Tuesday, 6 November 2018

Catalonia, Part 2 - Ebro Delta, Mindblown!

When I go on a family holiday I normally get one day to go all-out birding. In Sevilla 2016 our trip to DoƱana National Park was a disaster, so this time I put in more research and time before the trip so I could find a could place to go birding. The place that I found I couldn't miss out on. The Delta del Ebre/Ebro Delta was a region of 320km2 in the area South of Tarragona and Barcelona. It consists of numerous habitats; coastal habitats, marshes, rice paddyfields, irrigation canals, sandy beaches - it had it all. So we arrived at around 11am, and just the drive to the information centre in Deltebre was exciting. After getting some info at the visitor centre in the town Deltebre, we decided to start by travelling to the northern part of the region at around 12am. 
Little Stint and LRP

Driving there got my first lifers - Glossy Ibis and Squacco Heron, as well as many Whiskered Terns which were stunning to watch hunting the paddyfields. Eventually we reached the coast after several stops, where we parked up on a bank to try and find some good birds. First a group of waders were feeding, inc. groups of Dunlin, Ringed Plover, Kentish Plover, Curlew Sandpipers, Greenshank and 5 Little Stint (lifers.) Slender-Billed Gulls were present with the Audouins Gulls, as well as the many YLGs and LBBGs. A few Grey and Purple Heron were skulking around with numerous Little Egret, and several Squacco Heron flew over. Zitting Cisticola (aka Fan-tailed Warbler) zipped about calling. 2 Little Bittern also flew by and the final lifers along this part of the coastline were several Little Tern and a distant, brief view of a Purple Swamphen - Western Palearctic lifer. 

After stopping at a small hide for lunch along the way to the SE spit on the delta, where we had some Stilts, an ad Common Sandpiper and a few other bits and pieces, we stopped at the beach for a while to see what was there before starting to go back to Sitges. We had some good views of Kentish Plover and Turnstone, another snoozy Ruff, Greenshank, more waders as well as several gull sp. including 2cy Med Gull, SB Gull and more Audouin's. Some odd waders gave me a run-around before revealing themselves as just Greenshank. There were plenty of Sarnie Terns (funnily enough world lifer) also around too. 

We started to drive back with my family becoming weary in the 39C heat but didn't get very far as we were stopped at a viewing platform; from here we had better views of some birds like Greater Flamingo, Crested Lark, Spectacled Warbler, more waders, gulls, Little and Arctic Tern, egrets and way more. The final lifer was a flyby ad Gull-billed Tern My sister looked a bit worse for wear in the heat so we had to leave, but it was one of the best days of birding in Europe, with an astounding 91 species seen (not photographed.) It was easy to say that one day I'll come back to spend more than one day here - we only really scratched the surface of the reserve. Mindblown!

The final bird of the day was while having dinner in Tarragona - a juv Sardinian Warbler. 
dragonfly sp.
Greenshank and Little Stint

4 different sp. of bird
Little Stint

ad summer Curlew Sandpipers


White Wagtail

Glossy Ibis - 2 of about 50 all day

Black-winged Stilt
Squacco Heron
Squacco Heron - given up its camo

Whiskered Tern

Whiskered Tern

Whiskered Tern

Whiskered Tern

Whiskered Terns

small part of the Delta

Black-winged Stilts

Common Sandpiper

Slender Billed Gull

ad Mediterranean Gull

Ruddy Turnstone 
Kentish Plover

ill looking Ruff?

Greater Flamingo

gulls and a sandpiper

Audouin's Gull

Curlew, Mute Swan and Aud

Purple Heron - also gave up on camo

Greater Flamingo

Purple Heron

2 lifers - Little Tern adn SBG

Little Bittern

Purple Heron

Squacco Heron

2cy Med Gull and Aud

Audouin's Gull

Kentish Plover

Sarnie Tern with catch


Common Tern

top views of Crested Lark!

