Hotspot 2020: the first week


Here in Catalonia Lleida is well known for its fog. And deservedly so. This week the sun came out for about half an hour, setting off memes and whatsapp funnies about the inhabitants of Lleida seeing the sun again after weeks of fog.

Understandably, birding in such conditions is a challenge, not just for the eyes, but also for the observer’s enthusiasm. Nevertheless, in a period with little work I’ve been able to get out and about on a few occasions, boosting the Hotspot list to 95 species.

The Black Stork at the Lleida city dump gave me a run for my money, and I was close to despair when at first a second visit to search for this bird drew a blank. There were hundreds of White Storks, but no Black Stork – that is until a car speeding around inside the dump put up a lot of the birds there, one of which was the Black Stork. The bird flew into the most conspicuous spot possible, making one think that “How could you possibly miss it?”.

White Storks and Black Stork at the local dump

Combining this with a quick visit to the Alfés plains and Aspa revealed Hawfinch and a good number of Redwings, two of the winter species I was keen on seeing.

The next sortie was to the western fringe of the Hotspot, with the hope of a Ferruginous Duck on a reservoir where it has been frequently recorded. A male Tufted Duck took its place, which tempered the mild disappointment of not finding any Ferruginous Ducks. Of note were 35 Shelducks, a juvenile Goshawk and about 15 Ruffs (no, they weren’t Golden Plovers) in an alfalfa field – in January!

Then the last visit was to Utxesa. I planned an early visit but when before dawn I pulled up the blinds to look outside the fog was dense, and I had to wonder if it was worth the effort. I soldiered on though, not one to appreciate the virtues of getting up early if it wasn’t for birding.

Birding in the fog

The fog did not lift. Walking under the pine trees at Utxesa was like walking around in the cloud forest, with the trees dripping rain drops. I could see virtually nothing, but by call picked up Firecrest and Short-toed Treecreeper. The birding highlight of the morning was a group of about 15 Siskins, which allowed me to approach within 10 metres. Something to enjoy before beating a retreat and planning the next excursion.

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