Category Archives: Espanja

Fuerteventura, Canary 24th to 31st of December 2017

Christmas Eve traveling

We spent our Christmas Eve less traditionally by travelling very early in the morning to Helsinki-Vantaa airport. On the last days it had been quite a storm but luckily roads were in surprisingly good shape even though it had been snowing a lot.

Our flight was a little bit late but left at 11:50 a.m. towards Fuerteventura. We managed to sleep a little bit in the beginning but the rest of the flight we were watching landscapes as we flew over Alps, Pyrenees and Atlas Mountains. Finally we had managed to catch the schedule and landed in time to Puerto del Rosario airport.

Passport weren’t checked at all during the whole trip so soon Hanna was collecting our bag while I went to get our car that we had pre-booked from PayLess. We got a Jeep Renegate 4 wheel-drive which had been much cheaper on this company than on others. And we were happy to find out that it was even almost a new car.

Birding right away

After I had managed to put the right place to my navigator, we started driving. The traffic was easy so we could make the first bird-observations soon. Rock and Collared Doves, Yellow-legged Gulls (atlantis), Berthelot’s Pipits and Southern Grey Shrikes (koenigi) were seen before we parked along a road to rubbish tip. We unpacked a little bit and soon we had everything ready for serious birding.

We walked through a semi-desert area to Barranco de Rio Cabras and while walking saw our first Ravens (canariensis) (the birds seen until this were the most common ones on this island), Trumpeter Finches (amantum) and a couple of Egyptian Vultures that were soaring high on the sky. When we reached the cliff we could find Spanish Sparrows and then saw that there was a pool on the bottom of Barranco. Black-winged Stilts, a couple of Ruddy Shelducks, 2 Grey Herons, 2 Moorhens, 2 Little Ringed Plovers, 2 Common Snipes and a Green Sandpiper were all shy and flushed when they saw us walking down. When we reached the bottom, we saw an Osprey flying over us.

Southern Grey ShrikeEgyptian Vulture

We were searching for a huge rarity – a Dwarf Bittern that had been found 3 weeks earlier and like ordered 2 days after we had booked our trip. Luckily there had been lots of reports from twitchers since that and the bird had been seen still at least a couple of days earlier. I had also got an exact GPS-point to the place, but not much other information about how the bird had been acting or how it was supposed to find. And now when we saw how big the area was it started to feel that finding a tiny bittern could be more difficult than we had been told.

Barranco de Rio Cabras

I did one mistake and hadn’t got my GPS yet with me do I couldn’t check the exact spot for the bird, but we thought that this pool and its surroundings should be the place. It just looked perfect especially above the dam where was a stream with several small pools under the bushes. So we decided to stay on the dam and watch to both sides of it, to the pool and to the stream.

We waited for almost an hour but didn’t see the bittern. Other new birds weren’t seen many either, but a couple of endemic Fuerteventura Chats that were moving quickly on the rocks higher in the cliff were good to see this early on the trip. Also a couple of Chiffchaffs and Hoopoes, a Greenshank and of course some more of the species that we had already seen earlier were seen.

Soon the sun started to set behind the cliffs, so we decided to walk around the bushes if the bittern was hiding somewhere under them. The bottom of the valley was muddy and soon we had muddied our shoes and I had managed to get my trousers muddy too. But the bittern wasn’t found! I still decided to walk to upper side of the pool to check if there were more pools and found out that there was quite a good-looking stream and a couple of small pools right under the next dam. But Dwarf Bittern wasn’t there either. So it seemed that we had missed the bird, but of course we were coming back!

While we were climbing up, I already sent a couple of SMS to a couple of Finnish birders that I had recently found out that they had been twitching the bittern. Even though it was Christmas Eve both Hannu Palojärvi and Seppo Järvinen answered soon and they told that Dwarf Bittern had mostly been right under the upper dam that I had visited only briefly in the end.

It was already getting dark when we drove towards Lajares. We hoped to find an open shop or service to buy something to drink and also to eat on the field. We had prepared that there might not be anything open during Christmas holidays and had food for several days with us. Luckily there was a service open in La Oliva and we managed to buy some drinks and snacks.

At 7 p.m. we were in Lajares where Hanna had booked an apartment for us. It was a little bit like former garage, but very comfortable. The owners were living just behind the wall. Soon we had carried our luggage in and after we had unpacked and put everything necessary ready, we started to prepare delicious can-food Christmas-dinner.

At 9 p.m. we were ready to sleep, but as expected our neighbors hadn’t got the same plan for their Christmas Eve evening. So we were listening to their celebration for some time before we luckily managed to fell asleep.

Christmas celebrations

On Christmas Day we woke up at 6 a.m. and soon we were in dark parking place packing our car. A Stone Curlew (insularum) was calling somewhere nearby.

We headed first to La Oliva plains where still was quite dark and all we saw were a couple of Rabbits crossing the road. Soon the sun started to rise but only a couple of Berthelot’s Pipits and a small flock of Linnets (harterti) were seen. So soon we decided to continue to Tindaya which was our main target-place in the morning.

