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!

Birding In Spain’s November is Wallcreeper month tours 2023

Wallcreepers again!

        November is Wallcreeper Month tour

After last year’s runaway success (6 wallcreepers on one tour, 4 on another; more than 100 species on both 4-day tours) we are giving you – the keen birder – another chance if you missed this superb tour the first time round. Our advice: don’t miss it!

We’ve changed the itinerary of the Wallcreeper Tour a little, adding an extra day to take in some great birding in the Ebro Delta. That means there’ll be even more birds to look forward to!

Take note of the November is Wallcreeper Month tour dates:
1. Tour 1 November 5th to November 9th
2. Tour 2 November 12th to November 16th

See all the details, including the price, by clicking November wallcreeper month tour info 2023.

Spring 2023 reports 4: Pallid Swifts, Little Bustards and Pin-tailed Sandgrouse

Jacob and Daniel – two keen and well-traveled birders from the USA –  contacted us at short notice for 3 days of birding between Barcelona and Lleida.

They were wise, and took our advice (Hey – we’re Birding In Spain and we know a fair bit about the birds in Spain – we’ve been creating, organizing and leading birding tours here since the last millenium; and we live here), so we had one day around Barcelona and almost two days around Lleida.

Birds of Barcelona – Pallid Swift, Little Tern, Whiskered Tern, Little Bittern, Blue Rock Thrush, Audouin’s Gull, Iberian Green Woodpecker, Spoonbill, Greater Flamingo, Western Bonelli’s Warbler, Western Subalpine Warbler, Dartford Warbler, Spotted Flycatcher, Pied Flycatcher …

Western Subalpine Warbler

Birds of Lleida day 1: Red-footed Falcon, Little Bustard, Roller, Egyptian Vulture, Short-toed Eagle, Montagu’s Harrier, Great Spotted Cuckoo, Little Owl, Eurasian Hobby, Golden Oriole, Western Orphean Warbler, Red-rumped Swallow, Sardinian Warbler …

Red-footed Falcon in flight

Great Spotted Cuckoo – noisy!

Birds of Lleida day 2: Eagle Owl, Black-eared Wheatear, Tawny Pipit, Rock Sparrow, Red-billed Chough, Pin-tailed Sandgrouse, Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Penduline Tit, Turtle Dove… then it was time to take the early afternoon train back to Barcelona from Lleida.

Eagle Owl on perch

It was quite an intense 3-day birding tour, but an incredibly successful one too!

  • Note: all photos worked from originals by Dave Bassey

Spring 2023 reports 2: Imperial Eagles, bustards and Bluethroats

Walking with the lavender in Monfragüe National Park, Extremadura

A quick look at Kath and Mick’s Easy Extremadura Tour

Dates: 10th to 25th April

  • 8 nights Hospedería de Monfragüe, Torrejón el Rubio
  • 6 nights Trocha de Hoyorredondo

This was the UK couple’s third tour with Birding In Spain. We enjoy each other’s company!

The good points of Hospedería de Monfragüe include:

  • The Monfragüe National Park on the doorstep
  • Great Spotted Cuckoo on the edge of Torrejón el Rubio on one morning’s pre-breakfast walk
  • Local birds include Spanish Sparrow, Hoopoe, Red-rumped Swallow, Bee-eater, Black Vulture, Egyptian Vulture, Booted Eagle, Iberian Magpie and more
  • Large, spacious hotel with bar and places to enjoy your beer, good service, reasonable food in the restaurant
  • The possibility to meet up with other birders and birding groups

The good points of the Trocha del Hoyorredondo are quite distinct

  • Small, delightful, secluded rural hotel
  • Personal service by the owner, and excellent food
  • Easy access to great birding areas around the Sierra de Gredos and the plains to the north
  • Local birds include Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Wryneck, Iberian Magpie, Golden Oriole, Red-rumped Swallow, Short-toed Eagle, Booted Eagle, Rock Sparrow

Birding hotel for the Sierra de Gredos: Trocha de Hoyorredondo

Extremadura sites visited:

Arrocampo – Well-known wetland area with reedbeds and hides. Highlight birds for us here were Savi’s Warbler (6+), Little Bittern (6), Purple Swamphen, Penduline Tit, Purple Heron, Spoonbill, Gull-billed Tern and Iberian Grey Shrike.

