This year I have been invited by the Valencian Government to the Extremadura birdfair (FIO 2016) to promote wildlife tourism in my region “Valencia and Alicante”. Once the fair finished on Sunday 13th, I drove to Madrid to pick up Beatrice, Tom, Matthew and Susan from Barajas’ airport.
We make a comfort stop along the motorway to grab some lunch. There, we get our first views of Black and Red Kites, Common Buzzard, Barn Swallows, White Storks and Cattle Egret. Following, we stop at the wetlands of Arrocampo where we get a pair of Purple swamp-hens with a youngster, Zitting Cisticola, two Spoonbills, Little Egret and a Great White Heron. From the reed beds we can hear Savi’s Warbler and a Little Bittern fly fast.
In the nearby fields, Lesser Kestrels hover and Pau finds a Purple Heron hiding in the reeds. Later, we move to the other part of the reserve and get Iberian Grey Shrike perch on a pylon. Griffon vultures soar close to us. Meanwhile, Susan finds a Scarce Swalltail, Small Cooper and Red admiral butterflies.
Our next stop is just minutes away from Arrocampo. It is a new orchid reserve and what a place! The ground is covered by Naked man orchids and Champagne orchids, Pau finds three gorgeous Giant orchids (uncommon species in this area) followed by Woodcock orchids. Later, as we explore another plot of land, Beatrice finds Sawfly orchids with “resupination or flower inversion”. Six different species in just a small plot of land! With no more time we drive to our Hotel in Trujillo.
Today we head off to Monfragüe, one of the top raptor watching places in Europe. Our first stop is in Salto del Gitano, a huge cliff that overlooks the Tajo River. Griffon Vultures are all over the place as well as few Black Vultures. Crag martins are up and down and Cormorants fish down in the river. Pau hears a Rock Bunting that is located later by Matthew. We spot a Black Stork carrying some nest material and a Blue Rock Thrush sings from a rock on the cliff.We drive few kilometres and before reaching the next stop a Red deer crosses the road in front of us. We stop at the River Tajo where we see hundreds of House Martin making their nests. Among there, Pau spots a Red-rumped Swallow and a far distant Alpine Swift. During a short walk, we find a Hawfinch and a Sardinian Warbler.
We stop at Villareal de San Carlos to use facilities and have a coffee. Pau also arranges dinner for that evening as we will try to locate the Eagle Owl at dusk. On the sky, a different silhouette catches our eye; it is a Short-toed Eagle! On the nearby fields, Linnets, Serin and Corn Bunting feed on seeds. We carry on along the river until next stop where we have lunch. This is a good spot for Bonelli’s Eagle so we have lunch there. Pau gets an Egyptian Vulture being chased by a smaller raptor that turns out to be an inm. Bonelli’s Eagle, suddenly an adult Bonelli’s and two more Egyptian Vultures turn out from nowhere!!! Great stuff!
We drop down along the river to Portilla del Tietar. There, among the bushes an early Subalpine Warbler is found by Pau and seeing by everyone despite being playing hide and seek. A pair of Raven nests in the cliffs and a Nuthatch climbs up in a near oak tree. We walk back along the road waiting to see the “Queen” and not only we get views of Spanish Imperial Eagle but also a scarce bird in the area: a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker. Superb!
We go to Villareal de San Carlos to have dinner and wait until gets dark to try to spot the Eagle Owl. There is a rumour that the pair of Portilla del Tietar has moved to another area so we try another spot. We hear the bird but we are unable to see it. Later, we visit a small poll where we get nice views of Stripeless Tree Frog. On the way back to the hotel, a Wild boar runs in front of the car and several Common Toads are avoided on the road.
Once the breakfast is completed we stop in Trujillo to see the Lesser Kestrel colony. Then we move to Los Llanos seeing large numbers of Spanish Sparrows and Red-rumped Swallows nesting. Corn Bunting, Calandra Lark and Crested Lark are everywhere. As we drive, two big raptors get closer and closer, they are Spanish Imperial Eagles! Very quickly, we get off the car and enjoy for few minutes cracking views of these superb birds.
In the middle of a field there are 5 vultures resting on the ground (3 Griffon and 2 Black). In the opposite field, a Hen Harrier and Marsh Harrier fly towards us. Besides, Red and Black Kites are all over the place and a Thekla Lark is spotted by Susan. We stop for a picnic in Magasca and get some common birds, Greenfinches, Goldfinches, Tree Sparrows and Common Chiffchaff. It’s getting hot and reptiles are active as well as Large White butterflies. Pau finds a Large Psammodromus and a Spanish Terrapin sunbathing. There are also Iberian Water frogs croaking.
Our next stop is in Belen where we get a beautiful Great Spotted Cuckoo flying in front of the car. That is a good start! In a nearby field there are a group of 10 Great Bustards! Not far from them, there is a flock of 25 Golden Plovers. A pair of Egyptian Vultures and a pale morph Booted Eagle are also seen.
Today, we have dinner in the old town of Trujillo where we locate a Scoops Owl and hear a Little Owl.
Our first stop is in a “dehesa” close to Sierra Brava. Sadly, the first thing we find in the track is a death Ladder Snake. Lots of Hoopoes are feeding on the grass and on the wire we find a Woodchat Shrike. On the water, there are several gulls (Black-headed and Lesser Black backed) and 2 Greater Flamingos. Through the scope we can locate Pintails and Wigeons.
We take a diversion to look for some steppes birds, the road is quite busy so we press on and take a track where we find a solitary Great Bustard and a Stone Curlew. In a bush inside the road ditch, Pau finds a male Dartford Warbler. As we drive back to the main road a flock of 20 Great Bustards fly over us. What a moment for Susan, her favourite bird!
Our next stop is to re-fuel the car and have some coffee. Pau spots a flock of Common Swifts feeding in a channel that goes around the town. At least 2 of them are Pallid Swifts! Then, we move to the paddy fields which are quite dry, but along the edges we find a group of Red avadavats. There are Common and Green Sandpiper, Black-whinged Stilts and Yellow Wagtail in a small pool. On the grass there is a small party of Spotless Starlings.
A little further down, Tom sees a flock of birds landing. We pull over the car and get good views of Black-bellied Sandgrouses. Good! We follow the track and in another paddy field there is a Crane with two Storks! Hopefully the Crane can make its trip back north!
We get some information about a new reserve development, so we head off to get some more staff. There we find a pair of Egyptian Goose with two youngsters, a Night Heron, Greenshank, Showelers, Gadwalls and Little-ringed Plovers. As we turn around we get some close views of Iberian hare.
Today, is our last day in Extremadura so we decide to stop on Arrocampo for one last target; Black-winged Kite. We are lucky to find it in a pylon before reaching the reserve! Once we get in the reserve we see a Reed Warbler in the reeds and Crested Larks displaying. Tom finds our last bird, a solitary Garganey mixed in a flock of Gadwalls.
It is always a difficult thing to choose the highlight of the trip, but here we go.
Beatrice: The “Queen”. The pair of Spanish Imperial Eagles flying so close. Superb views! Flowery meadows.
Tom: Cracking views of Bonelli’s Eagle chasing/playing with the Egyptian Vultures.
Matthew: Spotted Cuckoo and Spanish Imperial Eagle.
Susan: The big flock of Great Bustards and the Spotless Tree Frog.
Pau would like to thank you all and look forward to sharing further adventures in the future. He also hopes you find this Extremadura Wildlife trip report useful.
Mike, Ron, Lisa and Sandra arrive on time from London Stansted airport. As the weather is sunny with a beautiful blue sky, we decide to grab some lunch and have it in el Playon de Bayas, one of the most beautiful coastal reaches of Asturias. There we see our first birds, Shag, Yellow-legged Gull, Grey Heron and a Peregrin Falcon. After lunch, we go for a stroll seeing Northern Wheatear, Stonechat and Serins.
