TRAVELLING NATURALIST TRIP REPORT

Northern Spain

6 - 12 December 2003


Leaders:
John Muddeman

Trip Diary

Saturday 6th December

Arrival at Barcelona went without a hitch on the flight, but the appalling signing in the airport lead three of the group to the wrong terminal and they then had to return via another security check to retrieve their luggage. Nothing more important however, and we left at 4 p.m. for the long drive to Loarre, our base for the first few days. The mild sunny conditions by the coast soon changed to crystal clear and cold conditions inland, and when we stopped for a break having broken the back of the journey it was distinctly chilly outside.

A few birds were noted en route too, starting with a Cattle Egret at the airport (!) and including lots of Black-headed and a few Yellow-legged Gulls along the Río Llobregat, a couple of Little Egrets, flocks of Lapwings, a dashing Merlin and flocks of starlings lining the wires (mainly Spotless but undoubtedly with plenty of Eurasian mixed in).

We arrived at 7:45pm, with just enough time to get settled in before coming down for our first meal at 8:30, and excellent it was too.

Sunday 7th

The day dawned cloudy and raining... In fact it intensified as we left, though brighter conditions to the E boded a little better.

Virtually nothing was seen until we reached our first destination, though a Buzzard flew down from a small bush to catch and eat worms on a patch of grass in front, before we had to move as a local careering along the road blew their horn at usÍ

Conditions were dead still and surprisingly mild as we walked through the tiny village of Riglos, where just a few House Sparrows were visible. The village was surprisingly busy with people, and the church bell chimed as we worked our way through the streets towards it.

The Mallos of Riglos towered above us, the scale being difficult to judge, and it wasn't until we were just yards from their base that a small movement caught our eyes and a Wallcreeper sat on the cliffs in front, gently flicking its wings! This was tricky to see though as it worked its way up, in and out of little ledges, and we soon lost it, especially when our attention shifted to an Alpine Accentor perched on some rocks in a scrubby patch!

These were just the first of both, though we needed to search hard as we took a track paralleling the base of the cliffs, the rain, drips falling fro the top of the overhang way above us and cool conditions combining to fog up our optics whenever we tried to use them! However, we persisted, and another couple of Alpine Accentors appeared, as did another Wallcreeper, this one coming remarkably close and so low that it disappeared behind various bushes! Another movement on the cliffs was different though, and this time a male Blue Rock Thrush landed and sat in view, albeit rather high, for a couple of minutes. A couple of Griffon Vultures also decided to move, flapping past high overhead, despite the continued light rain.

Another movement ahead was a small black and white bird, this time a Black Wheatear! However, it was typically flighty and shy, and moved off before we could all see it. Our search for it 'round the back' of the biggest bluff was unsuccessful, though the antics of a few rock climbers were noted and our search turned up yet another Wallcreeper!

Back in the village where another Blue Rock Thrush peered out from behind a chimney pot, a drinks break was called for, despite the horribly loud music and smoke-clouded atmosphere of the only bar, but at least it helped us dry out a little!

Time was already moving on, and despite a very uncertain panorama in front of us given thick patches of cloud moving in the mountains, we decided to 'risk' it and headed onwards and upwards towards the high pre-Pyrenees. Things were generally incredibly quiet at various stops we made, though a fine flock of Cirl Buntings in some small fields, a super Red Kite looking bedraggled on a telegraph pole and a couple of Ravens and a Chiffchaff kept us looking and occupied.

Lunch was going to be late, and as we wound our way up through mile upon mile of pine-dominated woodlands along the rather tortuous and poor road towards San Juan de la Peña, the conditions were getting gradually worse, but with open patches providing a ray of hope. A Red Squirrel crossed the road at one point. Indeed, when we finally came to the car park, it was almost clear around, though as we ate inside the minibus, it being too cold outside, so dense cloud blew in, forming an eerie spectacle in the tall Scots Pine forest.

The cloud cleared and we headed out into freezing conditions. We passed through a wood where a Great Spotted Woodpecker was calling, but otherwise it was extraordinarily quiet. At the end a cliff dropped away below us allowing an excellent view N towards the unseen high Pyrenees and with cloud patches below us. At the base of the cliff a Black Woodpecker suddenly called in flight and fortunately landed in view, though rapidly disappeared into the trees. A few brief views were then finally had using the scope, though considerable patience was needed! A Jay briefly flew past the woodpecker at one point but was rightly largely ignored!

