Bird watching in Spain: Bird watching in Catalonia
Guided day tours, short breaks and holidays in the Garraf.

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Llobregat Delta

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Photos by Peter Backman, Stewart Abbott, Phillip West and other tour members

Bird watching in the Garraf :

The Garraf Massif is testimony to just how good bird watching in Spain is, showing how jewels can be found in the vast uncharted lands outside of the more famous birding sites like the Ebro Delta, Pyrenees, Extremadura and Coto Doñana.

Its 10000 hectares of maquis, or bushy scrub, spans desert-like as far as the eye can see and is not an easy place to go bird watching for the first time. But oases of forest, coastal cliffs and meadows reveal themselves down hidden tracks and provide refuge for the best of Europe's birds - including Bonelli's Eagle, Wallcreeper, Black Wheatear and Eagle Owl.

Its coastal mountain setting, just south of Barcelona, is the secret to an annual bird story that begins and ends with the mid-winter courtship of Eagle Owl and Bonelli's Eagle. Rock Thrush and Nightjars finish up a wave-like invasion of warblers and other migrants before post-breeding flocks of buntings and finches, and an armada of passing raptors, take us back to the winter wonderland of Wallcreeper and Alpine Accentor. Read more...

Garraf bird watching tours:

! Lunch !

An excellent full home-made picnic based on local cuisine is available at €10 per person

Garraf Only

Garraf + Llobregat Delta

Garraf Owls and Nightjars

Bird Tour Checklist:

easy bird watching spain Black Wheatear photo

Bird watching in the Garraf: All Year Round

All year round :

desmarestii Shag (vu)
Red-legged Partridge (2)
Bonelli's Eagle (3) (en)
Common Kestrel (3)
Peregrine Falcon (3)
Black-headed Gull
Audouin's Gull (1) (NT)
Yellow-legged Gull
Wood Pigeon
Collared Dove
Monk Parakeet
Eagle Owl (3)
Little Owl (3)
Tawny Owl
Hoopoe (3)
Iberian Green Woodpecker (2)
Crested Lark (3)
Thekla Lark (3)
Crag Martin
White Wagtail
Black Redstart
Stonechat (3)
Black Wheatear (3)
Blue Rock Thrush (3)
Song Thrush
Mistle Thrush
Fan-tailed Warbler
Dartford Warbler (2)
Sardinian Warbler
guided bird watching tour barcelona rock sparrow photo
guided bird watching trip garraf shag photo

For most, bird watching trips to the Garraf are all about Bonelli's Eagles and so our birding tours are adapted to the life cycle of the Bonelli's Eagle itself.

From the January nuptial display flights, through the nesting period (viewable via the special Bonelli's Eagle Nest Webcam), to late summer juvenile dispersal and the adult birds' subsequent return to nomadism, we change the routes and strategies used to track them down.

And, with vertical migration of Black Wheatear, winter roosts of Crag Martin and post-breeding flocks of Rock Bunting, Rock Sparrow and friends, it seems that many resident birds demand the same attention to detail.



“Thanks for a wonderful bird watching holiday. Your precise knowledge about locations for specific birds was remarkable. Coupled with your deep knowledge about the birds and their calls - made the trip most enjoyable and the birding experience truly enriching."
K.B., India, December 2007

bird watching guided tours southern grey shrike photo

Long-tailed Tit
Crested Tit (2)
Blue Tit
Great Tit
Coal Tit
Short-toed Treecreeper
Southern Grey Shrike (2) (nt)
Starling (3)
Spotless Starling (4)
House Sparrow (3)
Tree Sparrow (3)
Rock Sparrow
Linnet (2)
Cirl Bunting
Rock Bunting (3)
Corn Bunting (2)

Passage Only :

Pheasant (V)
Cattle Egret (V)
Grey Heron (V)
Spoonbill (2) (vu) (V)
White Stork (2) (V)
Black Kite (3) (nt)
Red Kite (2) (NT)
Marsh Harrier
Montagu's Harrier (4) (vu)
Booted Eagle (3)
Hobby (nt)
Eleonora's Falcon (2) (nt) (V)
birdwatching vacation spain garraf sub alpine warbler photo
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Bird watching in the Garraf: Spring and Autumn Passage


The coastal nature of the Garraf Natural Park means that there are few better places for passerine migration, with fifteen species of warblers, and others, normally on view.

