Saturday, 26 November 2016

Spain trip November 2016

Cliffs at Alquezar
A couple of weeks ago I spent a very pleasant week in northeast Spain on a trip organised by the tour company Ornitholidays, one of the oldest ecotourism companies in the UK. It was a three centre holiday, with us staying successively in the Pyrenees, near Lake Gallocanta, and finally at the Ebro delta. Target species were Common Crane, Lammergeier, and wallcreeper, and I am glad to say that we got good views of all, along with many other good species such as Little Bustard, Bonelli’s Eagle and Bluethroat.

Alquezar early morning
The trip started with a short morning flight from Gatwick to Barcelona, where we met our leader/driver for the week. There were only 6 in our group, so the tour was not unmanageably large. On our journey from Barcelona to our first hotel, Hosteria de Guara (a very nice small hotel), situated at Bierge in the Sierra de Guara mountains, part of the pre-Pyrenneees chain that runs along the north of the Spanish Peninsula. The Sierra de Guara at their highest reaches around 2000m, whereas the Pyrennees proper have their highest point at 3400m.

On the way to our hotel we stopped a few times for birding. At one of these we stopped by some fields where we saw a good sized flock – well over 150 birds – of Little Bustard. Outside the breeding season they become less secretive and forage in the open, whereas in the spring they are almost always only seen as heads looking up from long grass. Passing through a town we also noticed many of the street lamps cam with a roosting White Stork, Many of these no longer migrate to Africa in the winter as they used to, as garbage dumps supply sufficient winter food. Another stop yielded several Stone Curlew.
Gryphon vulture - very common in the Pyrennees
The next day we set off to explore the area. A pre-breakfast trip to the neighbouring town of Alquezar unfortunately yielded no Wallcreeper, but the rest of the day was spent exploring the Sierra de Guara. Finally a visit to a dam yielded a Wallcreeper. These relatives of Nuthatches spend the summer on the bare rock of the highest peaks, only coming down to lowere levels when the weather turns. This year the weather has been mild in the Pyrenees, so they were only just starting to move to winter quarters when our trip was visiting.
There is a Chamois on this ridge!
The following day we spent exploring the Pyrenees proper, including trip to the French border. As Spain and France are part of the Schengen area there is no customs post – you can just drive over into France if you wish. Birding was hard, but a stop at Pena Oroel mountain yielded Crested Tit, and the pass itself yielded Alpine Chough and a distant view of Chamois.
Ruins of Belchite - destroyed during the Spanish Civil War
The next day was a travel day, leaving the mountains and travelling over the northern plain to our stop for the next two nights near Lake Gallocanta. Notable birds seen were Black tailed (and a single Pin-tailed) Sandgrouse, Great Bustard, very close Golden Eagle and at our last stop a single Bonellis Eagle. At this stop we also caught up with a small herd of Iberian Ibex, including a very impressive male with 1m long horns.
Cranes at Lake Gallocanta
Next day was devoted to exploring the area around Lake Gallocanta. When we arrived we were slightly disappointed that only a few hundred Common Cranes were in the area – they too seemed to be late this year – but a second visit at the end of the day located several thousand, which seemed to have only just arrived. A stop in the afternoon at Monastery de la Pierdre resulted in good views of flocks of Hawfinches, feeding on the seeds of southern Nettle Tree in the grounds of the monastery.
The next day was mostly spent on the long drive from Lake Gallocanta down to the Ebro delta south of Barcelona. A few stops along the way yielded a few birds, but our lunch break and walk at Pitarque village yielded spectacular scenery and some good butterflies, as well as Red Squirrel, which in this village was in fact nearly black.
Glossy Ibis and others at Ebro delta
The last day was spent exploring the Ebro delta in search especially for waders and waterbirds. The Ebro is a major rice growing area, and the rice harvest had just taken place. The churned up fields provide major feeding opportunities for waders, and among the crowds of Dunlin, Lapwing, Little Stint and many others we located a single Broad-Billed Sandpiper. A visit to a reserve in the delta also gave good views of Bluethroat and Purple Swamphen. During the day Booted Eagle was also seen, and several species of dragonfly.

That was our last day, and the next morning we drove north to the airport for an easy flight home to Gatwick.

Next time I will start a new series on some of the key birds and other animals of the trip
(all photos are mine)

