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!

Leave a Reply