The departure of thousands of wintering Chiffchaff and Blackcap overlaps Spectacled, Sub-alpine, Bonelli's and Melodious Warblers arriving to breed, all gleaning insects from fruiting Almond trees with passing Willow, Wood and Garden Warblers (and the odd Iberian Chiffchaff).

Of course late summer/early autumn sees these same birds glutting themselves on ripe berries whilst overhead the raptor passage begins and we watch eagles, falcons and Honey-buzzards heading south until October's end.

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Spain birding: Garraf Barcelona: Spring and Autumn itinerary

“Thank you for a wonderful bird watching trip. I had a marvelous time it was such a pleasure being with a real birder. We were very impressed with you and your intimate knowledge of the birds and the surroundings and we hope that we can arrange something next year.
I will be posting a trip report and, in addition to your knowledge and flexibility, the food will definitely get a mention."
Jeff Roffey, Mike Thompson, UK, April 2006

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Black-winged Stilt
Ringed Plover
Slender-billed Gull (3) (V)
Common Tern (nt)
Great Spotted Cuckoo
Roller (2) (NT)
Sand Martin (3)
Tree Pipit
Flavissima Yellow Wagtail
Iberiae Yellow Wagtail
Common Redstart (2) (vu)
Northern Wheatear (3)
Ring Ouzel (V)
Garden Warbler
Wood Warbler (2)
Willow Warbler
Iberian Chiffchaff (V)
Pied Flycatcher
Common Crossbill

Summer (and passage) :

Yelkouan Shearwater
Short-toed Eagle (3)
Turtle Dove (3) (vu)
Common Cuckoo
Scops Owl (2)
European Nightjar (1)
Red-necked Nightjar
Common Swift
Pallid Swift
Alpine Swift
European Bee-eater (3)
Wryneck (3)
Barn Swallow (3)
House Martin (3)
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Bird watching in the Garraf: Summer (and Passage)

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There can be few more challenging places to go bird watching than summer time in the Garraf. Migrating flocks have dispersed, half the birds are sitting on nests and bird song is restricted to the cooler parts of the day.

That's why all our summer bird watching tours, breaks and holidays benefit from more than a little planning with bird territories, song posts, feeding sites and even nests being sought out ahead of time so you can enjoy the spectacle of Red-rumped Swallow, Pallid Swift, Rock Thrush, Bee-eater and both species of Nightjar.

Of course you can always take further advantage of our hard work and book a joint tour with the Llobregat Delta.

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“Thank you for a wonderful bird watching tour, birding with you was very enjoyable.  If we’re in the area again, we’ll definitely look you up.”
Wayne and Laura Mathen, USA, April 2008

"I really enjoyed the trip and was pretty impressed when I added up all the birds we had seen and how many firsts were in there for me."
Roger Bartley, UK, February 2008

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Red-rumped Swallow
Tawny Pipit (3)
Black-eared Wheatear (2) (nt)
Rock Thrush (3)
Cetti's Warbler
Melodious Warbler (4)
Common Whitethroat
Spectacled Warbler
Sub-alpine Warbler
Western Bonelli's Warbler (2)
Spotted Flycatcher (3)
Golden Oriole
Woodchat Shrike (2) (nt)
Ortolan Bunting (2)

Winter (and Passage) :

Balaeric Shearwater (cr)
Northern Gannet (2)
Great Cormorant
Little Egret
Hen Harrier (3)
Common Buzzard
Mediterranean Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Sandwich Tern (2) (nt)
Common Kingfisher (3) (nt)
Woodlark (2)
Meadow Pipit
Grey Wagtail
Alpine Accentor
Reed Bunting (en)

Key :

SPEC 1 (1)
SPEC 2 (2)
SPEC 3 (3)
IUCN endangered (EN)
IUCN vulnerable (VU)

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Bird watching in the Garraf: Winter (and Passage)

bird watching tour spain garraf wallcreeper photo
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Winter is when the Garraf really comes alive and I couldn't recommend a bird watching tour with more enthusiasm. True, we lose a few summer migrants but no-one will complain at those that replace them.

