Wildcat and brown bear in Somiedo. Tour report from August 30th-September 4th.
Mike, Ron, Lisa and Sandra arrive on time from London Stansted airport to Santander ready to start the wildcat and brown bear search in Somiedo. 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 soaring above us. After lunch, we go for a stroll seeing some migrants like Northern Wheatear and Whinchat. In addition, there are some resident such as 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. In addition, 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 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 watching and join us. On the sky, Common Buzzards, Griffon Vultures and a juv Golden Eagle soar in the crests.
After such a wonderful day start, we drive back to the hotel to have an early dinner. The group has got up early in the morning and we all deserve a good 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. Nevertheless we decide to drive 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. End of our wildlife trip to enjoy to top carnivorous, the Wildcat and brown bear in Somiedo
For more details about our trips to Picos de Europa visit our landing page.
This trip can be combined with Wolf watching during August and September. should you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact us!
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 arrived to Tarifa yet! As we were walking back to the car an 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, me managed to see a beautiful Violet dropwing, Epaulet Skimmer and the abundant Red-veined darter. In addition, we add few more dragonfles in a nearby river: Common darter, Blue emperor, Blue-tailed damselfly, Common Blue damselfly and Orange-winged dropwing.
After having lunch in a bar, we drove to another point to add some new birds. Iberian magpies were cooperative as we witnessed a group of 10 chasing off a Common kestrel. In addition, Lapwings, Stonchat, Whinchat, Marsh Harrier, Common Buzzard and other song birds were also seeing. Around 1 h later, we drove back 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!
After that, 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 had not 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 to continue the birdwatching trip. One hour 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 migrating 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 checking-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 birdwatching trip report to Granada and Tarifa useful. Please do not hesitate to contact us for more information.
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.
Welcome to our Sierra de Guara trip report, in search of stunning birds like the Wallcreepers and Lammergeier
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. However, this itinerary in Autumn an Winter ofers a great chance to see Wallcreepers as well as other wintering birds: Brambling, Ring Ouzel, Hawfinches, etc
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.
On the third day we visited the Vultures’ feeding station near Santa Cilia. 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. It was 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. There 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 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. It will be focus on spotting Wallcreepers and Lammergeiers.
We hope you find this Sierra de Guara Trip report useful.
Have a nice day
Iberian Lynx Holidays in Sierra Andújar in late December. Trip report by Pau Lucio.
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 the Iberian Lynx tour during January and part of February. This itinerary could be combine with wetlands birds in Doñana or/and steppes and forest in Granada. Should you have any question, do not hesitate to contact us.
Have a nice day
Please, find below our Gallocanta trip report. November, 15th – 16th . This itineray could be combinef with the stunning wetlands of Valencia and Alicante. Moreover, near Gallocanta you will find Sierra de Guara, a great place to look for Lammergeier and Wallcreeper.
Today I am going to meet Jill, Patricia, Laura and Frances at their hotel in Valencia. After loading the luggage, we set off for the first stop at the Sierra del Toro. The wind makes us feel the cold! Despite the wind, we managed very well seeing a party of 6 Siskins, Coal and Crested Tits, a Song Thrush, Griffon Vultures, Firecrests (what produced a wide smile in Jill) and other common birds. Then, we had a warm coffee with biscuits at a local bar before leaving to Gallocanta.
As soon as we got to Calamocha, I pulled over to photograph a low flying Red Kite. A few minutes later a Sparrowhawk crossed the sky. Then, we continued driving to the visitor centre where we parked. Suddenly, as we were getting out of the car more than 300 Cranes took off. I searched the sky and I found the reason of this behaviour, an immature Golden Eagle, what a wonder! Skylarks, Common Buzzard, Linnets and a female Hen Harrier were also seen from the same area. After that, we got back to the car to have our picnics and drove to the hotel to check-in and put on our warmest clothes to wait the arrival of the cranes at dusk.
Around 15:00 , we left the hotel to explore the northern part of the lagoon. This year has been very dry and there is no much water in the lagoon. In the puddles we found Shelducks, Teals, Marsh and beautiful males Hen Harriers and a group of 4 Corn Buntings in a nearby bush. Later, we got into position to witness the arrival of the cranes to roost in the lagoon, and we really enjoyed it! Marvellous!