We continued our walk through the woods, where calling species included Coal, Blue, Great and Crested Tits, Short-toed Treecreeper, Goldcrests and Nuthatch, but only after considerable and repeated searching did we see all these except the treecreeper.

Completing a circle we entered a large open area near the end with Mistle Thrushes, and small Interpretation Centre and we finished by the vehicle where Crested Tits, Chaffinches and Nuthatches down to table for food scraps judiciously left out!

We returned 'upon demand' via the old monastery where a service was apparently taking place and there were lots of people. So we passed this, only to stop at a viewpoint as the light was falling but a Lammergeier was circling up! This was overhead and circling for c. 5 minutes, when the sun suddenly broke through to give an astonishing sunset against the cloud-shrouded Pyrenees in the distance, with the peak of Oroel shining out crystal clear above its cloudy base. A simply magical finale to the day!

Monday 8th

The day dawned overcast and grey, but seemed OK. We took the short road towards the nearby Castillo de Loarre, only to pull up shortly afterwards, firstly for a group of Griffon Vultures circling off to one side, then to photograph the castle highlighted against the remarkably low cloud base! It was very cold, however, so we went up to the castle car park, only to be 'accosted' twice by guards keeping an eye on the staging set up for a Ridley Scott film, The Kingdoms of Heaven?! The raw cold kept us moving, but almost nothing was moving except for a couple of Chaffinches.

We headed down onto the plains below, noting small numbers of bird en route, including Buzzards, Kestrels and Red Kites, though a couple of the latter alerted us to the presence of a fine juvenile Golden Eagle passing low over the slopes off to one side!

Other birds included the first of a few Southern Grey Shrikes and a couple of Crested Larks, though it wasn't until near the Embalse de Sotonera that we saw any numbers of birds. A couple of Stonechats and a brief Marsh Harrier were elusive, but not so a superb male Black Redstart on a mud bank just yards from the vehicle and a little group of Goldfinches brightened up a nearby stubble field. More Stonechats then performed beautifully, while after we stepped out to check a few Mallard on the water, so first heard, then saw a couple of perky Dartford Warblers in scrub near another Stonechat. Even as we walked to get a little closer so a bird shot out of the scrub beside us before obligingly perching on the tip of a tall cypress tree. A Fieldfare!

A walk along to the dam prior to lunch simply reminded us just how cold it was, though it led us to move on to look for a coffee in a bar, though in our search we found a pleasant spot and decided to have lunch first. A wise choice, given a large mixed flock of starlings, 'jackdaws', 'doves' and a few other bits and pieces... In fact, between mouthfuls, at distance we realised that the flock, moving around when regularly disturbed by a Red Kite, was comprised of Eurasian Starlings, Jackdaws, Red-billed Choughs and a large group of Stock Doves! We tried to get closer once we'd eaten, only to also find over the next 20 minutes, a small group of Red-legged Partridge, a couple of Linnets, two Marsh Harriers, more Red Kites and then two Hoopoes perched in a bare tree! A male Peregrine flashed through too, though too fast and low for most to see.

The Canal de Monegros is a boring concrete structure, but Sue saw a Green Sandpiper as we passed, then a spanking White Stork fed in the shallow water below, though flew off to quieter ground when we tried to approach for photos.

We finally had a drinks break, then pushed on up into the impressive Sierra de Guara for an hour or so, pausing only to take pictures in a dramatic gorge.

The views by the dam were tremendous, though given dead still and chilly conditions, little was moving. Sue however turned up trumps with a superb Firecrest, flitting incessantly through some bushes just below our viewpoint.

The views were great, with just a few Griffons moving out to the S as the skies cleared. We dropped back down the valley, only to pause for some relatively close perched Griffons and a small flock of Crag Martins wheeling around.

The sun was now beginning to break through on occasion and we finished off with a stop on the side of a gorge as the sun, and temperature, fell. A few birds were calling, including Cetti's Warbler, Robin and a flock of Corn Buntings which passed over twice, though only as most were getting into the vehicle did our main quarry, an Eagle Owl, call distantly a couple of times.

We had to detour for fuel, only to meet miles of traffic returning from the holiday weekend, though only lost a few minutes as a result!!!

