We hope this birding trip report to Morocco describes the beauty of the landscape as well as the diversity of the birds seen during our wildlife trip to Morocco.
Carles, Jenny and Pau arrived the day before to Marrakech. During breakfast, Rod arrives and the four of them go for a walk around the city. Shortly after leaving the hotel they see the first Common Bulbul singing in a garden. Just in front of them, in an old mill, Pau spot a small group of House Buntings. After that, the group continues walking to the garden of El Hartí where spend the morning watching birds until the arrival of Chris.
After lunch, Hamid the local guide picks them up to visit the city centre, the medina and the Bahia Palace. Finally, a visit to the bustling Jemaa El Fna, a must-see in Marrakech. The square is full of vendors of spices and leather goods, snake charmers, Barbary macaque to take pictures with and countless places to eat. During the stroll, they observe different species of birds, among them White Storks, Little Swifts and a Common Sparrowhawk.
At dinner time, the six members of the group join, and Pau brief them about the plan for the next day.
At 9 o’clock in the morning the group leaves Marrakech towards the beautiful mountains of the High Atlas. The first stop is excellent for birds. As soon as they arrive, a small group of Maghreb Magpies show up. This species was split as a different species from the Common Magpie during this year, 2018. Not far from the Magpies, they find a beautiful Moussier’s Redstart, undoubtedly one of the most beautiful birds in all of Morocco. The search for birds continues in the surroundings and soon John find a Southern Grey Shrike of the subspecies elegans. A different subspecies of the Great Grey Shrike that is found in UK. In a nearby cultivated fields, the group locates a group of Barbary Partridges, and at the top of a mound a Little Owl stands out.
The party continues the trip to the High Atlas stopping at the Oukaimeden mountain pass. Along the way, children sell fruits of the strawberry trees in small stands along the road. In a short stop to take landscape pictures, a pair of Bonelli’s Eagle fly over them just few meters away. Superb! Once Hamid drives them to the mountain pass (2600 m asl), is time for having lunch: Moroccan salad and chicken tajin. Now with the bellies full, everyone is ready to look for the specialities of the Atlas.
In the nearby meadows, a large flock of Common Chaffinch and Rock Sparrow are seen. After an hour of unsuccessful search of the Crimson-winged Finch, they set off to try their luck in another area. Suddenly, a small group of Crimson-winged Finch shows up and lands few meters away from them. That’s a treat for photographers!!! Finally, the last stop of the day is in a meadow where they see the beautiful Atlas Horned Lark and Black Wheatear.
As they have seen all the targets and there is still light, the group decides to make a last stop for woodpeckers. The stop is well worth it as they find the endemic Levaillant’s Green Woodpecker, Great Spotted Woodpecker and the African Blue Tit. Happy with the sightings, the group goes to the lodge; beautiful stone cabins surrounded by cedars and junipers in the Atlas Mountains. The night is chilly so the staff kindly light the fire in the cabins, making our stay even more pleasant.
Today is basically a transfer from the mountains to the semi-desert of Boumalne du Dades, in total 350 km. The pace of the trip is slow but steady. Few weeks ago, there were severe floods that damaged the main road which crosses the Atlas. Some stops are made along the way to stretch the legs and to see the scarce Magreb Wheatear. The landscape is spectacular with massive snow-capped mountains and fertile valleys where people still plough the fields with donkeys and women wash clothes in the rivers.
After few hours, the van drive through the Moroccan “Hollywood” Ouarzazate, where films as popular as Lawrence of Arabia, Gladiator or The Mummy have been filmed. After fer hours, Hamid drives the minibus through the city of roses, famous for the cultivation of this flower. Today last stop is to see the White-crowned Wheatear. All in all, a long road journey that is necessary in order to visit very interesting and diverse birding areas in Morocco.
After breakfast, the party visit the famous Tagdilt track. Without doubt, this is one of the top areas for birding in Southern Morocco. It takes them only 10 minutes to get there from the hotel in Boumalne du Dades. This track attracts numerous bird species, due to the presence of a nearby landfill. As soon as they arrive, a Long-legged Buzzard flies by in front of them.
Walking along the track, Brahim spots a beautiful male Red-rumped Wheatear, which continually sings its melodic song. The group checks in detail every bird they see and soon find the pretty Thick-billed Lark, a species difficult to find. In addition, the party also enjoys numerous juveniles as well as adults of Temmick’s Larks. What a beautiful bird with its little horns!
The group get into the van and Hamid drives for a couple of kilometres until they bump into a small group of Trumpeter Finches perched on the wires of a fence. At the same time, a beautiful Hoopoe Lark is heard, so the group sets out to look for it in the surrounding fields. They locate up to four different birds, and everyone is impressed by the display of this stunning bird. After that, Hamid take the group to an area to have the picnic. Everyone enjoys the sandwiches of Moroccan omelette while two White-crowned Wheatears perch just few meters away.
About around 1:30 p.m., the party sets off to explore a nearby gorge where they find a small group of Desert Larks. However, the main reason to go there, is to try to locate the Pharaoh Eagle Owl. After looking for it in different areas, Brahim finally find a beautiful bird hiding in a crevice. There is no better way to finish the day than watching this gorgeous owl! As all the targets have been seen, the group decides to return to the hotel a little earlier and have free time the rest of the day. Later, Carles and David go for a walk around the Riat and they find a Laughing Dove.
After breakfast, the group sets off towards Merzouga. This city is the gate to the Sahara. The first stop of the day is in the popular and touristic gorge of Todra. However, this is mainly a stop to enjoy the impressive walls, to buy some souvenirs and to take some photographs of the old towns built by a mixture of mud and straw. After this, the journey continues for one hour until they get to the restaurant to have lunch.
One hour later, it is time for a birding stop. As soon as the group get off the minibus, a Fulvous Babbler is spotted. Where there is one there is more! This beautiful bird is always found in family groups. After that, everyone starts the search of the “mouse”, or better named the Scrub Warbler. It eludes the group by flying from bush to bush, until finally they get it. Speaking of mice, Carles locates a Fat Sand Rat, a common rodent in desert areas. In addition, other species are seen such as Lesser-short toed Lark and gorgeous Bar-tailed Larks, which stand out for their pale coloration. Finally, the journey continues to the hotel. From the terrace of the rooms, there are spectacular views of the desert dunes.
Today will be a great day of bird watching in the Sahara Desert. After breakfast, the group meet the drivers and split in the two 4×4 vehicles. The first species they watch is the Brown-necked Raven, which stands out for its brownish colour around the neck, smaller wingspan and bill size than the Common Raven. Their next stop is in a nomad house where the group enjoys superb views of Dessert Sparrow and a Hoopoe Lark. Nomads put out every morning some food and water for the birds. This allows very close observations of these stunning birds. While the group enjoys the green tea generously offered by the nomads, a group of 30 Spotted Sandgrouses fly over the dunes. That’s a good start of the day!