Monfragüe National Park – Two visits here enabled us to see birds such as Eagle Owl (adult and chicks), Spanish Imperial Eagle, Black Stork, Cinereous (Black) Vulture, Egyptian Vulture, Rock Bunting, Blue Rock Thrush, Alpine Swift, Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Western Black-eared Wheatear, Western Orphean Warbler, Western Subalpine Warbler, Rock Sparrow, Spanish Sparrow, Egyptian Goose and Peregrine Falcon.

Alcollarín, Sierra Brava and nearby plains – Two visits to this area gave us a small selection of waders including Wood Sandpiper and Spotted Redshank, a beautiful male Pied Flycatcher, Spoonbill, Eurasian Wigeon, Collared Pratincole, a melanistic Montagu’s Harrier, Greater Short-toed Lark and an Otter.

The Cáceres-Trujillo plains – excellent views of Great Bustards and Little Bustards on both visits, Pin-tailed Sandgrouse, Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Little Owl, Lesser Kestrel, European Roller. Pallid Swift in Trujillo.

Other sites: Sierra San Pedro, Villuercas, Almonte river, N-IV

Oh yes! We stumbled across a Great Snipe on the Almonte River on 13th April

Gredos was the second leg of our tour

Bluethroat (oh, delightful Bluethroats!), Common Rock Thrush, Water Pipit, Spanish Imperial Eagle, Golden Eagle, White-throated Dipper, Crested Tit, Firecrest, Western Bonelli’s Warbler, Dartford Warbler, Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Wryneck …

Little Bittern: we saw about 6 of these one morning at Arrocampo reservoir. Photo by Dave Bassey

The plains to the north treated us to Great Bustards, Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Hen Harrier, Montagu’s Harrier, Lesser Kestrel, and more. Well worth the visit!

There were mammals and butterflies too – quite a few!-  but maybe we can keep that until later.

Spring 2023 tour reports 1: Dupont’s Larks and Lammergeiers

This is a brief tour summary of an early spring birding tour in northeast Spain.

Peter and Sue came from the UK for a private spring tour in northeastern Spain, from 20th March to 4th April. The birding tour started and finished at Barcelona.

We spent the first 5 nights at the homely and welcoming Rincon del Cierzo just south of Belchite. As Birding In Spain we have been staying at this hotel, ideally located for the Dupont’s Lark, for about 15 years now.

Staying at the Rincon del Cierzo included 5 Little Owls and a ride in one of Alejandro’s vintage cars!

Then we spent 5 nights at Hosteria de Guara, in Bierge, Sierra de Guara Natural Park. This hotel is another of those that Birding In Spain has been staying at for longer than we care to remember. It’s faultless!

We spent the last 4 nights at a 4-star hotel near Puigcerdà, in the Catalan Pyrenees, and within easy reach of the Cadí-Moixero Natural Park.

Pedraforca in the Cadí Natural Park, Catalan Pyrenees. Superb scenery, but what about the birds?

Some birding highlights of the tour:

En-route from Barcelona on day 1 we birded near Lleida, observing Little Bustards, an Eagle Owl on the nest, Mediterranean Short-toed Larks, Calandra Larks, and Rock Sparrows.

On our daily excursions from our first base at the Rincón del Cierzo we encountered …

Short-toed Eagle, Booted Eagle, Egyptian Vulture, Northern Goshawk, Golden Eagle (6), Lesser Kestrel, Eurasian Hobby, Montagu’s Harrier, Red-billed Chough, Stone Curlew, Pin-tailed Sandgrouse, Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Red-rumped Swallow, Blue Rock Thrush, Penduline Tit, Iberian Grey Shrike, Alpine Swift, Black Wheatear, Western Black-eared Wheatear, Spectacled Warbler, Dartford Warbler, Western Bonelli’s Warbler, Little Owl (5 at one time behind the hotel!), Night Heron, Water Pipit, Wryneck, Greater Flamingo (What? Where?) …

And of course the larks! Dupont’s Lark eventually gave us an excellent show running, perched and singing and songflight, but we worked hard for it! Then there were bucket-loads of Mediterranean Short-toed Larks, Calandra Larks, Thekla’s and Crested Larks, and Woodlarks.