After a nutritious breakfast, we are ready for our second day birding. Our first stop is in a viewpoint in Gallocanta. There we watched a group of 30 Ruffs, 3 Greylags and a good number of Cranes. Then, we continued driving to explore the surroundings and we found Northern Wheatear, Stonechats, Calandra and Crested Larks, Tree Sparrows, a shy Great Spotted Woodpecker, Spotless Starlings and other birds we saw the day before.
The landscape is really impressive with the contrast of the colours; the land is red, green and yellow ochre and the sky clear blue and white, fantastic for landscape shoots. Our next stop was in a nearby fresh water lagoon where there were Coots, Widgeons, Gadwalls, Shovelers and Chiffchaffs.
After that, we went to a bar to have a warm chocolate, which made us feel great!. Our last stop was in a gorge, where I expected to show them different species. Black Redstars and a group of Red-legged Partridges were seen along the track. Once we started walking, a pair of Golden Eagles and a few Griffon’s glided above us. We watched them few more times. Then, when we were about to walk back to the car a group of 50 Red-billed Choughs and a Peregrine Falcon were seen. What an end! Finally, we had a tasty and warm menu for lunch before heading back to Valencia.
This short holiday is a good option for those who wish a short break in an area with an unique landscape, and to witness the always impressive roost of thousands of cranes. Should you have any question, please do not hesitate to contact us.
Have a nice day
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I have had the pleasure of guiding Keith and Liz during 11 days in the South of Spain. We have visited Doñana, Sierra de Andújar and Cazorla from June, 23rd to July, 2nd. In this trip report, I will just comment the visit to the Coto de Doñana. Welcome to this birdwatching report Doñana.
At 9:00 I am picking Keith and Lee from their Hotel in the city center of Seville. Around 10:10 we arrive to el Rocio, a beautiful town which hasn’t lost any of his pure Spanish taste. I really recommend to go round this town.
Despite the low rainfall in this area during the last spring, the Rocio marshes and la Rocina still have a reasonable level of water. As we get to the Marshes of el Rocio and scan them, we see lots of Greater Flamingos, Spoonbills, Black tailed Godwits which have already started their post breeding migration, Black-winged Stilts, Black Kites, Shelducks, White Storks, Collared Pratincoles, Avocets, Booted Eagles, Griffon Vultures, Greylags, Reed Warblers, Little and Cattle Egrets and Spotless Starlings. We also enjoy for a while a family of Purple Swamp-hens feeding in the reeds.
After that, we grab some fruit for lunch and move to la Rocina. There, as we go from hide to hide following the boardwalk we find Short-toed Treecreeper, Melodious Warblers, Nightingales, Azure-winged Magpies, Stonechats and Woodchat Shrikes, many of them juveniles. From the hides, we see Glossy Ibis, Little Ringed Plover, Common Waxbills, Tree Sparrows, finches and a Red Deer.
Later we visit the other closeby visitor center, el Palacio del Acebrón which is accessible from La Rocina. There we find Bee-eaters, Hoopoes and Crested, Great and Long-tailed Tits, Iberian Grey Shrike and a Spotted Flycatcher. As we approach to the “closed” boarding walk, the weather worsened and starts raining so we decide go back to the Hotel.
We have dinner in the square in front of our Hotel. As the sunset, the sky is covered by Pratincoles and baths (Pipistrelle and Mouse-eared Bats). A great spectacle we all enjoy!
Today we will visit the North part of Doñana. In order to do it, we have to drive for 30 km along tracks surrounded with farmlands and ditches. As we drive we watch Purple Herons, Yellow Wagtails, Zitting Cisticola and Marsh Harrier. Our first stop is in a breeding colony of Spanish Sparrows, where Liz is delighted watching these ‘cheeky’ birds and a close nest of White Storks with three young. There, we are taken by surprise when a flock of 120-150 Collared Pratincoles is seen. Probably the biggest flock I have ever seen!
After that, we continue driving and spot a pair of Red-rumped Swallow, Gull-billed Terns, a flock of nearly 100 Calandra Larks, and few Short-toed Larks. Suddenly, I spot a distinctive raptor approaching, a Black-winged Kite! a few minutes later another appears. What a great bird!
The next stop is a an area where good numbers of Lesser Kestrels can be seen. We stay there for 30 minutes watching beautiful juveniles and adults. While Liz and Keith are enjoying a close view of them, I find a good number of Barn Owl pellets in a nearby building. Will they be around? Then, we continue driving and just before we get to JAV visitor center Liz finds a Barn Owl in a post. We stop the car just few meters away and get cracking views of this wonderful bird. Amazingly, Keith finds another Barn Owl hiding in a tamarisk just next to the first owl. What a moment! We stay more than 20 minutes taking photos and watching both birds.