Later, the group visits an area with a little more vegetation where have very good sightings of a Desert Warbler. Furthermore, they see between the bushes a cracking male of Tristram’s Warbler. This bird is much easier found in winter as they spend the cold period in the desert. On the way to the next point, Pau find a female Desert Wheatear and a stunning Cream-coloured Courser. The luck is on their side, as in winter it is a difficult time to find the Courser which tends to move to the South.
At lunchtime, they have a tasty Berber couscous and take the opportunity to buy fossils in the family shop of their local guide. Courtesy of Brahim. During the afternoon, the group set out to look for the only species that remains to be seen, the Lanner Falcon. The sun is strong and the area they explore is facing the sun. While part of the group scans the sky looking for the Falcons, others enjoy the butterflies. There are many interesting species to watch, but the most numerous is the Painted Lady. It has recently been published in a paper that this species is the longest continuously migrating butterfly ever recorded, even more than the Monarch.
The group decides to try their luck with the Lanner Falcon in another area. As they scan the wall, a Red Fox pops up its head from a cave, but no sight of the Falcon. The group is divided to cover the whole area and can only watch the Lanner Falcon for few seconds and far away. Finally, when they were heading back to the vehicles, a Lanner Falcon perched on the wall is spotted by Brahim. A few minutes later, another bird arrives and perches few meters away from the other bird. Happy for finding the bird, the group heads back to the hotel. A wonderful day in the desert!
Today it will start the journey back to Marrakech. During the morning the van crosses the Anti-Atlas mountain range where the Acacias trees dominate the landscape. They make a short stop in this area and find a pair of Tristram’s Warblers, which hide quickly in the thick trees. Ten minutes later, the van is back on the road until lunchtime. The stop is in a restaurant with fabulous views to an oasis. Here small groups of Laughing doves and a colourful Plain Tiger Butterfly are seen.
After an hour’s drive, Hamid stops at the Dadès River, where they find the Moroccan subspecies of White Wagtail and a Cetti’s Warbler among other birds. The last stop before arriving at the hotel is in the reservoir of El Mansour where they see numerous Ruddy Shelducks, Ducks, White Storks and Maghreb Lark, which is considered by some authors a subspecies of the Crested Lark.
Today’s route runs through the pass of Tizi n’Tichka (2260 m asl) offering spectacular views. One hour later, a stop is made to see a female Blue-rock Thrush perched on the roof of a farm. In the same area, they find a beautiful male of a Moussier’s Redstart and Thekla Larks. The journey continues with a stop for coffee and another to have lunch on a terrace with stunning views of the Atlas Mountains. Before getting to the hotel, a short stroll is taken through some wheat fields. Here they find six Barbary Partridges, Linnets, Corn Bunting and a Long-legged Buzzard.
After breakfast, the group go for a walk through the wooded area in the hotel, finding different Common crossbills. It is very likely that this subspecies of Atlas Crossbill will be soon split and therefore be a different species than the Common Crossbill that can be observed in UK. In addition, they find Cirl Bunting, Coal and African Blue Tit and the two subspecies of Chaffinches, the nominal one, and the africana one which is exclusive of North Africa.
Around 11:30 a.m., they are transferred to the airport in Marrakech. Sadly, the birding trip to Morocco comes to an end. All have enjoyed spectacular scenery, birds and a wonderful culture and will certainly go back to Morocco.
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The strait of Gibraltar and the surroundings are a wonderful place to witness the bird migration. We organise birdwatching and birding trip every season. Please find our last trip report below.
It is a beautiful morning in Málaga airport. Pau is waiting for the arriving of the group from Bristol airport.
After greetings, we set off towards the Strait of Gibraltar for birding in the most important migratory bottleneck in West Europe. As we are getting close to Tarifa, we see the Rock of Gibraltar on our side and the Djebel Musa on the African side. Our first stop is in route, in Palmones river mouth where a Lesser Crested Tern was spotted few days before. This vagrant is recorded every autumn in the region. It takes just few minutes to get this beautiful tern in the scope. It stands out in a mix group of Sandwich and Little Terns. Along the muddy shores, we see different waders: Dunlins, Sandernings, Redshanks and Kentish Plover. In addition, there are 4 different species of gulls, including Mediterranean Gulls, Audouin’s and Slender-billed Gulls. On the back of the main lagoon a group of Greater Flamingos rest along egrets and herons.
We continued our journey towards the accommodation to enjoy our first Spanish dinner.
We have a long day planned and indeed it is! We have an early breakfast at the hotel and set off to the West part of Doñana Natural Park. The first stop of the day is for Bald Ibis, which a sighting of 24 birds feeding along Jackdaw. It is great to see how well they are doing after the reintroduction!
After enjoying these weird-looking birds, we make a detour to see Stone Curlew in Barbate. We continue our journey stopping for the Little Swift, watching a colony of about 20 pairs. After that, we get to a pond to see White-headed Ducks where we have lunch. In the surroundings of the pond, we get an Iberian Green Woodpecker flying over the woods. The rest of the day is spent in Bonanza saltpans. We scan the reeds in detail and we get good views of Western Purple Swamp-hen, Squacco Heron and Little Bittern. Regarding waterfowl, we find swimming around Red-crested Pochard and a Marbled Teal among others species.
On the saltpans, we see three different species of terns: Gull-billed, Black and Caspian Tern. Furthermore, there are both species of Godwits, Little Stints, Turnstone and other waders.
Finally, we make a stop in the surroundings for Lesser-short toed Lark. As we wait for them to show up, we see flying over our first Osprey.
It has been a long day and we still have a bit of driving ahead. Thus, we set off to the hotel after a successful birding day in the Strait of Gibraltar.
In our third day of this exciting birding tour to the Strait of Gibraltar we start the day watching the migration from a viewpoint. During the morning we add Lesser Kestrel, numerous Sparrowhawks and Bee-eaters, which are one of the favorite birds. Then, suddenly the sky is covered by a flock of 120 Black Storks!!! What an amazing and unusual sighting!! As the wind speed up again, we set off to the forest west of Tarifa. Here, sheltered from the wind, there are numerous passerines waiting for the right conditions to migrate. A female Redstart moves from the busses to the Umbrella pines, and in the branches there are Garden Warblers and both flycatchers: Pied and Spotted. In a Pistacia bush there are different warblers feeding on berries which turn out to be Sardenian Warbler and Bonelli’s Warbler.
