Today I have prepared for Jan and Robert an interesting itinerary which combines wetland birds, with butterflies and orchids in Costa Blanca. The last weeks has been very warm for March (max, temperature of 31ºC!) and butterflies are already very active. In addition, we are at the peak of the Mediterranean orchids so I expect to see a good number and variety of them.
After picking Jan and Robert up in Jávea we set off to Pego marshes. The paddy fields are being drying out and the number of birds is amazing. There are thousands of Little and Cattle Egret, White Wagtails, Pipits, Gulls, etc. Very soon we find 19 Common Cranes feeding in a field and Pau spots a couple of Little Ringed Plover and a Bluethroat popping out from the reeds. As we drive around, we find a stunning male Hen Harrier. It is probably the same bird seen last week by Pau. Other common birds seen include Hoopoe, Serins and Tree Sparrows.
In the North part of the park, we spot 2 Booted Eagles, several Marsh Harrier and 5 Common Buzzard migrating above the Montanyeta verda. Later, we find over 100 Audouin’s Gulls, joined by few Mediterranean Gulls feeding on the invasive american crayfish in a paddy field.
After a rewarding coffee stop in Pego, we continue driving to the near valleys to look for butterflies and orchids in Costa Blanca. In our fist stop, Pau show us 3 spikes of Mirror Orchid (Ophrys speculum) and a couple Sawfly Orchid (Ophrys tenthredinifera). Our next stop is on the shade of a stone oak to have lunch. Soon we have to stand up to see a nice Firecrest and a stunning Moroccan orange tip butterfly. Once we finish and pack up the picnic table and chairs back in the boot, we drive few km more. A short walk reveals few tens of Early purple orchids (Orchis olbiensis). We find from white ones to magenta, a nice variety of colours!
Later we drive to an area near Vall d’Ebo where Pau has found previously orchids and his favourite butterfly, the Spanish festoon. There, we see lots of spikes and basal rosettes of two species: Sombre-bee Orchid (Ophrys fusca) and the endemic Ophrys dianica. Regarding butterflies, we have superb views of Spanish festoon, Bath white and Provence Hairstreak among others. Along the road, we find a Cirl Bunting.
Finally, on the way back to Jávea we make a quick stop to add some cracking orchids: Giant Orchid (Himantoglossum robertianum) and Woodcock Orchid (Ophrys scolopax). Furthermore, we add two hybrids Ophrys x castroviejoi (O. scolopax x O. speculum) and Ophrys x pielteri (O. scolopax x O. tenthredinifera). Regarding butterflies, we add an extra 15 species more of butterflies, including Scarce Swallowtail, Cleopatra, Western Dappled White, Mallow Skipper and Holly Blue.
All in all, a fantastic general wildlife day out with many birds, butterflies and orchids in Costa Blanca, Spain. Should you have any question, please do not hesitate to contact us.
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Alicante is one of the most interesting areas for birding in Spain. Alicante holds a fantastic diversity of habitats which are home to many sought after bird species. Thus, it is becoming one the most popular birding spots in Spain. You might find interesting our 5-day bird watching tour in Alicante and Valencia.
Please find below a report about two birding trips in Alicante during January.
I have known Vernon and Lynee for three years. They are a very nice couple who enjoy combining the facilities of Benidorm with some birding trips in Costa Blanca.
On Monday we set off to Las Salinas de Santa Pola. Our first stop was near the city, where we get our first waders feeding on the pans: Dunlins, Little Stints, Sandering, Little Ringed Plover and Black-winged Stilts. On the water, there is a large group of Coots and both Grebes (Little and the gorgeous Black-necked). Then we continue to stop in the tower of Tamarit. There we get our first Slender-billed Gull (Pau’s van logo!), a Redshank and a Spoonbill.
Not far from there, along the national road we make our the last stop in the Salinas. It proves to be a good idea as we see 17 Spoonbills, 24 Wigeons, Sandwich Terns and other common birds. After having a coffee in Catral, we continue our birding trip in Costa Blanca driving around the farmland, South of El Hondo, seeing 2 Booted Eagles (pale and dark morph). In addition, we see Iberian Grey Shrike, Hoopoe, Crested and Skylark. Sadly, the hides are flooded so we move to the visitor centre. As we step off the car, a friendly Bluethroat shows up. While we have lunch we have great views of Red-knobbed Coots and a wide variety of waders, including a superb Jack Snipe.
Finally, we drive northwards to make the last stop in El Clot de Galvany . Once we are there, we find the main path flooded but that is not a problem for visiting the two main hides. There, we get Purple swamp-hen, Grey Wagtail, a stunning male White-headed Duck and a good variety of wildfowl.
