Nappies and Lesser Grey Shrikes

Dear Steve

Lesser Grey Shrike photo

Photo by Eva Solanes

I have just finished reading your book (Flying over the Pyrenees
Standing on the Plains
) and must let you know how much I enjoyed it. I
found it to be informative, interesting and very amusing in parts. I
must say I can empathize with you about the nappy incident as I had a
similar experience whilst on holiday on the beach in Puerto Pollensa
when our daughter got a touch (well a lot really) of Franco’s
revenge and I had to bury the remains of her clothing on the beach, we
have never been back there and I have always felt hugely embarrassed and
ashamed as I know the Med is not tidal like the North Sea!

You have found yourself a really lovely part of the world to migrate to,
my husband and I enjoyed our day out with you immensely on our last visit to Spain and wish you every success with your book and look forward to reading the next one.



What nappy incident is Kathleen refering to? And how can nappies be related to Lesser Grey Shrikes? The answers are in “Flying over the Pyrenees, standing on the plains” .

Audouin’s Gull: Birding In Spain top 50 birds

Audouin’s Gull Larus audouinni

Audouin’s Gull

Photo courtesy of Peter Dunn

The Audouin’s Gull is present in Catalonia (Catalunya), northeast Spain, all year round. The world’s most important breeding colony is in the Ebro delta and consists of more than 10,000 pairs. Much smaller numbers remain in the region in the winter. The Audouin’s Gull is frequent in small numbers elsewhere along the coast in Tarragona, becoming irregular or scarce further north to Cap de Creus on the coast of Girona.

Birding itineraries from the web site where the Audouin’s Gull can be seen: Ebro delta north and south, Llobregat delta.
Distribution of Audouin’s Gull

Mysterious wetland near Lleida, Spain

Little Bittern, Squacco Heron, Night Heron, Purple Heron, Grey Heron, Cattle Egret – could all be nesting in a wetland near Lleida that used to be a rubbish tip. It was going cheap so Lleida City Council bought it, but they don’t really know what to do with it. While they’re sitting thinking about it at least the birds have shown enough initiative to use it as a nesting site.

So for the time being it’s just the odd poacher, the shepherd, the bird counter (me) and the birds. Until some rich, progressive-minded benefactor comes up with the cash to give it a facelift. As long as the birds keep coming, I don’t mind it too much as it is. I can listen to the Golden Orioles, the Melodious Warblers, and may even get a glimpse of the Kingfisher. There aren’t many places with more birds than people so close to Lleida city.

Audouin’s Gull: first for Navarra

On Friday the 20th June Gorka Gorospe, Byron Palacios and myself observed an adult Audouin’s Gull at the Laguna de Pitillas, in the east of Navarra,  in northern Spain.  According to Gorka, a local birder and the brain behind the Birding Navarra initiative, the species had never before been recorded in the region. In other words it was a first for Navarra. Congratulations, Gorka (he spotted it first!).

I should also say a thing or two about Pitillas itself. What a great birding site! It’s the largest and most important wetland site in Navarra, and just a stone’s throw from the semi-desert of the Bardenas Reales (that’s another story though). It has a reception area, a hide and marked trails and most important of all a lot of interesting birds. Apart from the Audouin’s Gull, which won’t be there when you visit, we also saw Bittern, Bearded Tit, 2 Ruddy Shelduck, Montagu’s Harrier, Red-crested Pochard, Calandra Lark, Short-toed Lark, Tawny Pipit, Little Ringed Plover, Bee-eater, Great Reed Warbler….

And with the San Fermines approaching, need I say more?

Roller in Spain needs home

Because of rising house prices in Spain, exacerbated by last year’s mortgage crisis and the slump in the construction trade decent affordable accommodation is getting hard to find. That’s especially so in the countryside and for new arrivals attempting to make themselves a home where they can raise a family. By means of illustration take a look at this notice found hanging on an almond tree in the drylands of Bellmunt:

“Fertile adult female Roller seeking dazzling adult male Roller. Must be home owner, preferably of sizeable hole in old tree, although new nest box also accepted. Ability to catch large insects and lizards and to carry out aerial displays will also be valued, although home ownership is a pre-requisite for breeding consent. Non-territorial male Rollers, and all female Rollers, please abstain.”

Luckily Rollers can still be seen in the drylands of Bellmunt, as well as in other dryland areas around Lleida, although decent nest sites are obviously scarce. Apart from the extent of suitable habitat, this is probably the single most important factor limiting the size of the Roller populations in northeast Spain.

Birders who have visited Extremadura are probably familiar with the nest boxes located on telegraph poles by the side of the road in certain areas. These nest boxes are largely aimed at Rollers and have been very successful. Isn’t it time to follow their example and put up some nest boxes for the Rollers reaching northeast Spain every spring?

This year’s breeding season is well under way, but it’s never too late to plan ahead and prepare to set up some Roller nest boxes before the drylands get plastered with signs like the one above.

Collared Pratincole in Spain: top 50 birds

Collared Pratincole Glareola pratincola

collared pratincole
The Collared Pratincole is a summer visitor to northeast Spain, normally present from April to September. Small numbers appear irregularly on spring passage at non-breeding sites. There is only one regular breeding site for Collared Pratincoles in the region.

