About giving up birding – part 2

So heed the warning all you would-be convertees! A pair of binoculars is not a toy – it’s a life-long companion. However, for those still intent on giving up in spite of all the good advice, here are some suggestions:

Don’t do it. Life’s too short. You only have one innings. You’ll regret it. Stop.

Find something else you’re reasonably good at and convert it into a profitable activity. This suggestion is only really suitable for a very select few, as 99% of birders are no good at anything at all other than birding, and many of them not even at that.

Write a book or set up a web page about birds. That’s probably the gentlest way of reducing your real birding activity to almost nothing. Something about “when it becomes a chore…”, or “I spend so much time writing about them that I rarely have enough time…” etc.

Sell the car, move to a remote farmstead on Exmoor and become self-sufficient, or set up a basket-making cottage industry.

DO NOT take up train-spotting as a substitute activity.

Any further suggestions would be welcomed.

About giving up birding – part 1

Have you ever been under pressure from the loved one to stop birding and dedicate yourself to something more productive?

If so, here are some reflections on the matter…


So the long-suffering wife has apparently reaped her due rewards and converted her one-time birding companion into a fine, upstanding member of society; someone to be the father of her children; someone who, when’s she’s entertaining guests, isn’t afflicted by an overriding urge to sneak away now and then in the hope of adding to the bedroom window list or to puzzle over the “Monthly Marathon” in the British Birds magazine.

But how long can this state of affairs last? One year? Five? Ten? Sadly, statistics show that a converted birder’s return to the bosom of the birding world is a proven fact – there is almost the same possibility of a Willow Warbler not turning up somewhere on the south coast of England during spring migration as there is of a convert not picking up his binoculars ever again. To quote Keith, a fellow birder who I once coincided with at Dungeness, Kent “Birding’s in the blood”.

This, in my view, just about sums it up: birding is not a pleasant Sunday afternoon pursuit, a gentleman’s sport or a passing fad; it’s a totally addictive obsession, which once tried can never be entirely forgotten. You can leave it for a while but never for good. I myself have tried on several occasions, exclaiming things like “I really am giving up birding”, “After all, what’s the point of it?” or “It’s a waste of time”. And with what results? Just a flippin’ huge gap in my Norfolk list where Rhodostethia rosea should be. Aaaaaaaaaaagh! A beautiful summer-plumaged Ross’s Gull at Cley all afternoon! And I refused to go! And to think all I did was gaze out of the library window at panting dogs and student couples (also panting)!

Birdinginspain.com – our top 10 birds … continued

Birdinginspain.com – our top 10 … continued

Number 5: Black Woodpecker

The Black Woodpecker impresses by its size, its coloration and its powerful, far-carrying voice. The several encounters I’ve had with this species at its nest sites constitute some marvellous birding moments that I hope I will never forget.

You can find Black Woodpecker in Northeast Spain in this itinerary

Number 4: Pin-tailed Sandgrouse

Personally, I have a soft spot for sandgrouse, and luckily both species that can be seen in Europe are to be found here in northeast Spain.

If you ever get the chance to get close enough to this wary bird take a good long look at the wonderfully intricate designs on its plumage. As a ground nesting bird it is one of the masters of camouflage, but apart from that it’s a bird with a lot of character.

Not to be missed.

Number 3: Black-bellied Sandgrouse

The Black-bellied Sandgrouse is deservedly famous for its long flights to water pools and the male’s ability to soak his belly feathers with water and then fly back to the nest scrape to provide his chicks with precious droplets of water.

I’ve spent a lot of time scanning open fields in dryland areas for this emblematic species; I’ve been lucky at times, and at others the rocks I was staring at never moved.

Selected Black-bellied sandgrouse itinerary

Number 2: LammergeierThe Lammergeier is unique in many ways, not the least for its dietary habits seeing that it’s the only bird in the world that eats bones. It’s one of the biggest birds you can see in Spain, it’s majestic, silent, and inhabits some of the most remote and scenic areas in the country.

Excellent credentials that make it my number 2 bird in the region.

Here is a detailed itinerary with a high chance of seeing a Lammergeier, or even 10!

Number 1: Wallcreeper

I’m sure that I’m not alone in choosing the Wallcreeper as the number 1 bird of northeast Spain. It’s one of those birds that captivate both the imagination and the attention when it’s actually within sight. Or in other words, a bird that you really want to see and that when you do you actually spend a long time watching it.