In Tindaya we drove through the village and continued to the desert towards the sea. We were driving slowly and scanning the desert and stopped pretty often to check it more carefully. We soon saw a couple of flocks of Lesser Short-toed Larks which landed pretty close to the road but they were camouflaged so well that we couldn’t find them before they were flying again, so only poor pictures were got.

After about 15 minutes searching Hanna noticed the first Houbara Bustard! And behind it there were 2 more! Two of them walked soon further and disappeared but one was walking slowly from bush to another and feeding something from the bushes.

We managed to get slowly closer to the bird by car and then stopped the engine and started to take pictures. Soon the bird turned straight towards us and kept on walking towards a bush that was just next to our car! It was on halfway, less than 10 meters from us, when it decided otherwise and continued towards another bush on the same distance from us. We got really good pictures and soon when the bird kept on walking; we drove in front of it to another road that crossed nearby. It walked just in front of our car and stopped to another bush on the other side of the road. So we managed to get pictures n different light and angle.

Houbara BustardHoubara Bustard

Finally we left the bird to feed and continued the “main-road” towards the sea. But quite soon the road got worse and we decided to turn back, as we didn’t want to get flat tire, at least not yet.

When we had driven back to the same crossroads again, we found one more Houbara which was walking quite far on the desert. Then we decided to turn to this smaller road that seemed to go through the desert to Faro de El Toston lighthouse on the North-Eastern corner of the island.

The track was in good condition so 4 wheel-drive wasn’t needed. But there weren’t many birds – just some Ravens, Yellow-legged Gulls and Berthelot’s Pipits.

In Faro de El Toston there were quite a lot of tourists watching the sea and lighthouse and visiting fishing museum. We were walking a bit on the black rocky shore and found a few trip-ticks: a Whimbrel, a couple of Ringed Plovers and a Little Egret.

Then it was time to head towards Barranco de Rio Cabras again. On the way we saw the first Kestrel (dacotiae) of the trip in Tetir and after some more driving we parked to the same spot as on the previous afternoon.

Now there were much more birds on the rubbish tip; mostly Yellow-legged Gulls, but also some 20 Common Buzzards (insularum) and 8 Egyptian Vultures. Once we reached the cliff, we decided to stay up and scan down where we could now see quite big area, but not until the upper-dam. We had got information that the Dwarf Bittern had usually been above the upper-dam in the afternoon, so we didn’t need to hurry to get there. Instead we decided to wait if we could spot it on its other favorite spots and someone had even seen it flying from distance to the dam, so not all its visiting places were known at all.

Fuerteventura Chats were now performing well and we managed to get some pretty good pictures of one couple. Down by the pool we saw a couple of Moorhens, Black-winged Stilts, a Black-headed Gull, a White Wagtail and the same waders again. Trumpeter Finches and Spanish Sparrows were flying in small flocks and a Spectacled Warbler was calling on the bushes.

Fuerteventura ChatFuerteventura Chat

About after an hour waiting we started to plan what to do next. Of course we needed to go to check the surroundings of the upper dam, but should we go there by walking on the cliff and then climb down or follow the Barranco along the stream? Then suddenly Hanna said: “There!” And less than 10 meters from us there was a tiny bluish bittern flying high but still against the cliffs towards the upper dam! Dwarf Bittern was still around and it was a huge relief to finally see it!

Dwarf Bittern

It seemed that Dwarf Bittern had landed somewhere near the upper dam so we decided to walk along the cliff to the other side of the dam and then climb down. There we walked slowly closer to the dam and then crawled the last meters and there it was right under us feeding on the pool!

Unfortunately the bittern saw movement and flew inside a bush next to the pool and disappeared inside the bush, but Hanna had already managed to get a couple of pictures.

We decided to lie down on the dam and wait if the bittern comes back to the pool. But the bird was extremely shy and it took more than 30 minutes before it started to move under the bush and after 15 more minutes it finally climbed to a rock and was showing extremely well! Then it started to move again and came to the stream and started fishing and our cameras were clicking! We were following and photographing the bird for almost 30 minutes and then my muscles started to hurt too much as we were laying on very hard dam. So I had to move back and again the bittern got scared and moved to the bush.

Dwarf BitternDwarf Bittern

Hanna decided to stay with the bittern and climbed down under the dam and hid behind the rocks but I decided to go to see what I could find up from the upper-dam?

I hardly took 20 steps when I heard tit-like calls from the nearest bigger bush and after some whistling an African Bluet Tit (degener) came visible. But it was moving too fast and always inside the bush, so I couldn’t get any pictures. There was also its couple but it didn’t bother to come visible almost at all.

I did walk a couple of more dams higher along the now completely dry stream and found a couple of pairs of Fuerteventura Chats and some Spectacled Warblers, Chiffchaffs and Common Buzzards but nothing else.