That’s the way to do it! Yep, just like that it was, the Dupont’s Lark. But it made us sweat…

Next, with Hosteria de Guara as our base we enjoyed the marvellous scenery of the Sierra de Guara Natural Park and some good birds too …

Lammergeier, Peregrine Falcon, Iberian Green Woodpecker, Western Subalpine Warbler, Firecrest, Alpine Chough, Hawfinch, Rock Bunting, and others

En-route to our hotel near Puigcerdà we caught up with a pair of Bonelli’s Eagles – what a bird!

Daily excursions from the mountain hotel brought us close to birds such as Citril Finch, Ring Ouzel, White-throated Dipper, Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Wryneck, Common Redstart, and more.

The tour ended at Barcelona, but the spring had just begun …

Gekko Art is … getting noticed?

Thanks for the few but very encouraging comments we received about our arty offerings.

Now, without wanting to milk the cow dry, I’m going to publish one more batch of Gekko Art before moving on to something else. Hope you like it!

Goshawk, by Adam

The Goshawk is mean. You wouldn’t want to be that poor pigeon held captive under its claws looking up into that cruel orange eye as the beast plucks your feathers without a smear of pity for you in your death throes … but that’s nature too folks.

Lammergeier, by Jan

The original didn’t quite manage to get the whole bird in the frame, a fact which was scoffed at by other bird photographers, in part motivated by their jealousy of the photographer’s commercial success I daresay. I was a direct witness to that. On a different note there’s beauty all over the Lammergeier, and I don’t think that you need to see the wing tips to know that they are there, so I zoomed in on the bird even more.

Narcissi are not birds

Is it a coincidence that this, a work with flowers and not birds, is Florinda’s favourite? I like it too, mind you, as I fancifully imagine that it takes me closer to another being’s vision: perhaps that of an insect?

Tell me you want to see more, and I’ll keep them coming!

Spring 2023 reports 3: Citril Finches, Great Spotted Cuckoos and migrants galore

Little-Bustards-males and female, on the drylands of Lleida, by Dave Brassey

This was a Heatherlea tour led by Steve West and John Muddemann

Heatherlea-group-2023: Spain for birds and butterflies tour

Birds and butterflies was the focus

  • We got lots of birds, and some interesting butterflies too, despite the poor weather limiting “butterfly days” to a couple of mornings and an afternoon!
  • We spent 3 days near Puigcerdà, and 3 days in Birding In Spain’s home town, Lleida

Some birds from our Puigcerdà base were:

Citril Finch, Lammergeier, Ring Ouzel, Common Rock Thrush, Alpine Chough, Water Pipit, Common Crossbill, Yellowhammer, Red-backed Shrike, Iberian Green Woodpecker, Ortolan Bunting, Rock Bunting, Cirl Bunting, Grasshopper Warbler, Pied Flycatcher, Spotted Flycatcher, Quail, Common Redstart, Western Bonelli’s Warbler, Western Orphean Warbler, Short-toed Eagle, Booted Eagle, Egyptian Vulture …

Citril Finch in the Catalan Pyrenees, by Dave Brassey

Alpine-Chough-in the Pyrenees of Catalonia, by Dave Brassey

Despite the late dates there were tons of migrant songbirds in the gallery woodland near the first hotel: remarkable numbers of Pied Flycatchers and Spotted Flycatchers, as well as Common Redstarts, Nightingales, Common Whitethroats, Garden Warblers, and more. We had a group of 10 Whinchats in a field and a singing Grasshopper Warbler too. Great!

ON the first day the tour had started with a visit to the Llobregat Delta, and here we saw:

Balearic Shearwater, Northern Gannet, Audouin’s Gull, Kentish Plover, Common Ringed PLover, Little Ringed Plover, Collared Pratincole, Icterine Warbler, Squacco Heron, Purple Heron, Red-crested Pochard, Black-winged Stilt, Alpine Swift, Hoopoe, Bee-eater, Little Tern, Greater Flamingo, Spoonbill …

Audouin’s-Gulls on the beach near Barcelona, by Dave Brassey

Of course the Icterine Warbler was a pleasant and surprising find, as in this part of Catalonia it is a scarce to rare migrant.

En-route between Puigcerdà and Lleida we tracked down Red-rumped Swallow, Bonelli’s Eagle and Western Subalpine Warbler. It needed a little patience, but was worth it.