After lunch, we drive towards la Janda, to look for new species. White Storks, Glossy Ibises and Egrets feed on the farmland. We continue driving along the track to find Tree and Spanish sparrows, Yellow wagtail and over 30 Turtle doves. We are very pleased to see so many Turtle Doves together, sadly an unusual sighting nowadays. The day finishes with a stunning pair of Spanish Imperial Eagle perched on a Pilon.
After breakfast we drive for few minutes to our first watchpoint. Winds play an important role in the migration, so depending of the wind direction we will choose a location. Soon, we watch our first raptors of the day: Booted Eagles, Black Kites, Short-toed Eagles and Honey Buzzard. The wind makes them fly a bit higher but the number of raptors is just amazing! We enjoy watching the interaction between birds. Raptors are mobbed by a Peregrine Falcon which ends up diving after a group of feral pigeons. Other interesting raptors include Egyptian Vultures, Bonelli’s Eagle and a Montagu’s Harrier.
As the weather has improved today, we decide to take the boat trip hoping to add seabirds and whales. As we wait to jump on the boat, we get a group of Pallid Swifts flying around. Once we are few miles away from Tarifa, we get a single Storm Petrel. About half an hour later, we see a group of 6 Pilot whales swimming right besides us. A fantastic sight! Later, we see a group of Cory’s Shearwaters. We also see two species of dolphins: Common Dolphin and Bottlenose Dolphin
After lunch, we look for birds among the cork oak forest. Here we get Short-toed treecreeper, Crested Tit, Jay, Firecrest, Subalpine Warbler and other forest birds. On the way back we get two “extra” raptors, a fast flying Hobby and a Goshawk. Later we drive back to our accommodation.
Today is our last day of the tour and we make the most of the few hours left before heading to Malaga airport. We go back to la Janda and this time we do get Black-shoulder Kite and few more waders: Common Snipe, Wood and Green Sandpiper.
All in all, it has been a successful birding trip around the strait of Gibraltar with a great diversity of species, including good number of raptors. Thanks everyone for joining this trip.
Welcome to our wildlife report to Valencia, La Mancha, Madrid and Pyrenees. We planned this itinerary to cover most of the habitats found in mainland Spain in order to get a good diversity of birds. May 2018
At 8:45 sharp, Deidre, Karmela and Rod are picked up by Pau from their hotel in Valencia. They drive west through a busy traffic in Valencia, and about 1:10 h later arrive to Fuenterrobles, close to the border with La Mancha. After a short walk in the scrubland, Pau finds a Thekla Lark and a stunning male Black-eared Wheatear perched on a telephone wire. Pau ears a familiar call and after few minutes searching they get their reward, a beautiful Spectacled warbler. On a nearby field, Greater short toed larks delight the group with their full song in a beautiful morning.
They continue driving along the A3 for 1:30 h to a local bar to have lunch. Their next stop is in the lagoons of “La Mancha Húmeda”. By the road, there is a small pond packed with birds, including 40+ Black terns, numerous species of waders and a pair of the most wished Bearded tits. They drive along the track and find the colourful Bee-eaters and distant Lesser Kestrels.
Finally, the afternoon is spent in Alcázar enjoying close views of White-headed Ducks, Black-necked Grebes and Red-crested Pochards.
Dinner is in a local restaurant in Belmonte: Ajoarriero (cod and potato), Patatas bravas, Pisto manchego (ratatouille with egg) and a salad, all washed down with a good bottle of red wine.
After driving through gorgeous fields of poppies, they arrive to a private state where Rock sparrows thrive in the ruins of what were the facilities of a quarry. Soon after that, they bump into a small patch of Woodcock orchids. This well managed state is a wonderful place for birds. It just take them few minutes to find Subalpine and Melodious warblers, however these birds are no the main reason why Pau take the group here. After searching for few more minutes, they hit the jackpot!! A cracking Eagle Owl takes off from about 12-15 m from where the group is standing. Smiling faces after seen this wonderful raptor.
The rest of the day is spent in the National Park of Tablas de Daimiel and the surrounding area. From the blind they get fantastic views of a Penduline Tit as well as Cetti’s and Savi’s warblers. After a most wanted coffee, they take a stroll to get some of the targets. Soon, they are rewarded with great views of a pair of European rollers mating and Deidre finds a Purple heron carrying a snake in its bill. They keep postponing lunch as there is a lot going on! Rod enjoys watching a pair of Golden orioles chasing one another from tree to tree and Pau finally gets in its scope some Spanish sparrows.
After lunch, they take a stroll around the reeds finding Spoonbills, a Greenshank and a Common coot with chicks which are photographed by Karmela from many different angles. Finally, we stop in the souvenir shop before driving back to our 18th century Hotel.
After loading the car they set off to the near farmland. Before reaching the first stop of the day, Pau has to pull over so everyone can get excellent views of a Black vulture. From a nearby almond tree, a stunning Great spotted cuckoo can be seen! That’s a good start! They continue driving but Pau stops again as Deidre spots a Stone curlew followed by another one.
Later, Pau takes them to the magic track where everyone gets excellent views of a male Little bustard displaying. Pau says it is his best view ever! Good to see Little bustards, since there has been a huge decline of these magnificent birds in the last decades. They drive to the following village to locate the elusive Great bustards with no luck. Pau decides to move towards Madrid hoping to find them in another area and bingo! They find 5 stunning males feeding in the arable land. After pleasant views, they drive for 1:30 h to make a stop for coffee and facilities in a petrol station near Madrid.
The group continue the journey towards the north of Madrid and make a stop near Tres Cantos. While they have the picnics lunch there, a Spanish Imperial Eagles display in the air. Fantastic! The air is quite warm, so the butterflies are very active: Marbled White, Kidnapped Fritillary, and Yellow Clouded are seen among others butterflies.
Their final destination is in the steppes close to the hotel in Torrelaguna, where they get close views of a group of 15-20 male Great bustards and a distant male Montagu’s Harrier.
Today the group set off to the snow-capped mountains of the National Park of Guadarrrama. The first stop in the mountain pass is rewarded with a group of very confident Citril finches. Everyone enjoys this beautiful bird displaying. Later, after lunch, they visit the woods adding Garden warbler and the Iberian subspecies of Pied flycatcher. The sun is warming up and butterflies start to fly around: Orange tip, De Prunner’s ringlet, Brimstone and Marsh fritillary. Reptiles also seem more than happy with the weather, especially the half meter Ocellated lizard that Pau finds in a wall. Later we enjoy great views of Tree pipit displaying and raptors such as both kites and Black vultures.