When I had walked back to so called upper-dam the bittern was still hidden inside the bush, so Hanna also gave up. We still walked along the stream to the pool, where a couple of Fuerteventura Chats were showing extremely well! Then we were happy enough and decided to climb up and walk back to our car.

Plain Swift

When we were at our car I noticed a couple of swifts that were flying above the gate of the rubbish tip. We drove a little bit closer and managed to see and photograph these birds and even though they were both molting their tail-feathers, we could identify them as Plain Swifts.

Cream-colored Courser

It was still just early afternoon so we decided to drive back to Tindaya as we had heard that Houbara Bustards often gathered to bigger flocks in the afternoons. We drove again the same road but managed to find only one Houbara Bustard that quickly walked further to the desert. We still made a couple of stops and on one stop we found 2 Cream-colored Coursers (bannermani). They were also quite mobile but Hanna managed to get a couple of pictures before they had moved too far from the road. Not many other birds were seen, so we decided to continue towards La Oliva.

Barbary Partridge

In La Oliva we checked another site than in the morning and found a flock of about 50 Lesser Short-toed Larks but nothing else. Then we still stopped at Malpais de La Arena lava-rock area. We had planned to search for some endemic plants but after all most of the area was fenced and private. But behind some rocky fences we could hear a couple of Barbary Partridges calling. I took my speaker and played Barbary Partridge from my phone and soon one of the birds came visible, but it disappeared behind the rocks too quickly so no good photographs were got. While we were walking back to our car we still flushed one Stone Curlew. And soon we were back in Lajares.

In the evening I went jogging while Hanna prepared some can-food again. It was nice to run in warm temperature with normal shoes (not ones with spikes like I use in Finland in winter). I also saw some birds: a Sardinian Warbler, a Chiffchaff, a Hoopoe and a Kestrel and heard some Stone Curlews.

A tour to western side of the island

On Boxing Day we woke up very early. While Stone Curlews were calling we drove through Lajares and then stopped to an open area without any lights nearby. Hanna had once again checked the schedules of ISS and after some waiting the space-shuttle came visible over us. Hanna took some pictures while a couple of Barbary Partridges started to call on the background.

The sun was rising when we passed La Oliva and Tindaya and continued south-east. After some more driving we turned toward Los Molinos dam. We stopped at a goat-farm where some Trumpeter Finches and Spanish Sparrows were perched on the fences but soon continued to the dam where we parked the car. Los Molinos reservoir was told to be the best birding place in Fuerteventura and already before we had got out from the car, we saw a Fuerteventura Chat perched on the fence on the dam.

Soon we were walking along the reservoir and I was of course carrying a telescope. From the banks of the reservoir we soon found about 20 Little Egrets, some Grey Herons, Black-winged Stilts, Common Sandpipers, Common Snipes, Greenshanks and White Wagtails. On the water there were lots of Ruddy Shelducks and Coots, about 20 Teals, 3 male Mallards and a female Tufted Duck. A Black-headed Gull was flying around and soon we heard the first Black-bellied Sandgrouse calls from the sky and saw a flock of 4 birds flying over us. Later we heard lots of call of sandgrouses but didn’t find them from the sky or flying against the surrounding mountains.

Ruddy ShelduckBlack-bellied Sandgrouse

Soon we saw a Cormorant flying over us and it landed to a rock on the reservoir. While I was scoping the lake again I found 4 Spoonbills and a female Garganey. A lonely Black-tailed Godwit was also found and while I was scoping the bushes there was a Common Stonechat and some Linnets.

We walked until the end of reservoir where we still found a couple of Little Ringed Plovers and then something flushed all Ruddy Shelducks from the bigger goat-farm that was further on the desert. Soon all Ruddy Shelducks landed to the reservoir and there were at least 200 of them! Some flocks of Yellow-legged Gulls also arrived to the pool to bath and there was one Lesser Black-backed Gull with them. After some more checking we decided we had seen all the birds on the reservoir and decided to keep on driving south.

Our next stop was in Betancuria where the road dropped steeply to a valley from the mountains. Old town was quite scenery and there were lots of green trees and bushes. So it wasn’t a surprise that after some walking we found some African Blue Tits, Sardinian Warblers, Blackcaps and a Robin. Pretty soon we again continued as we wanted to go birding somewhere with less people and noise.

So soon we were in Vega de Rio Palas where we started to walk along a dry stream. Luckily the place started to look better after some walking and even though it was already early afternoon, we soon found several African Blue Tits, Sardinian Warblers and a Robin again. Then suddenly we flushed a couple of black thrushes from one bush and we of course thought that they were Blackbirds first, but when we soon flushed a couple of birds more, we realized that they were all Ring Ouzels! We hadn’t expected to find these birds here, but soon we had seen at least 6 Ring Ouzels in different plumages. Also a Song Thrush was found as a trip-tick and after some more walking we also found a Grey Wagtail. Other birds seen were only some Spectacled Warblers, Kestrels and a Common Buzzard, but it had been a nice walk.

