pin-tailed Sandgrouse.

Before long we were all standing on the edge of an area that I knew was good for the Sandgrouse. Our first find, however, was an enchanting flock of some 20 Red-billed Choughs, strolling around and pecking at the ground in their usual lively manner. Over a nearby rocky ridge a Kestrel was kicking up a ruckus, plunging, circling and calling hysterically. I raised my binoculars to see what all the fuss was about. My eyes goggled.
eagle owl illustration
“Good God! An Eagle Owl!” I exclaimed.
My Swiss companions’ optics all immediately homed in on the magnificent bird sitting on an exposed rocky perch. So did the flock of Choughs, which before long had joined forces with the Kestrel in haranguing the unwelcome visitor. The Eagle Owl held its ground, and merely turned its head to blink at its antagonists. However, when this rather hesitant troupe was reinforced by a mixed band of cackling Magpies and determined Jackdaws the owl must have realized that peace and quiet would have to be found elsewhere, and took to flight.

There was a spring in my step for the rest of the day. For undoubtedly there had been a kind of wild, unrepeatable magic in those 5 minutes. It makes me wonder what I’ll see the next time I come here looking for Sandgrouse.

For indications about where to see Eagle Owls (and more than 100 other species) see Steve West’s first book “Where the birds are in northeast Spain”.

The Eagle Owl also lends its name to one of the chapters in Steve West’s highly-praised second book “Flying over the Pyrenees, standing on the plains”.

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