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Trip reports from participants of Catalan Bird Tours' birding holidays and bird watching tours to the Pyrenees will be posted here.

My blog and photos are also below.

spain birding in spain pyrenees 2007 summary

spain birding in spain pyrenees 28 sept

spain birding in spain pyrenees 10 sept

spain birding in spain pyrenees 6 july

spain birding in spain pyrenees 29 may

spain birding in spain pyrenees 26 may

spain birding in spain pyrenees 6 may

spain birding in spain pyrenees 29 april

spain birding in spain pyrenees 25 april

spain birding in spain pyrenees 22 april

spain birding in spain pyrenees 17 march

spain birding in spain pyrenees 16 march

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28 September 2006

Stephen Christopher

Brian and Lucy Coleman, England

“Thanks again for the excellent two days we birded together and the information you provided for the rest of my holiday. It was very useful to travel with a knowledgeable birder who understands the natural history of the birds and their distribution when visiting new areas and looking for specific species.

Both Lucy and I found both days nicely paced with plenty of variety and many opportunities to not just simply tick off the birds but to observe them as well.” 

Brian and Lucy Coleman, England

Shortly after a coffee and biscuit stop upon our arrival in the Cadi-Moixero National Park, we stopped again to look at some resting Crag Martin on a ledge just above the road.  Then again as a small group of Rock Bunting flew across the bonnet and landed nearby, seemingly in ‘the place to be’ as Crested Tit and Black Redstart had already taken up residence.  We watched them flit and fly and hide and eventually caught them full scope before moving up to the Greixer Valley.

Usually a good spot for Lammergeier, today we were rewarded 'only' by Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, Buzzard, Short-toed Eagle and Golden Eagle so, as always in times like these, we packed up and headed for the other side of the valley.

This trek is almost guaranteed to bring an encounter with at least one family of Crossbill, which feed on the year round supply of pine cones, and within twenty metres of leaving the car we were attracted by their calls coming from the wooded bank below.  However, it was a small flock of Citril Finch gleaning from the shrubs in the undergrowth that persuaded us to follow and we somehow found ourselves right smack in the middle of feeding flocks of both species, with birds within three or four metres.

Encounters with Short-toed Treecreeper, Firecrest, Dunnock, White Wagtail, Stonechat and a pair of Great Spotted Woodpecker interrupted the never-ending flow of Coal Tits and the sporadic calling of a Black Woodpecker kept our hopes of a close encounter with it high. 

However, with this species not materialising, we drove up to the Coll de Pal with fingers crossed and sure enough, just after switching between simultaneous nearby views of a hovering Short-toed Eagle and a small group of Red-billed Chough drinking from the brook (having separated off from a flock of about two-hundred), two large birds glided into view.  Lammergeier.  They settled briefly on the hillside sending us all grabbing for our binoculars and scanning for ‘orange rocks’, catching them just in time to see them rise up, circle and fly off into the far valley.

It provided a timely end to the day’s proceedings and we made our way back down the mountain allowing the car to flush alternate fleeing Raven, Jay, Mistle Thrush, Chaffinch, Goldfinch and Serin.

Black Redstart
Golden Eagle
black redstart photo pyrenees september 2006 golden eagle photo pyrenees september 2006
To see the Trip Report for the Coleman's visit to The Ebro Delta on 27 September 2006

For a complete check list of this tour

6 july 2006

6 July 2006

Stephen Christopher

Ian and Jonathan Moig, Scotland

"Once again thank you for two terrific days birding.

The scenery on the walk up to the Pyrenees left quite an impression on Jonathan."

Ian Moig, Scotland

Following their decision to stay over the night before, Ian and his son, Jonathan, and myself, received an early welcome to the Pyrenees from a singing Cirl Bunting, making its way around the tops of four nearby trees as if it was playing baseball.

A couple of Woodlark joined in the chorus and the now familiar (to me at least) Red-backed Shrike drew attention to itself with a vertical attack on a seemingly invisible insect and returned to its usual bush to devour it, granting us time not only to do the same to our much-appreciated coffee and biscuits but also to take some photographs (see below).   Rested and refreshed, we were sent on our way by a skulking Sub-alpine Warbler and began our ascent towards the peaks of the ‘Cadí-Moixeró National Park’.

Our greeting on leaving the car and taking our first steps into the magical world that is the Greixer Valley, was courtesy of Nuthatch and Grey Wagtail, two species that I see less often since my move from the U.K.   Ironically four other such species, the Wren, Robin, Goldcrest and Dunnock, seemed to have been charged with escorting us to the top.

Once there, entertainment duty was passed over to some Red-billed Chough, cawing and wheeling around the many crags, and the conveniently named Crag Martin, doing much the same, before disappearing into their respective nest-holes.  A build up of Griffon Vultures, all heading in the same, presumably carcass-bound, direction helped raise our hopes of seeing Lammergeier but, when one didn’t materialise after about half-an-hour, Ian nipped off to track down another, this time singing, Sub-alpine Warbler.

