Summer birding

Summer birding
Oh well, oh well, oh well…

Summer birding had me a blast

Summer birding birds coming fast

I saw some birds brand new for me

In Catalonia, good as can be

Summer days drifting away

To-ah! Oh, the summer nights

Well-a, well-a, well-a, huh

Tell me more, tell me more

Did you go very far?

Tell me more, tell me more

Was it hot in the car?

“Summer birding” lyrics adapted from, well, you know, surely.

Was it hot in the car? No, thanks to the air-conditioning. But it certainly was hot outside at times!

Summer birding in Catalonia, as in other parts of Spain, can be a challenge. With maximum temperatures hovering around 40ºC, and sometimes more, with many birds having dispersed away from their breeding territories, with those that have stayed being quite inactive to cope with the heat, the dust, the haze…

So why would you come birding in the summer and, if you do, how to go about looking for some of the birds that you want to see?

Why? Well, if you’re like Donna from Canada who could only come for a week in July, that’s a good reason. There are still a lot of good birds you can see that you won’t see if you don’t come!

How? Get up early and be ready for first light. Then plan your route carefully, with knowledge of what birds you might see, where to find them, how to best connect the locations without spending too much time travelling, and then perhaps end the birding day by early afternoon, preferably somewhere shady if you can.

So, Donna came for a spot of summer birding and, in her own words, it looks like she had a good time:

Dear Steve (and Florinda!):

I couldn’t have asked for or wanted a better guide.  Everything was absolutely perfect and I would not have changed a thing.  You made this trip one I will always remember.  Finding so many birds for me to look at and enjoy.  Sighting rarities that were amazing.  You are truly the best.  And all these findings in the last week of July.

I had so much fun.  Trying new food, enjoying perfect accommodations, shopping for an adapter and a new suitcase.  You went well beyond your duty as a bird guide. 

I now buy only olive oil from Spain.  I made Spanish Gazpacho.  I rub ripe tomatoes on my bread.  I learned so much more than just birds from you and I am grateful.

Catalonia’s scenery is breathtaking and I feel that I saw so much of what it had to offer.  The Delta, the grasslands, the hills, the orchards, and the farmlands. 

I could never thank you enough for such a wonderful experience.

Thank you Donna! It’s satisfaction like that which keeps us going, through the quiet periods, and the busy ones!

We started and finished at Barcelona; first birding in the Ebro Delta, and from there went on to Lleida. Lleida has the dryland plains, interesting farmland, birds of gallery woodland and inland wetalnds, and the foothills of the Pyrenees. There was plenty for us to do and birds to find in the five days. Rollers, Pin-tailed Sandgrouse, Bee-eaters, Little Owl, Montagu’s Harrier, Bee-eaters, Black-eared Wheatear, Hoopoes, Booted Eagles, Short-toed Eagles, Little Bittern, Squacco Heron, Purple Swamphen, Egyptian Vulture, …

Donna took quite a few photos too.

European Bee-eater by Donna.
European Roller by Donna.
Squacco Heron by Donna.

And there are plenty more bird photos where they came from!

New and cool! Midsummer Central Spain Tour

We think you may have missed this the first time round, so…

NEW! From Birding In Spain…

An exciting new Midsummer tour in Spain, with …

Wallcreeper Tichodroma muraria

Wallcreepers are one of the star attractions

Alpine or Yellow-billed Chough

Alpine or Yellow-billed Chough. Photo by Franck Renard

Imagine those high altitude species – Wallcreeper, Alpine Chough, Alpine Accentor and Snow Finch – almost at your feet!

Spanish Imperial Eagle

Spanish Imperial Eagle. Photo by Dirk van de Peer.

Raptors include Spanish Imperial Eagle, Black Vulture and European Honey Buzzard.

The sierra de Gredos has dehesa, rock slopes, forests, valleys and mountain passes, and lots of birds!

Red-backed Shrike Lanius collurio

Red-backed Shrike. Photo by Colin Bradshaw

Ortolan Bunting

Ortolan Bunting Emberiza hortulana

Rock Bunting Emberiza cia

Rock Bunting. Photo by Colin

Western bonelli's Warbler Phylloscopus bonelli

Western bonelli’s Warbler. Photo by Colin

And down on the plains…

Great Bustard Otis tarda

Great Bustard. Photo by Johan

Bustards, sandgrouse, larks, Montagu’s Harriers and more.
… and Butterflies

Western Marbled White

Western Marbled White. Photo by Susan Hengeveld.

