Spring Red-footed Falcon fall

There’s been quite an unprecedented fall of Red-footed Falcons in the drylands of Lleida over the last week or so. Reports of these little charmers in groups of from 3 to a dozen birds have come in from the drylands of Balaguer, Bellmunt and Alguaire-Almenar, and if nothing has been said about the drylands of Alfés it’s probably because the local birders are too busy counting them at other sites!

I was leading the Naturetrek Catalonia tour in the area when we unwittingly but gratefully bumped into our first Red-footed Falcon on Monday 12th May. One of the 13 participants pointed out the bird in question, “What’s that bird in the tree over there, Steve?”.

I confess that I didn’t get round to answering him (in the mode of humouring him, thinking to myself “I’d better look at his bird and tell him it’s a Kestrel before he gets narked with me”) for at least 10 minutes. Well, in my defence, it wasn’t easy coping with the barrage of birds that we encountered that morning: a dozen or so male Little Bustards calling, flying and chasing each other, a pair of Hobbys practising their aerobatic skills on a wandering Swallow, countless Calandra Larks trilling and jingling, a sentinel Southern Grey Shrike, even a couple of flyover Black-winged Stilts!

What a surprise I got when I eventually did focus his “kestrel” in my scope! “Crikey! A Red-footed Falcon! Wait a minute! Two in the same tree!”

We went on to see 6 Red-footed Falcons that morning (plus Kestrel, Lesser Kestrel and Hobby) and no fewer than 9 the following day in the drylands of Bellmunt. Adult and subadult males and females, enjoyed by all.

Such encounters are great when you’re out birding, and for me they’re even better when  you’re leading a tour and everyone gets to share in the experience.

Another good thing has also happened this week: it’s rained!

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