Wednesday 9 April 2008

Catalunya - 5th-9th April 2008

After a wonderful trip to Costa Brava in August 07 where we met up with Stephen Christopher of Catalan Bird Tours, we decided to have a short Birdwatching Holiday in my Half term in Early April. We Travelled on the 5th from Blackpool Airport with Ryan Air to Girona. Myself amy Uncle and my two parents arrived at our accomodation in Pau, to the west of Rosas and East of Figueres late afternoon A few species were seen on the evening of arrival with a single Bee-Eater over headand Serin singing from every visible perch! 2 Eagles were briefly seen over the top of the Hill behind the house which based on a similar occurance on our third day, I can say they were Bonelli's Eagles.
Sunday was our first full day and we had booked a day trip with Stephen around the local areas of Aiguamolls de l'Emporda and the National Park of Cap de Creus. Even from the start of the Trip it was clear we were in a great area for migration as there were literally flocks of Redstart, Black Redstart and Pied Flycatcher. My First potential lifer of the trip came in the form of Great Spotted Cuckoo however we were not able to locate the bird at first so we moved on.
Sardinian Warbler Pied Flycatceher


Between Vilajuiga and San Pere de Rodes there is a very picturesque Cork Oak woodland which turned out to be frustrating as we just could not get onto a pair of calling Wryneck. Woodlark and hoopoe were nice additions however

As we got further into the Cap we noticed a lot more birds with Crag Martins and Red Rumped Swallow mixed in with the Hirundines, and even the odd Alpine Swift made an appearence.
Stopping by a road side revealed Blue Rock Thrush, Subalpine Warbler and Rock Bunting which was a Lifer for me

(presumed) 4cy Yellow Legged Gull
Now at the lighthouse at Cap De Creus, we did some sea watching, which after about 40 minutes we were onto 2 Arctic Skua, 1+ Gannet, 3 Balearic Shearwater, and a huge raft of 350+ Yelkouan Shearwater (which included of Balearics too) which was again another lifer
Also whilst watching I picked up a Black Eared Wheater feeding with a Northern Wheatear which when I got my act together with the camera, became rather unaproachable.

We Ended the day in the region of Aiguamolls de l'Emporda where we managed to finally get two Great Spotted Cuckoos which were spectacular birds. Our final point of call of the day was the estanys of Mas Mata, which when we got to the vantage point revealed some awesome birds - Caspain Tern, Marsh Sandpiper, Kentish Plovers, Black Winged Stilts, Wood Sandpipers galore and iberiae Yellow Wagtails to name but a few! The Caspian certainly got the heart racing!

Monday saw our first full day on our own. I started the morning before light in the olive groves and at 07.15 I flushed a Jack Snipe which certainly for Britain is a late date, especially Spain! We went to the reserve at El Cortalet and Vilaut. Vilaut scored instantly as we briefly stopped at the Tres Ponts (three bridges) and picked up a female Pallid Harrier that had been in the area since 2nd April, and was confirmed some some presumed patchers of the site. A great rarity/scarcity for Spain and a lifer for me! With not a great deal else at Vilaut (due to no water for 3rd trip in a row) except for Subalpine Warblers and Fan Tailed Warblers, we headed to the reserve at Cortalet with a quick road side stop to watch 2 Black Kites being Mobbed by Ravens.

At Cortalet itself, the first hides were full of school trips so we headed towards Mata again and observed some crazy birds! obviously there were other birds including 100+ Yellow wagtails of varying races - Flava Iberiae cinereocapilla.

With the wagtails sucessfully id'd we check other areas of the site and found several Greater Flamingo and Storks, with many hundreds of Hirundines.

I think Mata needs to be known as 'the area of mindboggling views!' I got within 4 foot of a singing Cetti's Warbler in the open, followed by movement in the reeds next to the path which turned out to be a Spotted Crake and after 5 minutes in the reeds it walked out into the open for at least 10 minutes before being flushed by a Black Winged Stilt. After the craziness of these two birds we walked round Mas mata and found my first Whiskered Tern along with a hybrid Green Winged Teal x Common Teal, which again were great views. Finally on the walk round to the front of Mata I noticed a purle heron coming to land on a pool which a hide observed so I ran after it incase it was showing for photographing, I suddenly saw what I thought was a female Redstart, as it was close i thought I'd give it a decent look whilst I waited for my parents, it landed and turned round to me...a gasp and an Adreneline Rush....A BLUETHROAT A BLUE THROAT! what a bird! my first views of a Bluethroat and I found it and got within 2 meters of the bird before it came a little more elusive! (I didn't really notice in the field but it looks like a Red Spotted Bluethroat)

Water rail in a ditch
Black Winged Stilt
Wood Sandpiper
Whiskered Tern

the Day ended at the area of Tres Ponts where I had 2 views of the Pallid Harrier again as well as 14 Marsh Harrier, 6 Cetti's Warbler, 5 Purple Heron, a Common Cuckoo and 2 Great White Egret

The Next morning, it was our last full day so I again got up before light and did some skywatching from the balcony. A Male Hen Harrier Flew over and shortly followed by a Short Toed Eagle. One bird which I was really pleased by was a Black Redstart which did its Fire Song from next doors chimney. Before we set off for the days birding I managed to get 2 Bonelli's Eagle and 6 Common Crane which I was extatic about!