Alpine Accentor tamely line the park's roads, eruptions of Hawfinch noisily invade from Northern Europe, Gannet and Balearic Shearwaters splash down along the coast and Wallcreeper descend from the Pyrenees.

And of the locals, finches, larks and Rock Sparrows join Rock and Cirl Bunting in unavoidable flocks and, if you're staying over, you can watch Crested Tit, Black Redstart, Siskin and Firecrest feeding outside your window.

Spain birding: Garraf Barcelona: Winter itinerary

"We both enjoyed every single minute. So many good things - the birds, the weather, the scenery and the expert company. We would certainly do it again and would have no hesitation in recommending your bird watching tours to others."
The Sellers, UK, January 2007

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IUCN near-threatened (NT)
SPAIN critical (cr)
SPAIN endangered (en)
SPAIN vulnerable (vu)
SPAIN near-threatened (nt)
Vagrant/Occasional (V)

The Nature of the Garraf... a personal overview

there's just as much spectacle here as anywhere else as a second look magically reveals a pair of Golden Oriole in the nearby oak, that those swifts are actually Pallid Swift and that little cracking noise that's been bugging you for twenty minutes is a flock of feeding Hawfinch.

Since I moved to the Garraf permanently to live, however, I've come to realise that its not all down to skill.

If a little local knowledge means you know the best raptor watchpoints, that there's only one place to go for migrants or where last year's territories were, then finding Honey-buzzard, Wood Warbler and Rock Thrush is easy.

And depending on the time of year you can hardly avoid Turtle Dove, Black Redstart, scrub warblers and raptors.

And then there's luck, perhaps the most elusive of all, and I certainly have it in plentiful supply, counting many of the species above, as well as Hoopoe, Alpine Swift and Booted Eagle, as garden birds.

If you'll forgive the pun, the Garraf Massif is massive. So when I first visited I had absolutely no idea where to start looking for the Bonelli's Eagle, Eagle Owl and Black Wheatear that the park is famous for.

To make things worse, unlike in the Ebro Delta where birds simply flock into your notebook, I soon learned that nature here is different. Birds are either elusive, evasive or both and tracking them down is more like going on safari.

You would do well then to mimic the birds for which you're hunting and a patient, watchful eye will soon reveal a Southern Grey Shrike or two doing likewise from the tops of bushes.

A little 'pshing' may lure out Spectacled and Subalpine Warblers curious to know who's making that ridiculous noise, blending into the background will tempt out Cirl and Rock Bunting and tracking a flock of Long-tailed Tit will provide amazing close-ups of Crested Tit, Short-toed Treecreeper and Firecrest.

With a little extra effort it becomes clear that

Six facts about the effects of fire on birds in the Garraf.

4. It also concluded that burnt open areas held a far higher percentage of bird species of conservational concern than unburnt ones.

5. It recommended the maintenance of open areas, also better for fire prevention, through prescribed burning, grazing or other means but little has been done.

6. My own observations have seen a decline in open area species such as Rock Thrush, Ortolan Bunting and Tawny Pipit.

1. Wildfire prevention schemes have meant the last two fires were in 1994 and 1982.

2. Barcelona University used the burnt areas to study the effects of fire on birds in the Garraf (PDF files, Second Garraf bird fire study here).

3. It found higher species diversity in unburnt areas for the first year after a fire, similar diversity from years two to five but that burnt areas were richer in bird species during the sixth year.

Garraf Links :

The effects of fire on the birds of the Garraf Massif (.pdf)
The effects of fire on the birds of the Garraf Massif 2 (.pdf)
Bonelli's Eagle in Spain information
Parc del Garraf Massif Official site (Catalan)
Raptor Migration in the Foix Park (Catalan)
Bonelli's Eagle Nest Webcam (Catalan)

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