African Blue TitRing Ouzel

Soon we were driving again along a narrow mountain-road south towards Pajara. There we parked next to the church and we had got information that there was one more surprise-species wintering on the trees around the church. After some searching we heard a familiar call and saw briefly a Yellow-browed Warbler moving on the top of the trees. It was really crazy to see this Siberian species here!

Unfortunately neither the Yellow-browed Warbler nor African Blue Tits were co-operative and we didn’t get any pictures in this very busy area. So we soon continued to Ajuy caves, where were lots of tourists. We walked until the end of the view-track where the steps led into a cave on the shore. It was possible to go inside so we of course went to take some pictures of the cave.

Cave

After some landscape-photographing we still watched to the sea for a couple of minutes and saw some hunting Gannets, but then it was time to get away from other tourists which most of them seemed to be British and German. So soon we were driving along the narrow and curvy road back.

Yellow-browed Warbler

We decided to eat in Pajara where we went to a restaurant next to the church. And while we were eating the Yellow-browed Warbler came to the closest tree where we could see it very well. So after we had eaten Hanna again tried to get pictures of it and after quite a long trying she finally managed to get some.

As we had no hurry we stopped on the view-watching places where were very tame Barbary Ground-squirrels on the first one and then on the next one extremely tame Ravens and Berthelot’s Pipits. The Ravens were funny. Tourists were giving them many kind of food and they opened nuts so easily that it was clear that they had got a lot of experience.

RavenBerthelot's Pipit

Owling

Finally we turned again towards Vega de Rio Palma where we continued almost until the end of the road and parked to the valley. I had now my GPS on and we were exactly on the right place this time. The sun wasn’t set yet so I was photographing a Southern Grey Shrike and a couple of distant Barbary Partridges and Hanna was collecting handful of cochineal bugs that can be used as source of bright red dye.

Vega de Rio Palmas

Finally the sun set and I took my speaker and soon there was a horrible screaming playing on the valley. There had been an endemic subspecies (Slender-billed) Barn Owl (gracilirostris) a week earlier.

I was playing the call for a while and then we were listening and scanning the area but all we saw in the beginning were a bat and a mouse. This mouse wasn’t the brightest animal as it really wanted to climb to my shoe – while I was playing Barn Owl! It was already dark when we saw an owl silhouette flying across the valley. It was quite distant but we thought it had been too big for a Barn Owl. And soon we heard clearly an Eagle Owl calling from the cliffs! It sounded like a normal Eagle Owl not a Pharaoh Eagle Owl which is breeding in Morocco, not so far. I managed to get some poor sound-recording with my phone, but it was too distant to get anything good as I didn’t have my recording-equipment with me.

After some listening I played the Barn Owl call again and then we first heard a strange call on our right side and in same time we saw a ghostly pale owl coming straight over us! It was a (Slender-billed) Barn Owl. It was flying a couple of rounds above us but then glided towards the dry stream where we had been walking earlier. But the strange caller was still on the trees right from us and then I realized it was a Long-eared Owls call. So there were 3 species of owls together!

Soon the Eagle Owl had come closer again but still it was too far to get any better recordings. So we decided to drive up to the cliffs and try to get better recording from one of the view-points. We had no idea if there had ever been an Eagle Owl in Fuerteventura, so we had to try!

So we drove along the narrow roads up to the second view-point and there we walked with headlamps on towards the edge. It was extremely windy up on the top of the mountain, but soon we heard the owl again. I managed to get much better recordings while staying between some rocks. But then we decided to walk until the last cliff as the bird wasn’t very far. We thought that we might even see it. When we reached the edge we could hear the owl calling from the next mountain, so with our headlamps we tried to scan the rocks but it was just a little bit too far.

So after all we gave up as it really didn’t matter if we see a silhouette or not. So we walked back to our car and started a long way back to Lajares. When we were back in our cottage, I first played some eagle owl calls with poor WiFi-connection and it was clear that the bird had been an Eagle Owl. Then I did contact Eduardo Garcia del Rey, a birder who has sites for birding in different Macaronesia islands on Facebook. He answered soon that we should have contacted him immediately to save lots of efforts – our Eagle Owl was an escape from zoo…

Easier day

On the 27th of December we planned to take a little bit easier after 2 hard days. We woke up early again but the sun was already rising when we got out.

We drove just out from Lajares to a couple of volcanoes and started walking towards them. Hanna had been choosing which one to climb from the satellite-pictures, but after some walking we could clearly see that the first one didn’t have a crater at all. So we continued towards the next one and after some 30 minutes climbing we were finally on the top. And the views were really good! Not only there was a stunning crater in front of us, but behind the whole volcano there was a view to neighbor-island Lanzarote!

On vulcano

After we had walked back to our car we decided to drive to see the northernmost part of the island. In Corralejo there was again a view to Lanzarote. We walked there for some time on the rocky shore and found Whimbrels, Ringed Plovers, a Greenshank, a Turnstone, a Kentish Plover, 3 Grey Plovers, 7 Common Sandpipers, 4 Sandwich Terns and a couple of Little Egrets.