During our second trip, we change completely of habitat and head off to the snow-capped mountains of Alicante. We start in Monnegre making 4 short stops. In the first one, we get 2 wonderful males Darford Warblers and a pair of Choughs. On the second stop, we find our first Black wheatear on the top of a boulder. After that, we pull over to watch a group of Woodlarcks, Thekla Lark, Sardenian Warbler, Spotless Starlings and a chirping Crested Tit. Later, we get to a recently established small Griffon Vulture colony. Pau found it about 3 years ago and since then has been keeping an eye on them. It seems that they are still fixing the nest, so no doubt the cold snap has delayed the breeding.
Our last stop is in Alcoi where we visit the main Griffon Vulture colony. As we start walking, a wonderful Blue Rock Thrush displays for us moving around the old factory. Along the path, Blackcaps, Serins and other common birds take advantage of the olives. Finally as we walk back to the car, a Goshawk flies right in front of us chasing some small birds! What an end for a Birding trip in Costa Blanca!
Should you have any question, please do not hesitate to contact us!
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In this article, we hope to give you some ideas about where to watch bustards in Spain. The country holds the largest density of bustards in Europe. Both Great and Little can be found in different areas, being La Mancha (Ciudad Real, Cuenca and Albacete provinces) and Extremadura the best places. However, bustards are suffering a huge decline, specially Little Bustards. Farming practises and intensification seems to be the main factor.
Apart from the popular steppes of Extremadura or Villafáfila, there are other superb birding places unknown by most. For instance, the steppes of Albacete and La Mancha in East Spain offer a great opportunity to watch Great and Little Bustards. Futhermore, other specialities such as sandgrouses, larks and Rollers can be found in the steppes. Finally, the temporary pools are packed with Black-necked Grebes, Greater Flamingos, Red Crested Pochars, White headed-ducks and many more.
Please find the short trip report below:
I am spending three days with Hervé watching birds and looking for mammals (Genet). Today we are going to pick Linda and Mike from a camp site in Oliva and we are heading to the steppes of Albacete.
After half and hour drive and a quick coffee we are watching our first birds: Corn bunting, Rock sparrow, Hoopoe and Crested lark. Pau drives straight to the breeding ground of the elusive Little bustard. The wheat is high, so it is going to be a bit of a challenge to see them. As we walk, a cracking Roller flies over us! Marsh harriers soar in the fields behind us and a solitary Great bustard remains in a green patch in the middle of ploughed field. After that, Pau hears a Little bustard so we move along the track, and finally, Hervé spots a silhouette who turns to be a gorgeous male of Little Bustard, well done!
We drive up to visit different pools finding: Black-winged Stilts, Red-crested Pochards, Whiskered, Gull-billed, Black tern and other common birds. Linda particularly enjoys a pair of Black-necked Grebe. It’s 1:20 pm. and our bellies are asking for lunch. After having some tapas and coffee in Pétrola we visit the largest lagoon where the Greater Flamingos breed. There, we also add a Black kite, Yellow Wagtail, Kentish Plovers, Ringed Plover, Collared Pratincole and a superb Great Reed Warbler singing from the reeds. Birds are very close allowing nice views. Later we undo the way following tracks and we get a Little Owl, Calandra Larks, Great Bustards and a Northern Wheatear.
Finally, we stop in one last area to add a White-headed Duck and a Lizard Orchid! Please, do not hesitate to contact us for a tailor-made trip to find this sadly scarce birds. You can also visit our tour calendar for schedule trips.
Birding Costa Blanca, a surprising wildlife-rich region in Spain. Please find the trip report to two of the most interesting birding reserves: Salt Pans of Santa Pola and El Hondo.
I got an enquire from Allan who was willing to see some of the wildlife in the area. Please, find following our bird watching trip report in Costa Blanca:
Our first stop is in the Salinas de Santa Pola where the previous days, a pair of Elegant Terns have been reported. The day is warm but very windy, good for breeding gulls and terns (they don’t venture to the sea) but no so good for passerines.
Greater Flamingos, Audouin’s Gulls, a female Red Crested Pochard, Curlew Sandpipers, Dunlins, Swifts, Avocets, Little Stints and other common birds are our first sightings. As we stroll back to the car, a Little bittern flies down to a ditch covered by reeds. Unfortunately, Allan and his wife miss it. Five minutes after getting out of the car in our second stop, a strange sound catches my attention. It is a Roseate Tern!!! a very unusual bird in the region. On Sunday was located for the first time but no one could find it again yesterday, so it is a nice surprise to relocate it. Great bird! In addition, there is Little and Common Tern, Yellow Wagtail, Turnstone, Kentish Plover and Slender-billed Gull.