Around 2:00 p.m, we set off to the Natural Park of Somiedo. After check-in in our hotel in Pola de Somiedo we drive to our first brown bear stakeout. Pau is informed that a mother bear and her cub have been reported the previous evening in la Peral, so we go straight there. The weather is fantastic so we have to make use of it and try to locate the bears. Around 5:00 p.m. Pau says “I got them”. Both, mother and the cub are walking peacefully in a rocky slope, about 1,5 km from where we are. Fantastic! The 5 of us get wonderful views of the bears. A gaggle of vans stop to check what we were seeing. On the sky, Common Buzzards and Griffon Vultures soar in the crests.
After this good start, we drive back to the hotel to have an early dinner. The party has got up early in the morning and they deserve a rest.
We check out la Peral first thing in the morning but the clouds have showed up and it is impossible to see anything in the peaks. We move down the valley to La Melva for a walk. There we find Coal, Crested and Great Tit and an approachable Firecrest. Some butterflies include Scarce and Swallowtail, Cardinal and whites. Mike spots a Southern Chamois in the hillside right in front of us. Later, once we are back to the car, Pau sets the scope and finds 6 more Southern Chamois. Around mid afternoon the sky darks and rains heavily. Time to go back to the hotel. On the way, we find an almost tame Red Fox who has been in the area for some time.
After breakfast we set off to el Valle del Lago for a nice walk in a glacial valley. Rock Bunting and Yellowhammer are perched on the scrubs and Raven, Red Kites and Red-billed Chough fly above us. Later, once the sky clears we move to El Llamardal where we start our second stakeout. Pau finds a Roe deer grazing in a near field and Lisa 2 Honey Buzzards. While we have picnic, Pau jumps and gets its scope, a Wildcat hunting voles in a nearby field!! Superb! We enjoy the cat for 10 minutes before it hides in the bushes. Then, we walk through a local path searching the hills for more wildlife: Red-backed Shrike, Subalpine Warbler, Bullfinch, Iberian Chiffchaff and Water Pipit are seen.
Today is our full last day and Pau wants to try another area for bears. We head close to la Rebollada. Soon after we get there, a huge male bear is seen for few minutes in an orchard feeding on rotten apples and vegetables. What a start! We walk a bit to try to relocate it and we found some colleagues from the FOP (Brown Bear Foundation), apparently the bear has been in the area for few days. We stay in the area until lunch time, hoping to see this wonderful mammal again. While we have lunch we see some birds such as: Woodchat Shrike, Short-toed Treecreeper, Spotted and Pied Flycatcher, Willow Warbler and common finches.
After lunch we drive to La Peral for our last stakeout. The afternoon is quiet, just the chat of various dozens of people congregate in the same area. When we were thinking to go back to the hotel, someone says “Gato montés”, a Wildcat has been spotted in the fields below. The feline walks slowly along the edge and soon disappears. The weather has been good and that has helped us to get great views of our two main targets.
We depart this stunningly beautiful part of Spain seeing Black Kites and two dippers in the river Somiedo on the way to the airport. Mike, Ron, Lisa and Sandra are over the moon (as well as me), not only for all the wildlife we have seen but also for the beauty of the mountains.
At 11:30 Pau is welcoming Elizabeth, Peter and their son James at Málaga airport. About one hour later they stop in Lucena, nothing better than a “bocadillo” of Spanish ham and a coffee to charge batteries! As they drive they see a group of few hundred White Storks and 2 Red Kites.
Once they reach the Natural Park of Andújar, they agree to go straight to La Lancha to make the most of the evening. Along the track, common birds such as: Spotless Starlings, Azure-winged Magpie, Black Redstar, Meadow pipit and Chiffchaff are seen. Soon after, they arrive to the viewpoint, Pau picks 2 Black Vultures in a group of 60 Griffon Vultures circling in a thermal updraught. A bit later, a pair of Spanish Imperial Eagles delights them with an impressive displaying, mating season is here!
James finds a Darford Warbler that hides in a lentiscus. Meanwhile, Pau catches up with friends and colleagues and all of them have the same impression: there is a delay in the Lynx season. Maybe, because of the unusual warm and dry winter (22 ºC) we are having?
Around mid afternoon Pau gets a glimpse of the Lynx which rapidly disappears in the maquis. Unfortunately, just James sees it. It has been a long day since they woke up, so they drive to the Hotel to enjoy dinner and to rest for the following day.
The family wishes to focus on birding and walking today, so they drive along the track stopping in some places to walk around. There they find Little Owl, Zitting Cisticola, Red-legged Padridge, Hopooe, Iberian Green and Great Spotted Woodpecker. Groups of Red and Fallow Deer run around the states. Pau pulls over near the dam to set the scope and have a nice view of a Hawfinch. Besides, Peter finds a Blue-rock Thrush, one of the main targets for James. Later, Pau hears a Red-billed Chough and a Siskin that soon come into view. The weather is warm with a bright sun.
After having the picnic, Pau shows them two Daubenton’s bats. Crag martins, Spanish Imperial Eagle, Serin, Crested Tits and other common birds are also seen.
A morning and beautiful walk in the Encinarejo revels some good birds. Pau finds a Firecrest and a Brambling, the last one looking for seeds in a rabbit enclosure. A Hawfinch, Grey Wagtail and Kingfisher are found along the river. Suddenly, they hear a close mew, the Lynx is close! They follow a path to locate it but the hill is highly covered by vegetation, and thus very complicated to find the elusive cat. Later, they walk back to the car to take the picnic and they choose carefully which picnic table to seat as there are many covered by processionary caterpillars; another proof of the mild winter. As they have picnic, Crested and Coal Tit come into view.
After lunch, they drive up to La Lancha. Pau is told that just 2 distant and quick Lynx sightings have been recorded so far today…..not very promising. Pau scans the forest and finds a Mouflon, great! one of the mammals that James wanted to see. Approximately one hour later, people get excited as a Lynx has been seen walking. The feline is in and out of view very fast, it blends perfectly with the environment and it is difficult for Pau to explain Peter and Elizabeth were it is. Finally, Pau gets it in the scope and everyone gets a reasonable good view. The Lynx is constantly changing directions and it makes difficult to know where it is going.
Pau tells them to follow him, the Lynx was approaching. As they do, they get superb views, just few meters away!!! What a gorgeous mammal! So beautiful and elegant when you see it close!
As they have got perfect views they decide to look for another target: the Spanish Ibex. Following happens something really exiting! While they were scanning the walls for Ibex Pau hears James saying “Oh my God!!”, Pau turns his head and there it is: a gorgeous Lynx going down the hill just 5 meters from them!!! So fantastic!!
The weather has worsened and there is fog and drizzling. They are forced to change plans, they cannot take a stroll as planned so they stay in the Hotel until noon when the weather improves and the sun is back again. On the way, they see a close Iberian Grey Shrike and a Common Buzzard. Pau finds in the scope two Mouflons and other common birds. It is the last day of the tour and they still have one target missing, the Spanish Ibex, so Pau focuses on this mammal and finally finds a young male in a rock. Later, Peter finds 3 more.
With a felling of success, they move back to the Hotel on their last night.
They drive through a thick fog until Málaga province where they see two more species Monkey parakeets and Marsh Harrier. They arrive on time, and after goodbye, Pau sets off home to prepare the following Iberian Lynx tour in few days.
Many thanks to Elizabeth, Peter and James to join Birdwatching Spain in this adventure! It has been a pleasure.
Benidorm is widely known for its long beaches, warm weather and skyscrapers. Most of the holiday tours departing from Benidorm are mainly focus in sightseeing the city and nearby towns like Guadalest. However, there are a lot of Benidorm birding tours and wildlife watching options (less than one hour drive) and that is what we want to propose you. Going North, in the border with Valencia province is located the Natural Park of Pego Marshes and the surrounding mountains. Inland of Benidorm, you will find the wonderful Aitana mountain, which is the highest of Alicante with 1558 masl. This is a perfect place for botanising, hiking and for bird photography in our photography hide.