Tuesday 9th

Our transfer day, which was the brightest and clearest to date. In fact, once past Huesca, the high point of the Sierra de Guara and the high Pyrenees well behind were cloaked in a mantle of crisp new snow.

Near Sariñena we stopped to scan over some rice fields, which were simply alive with birds. The calm conditions with weak sun were ideal for looking at the numerous flocks of small birds around, which were dominated by a group of several hundred Bramblings, plus Greenfinches, Linnets, Goldfinches and Chaffinches, and a couple of fly-past Yellowhammers. A Cattle Egret strode along a bund between paddies, where thousands of Lapwings and numerous Black-headed Gulls rested. On a different track we got closer to the latter, but didn't even get out of the vehicle before a superb Penduline Tit crept up a reedmace in front and perched for about 30 seconds in full view!

The paddies were alive, three Green Sandpipers rising up as we approached, the Lapwing and gulls spooked by a passing raptor also pulling up a Golden Plover, several flocks of Common Snipe, and small groups of Dunlin and Ruff as well! The singing Cetti's Warbler in a ditch remained invisible, while a single Tree Sparrow fortunately sat up on post long enough to be appreciated. A Hoopoe flew over, probably the same as one seen earlier in leafless tree.

We finally dragged ourselves away, despite not wanting to, and continued S to look over the Laguna de Sariñena in the lee of the chill wind. Despite the distance, the conditions were good and with the scopes could pick out some good birds on the lake. Two male Pintail were our first 'prize', followed by a few Wigeon and Teal, though two male Shoveler and a Great Crested Grebe were relatively much closer, with our first Coot behind them. On the far side a scan of a large Pochard flock present revealed a real treat in the form of a male Red-crested Pochard, though this was far from easy to pick out, given the range. It was easy however to content ourselves with the constant to-ings and fro-ings of a large flock of Spotless Starlings below us, and a Buzzard and several Marsh Harriers along the lake shore.

Lunch was still some way off, so we pushed on S again, and after pausing for two different Golden Eagles and various Red Kites and Marsh Harriers, turned off into arable steppe near Bujaraloz. This was very exposed in the very chill breeze, but after lunch in the vehicle we wandered out to a fair fly-by showing of Calandra and Sky Larks and Linnets, though also flushed eight Black-bellied Sandgrouse which sped off at speed. Back in the vehicle we disturbed a delightful Little Owl which sat on the ground and glared at us with brilliant yellow eyes before moving off to a safer distance.

We now started the final long leg of the journey, pausing again, firstly for over 30 Black-bellied Sandgrouse which rose out of fallow, and then for over 100 Red-billed Choughs in a ploughed field!

We finally made it over the Río Ebro, pausing again on the other side for a break and photo, where Roger found two Clouded Yellow butterflies, then made the last long stretch in good time to reach the hotel by 17:45.

Wednesday 10th

An 'easy' day organisationally, being a visit to the large but very shallow Laguna de Gallocanta and its surroundings.

As ever though, a stop was called for before we even reached it when we saw a huge flock of finches in a field of sunflowers and perching in the top of the only two trees on the roadside. These were mainly Linnets, but with plenty of Goldfinches, a few Chaffinches, and also our first Rock Sparrows, with their 'badger-striped' head patterns. We watched these at length, with the flock swirling up off the field and pouring overhead on a couple of occasions as if disturbed by a raptor. The opposite side was also interesting, with a flock of c. 25 Red-billed Choughs which came over the hilltop before dropping into a field to feed and a pinkish-breasted Southern Grey Shrike which called from a nearby bush.

Our next stop was overlooking the N end of the lake adjacent to Gallocanta village. The clouds had all but dissipated, leaving beautiful sunny conditions and the numerous ducks in the flat calm water were clearly visible despite being at distance. Teal were the most numerous, with plenty of Mallard too, and a scattering of Shoveler, Wigeon and a small group of Gadwall. Cranes were feeding distantly on fields, a flock of Shelduck were at extreme range on the far bank, but a group of 10 Curlew fed rather closer in grass adjacent to the lake. A male Black Redstart flew across before perching on a low building. These were near perfect conditions.