Then, we walk down to the second hide to witness more than 600 Sandwitches terns and to try to locate the pair of Elegant terns. All the birds take off twice and settled down again. After that, at the end of the island I find the 2 Elegant Terns, what a bill! In the same island we find Collared Pratincole, Common Sandpiper and Greenshank. The time is passing fast with so many birds and we are getting hungry. Therefore, we stroll back to car park to have our picnics.
After lunch, we drive to el Fondo, stopping first for a coffee. As we get in the first hide, a Purple Swamp hen with two chicks shows well. Besides, we see a Red-knobbed Coot nesting, Cattle Egret, Squacco Heron and Whiskered Terns. After this, we move to add more “lifers”. The sky is covered by Common Swifts and among them, we can spot 3 Pallid Swifts! In the next hide, we get Purple Heron, Black Tern and Marble Teals. Allan is having a great time photographing so many new birds! We carry on and have a look to a promising pool. There we get Gull-billed Terns, Mediterranean Gulls, a Ruff, Wood Sandpiper, Little and Ringed Plover and lots of other waders.
I have one last stop for White-headed Duck and Black-necked Grebe but they feel tired, so we leave it for the next time.
All in all, a particularly good day despite the wind. Two local rarities the same day!
Have a good Birding Costa Blanca day!
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. For instance, if you go 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, birding and enjoying butterflies.
In the South of Benidorm there are two stunning birding places, El Fondo de Elche and the Salt Pans of Santa Pola. In addition, close yo 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:
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 see 200+ White headed Ducks! Many of them are birds which breed in la Mancha but choose el Fondo to winter. Moreover, there were also 150+ Black-necked Grebes, a Penduline Tit, a Purple Swamp-hen and a Red-knobbed Coot. Then, after having lunch and coffee we drove around the farmland. As a result, we got Iberian Grey Shrike, Booted Eagle, a solitary Crane and a more than likely Spotted Eagle. Unfortunately, the bird was a bit far but it fitted rightly with its jizz.
Tomorrow, we will continue this birding and photography tour and hopefully we will get Alpine Accentor, Ring Ouzel and Brambling.
All in all, a good variety of wildlife to see while you are on holidays in Benidorm. Wheter you are interested in butterflies, orchids, dragonflies or birds, Valencia Region offers possibilities to suit all tastes!
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Birding trip report written by Helen and Dick during a birding trip in Costa Blanca, October 24th
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. Magnificent! The bird was perched on a post and allow us cracking views.
After that, 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 region will surprise you! Please find in the following link our 5-day bird watching holidays in Alicante and Valencia. Should you have any question, please do not hesitate to contact us!
Helen and Dick, Alberta, Canada
13-DAY BIRD WATCHING TRIP AROUND SPAIN: From the Med to the Pyrenees with steppes in between
5 May – 17 May, 2015
This is a report of a 13-day bird watching trip in 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.
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.
Check-list of the bird watching trip around Spain.
(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! We tried 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. Also 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 bird watching trip to Spain 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.
Iberian Hare – 10th. Three.
Rabbit – 5th and 10th. Many seen in the territory of large raptors.
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 about 13-day bird watching trip atound Spain. A big thanks to Philip, George and Cherry for so wonderful trip. Should you have any question, please do not hesitate to contact us!
Some photos regarding the trip can be seen in Instagram.
Birding in Benidorm? Many tourists doubt about the possibility of birding in Benidorm. For many tourists, Benidorm seems to be a place to lay down on the beach or to party. However, I will explain you in this post the fantastic birding reserves that you can find just one-hour drive from Benidorm.
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 of 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, thanks to the promotion done by the administration and birding companies. 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 trip report about birding in Benidorm.
Last Friday, I picked Vernon up from Benidorm and we went South of Alicante province to watch as much species as possible. 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 and hundreds of Greater Flamingos. In addition, we added waders such as Knot (a local rarity which has been in the area for few weeks), Black-tailed Godwits, Avocets, Redshanks, Black-winged Stilts and Little Stints.
On the top of a scrub we got an Iberian Grey Shrikes.
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! If you would like more about birding in Valencia Region, we recommed you to read our 5-day itinerary. Should you have anu questions, please do not doubt to contact us.
Have a nice day!
Albufera de Valencia in Winter, a great place for birding!