Upon his return, and as I was pointing at a nearby pine where myself and Jonathan had just witnessed a mixed flock of Crested, Coal and Long-tailed Tit with a juvenile Firecrest tagging along behind, there was a sudden screaming ‘klaaa’ from behind me and a Black Woodpecker landed within the midst of the very same tree.  Unfortunately, on seeing our rather startled faces, it instantaneously dropped down into the valley below and disappeared.

After taking in our fill of several Golden Eagles, and in another moment of good or bad luck depending on your point of view, we had just packed up the tripods and hitched our backpacks over our shoulders when a Lammergeier finally floated into view, tracing the outline of the ridge ahead of us.  By the time we had reassembled ourselves, the view was all too brief.  But a lifer for Ian, none-the-less.

After filling in the gaps with Rock Thrush, Black Redstart and Rock Bunting, we reached the Coll de Pal just in time for the showpiece that is the mixed stone-turning flocks of Red-billed and Alpine ChoughLinnet, Goldfinch and Common Crossbill all flocked and feasted around us before adding what was for me an absolutely stunning male Bullfinch (another of those longed-for British birds).  However, the finch fiesta, and the day, wasn’t completed until a small flock of fresh clean Pyrenees Citril Finch decided to join us for the walk back to the car.

Red-backed Shrike
Common Crossbill
family birding spain red-backed shrike pyrenees photo family bird watching spain pyrenees red-backed shrike photo
family birdwatching spain pyrenees crossbill photo
To see the Trip Report for the Moig's visit to The Ebro Delta on 10 July 2006

For a complete check list of this tour

29 May 2006

29 May 2006

Stephen Christopher

Carl Cornish + 4, U.K.

Rubbish’ was how the day started for Carl Cornish, a Conservation Officer from The Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust, and his four work mates as, when I arrived to pick them up from their hotel near Bagà, they were already cursing a refuse truck that had reversed into the side of their hire car.

Thankfully, their birding day started off on a much better note as, even on the first roadside stop for coffee and biscuits, we immediately picked-up Rock Bunting, Serin, Firecrest, Bonelli’s Warbler and, perched on a bush not ten metres away, an absolutely stunning Red-backed Shrike.

Two hours later however, after waiting most of that time at my favourite Lammergeier spot without joy, I was beginning to wonder if the day was cursed after all.  Not that we hadn’t seen anything, with Short-toed Eagle, Common Buzzard, Sparrowhawk and Raven all passing through and Crag Martin and Alpine Swifts skirting the mountain edge, but of course the enigmatic ‘bone-breaker’ was what everyone had come to see.  A beautiful singing Sub-alpine Warbler, perched up for all to see, only served to delay the inevitable and so, with lunch fast approaching, a change of tact was called for and we headed back down to the car, grabbed the picnic and made the short ascent up to a viewpoint on the opposite side of the valley.

En route we’d collected great views of Grey Wagtail, Crested Tit and Common Crossbill but, as we laid out the food over-looking the whole valley, me afraid even to take a toilet break in case I missed something, I had more than just my fingers crossed that our luck would change soon. 

As we scoffed and quaffed we began to notice an unusual amount of Griffon Vultures circling and then landing on the steep valley side opposite and a careful scan through the telescope revealed a raptor-watcher’s gift – a Chamois carcass!  After watching the throng swarm in and pile up on top of the unfortunate ungulate, and each other, giving the impression that the one in the middle had scored the winning goal in the world cup final, one of the group noticed a Golden Eagle perched on top of a nearby rock.  It was soon joined by another and, save for the occasional foray to check out the developing state of affairs, they waited patiently as the vulture pack waned from its peak of near-on one hundred birds.

Spotted Flycatcher, Cirl Bunting and Green Woodpecker all came and went but, finally, I was able to shout out the magic word – Lammergeier!  Two, in actual fact, and they calmly glided down like cool-headed late arrivals to the best party in town and settled somewhere out of sight.

Much happier, we made our way, via a sighting of the usually elusive Cuckoo and the calls of the still elusive Black Woodpecker, to the pass known as the Coll de Pal where we added, despite the late hour, Rock Thrush, the usual flock of Red-billed and Alpine Choughs and, surprise, surprise, another Lammergeier.  Definitely not rubbish!

Griffon Vultures
The Greixer Valley
birding holiday spain pyrenees griffon vulture photo birding holiday spain pyrenees trip report greixer valley photo
For a complete check list of this tour


16 March 2006 (Day 1)

Stephen Christopher

sunny and warm, much ground snow

Normally Wallcreepers don’t leave their wintering quarters and head back for the shear cliffs of the Catalan Pyrenees to breed until April is well established but, as I arrived at the base of the Camp del Teixó after an hour’s slog through deep melting snow, I thought they’d probably be here before I could muster up the energy to slog all the way back down again.

I threw off my backpack, dropped my telescope stand into the soft crunch of the snow and stripped down to my t-shirt.  This is a good place for breakfast I decided, not really caring exactly where that place was, and took the opportunity to stock up on oxygen while I was at it.  Of course, just as I’d poured out the first flask-lid full of coffee and shared out the chocolate biscuits amongst my self, the soft scream of a Lammergeier sent them all crashing to the ground as I groped for my binoculars.