On our trial tour in June 2022 we identified over 50 species of butterfly without trying too hard. There’ll be no rest for butterfly enthusiasts!
… and Stunning Scenery

Picos de Europa view

Picos de Europa view

Picos de Europa view

Picos de Europa view

Here you will enjoy some of the best mountain scenery in Spain

And all the rest that goes to make for an unforgettable tour…

  • Good hotels with local flavour
    Good food and wine
    The right pace
    Well-planned logistics
    Professional guiding
    Good weather? (please!)

Central Spain tour map

Central Spain tour map

A thoroughly enjoyable holiday in very capable hands. Because we’re serious about your free time.

** Bear in mind that we can also tailor any tour we offer to suit private tours for couples or group tours of 4 people or more. The main benefit to you of having more people in your group is, well, being with your friends!

Dates: 14th to 21st June

Tour price – 1775 euros

It’s hard to believe, but there are still places available on this unique bird, butterfly and nature tour! Contact us to find out more.

Protected: Oh, not another winter Wallcreeper!

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Winter has come, there are birds to be seen!

Winter is more than Wallcreepers

Is winter coming, or is it here already? Judging from our recent 6 days in the field in northeast Spain, and comparing them to what was happening in the region only the week before, it is tempting to say that winter is indeed here. The snow on the Pyrenees lies thick at the summits, and the wind is cold. However, only last week we were still drifting along on a seemingly never-ending summer, and in our birding minds this led to growing apprehension for the apparent lack of Wallcreepers in their usual wintering haunts in the Pre-Pyrenees. But all that changed in the first week in November.

Winter Wallcreeper, Tichodroma muraria

Winter Wallcreeper, Tichodroma muraria

Our first tingle of excitement with incoming wintering birds was when we stumbled on a mixed flock of Chaffinches and Bramblings on the edge of Lleida. But the Bramblings outnumbered the Chaffinches! To put that in context, sometimes we go for whole winters and might only see one or two Bramblings here.

Then, a few days later, we stopped to watch a field of Mistle Thrushes and discovered that in fact there were no fewer than 4 species of thrush hopping about in that field: Mistle, Song, Fieldfare and Redwing. Later that day and the next we came across Redwings on several occasions. Only a year ago I was thinking that Redwings were almost a thing of past winters in our part of Spain, having seen so few in the last ten years or so.

Hawfinch, Coccothraustes coccothraustes

Hawfinch, Coccothraustes coccothraustes

“All we need now is a Hawfinch or two to complete the winter visitor set” I said to Erica and Jonas as we drove along after seeing the thrushes. Well, would you believe it … in under an hour we were watching several Hawfinches perched on top of dead trees, and that without making a detour from our return route to the hotel.

On a personal note the arrival of this winter weather was in the nick of time. We saw Wallcreepers at 3 different locations, one each on successive days, as well as a record number of 10 Alpine Accentors at one particular location. This was a great relief, as it meant we were not using the Wallcreeper’s name in vain when promoting our “Winter Wallcreeper Tours”.

Alpine Accentor, Prunella collaris

Alpine Accentor, Prunella collaris. By Franck Renard.

And then there were Robins every 50 metres along the road, little groups of Siskins calling as they flew overhead and, in the Ebro Delta, a rare Herring Gull from the north, and an even rarer Rough-legged Buzzard from the east. Well, yes, winter is here, and the birding looks like it’s going to be fun!

Scotland Marvellous May Tour 2020

Capercaillie with Birding In Spain Scotland Tour

Capercaillie – Birding In Spain’s Scotland Tour


Atlantic Puffin and Marvellous May Scotland Tour

Atlantic Puffin and Marvellous May Scotland Tour


Red-throated Diver and Marvellous May Scotland Tour

Red-throated Diver and our Marvellous May Scotland Tour


Slavonian Grebe and Marvellous May in Scotland

Slavonian Grebe and Marvellous May in Scotland


White-tailed Eagle, or Sea Eagle in Scotland

White-tailed Eagle, or Sea Eagle in Scotland

Isn’t May Marvellous? And Scotland too? Just imagine the two combined! Next year, 2020, we at Birding In Spain are running a 10-day birding and wildlife tour to get some of the best of what Scotland has to offer. You can read about it all by clicking on the link below, which will download a pdf describing the tour.

Scotland Marvellous May 2020 pdf

Tell us about the birds and the bees

Tell us about the birds and the bees

The birds and the bees, mmm, I think we’ll start off literally and see where it leads.
Alas, the canvas hide overlooking the pool has stood unloved for a couple of years now, if occupation for any nature-oriented purpose is anything to measure love by. In other words, I have had no time to spend in the hide enjoying some of the fruits of my many labours, and it’s a shame. It happens like this: before I can walk the 200 metres or so between my parked car and the pool there are just so many things that I see need attending to and I have so many ideas about what could be done that I can never quite make it.

