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.
Helen and Dick, Alberta, Canada
Please, find below the birdwatching and wildlife report from our trip to Granada and Tarifa, in the Strait of Gibraltar.
Arriving on our previous days to the beautiful city of Granada, we met our guide Pau Lucio on October 8th when he picked us from our Hotel in Granada. We took the motorway and our first stop was in the farmland near Huetor-Tajar (second home of Pau).
We parked the car in an almond tree orchard and went for a stroll seeing a party of 3 Black-bellied sandgrouses following by another 6 birds. Groups of Skylarks and Lesser-short toed larks were flying around and a Little Owl was perched in a wall. The sun was warming up and our first raptors were soaring in the sky, a Short-toed Eagle and a Peregrin Falcon. A far distant Sparrowhawk and a group of 5 Black Storks were circle up in the sky! That was fantastic and we hadn’t arrive to Tarifa yet! As we were walking back to the car a Iberian Green Woodpecker flew from tree to tree.
After driving few minutes to the next place, a large raptor was soaring in the sky, Pau pulled over to see it better and it was an inm. Golden Eagle!! The 5 of us were delighted and lucky as according Pau there are very few pairs in the area. Ten minutes later, we were in a pool with some interesting dragonflies that we were interested in seeing. Once we arrived, a dark morph Booted Eagle was on view and a Green Sandpiper flew away with some Shovellers. Regarding dragonflies, Violet dropwing, Epaulet Skimmer, Red-veined darter, Common darter, Blue emperor, Blue-tailed damselfly, Common Blue damselfly and Orange-winged dropwing.
After lunch in a nearby bar, we drove to another point to add some new birds. Azure-winged magpies were cooperative and we witnessed a group of 10 chasing off a Common kestrel. 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 hadn’t started to migrate. On the wire, we spotted 4 Lesser Kestrels and Bard Swallows, Sand and House Martins were still abundant.
We set off our trip to Tarifa at 9:00 to continue the birdwatching trip. One our later we were in Antequera visiting a local reserve. The area is fantastic to get close views of Spanish Ibex and Griffon Vultures and that is what we did!. We went for a stroll and added some more birds such as Black Redstar, Long-tailed Tit and the first wintering Ring Ouzel.
After lunch, we continued our journey to our hotel in Tarifa where we check-in the Hotel. Then, we went to Los Lances where we watched Yellow Wagtail, Sanderlings, Turnstone, Dunlins, Sandwich Terns, Audouin’s, Black-backed and Black-headed Gulls. Off shore, Cory’s Shearwaters and Gannets were mifrating into the Med and Greenfinches were feeding on the dunes. Then before going back to the Hotel to have dinner, we went to a view point to look for late migrants and we managed to see a flock of Bee-eaters, 3 Short-toed Eagle, 4 Booted Eagles, 1 White Stork, 1 Hobby and lots of swallows and martins.
Today we went to visit the feeding grounds of the reintroduced Bald Ibises. We got cracking views of two of them which were looking for insects in the grass. Meanwhile everyone enjoyed taking photos of these fantastic birds, a group of 4 Black Kites and 1 Red Kite flew over us.
Crested Tits were also seeing in the nearby forest and Short-toed Treecreeper sung from the same area. Then, we drove to la Janda where we had our picnic seeing large flocks of Spotless Starlings, Glossy Ibises and Calandra Larks. Pau did very well finding a Black-shoulder Kite on a paddy field. As we drove along the track, Tree Sparrows, Corn Buntings, Cetti’s Warblers and finches hid in the bushes and White Storks fed on the ditches. John found a large bird of prey which turned to be a Spanish Imperial Eagle! Superb!. Soon after this, we left to the port of Tarifa to embark in a boat to watch seabirds and whales. We managed to see, Long-finned Pilot Whales (fantastic close-up views!), Ocean Sunfish, Common Dolphin and Balearic Shearwaters.
After cheking-out, we went to the mouth of the Palomones. This small area was packed with birds including 2 Ospreys, Wood and Common Sandpipers, both Redshanks, Whiskered Terns and Slender-billed Gulls. After this break, we set off to Málaga airport but with memories not only of the fantastic wildlife we had all witnessed but also the culture and friendliness of all our hosts.
We hope you find this tailor-made 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 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.
Some photos regarding the trip can be seen in Instagram.
Welcome to our Sierra de Guara trip report, in search of 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, which is good news as Otter are rare in Guara.
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 where we spot Chiffchaffs, a Golcrest, Song and Mistle Thrushes and our second Lammergeier!
Time to go back to the hotel to enjoy the dinner: fighting bull as main dish and a tasty sheep milk yoghurt for dessert.
Our last day started in a quite side valley. In the hillside, a group of 8 Chamois grazed peacefully and a Ring Ozuel was spotted by Simon. Dunnocks, Water Pipits, Black Redstarts, Red and Black Kites and a two Lammergeier were seeing! One of them was carrying in the bill something which leaved to the second one in the nest. Just superb! There were also tracks of Ptarmigan, but no sight of them.
After lunch, we set off to Valencia where my guests would stay overnight to catch an early flight the following morning. After having drive 3 h, we stopped in a gorge 20 km passing Teruel in order to see an Eagle Owl. It took nearly two hours to find it, but we did it. On Easter Sunday there were people everywhere and the pair of Eagle Owls became much more elusive. This top predator was still in a rock behind a bush 50 m away from the nest. From the gorge we also watched a dark morph Booted Eagle. As it was getting dark, we drove the final stretch to Valencia where I dropped them off in a Hotel near the airport.