I needn’t have bothered, possibly on the hunt for breakfast itself, this beautiful orange adult floated around like an air commander for about the next hour, even taking the time to settle on a mid-distant peak and wait whilst I set up the scope and took the digi-snap (I won’t call it a photo) now uploaded on to the Pyrenees page (here).

Having spotted a sub-adult Golden Eagle flying high above my head and watched it gradually flap itself into a speck, I was suddenly dragged out of that ‘why didn’t it fly this way?’ feeling by a harsh woodpecker-like squeal at tree-height behind me and I swivelled to see another, this time majestically superb full adult, flap itself into the closest view I’ve ever had.  That is, until it circled behind the trees and repeated more or less the same flight path two or three times encroaching a little further into my personal space each time.  Suddenly I pondered, rather absurdly in the cold light of another day, that it might want me, and I walked quickly towards my 'scope stand just in case.  I also picked up my packet of chocolate biscuits and hid them in the lining of my jacket.  Well it’s not as if they’ve done a lot of research into this kind of thing.

Escorted by countless Rock Bunting as well as Cirl Bunting, Griffon Vulture, Grey Wagtail, Red-legged Partridge, Dipper and a wheeling flock of over a hundred Red-billed Chough, I made my way back down to the car only to find, a few kilometres further on, that the road to the Coll de Pal was snow-closed today.

I was sure the Vall de Núria however would make a more than adequate substitute so I headed off blindly, as is my want when I don’t have the responsibility of others to consider, only to be blinded upon my exit from the rack train by a sun-powered blast from acres and acres of pure white snow.  Speechlessly beautiful.  To be honest, I’d been warned by the ticket lady that there’s no way I could walk the 7km track back down to the bottom, but who could resist making company with Coal and Crested Tits, flocks of singing Citril Finch and an ice-walking Water Pipit? I headed back down to the station in Queralbs, where a Nuthatch whistled me good day and good night. And he was absolutely right.

Citril Finch
Water Pipit
trip report spain pyrenees yellowhammer photo trip report spain pyrenees citril finch photo trip report spain pyrenees water pipit photo
For a complete check list of this tour

17 March 2006 (Day 2)

Stephen Christopher

Very warm, ground snow

Prat de Cadi

My ‘up with the sunrise’ jaunt to the Prat de Cadí, a mountain meadow in the Pyrenees where, incidentally, Tengmalm’s Owls are known to breed, was sabotaged by the shear weight of bird song filtering through the car window on the way up to Estana, the village from where the trail begins.

Wren, Dunnock, Song Thrush, Black Redstart and Coal and Crested Tits were among those serenading me and, like sirens, distracting me from my early morning mission.  On one stop, to view a full field of Rock Bunting and Chaffinch, they were conducted from the upper most branches of a poplar tree by the harsh but very welcome pips of a quite beautiful Lesser Spotted Woodpecker.

At the Collada de Pallers, after being mesmerised yet again by song, this time mainly from the Yellowhammer and Ring Ouzel around the car park, I finally managed to ditch the car and begin my ascent some three hours later than planned.

Only 500 metres into the steep, sometimes snow-covered, forest track I was grateful for the sudden appearance of a small plateau.  Apart from birds, a plateau is also good for breakfast - I decided.  O.k. so it was past 10.30 a.m. and I’d already had breakfast but chocolate biscuits don’t really count so I unhitched my backpack anyway.

As I placed it onto a rock to avoid the melting snow I sensed a shadow pass over me and I instinctively looked up, expecting to see yet another Raven, but was confronted with the spotted underside of a Short-toed Eagle that was so close I could almost verify why it is so-named.  Followed a split second later by a second, both flapped silently away at eye level until, just a few moments later, they dropped behind the tree line, leaving me to work my way through over half-a-packet of biscuits before my heart stopped racing.  This was turning out to be quite a trip for close encounters with raptors.

At the three-hectare meadow itself, which I reached an hour or so later having been chaperoned on the way by Crossbills and Crag Martins, I discovered moving about to be somewhat difficult but was still able to track the drumming of a Black Woodpecker through the adjacent trees.  The resulting view was barely more than a wing-beat as it flapped away but still thrilling and well worth the climb nonetheless.  A pair of Golden Eagles, an adult and a first-winter (complete with white tail glinting in the sunlight) that had been circling above me a little earlier, therefore, proved to be a bonus.

A twenty-minute search for my keys, involving tipping the entire contents of my rucksack onto the bonnet of my car (don’t worry, I always take spares) wasn’t quite enough to prevent a fleeting visit to the Rasos de Peguera, a ski-station conveniently placed on the way home.  The bright sunlight seemed to inspire the whole Pyrenees into life today as amongst the constant sound and movement around me, including many more Crossbills and Ring Ouzels, I was able to add an argumentative pair of Short-toed Treecreeper, Mistle Thrush and a Goldcrest. All singing, of course.
Rock Bunting
Prat de Cadí
trip reports spain pyrenees rock buntings photo trip report spain pyrenees prat de cadi photo
For a complete check list of this tour

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