For example:

• The compost isn’t doing anything – you could turn and water it.
• Check on how the trees are doing – water, aphids, nutrients…
• Turn over a log or move a branch in the wood pile to see if anything moves
• The stairs up to the pool need weeding/repairing
Weeding, there is always weeding to do. But are there enough edible weeds to gather and make them into a dish?
• Check to see if any of the flower seed is showing signs of life.
Scythe the grass
• Improve the paths

And so on, and so on, and so…

Thankfully, in my prolonged absence we have the trail cam to step into my shoes, and to at least bear witness to some of what goes on at the pool. With it’s motion detection and nocturnal flash function it’s the unsleeping eye – as long as the batteries last, and as long as it’s aligned properly.

How else would we have discovered that a Red Fox is a regular visitor to the pool, at night, and even at 9 in the morning? Or that Badgers are in the area, and visit when all is dark and still? And that at last those couple of stray tick-infested dogs seem to have moved on?

Red Fox at the Pou del Mano drinking pool

Red Fox at the Pou del Mano drinking pool


Badger at the drinking pool

Badger at the Pou del Mano drinking pool

Having said “badger” reminds me of a badge I used to wear at Sixth-form college, when I was an active member of Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace, trying to get people interested in saving the world’s wildlife. It read “Don’t badger the badger”, which in itself is quite a succinct endorsement of the English language ie “badger” can be used as a verb as well as a noun and slots perfectly into a 4-word catchword to convey the message: “Leave the badgers alone, they are not your scapegoats”. Unfortunately there’s no trace of the badge among my personal belongings, and worse yet, I can’t even trace it on the Internet. Has anyone out there ever had one of those badges, and still got it? If so, I’d love to hear from you.

It seems the idea of slaughtering badgers (called “culling” when you have to justify it to constituents or customers) resurfaces every decade or so in the UK, as in its day my old badge was a response to ongoing badger culls in the early 1980s, while the Guardian article below relates to a proposed cull in 2010.

By the way, if you read the article it virtually destroys the logic of any proposed badger slaughter, and please let’s not get started on “Seals eat our fish”, and “Fox-hunting is needed to control the vermin”, and all that kind of nonsense.

Back to the camera: more than 30 species of birds were recorded in the first couple of winter sessions, including the locally scarce Brambling and Hawfinch. Unfortunately, the camera wasn’t set for the spring migration, when I was hearing regular bursts of song from Wryneck, Bonelli’s Warbler and even Grasshopper Warbler. Hopefully next year…

Bumble bee on flower

Bumble bee on flower

And the bees? Well, one of the measures that you can take to encourage native bees is to provide water for them. They need nectar and pollen sources, soft banks to nest or roost in, patches of exposed earth and water. Although the hard truth is that we’ve had more interest at the pool from wasps and even dragonflies than from bees, it’s still early days yet, and once the drought has come to an end hopefully much of the flower seed we have sown will grow into flowers, attracting bees who will then need a drink after gorging themselves on abundant nectar. Either way, we’re going to have a lot to say about bees …

Next chapter: The frog in the well

What real people say about Birding In Spain:

Julie and Roger Knourek (USA), Marvellous May 2019

Hello Steve and Florinda! We’re back in Arizona, rested up and ready to travel to Wyoming for the rest of the summer. I just wanted to take a minute to thank you for the Marvelous May trip we recently went on with you. Everything worked out perfectly – the birding was excellent, the hotels and food were wonderful, and we enjoyed everyone’s friendship and companionship while we were on the tour. I really appreciate that you were able to accommodate our needs when necessary. It was truly one of the highlights of our lives!!! I will post a few pictures when we get to WY and get settled in. Thanks so much!

We recommend:

Marvellous May Scotland Tour 2020

  • information to follow

Wonderful Winter Wallcreeper Short Break

Being a local bird tour specialist – both agency and guide – must be like being an actor – you can’t escape first-day nerves and uncertainties.

Will the Wallcreepers be there at the first site?Will everyone get to see them? Or will we have to use one of the back-up sites and bear the weight of undelievered expectations until a Wallcreeper finally flutters into view?

Can the forecast be trusted? Will it really rain on Tuesday, or should we go ahead with our original itinerary?

Will everyone in the group be in shape enough to make the walk to the entrance to the gorge?

And so on. Until you walk onto stage, move into gear, and flow with the motion, letting the years of experience do their thing while you get that nagging voice of doubt to sit down and shut up. Under promise, over deliver. Let the group dynamics furnish most of the input, just add a drop of oil now and then on a few rusty spots. And above all, let people enjoy themselves – they’re on holiday, after all – whether it’s with rare Wallcreepers or abundant Griffon Vultures.