The party leaves the park and head off to the oak forest near el Escorial. Sadly start raining as soon as they find a Cirl bunting. On the way back to the hotel, a flock of Iberian magpies fly right across in front of the car.
After dinner, Deidre and Pau try to locate some of the Red-necked nightjars that Pau saw the previous night. After the rain, the tracks are too muddy to drive with the car so they decide to go for a walk. The night is filled with the sound of Scops owls and Red-necked nightjars. On the walk back to the car, we bump into a Natterjack and a Midwife toad.
Pau suggests having breakfast today at 6:00 am. He would like to try a spot for Dupont’s lark on the way to the Pyrenees. Once they get to the spot, the weather is not the best for finding this elusive bird, with wind and showers in a cold morning. However, they do get other interesting birds like Common cuckoo, Montagu’s harrier and Rock thrush. On the way back to the motorway, Pau see a Iberian green woodpecker flying to a poplar tree so pulls over to allow everyone views of this woodpecker. At the same time, a Golden oriole pops up in the top of a tree.
After a welcome stop in a local bakery, they set off to Zaragoza for a stop near el Pilar to see Pallid swifts.
The group arrives to Valle de Hecho around 3:30 pm and decide to explore for a couple of hours the surroundings before going to the hotel. In a farm, they get fantastic views of 5 Egyptian vultures displaying and chasing one to another. Karmela keeps pressing the button of her camera. It is just amazing! Later, along the river, we get long views of a Dipper diving and Pau finds Green-winged and Marsh orchids. In a meadow close to the car, we find 3 gorgeous male Bullfinches and a pair of Red-backed shrikes.
After a long day, we all soon go to bed.
The morning is spent locally. After 30 minutes hike the party get to the cliffs where the Wallcreeper have been breeding during the last years. After waiting about 40 minutes, they get a glimpse of this stunning bird quite high up in the cliff. Suddenly, another one arrives and both fly off showing their distinctive red patch on their wings. The group decides to wait hoping to get another view and their patience pays off but not with a Wallcreeper but with a Lammergeier.
On route, Pau stops for a coffee in Hecho before visiting the next valley for lunch. In the near meadows everyone gets nice views of Rock bunting and Red kites. Few minutes later, Deidre spots a Griffon’s vulture perched in the ground just few meters from the road. They stop the car to watch the vultures circling around, there must be a carcass. They spend the rest of the day in Ansó, where the group get nice views of a Red Fox and a Crested Tit among other common birds.
Deidre and Karmela are woken up during the night by a loudly Tawny Owl, calling from a small patch of forest near the garden.
Today, the group sets off to Navarra to look for some alpine birds. On route, Deidre finds an Egyptian vulture perched on a telephone post. It is nice to see that this threatened bird still remains fairly common in the area. Once they get into the valley, they find Alpine chough and lots of Northern wheatears displaying in the meadows. The group carry on towards France enjoying wonderful views of the snowy mountains. The snow still remains in many areas which is quite unusual at this time of the year. Later, Deidre finds a Ring ouzel perched in a pine and Pau quickly focuses the telescope so everyone enjoy fantastic views of a male of the subspecies alpestris. Citril finches chirp and fly in small flocks in front of the vehicle.
On the way down the valley they spot a flock of 4 raptors which turn out to be 3 Red kites and a Booted eagle. Near the road, Pau locates a Water pipit with its distinctive pinkie chest. However, the big surprise comes when Pau finds a friendly Marmot which looks to us hidden in a pile of rocks.
Once they get to the hotel, Karmela, Deidre and Pau walk around the forest and meadows looking for other species. A Firecrest shows well in a nearby Scots pine and Short-toed treecreeper flies every minute to its nest located under a tile on the roof. The rest of the evening is spent drinking some of the local beer and chatting with a group of Swedish birders.
Today is the final day of this wildlife adventure around Spain. After passing through Siresa, Pau pulls over to one side as he hears two Wrynecks calling. Everyone see this nice bird. The group continue the long journey ahead, making a couple of quick stops for photographing Common buzzard, Melodious warbler and other common birds.
After a couple of stops for facilities and lunch, they get near Valencia where they spend few hours birding in the coastal wetland of Marjal del Moro. Audouin’s gulls, Little and Sandwich terns fly around while the group stays in one of the hides. While the group waits patiently to see some Little Bitterns, Pau and Deidre get a glimpse of a Purple swamp-hen walking along the shore. Rod also enjoys great views of a Great reed warbler perched up on the reeds. Before they leave the hide, a pair of Turtle doves land on a nearby tamarisk. The final surprise comes when Pau finds in the colony of Sandwich terns, an Elegant tern incubating its nest. Therefore, this pair will be the second breeding in Valencia region this season!
Finally, we drive to the hotel and say goodbye. Thanks to Deidre, Rod and Karmela for making this trip so enjoyable.
To download the complete check-list of the Wildlife trip report to Valencia, La Mancha, Madrid and the Pyrenees, please click here. Dates May 17-24th 2018
Recce trip-Wildlife trip report to the Canary Islands (Tenerife and Fuerteventura)
March 30th – April 5th 2018
It has been my second wildlife trip to the wonderful Canaries Islands, a great opportunity to visit other less-known places and to put together an itinerary we will run next year in late winter 2019.
After a late flight from Valencia to Tenerife Sur Airport, Pau and Virginia head off with the rented car straight to the Rural Hotel in Güímar to rest and be ready for this new adventure!
At dawn, we are soon woken up by the songs and calls of the numerous birds that live in the hotel’s orchards. Among the avocados, Atlantic Canaries build their nests and the endemic Canary Islands chiffchaffs sing and flick their wings displaying. After a nice breakfast, we are off to the Canary pine forest near the Orotava to look for some endemic forest birds. Soon, we bump into a distinctive local form of Common Chaffinch F. c. tintillon. We continue walking for 10-15 minutes to get away from the crowds who are enjoying barbecues, a popular pastime in Easter. Near a stream, we find two Tenerife (African) Blue Tit C. t. teneriffae, a Tenerife Kinglet and a Common darter dragonfly.
Later we drive towards the impressive Teide. No wonder that this National Park gets 4 million visitors per year!!! It is an impressive volcanic landscape with different lava formations each few hundred meters. As we have the picnic, numerous Tenerife Lizards get closer and closer to us, hoping to be fed by tourists. We continue our journey towards the Parador to find there our first of many Berthelot’s pipits, and also the endemic subspecies of Common Buzzard B. b. insularum. From a viewpoint, we see another Macaronesia endemic, the Plain Swift.