Time never stays still, so we 'tracked' the sun round, Gill finding a Fox in a nearby field, while as we turned off onto tracks, dozens of Cranes were feeding off to one side. In fact there were hundreds, and we stopped near a haystack so as not to break the skyline and watched these at leisure, a large flock of Calandra Larks on the fields below us also forming a spectacle as they raced back and forth tight to the ground. The amazing spectacle of dozens more Cranes flighting in from surrounding fields left us contemplating several thousand in the end! Raptors were also rather evident, with a couple of Marsh Harriers, several Kestrels and a small group of high circling Griffon Vultures to contemplate.

A late coffee was called for, though beforehand, some small birds in a line of pruned fruit trees included Corn Buntings, Rock and Tree Sparrows, Reed Buntings and Linnets! Afterwards a few Black Redstarts in a small poplar plantation being worth an short stop and a Little Owl shortly afterwards glaring at us from its rock-top resting site also needed reversing up for! Lunch was going to be a little late, though only a pair of Ravens and a small flock of Crested Larks now slowed us, and we took lunch in balmy, dead calm conditions.

Griffons and passing Cranes were treats over lunch, a noisy group of the latter announcing the presence of a passing juvenile Golden Eagle! Several Reed Buntings kept us entertained at ground level. The conditions were such that it had enticed a Small Copper to hatch, but that it was semi-torpid, either remaining on John's hand to be photographed, or then trying to get into Joy's pocket!

A post-lunch wander was almost bird-free, so we headed off for another drink, passing hundreds more Cranes, this time in the Laguna de Zaida, though failed on the drinks! Consequently, we headed towards the Hermitage viewpoint but decided to take a look from a hide. Just a couple of Cranes were present in front, but Stan found a few waders picking their way along the edge of the water, and four Little Stints were duly observed in the scopes. A Green Woodpecker also made a fly-past for a lucky few.

No Cranes were flighting in though, so we headed back via tracks, seeing a few Red-legged Partridge at the end, to the L. de Zaida, only to find it basically empty! The Cranes had moved into the surrounding fields, but three Greylag Geese hid in the vegetation and a group of Lapwing graced a small bank.

We left as the sun set, the sky went through a series of remarkable colours and the temperature fell like a stone. Another fantastic end to a superb day.

Thursday 11th

Cloud before breakfast, but totally clear when we set off. Just one pause en route for a Buzzard, then off onto steppe near Belchite. A large flock of Calandra and other larks caught our eye, with a male Hen Harrier behind. We got out only to find a large flock of Pin-tailed Sandgrouse flying around calling loudly!

We then found we were in difficulties as the back door of the minibus was stuck shut, trapping both the rucksack and coat belonging to Sue, but we stood outside in glorious conditions to watch the sandgrouse, many of these and also three Black-bellied Sandgrouse on the ground.

Further scanning also found a Peregrine flying in, which obligingly perched on a rock in a field where a covey of Red-legged partridge cowered along its edge!

We continued on out to an area of salt steppe, where a large very mobile flock of Lesser Short-toed Larks were present, and where only after some extensive coordinated searching, we finally got brief views of a Dupont's Lark rushing off through the vegetation. This was seen briefly on the ground by a few before it flew and despite being rapidly relocated then flew again and disappeared. Clouded Yellows, several red darter dragonflies (understandably not identified given our search for the lark!) and a single Painted Lady butterfly were also seen.

Lunch was now taken again in a chill breeze under cloud by the ruins of old Belchite. After a brief diversion for loos, where we managed to cause a flood, we then came back to the ruins to wander round for over an hour. It was very thought-provoking to see the destruction wrought by Franco's supporters during the Spanish Revolution, though currently with life in the form of a pair of Black Wheatears, a Blue Rock Thrush or two and several Black Redstarts.

Back in Daroca we had problems negotiating the streets given a huge funeral entourage going in the opposite direction, but still with time for all to wander round this impressive walled city, though John was off to get the van (thankfully easily) fixed!

Our 'final' round-up revealed that Lammergeier and Wallcreeper were the 'main' highlights, but Brambling and Merlin were also included.

Friday 12th

Our transfer back to Barcelona was long (9 to 13:30) and thankfully rather uneventful, mist and fog in the Los Monegros area making things less exciting given no views! However, a couple of Marsh Harriers, Buzzards and various Kestrels were seen.

We pushed on fast to get back to the airport in time and in fact had time to visit the Llobregat Delta reserve. After taking lunch in the 'outer' car park, where two adult Mediterranean Gulls circled over, their white wings flaring in the sun and a small number of noisy Monk Parakeets and Little Grebes kept us more than occupied, the reserve warden kindly got the van through a safety gate and we could take a walk in peace to the various hides.