Wonderful Winter Wallcreeper Tour

You can join us on one of these Wonderful Winter Wallcreeper Tours in November 2019 or February 2020. It’s an interactive performance.


Birding In Spain’s Gift Pack – what a great idea!

About the Birding In Spain Gift Pack now available:

Looking for a Christmas gift that will leave the loved one(s) open-mouthed with delight?

You must know that birders already have bird books, binoculars and apps, but that nobody – even the most experienced birder – has travelled the whole world and seen all of its birds and natural wonders.

two birding together

                                     Two birding together

Have they ever been birding in Spain? If not, can you think of a better way to make them a gift that they’ll enjoy and remember for a long time?

Birding In Spain is easy, safe and really enjoyable. Here’s how to do it:

Birding In Spain gift card

                                  Birding In Spain gift card

  1. Look at the website, and download our brochure to see what kind of tours we put on offer, who we are, etc.
  2. Decide if you want to participate in one of the set tours, or if you want us to design a private tour for you.
  3. Decide how much you want to spend on your gift for now. The minimum of 50 euros won’t buy you a tour but it will ensure you a provisional place on one until all the details have been arranged and confirmed.
  4. Send us all the the details you can about yourselves, approximate dates, tour interest, etc, as well as what text and details you  would like us to incorporate on the personalized gift card.
  5. Birding In Spain Gift Pack Special! Purchase before 31st December 2018 and enjoy a 5% discount from the brochure price from any set tour, and a bottle of local wine or cava during your tour.
  6. Receive your personalized gift card from us. It’s a guarantee of our compromise with you. Merry Christmas!

Autumn Iceland Tour 2018? Yeah!

When planning this Iceland Tour for 2018 and 2019, I was asked why the autumn? Everybody knows that the best time for visiting Iceland is in the short summer, when the days are long and the birds are frantically set on their breeding activities and on raising their young. By September most of the migrants (those that there are!) have already gone, the weather can suddenly turn,…

Skogafoss Waterfall, Iceland

                          Skogafoss waterfall, Iceland

All that is true. So at the time I was less eloquent in my answer, babbling something about the Northern Lights (which are not seen in June, but there’s a reasonable chance in September), about Glaucous and Iceland Gulls everywhere, wintering and passage geese flocks, and the chance of some lovely autumn days. I don’t think I was that convincing.

White-tailed Eagle, Iceland

                            Immature White-tailed Eagle in northern Iceland

So now, after our first Iceland autumn tour I’ll let the photos do the talking – well, most of it! For the record though:

Humpback Whale

                                                   Humpback Whale spouting

  • We came close to Humpback Whales on a beautifully calm day, on a lovely old fishing boat, and with snow-capped mountains framing the photos
  • The Ptarmigans we encountered all had white “trousers” and were in different stages of donning their snowy winter plumage
  • We had flocks of geese: Greylag, Pink-footed, Greenland White-fronted, Brent and the vagrant Canada Goose.
  • On one day we saw 5 merlins and 2 White-tailed Eagles, among other things

Whale-watching boat and fjord, Iceland

                                   Whale-watching in northern Iceland

  • We had days when the scenery and the weather were aligned just perfectly (we also had days when it was windy and downright freezing!)
  • Glaucous and Iceland gulls were indeed all around, as were Common Seals
  • Gyrfalcon, Arctic Fox, Grey Seal, Barrow’s Goldeneye, Harlequin Duck, Purple Sandpiper, Black Guillemot, divers, scoters and more were all memorable features and moments
  • Good food, hotels in great locations, easy-going Icelanders and a really lovely group of participants made us just so content that everybody was going home happy

Iceland tour participants

                                    Autumn Iceland Tour participants 2018

All things permitting, we’ll be doing another Iceland autumn tour in 2019. Oh yes, and a summer tour as well.

Wonderful Winter Wallcreeper Tour and the Big Year Prize

We know, and we apologize. We haven’t appeared on the blog for months now. Now, it’s not as an excuse, but rather as information, that we can tell you we have been very busy working on a new Birding In Spain Tour brochure, and a great competition where prizes can be won every month. Additionally, there will be a Big Year Prize at the end of those 12 months, with the option of winning a place on one of our Wonderful Winter Tours Winter wallcreeper tour info (1) to take place in 2019 or 2012.

Wonderful Winter Wallcreeper Tour

Want to know more? Then get in touch via e-mail, or follow Birding In Spain on Facebook. There will be competition announcements on Twitter and Instagram, as well as on this blog.

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