Finally, our last visit of the day is in the pools of Erjos. We don’t see many birds, probably because there are dogs swimming in the pools. We just add Common coots and Barbary partridge, but some interesting and nice flowers make worth the stop: Argyranthemum frutescens, Bituminaria bituminosa, Mercurialis annuus, Canary Samphire (Astydamia latifolia), Aeonium canariense and Euphorbia aphylla. Regarding dragonflies, Blue emperor and Red-veined darter are seen.
During our pre-breakfast walk around the orchard, we find a beautiful Stripeless tree frog resting in a pond, a Broad scarlet dragonfly, a Canary Speckled Wood and a Turtle dove perched on the top of the stem of an Agave americana.
Our first stop of the day is for the endemic Blue chaffinch at Las Lajas. Soon, we get an approachable beautiful male. Then, we drive for 45 minutes to a well-known viewpoint for the endemic pigeons on the West coast. The downside of this place is the constant traffic along the TF-5 but it is a reliable place for Laurel Pigeon. After 15 minutes, we get a distant bird flying over the vegetation.
The next stop is a small patch of laurel forest where we find two distant Bolle’s pigeons and some interesting laurel forest plants: Echium giganteum, Silene gallica and Limonium fruticans.
Today’s final destination is Punta de Teno. Due to access restrictions, we have to take a bus to reach this rocky lava habitat known as ‘malpaís’. It is midday and temperature is quite high (25ºC) and this might be the reason why it is so quiet. Nevertheless, we manage to see in the scope a distant group of 50 or so Cory’s Shearwaters. Regarding plants, some remarkable species are Reichardia crystalina, Monanthes laxiflora and Euphorbia canariensis.
Our rural hotel is not serving dinner today due to some improvement works, so we head off to El Puertito to have some excellent Canary food: almogrote (goat cheese with red pepper), fish and papas with mojo picón. Around the harbour, we find Whimbrel, Grey Wagtail, and Turnstone.
Today is our last day in Tenerife as the plan is to take a flight to Fuerteventura during the evening.
After breakfast, we drive North to the Anaga area and as nearly always happen there, the laurel forest is cover by clouds. This is the wettest area in Tenerife, the trade winds (‘vientos alisios’) blow from the sea carrying moisture. Nevertheless, we walk along an interesting path covered by Azores Laurel, Canary Strawberry Tree, and Tree Heather, watching our first Canary Islands Robin. Later, we drive down towards the sunny coast for some more plants and birds. Along the path, we find a Sardinian Warbler as well as a nice variety of flowers and endemic plants: the stunning Canary Bell flower, Dragon-tree, Echium leucophaeum, Lavandula buchii, the beautiful Echium simplex, Limonium arborescent, Monanthes wildpretii and Lotus dumentorum.
After lunch, we set off to Los Rodeos, near the airport, to see some fine patches of Gladiolus italicus. Corn buntings sing from the fences and we try to locate unsuccessfully a Quail.
Around 7:20 pm we board to the plain and 50 minutes later we land in a completely different landscape in Fuerteventura. After getting our rental car, we head off to the Hotel.
Once we have breakfast, we visit a pool near La Antigua. This green area is a magnet for both resident and migrant birds. As soon as we arrive, we find Ruddy shelducks, the local race of Great grey shrike L. e. koenigi and a Little ringed plover. Among the grass, Pau finds a bird that turns out to be a Wryneck. Most of the sightings of this uncommon migrant are recorded in the Eastern islands (Lanzarote and Fuerteventura) which are closer to the African coast.
On the sky, we find a ‘Guirre’ local name for the endemic race of Egyptian vulture N. p. majorensis. There are around 65 breeding pairs in Fuerteventura and a total population of 300 birds. This amazing raptor is recovering from a near extinction in the 80’s. One of the main differences from their European cousins is that the Fuerteventura ones do not migrate during winter, thus they can be found all year around.
On the way back to the car, five Black-bellied Sandgrouses fly off scared by the presence of a Common Buzzard.
Our next stop is near Los Molinos. There, we find a confident group of Spanish sparrows carrying damselflies on the bill. We also get to see Greenshank, Common Sandpiper, Northern Wheatear, and our first Barbary Falcon. In addition, there were a couple of Lesser emperors mating, Blue-tailed damselflies, and several Atlantic Lizards. We decide to drive few kilometres to have the picnic and while Virginia enjoys great sea views, Pau plays hide-and-seek with a Spectacle warbler and a Barbary squirrel. This mammal was brought in 1965 from Sidi ifni (Morocco) and since then, they have multiplied causing conservation problems.
After lunch and coffee, we head North to our next stop. Our next new species is a group of three lovely Colour-creamed Courser and after a bit of search, Virginia spots a fantastic and globally threatened Houbara bustard, probably the most wanted and highly prized species in this area. A walk around the area proves to be a good decision as we got an excellent view of a perched Barbary Falcon and two Red-billed Tropicbirds, a species which is breeding in the islands since a few years ago.
Our last stop is in Vallebrón, where we get the endemic Fuerteventura stonechat. Later, we have a pleasant dinner with Toni and Julio, two good friends who are involved in the ‘Guirre’ conservation project.
Today is our last full day in these wonderful islands, so we start visiting the Salinas and adding Sandwich tern. In the nearby ‘barranco’ there are some plants adapted to salty soils such as Canary island Tamarisk, Atriplex semilunaris, Suaeda vera and also Asphodelus tenuifolius.
Following, we drive to Río Palmas where we see Epaulet skimmer dragonflies and Laughing dove, a recent coloniser on the island from continental Africa. Sadly, we find a death Barn Owl in the stream. However, the big surprise came later when Pau spotted two Ring Ouzels feeding on dates, a local rarity in the island.
We decide to drive to La Pájara for having lunch but before that, we make a quick stop in the viewpoint where we see a very tame Raven (C. c. tingitanus).
To finish the day, we visit a goat pen with a drinking trough which is a fantastic area for Trumpeter Finches. In just 1 hour we recorded above 50 birds drinking and feeding in the surroundings. There are very nice males with its bright orange-red bill, grey head and pink breast and rump. In the surroundings rocks, we also see a couple of Fuerteventura stonechats.
Our last day in the island is to finish packing and driving to the airport to take the plain to Madrid, where we will visit the ”dehesa” and the Guadarrama mountains for some specialities.
To download the full wildlife trip report to the Canary islands and check list, please click here
Today I have prepared for Jan and Robert an interesting itinerary which combines wetland birds, with butterflies and orchids in Costa Blanca. The last weeks has been very warm for March (max, temperature of 31ºC!) and butterflies are already very active. In addition, we are at the peak of the Mediterranean orchids so I expect to see a good number and variety of them.