The first screen revealed a few duck at close range and a Little Egret, while the first hide was amazing, with fabulous views of Teal, Mallard and Shoveler in quantity, dozens of Grey and two Night Herons perched out in the open (!), lots of gloriously coloured Lapwing, a Spotted Redshank and a couple of marauding Marsh Harriers. Rarest of all though was a Red-knobbed Coot with neck-ring, part of the Spanish reintroduction scheme.

We just had time for the other main hide, seeing both Kingfisher and Penduline Tit briefly en route, but were rewarded with two Shelduck, three Gadwall, several Wigeon and Snipe, and also a couple of Little Grebes extremely close. The light, as at the other hide was just superb, even allowing us to clearly see an adult Lesser Black-backed Gull amongst the Yellow-leggeds and to contemplate a fly-over Sandwich Tern our last new bird of the trip!

This was a superb finish, my thanks to Ricard Gutierrez for allowing me to go round with the group too and not have to guard the van!

Species Lists

Birds

Little Grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis): Only seen in the Llobregat Delta where 10+ on 12th.

Great Crested Grebe (Podiceps cristatus): One en route on 7th, 2 Emb. de Sotonera on 8th and 2 L. de Sariñena on 9th.

Great Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo): Seen on four days, max. 50+ Llobregat Delta on 12th.

Black-crowned Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax): An adult and a juvenile at Llobregat Delta on 12th; a new species for the trip.

Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea): Seen in one and twos on 4 days, but 40+ Llobregat Delta on 12th.

Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis): One Barça airport on 6th, 5 in the Capdesaso rice fields on 9th and a few en route on 12th.

Little Egret (Egretta garzetta): A couple along the Río Llobregat en route on 6th and 2+ Llobregat Delta on 12th.

White Stork (Ciconia ciconia): One in the Canal de Los Monegros on 8th and a pair in flight over Sariñena en route on 9th.

Greylag Goose (Anser anser): 30+ L. de Gallocanta on 10th.

Common Shelduck (Tadorna tadorna): A minimum of 59 at the L. de Gallocanta on 10th and 2 at the Llobregat Delta on 12th.

Eurasian Wigeon (Anas penelope): A few at the L. de Sariñena on 9th, 6+ at the L. de Gallocanta on 10th and 5 at the Llobregat Delta on 12th.

Gadwall (Anas strepera): 6 at the L. de Gallocanta on 10th and 3 at the Llobregat Delta on 12th.

Eurasian / Common Teal (Anas crecca): A female at the Emb. de Sotonera on 8th, lots at the L. de Sariñena on 9th and L. de Gallocanta on 10th and lots at the Llobregat Delta on 12th.

Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos): Common on reservoirs and lakes, with lots at Emb. de Sotonera, L. de Sariñena, L. de Gallocanta and Llobregat Delta.

Northern Pintail (Anas acuta): At least 4 males at the L. de Sariñena on 9th.

Northern Shoveler (Anas clypeata): Two males and a female seen clearly at the L. de Sariñena on 9th, plenty at the L. de Gallocanta on 10th and good numbers Llobregat Delta on 12th.

Red-crested Pochard (Netta rufina): A male at the L. de Sariñena on 9th and a female in flight over the L. de Gallocanta on 10th; another new species for the trip.

Common Pochard (Aythya ferina): At least 100 on the Laguna de Sariñena on 9th.

Red Kite (Milvus milvus): One on post at Triste on 7th, 30+ at various sites on 8th, 10+ at various sites on 9th and two L. de Gallocanta on 10th.

Eurasian Griffon Vulture (Gyps fulvus): Only seen on 3 days, but 20+ between Riglos and San Juan de la Peña on 7th, 50+ at various sites on 8th and 50+ in the L. de Gallocanta area on 10th.

Lammergeier / Bearded Vulture (Gypaetus barbatus): A fabulous young adult or near-adult over San Juan de la Peña on 7th.

Hen Harrier (Circus cyaneus): A female / juvenile and an adult male on steppe near Bujaraloz on 9th and an adult male El Planerón, Belchite on 11th.

Western Marsh Harrier (Circus aeruginosus): A widespread and quite common wintering bird in the lower areas; seen on 5 days, max. 20+ en route on 9th.