Trip list for me – some species were only seen by other group members:
Birds seen 139 species:
Greylag Goose          Anser anser
Common Shelduck   Tadorna tadorna
Mallard Anas platyrhynchos
Gadwall Anas strepera
Northern Pintail Anas acuta
Northern Shoveler Anas clypeata
Eurasian Teal Anas crecca
Red-Crested Pochard Netta rufina
Common Pochard Aythyra farina
Red-Legged Partridge Alectoris rufa
Black-Necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis
Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus
Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis
Northern Gannet Morus bassanus
Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo
Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis
Little Egret Egretta garzetta
Great Egret Ardea alba
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea
White Stork Ciconia ciconia
Glossy Ibis Plegadis falcinellus
Greater Flamingo Phoenicopterus ruber
Lammergeier Gypaetus barbatus
Eurasian Gryphon Vulture Gyps fulvus
Golden Eagle Aquila chrysaetos
Bonelli’s Eagle Hiraaetus fasciatus
Booted Eagle Hiraaetus pennatus
Red Kite Milvus milvus
Western Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus
Hen Harrier Circus cyaneus
Common Buzzard Buteo buteo
Eurasian Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus
Northern Goshawk Accipiter gentilis
Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus
Merlin Falco columbarius
Peregrine Falco peregrinus
Water Rail Rallus aquaticus
Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus
Eurasian Coot Fulica atra
Purple Swamphen Porphyrio porphyrio
Common Crane Grus grus
Great Bustard Otis tarda
Little Bustard Tetrax tetrax
Pied Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta
Stone Curlew Burhinus oedicnemus
Kentish Plover Charadrius alexandrines
Common Ringed Plover Charadrius hiaticula
Grey Plover Pluvialis squatarola
Northern Lapwing Vanellus vanellus
Ruddy Turnstone Arenaria interpres
Sanderling Calidris alba
Dunlin Calidris alpine
Little Stint Calidris minuta
Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos
Wood Sandpiper Tringa glareola
Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus
Common Redshank Tringa totana
Spotted Redshank Tringa erythropus
Common Greenshank Tringa nebularia
Bar-tailed Godwit Limosa lapponica
Eurasian Curlew Numenius arquata
Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago
Broad Billed Sandpiper Limicola falcinellus
Ruff Philomachus pugnax
Black-Headed Gull Chroicephalus ridibundus
Slender-billed Gull Chroicephalus genet
Audouins Gull Ichthyaetus audouinii
Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus
Sandwich Tern Thalasseus sandvicensis
Whiskered Tern Chlidonias hybrid
Black-Bellied Sandgrouse Pterocles orientalis
Pin-Tailed Sandgrouse Pterocles alchata
Rock Dove Columba livia
Wood Pigeon Columba palumbus
Eurasian Collared Dove Streptopelia decaocto
Eurasian Eagle Owl Bubo bubo
Little Owl Athene noctua
Eurasian Hoopoe Upupa epops
Eurasian Kingfisher Alcedo atthis
Common Skylark Alauda arvensis
Crested Lark Galerida cristata
Thekla Lark Galerida theklae
Woodlark Lullula arborea
Calandra Lark Melanocorypha calandra
Lesser Short-toed Lark Alaudala rufescens
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica
Meadow Pipit Anthus pratensis
Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea
Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava
White Wagtail Motacilla alba
White-throated Dipper Cinclus cinclus
Alpine accentor Prunella collaris
European Robin Erithacus rubecula
Black Redstart Phoenicuros ochruros
Bluethroat Luscinia svecica
Black Wheatear Oenanthe leucura
Common Stonechat Saxicola rubicola
Blue Rock Thrush Monticola solitaries
Song Thrush Turdus philomelos
Mistle Thrush Turdus viscivorus
Common Blackbird Turdus merula
Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla
Sardinian Warbler Sylvia melanocephala
Dartford Warbler Sylvia undata
Cetti’s Warbler Cettia cetti
Zitting Cisticola Cisticola juncidis
Common Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita
Goldcrest Regulus regulus
Firecrest Regulus ignicapilla
Eurasian Wren Troglodytes troglodytes
Great Tit Parus major
Coal Tit Periparus ater
Blue Tit Cyanistes caeruleus
Crested Tit Lophophanes cristatus
Long-Tailed Tit Aegithalos caudatus
Eurasian Nuthatch Sitta europaea
Wallcreeper Tichodroma muraria
Iberian Grey Shrike Lanius meridonalis
Common Magpie Pica pica
Eurasian Jay Garrulus glandarius
Red-Billed Chough Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax
Alpine Chough Pyrrocorax graculus
Western Jackdaw Corvus monedula
Carrion Crow Corvus corone
Common Raven Corvus corax
Common Starling Sturnus vulgaris
Spotless Starling Sturnus unicolor
House Sparrow Passer domesticus
Tree Sparrow Passer montranus
Rock Sparrow Petronia petronia
Common Chaffinch Fringila coelebs
Common Linnet Carduelis cannabina
European Goldfinch Carduelis carduelis
European Serin Serinus serinus
Hawfinch Coccothraustes coccothraustes
Reed Bunting Emberiza schoeniclus
Cirl Bunting Emberiza cirlus
Rock Bunting Emberiza cia
Corn Bunting Miliaria calandra

Iberian Ibex Capra pyrenaica
Chamois Rupicapra rupicapra
Roe Deer Capreolus capreolus
European Rabit Oryctolagus cuniculus
Red Squirrel Sciurus vulgaris
Red Fox Vulpes vulpes

Whip Snake Hemorrhois sp
Wall Lizard Podarcis muralis

Small White Pieris rapae
Clouded Yellow Colias crocea
Pale Clouded Yellow Colias hyale
Long Tailed Blue Lampides boeticus
Common Blue Polyommatus Icarus
Silver Studded Blue Plebejus argus
Mazarine Blue Cyaniris semiargus
Small Copper Lycaena phlaeas
Speckled Wood Pararge aegeria
Wall Brown Lasiommata megera
Painted Lady Vanessa cardui
Red Admiral Vanessa atalanta
Comma Polygonia c-album

Hummingbird Hawkmoth Macroglossum stellatarum
Emperor Dragonfly Anax imperator

Scarlet Darter dragonfly Crocothemis erythraea

No comments:

Post a Comment