In the South of Benidorm there are two stunning birding places, El Fondo de Elche and the Salt Pans of Santa Pola. Very close from Alicante is found el Monnegre, it a very dry area with very interesting species such as Trompet Finch or Black Weather. Finally, the mountains around Alcoi offers a good chance for Griffon Vulture, Golden Eagle and Bonelli’s Eagle.
Following, I am writing a short birding trip report from today, i.e. Benidorm birding tours
After greeting Joe and his two friends we set off to the Salt Pans of Santa Pola. I was aware that they were very keen photographers, so I put together a slightly different tour with good chances of photographing birds. As we pulled over the car in the Salinas, the elegant Slender-Billed Gull approached. We took advantage of the bird soaring to get some nice pictures. In addition, Turnstones, Black Winged Stilts, Spoonbills, Great White Egrets, Greater Flamingos, Shelducks and Water Pipits were also seen. Our second stop in the Salinas, revealed Siskin (it has been a good winter), Dunlins, Little Stint, Black Redstar, Red and Greenshank. In the nearby pines, Iberian Green Woodpecker screamed.
Before lunch, we drove to El Fondo to witness 200+ White headed Ducks, a Red-knobbed Coot from the restocking programme, 150+ Black-necked Grebes, a Penduline Tit, a Purple Swamp-hen and other common birds. Then, after lunch and coffee we drove around the farmland to get some more birds such as Iberian Grey Shrike, Booted Eagle, a solitary Crane and a more than likely Spotted Eagle. Unfortunately, a bit far the last one, but fitted rightly with its jizz.
Tomorrow, we will continue this birding and photography tour and hopefully we will get Alpine Accentor (photo above), Ring Ouzel and Brambling.
My husband Dick and I were spending a 3 week holidays in the Costa Blanca. We were part of a party of 20 Canadian and were accommodate in Benidorm. As we were the only birders of the group, we arranged a birding tour with Pau Lucio from Birdwatching Spain to visit el Fondo and surroundings. We thought this reserve would be a good place for seeing a good bunch of lifers and certainly it was!!!. Pau took us to the North part of the park and there, we were very exited seeing our 3 first birds of the day (Little, Black-necked and Crested Grebe). They followed by Egrets, Bluethroat, Red-crested and Common Pochards. In addition, we heard a Great Reed Warbler singing like there was no tomorrow, “it should be already in Africa” said Pau. Later, other birders moved from the first hide allowing some room for the three of us. So, we walked up the tower and as soon as Pau set the scope “surprise” a stunning Spotted Eagle right in front of us. The bird was perched on a post and allow us cracking views. Pau told us that a local birder reported a GSE on September 17th and since then, there hadn’t been any sight. Maybe the same bird? Probably, but not sure as more Spotted Eagles are expected to come to winter. On the back of the lake there were Black-winged Stilts, Snipes, Glossy Ibis and Greater Flamingos among other birds.
It was nearly noon and we stopped for a coffee in San Felipe Neri. Then, we went to the visitor centre and add to our list Iberian Grey Shrike, Booted Eagle (dark morph), Purple-swamp hen, Great White Heron, Sardenian Warbler, Green Sandpiper, both Starlings and waterfowl. Later, we moved to the South of the reserve to look for a bird that Dick was very fond of, the White-headed Duck. Pau showed us 3 different birds and also an Osprey. I also enjoyed seeing with Dick and Pau other European common birds such as Pied Wagtail, Stonechat and Greenfinch.
Finally, we visited the Salinas de Santa Pola where we found different species of waders. It is always nice when you have someone like Pau pointing out the differences, to me, all waders look the same!!. There were nearly 200 Dunlins, Greenshanks, Spotted Redshanks, Ringed Plovers, Common Sandpiper, Sandwich Terns and a Slender-Billed gulled. In the surrounding pine forest, Pau showed us Long-tailed Tit, a bird that was in our most wanted list!
All in all, a nice birding day with Pau. We strongly recommend Pau to anyone looking for a guided tour in Costa Blanca. Are you thinking in birding in Costa Blanca? The area is a must to visit.
Have a nice day
Arriving on our previous days to the beautiful city of Granada, we met our guide Pau Lucio on October 8th when he picked us from our Hotel in Granada. We took the motorway and our first stop was in the farmland near Huetor-Tajar (second home of Pau). We parked the car in an almond tree orchard and went for a stroll seeing a party of 3 Black-bellied sandgrouses following by another 6 birds. Groups of Skylarks and Lesser-short toed larks were flying around and a Little Owl was perched in a wall. The sun was warming up and our first raptors were soaring in the sky, a Short-toed Eagle and a Peregrin Falcon. A far distant Sparrowhawk and a group of 5 Black Storks were circle up in the sky! That was fantastic and we hadn’t arrive to Tarifa yet! As we were walking back to the car a Iberian Green Woodpecker flew from tree to tree.
After driving few minutes to the next place, a large raptor was soaring in the sky, Pau pulled over to see it better and it was an inm. Golden Eagle!! The 5 of us were delighted and lucky as according Pau there are very few pairs in the area. Ten minutes later, we were in a pool with some interesting dragonflies that we were interested in seeing. Once we arrived, a dark morph Booted Eagle was on view and a Green Sandpiper flew away with some Shovellers. Regarding dragonflies, Violet dropwing, Epaulet Skimmer, Red-veined darter, Common darter, Blue emperor, Blue-tailed damselfly, Common Blue damselfly and Orange-winged dropwing.
After lunch in a nearby bar, we drove to another point to add some new birds. Azure-winged magpies were cooperative and we witnessed a group of 10 chasing off a Common kestrel. Lapwings, Stonchat, Whinchat, Marsh Harrier, Common Buzzard and other song birds were also seeing. Around 1 h later, we drove to our Hotel in Huétor-Tajar where we arrived on time to have dinner.
Pau picked us with a 4×4 ( it came as a pleasant surprise!!). Very soon we were driving up hill to Loja mountains, seeing Red-billed Choughs and a Black Weathear perched on the cliff. Stonechat, Northern Weathear and Thekla Lark were seen on the top of the pile rocks. A low-level flying Marsh Harrier passed close to us, not a bird we expected to see in this environment! Pau pulled over to try to get better views but the bird was gone. However, Pau heard a Darford Warbler calling which he located very rapidly, nice views! We continued driving up the mountain until we were at the same level that the clouds, the weather was worsening and the light was poor so we decided to turn around. Esther found a small silhouette on a rock which happen to be a Little Owl! Then from the car, while we were seeing a Common Kestrel hovering, a Merlin dived down showing its paws to the Kestrel! What a fantastic interaction! Our last stop in Loja was in a pine forest just at the bottom where we saw Mistle Thrushes, Crossbills, a Coal Tit and a migrant a Pied Flycatcher. On the way back to the Hotel we turned off the motorway to visit another area where Pau had seen few Lesser Kestrels the previous days. These birds were mainly juveniles, birds which hadn’t started to migrate. On the wire, we spotted 4 Lesser Kestrels and Bard Swallows, Sand and House Martins were still abundant.
We set off our trip to Tarifa at 9:00. One our later we were in Antequera visiting a local reserve. The area is fantastic to get close views of Spanish Ibex and Griffon Vultures and that is what we did!. We went for a stroll and added some more birds such as Black Redstar, Long-tailed Tit and the first wintering Ring Ouzel. After lunch, we continued our journey to our hotel in Tarifa where we check-in the Hotel. Then, we went to Los Lances where we watched Yellow Wagtail, Sanderlings, Turnstone, Dunlins, Sandwich Terns, Audouin’s, Black-backed and Black-headed Gulls. Off shore, Cory’s Shearwaters and Gannets were mifrating into the Med and Greenfinches were feeding on the dunes. Then before going back to the Hotel to have dinner, we went to a view point to look for late migrants and we managed to see a flock of Bee-eaters, 3 Short-toed Eagle, 4 Booted Eagles, 1 White Stork, 1 Hobby and lots of swallows and martins.
