Long weekend in Catalunya at the invitation of Birdwatching magazine and the Catalan Tourist Board. Some top quality wildlife, plus excellent company and great food. 170 species of bird seen in all and some excellent mammals and insects. Species lists here.
Friday-Saturday, 4-5 May
First area was the southern half of the Ebro Delta. These shots were taken on Friday evening and Saturday morning. The Ebro has c.60% of the world's breeding Audouin's Gulls.
Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus
Audouin's Gull Ichthyaetus audouinii
Some Ebro scenes including rice paddies, a bat hibernaculum and a view of the town of Poble Nou Del Delta.
Greater Flamingos Phoenicopterus roseus
Great birding throughout: Glossy Ibis, Great White, Cattle and Little Egrets, Squacco, Night and Purple Herons, Little Stint, Redshank, Greeshank, Common and Wood Sandpipers, Knot, Turnstone, Bar-tailed Godwit, Curlew, Grey Plover, Kentish Plover, Avocet, Black-winged Stilt, Collared Pratincole, Little, Caspian, Gull-billed and Whiskered Terns, . There were plenty of migrant passerines heading inland and one clump of bushes on the coastal dunes had masses of Willow Warblers, 2 Medodious Warblers, 2 Woodchat Shrikes, a Turtle Doves, 2 Redstarts, Garden Warbler, Whitethroat and Wheatears.
A trip to a northern tip of the delta at Garxal added little in the way of birds but poking about in the scrubby dunes produced some other wildlife. Both Common and Iberian Blue-tailed Damselflies occur here but several features of this pair point to elegan I think.
Common Blue-tailed Damselfly Ischnura elegan
Lophyra flexuosa, a Tiger Beetle
Spiny-footed Lizard Acanthodactylus erythrurus
The museum at Deltebre has a very pleasant garden which had attracted a fair number of migrants including a couple of first summer male Pied Flycatchers and a Spotted flycatcher.
Pied Flycatcher Ficedula hypoleuca
Spotted Flycatcher Muscicapa striata
Sunday, 6th May
Sunday saw us in the mountains of the Els Ports Natural Park just inland from the Ebro Delta. Here the highlights were Spanish Ibex, Griffon and Egyptian Vultures, Western Bonelli's Warblers, Firecrests, Short-toed Treecreepers, Blue Rock Thrush and Crag Martins plus a few interesting plants and insects including a Moroccan Orange-tip.
Woodcock Orchid Ophrys scolopax
Wild Tulip Tulipa sylvestris
Iberian Water Frog Pelophylax/Rana perezi
Egyptian Vulture Neophron percnopterus
Crag Martin Ptyonoprogne rupestris
El Estrets Gorge
We stayed in the town of Hurta de St Joan where we visited the daddy of all olive trees 'Lo Parot' and picked up Short-toed Eagle, Rock Sparrow, Melodious Warbler, Scarce Swallowtail, Large Psammodromus and this smart chafer beetle.
Large Psammodromus Psammodromus algirus, immature
The drive north was uneventful until the Lleida area where Black Kites, Cattle Egrets and White Storks started to appear and we picked up our only Montagu's Harrier. Further north the we were back in mountain territory finding Small Blue, Crested tit and, at the Terradets Gorge, 3 Lammergeiers, which put on a good show
Small Blue Cupido minimus
Monday, 7th May
Early Monday we headed back down to the plains near Balaguer. Calandra Larks were everywhere and there were Bee-eaters, single Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Roller and Stone Curlew, Tree and Rock Sparrows, Iberian Wagtails, 2 Whinchats, Lesser Kestrels, Turtle Doves and 2 Honey Buzzards.
Bee-eaters Merops apiaster
Tree Sparrow Passer montanus
Little Bustard habitat
Next it was north again to the impressive ridge of Montsec picking up our first Red-rumped Swallows on the way. The summit at Sant Alis had Rock Thrushes, Tawny Pipit, Wheatear, Subalpine and Bonelli's Warbler, Firecrest, Skylark , Stonechat and more.
Narcissus sp. poss Rush-leaf Jonquil N. assoanus
The Pyrenees from Montsec
And it was to the Pyrenees, or at least the Pre-Pyrenees, we headed next picking up our first Black Redstart on the way.
Black Redstart Phoenicurus ochruros
The target here was a vulture feeding station at Buseu and things were looking good as 3 Lammergeiers showed on the drive up. Feeding time was total mayhem with c.200 Griffon, 4 Black and 2 Egyptian Vultures, 10 Lammergeiers, a Black Kite, 2 Golden Eagles, a Booted Eagle and even a Ref Fox getting in on the action. It's possible to get close up to the action by paying for a place in one of the hides or watching on the cams at the house. The Black Vultures are from a reintroduction scheme that is progressing very successfully. Rehabilitated birds were first introduced just four years ago and some are already breeding.
Griffon Vultures Gyps fulvus
Black Vulture Aegypius monachus
The vulture cam
Tuesday, 8th May
Another early start for my final day, which took us on a long jeep trip across the Alt Pirineu National Park from Tirvia to Civit. Highlights here were several Chamois and Roe Deer, a magnificent party of Mouflon (particularly interesting: part of a population expanding out of reintroduced stock in nearby Andorra), Citril Finches, 2 Golden Eagles, a Peregrine, a Rock Thrush, Firecrest, 2 Grey Partridge, Crossbills and a Rock Bunting. In the valley above Civit were a few migrants, including a Red-backed Shrike, a singing Wryneck, Bonelli's Warbler as well as Iberian Green Woodpecker and Rock Bunting. Raptors below here included Lammergeier, Short-toed and Booted Eagles.
Mouflon Ovis aries
Final birds for me were Monk Parakeets and a surprise singing Iberian Chiffchaff at a railway station in suburban Barcelona on the way home.
Thanks to everyone on the trip and especially Gemma and Diego.