I am going to explain why is worth to visit the Albufera de Valencia in winter and arrange a bird watching tour in Valencia. Last Saturday, I guided Daniel and George to some of the most interesting birding spots in East Spain. I told them the possibility of visiting the Marjal d’Almenara, a small coastal wetland in the border between Valencia and Castellón. The main reason was that an adult Isabelline Shrike has been recorded since one week ago. This rarity has been filmed and photographed by dozens of birders during the last week.
We arrived to the area around 9:00 o’clock and it took us approx. 45 minutes to find the Shrike perched in the same spot where it was located the first time by the Bort’s brothers. As we were watching it, the Shrike made some attempts to kill a Chiffchaff but with no luck. During the previous days, some birders have recorder it killing and eating Chiffchaffs and Dragonflies.
Other species seeing in the Marjal d’Almenara were Cetti’s Warbler, Penduline Tit, Marsh and Hen Harrier, Stonechat, Moustached Warbler and other common birds.
Around 11:30 we moved to the Albufera de Valencia to do some seawatching. Daniel was looking forwards to see an Artic Skua and 30 minutes after putting up the scope we found a Great and an Artic Skua. In addition, other interesting sightings were at least 5 Yelkouan Shearwater mixed amongst more than 600 Balearic Shearwater and few Gannets (the day before I recorded 1500 BS in 10 minutes, amazing!) It made me so happy to watch this big flocks of the endangered Balearic Shearwater. Furthermore, we also spotted a fem/juv Common Scoter and 3 Great Northern Loon which are no common birds in the area. In the seashore there were 400+ Sanderlings mixed with 32 Grey Plovers and few Dunlin.
Finally, we visited the main lagoon to watch hundreds of wildfowl: Red Crested Pochards, Shovellers, Shelducks, etc and. a wintering Booted Eagle. No wonder that all these fantastic birds spend the winter here! with a shiny sun and a temperature of 18ºC, I would do the same 🙂
Should you have enquiere about birding in the Albufera, please do not hesitate to contact us.
Have a nice day
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Please find the trip report to a day trip to the Albufera de Valencia, September 10th.
I have spent a great time birding in the Albufera de Valencia with Verna and Bob from Canada. The Albufera de Valencia is one of the hot spots for birders in Spain, with a good number of rarities showing up during this time of the year. I hope you find useful this trip report Albufera de Valencia. For more information about this itinerary, please visit our 5-day bird watching tour around Valencia and Alicante.
It’s 7:00 and I am picking Verna and Bob from Oliva where they are staying. After 50 minutes driving we arrive to our first stop, “el Tancat de la Ratlla”. This reserve is surrounded by paddy fields and managed particularly for waders. There has been very interesting records in the area during the previous weeks.
In the Tancat de la Ratlla, we managed to see a good number of waders such as Black-winged stilt, Collared Pratincoles, Little and Ringed Plover and Dunlin. In addition, there were beautiful Curlew Sandpiper (some in full winter plumage while others just started to molt), Little Stint, Wood, Green and Common Sandpipers, Common Snipe and Ruffs. There were also Little Terns, Kingfishers, a Glossy Ibis and Yellow Wagtails. Moreover, Verna spotted a Tern which turned out to be a Gull-billed Tern. On the sky, mixed flocks of Sand Martins and Barn Swallows feasted on insects.
Later, as we walk along the ditch to get good views of Reed and Fan-tailed Warbler, we found two beautifuls males of Bluethroats chasing each other. Fantastic bird! Before leaving, we got a quick view of a Cetti’s Warbler.
Our next stop was “El Tancat de la Pipa”. There, from the tower we watched Purple Heron, Little ,Cattle and Great White Egret and Purple swamp-hens (2 adults + juv). In addition, we found a pair of Red-crested Pochards, Gadwall, Marsh Harriers and a Little Bittern which sadly is missed by Verna. On the way back to the car, a Greenshank and a group of three Caspian Terns (at least one of them was a juvenile) flew above us. They are probably the sight of the day!
It is midday and we need to charge batteries so we go the local restaurant to enjoy some local cuisine “all i pebre” (eels with garlic and potatoes) and some rice with prawns for a main dish. Delicious!
Finally our last stop is in a lagoon close to the Saler beach. There we found Common Redshank, an Oystercatcher, Turnstones, and a group of juveniles Greater Flamingos dancing to stir the mud to filter their food. Being the weather hot, we decided to drive back to Oliva and rest as tomorrow we will be heading to the Steppes of Albacete. For more information, we recommend to read our article about the steppe birds found in Valencia. Do not hesitate to contact us if you need further information.
Have a nice day
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