Dunes

Next we continued to Parque Natural Corralejo, which is a beautiful dune-area. But we were there too late in the morning, there were already too many tourists walking on the dunes and writing and drawing to the sand. Luckily after some driving we found a spot where the dunes were not only bigger but also cleaner with fewer footsteps. We were walking on the dunes and taking some pictures for some time before we continued along the road that went through the whole dune-area towards south. On the way we saw hundreds of tourists on the sand-beaches where red flags were indicating that it was not allowed to swim – people were just burning their skins.

We did a short stop on El Jablito harbor where we saw only a couple of Little Egrets and a Sandwich Tern and then decided to drive once again to Barranco de Rio Cabras.

Our parking place had already 2 cars, so we had to park a bit further along the road. While walking towards the Barranco we met a couple of Dutch birders which had already contacted me in Facebook as they hadn’t seen the Dwarf Bittern on Christmas Day. Now they had done exactly how we did and after some waiting the bittern had flight to the upper-dam where they had seen it very well. They also told that there were 3 Belgian birders now photographing the bittern and actually these Belgians were the main reason why we were there.

When we reached the Barranco we decided to let Belgians keep on photographing and climbed down to photograph Fuerteventura Chats. But chats weren’t performing well and there weren’t many other birds showing well either. Maybe it was siesta-time?

After 30 more minutes we decided to walk slowly towards upper-dam and surprisingly we found no-one. But then we saw Belgians hiding under one bush. They showed us to get there slowly and we did our best, but right when we were taking our last step, the bittern flushed and flew under the upper-dam again. But now we could start talking with these Belgians which 2 of them were my old friends from Corvo – Davis Monticelli and Vincent Legrand.

Fuerteventura Chat

After some talking we went slowly to upper-dam and there the bittern was again right under the dam. But once again it flushed a bit lower when it saw some movement. David still followed the bird but the rest of us stayed under the dam where a Fuerteventura Chat was now performing well.

The bittern had soon hidden again so we gave up photographing and walked back to our cars. Over the rubbish tip there were again lots of gulls, Common Buzzards and some Egyptian Vultures. Belgians were in a hurry to get their accommodation, so we said goodbyes and then decided to drive to north-east and to Faro de El Toston.

Great Skua

We were at the lighthouse too early as there were still lots of tourists and usually the best time for seawatching starts from the last hour before the sunset. Anyway we walked to the shore and started scanning the sea with scope. I had expected that there isn’t much movement on the sea in mid-winter but I had never expected it to be so empty! But when I found the first 2 birds they were Great Skuas! They had even bigger white patched on their wings than usually but unfortunately they were too far on the sea so I couldn’t see much else. Hopefully they weren’t Southern Skuas?

After an hour more seawatching we had seen only a handful of gulls and 2 Gannets. On the rocky shore and islets we saw 3 Spoonbills and of course some common waders which a Dunlin and a Redshank were trip-ticks.

We stopped seawatching a bit early as it was too boring and started driving back to Lajares. Just when we were coming to the town, a huge bird flew in front of our car! First second we had no idea what the bird was, but after all it was easy to identify – it was a Houbara Bustard. It was even stranger-looking bird in flight!

In the evening I went jogging again and after that we went to eat to a restaurant in the town. We had really good food and huge portions!

Jandia

On the 28th of December we were full of power after an easier day and we woke up already at 5 a.m. Soon after a quick breakfast we were driving towards south. We were early as we wanted to be in our target before the tourists. My navigator told that it was more than 2 hours driving to western tip of Jandia and it wasn’t lying.

When the sun was rising we were in Punta de Jable and our first bird-observation of the day was strange as we saw a flying flock of 16 African Sacred Ibises. I knew that somewhere on the island there was a population of this species, but as we aren’t very interested of category-species, I hadn’t checked where to see them. Anyway we were quite happy to see these birds flying over us. But then this was only the beginning…

Hadada Ibis

We drove only a little bit further and noticed several Hadada Ibises perched on the top of the posts. When we got out of the car we heard and soon also saw lots of Monk Parakeets. It wasn’t a surprise that there was a closed zoo nearby. Before we continued we also saw several small flocks of Cattle Egrets.

Soon after Morro Jable the road continued as a sandy track. Even here the road was in very good condition, even all the books and trip-reports have told otherwise. So the view was changing quickly while we were driving in Jandia peninsula. Finally we could see the westernmost point with Faro de Punta Jandia lighthouse, but we turned before it towards Faro Punta Pesebre where we parked next to small beacon.

We had once again information about some rare birds for Canary Islands and Macaronesia. There had been 3 Hoopoe Larks and a female Desert Wheatear for some. We knew they had been extremely difficult to find but these Dutch birder we had met had sent me coordinates where someone else had just seen these birds on the previous day.