Later, we stop for lunch and a coffee in the visitor center. We watch the egrets-ibis-herons colony and find a pair of Night Heron, Little Bittern, Little Grebe and Gadwalls. After that, we continue driving to the Dehesa de Abajo finding another Barn Owl (3 in total), Red Kite, a Green Sandpiper, a pair of Great Reed Warbler and a Short-toed Eagle. In the rice fields near the Dehesa, we find a Squacco Heron.
As we drive back to the Hotel after such a superb day, we see a Little Owl perch in a fence.
This coastal marsy reserve offers an interesting variety of species all year round thanks to the tides. A quick visit to the back of the visitor center reveals Little Terns, Kentish and Little Ringed Plovers and Black-tailed Godwit. Then, as we drive to the end of the docks, we find 3 Ospreys perched. Close to them, a female Hen Harrier bombs a Marsh Harrier which is resting on a Salicornia. A nice sighting! After that, we continue driving and as I heard the calling of Curlews I pull over. I set and focus the scope and we find Oystercatchers, Spoonbills, Common Redshank and a solitary Little Stint. We are surprised by the huge number of crab fish in the mud. On the dunes, Kentish Plovers and Crested Larks fly around.
After lunch we visit the lagoon of Portil. I look out for White-headed Duck but unfortunately there is none. However, we watch Red-crested and Common Pochard, a limping Greenshank, Spotted Redshank, Black-winged Stilts and Black-necked Grebe. We also find a Red-eared Terrapin basking in the shore. It is an American invasive species which is causing lot of trouble to the natives species.
The sun is intense and with 32ºC, we decide to change plans, so we move towards Doñana and stop to look for chameleons. It takes me around 25 minutes to find one in the middle of the bush, hiding from the sun. They are gorgeous!
Have a nice day
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This is a birdwatching trip report to La Mancha and Serrania de Cuenca from May 29th to June 4th. We arrive to our hotel in the evening of the 29th after a birding trip in the Pyrenees.
La Mancha and Serrania de Cuenca are wonderful areas to enjoy wildlife. The diversity of birds is fantastic and the Serrania is excellent for orchids and butterflies too. We have been guiding many naturalist and companies to this overlooked area.
After having breakfast in our hotel in Villalba de la Sierra, Lee and I have a quick look to the poplar trees behind the hotel and find a beautiful male of Golden Oriole. After that, we set off for the first stop in La Serranía de Cuenca where we watch Alpine and Common Swift, Blue Rock Thrush and Black Redstart.
Later, we walk around Uña lagoon seeing Great Reed Warbler, Iberian Green and Great spotted Woodpeckers, Nuthatch, Griffon Vulture, Booted Eagle, Short-toed Treecreeper, Marsh Harrier and Bonelli’s Warbler.
Our next stop is in the Spring of Cuervo River. As we walk along the path we find 4 different species of orchids (Narrow-leaved Helleborine “Cephalanthera longifolia”, Red Helleborine “Cephalanthera rubra”, Green-winged Orchid “Anacamptis morio” and Common Spotted Orchid “Dactylorhiza fuchsii“). It is really worth to visit the area for the beauty of the waterfalls and the interesting limestone formations. Keep in mind that during weekends the Cuervo River can be crowded, so better to visit in a week day.
Regarding birds, during the walk we watch a Booted Eagle taking off from a black pine, Firecrests feeding their fledged chicks, a Jay eating a tasty worm, and an Iberian Chiffchaff. After that, we walk near Vega de Codorno seeing Melodious Warbler, Yellowhammer, Black-eared and Northern Wheatear, Nightingale and Rock Sparrow. As I follow a Hobby with the binoculars, other raptors join; for few minutes there are 5 raptors in the sky! (2 Hobbies, an Egyptian Vulture, a Common Buzzard and a Booted Eagle) What a great place for raptors! We have been listening two different Cuckoos and Lee who is from U.S.A., is very keen to see this European specie. We creep along the meadow to watch the shy Cuckoo fly off. Close where it is, we see a Fallow deer.