Eurasian Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus): A female Emb. de Sotonera on 8th, 2 en route on 9th and 1 distantly at Belchite on 11th.

Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo): Quite common and seen daily except on 10th, max. 10+ on both 8th and 9th.

Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos): A juvenile near Loarre on 8th, 2 en route on 9th and another juvenile over the L. de Gallocanta on 10th.

Common Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus): Seen widely in small - moderate number daily, except on 7th.

Merlin (Falco columbarius): One en route in Los Monegros on 6th, another en route on 9th, a male and a female L. de Gallocanta on 10th and 2 en route on 11th.

Peregrine (Falco peregrinus): A small male by the Canal de Los Monegros on 8th and an adult perched on a rock at El Planerón, Belchite on 11th.

Red-legged Partridge (Alectoris rufa): Seen daily in small number from 8th - 11th.

Common Crane (Grus grus): 40+ between the Emb. de Sotonera and Canal de Los Monegros on 8th and 4000+ L. de Gallocanta on 10th.

Common Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus): Just one by a pond en route on 9th!

Red-knobbed Coot (Fulica cristata): A neck-ringed bird from the reintroduction scheme at the Llobregat Delta on 12th; not really countable as a wild bird.

Common Coot (Fulica atra): Just 6+ Laguna de Sariñena on 9th and plenty Llobregat Delta on 12th.

Northern Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus): Masses! 100s on 6th and 12th, 30+ Emb. de Sotonera on 8th, 3000+ Capdesaso rice fields and several 1000 more en route on 9th and 13 L. de Gallocanta on 10th.

European Golden Plover (Pluvialis apricaria): Singles Capdesaso rice fields on 9th and L. de Gallocanta on 10th, and 3 El Planerón, Belchite on 11th.

Eurasian Curlew (Numenius arquata): 10 at L. de Gallocanta on 10th.

Spotted Redshank (Tringa erythropus): One LD on 12th; another new species for the trip (though we also saw one the previous week).

Green Sandpiper (Tringa ochropus): One seen by Sue in the Canal de Los Monegros on 8th and 3 in flight at the Capdesaso rice fields on 9th.

Common Snipe (Gallinago gallinago): 60+ Capdesaso rice fields on 9th and several LD on 12th.

Little Stint (Calidris minuta): 7 distant birds excellently found by Stan at the L. de Gallocanta on 10th; another new species for the trip (though we also saw some the previous week).

Dunlin (Calidris alpina): A flock of c. 12 at the Capdesaso rice fields on 9th.

Ruff (Philomachus pugnax): A flock of c. 12 at the Capdesaso rice fields on 9th.

Yellow-legged Gull (Larus (cachinnans) michahellis): 3 adults Emb. de Sotonera on 8th, 1 Laguna de Sariñena on 9th and lots LD on 12th.

Lesser Black-backed Gull (Larus (fuscus) intermedius / graellsii): An adult at the LD on 12th; another new species for the trip.

Mediterranean Gull (Larus melanocephala): Two adult circling high over the LD on 12th; another new species for the trip.

(Common) Black-headed Gull (Larus ridibundus): Noted on 5 days, with lots en route on 6th, at the Capdesaso rice fields on 9th and LD on 12th.

Sandwich Tern (Sterna sandvicensis): One over the LD on 12th; another new species for the trip.

Pin-tailed Sandgrouse (Pterocles alchata): 100+ El Planerón, Belchite on 11th were superb.

Black-bellied Sandgrouse (Pterocles orientalis): Groups of 8 and 36 near Bujaraloz on 9th and 8+ El Planerón, Belchite on 11th were good.

Rock Dove (Columba livia): Noted daily from 7th - 12th, with wild-type birds in the mountains.

Stock Dove (Columba oenas): c. 100 in a large flock near the Canal de Los Monegros on 8th.

Common Woodpigeon (Columba palumbus): One seen by Stan at Barça airport on 6th, c. 50 by the Canal de Los Monegros on 8th, and 3+ Capdesaso rice fields on 9th.

Eurasian Collared Dove (Streptopelia decaocto): Noted daily in variable number on 7th - 12th, except 10th at numerous sites.

Monk Parakeet (Myiopsitta monachus): 6+ building a nest in the LD on 12th.

Eurasian Eagle Owl (Bubo bubo): One or perhaps two heard calling briefly near Loporzano on 8th.