Today we went to visit the feeding grounds of the reintroduced Bald Ibises. We got cracking views of two of them which were looking for insects in the grass. Meanwhile everyone enjoyed taking photos of these fantastic birds, a group of 4 Black Kites and 1 Red Kite flew over us. Crested Tits were also seeing in the nearby forest and Short-toed Treecreeper sung from the same area. Then, we drove to la Janda where we had our picnic seeing large flocks of Spotless Starlings, Glossy Ibises and Calandra Larks. Pau did very well finding a Black-shoulder Kite on a paddy field. As we drove along the track, Tree Sparrows, Corn Buntings, Cetti’s Warblers and finches hid in the bushes and White Storks fed on the ditches. John found a large bird of prey which turned to be a Spanish Imperial Eagle! Superb!. Soon after this, we left to the port of Tarifa to embark in a boat to watch seabirds and whales. We managed to see, Long-finned Pilot Whales (fantastic close-up views!), Ocean Sunfish, Common Dolphin and Balearic Shearwaters.
After cheking-out, we went to the mouth of the Palomones. This small area was packed with birds including 2 Ospreys, Wood and Common Sandpipers, both Redshanks, Whiskered Terns and Slender-billed Gulls. After this break, we set off to Málaga airport but with memories not only of the fantastic wildlife we had all witnessed but also the culture and friendliness of all our hosts.
We hope you find this tailor-made trip report Granada and Tarifa useful. Please do not hesitate to contact us for more information.
5 May – 17 May, 2015
This is a report of a 13-day birding trip Spain that my wife Cherrie and I took with Pau Lucio, owner of the birding tour company “Birdwatching Spain.” Phillip, from Muncie, Indiana, joined us and made it a foursome.
Pau (pronounced “Pow”) timed the trip to be early enough to coincide with the later stages of spring migration and late enough to give us access to the high Pyrenees. We birded from May 5 through May 17. We also added a couple of days pre- and post-birding to enjoy some touristy sights in Valencia and Madrid.
It was especially nice that Pau, in addition to being an excellent birding guide, was an extremely knowledgeable naturalist. He pointed out a variety of butterflies, frogs, lizards, mammals, and flora. A major bonus for Cherrie was Pau’s help in tracking down and photographing several species of rare orchids.
Pau met Phillip at the train station in Valencia and the two of them then picked us up at our nearby hotel. We drove south approximately 40 miles to the small city of Gandia on the shores of the Mediterranean. Gandia is Pau’s home town and a major vacation destination for beachgoers later in the summer. We used Pau’s own vehicle, a Peugeot van/SUV that proved to be perfect. It was very roomy, accommodated our luggage, and was a good birding platform. The three of us clients rotated our seating every day.
Pau’s game plan was to use Gandia as a base of operations for the first five days. Each day we birded in a different area/habitat within an hour or two’s drive of Gandia. We then headed inland and north birding along the way through La Mancha until we reached the Pyrenees where we spent three days. We then turned south for Madrid and spent our final day birding in the foothills west of that city.
The birding locales on each day were as follow:
Day 1, Tuesday, 5 May – Travel to Gandia and check into our seaside hotel. We then birded the Gandia Marshes and two ravines in the Quatretonda area. Both sites were in the province of Valencia.
Day 2, Wednesday, 6 May – Natural Park Albufera de Valencia, in the province of Valencia. We birded Racó de l’Olla Visitor Center and Tancat de la Ratlla.
Day 3, Thursday, 7 May – Gandia Marshes (for Red-necked Nightjar), Pego Marshes in Valencia/Alicante Provinces, and Vall d’Ebo in Alicante Province.
Day 4, Friday, 8 May – Steppes of east Albacete, Albacete Province.
Day 5, Saturday, 9 May – Monnegre Gorge, Natural Park el Fondo, and Salt Pans of Santa Pola, all in Alicante Province.
Day 6, Sunday, 10 May – Travel to La Mancha. Bird farmland around Belmonte in Cuenca Province. Bird lagoons of Alcázar de San Juan near Ciudad Real Province in Castilla la Mancha.
Day 7, Monday, 11 May – Natural Park Serranía de Cuenca in Castilla la Mancha region.
Day 8, Tuesday, 12 May – Serranía de Cuenca and Steppes of Belchite.
Day 9, Wednesday, 13 May – Travel from Belchite to the Pyrenees. Bird Belchite Steppes, Huesca area, and the Hecho Valley up to Selva de Oza.
Day 10, Thursday, 14 May – Parque Natural de los Valles Occidentales: Hecho, Ansó, Roncal.
Day 11, Friday, 15 May – Hecho Valley and then ski areas at Candanchú up to the French border, north of Jaca and Canfranc-Estación.
Day 12, Saturday, 16 May – Travel from Hecho to Madrid, birding in Huesca Province and in Natural Park Sierra de Guara for Tawny Pipit and Lammergeier.
Day 13, Sunday, 17 May – Sierra de Guadarrama, west of Madrid.
This itinerary, which stitched together some of Pau’s shorter birding forays, covered just over 2000 miles. We birded every inch of the way!
The weather was sunny and hot during the day and cool at night. Temperatures reached 34C on a few days, which was very unusual for mid-May. The Pyrenees cooled us off on the 14th and 15th. We encountered rain showers, and at higher elevations, sleet and then snow. Temperatures reached 0C during the day and the winds were very strong making birding in the high country on the days we were there somewhat challenging.
The field guide we used to prepare for this trip was the Birds of Europe (2009, 2nd Ed.) authored by Svensson, Mullarney, and Zetterstrom. We follow their taxonomic order in the list of birds presented below. We indicate the date on which we first saw each species and provide brief comments. Life birds for George are indicated by an *. Also indicated are birds that apparently represent new subspecies for George. We record the bird if any member of our group saw or heard it.
(Common) Shelduck (Tadorna tadorna) – 6th. Saw several on four days.
Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) – 5th. Many on every day except in Pyrenees.
Gadwall (Anas strepera) – 8th. A couple of birds on each of two days.
Marbled Duck* (Marmaronetta angustirostris) – A single on the 6th and two on the 9th. Very rare bird, barely hanging on.
(Common) Pochard (Aythya ferina) – 6th. A couple on each of two days.
Red-crested Pochard* (Netta rufina) – 8th. A few of these striking birds on the 8th, 9th, and 10th. The crest appears to glow.
White-headed Duck* (Oxyura leucocephala) – 9th. We saw three of these on the 9th and 10th. One was a knockout male in breeding plumage with
a bright, light blue bill. Candidate for Trip Bird.
Red-legged Partridge* (Alectoris rufa) – 5th. Two walked across a dirt road in front of the vehicle. We had one flying bird on the 11th.
Black-necked (Eared) Grebe (Podiceps nigricollis) – 8th. Only a couple.
Little Grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis) – Two birds on the 9th.
Great Crested Grebe (Podiceps cristatus) – A nice male on the 9th.
Little Bittern (Ixobrychus minutus) – 9th. A couple flying over the marsh.
(Black-crowned) Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax) – 6th. Two flying.
Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis) – 5th. Several over four days.
Squacco Heron (Ardeola ralloides) – A few on the 6th, 7th, and 9th.
Little Egret (Egretta garzetta) – 5th. Several in the Gandia area.
(White) Great Egret (Casmerodius albus) – 6th. Only one of the trip. (ssp. C.a.alba)
Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea) – 5th. Several over five days.
Purple Heron (Ardea purpurea) – One each on the 5th and 7th.
White Stork (Ciconia ciconia) – 10th. Many on nests as we drove through Zaragoza on the 13th.
Glossy Ibis (Plegadis falcinellus) – 6th. Three birds over three days.
(Greater) Flamingo (Phoenicoterus roseus) – 6th. Many birds over four days. Abundant in breeding colonies.
Lammergeier (Gypaetus barbatus) – One bird on the 14th and then great close looks at two soaring birds on the 16th.
(Eurasian) Griffon Vulture* (Gyps fulvus) – 10th. Seen on eight days. Common in the right locales. Enormous wing span.
(Eurasian) Black Vulture* (Aegypius monachus) – One soaring overhead on the 17th, the last day of the trip. Sierra de Guadarrama west of Madrid.
Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus) – 11th. Good looks at several over four days. (ssp. N.p.percnopterus)
Spanish Imperial Eagle* (Aquila adalberti) – 17th. Another bird for the last day! Great looks at a single as it soared overhead. The white leading
edges of the wings left no doubt about the identity of this bird.
Short-toed Eagle (Circaetus gallicus) – One soaring bird on the 11th.
Booted Eagle* (Aquila pennata) – 10th. Several soaring birds over six days.
Red Kite (Milvus milvus) – 13th. Several flying and perched birds on five days near the end of the trip.
Black Kite (Milvus migrans) – 8th. Many over six days throughout the trip.
Eurasian Marsh-Harrier (Circus aeruginosus) – 6th. Several good looks at birds in flight on five days.
Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo) – 10th. Good looks at soaring birds on three days.
(European) Honey Buzzard (Pernis apivorus) – 12th. Good looks at two birds soaring overhead on rounded wings.
(Common) Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus) – 5th. Seen on five days, all loners.
Lesser Kestrel (Falco naumanni) – 10th. Several of these “groupies” at a nesting colony.
Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus) – 5th. Singles on three days.
(Common) Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus) – 5th. Several in various marshes.
(Eurasian) Coot (Fulica atra) – 5th. Several over four days.
Red-knobbed Coot (Fulica cristata) – 9th. Only a couple on one day.
Purple Swamphen (Porphyrio porphyrio) – 6th. Great looks at two and heard another over three days. (ssp. P.p.porhyrio)
Great Bustard* (Otis tarda) – 8th. A single and then a flock of 13 giving great looks. One of the world’s heaviest flying birds!
Little Bustard* (Tetrax tetrax) – 8th. Stunning looks at a displaying male out in the open on plowed fields. Superb! Candidate for Trip Bird.
(Pied) Avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta) – 8th. . Several over the course of three days. Handsome birds.
Black-winged Stilt (Himantopus himantopus) – 6th. Common bird.
Stone Curlew* (Burhinus oedienemus) – 13th. Three in flight from a treed area on the Belchite Steppes. Reminded me of large Willets.
Collared Pratincole* (Glareola pratincola) – 6th. Had great looks at standing and flying birds over four days.
Little Ringed Plover (Charadrius dubius) – 7th. A few. Yellow eyerings.
(Common) Ringed Plover* (Charadrius hiaticula) – 6th. Several nice looks at this small plover over four days.
Kentish Plover (Charadrius alexandrinus) – 6th. Same as above.
(Northern) Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus) – 6th.. Good looks at several.
Sanderling (Calidris alba) – 6th. Phillip and Pau had one on shore of Med.
(Ruddy) Turnstone (Arenaria interpres) – 9th. One at base of old coastal lookout (searching for pirates) tower.
Dunlin (Calidris alpina) – 8th. Only one bird. (ssp.C.a.alpina)
Curlew Sandpiper (Calidris ferruginea) – 6th. Good looks at a couple wading on two different days.
Temminck’s Stint (Calidris temminckii) – 6th. Two over two days.
Little Stint (Calidris minuta) – 6th. A few over three days.
Wood Sandpiper (Tringa glareola) – 6th. Good looks at several.
Common Sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos) – 5th. Many over four days.
(Common) Greenshank (Tringa nebularia) – 6th. Two on two days.
Ruff (Philomachus pugnax) – 10th. One wild-looking male. Nice!
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus) – 6th. Many on four days.
Slender-billed Gull* (Chroicocephalus genei) – 6th. Great looks at several on two days. Pau’s logo. Distinctive sloping profile.
Mediterranean Gull* (Larus melanocephalus) – 6th. Several great looks on two days. The head is pitch black! Black-headed Gull’s is brownish in direct comparison.
Yellow-legged Gull (Larus michahellis) – 6th. The common large gull.
Audouin’s Gull* (Larus audouinii) – 6th. Very good looks at birds on the water and in flight on two days. This was George’s 49th gull
species and one of his most wanted birds on the trip.
Little Tern* (Sternula albifrons) – 6th. Good looks over two days at standing and flying birds, some calling.
Sandwich Tern (Sterna sandvicensis) – 6th. Common on two days at breeding colonies.
Gull-billed Tern (Gelochelidon nilotica) – 5th. Several over four days.
Common Tern (Sterna hirundo) – 6th. Several on two days.
Black Tern (Chlidonias niger) – 8th. One bird. (ssp. C.n.niger)
Whiskered Tern (Chlidonias hybrida) – 6th. Many over three days. Birds were much brighter than my first one, in Delaware.
Elegant Tern (Sterna elegans) – 6th. This ID seemed right to me but there is still discussion about this bird. It is ruling the roost in the middle of
a Sandwich Tern colony and is busily producing hybrid offspring! DNA tests have been inconclusive.
Black-bellied Sandgrouse* (Pterocles orientalis) – 8th. Four flushed out of a plowed field in the steppes. Black bellies were obvious in flight.
Pin-tailed Sandgrouse* (Pterocles alchata) – 10th. Two were well seen close to a dirt road, hunkered down in a plowed field. The species was also heard two days later. Candidate for Trip Bird.
Rock (Pigeon) Dove (Columba livia) – 3rd. Abundant. Nearly every day.
Stock Dove (Columba oenas) – One flying bird on the 10th.
(Common) Wood Pigeon (Columba palumbus) – 7th. Four birds on four days, all in flight.
(Eurasian Collared Dove (Streptopelia decaocto) – 3rd. Abundant everywhere except in the Pyrenees.
(European) Turtle Dove (Streptopelia turtur) – One bird on one day. Good find.
(Common) Cuckoo* (Cuculus canorus) – 10th. Several heard over four days and two seen in flight. This bird really does sing its name! (ssp. C.c.bangsi)
Great Spotted Cuckoo (Clamator glandarius) – 11th. Heard and then seen as it flew and perched low in an Olive Tree. Parasitizes Magpies.
(Eurasian) Eagle Owl* (Bubo bubo) – 10th. Third time is the charm! Wetried three spots for this bird. At the last we struck pay dirt. Two adults flushed from a large Stone Pine near a quarry. We then found two fledglings at the base of a small pine just below the lip of the quarry. We left as soon as we had taken a couple of unobtrusive photos.
Little Owl (Athene noctura) –10th. One bird perched in a small dead tree beside a back road. (ssp. A.n.vidalii)
(Eurasian) Scops Owl (Otus scops) – 7th. Bird seen flying. One subsequently heard later in the trip. Area containing the first bird was tragically subject to a major wildfire a few days later.
Red-necked Nightjar* (Caprimulgus ruficollis) –7th. One bird sitting in the middle of a paved road on the outskirts of Gandia as we drove before dawn toward a site where we hoped to find this species. Great looks! We subsequently glimpsed one other bird in flight just before sunrise. How lucky can you get!?
(Common) Swift (Apus apus) – 3rd. Nearly every day. Abundant.
Pallid Swift (Apus pallidus) – 6th. Visited a nesting colony at a school. Had excellent looks at this bird from close range.
Alpine Swift (Apus melba) – 11th. Several birds on two days.
Eurasian Hoopoe (Upupa epops) –7th. Had several birds over nine days.
(European) Bee-eater (Merops apiaster) – 7th. Had several of these beauties over eight days.
Black Woodpecker (Dryocopus martius) – Heard by Pau on the 13th at the Hotel in the Pyrenees. Gave its “alarm clock” call.
Iberian Green Woodpecker* (Picus sharpie) – 8th. We stalked this bird up and down a stream near our hotel and finally had brief glimpses of it. This species has recently been split from (European) Green Woodpecker (Picus viridis).
Great Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos major) – 11th. We had fleeting looks and heard it on the following day. (ssp. D.m.hispanus)
(Eurasian) Wryneck* (Jynx torquilla) – 5th. Bird was seen very briefly as we drove up a dirt track on our way to the first Eagle Owl site. It was perched low in a gnarled tree next to the road.