We saw that the GPS-point was quite far from the beacon but anyway we decided to start walking towards the lighthouse. We walked quite a lot before we saw the first bird which wasn’t a surprise –a Berthelot’s Pipit. Soon after that Hanna found a very recently dead Short-eared Owl!

We kept on walking and walking and finally I saw something flying quite distant behind some rocks. I raised my binoculars but didn’t find that bird but saw another one flying towards the road and this one was easy to identify as a Hoopoe Lark. We hurried after the bird and soon were on the place I thought it might have landed, but we couldn’t find anything!

So we kept on walking around the area and then I found the bird I had first seen flying – it was the Desert Wheatear. We photographed this very flighty bird for some time and then continued walking around the other side of the road but found nothing else.

Finally I decided that I will walk back to get the car so Hanna can still stay searching for the Hoopoe Larks. It was a long way back to the car but once I was driving back to Hanna, she had already walked a long way towards me and she had 2 Hoopoe Larks running and feeding in front of her!

So we managed to get some nice pictures of these beautiful larks too before we drove to the lighthouse. There were already some tourists now and from the rocky shore we found some common waders and on the islets there were 5 Cormorants. Soon there were more and more tourists coming with different kind of noisy vehicles, so we decided to start driving back.

Desert WheatearHoopoe Lark

Jandia Thittle

The next stop was made after some driving where in a valley there were lots of endemic Jandia Thittles growing. It was a beautiful cactus-like plant and there were lots of them. While we were photographing the scenery our Dutch friends stopped by and they were going to try to find Hoopoe Larks and Desert Warbler already for the second time. I gave them very fresh GPS-coordinates but later I heard that they had found only the wheatear even though they had been searching for several hours!

Monk ParakeetRose-ringed Parakeet

When we were back in Punta del Jable we were walking a little bit outside the closed zoo and found lots of Monk Parakeets, some Rose-ringed Parakeets and again some Hadada Ibises. Near the lighthouse we saw a couple of swifts in flight by they disappeared too soon.

In Morro Jable we saw a couple of Black-headed Gulls in the harbor and in Playa de La Barca we went to see a lagoon that was in the middle of huge sand-beaches. There were far too many people but we managed to see 15 Dunlins, 4 Sanderlings, 20 Ringed Plovers, 5 Kentish Plovers and an Egyptian Vulture.

Some Siberian birds again

Soon we continued to our next target which was a Park in Costa Calma. I had once again a GPS-coordinate to the Park but as I didn’t have any maps on my GPS, we happened to park our car a bit far. Anyway soon we were walking towards the park and already found a Song Thrush on the way.

It was already afternoon and there were lots of people in the park, but anyway we managed to find soon a good place where birds came to drink to a hose. There were lots of Spanish Sparrows and a couple of flocks of Linnets and Goldfinches (parva) and some Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps. Also at least 4 Red-vented Bulbuls were seen, which was one more category-bird that we knew were somewhere on the island – and only now we knew where.

After some waiting Hanna noticed 3 Olive-backed Pipits walking on the shadows under one of the bushes. They were hiding very well so we couldn’t get any better pictures until something flushed them to the trees. I managed to find one bird from the tree and got some better pictures but soon they landed to the ground again and even though we saw them several times, we couldn’t get any better pictures.

Red-vented BulbulOlive-backed Pipit

Little Bunting

So after all we gave up and started walking towards north and after a couple of hundred meters we found a female Chaffinch feeding on the ground. It was nominate subspecies from Europe. Next to the Chaffinch there was a flock of Linnets that flushed soon as they always did, but one bird was left behind – and it was a Little Bunting!

The Bunting also got scared when someone was walking past us, but it landed to a bush in front of us. Then we realized that there were several of these buntings calling around us. We found at least 3 of them but probably heard a couple of more – there had been 5 earlier but only one birder had seen these birds before us. After some waiting a couple of these Little Buntings were feeding shortly on the ground but they were also all the time in shadows so we didn’t get very good pictures, but at least we had found both species we had been searching for.

Finally we started a long drive back to north. We stopped on the way still in Salinas del Carmen where we didn’t see a single bird and then nearby in Barranco del Torre. It was possible to drive in barranco but the place didn’t look too promising. We stopped a couple of times in the places with more palm-trees and found 2 Egyptian Vultures, 2 Common Buzzards, a flock of 20 Starlings, lots of Collared Doves, 4 Laughing Doves and a flock of 6 Barbary Partridges. The Barranco was big but it was already getting late, so we didn’t continue further.

We still had a long drive to Lajares and it was already completely dark when we finally were back there. We ate once again can-food and went to sleep very early!

Checking some places again

On the 29th of December we woke up early but still while having breakfast we didn’t know what to do during the day. We knew that we had been birding in the most important areas of the island and then we had also heard that some of the places that we had planned to visit didn’t exist anymore. Some pools were now completely dry.