We start the day walking along the Júcar River to see a 19th century watermill and some birds such as Iberian Green Woodpecker, Cetti’s Warbler, Nuthatch and Wrens. During the morning we visit the fields around the hotel, seeing Bee-eaters, Black-eared Wheatear, Crested Lark, Woodlark, Rock Sparrow, Orphean Warbler, Crested Tit, Hoopoe, Red Kite, Woodchat Shrike and an Iberian Hare. Then we visit and Las Majadas where we find badger scat, a Melodious Warbler, Crossbills and Yellow Bee Orchid and butterflies such as Adoni’s Blue, Provence Orange Tip, Black Veined and Cleopatra, among others,
After having lunch, we visit Beteta to find Bonelli’s Warbler, Short-toed Eagle, Booted Eagle and Griffon’s in their nest looking after their chicks. Nice view! Along the path we also find a Narrow-leaved Helleborine and “Pinguicola mundi”, an interesting endemic Butterwort.
Today we head off to the lagoons of La Mancha. In route we have good views of Montagu’s Harriers. The first stop is in Manjavacas lagoon where we find Fan-tailed Warbler, Marsh Harrier, Shelducks, Gull-billed and Whiskered Terns, Kentish and Ringed Plover, Black-winged Stilt, a Common Redshank and a Little Stint in full summer plumage.
Lesser Kestrels hunt in the nearby fields and a Little Owl peer at us from the wall of an abandoned hut. Later, we visit the Lagoons of Pedro Muñoz and find Lapwing, Gadwall, Spotted Starlings, Greater Flamingos and other species seen previously.
About noon, we are in the lagoons of Alcázar de San Juan. There, Lee makes the most of two pairs of White Storks and chicks in their nest. Moreover, we also see juveniles and adults of White-headed Ducks, Black-necked Grebes, Red-crested Pochard and Mediterranean Gull. We also add Black-tailed Godwits, Savi’s Warbler, Bearded Tit, Common Redshank and Wood Sandpiper. In the last lagoon, we find a Black Kite and few pairs of Lesser Kestrel. The last one breed in the area thanks to the construction of a “primillar” (buildings which imitate the countryside houses to allow them to breed there). After that, we drive to our Hotel in Belmonte.
Today we visit the Tablas de Daimiel National Park. A quick stop in the entrance reveals a pair of Penduline Tits, which are really abundant this year in the park.
In the same place, we watch about 8 pairs of White Storks in their nest, Great Crested Grebes, Cattle and Little Egret, Purple and Night Herons. Later, during a short walk in the reeds we observe Great Reed Warblers, Nightingales and Marsh Harriers. Black necked Grebe, Savi’s Warbler, Squacco Heron and Little Bitterns are very active. Finally, we see Spoonbills in their breeding colony on a group of tamarisk trees. Later, after lunch, we drive around the nearby farmland seeing a beautiful pair of Rollers, Lesser Kestrels, Hoopoe, Crested and Calandra Larks. With already 30ºC, we decide to drive back to the hotel.
At 7:30 p.m. we meet at the bar of the Hotel to have some refreshments with our local contact. He is going to show us a bird which I know Lee is very keen to see. Thirty minutes later, we stand in the opposite cliff of an abandoned quarry watching a chick of an Eagle Owl. What a beautiful view! Besides, Bee-eaters delight us with is beauty. They breed just few meters away from the Eagle Owl. My congratulations to the owners of so well manage hunting ground! We encourage landowners to protect raptors as a tourism resource.
Few minutes after setting off to the South of the province, a large bird fly above us, I say: It’s a Great Bustard; Lee reply:“You are kidding”. No, I am not. There it is, a solitary Great Bustard.
One hour later we are in the Dehesa of Munera where we see Sardinian, Dartford and Spectacled Warbler. That’s fantastic, two new species for Lee.
As we drive through the countryside, we find Thekla Lark, more Spectacled Warbler, Booted Eagle, Black and Red Kite. In additio, no far from there, we add Iberian Grey Shrike, Hoopoe, Spotless Starling, Corn Buntings and Woodlark.
After that, we go to the Lagunas de Ruidera Natural Park. In this beautiful spot we watch Purple Heron, Crested Tit, Blue Rock Thrush, Great Crested Grebe, Iberian Magpie, Ocellated Lizards and a wide variety of butterflies: Small Tortoiseshell, Red Admiral, Western Dappled White, etc.
Again, the temperature is over 30ºC, so we go to the Hotel to rest after 14 following day birding around Spain.
I strongly recommend visiting La Mancha and Serranía de Cuenca. Both are superb areas for birding and are unfairly overlooked as a birding and wildlife destination. I hope you find useful this birdwatching trip report La Mancha. Should you have any question, please do not hesitate to contact us or visit the tour calendar.