Then the birds around Lleida were almost too many to name…

Wetlands: Penduline Tit (at nest), Little Bittern, Night Heron, Turtle Dove, Kingfisher, Melodious Warbler, Great Reed Warbler, European Bee-eater, Eurasian Hoopoe, Golden Oriole …

Penduline-Tit-at nest near Lleida, by Dave Brassey

Drylands: Pin-tailed Sandgrouse, Little Owl, Eagle Owl (at 2 separate locations), Little Bustard, Montagu’s Harrier, Eurasian Hobby, Cinereous Vulture, Red-footed Falcon, Lesser Kestrel, Honey Buzzard, Osprey, European Roller, Stone Curlew, Mediterranean Short-toed Lark, Greater Short-toed Lark, Calandra Lark, Iberian Grey Shrike, and … Great Spotted Cuckoo.

I’ll never forget the Great Spotted Cuckoos! We had four together at one time, just after seeing another 3 at a different location. They allowed us to get close and watch them going about their business. Wonderful!

And the folks? A really nice bunch.

More? Well, you could probably ask for more from a birds and butterflies tour to Catalonia in May, although you’d risk appearing rather greedy if you did. The best way of getting more would be to come on next year’s tour!

Gorgeous Wallcreepers

Taken from Flying over the Pyrenees, standing on the plains

But let me assure you that if having made that inhuman effort to reach its favourite, almost inaccessible cliff, and after having craned your neck for half an hour staring up mindlessly at a huge, overpowering block of limestone, if then you are fortunate enough to actually set eyes on this bird with carmine butterfly flashing wings you won’t regret anything. As you stand there pressing your binoculars into your eye sockets, contemplating one of the milliard of nature’s true wonders, that tiny figure flickering and flitting across the face of that immense wall, you somehow manage to hold your breath; perhaps you fear that just in breathing you have the power to shatter that magical moment before it can be properly etched onto your memory.

As you stand there pressing your binoculars into your eye sockets, contemplating one of the milliard of nature’s true wonders, that tiny figure flickering and flitting across the face of that immense wall, you somehow manage to hold your breath;

Small talk and Great Bustards

Taken from Flying over the Pyrenees, standing on the plains

A loose group of females is standing nearby; they are idly pecking at the grass and feigning disinterest as only females can. Nevertheless, the Great Bustard’s hormones are doing their relentless work on his body and, incapable of ignoring their dictates the male prepares himself for action. First of all he makes use of a series of strange gulps and exhalations to inflate his gular pouch into a large, dangling balloon; then he forces his head back onto his mantle while aiming the whiskers on his chin directly up at the sky in front of his eyes; simultaneously he tilts his body upwards and cocks his fanned out tail forward to almost touch his back-thrusted head; then he stretches his wings downwards and backwards from the shoulders, twisting them to show much white, previously hidden from view. Possessed and drivenhe begins to trample his feet rhythmically and rotates his whole body from side to side, causing his oversized gular pouch to swing about wildly. In a matter of seconds this huge, respectable bird has ballooned itself into an enormous, streaky white marshmallow.

In a matter of seconds this huge, respectable bird has ballooned itself into an enormous, streaky white marshmallow.

Hamsters and Red-necked Nightjars

Taken from Flying over the Pyrenees, standing on the plains

It wasn’t long before a bird flew up from under someone’s feet and drifted silently to rest in the shade of a nearby pine tree. Duly beckoned with urgent gestures and whispers the clients all gathered round, Kevin at the forefront, and with raised binoculars we all stood in silent admiration of a Red-necked Nightjar’s beautiful, intricately patterned plumage. Perhaps it was a minute, perhaps two, as the bird sat stiller than a sentinel, surveying us with the merest slit of an opened eye before taking flight once more, aware that its cloak of invisibility had slipped from its mantle.

                           Red-necked nightjar

No-one could resist another look, and so we were all enticed to follow our reluctant star a little further. I strode forward with the rest, but then something halted me in my tracks: there concealed in the dip between two hummocks and the edge of the pinewood I saw a parked car, and two figures quickly separating. My first instinct was to display a knowing grin, but a flash of recognition wiped it instantly from my face. I knew both members of the couple, and also that both were married to partners other than the one they had obviously been embracing. They were parents of children who went to the same school as my sons. Out here! In the middle of my Red-necked Nightjar site! Who would have guessed? I crouched down and backed off as quickly and surreptitiously as I could, clenching my teeth and praying that they had not seen me.

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