I already joked (half-seriously) that we could visit neighbor-island or even Gran Canary where the most serious twitchers had been ticking a new split Gran Canary Blue Chaffinch. Some birders had recently been on Canary Islands only for a couple of days and ticked Dwarf Bittern and this chaffinch. Anyway we had a very comfortable apartment and perfect car booked here so of course we decided to make another trip to Gran Canary somewhere in the future. But as Hanna wanted do to some more photographing; we decided now to go to a place where are lots of birds. So we were soon driving towards Los Molinos.

When we were passing the goat-farm there were again some Trumpeter Finches and Spanish Sparrows on the fences. But soon we were walking along the reservoir where were mostly the same birds as on our previous visit. Hanna climbed down to the shore to do some photographing but I continued to the end of the reservoir and still walked a bit along the Barranco, where I found some more waders and Teals.

Trumpeter FinchSpanish Sparrow

Ruddy Shelduck

I counted the birds now more carefully and altogether we saw 300 Ruddy Shelducks, 3 Mallards, 32 Teals, a Garganey, a Tufted Duck, 35 Little Egrets, 3 Grey Herons, 4 Spoonbills, 63 Coots, 40 Black-winged Stilts, a Little Ringed Plover, 2 Kentish Plovers, 2 Greenshanks, 4 Common Sandpipers, 3 Common Snipes, 2 Black-headed Gulls, 40 Lesser Short-toed Larks, 20 White Wagtails, 100 Trumpeter Finches, 2 Spectacled Warblers, 2 Chiffchaffs, a Fuerteventura Chat and a Common Stonechat. Flocks of Black-bellied Sandgrouses were flying around most of the time and we managed to see about 50 birds and of course heard even more. Some sandgrouses were seen feeding with goats, buzzards and some Egyptian Vultures in a bigger goat-farm.

Hanna wasn’t very successful with photographing so pretty soon we continued to Los Molinos village. There on the mouth of Barranco were some Muscovy Ducks but not a single real bird with them. But the landscape was very nice.

After some planning, we decided to drive north along north-eastern tracks towards Faro de El Toston. There were lots of surfers but also some waders on the rocky shores. We counted 20 Kentish Plovers, 25 Ringed Plovers, 10 Sanderlings, 3 Dunlins, 8 Whimbrels, 3 Grey Plovers, 5 Turnstones, a Common Sandpiper, 2 Greenshanks, a Redshank and the only new trip-tick for the day – a Curlew. Also 8 Little Egrets, 4 Sandwich Terns and a Lesser Black-backed Gull with of course many Yellow-legged Gulls were seen.

We were again at the lighthouse too early and again there was nothing moving on the sea even though the wind was now stronger. But we met Daniel and his friend again, Vincent had already left home. After talking with our Belgian friends we still stayed seawatching for some time until we got bored and decided to drive back to Lajares. I went running again while Hanna prepared some food.

On the 30th of December we decided to go to walk more to Barranco de Rio Cabras. We knew it is possible to walk until the airport, so maybe there was still something new to be found?

On the way we saw a couple of Fuerteventura Chats in Tetir and when we had parked to the same place again, I noticed 2 White Storks on the rubbish tip with flocks of gulls.

Two couples of Ruddy Shelducks were chasing each others over the Barranco and now there were 3 Black-headed Gulls flying over the pool and stream. When we had climbed down, we started to walk down along the stream. The same waders were found again but soon we started to find new couples of Fuerteventura Chats too.

We walked about 30 minutes or so until there started to be more rubbish than birds on the Barranco. We still found a Meadow Pipit and a Grey Wagtail, but then we decided to start walking back as the view wasn’t so pleasant anymore.

Dwarf Bittern

When we were back by the pool, we decided to walk until the upper-dam where the Dwarf Bittern was found again. It was now feeding quite openly along the stream and climbing on the rocks, so maybe last days photographing had made it a little bit more used to twitchers? We were photographing it for almost an hour and then we were sure that we wouldn’t get any better pictures of this bird with our equipment. While we were climbing up, a Laughing Dove flew over us.

We didn’t have idea what to do next, so we decided to go to check one pool that was mentioned in one of our books and that we thought nobody else had visited recently. Surprisingly this Rosa de Taro pool still existed and it was easy to observe along the road. We found 2 Ruddy Shelducks, 2 Teals, a female Tufted Duck, 6 Moorhens, 2 Common Snipes, a Common Sandpiper and on the reeds we saw a couple of Chiffchaffs and some Linnets. Some flocks of Yellow-legged Gulls came to bath to the pool and there were 2 Lesser Black-backed Gulls with them.

We drove back to Lajares along a new road for us and saw a Catlle Egret in Casillas del Angel. We were back in Lajares already in early afternoon and decided to spend the rest of the day there. So I went running again and Hanna was searching for lizards (which we had hardly seen at all during the whole trip) and plants and so on from the back-yard of our apartment which was already half-desert. In the evening we went to eat to the restaurant which we really enjoyed.

