Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 ending tour

Which form could be better to finish a great year such as 2013 than a short trip around Catalunya and Aragó (another Spain region, beside Catalonia)?

We left home on 27th and we went straight to the Ebre Delta. First stop in La Tancada pond, where a Long-tailed Duck (Clangula hyemalis) was supposed to be. In fact, when I was in the Ebre Delta in the beggining of December, this same bird was also supposed to be there, but I wasn't lucky. We found it quite quickly, the bird was an 'advanced' 1w male, with a lot of greyish and whitish feathers, but still with a short tail.

We crossed the Trabucador sandbar looking for seabirds, but the sea was quite rough because of the wind. Nonetheless, the Alfacs Bay was quite calm, and we found again the 'standardised' Red-breasted Merganser (Mergus serrator) group. This time, 22 birds. As in my last visit in these places, there were lots of Calidris, Tringa, Turnstones and Grey Plovers around.

The following stop was in Alfacada observatory, close to Buda Island (in the tip of the Delta). As in my last visit, there was a roosting of Spoonbills (Platalea leucorodia) (this time I just saw 18...), and there were some (21) Common Scoters (Melanitta nigra) close to the beach. Big flocks of ducks were flying and staying in Buda lagoons, and lots of Snipes (Gallinago gallinago) were eating close to the observatory. Among them, I could see a Jack Snipe (Lymnocryptes minimus).

On 28th, we woke up in Flix, some kilometres upstream. We went to Sebes Natural Reserve, a typical place for Bitterns, but we didn't saw any. Actually, nobody has seen one this year there. We left soon to Gallocanta, our next stop, 240 km inland Spain.

About 4:30 in the afternoon we arrived there. Beside Gallocanta village there's a big lake that is a traditional wintering place for Cranes (Grus grus). Thousands of birds overwinter there every year, and we wanted to see this festival. Just 3 seconds after arrive we started to see (and hear..) lots and lots of Cranes around. They were eating on the fields...

We asked for some information in the Information Centre. The nice girl that is there explained us that there were about 50.000 Cranes during these days, and that this is a record number in this time of the year. As is was a bit late, we went as quickly as possible to one of the observatories. When all the Cranes move to sleep inside the lagoon... is magic.

The night started when we were still looking and hearing 50000 Cranes in front of us. In the meanwhile, up to 6 Hen Harriers (Circus cyaneus) appeared above the reedbeds, trying to catch some Corn Buntings (Emberiza calandra) that were sleeping there. Also, the lagoon was full of Shelducks (Tadorna tadorna) (I reckon about 5 or 6 hundred), Northern Pintails (Anas acuta) and some other typical duck's species. Still hearing Cranes, we left the observatory. Minutes after, a nice Barn Owl (Tyto alba) crossed the way, in front of the car, and maybe just 3 minutes later, we flushed out a Short-eared Owl (Asio flammeus). What a nice day!!

29th in the morning, we woke up hearing some Cranes from our room in the Gallocanta's hostel. Then, we went to Ermita del Buen Acuerdo, in front of a chapel in a hill close to the lagoon. The views were fantastic, and there were, again, thousands of Cranes on the water. This time, they were drinking a bit. The girl in the infromation centre told us that, around the midday, is a good moment to see them going to drink. With better light than the evening, we enjoyed the flock a lot. Then, we moved to La Reguera observatory, as the night before, and we continued enjoying this amazing place, with these magnificent birds.

Already in the midday, we left Gallocanta, saying something like 'We will come back quite soon..!'. Next stop was Zaragoza, the main city of Aragó country, because a Long-tailed Duck (Clangula hyemalis) had been found there, in a sort of public park inside the city. As Zaragoza was on the way back home, we went to see that bird. And it was there!!

With the evening coming, we moved to the East. We wanted to sleep in Fraga, in the border between Catalonia and Aragón, but before we wanted to try for Great Bustards (Otis tarda). I just knew a place where it was possible to see one, but we knew that in winter it would be very very difficult because they are not fixed in an specific place or area. I really wanted to see a Great Bustard, but the sun dissapeared on the horizon and the night was coming...
In the last chance, in the last place, we flushed 3 big chickens in front of the car. I just saw a lot of white on the wings, but I quickly knew that they were...! Obviously, 3 Great Bustards flew in front of us and thet stopped in a field quite far. But in a perfect distance to see them with the scope... What a magic moment!

Today in the morning (30th December), we woke up in Fraga. We went to Utxesa ponds, with Bearded Tits (Panurus biarmicus) as the target species. We heard some of them and the saw a couple passing by, not very well but fair enough.

Classic Utxesa's Mute Swans...

Then we visited some other dryland places. We saw big flocks of Calandra Larks (Melanocorypha calandra) and some Southern Grey Shrikes (Lanius meridionalis), but the big surprise was a flock of 94 Pin-tailed Sandgrouses (Pterocles alchata)!

Another great moment was when we found this Eagle Owl (Bubo bubo) hide under a big Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)!

We spend the rest of the afternoon seeing some other typical drylands stuff and checking Skylarks, Meadow Pipits and Linnets flocks, just in case... I guess we will repeat this in incoming winters!!

1 comment:

  1. Very nice. Great coverage and awesome pix. I guess you enjoyed a lot there. Have a nice day!
    plan trip to europe