Collared pratincole distribution
Birding itineraries in northeast Spain where you can see the Collared Pratincole: Ebro delta south and north

Lammergeier in Spain: top 50 birds

Lammergeier Gypaetus barbatus

Lammergeier in Spain: top 50 birds

In Spain the Lammergeier is currently restricted to the Pyrenees and pre-Pyrenees, where it is present all year round. Double-figure gatherings may occur at certain vulture restaurants.

distribution map of lammergeier in Spain
Birding itineraries in northeast Spain where you can observe the Lammergeier: Gistaín to Aínsa, Ordesa National Park, Hecho and Ansó valleys, Benasque, Rincón de Belagua, Selva de Iratí and Ori, Serra del Cadí, Aigüestortes west and east, Montsec range, Sierra de Guara west and east.

Another rare bird for Lleida: Cream-coloured Courser

On the 22nd April a lucky observer found a Cream-coloured Courser among a group of 6 Dotterel in a dryland area near Lleida. The observation was not reported until the bird had gone as it was in a sensitive area where Black-bellied Sandgrouse could breed this year. After the demise of the Dupont’s Lark in Catalonia the Black-bellied Sandgrouse, along with the Lesser Grey Shrike, is probably the most endangered bird species in this part of Spain. So in my mind the observer acted responsibly: getting his priorities right and putting the welfare of a rare breeding bird before the needs of local listers.

Luckily for all the first ever Cream-coloured Courser for the Lleida area turned up a couple of winters ago in a different dryland area to the north of Lleida, and stayed in place long enough to satisfy those who drove from Barcelona or Girona to see it. Of course then the local Lleida birders were the first on the scene. Including me!

Funnily enough there are other records of Cream-coloured Coursers on mainland Spain apparently associated with small flocks of Dotterels. How does that come about I wonder?

Spring arrivals part 2

Here is the second part of the first arrival dates for migrant birds arriving in the Lleida area this spring:

  • Alpine Swift Apus melba 16-Mar
  • Purple Heron Ardea purpurea 16-Mar
  • Black-eared Wheatear Oenanthe hispanica 16-Mar
  • Little Stint Calidris minuta 17-Mar
  • Wood Sandpiper Tringa glareola 17-Mar
  • Willow Warbler Phylloscopus trochilus 17-Mar
  • Short-toed Lark Calandrella brachydactyla 19-Mar
  • Spotted Redshank Tringa erythropus 21-Mar
  • Ringed Plover Charadrius hiaticula 21-Mar
  • Cuckoo 29-Mar
  • Savi’s Warbler Locustella luscinoides 29-Mar
  • Bonelli’s Warbler Phylloscopus bonelli 30-Mar
  • Swift Apus apus 31-Mar
  • Dunlin Calidris alpina 01-Apr
  • Turtle Dove Streptopelia turtur 01-Apr
  • Wryneck Jynx torquilla 03-Apr
  • Great Reed Warbler Acr. arundinaceus 03-Apr
  • Temminck’s Stint Calidris temminckii 04-Apr
  • Montagu’s Harrier Circus pygargus 04-Apr
  • Spectacled Warbler Sylvia conspicillata 04-Apr
  • Tawny Pipit Anthus campestris 06-Apr
  • Nightingale Luscinia megarhynchos 06-Apr
  • Quail Coturnix coturnix 06-Apr
  • Golden Oriole Oriolus oriolus 06-Apr
  • Red-footed Falcon Falco vespertinus 07-Apr
  • Black Tern Chlidonias niger 08-Apr
  • Whiskered Tern Chlidonias hybridus 08-Apr

Of these the only bird that seems to be “offtime” is the Red-footed Falcon, which in my experience normally makes its appearance at the beginning of May, virtually a month later than the date recorded here for this species.

Birds in Spain: spring arrivals

Spring has been around here in Lleida for some time now. According to weather reports from the UK it’s difficult to echo that statement further north.

So just for a bit of fun, let’s compare notes. The good (native and naturalized) birders from the general area around Lleida have been collecting observations of first spring arrivals of migratory bird species for the last few years. And rather than keeping them to ourselves, I thought “Why not share them with the international birding community?”. Someone out there might find this information useful or at least interesting.

Of course observations of first arrivals of migratory birds are not much use for scientifc purposes. Personally I think that such records should be extended to at least second and third observations, mostly in order to help to iron out anomalies, either in the bird world or in their human recorders.

But let’s be content with what there is, rather than gripe on about what there isn’t.

Below then are the first arrival dates for the migratory birds recorded in the Lleida area (northeast Spain) up until the 15th March. Birds recorded on later dates to follow.

SPECIES                                                                     DATE
Black Stork Ciconia nigra 19-Feb
Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius 19-Feb
Great Spotted Cuckoo Clamator glandarius 21-Feb
House Martin Delichon urbicum 23-Feb
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica 23-Feb
Garganey Anas querquedula 27-Feb
Black Kite Milvus migrans 01-Mar
Red-rumped Swallow Hirundo daurica 01-Mar
Ruff Philomaxus pugnax 02-Mar
Egyptian Vulture Neophron percnopterus 04-Mar
Short-toed Eagle Circaetus gallicus 06-Mar
Lesser Kestrel Falco naumanni 08-Mar
Ring Ouzel Turdus torquatus 09-Mar
Sand Martin Riparia riparia 09-Mar
Osprey Pandion haliaetus 12-Mar
Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus 13-Mar
Reed Warbler Acrocephalus scirpaceus 13-Mar
Booted Eagle Hieraaetus pennatus 13-Mar
Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava 13-Mar
Tree Pipit Anthus trivialis 13-Mar
Redstart Phoenicurus phoenicurus 14-Mar
Whinchat Saxicola rubetra 14-Mar

Page 16 of 17
1 14 15 16 17