After picking Jan and Robert up in Jávea we set off to Pego marshes. The paddy fields are being drying out and the number of birds is amazing. There are thousands of Little and Cattle Egret, White Wagtails, Pipits, Gulls, etc. Very soon we find 19 Common Cranes feeding in a field and Pau spots a couple of Little Ringed Plover and a Bluethroat popping out from the reeds. As we drive around, we find a stunning male Hen Harrier. It is probably the same bird seen last week by Pau. Other common birds seen include Hoopoe, Serins and Tree Sparrows.
In the North part of the park, we spot 2 Booted Eagles, several Marsh Harrier and 5 Common Buzzard migrating above the Montanyeta verda. Later, we find over 100 Audouin’s Gulls, joined by few Mediterranean Gulls feeding on the invasive american crayfish in a paddy field.
After a rewarding coffee stop in Pego, we continue driving to the near valleys to look for butterflies and orchids in Costa Blanca. In our fist stop, Pau show us 3 spikes of Mirror Orchid (Ophrys speculum) and a couple Sawfly Orchid (Ophrys tenthredinifera). Our next stop is on the shade of a stone oak to have lunch. Soon we have to stand up to see a nice Firecrest and a stunning Moroccan orange tip butterfly. Once we finish and pack up the picnic table and chairs back in the boot, we drive few km more. A short walk reveals few tens of Early purple orchids (Orchis olbiensis). We find from white ones to magenta, a nice variety of colours!
Later we drive to an area near Vall d’Ebo where Pau has found previously orchids and his favourite butterfly, the Spanish festoon. There, we see lots of spikes and basal rosettes of two species: Sombre-bee Orchid (Ophrys fusca) and the endemic Ophrys dianica. Regarding butterflies, we have superb views of Spanish festoon, Bath white and Provence Hairstreak among others. Along the road, we find a Cirl Bunting.
Finally, on the way back to Jávea we make a quick stop to add some cracking orchids: Giant Orchid (Himantoglossum robertianum) and Woodcock Orchid (Ophrys scolopax). Furthermore, we add two hybrids Ophrys x castroviejoi (O. scolopax x O. speculum) and Ophrys x pielteri (O. scolopax x O. tenthredinifera). Regarding butterflies, we add an extra 15 species more of butterflies, including Scarce Swallowtail, Cleopatra, Western Dappled White, Mallow Skipper and Holly Blue.
All in all, a fantastic general wildlife day out with many birds, butterflies and orchids in Costa Blanca, Spain. Photos available in our Instagram
Please find our report regarding a birding trip to Coto Doñana in winter. Should you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact us!
I am meeting Dieter and Fiona in El Rocío. Our start of the birding trip Donana is along the promenade which overlooks the Marshes of El Rocío. The marshes are packed with birds after the abundant winter rain. Our first raptors on sight are Red Kites and Marsh Harriers. On the water there is a large number of Spoonbills, Greater Flamingos and wildfowl.
As we walk near the visitor centre, we get an amazing view of a Great spotted Cuckoo being chased by an angry Magpie. It is the first lifer for Dieter and Fiona. Once we get to La Rocina we see Short-toed Treecreeper, Serin, Iberian Grey Shrike, Hoopoe and Crested Lark among other common birds. On the river bank we find a mixed group of Little Egrets and Night Herons, which allow us to compare the age of these crepuscular birds. On the way back we bump into a group of 20 Azure-winged Magpies.
Finally, we spend the last hours of the day in the South part of El Rocío. In a Tamarix tree we find a mixed flock of House and Tree Sparrows which are joined later by Common Waxbills. After this, we head back to the hotel to enjoy a fantastic dinner.
A wonderful sunny morning is the prelude of a spectacular birding day. Pau drives towards Villamanrique to our first stop to see a flock of Spanish Sparrows feeding along a track. In a nearby pool we find a Common Sandpiper. We spend some time taking pictures of horses grassing on the flooded meadow! What a beautiful view!
We continue our birding trip Donana towards La Dehesa making three stops to see some crackers: Purple swam-hen, Black-winged Kite and Black Stork. Once we get to the lake we start looking out for ducks. Soon we find one Drake and two female Ferruginous Ducks, Red crested Pochards and a stunning White-headed Duck. Good birds are added fast! Surprisingly, we get three Swifts flying over! Very likely to be Pallid Swifts but difficult to be completely sure by the speed and height they fly about. In the back paddy fields, Golden Plovers, Lapwings and Black-tailed Godwits feed intensively.
It is getting late so we drive along the farmland stopping just 2 meters away from a Barn Owl, what a marvellous sight! As we drive, we witness numerous groups of Common Cranes already preparing for the migration and a beautiful male Dartford Warbler. Later, Pau pulls over in order to see a pair of far distant raptors approaching. They turn to be a sub-adult Golden Eagle and an odd pale looking Griffon Vulture. From the same spot, Pau scans the front marshes and finds a Caspian Tern.
After lunch and coffee, Dieter calls out as a Short-toed Eagle flies in front of us. An early one! Then, we move to other area hopping to add some new birds. We are lucky enough to find few of the small wintering population of Lesser Kestrel. Finally, on the way back to the hotel we see a nice flock of Calandra Larks and an Osprey flying with a fish on its talons. What a day!
Our final day is spent in Odiel marshes. In the surrounding of the visitor centre we get Dunlins, Redshanks, a Grey Plover, Ringed Plovers and Turnstones. We enter the hide and Pau points out a gorgeous Bluethroat which sadly hides very fast. Later, we continue driving towards the end of the road until we see on the right side of the bridge three Black-necked Grebes. Few minutes later we made another stop to compare two side by side Curlew and Whimbrel.
We park near the gate and take a stroll along the beach. On the other side there are two Razorbills and three Gannets. On the sand, large parties of Lesser black backed and Yellow Legged rest. Finally, we drive back to the visitor centre for having lunch and have a bit of shelter from the wind. On the way, we make two stops to see Ospreys, a Booted Eagle, a Bar-tailed Godwit and a Sandwich Tern. After finishing lunch, a noisy Caspian Tern greets us and we set off towards Seville.
Thanks to Fiona and Dieter for being great companions and for having such an interest about Spanish culture and wildlife.
Alicante is one of the most interesting areas for birding in Spain. Alicante holds a fantastic diversity of habitats which are home to many sought after bird species. Thus, it is becoming one the most popular birding spots in Spain. You might find interesting our wildlife related article about “things to do in Costa Blanca“.
Please find below a report about two birding trips in Alicante during January.
I have known Vernon and Lynee for three years. They are a very nice couple who enjoy combining the facilities of Benidorm with some birding trips in Costa Blanca.