Have a nice day
At 6:30 a.m. Lee, Lauren and I are leaving from Gandia to Valencia to drop off Lauren in the Ave train station. At 9:00 we are birding in “La Sierra del Toro”. This open Mediterranean woodland forest mix with traditional farmland holds a good number of interesting species.
Our first observations in the area are Rock Sparrow and Black-eared Wheatear which welcome us from a hut roof. Then, we park the car to walk around the countryside. Woodlarks and Northern Wheatears fly in display. Iberian Green Woodpecker is spotted by Lee. That is great! Woodpeckers are her favourite birds! After that, we move to the other side of the road watching Great Spotted Woodpecker,3 Subalpine Warblers, Cirl Bunting, Serin, 3 majestic Short-toed Eagle, an Egyptian Vulture and an Orphean Warbler! What a place! The area is also full of butterflies such us Eastern Dappled White, Cleopatra, Large and Small Whites.
Thirty minutes later we stop near the Mijares River, in the province of Teruel. There, Skylarks, Ortolan Bunting, Melodious Warbler, Booted Eagle, Bee-eater, Grey Wagtail and Stock Doves are quickly spotted.
Around 2:00 p.m. we leave to our next destination, the steppes of Belchite. Once we arrive there, a great number of Lesser Short-toed Larks are observed along with Thekla and Calandra Larks. Later, while I drive back to the main road to leave the reserve, I spot a Pin-tailed Sandgrouse hidden less than 10 m from the car; quickly I share my finding with Lee. What a gorgeous bird! Few minutes after that, a pair of Black-bellied Sandgrouse fly in front of us. That has been a great end for the first day! Now it is time to rest and have dinner after this intense and pleasant birding day.
At 9:00 we head off to the western Pyrenees. In route we observe Red Kites and White Storks in their nest.
As we drive through the Foz de Bienés, Lee says “there is a Fox”. Quickly I drive backwards and there it is, a beautiful Red Fox in the middle of the meadow looking at us. After that, we continue driving for 20 minutes to reach a viewing point. As I park, a Hare runs to hide in the bushes. We stay for 40 minutes watching Griffon Vultures, a pair of Subalpine Warblers, a Bonelli’s Warbler and a Peregrine Falcon. Then, we move to the Ansó Valley where we enjoy a pair of Egyptian Vultures, Red-backed Shrikes, Red-billed Choughs and Grey Wagtails. Suddenly, a large raptor soars along the valley, I pull over and I shout: it’s a Lammergeier-Lee replies:”You’re Kidding”. There it is, a superb adult Lammergeier in our first day in the Spanish Pyrenees!
As the weather get worst and it rains, we decide to move to the Roncal Valley. There we enjoy watching Water Pipits, Yellow-billed Choughs, Black Redstarts, and other common birds.
Today we focus on the Hecho Valley. In route we manage to see Iberian Chiffchaff, Dunnock, Subalpine Warblers, Grey Wagtails, Red-backed Shrikes, Yellowhammer, Bullfinches and a Roe Deer. After parking the car in the middle of the valley, we find 2 Red squirrels playing in a beech tree. Then, we walk for 30 minutes through the forest to reach an excellent point to observe the star of the day “the Wallcreepeer”. During the walk we watch Coal, Citril Finch, Long-tailed and Crested Tits, Nuthatch, Firecrest, Griffon Vultures, Yellow-billed Choughs, Crag Martins and Chamois grazing high in the meadows. Black-veined White and Dark Green Fritillary Butterflies are seen too.
Once we arrive to the right spot, it doesn’t take more than 10 minutes to find the superb Wallcreepeer, excellent! As we feel hungry, we walk back to the car to have lunch. Then, we continue up to the valley seeing Iberian Green Woodpecker, Egyptian Vulture, Common Buzzard, Linnets, Yellowhammer and a Marmot which sadly is missed by Lee. As showers are back, we decide to drive back to the hotel.
Showers are the forecast for today. Being today our last full day in the Pyrenees, we will focus on the species we haven’t seen yet. First we stop near Isaba, in reliable point to observe the Dipper. After just five minutes waiting, a Dipper flies right up the river. Lee misses it, so I suggest her staying in the same point while I walk along the river to relocate it. Ten minutes later I turn my head towards Lee and I see her thumb up. She got a fantastic close view of the Dipper catching insects. Great!