All in all, a very interesting trip with good birding. May thanks to Sally, Simon, Dorothy and Mary. Please, visit our tour calendar or contact us for the next winter Sierra de Guara tour, which will be focus among other species in Wallcreepers and Lammergeiers.
We hope you find this Sierra de Guara Trip report useful.
Have a nice day
Birding in Benidorm? Many tourist doubt about the birding in Benidorm but I will tell you about the fantastic bird reserves that you can find just one hour 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. (Please click here to see the information regarding this tour). Our first stop was at the Salinas de Santa Pola where we watched an immature Slender-billed Gull (the first lifer for Vernon), a Great White Heron, Yellow-legged Gulls, lots of Greater Flamingos and Shelducks, a Knot (a local rarity which has been in the area for few weeks), Black-tailed Godwits, Avocets, Redshanks, Black-winged Stilts, Little Stints, Iberian Grey Shrikes, Serins and other common birds.
Our second stop was on the beach near the Salinas. There we enjoyed a close-up group of 10 Sanderlings. With the telescope we watched Gannets diving and Audouin’s Gulls. Later, we drove to a nearby bar to have a coffee before continuing the birding tour.
Our next stop was at El Hondo reservoir. Here the star was a group of 70 White-headed Ducks mixed with Black-necked Grebes, Tufted Ducks and Common Pochards. We also found an injured male Red-Crested Pochard (probably shoot by hunters the days before), so I phoned straightaway the wildlife recovery center. Marsh Harriers, Stonechat, a Yellow Wagtail and gorgeous male Darford Warbler were also seen in the surroundings.
To finish the tour, we moved to our last stop in the hills which surround El Hondo. There, we got superb views of the resident pair of Bonelli’s Eagles patrolling their territory. We could see through the telescope these fantastic raptors looking at us from their usual perch. Later, on the top of a huge rock I spotted a Black wheatear and shared it quickly with Vernon. Crested Larks, Hoopoe and Sardinian Warblers were calling. On the way back to the main road, Vernon did very well spotting a Little Owl on a stone wall. With no more time, we drove back to Benidorm after this wonderful birding tour in a sunny and warm day.
As I am writing this, I get news of a Lesser Yellowlegs located in the farmland fields South of “El Hondo”. It shows what a fantastic area for birding the Alicante province is!.
Have a nice day
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 this Lynx tour during January and part of February.
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 ). 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. 🙂
Have a nice day
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Please, find below our Gallocanta trip report. November, 15th – 16th
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.
Have a nice day
Please find the trip report 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 bird watching tour Valencia.
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.
Have a nice day
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Birding trip Alicante, a bird watching trip report to Monnegre, El Hondo and Santa Pola Salinas. For more information about our standard bird watching tour in Alicante, please visit the following link.
I hope to catch your attention about the superb birdlife that can be found in this part of Spain (Alicante and Valencia provinces). Last Tuesday, I had the pleasure to guide Richard in the Alicante area. He had emailed me a list of lifers he would like to see and I think we did pretty well.
After picking him at 6:30 (we wanted to avoid the heat), we set off to el Monnegre to look for our first targets, the Black Wheatear. It didn’t take long before we watched our first Black Wheatear in the river gorge, following by two mores near a building in ruins. After that, we drove for few minutes to visit an area where last May I found two territories of Rufous-tailed Scrub-robin. In my opinion, this is one of the most wanted birds as it has become very rare. Unfortunately, the population is crashing and the remain pairs are very located and will be extinct in the near future.
We failed in the first attempt. Nevertheless, we found in the second patch a nice male Rufous-tailed Scrub-robin calling on the top of a pine three. What a superb bird! Besides, we found Crested Lark, Sardinian Warbler, Red-legged Partridge, Woodchat and Iberian Grey Shrike.
Our next destination in this birding trip Alicante, was El Hondo. There, we found in the lagoon besides the visitor center Fan-tailed Warbler, Purple swamp-hens and the usual Red-Knobbed Coots with a white collar.
These RKC are part of a reintroduction programme which is not working as well as we would like. The main reason, is hunting and although RKC are protected, Common coot are hunted. Both species look very similar and hunters can shoot at night! Ridiculous isn’t it? Once the birds are release, they disperse and never settle, suffering high mortality.
We continued the birding trip Alicante finding the third target of the day, the White-headed Duck. There was a group of 5-6 ducks diving in front of the first hide, most of them juveniles which is excellent!. In addition, we also watched a good number of birds such as Collared Pratincole, Squacco, Night and Purple Heron, Whiskered Tern, Little and Cattle Egret, Shelduck, Black-winged Stilt, Whimbrel, Plovers, Sandpipers and a female Red-crested Pochard to name few.
Around 11:00, we started to feel the heat, so we decided to go for some refreshments in San Felipe Neri before driving to the Salinas de Santa Pola. Later, while I was driving to the Salinas I found a Roller in a Palm tree, much to Richard surprise. I pulled over the car to watch it. Nice bird!
In the Salinas we found another target, the Slender-billed Gull. Moreover, we watched Greater Flamingos, Avocets, Kentish Plover, Gull-billed, Common and Little Tern, and other common birds.
Finally, we made a short visit to the beach finding the last target, the Audouin’s Gull.
The following day we went to the steppes of Albacete where we accomplished the two last targets: Little Bustard (a group of 10) and Black-bellied Sandgrouse. Other nice sightings were Great Bustards, a White-headed Duck, Black-necked Grebes, Pin tailed Sandgrouses and Bee-eaters.
I hope you find useful this birding trip Alicante article. Furthermore, I would like to encourage worldwide birders to visit this superb area which won’t disappoint you by any means.
Have a nice day
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