(Common) Skylark (Alauda arvensis) – 12th. A few birds seen on this and the following day. (ssp. A.a.sierrae)
Crested Lark (Galerida cristata) – 5th. A few seen on four days. (ssp. G.c.pallida)
Thekla Lark* (Galerida theklae) – 6th. Excellent looks on four days.
Woodlark (Lullula arborea) – 11th. Al;so heard on two other days. (ssp. L.a.pallida)
(Greater) Short-toed Lark (Calandrella brachydactyla) – 8th. A few seen on four days. Plain breast.
Lesser Short-toed Lark* (Calandrella rufescens) – 12th. Well seen on two days. Streaking on upper breast.
Calandra Lark* (Melanocorypha calandra) – 8th. Several well seen over four days. Obvious white trailing edge on wing.
Dupont’s Lark (Chersophilus duponti) – 12th. One bird heard incessantly on the 12th and 13th at the same location. Eventually seen by Pau
and Phillip. George dipped!
(Common) Sand Martin (Riparia riparia) – 6th. A couple.
(Eurasian) Crag Martin (Ptyonoprogne rupestris) – 11th. Several seen over four days in craggy terrain. Notable at the Devil’s Window.
Common (Barn) Swallow (Hirundo rustica) – 5th. Most days. Many.
Red-rumped Swallow (Cecropis daurica) – 9th. Only a couple.
(Common) House Martin (Delichon urbicum) – 4th. Many over most days.
Tawny Pipit (Anthus campestris) – 16th. We pulled off the road to begin our search for this bird, looked through the windshield, and saw the bird staring back at us. Talk about performing on cue!
Water Pipit* (Anthus spinoletta) – 14th. A few on two days high in the Pyrenees.
White/Pied Wagtail (Motacilla alba) – 7th. Singles on three days.
(Western) Yellow Wagtail* (Motacilla flava iberiae) – 8th. Excellent looks at this new split (from Eastern and M.f. feldegg).
Grey Wagtail (Motacilla cinerea) – 13th. One bird perched on wire. (ssp. M.c.cinerea)
(White-throated) Dipper (Cinclus cinclus) – 13th. Two birds along stream in the Hecho Valley. Extremely shy (unlike in Norway). (ssp. C.c.cinclus)
Dunnock (Prunella modularis) – 14th. One bird in the fog and snow just below the French border. (ssp. P.m. mabboti)
(European) Robin (Erithacus rubecula) – 11th. And heard on the 14th.
(Common) Nightingale (Luscinia megarhynchos) – 5th. Finally got good looks at this bird. Seen/heard on five days.
Black Redstart (Phoenicurus ochruros) – 12th. Good looks on four consecutive days.(ssp. P.o.aterrimus)
(Northern) Wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe) – 14th. One bird. (ssp. O.o.libanotica)
Black-eared Wheatear (Oenanthe hispanica) –9th. Seen on four days. Handsome bird. (ssp. O.h.hispanica)
Black Wheatear* (Oenanthe leucura) – 9th. Took a lot of looking to find this striking bird. Had another on the 13th.
(Common) Stonechat (Saxicola torquatus) – 5th. Several over six days.
Song Thrush (Turdus philomelos) – 13th. Had decent looks at this bird on four days. (ssp. T. p. philomelos)
Mistle Thrush (Turdus viscivorus) – 12th. . Seen on three days.
(Common) Blackbird (Turdus merula) –5th. Yellow bill. Fairly common.
Ring Ouzel* (Turdus torquatus) – 14th. Great looks at a couple of these birds in fog and snow just below the French border. Striking.
Blue Rock thrush (Monticola solitarius) – 5th. Seen by Phillip and Pau at first Eagle Owl site.
(Rufous-tailed) Rock Thrush* (Monticola saxatilis) – 13th. A stunning male, followed by a female on the 16th. Both birds well seen. Candidate for Trip Bird!
Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla) – 14th. Heard on the 11th and 12th. Finally well seen at the Hotel in the Pyrenees after a lot of work!
Western Orphean Warbler* (Sylvia hortenis) – 7th. Well seen in an area of maquis bordered by groves of Olive Trees. This area was ravaged by a wildfire a few days later.
Sardinian Warbler (Sylvia melanocephala) – 5th. Nice looking warbler.
Subalpine Warbler (Sylvia cantillans) – 14th . Very nice looking warbler.
Dartford Warbler* (Sylvia undata) – 16th. A single bird on the 16th at Natural Park Sierra de Guara required a lot of work. Finally rewarded with a killer view.
Zitting Cisticola (Cisticola juncidis) –7th. A couple. (ssp. C.j.cisticola)
Savi’s Warbler* (Locustella luscinioides) – 7th. Good looks but only on this one day.
Cetti’s Warbler (Cettis cetti) – 7th. Ditto.
(European) Reed Warbler – (Acrocephalus scirpaceus) – 7th. Ditto. (ssp. A.s.scirpaceus)
Great Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus arundinaceus) – 6th. Good looks at this large warbler swaying back and forth in the top of phragmites-like vegetation. Heard one other day.
Melodious Warbler* (Hippolais polyglotta) – 7th. Another good look but only on this one day.
Western Bonelli’s Warbler* (Phylloscopus bonelli) – 12th. Took a lot of work to finally see it well, perched in the open below us.
Iberian Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus ibericus) – 14th. Heard by Pau on this and a couple of other days. Very secretive.
Goldcrest* (Regulus regulus) – 14th. Had a decent look in a big pine near the entrance to the Hotel in Pyrenees.
Firecrest (Regulus ignicapilla) –11th. And again on the 14th. Cute!
(Winter) Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes) –7th. Heard this bird on three separate days but never got a look. Does not sing the same song as our Winter Wren. Has a Spanish accent. (T.t. ssp. kabylorum)
Spotted Flycatcher (Muscicapa striata) – 5th. Again on the 12th. A couple.
Pied Flycatcher* (Ficedula hypoleuca) – 6th. Well seen on this and the following day. Prefers open woodland. Unexpected.
Great Tit (Parus major) – 5th. A few over four days. (ssp. P.m. corsus)
Coal Tit (Periparus ater) –14th. Heard on two other days. (ssp. P.a. vierirae)
(European) Blue Tit (Cyanistes caeruleus) – 11th. Also on the 12th. Just two of these good looking birds. (ssp. C.c. ogilastrae)
Crested Tit* (Lophophanes cristatus) – 12th. Five over three days. Great looks at a small flock of three on the 12th. Much smaller than I expected. Next to the bridge where the first Citril Finch showed up.
Long-tailed Tit (Aegithalos caudatus) –6th. And the 11th. (ssp. A.c. irbii)
(Eurasian) Nuthatch (Sitta europaea) – 11th. Excellent looks. (ssp. S.c. hispaniensis)
(Eurasian) Treecreeper (Certhia familiaris) –15th. One in the Pyrenees. ID’d by range.
Short-toed Treecreeper* (Certhia brachydactyla) –11th. Excellent looks at this close cousin of the preceding species as it spiraled up trees.
Iberian Grey Shrike* (Lanius meridionalis) – 5th. Well seen on two days. Wavy eyebrow and pinkish gray underparts.
Red-backed Shrike (Lanius collurio) –14th. Two over two days.
Woodchat Shrike (Lanius senator) – 5th. At least three over three days.
Azure-winged Magpie (Cyanopica cyanus) –17th. Had looks at three birds in flight. One was a decent fly-by. Other population in China. (ssp. C.c. cooki)
(Common) Magpie (Pica pica) – 5th. Conspicuous. Seen most days.
(Eurasian) Jay (Garrulus glandarius) –12th. One seen in flight. (ssp. G.g.fasciatus)
(Western) Jackdaw (Corvus monedula) –9th. Seen on three days.
(Red-billed) Chough (Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax) –7th. Several seen over four days. (ssp. P.p. erythrorhamphus)
Alpine Chough* (Pyrrhocorax graculus) – 14th. First sighting was of a couple of birds. On the following day, many were seen circling above the “Wallcreeper Wall.” Distinctive in flight.