Little Owl (Athene noctua): Singles Bujaraloz on 9th and L. de Gallocanta on 10th.

Common Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis): One, perhaps two at the LD on 12th.

Eurasian Hoopoe (Upupa epops): Two by the Canal de Los Monegros on 8th and 1 - 2 Capdesaso rice fields on 9th.

Great Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos major): Several heard calling at San Juan de la Peña on 7th.

Black Woodpecker (Dryocopus martius): A male calling in the pines at San Juan de la Peña on 7th was finally seen by all.

European Green Woodpecker (Picus viridis): One flying past at L. de Gallocanta on 10th and one crossing the road en route on 12th.

Calandra Lark (Melanocorypha calandra): 200+ Bujaraloz on 9th, 250+ L. de Gallocanta on 10th and c. 100 El Planerón, Belchite on 11th.

Lesser Short-toed Lark (Calandrella rufescens): 3Bujaraloz on 9th and 40+ El Planerón, Belchite on 11th.

Dupont's Lark (Chersophilus duponti): 2 at El Planerón, Belchite on 11th.

Crested Lark (Galerida cristata): Small numbers at various sites from 8th - 11th.

Thekla Lark (Galerida theklae): 3 El Planerón, Belchite on 11th.

Eurasian Skylark (Alauda arvensis): Common and widespread in lower areas; seen daily from 8th - 11th.

Eurasian Crag Martin (Hirundo rupestris): 10 at Riglos on 7th and c. 12 Emb. de Vadiello on 8th.

Grey Wagtail (Motacilla cinerea): Singles heard at two sites on 11th.

White Wagtail (Motacilla alba alba): Common: ones and twos daily from 7th.

Meadow Pipit (Anthus pratensis): Widespread in small number and noted from 8th - 11th.

Southern Grey Shrike (Lanius meridionalis): Widespread; 3 at various sites on 8th, 3+ on 9th and 2+ on 10th.

Winter Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes): Heard in the Capdesaso rice fields on 9th and one seen L. de Gallocanta on 10th.

Alpine Accentor (Prunella collaris): 5+ Riglos on 7th.

Blue Rock Thrush (Monticola solitarius): Two at Riglos on 7th and 1 - 2 Belchite on 11th.

Common Blackbird (Turdus merula): Common; seen daily in small number from 7th - 10th.

Fieldfare (Turdus pilaris): 4 by the Emb. de Sotonera on 8th.

Redwing (Turdus iliacus): 4 en route on 7th and one L. de Gallocanta on 10th.

Song Thrush (Turdus philomelos): One Emb. de Sotonera on 8th.

Mistle Thrush (Turdus viscivorus): A few San Juan de la Peña on 7th, 1 Loarre on 8th and 1 en route on 12th.

European Robin (Erithacus rubecula): Singles on 7th, 8th and 10th.

Black Redstart (Phoenicurus ochruros): A male Emb. de Sotonera on 8th, 1 en route on 9th, 5+ L. de Gallocanta on 10th and c. 10 at various sites, especially Belchite on 11th.

Common Stonechat (Saxicola torquata rubicola): 4+ pairs on 8th, 3+ en route on 9th and 1 en route on 10th.

Black Wheatear (Oenanthe leucura): One briefly Riglos on 7th, and a pair or 3 at Belchite on 11th.

Zitting Cisticola (Fan-tailed W.) (Cisticola juncidis): Only heard at the Capdesaso rice fields on 9th.

Cetti's Warbler (Cettia cetti): Heard at Loarre on 8th and Capdesaso rice fields on 9th.

Eurasian Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita): Singles on 7th and 9th and 2 at the LD on 12th.

Sardinian Warbler (Sylvia melanocephala): Only heard at Riglos on 7th and two heard on 8th.

Dartford Warbler (Sylvia undata): 3 by the Emb. de Sotonera on 8th and 1 Belchite on 11th.

Firecrest (Regulus ignicapillus): A superb bird under us at the Emb. de Vadiello on 8th.

Goldcrest (Regulus regulus): Several at San Juan de la Peña on 7th.

Long-tailed Tit (Aegithalos caudatus): Just 6+ San Juan de la Peña on 7th.

Eurasian Penduline Tit (Remiz pendulinus): A male in reedmace right in front of the vehicle in the Capdesaso rice fields on 9th and a fly-by plus 1+ heard at LD on 12th.