Then, I drive to another place where we expect to find the star of the day “the Rock Thrush”. We look out to the rocky slopes, but nothing, the weather is not helping at all. We decide to try a bit further up in the hillside and after few minutes walking I spot this magnificent bird in the top of the rock. Lee is like a dog with two tails! After that, we move to next place where we have great views of Water Pipits, Ring Ouzels, Citril Finches, Goldcrest and Crossbills.
We decide to move down the valley in search of better weather. While we have lunch, we watch a pair of Egyptian Vultures, a Blue Rock Thrush, Red-backed Shrikes, Peregrine Falcons, a Red Kite and a Booted Eagle.
Today we leave the Pyrenees to continue bird watching in La Mancha. As we drive close to Bianés, a Roe Deer crosses the road and a Golden Eagle and an Egyptian Vulture are seen. Later, we stop in the Sierra de Guara to have lunch. There, Tawny Pipit, Bee-eater, Sardenian Warbler, Egyptian Vulture, Red-billed Chough and 2 Lammergeiers are seen. Excellent!
It has been a fantastic tour with lots of interesting birds. It has been a great pleasure to guide Lee. Thanks.
Have a nice day
Valencia Region and particularly Valencia and Alicante provinces are excellent places to watch steppes birds. There are 2 main places, one is Pétrola and it is located in the borders between Valencia and Albacete. The second one, is in Villena, in the Alicante province. Both places hold a good number of steppe birds: Little (scarce and declining) and Great Bustard, Pint-tailed and Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Calandra, Thekla and Short-toed Lark, etc. Sadly, this group of birds are declining due to farming intensification.
Pétrola is probably a better place for Great Bustards, while Villena holds a higher density of both Sandgrouses as well as Lesser short-toed Lark. In addition, both areas offer good chances to see Spanish Imperial Eagle, although the sightings are mainly immature birds. Golden Eagle, Great spotted cuckoo, Spectacled Warbler and other wonderful birds can be seen along the year.
Both places can be visit during our 5-day bird watching tour.
This trip report is about the guiding I did in Petrola on April 29th. It is 8:30 in the morning and I am meeting Peter and his wife in a petrol station near l’Alcudia. I suggested them to take this tour as this area looks superb at the moment! These well preserve steppes are among the best birding places in all East Spain.
Our first stop in a lagoon revealed Greater Flamingos, Avocets, Black-winged Stilts, Common Sandpiper, Gadwalls, Shelducks, Dunlins, Redshanks and Gull-billed Terns. It did not take long before I locate 4 Long-tailed Sandgrouses, Hoopoe and Calandra Larks in the nearby fields. Ten minutes later a group of Black-bellied Sandgrouse flew at some distance which made us very happy! Christine did very well finding our first Great Bustard, which was followed by two males and few more females. We have been just 40 minutes and we have seen all these amazing birds! Both Sandgrouses and Bustards usually occurs in the same area.
Later, we stopped in a second lagoon finding Kentish and Ringed Plover, Lapwing, Greenshank, Black-tailed Godwits, Whiskered Terns and 2 Temminck’s Stints. So far so good! A solitary Stone Curlew flew above the lagoon. In front of us, there was a stone wall where I found Crested Larks, a Rock Sparrow and a flock of Spotless Starlings. We continue driving to the Petrola lagoon to find Ruff, Wood Sandpiper, Sanderlings, Little and Cattle Egrets, Marsh Harriers, Zitting Cisticolas, Bee-eaters, Black-necked Grebes, Common and Red-crested Pochards, Yellow Wagtails, Shovelers, 2 stunning males White-headed Ducks and Black Terns.
The island on the back of the lagoon, was very busy with large numbers of Greater Flamingos and Black-headed Gulls breeding. Peter spotted on the top of the reeds a Great Reed Warbler singing. Reed Warbler and Savi’s warblers were also singing from the reeds and a Cuckoo from the farmland close to the lagoon. Before we moved to the next place, we watched a Nightingale on an almond tree.
Finally, we move around the farmland to find Short-toed Larks, around 15 Great Bustards, Linnets, Corns Buntings and finches. In the last lagoon, there were a wide variety of waders previously mentioned, besides Curlew Sandpiper and Little Stints.
I hope you enjoy this trip report and article about the steppe birds in Valencia and Alicante! More information about this tour can be found in our Great Bustard Tour. Should you have any question, please do not hesitate to contact us!
Have a nice day
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