Carrion Crow (Corvus corone) – 8th. Common . Seen on many days.
(Common) Raven (Corvus corax) – 9th. Several over six days.
Spotless Starling (Sturnus unicolor) – 4th. Not seen on one day. Abundant!
(Eurasian) Golden Oriole (Oriolus oriolus) – 10th. Two sightings this day and heard on five other days.
House Sparrow (Passer domesticus) – 3rd. Every day in Spain. Abundant!
(Common) Rock Sparrow* (Petronia petronia) – 7th. A few seen over four days. Good looks at this stocky streaked sparrow.
(Common) Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs) – 10th. Seen on four days.
(Common) Linnet (Carduelis cannabina) –5th. Ditto.
(European Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis) – 5th. Singles on five days.
(European) Greenfinch (Chloris chloris) – 6th. Ditto.
Citril Finch* (Carduelis citrinella) – 12th. A very obliging bird landed on the edge of a bridge providing great looks and photos. We had several on the 15th in a Pyrenees meadow setting.
(European) Serin (Serinus serinus) – 5th. A few of these little guys over five days.
Ortolan Bunting* (Emberiza hortulana) – 16th. Found a family group in maquis as we were leaving the Pyrenees. Gray head with a yellow moustache. Striking.
Yellowhammer (Emberiza citrinella) – 13th. One very yellow bird!
Cirl Bunting (Emberiza cirlus) – 5th. Singles seen on three days.
Corn Bunting (Emberiza calandra) – 7th. Several of these plain looking birds over seven days. Most were singing from prominent perches.
Rock Bunting* (Emberiza cia) – 9th. Only two of these, one on 9th and one on the 13th. Very bold black on gray head pattern.
Rose-ringed Parakeet (Psittacula krameri) – 19th. Three flying around and calling near the Royal Palace in Madrid.
Common Waxbill (Estrilda astrild) – 7th. A couple. Introduced from Africa.
The group tallied 182 species. George got 47 life birds (out of a hoped for 56). He also nailed down eight of 10 species that he had hoped to get a better view of. He also probably picked up 30 new subspecies out of 34 he had targeted. All would agree this was a thoroughly rewarding and interesting trip thanks to Pau’s persistence and hard work. Candidates for Trip Bird are: White-headed Duck, Spanish Imperial Eagle, Little Bustard, Pin-tailed Grouse, Eurasian Eagle Owl, and Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush.
Wild Boar – 11th. A family group of six or so trotting up a sparsely wooded hillside.
Chamois – 14th. Two below the ski areas climbing up a steep snow field.
Red Deer – 10th and 11th. A few.
Roe Deer – 11th. One.
Hare – 10th. Three.
Rabbit – 5th and 10th. Many seen in the territory of large raptors.
Squirrel – 14th. Close looks at one. Much larger than North America’s
Red Squirrel. Large bushy tail. Gray and red. Two-toned.
Many varieties of trees, shrubs, plants and flowers. Most notable: different species of pines; a variety of exquisite orchids; and Valencia
Orange Trees (and unsweetened orange juice!). A variety of small lizards, butterflies, dragonflies, and frogs (heard).
I want to thank George for writing this excellent trip report 13-day birding trip Spain. A big thanks to Philip, George and Cherry for so wonderful trip.
Some photos regarding the tour can be seen in the links below.
Notice that this was a tailor made tour in early April and therefore too late to watch Wallcreepers in Guara or Cranes in Gallocanta, so we combined Sierra de Guara with the Aragón Valley in the Pyrenees. It is worth to mention that neither Wallcreepers or Cranes were in our target list.
Our two full days at Sierra de Guara gave us a fantastic sightings of raptors, both resident and migrants. Numerous Black and Red Kites, Short-toed Eagles, Egyptian Vultures, Sparrowhawks, a Lammergeier and a pair of Golden Eagles were seen. In addition, the five of us were flabbergasted (I will never get used to it) to see tens of Griffon Vultures feeding and flying just few meters form us. Our hotel in Alquézar gave us the chance to make the most of this stunning village, certainly one of the most beautiful of all Spain.
The second part of the tour in the Pyrenees was fantastic with 3 more sights of Lammergeier, one of them landing in the nest were the other one was in the nest incubating! Superb!. We also managed to see a Golden Eagle, Yellow-billed Chough, Ring Ouzel, Dipper, Water Pipit and mammals such as Chamois. Not to mention the breathtaking views of the snow-capped Pyrenees.
I arrived at midday to Zaragoza airport to pick Sally, Simon, Dorothy and Mary on time. After greetings, we set up to Huesca and then to Alcázar. Our first birds during the transfer were White Storks, Black and Red Kite, Common Buzzard and Starlings. After check-in, we went for a walk around the village and nearby countryside seeing our first Black redstar, Crag Martins, Corn Buntings, Linnets, Barn Swallows, Crested, Sky and Wood Larks and a Little Owl calling. Then, we returned along the cobbled streets to our hotel to enjoy our first traditional Spanish dinner.
Our first stop by the old Moorish bridge revealed Short-toed Trecreeper, Sardenian Warbler, a male Stonechat, Grey Wagtail, Black Caps and in the sky a pair of Egyptian Vultures flying among tens of Griffons’. After a short stroll along the river, we continued driving up the valley until I pulled over the car so everyone can see our first Short-toed Eagle and Sparrowhawk. Our next stop was in the Mirador del Vero, where soon a familiar silhouette turns up, our first Lammergeier! It turned upside down to grab with its claws a Griffon Vulture, but finally it didn’t. It was just a manoeuvre to show who was the boss! Nice sight!
After having lunch, we drove back to Alcázar making a stop to find the endangered European freshwater crayfish. It is fantastic that Sierra de Guara still holds a healthy population of this threaten specie. We spent the afternoon walking the Vero Gorge near Alquézar, enjoying carpets of lilies and birds such as Crag Martins, Grey and White Wagtails, Red Billed Choughs, Wrens, Blackcaps and a Firecrest. Before we walked up back to Alcázar I found an Otter scat, which is good news as Otter are rare in Guara.
On the third day we visited the Vultures’ feeding station. During the walk to access to the feeding station, tens of Vultures chased us as if they already knew we were going to feed them, impressive to see these huge birds soaring so close to us! Once the food was unloaded from the wheelbarrow, the show started, the Vultures fought each other to grab the butcher’s waste. We had a brilliant close views of approx. 100 Griffon’s, Ravens, Egyptian Vultures and Red Kites. Once the meal was finished, we retreated few meters hoping to see a Lammergier coming down to grab some bones. Around noon, we set off back to the car and found an impressive Golden Eagle soaring high up! We had lunch while we searched through the scopes the feeding station and watched a Red Fox feeding on the scraps. A Dartford Warbler was also seeing from the bushes besides us.
Later we move to the west of the park visiting impressive gorges and finding a beautiful male of Blue-Rock Thrush singing from the rocks. In the nearby cliffs, there was a colony of Griffons’ incubating. As we were looking down the gorge, I spotted a gorgeous male Cirl Bunting singing from the top of bush and Sardenian Warbler flying.
In the evening we set off to our accommodation in valley of the river Aragón, in the Pyrenees.
We had fantastic warm and sunny weather during the trip. However, on the fourth day the sky was slightly overcast and do to the altitude we could feel the cold during the early morning! After breakfast, we walked along a path behind our Hotel and found a breeding pair of Dippers, one of them was carrying lots of insects in the bill to the hole where thee nest was. On the way back to the car, I heard a Firecrest calling from the garden besides the car park. Dorothy was very glad to see one of her favourites birds!
After a short drive we stopped in Canfranc. While we where visiting the impressive old train station, we saw a Golden Eagle, Great Spotted Woodpecker, a Jay and a flock of 30 Yellowhammers. Besides, Peacock butterflies where around. The shade of the huge mountains made us to fell the damp and the cold wind, so we went to have warm drinks and cakes. Once we were recovered, we continued driving up through the border of France. We stopped in the surroundings of the ski resort where we saw the first Yellow-billed Coughs, Water Pipits and Citril Finches. The wind was a bit cold, so we decided to drive back to lower altitudes where we spot Chiffchaffs, a Golcrest, Song and Mistle Thrushes and our second Lammergeier!