Coal Tit (Parus ater): Two at San Juan de la Peña on 7th.

Crested Tit (Parus cristatus): A total of nine at San Juan de la Peña on 7th.

Great Tit (Parus major): Two at San Juan de la Peña on 7th, 2 en route on 9th and 1 L. de Gallocanta on 10th.

Blue Tit (Parus caeruleus): Just one at San Juan de la Peña on 7th!

Eurasian Nuthatch (Sitta europaea): Four at San Juan de la Peña on 7th.

Wallcreeper (Tichodroma muraria): Three+ at Riglos on 7th, justifiably the bird of the trip for several!

Eurasian Jay (Garrulus glandarius): One seen briefly and others heard San Juan de la Peña on 7th.

Common Magpie (Pica pica): Common, widespread and seen daily.

Red-billed Chough (Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax): 10 Canal de Los Monegros on 8th, c. 120 various sites en route on 9th, 30+ L. de Gallocanta on 10th and 2 en route on 12th.

Western Jackdaw (Corvus monedula): 50+ Canal de Los Monegros on 8th and a few en route on 9th.

Carrion Crow (Corvus corone corone): Common and widespread; seen daily from 7th.

Common Raven (Corvus corax): Two - four seen daily from 7th - 10th.

Eurasian Starling (Sturnus vulgaris): Common and widespread, but only noted 7th - 9th and on 12th.

Spotless Starling (Sturnus unicolor): Common and widespread; seen daily and widely.

Corn Bunting (Miliaria calandra): 3+ seen well plus various flocks in flight near Loarre on 8th, a few en route on 9th and plenty around the L. de Gallocanta on 10th.

Yellowhammer (Emberiza citrinella): 2+ over the Capdesaso rice fields on 9th.

Cirl Bunting (Emberiza cirlus): A superb flock of c. 12 en route to San Juan de la Peña on 7th.

Reed Bunting (Emberiza schoeniclus): 6+ around the L. de Gallocanta on 10th.

Common / European Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs): Common and widespread; seen daily in small number from 7th - 11th.

Brambling (Fringilla montifringilla): A fantastic flock of c. 300 at the Capdesaso rice fields on 9th.

European Serin (Serinus serinus): Finally seen in flight and a few singing at Belchite on 11th.

European Greenfinch (Carduelis chloris): Heard at Emb. de Sotonera on 8th and L. de Gallocanta on 10th, but plenty seen in the Capdesaso rice fields on 9th.

European Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis): Seen in small to moderate number from 8th - 11th.

Common Linnet (Carduelis cannabina): Remarkably high numbers; after just 2 Canal de Los Monegros on 8th, 1000s Capdesaso rice fields on 9th, 1000+ en route on 10th and lots in the Belchite area on 11th.

House Sparrow (Passer domesticus): Common and widespread; seen daily.

Eurasian Tree Sparrow (Passer montanus): One Capdesaso rice fields on 9th and a few L. de Gallocanta on 10th.

Rock Sparrow (Petronia petronia): 9+ en route to and at the L. de Gallocanta on 10th.

In other words, 120 species seen and or heard, excluding the Red-knobbed Coot and also the unmentioned escaped Black Swan at the Llobregat Delta!

Other species:

We also saw one to three Clouded Yellows (Colias croceus) daily from 9th - 12th, a Small Copper (Lycaena phlaeas) at the L. de Gallocanta on 10th and a Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui) at El Planerón, Belchite on 11th. Mammals included a Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes) near the L. de Gallocanta on 11th, signs of Wild Boar (Sus scrofa) at San Juan de la Peña on 7th, a Red Squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris) crossing the road en route on 7th, a Rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) en route on 10th and a Field Mouse (Apodemus sylvaticus) on the road in the evening on 7th.

This was a terrific trip, with excellent views of most of the key birds of the area, and despite the lack of an evening flight of cranes into the L. de Gallocanta given the fine conditions, we had in fact seen this earlier in the day at the opposite end of the lake, so were more than happy! I would also like to express my thanks to you all for making this such an enjoyable tour and also to Ricard Gutierrez at the Llobregat Delta for showing us round the reserve. A terrific finale! I look forward to seeing you all again soon, I hope!

Very best wishes, John Muddeman
© The Travelling Naturalist 2003