A summer itinerary for Wallcreeper

A winter itinerary for Wallcreeper

That’s my own personal list, but what do you think? What are your top 10 favourites from the region? It could be a list of birds you have seen or else birds you want to see. If enough people send in their own lists we can really see what the most popular species are.

If you want to read more about these species and others then you would do well to get hold of a copy of my latest book “Flying over the Pyrenees, standing on the plains”. At the Birdinginspain.com website you can download a couple of free chapters, and you may also like to know that it was Subbuteo Natural History Book’s “Book of the month” in September 2007.

For full details about where to see these species and more in northeast Spain purchase a copy of my first book “Where the birds are in northeast Spain”.

Birdinginspain’s top 10 birds of northeast Spain

Birdinginspain.com – our top 10 birds

Here is our list of the most special 10 species of bird that occur regularly in northeast Spain. Of course the choice is entirely subjective, and depends on appreciation of things like attractiveness, rarity, behaviour or even habitat.

Below each species there is a link to a recommended itinerary from the Birdinginspain.com web page where it is possible to see the species.

Number 10: Red-backed Shrike

This species is one of the last summer migrants to reach its breeding grounds in Spain, and does so by migrating along the eastern Mediterranean and then following on through southern Europe before entering the Pyrenees.

Watch a Red-backed Shrike impaling an insect on a thorny bush in a green pasture with a beautiful mountain backdrop, take delight from the bird’s beautiful plumage and breathe the fresh air.

See the Red-backed Shrike here

Number 9: Hawfinch

The Hawfinch is a very localised breeder in this part of the world, so the easiest time to see it is in winter. Occasionally there are irruptions when groups of up to 50 birds can be seen, mostly in areas with a good number of Hackberries.

It’s a shy bird, often difficult to see well, but when you do it’s an experience to remember.

A winter itinerary for Hawfinch

Number 8: Bonelli’s Eagle

The Bonelli’s Eagle was SEO-Birdlife’s “bird of the year” in 2005. A magnificent and truly Mediterranean raptor, but unfortunately its range is shrinking and its population is declining. Electrocution, habitat fragmentation, disturbance at nest sites, even illegal shooting and poisoning are all taking their toll.

For me this is very much a “hiker’s bird”, a species which is best seen and appreciated when exploring an attractive Mediterranean massif on foot, as for example at els Ports or Montsant.

Bonelli’s Eagles may be seen here.

Number 7: Dupont’s Lark

Placing the much sought-after Dupont’s Lark at only number 7 seems rather contrived, but I’m a bit tired of trying to show decent views of this bird to tour groups. The lark rarely co-operates and is capable of keeping one waiting for hours before allowing itself to be glimpsed.

Nevertheless, Spain is the only country in Europe where the Dupont’s Lark can be seen, and the bird does have a beautiful song. It also manages to get me up and out on the steppes before dawn.

The place to look for Dupont’s Larks.

Number 6: Little Bustard

Listen out for this bird’s “prrrt” call, which sounds like it comes from a rather embarrassed raspberry blower. Accompanied by a backwards neck jerk, or even foot stamping and a little jump.

Locally known as the “dryland duck” in many ways the Little Bustard is a comical bird, but it always gives a little thrill when encountered on the drylands in spring, and is one of the essential elements of the steppeland chorus.

Look for Little Bustards here.

The top 5 will follow shortly…

…and then why not send your top 10?

Spanish Raptor Silhouette Competition

Spanish Raptor Silhouette Competition

Are you a Spanish Bird crack! Can you identify the following raptors just from the silhouettes? Have a go – 50% right at the first attempt is pretty good!

Download the full size raptor silhouetteslo image

Hello Birders!

Well the Birdinginspain.com blog is online at last!

Hopefully we’ll be able to keep it updated but for that we’re going to need your help. There’ll be articles, competitions, interesting links and opinions, information on the birds and birding sites in northeast Spain, photos, recommendations….and interaction, lots of interaction.

Well, anyway, that’s the idea! Just how interactive it is will depend on you.

Things should really get going in the next posts, where we aim to introduce a section called “The top 10 birds of northeast Spain – ours and yours” and perhaps a competition or two, just to get things rolling. So pay attention, we’ll be back soon!



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