Friday, August 19, 2011

Birding in Catalunya

Steve West has been interested in birds and birding since he was 7.  He visited the Spanish Pyrenees for the first time in 1983 with the University of East Anglia Bird Club, and came to live in Catalunya in 1988 to teach English and learn Spanish.  Eventually he turned his lifelong interest in birding into his profession and so, for over twenty years he has been writing books and leading birding tours.  His company is called Birding in Spain.  To do a tour, previous birding experience is not required: interest in good wines, cuisine, historical and cultural places of interest, monuments, or a visit to Barcelona will augment the experience nicely. 

Steve came to L’Ametlla a few years ago to give a talk on the local birds of the area to a group of non-birding English speakers.  His talk was a great hit.  So I asked him to provide some information on Birding in Spain for the blog and he sent me the following:

“Birding is one of the top growth outdoor activities in the United States, and has a long tradition in the UK. Birding in Spain is about birds, and different ones from those that can be seen in the UK or in many parts of Europe. There’s a lot to be said for birding in Spain, particularly this part of Spain, but it’s not just about the birds. There’s splendid scenery, good weather, longish winter days, good food and wine, and all in a very birder-friendly country.

“Flocks of Greater Flamingos, rare Audouin’s and Slender-billed Gulls, all the species of herons, egrets and terns that can be seen in Spain, the handsome Collared Pratincole and a great variety of breeding, wintering and passage shorebirds. Now, that’s not bad for any birder’s starters, and that’s just some of what can be seen in the Ebro Delta in a single day!

“If you start in this delta on the Catalan coast and then take a short drive inland to one of the nearby Mediterranean massifs, perhaps els Ports, or perhaps the Montsant range, then your already considerable bird list will grow even more. Tranquillity reigns in these scenic rocky havens for Mediterranean wildlife; a land of olive and almond groves, small farming villages and numerous streams and rivers that have worked through the rock to cut out a number of v-shaped gorges. Here you might see the Spanish Ibex, as well as an interesting variety of birds including Griffon and Egyptian Vultures, and Golden and Bonelli’s Eagles. Splashes of Mediterranean colour come with Bee-eaters, Golden Orioles and Hoopoes, all of which are relatively common.

“Now that you’ve ventured away from the coastline there are some very good reasons to go even further inland. The foremost of these is the steppeland around Lleida, on the western fringe of Catalonia, and quite unknown to most “normal” tourists. Informed birders come to these plains to set eyes on an exciting selection of steppeland birds, which are rare or non-existent in most other parts of Europe. Among these are larks, Little Bustards, Black-bellied and Pin-tailed Sandgrouse, Great Spotted Cuckoos, Rollers, and a long etcetera. Another bit of good news is that the good road network presents few impediments for making such plans.

“The northern edge of these plains are guarded by the imposing Pre-Pyrenees, sheer calcareous rock faces that reach up to 1,600 m in altitude and harbour enough new discoveries to warrant the birder’s undivided attention for at least a day.  Then if you really want to go the whole hog just continue northwards into the high Pyrenees, real alpine mountains with their own character and stamp, and very little to envy of the better-known Alps. These high mountain peaks, forested slopes and green valleys are home to some special birds like the Citril Finch, Black Woodpecker, Wallcreeper and Lammergeier, to name just a few.

If any of this interests you (or someone you know), check out Steve’s Birding in Spain website for information on tours and books as well as lots of photos and information on where to spot various species going out on your own.  You can also reach Steve by email at or phone (34) 97 321 0757.

All photos by Steve West:
Flamingos and Mussel Beds in the Ebro Delta
Aiguestortes National Park in the Catalan Pyrenees

No comments:

Post a Comment