Bonelli's Eagles
Rock Sparrow
6 of 19 Black Kite

We first stated out at the Cork Oaks again where i was able to get brief views of Wryneck as it called. Next a Booted Eagle flew East as did a group of 19 Black Kites. Just as we were leaving the site, I thought Id check a sparrow perched on a wire, and im glad a did! A fantastic Rock Sparrow

Our next stop was the area of Pine trees where i had had brief views of Great Spotted Cuckoo two days before, on called so we got out of the car to look for it. As is was hiding itself in the trees a bird called from behind us and flew right past us before perching. What a Cracking species with a great call! Me with Hoopoe

We had had a tip off about about Little Crake from two visiting French Birders so we parked in El Cortalet car park unaware of the 4 Km Distance to the hide. After about 2 miles in the heat we turned back, and im glad we did as in the Car Park I was able to get down to about 2 meters from a fabulous Hoopoe!

We went for a quick dinner stop and then out to Mas Mata once again. It turned up trumps too as per usual! Audoins Gull, 2 Whiskered Tern and a fishing Caspian Tern! I mean what a top draw quartet! The Audoin's has been a target bird for me for years!

23 Whiskered Tern
cinereocapilla Yellow Wagtail
Water Rail

Red Crested Pochard
Purple Swamp Hen
Purple Heron
imm Purple Heron

We spent the last 2 hours of light at Estany Europa which was for Little Crake. We didn't see it but Water Rail certainly kept the heart rate high. I observed a Yellow Wagtail roost which involved mainly Iberiae with a few Flava and a single Cinereocapilla. Also at the site I heard a Great Reed Warbler sing which when I searched for It I observed Moustached Warbler, Reed Warbler and Sedge Warbler.Our Final birds were 4 Monk Parakeet flying over and 16 Night Heron al coming out of the roost.
Night Heron

Species List (Collins Field Guides taxonomy) - 143

Little Grebe
Yelkouan Shearwater
Balearic Shearwater
Night Heron
Cattle Egret
Little Egret
Great White Egret
Grey Heron
Purple Heron
White Stork
Eurasian Spoonbill
Greater Flamingo
Mute Swan
Red Crested Pochard
Black Kite
Short Toed Eagle
Marsh Harrier
Hen Harrier
Pallid Harrier
Common Buzzard
Booted Eagle
Bonelli's Eagle
Common Kestrel
Peregrine Falcon
Red Legged Partridge
Ring Necked Pheasant
Water Rail
Spotted Crake
Purple Swamphen
Eurasian Coot
Common Crane
Black Winged Stilt
Stone Curlew
Little Ringed Plover
Ringed Plover
Kentish Plover
Little Stint
Common Snipe
Jack Snipe
Black Tailed Godwit
Spotted Redshank
Common Redshank
Marsh Sandpiper
Green Sandpiper
Wood Sandpiper
Arctic Skua
Mediterranean Gull
Black Headed Gull
Audoin's Gull
Common Gull
Yellow Legged Gull
Caspian Tern
Sandwich Tern
Whiskered Tern
Feral Pigeon
Collared Dove
Great Spotted Cuckoo
Common Cuckoo
Little Owl
Alpine Swift
sharpei Green Woodpecker
Crested Lark
Thekla Lark
Sand Martin
Crag Martin
Red Rumped Swallow
Barn Swallow
House Martin
Meadow Pipit
Water Pipit
Yellow Wagtail (3 races)
White Wagtail
Red Spotted Bluethroat
Black Redstart
Common Redstart
Northern Wheatear
Black Eared Wheatear
Blue Rock Thrush
Song Thrush
Mistle Thrush
Cetti's Warbler
Fan Tailed Warbler
Moustached Warbler
Sedge Warbler
Reed Warbler
Dartford Warbler
Subalpine Warbler
Sardinian Warbler
Common Whitethroat
Willow Warbler
Pied Flycatcher
Long Tailed Tit
Coal Tit
Great Tit
Common Raven
Common Starling
House Sparrow
Tree Sparrow
Rock Sparrow
Cirl Bunting
Rock Bunting
Corn Bunting

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