Time to go back to the hotel to enjoy the dinner: fighting bull as main dish and a tasty sheep milk yoghurt for dessert.
Our last day started in a quite side valley. In the hillside, a group of 8 Chamois grazed peacefully and a Ring Ozuel was spotted by Simon. Dunnocks, Water Pipits, Black Redstarts, Red and Black Kites and a two Lammergeier were seeing! One of them was carrying in the bill something which leaved to the second one in the nest. Just superb! There were also tracks of Ptarmigan, but no sight of them. After lunch, we set off to Valencia where my guests would stay overnight to catch an early flight the following morning. After having drive 3 h, we stopped in a gorge 20 km passing Teruel in order to see an Eagle Owl. It took nearly two hours to find it, but we did it. On Easter Sunday there were people everywhere and the pair of Eagle Owls became much more elusive. This top predator was still in a rock behind a bush 50 m away from the nest. From the gorge we also watched a dark morph Booted Eagle. As it was getting dark, we drove the final stretch to Valencia where I dropped them off in a Hotel near the airport.
All in all, a very interesting trip with good birding. May thanks to Sally, Simon, Dorothy and Mary. Please, visit our tour calendar or contact us for the next winter Sierra de Guara tour, which will be focus among other species in Wallcreepers and Lammergeiers.
We hope you find this Sierra de Guara Trip report useful.
Have a nice day
That is the surprise reaction when someone tells a friend that he/she has been birding in Benidorm. In the surroundings of this popular holiday destination can be found a wide variety de habitats and reserves teeming with some of the ‘most wanted’ Iberian birds. This part of East Spain is becoming more and more popular for birders, particularly families. The coast of Valencia and Alicante offers the possibility to combine beach holidays for, let’s say your partner and children, and birding for you. Following you can read my last birding Benidorm trip report.
Last Friday, I picked Vernon up from Benidorm and we went South of Alicante province to watch as much species as possible. (Please click here to see the information regarding this tour). Our first stop was at the Salinas de Santa Pola where we watched an immature Slender-billed Gull (the first lifer for Vernon), a Great White Heron, Yellow-legged Gulls, lots of Greater Flamingos and Shelducks, a Knot (a local rarity which has been in the area for few weeks), Black-tailed Godwits, Avocets, Redshanks, Black-winged Stilts, Little Stints, Iberian Grey Shrikes, Serins and other common birds.
Our second stop was on the beach near the Salinas. There we enjoyed a close-up group of 10 Sanderlings. With the telescope we watched Gannets diving and Audouin’s Gulls. Later, we drove to a nearby bar to have a coffee before continuing the birding tour.
Our next stop was at El Hondo reservoir. Here the star was a group of 70 White-headed Ducks mixed with Black-necked Grebes, Tufted Ducks and Common Pochards. We also found an injured male Red-Crested Pochard (probably shoot by hunters the days before), so I phoned straightaway the wildlife recovery center. Marsh Harriers, Stonechat, a Yellow Wagtail and gorgeous male Darford Warbler were also seen in the surroundings.
To finish the tour, we moved to our last stop in the hills which surround El Hondo. There, we got superb views of the resident pair of Bonelli’s Eagles patrolling their territory. We could see through the telescope these fantastic raptors looking at us from their usual perch. Later, on the top of a huge rock I spotted a Black wheatear and shared it quickly with Vernon. Crested Larks, Hoopoe and Sardinian Warblers were calling. On the way back to the main road, Vernon did very well spotting a Little Owl on a stone wall. With no more time, we drove back to Benidorm after this wonderful birding tour in a sunny and warm day.
As I am writing this, I get news of a Lesser Yellowlegs located in the farmland fields South of “El Hondo”. It shows what a fantastic area for birding the Alicante province is!.
Have a nice day
I met Martin and Jane at 8:30 in their Hotel’s hall in the city centre of Granada. After driving 2 h, we arrived to Andújar Natural Park.
We skipped the check–in and went straight to the view point where we got close views of Griffon and Black Vultures as soon as we parked. Around noon, a four loud mews caught our attention. We moved toward the mews came from to try to locate the elusive cat. We were unlucky so we moved back to our previous position and had lunch. The afternoon came very quiet (just 15 Cranes in V-formation, well spotted by Jane) so we decided to drive along the track to look for other wildlife. I parked the car and we walked to find a solitary Daubuton’s Bat, where were the other bats?. We continued walking and we spotted two raptors chasing one another right on the top of the mountains, it was an immature Golden Eagle chasing out a Spanish Imperial Eagle!, things were getting interesting!. On the walk back to the car I found something swimming right on the middle of the dam, too far to be identified with the bins but probably a deer swimming. From the same spot, we found a Kingfisher landing in the shore of the dam and a flock of Hawfinches. A quick look before getting on the car revealed a group of Spanish Ibex, a nice end for our first day. It was time to go to the Rural Hotel to enjoy a homemade dinner with a bottle of red wine.
Today we set off to the same view point. Around 10 o’clock, a mew from the right side of the track called our attention and we moved quickly to join other watchers. We missed the Lynx for few seconds! It went down to the other side of the hill. We stayed in the same spot waiting it to be again in view, but we just could see a distant Mouflon.
We returned to the car and had lunch watching Griffon’s and Black Vultures and a distant immature Golden Eagle. The Spanish Imperial Eagle remained in its usual perch all morning and a Blue-Rock Thrush rested in a rock in front of us. The afternoon was quiet until we heard another mew. Around 3 o’clock all the effort paid off as I found a female Lynx! She was approx 300 m away walking slowly and disappearing/appearing between the rocks and the vegetation. I rapidly pointed it to Martin and Jane, we were over the moon!. We worked out the route she was going to follow, so we relocated our position to get better views. After an endless waiting, we found her laying in a rock at the bottom of two olive trees. What a superb view!
Having seeing our main target, the Lynx, we decided to move to another area to get better views of Spanish Ibex. After taking some close shoots of them, we went to the Hotel.
Having seen so well the Iberian Lynx yesterday, we changed our plans and visited a different place where we looked for Otters during the morning. Grey Wagtails, Chiffchaffs, Long-tailed Tits and Cetti’s Warblers were seen along the river but not the Otters. Around 11 o’clock we agreed to go to the view point. As we were arriving I got news that few meters ahead were people listening to the lynxes. Fifteen minutes after parking, I got a view of a Lynx walking along the track. It was difficult to follow it, Jane and Martin just got a glimpse. We relocated it and we were able to see it for approx 10 seconds before it disappeared in the Mediterranean forest. Around 1 h later Jane and Martin saw the Lynx walking down hill to an open area close to the track. A driver who was driving along the main track waved his hand to stop us, as the Lynx was about to come in view. The Lynx was as fast as hare and crossed the track in a glimpse; it is amazing how agile they are! Later a group of 4 vultures (1 Griffon and 3 Black) came into view. As the sun was setting we drove back to the Hotel to celebrate our second Lynx sighting of the Iberian Lynx Holidays!
Our first schedule was to have a 5-day tour, but as we did fantastically well with the Lynx, (we have to keep in mind that the Iberian Lynx is the rarest cat in the world) Jane and Martin prefered to return today after lunch and have two days sightseeing the beautiful city of Granada. As we were driving along the view point, we saw a gathering of people looking at a big bush. That just could mean one thing, the Lynx was close! I parked the car quickly and there we had just 15-20 m away a male trying to mate with a female Lynx!. We watched the pair for nearly 4 hours; even we witnessed a fight between them. Obviously the male was waiting her permission and guarding her against any other males. I must recognize that it has been my best sight of Lynx so far! Just mention that there were nearly 100 people amazed of seeing such a wonder.
I am very glad about the amazing sightings we had in this tour, it couldn’t have gone any better. We will continue with this Lynx tour during January and part of February.
Have a nice day