Gull-billed Tern

Sardinian Warbler
Apologies for rushed post, mock exams next week - thanks for reading! :)

Saturday, 27 October 2018

Catalonia, Part 1 - Delta del Llobregat, 1st August 2018

Before the visits to RSPB Pagham and Rainham I'd been on a great family holiday to Catalonia, so I'm just catching up with that.

When we arrived at Barcelona airport on the 31st August, we flew over one of the places on my birding wishlist - called the Llobregat Delta. The delta is in two sections, and is a vast expanse of wetland habitat, right on the coastal area beside Barcelona - an incredible place for nature, extremely close to the city. So the day after we arrived, we decided to take a look at it.

Unfortunately, due to the extreme heat, it closed at 15:30 during the summer so we only had around 1hr 30mins there. We started by walking along the road, stopping numerous times at lookouts onto a long channel of water. Though few birds were seen along here, there were dragonflies resting on the posts and the odd Cattle Egret perched on the cattle. There were hirundines nearly everywhere, with Alpine Swifts circling as well. A few other insects included Striped Shieldbugs, as well as hundreds of blue butterflies, though I didn't spot a Long-tailed blue.
When we eventually reached the visitor hut, and my first Spanish speaking test failed, we headed off to a hide recommended by Ian from Beddington, who'd been earlier on in the year. 

The hide had some brilliant views overlooking wetland and grassland habitat, and immediately we saw that the most numerous wader was Black-winged Stilt. The stilts were largely distant from the hide, but gradually grew bolder and flew much closer to the hide. Eventually, after some patience, the juveniles came within 15m, really showing themselves off. 
There was a single birder at the start, who showed us a bit of a rarity before going - a lifer for me, Marsh Sandpiper. Through a scope and heat-haze, it was merely a blob but a nice surprise. Also present a long way off was an ill looking Ruff, juv and ad LRP, 2 Spoonbill, Great White Egret, plenty of Little Egret, a Common Sandpiper and a few other bits and pieces. Frustratingly, though I saw at least 20 throughout the trip, I failed in getting a good shot of a Zitting Cisticola - Fan-tailed Warbler. Then I spotted something small skittering around at the back end of a scrape, with a rufous cap and long dark legs. Another world lifer in Kentish Plover, but the views were brief and largely disappointing. 
Just as I started to feel at home we had to leave, because 15:30 had passed. On the way back, it was too hot to really think but a group of European Bee Eater hunting overhead was pleasing. By the car park we also had a Purple Heron and Moustached Warbler calling (sadly not seen so a failed tick.) The last bird of the birding day was a Crested Lark that was flushed by the car.

A decent start to the trip was finished by a Sardinian Warbler and my first Audouin's Gulls on the beach, as well as a large, orange billed tern species offshore - possibly either Lesser Crested or Caspian. 3 lifers on day 1 was a nice start to a trip that was really meant to be non-birding...

The stars of the show...

ad f Black-winged Stilt

ad f Black-winged Stilt

ad f Black winged Stilt - debating life!

juv Black-winged Stilt

juv Black-winged Stilt

juv Black-winged Stilt

juv Black-winged Stilt
juv Black-winged Stilt

Although I'm not sure with the dragonflies and their ID, here are a few insects...

Red-veined Darter

Black-tailed Skimmer

Striped Shieldbugs
We had several European Bee Eater encounters...

European Bee Eater
Some of the Little Ringed Plovers.
ad and juv Little Ringed Plovers

Juv Little Ringed Plover
Juv Little Ringed Plover
Anonymous birds, as well as the Sandpiper. 

1cy Yellow-legged Gull (with a long neck)

These caused me some interest - they came in off the sea, circled briefly, then returned to the sea. Gadwall?
Common Sandpiper - possibly 1cy?

Common Sandpiper

Herons and Allies were in large numbers - 6 species throughout the day (no Little Bittern unfortunately!)
Great and Little Egret

4 species of bird - the bird at the back left made me excited to start.

Eurasian Spoonbill

Little Egret
Cattle Egret - feeling the heat!

Cattle Egrets