On Monday we set off to Las Salinas de Santa Pola. Our first stop was near the city, where we get our first waders feeding on the pans: Dunlins, Little Stints, Sandering, Little Ringed Plover and Black-winged Stilts. On the water, there is a large group of Coots and both Grebes (Little and the gorgeous Black-necked). Then we continue to stop in the tower of Tamarit. There we get our first Slender-billed Gull (Pau’s van logo!), a Redshank and a Spoonbill.
Not far from there, along the national road we make our the last stop in the Salinas. It proves to be a good idea as we see 17 Spoonbills, 24 Wigeons, Sanwich Terns and other common birds. After having a coffee in Catral, we continue our birding trip in Costa Blanca driving around the farmland, South of El Fondo, seeing 2 Booted Eagles (pale and dark morph). In addition, we see Iberian Grey Shrike, Hoopoe, Crested and Skylark. Sadly, the hides are flooded so we move to the visitor centre. As we step off the car, a friendly Bluethroat shows up. While we have lunch we have great views of Red-knobbed Coots and a wide variety of waders, including a superb Jack Snipe.
Finally, we drive northwards to make the last stop in El Clot de Galvany . Once we are there, we find the main path flooded but that is not a problem for visiting the two main hides. There, we get Purple swamp-hen, Grey Wagtail, a stunning male White-headed Duck and a good variety of wildfowl.
During our second trip, we change completely of habitat and head off to the snow-capped mountains of Alicante. We start in Monnegre making 4 short stops. In the first one, we get 2 wonderful males Darford Warblers and a pair of Choughs. On the second stop, we find our first Black wheatear on the top of a boulder. After that, we pull over to watch a group of Woodlarcks, Thekla Lark, Sardenian Warbler, Spotless Starlings and a chirping Crested Tit. Later, we get to a recently established small Griffon Vulture colony. Pau found it about 3 years ago and since then has been keeping an eye on them. It seems that they are still fixing the nest, so no doubt the cold snap has delayed the breeding.
Our last stop is in Alcoi where we visit the main Griffon Vulture colony. As we start walking, a wonderful Blue Rock Thrush displays for us moving around the old factory. Along the path, Blackcaps, Serins and other common birds take advantage of the olives. Finally as we walk back to the car, a Goshawk flies right in front of us chasing some small birds! What an end for a Birding trip in Costa Blanca!
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Please find a selection of our wildlife trip reports in Spain.
Morocco-Atlas Mountains and Sahara NEW
Morocco-Atlas Mountains and Sahara
30 March – 5 April 2018 Wildlife trip to Tenerife and Fuerteventura
Picos de Europa
30 August – 6 September 2016 Spanish Carnivorous (Iberian Wolf, Wildcat and Brown Bear)
Local Tours (Alicante, Valencia and Albacete)
10-14 May 2018. 5-birding days in East Spain check list
15-19 November 2017 Birding in East Spain
January 2017 El Fondo, Santa Pola, Monnegre and Alicante mountains
17-18 November 2016 Genet and Steppes of Albacete
22 May 2016 Great Bustard tour-Steppes of Albacete
29 April-1 May 2016 Málaga and Granada
19 April Costa Blanca 2016-Alicante
July Costa Blanca 2015-Alicante
30 November 2015-Alicante
22 December 2015-Valencia
10 September 2014-Valencia
Extremadura and Coto Doñana check list 24 Feb – 3 Mar
22-30 April 2018 Extremadura and Coto Doñana check list
Granada and Tarifa
The Grand Tour
Sierra de Guara
Please find our trip report focus on butterflies in Picos de Europa mountains, one of the best places in Europe to enjoy wildlife.
Every butterfly lover knows how fantastic are Picos de Europa mountains for butterflies. The easiness to reach high altitudes and the variety of flower-filled meadows, deciduous woodlands and deep limestone gorges makes Picos the perfect place for a wildlife trip focus on butterflies.
Usually we organize two trips for year, (please have a look to our tour calendar) one in late June focus on butterflies, orchids, birds and alpine flowers and a second trip in late August-beginning of September when we spend more time in search of carnivours (Wildcat, Iberian Wolf and Cantabrian Bear). Nevertheless, we spend one day looking for Alpine birds and in the midday break there is always time to take a stroll for butterflies.
We plan to spend more time in Picos during summer, so please contact us for a day out or for any information you need.
While I wait to my four guests in Santander airport, I get the confirmation that my licence to capture butterflies (research proposes) has been renewed. That is great news!
We make a stop for lunch before reaching the impressive gorge of el Desfiladero de la Hermida. Then continue our journey to the hotel in Boca seeing on the way Black and Red Kites, White Storks, Kestrels and Common Buzzard. After check-in we have a nice walk behind the hotel where we found Provençal, Knapweed and Heath Fritillary, Chestnut and Pearly heath, Large and Small white and plants such as Linaria triornithophora. Regarding birds, Bonelli’s Warbler, Raven, Rock Sparrow and Red-rumped Swallow are spotted for all, and Large Psammodromus is seeing as we walk back trough the town.
Dinner and red wine is served at 20:00. While we eat with appetite, we chat about the itinerary we plan to do the following days.
Our first stop is in a pool where soon we find Broad bellied chaser, Western willow spreadwing, Common bluetail damselfly, Large red damselfly and Common bluet. We also find Natherjack tadpoles, lots of tiny Common toads and an Alpine newt. Regarding butterflies, there are good numbers of Yellow Clouded, Common Blue, Knapweed and a Pearl-bordered Fritillary found by Hilary. Cuckoo, Quails, Tree Pipits and Skylarks sing from the nearby fields.
We drive for 10 minutes to reach a picnic area where we have our lunch. On the sky we are marvelled by a a Honey buzzard displaying. After coffee and facilities we walk the path in Ventaniella finding Swallowtail, Brown Argus, a fast flying Brimstone, Wood white and Meadow brown. Later a beautiful Purple-edged copper shows up and Math decides to chase it. The story ends when with Math falling in a ditch! Nothing serious, just trousers covers by mud, no photo of him allowed though!
The weather is changing and stars to drizzle, so we decide to go back to the hotel.
The weather looks miserable, still drizzling and thick fog. Anyway, we can’t do anything, so we carry on with the plan. As we drive towards Fuente Dé we see a Woodchat Shrike and a female Red-backed Shrike 200 meters away. Once we get there, the rain stops but the fog remains. That is a pity as we are going to miss the breathtaking views from the cable car. While we wait for it to take us, we see an Egyptian vulture flying low opposite us and a big flock of Common Swifts.
