Archive for Spain

Delta + Plain + Mountain

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on May 30, 2018 by cliffdean

At the beginning of May we spent 6 exciting days in Catalonia with Steve West of Birding in Spain. 2 days each in the Ebro Delta, Sierra de Guara & Pyrenees.

189 species, so many of these I’d only seen once or twice or not very well many I’d not seen for years, others I’d only seen in isolation so no opportunity to compare & distinguish songs. To get this in perspective, bird race teams can find such a number in one day – in fact the Catalan record is 230………

First morning: a 4-hour boat trip out from Tarragona in the company of Catalan & US birders: followed by Yellow-legged & Audouin’s Gulls with a few LB, MU & even HG thrown in. Soon attracting Balearic Shearwaters, a Northern Gannet & eventually Storm Petrels.

Out in the Delta, a hard-to-keep-up list of Greater Flamingos, migrant waders & terns (Whiskered, Caspian, Gull-billed), reed-birds (Reed, Great Reed, Savi’s W, Purple Heron, Little Bittern, Squacco Heron Purple Swamphen).  Passerines like Spanish Wagtail, Penduline Tit, Pied Flycatcher….Collared Pratincole….Osprey…Long-eared Owl…. You get the idea.

Of the three places we stayed – all good – this was my favourite: Hosteria de Guara. Won over by an amuse-bouche of fresh cockles in a gin&tonic jelly (unable to conceive of how anyone would come up with that).

Red-rumped Swallows, Melodious, Sardininan & Subalpine Warblers, Eagle Owl, Black Wheatear, Hoopoe, Bee eater, Woodchat Shrike, 

Lammergeier, Tawny Pipit, Orphean Warbler, Dartford Warbler

Half a mile of incredible inland cliffs with Lesser Kestrels, Alpine Choughs, Red-billed Choughs, Rock Sparrows, Bee-eaters, while along the river behind us were singing Nightingale, Golden Oriole, Wryneck, Melodious Warbler and on the roadside, Black-eared Wheatears.

Lark world: Thekla, Greater & Lesser Short-toed, Calandra all singing at once. Nearby: Stone-curlew, Little Bustard, Montagu’s Harrier, Roller

Chasing Spectacled & Dartford Warblers. Overhead: Golden & Short-toed Eagles, Red & Black Kites, Griffon Vultures.

Booted Eagle overhead, Tawny Pipits to the side, Orphean Warbler singing among the olives below

Lunch with Griffon Vultures gliding past at eye-level.

Picnic with Citril Finch, Black Woodpecker, Rock Bunting, Lammergeier, Goshawk, Booted Eagle, Crossbill, Red Squirrel, as well as exciting mountain specialities such as Dunnock! Robin! Chiffchaff! Goldcrest! Jay!

Rock Thrush, Red-backed Shrike, Northern Wheatear, both Choughs, Alpine Accentor, Water Pipit, Dipper, Marmot, Chamois.

En route for Barcelona, crags by a dam, with Bonelli’s Eagle, Griffon & Egyptian Vulture, Blue Rock Thrush., then former dry country, now irrigated: Crested Larks. No more bustards or sandgrouse.


Mainly on the plain – cold but dry.

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on February 7, 2018 by cliffdean

All bird photos by Peter Matthews

An improbably sumptuous Swamphen-Formerly-Known-As-Gallinule surveys his reedy kingdom. Marsh & Hen Harriers cruise beyond as the reedy wheeze of a Penduline Tit to originate from the local football pitch and turns out to be a mimetic Spotless Starling. Never mind – soon after there’s a real Penduline Tit – not on a goal-post – and a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker picking at scrubby lakeside trees.

Last week I was in Extremadura, near Trujillo, about 3 hours’ drive SW of Madrid, on a Mon-Fri trip run by Oriole Birding.

Each day we were out at daybreak into a landscape grey with frost. Luckily, once the sun came up we were quickly warmed though sheltered valleys were still white at midday. And as thermals began to form, dolefully hunched vultures, kites, storks and eagles rose into the air.

Thekla Larks, hordes of Spanish Sparrows, Hoopoe, Iberian Shrike, Azure-winged, now rebranded as Iberian, Magpies.

Maybe this was the place with Black-winged Kites, and a surprise unseasonal Wryneck in the roadside ditch. I can’t remember.

Rock Sparrows, Little Owl. 

We visited steppe, dehesa, wetlands and mountains to search for typical birds of the region, returning only at sunset to a roaring fire and excellent local food at our comfortable Casa Rural.

Great & Little Bustards, warily walking across vast pastures, calls & flickering wings of Pintailed & Black-bellied Sandgrouse high against the dark blue, hundreds of Calandra Larks doing impressions of Green Sandpipers, and unexpectedly early Great Spotted Cuckoo.

Flooded rice fields attracting White Storks, crooning families of Cranes, real wild Greylags, wintering Wood Sandpipers, fugitive Bluethroats, hurtling flock of Common Waxbills & Red Avadavats, a skulking Dartford Warbler. In the distance, by a corpse, a Raven is dwarfed by an accompanying Black Vulture.

Lunch stop with olive-eating Song Thrushes taking shelter in umbrella pines, Black Vultures cruising low overhead and piles of picnic rubbish beneath the bushes.

Driving through a white village where Spotless Starlings whistle from the wires and faded junk mail is stuffed in the doorways of locked up houses.

Through challengingly narrow streets to a castle where – eventually – there’s a lone Alpine Accentor…

…and, if you look down carefully, Blue Rock Thrushes on a rooftop alongside a ginger cat, a Short-toed Treecreeper on rocks, a Rock Bunting on grass and Sardinian Warblers cursing from brambles.

Hawfinches, Black Redstarts..

From another castle ramparts, dozens of Griffon Vultures gliding past at eye level.

Anyway, you get the gist. You can read a very much more detailed report with excellent photos by clicking here. Good fun.



Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on November 16, 2017 by cliffdean


East from Olot

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on May 20, 2017 by cliffdean

Cross country

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on May 18, 2017 by cliffdean

We’ve  been walking in Catalonia & Puglia. Back now in the rolling green of Sussex,where upcoming RXbirdwalks are as follows:

Saturday 20th: Brede High Woods
I’d hoped to organise a Nightingale walk one evening this coming week but Events have intervened. On Saturday, however, in daylight hours they might still be singing and if not there will be a chorus of many other woodland birds as well as beautiful fresh foliage.
(Evening walk for Nightingales)

This depends on weather conditions and,of course, Events. Another evening might work out better, so watch this space.

Saturday 27th: Dengemarsh

There should be good oportunities to see Hobbies, Marsh Harriers, probably Bittern as well as the great variety of waterbirds present around this part of the RSPB reserve. A chance too to see if you can still distinguish Sedge & Reed Warblers by song, pick out Whitethroats in song flight and track down Lesser Whitethroat.

 If you would like to join uson any of these walks please email me on