The astonishing 800m vertical ascent was enjoyed by the group. Once we are up in the mountains, Alpine Choughs fly and pick leftovers from the path left by tourist and Alpine accentors sing as if we were in a sunny summer day! Jim spots the only butterfly of the day a Red Underwing Skipper and Pau finds a party of Snow finches passing fast to our side. Water Pipits sing as it ‘parachuted’ past. Gorgeous alpine plants such as Trumpet Gentians, Leafless-stemmed Globularia, Arenaria purpurascens and Erinus alpinus are seeing for everyone. Northern wheatear and Black Redstar sing from the crags.
Seeing that the weather is not going to improve, we return to the van after lunch and go for sightseeing to Potes.
The sky is clear and the forecast expect 28 ºC, so it seems is going to be a great day for butterflies!!
First we stop in a stream where we find a good variety of butterflies: the endemic Chapman’s ringlet is seeing very well for everyone as it drinks from a muddy pool. Pau finds a cracking Damon Turquoise in a thistle. Adoni’s blue, Orange tip, Green hairstreak, Black-veined White, Mazarine Blue and Grizzled Skippers are seen in few minutes, what a display! Hilary finds an strange insect that turns to be a Owl-flie (Ascalaphidae). In the same path we also find interesting flowers: Digitalis parviflora, the endemic Erygnium bourgatii, Heath Spotted and Early marsh Orchids. In addition, Garden warblers and Black caps keep singing all morning and Pau spots an Iberian wall lizard sunbathing on a bush.
A few km following the road is located the view point of Pandetrave where we have a quick stop to witness the massive massif Central right in front of us. A quick look through the scope reveals a pair of Chamois and Griffon vultures in one far high hillside. In the meadows behind us there are numerous Small heath and Knapweed Fritillary, and at least 2 males Rock buntings.
Our next stop is for having lunch in Caín. Then, we follow the path of the Río Cares seeing large numbers of Cleopatra, Small Cooper and Iberian Grizzled Skipper along the path. Large Wall Brown, Wall brown, Speckled Wood, Painted Lady and a pair of Queen of Spain Fritillary feed on the abundant flowers. On the way back to the minibuses John does very well finding a Dipper bouncing in the river. White and Grey wagtails are also seen.
Today I am ready at 6:30. Yesterday while we had dinner, I was told by a local farmer that a Wildcat was seeing in the next town. I am not very optimistic as July is not the best month for Wildcat, but anyway I am trying as Hilary loves this animals and she is happy to join me. We get to the spot at the break of the day, not much happen the first half and hour but then a stunning male Wildcat crosses the field heading to the forest! Fantastic, but a bit far to get a sharp picture in a poor light conditions, though. After that, we join the rest for breakfast and everyone notices that we are in high spirits.
The first stop is in a mountain pass where soon Pau spots a chirping Citril finch. The Cattle has eaten most of flowers so the diversity of butterflies is lower than we expected. However, we locate good numbers of Purpled-edged and Stooty Cooper, Silver-washed Fritillary, Black-veined White, Brown Argus, Short-tailed Blue and other common species.
We continue towards Piedraluengas stopping in a local bar for lunch and facilities. In Piedrasluengas, we can see a flock of 5 Red-Billed Chough and butterflies such as Chapman’s ringlet, De Prunner’s ringlet, Heath Washed Fritillary, Small heath, Glanville Fritillary, Provençal Fritillary, Red admiral, Spotted Fritillary and Meadow Fritillary. A good variety to finish the day!
Today is going to be our last full day in Picos. Temperatures of 30ºC are expected, so we all agree to spend the evening chilling out in the bar and having a cold bath in the river, no for me!!. So, first stop in the morning is a river located near Riaño. Math is amazed by the abundant and variety of Marled butterflies: Marbled White, Spanish and Iberian Marbled Whites. Along the river we find an inm. Black-tailed Skimmer and few Common blue damselfly. Common Chiffchaff and Firecrest sing from the deciduous forest. Butterflies include Chapman’s ringlet, Adoni’s blue, Turquoise blue, Idas blue, Mallow Skipper and Chequered Skipper are relatively common in the beautiful meadows of daisy wheel.
Later, we have our lunch in the hotel terrace and spend the evening at our leisure.
Once we are down in the coast the weather worsened. We head for the Dunes of Liencres to spend few hours before taking the plane. There we find numerous Sea Spurge with what seems Spurge Hawkmoth caterpillars. A young Cuckoo flies from the forest, Linnets feed on seeds and Crested Lark move up and down. On the shore there were Lesser Black-backed and Yellow legged Gull.
Finally, we get to the airport and say goodbyes.
We hope that this report about butterflies in Picos de Europa will bring back memories of a rewarding and enjoyable trip in NW Spain.
Spain holds the largest density of bustards in Europe, both Great and Little can be found in different areas. However, the are suffering a huge decline, specially Little Bustards. Farming practises and intensification seems to be the reason.
Apart from the popular steppes of Extremadura or Villafáfila, there are other superb birding places unknown by most. For instance, the steppes of Albacete in East Spain offer a great opportunity to watch Great and Little Bustards. Futhermore, other specialities such as sandgrouses, larks and Rollers can be found in the steppes. Finally, the temporary pools are packed with Black-necked Grebes, Greater Flamingos, Red Crested Pochars, White headed-ducks and many more.
Please find the short trip report below:
I am spending three days with Hervé watching birds and looking for mammals (Genet). Today we are going to pick Linda and Mike from a camp site in Oliva and we are heading to the steppes of Albacete. After half and hour drive and a quick coffee we are seeing our first birds: Corn bunting, Rock sparrow, Hoopoe and Crested lark. Pau drives straight to the breeding ground of the elusive Little bustard. The wheat is high, so it is going to be a bit of a challenge. As we walk, a cracking Roller flies over us! Marsh harriers soar in the fields behind us and a solitary Great bustard remains in a green patch in the middle of ploughed field. Pau hears a Little bustard so we move along the track. Hervé spots a silhouette who turns to be a gorgeous male of Little Bustard, well done!
We drive up to visit different pools finding: Black-winged Stilts, Red-crested Pochards, Whiskered, Gull-billed, Black tern and other common birds. Linda particularly enjoys a pair of Black-necked Grebe. It’s 1:20 pm. and our bellies are asking for lunch. After having some tapas and coffee in Pétrola we visit the largest lagoon where the Greater Flamingos breed. There, we also add a Black kite, Yellow Wagtail, Kentish Plovers, Ringed Plover, Collared Pratincole and a superb Great Reed Warbler singing from the reeds. Birds are very close allowing nice views. Later we undo the way following tracks and we get a Little Owl, Calandra Larks, Great Bustards and a Northern Wheatear.
Finally, we stop in one last area to add a Lizard Orchid! Photos here.
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