The last day

The last day of the year was also our last day on Fuerteventura. We had already packed most of our things in the evening so after early breakfast we were ready for some birding. We decided to head once more to Tindaya where we drove 3 different roads towards the sea and back and found 5 Houbara Bustards but they weren’t very photographable this time. One of the birds was already very active and running across the desert but unfortunately not displaying yet. Some flocks of Lesser Short-toed Larks and Trumpeter Finches were also seen but nothing else. We also visited the shore which was the first time that our car was a little bit tested but still 4 wheel-drive wasn’t needed.

Tindaya

Red-throated Pipit

Next we headed to La Oliva fields which we thought to be very dry. But surprisingly behind the school there was a sewage-water pool with very good surroundings too. We found 4 Ruddy Shelducks, 36 Moorhens, a Grey Heron, 5 White Wagtails, 10 Spectacled Warblers and on the small fields nearby we saw 5 Meadow Pipits and a Red-throated Pipit. A Corn Bunting was also seen flying past us and a flock of 5 Black-bellied Sandgrouses was flying in distance. So after all this had been a worthy place to visit.

Once we were back in our apartment we packed the rest of our things and ate the last food. Then we just relaxed and a Redwing that flew over our house was the last trip-tick number 82.

Finally it was time to drive to the airport where we had a couple of hours wait before our flight back to Finland. Our flight left a little bit late but because of the back-wind we landed in time. It was 00:40 a.m. but unfortunately it was so cloudy that we saw only a couple of fireworks.

When we got our luggage we got a ride to Lentopysäköinti where we had only a short drive to a hotel which we had booked. On the next morning we had an early wake up to twitch some First of January -ticks!

J.A.

Spain Catalonia 16.-24.10. 2010

Spain Catalonia 16.-24.10. 2010

To Barcelona

After we (me and Miika “potu” Suojarinne) had spent already 4 weeks birding in Britain, we had in this day already travelled from Shetland Sumburgh to Scotland Edinburgh and from there to London and there by 4 metros from airport to another, finally got our flight tickets that Iberia had somehow lost, we were now finally in a right gate waiting for our flight to Barcelona. We were a bit worried because it was already time the plane to go but nothing was happening. Soon the gate opened and we got into the plane. But then we sat in the plane for ages and nothing happened! Time was passing and I started to get really nervous, our schedule was extremely tight! We had spent too many pounds to change to this flight so I could make it to Barcelona-Valencia football match in the evening. After all the plane was already an hour late when it finally left, so I thought it’d be in Barcelona airport only 30 minutes before the match!

Even thought the flight seemed to take long it surprisingly landed a half an hour earlier than we thought and I still had an hour before the match – but then we had to wait for our luggage for ages! My bag came after some 20 minutes but then it took still at least 10 minutes before potu’s bag finally came! So after all we were out and calling a taxi just 22 minutes before I had to be in Camp Nou stadium!

Luckily we got the taxi right away but of course the driver didn’t speak any English. So I used all Spanish words I knew to tell him to get to Camp Nou gate 18 and quickly! On that gate my friends from Parikkala were waiting with my ticket and also the key to an apartment where potu could go because he wasn’t coming to match.

It was exactly 8 p.m. when we made it to Camp Nou, but we were on the wrong side of this huge stadium. Somehow the driver managed to get through a couple of closed roads and finally we got to gate 18. But my friends were already inside. I called them and pretty soon one of my friends came with my ticket, but unfortunately he didn’t have the key for potu. So another call to another friend and soon potu could continue with the same taxi to La Rambla where we had our apartment and I could run to Camp Nou! Finally I was on my place when only 8 minutes had been played and luckily the result was still 0-0.

The match itself was pretty boring in the beginning. The biggest star of the field Leonel Messi was almost invisible and actually the whole Barca team was in big troubles with Valencia. And the first goal was made by Valeancia and it was very close that they didn’t lead 0-2 before the half-time. In the last minutes of the first half Barca started to take control of the match and the in the second half there was only one team playing! Word cup hero Andrés Iniesta made it 1-1 in the beginning of the second half and finally the captain Carles “tarzan” Puyol made 2-1 in middle of the second half. After this goal there was a great atmosphere in Camp Nou, I had thought there’d be like that all the time. When the match ended we took some pictures of us in the Camp Nou and then started to walk towards our apartment. But my friends had been celebrating already for a couple of days so after all they had no idea which direction to walk. So we asked some help and then went a couple of stops by a metro and finally found our apartment. Potu had got big problems to get into the apartment as the keys weren’t really working. After some 45 minutes trying he had finally managed to get in and then managed to see the second half of the match in a pub nearby with a well deserved cold beer.

After a short visit in our apartment we went to eat to the closest small pub and after that continued to see nightlife to La Rambla. I was absolutely too tired after an extremely long and stressful day, but anyway we were back into our apartment only at 4 a.m.

Walking in Barcelona

On the 17th of October we woke up at 9 a.m. even though the previous day had been one of the longest and toughest in my life! We took it easy for a couple of hours and then decided to go to have a long walk to see all the most important tourist places of Barcelona. My old Catalan friend Oriol Clarabuch had been in a bird-race in Baski-country, so we had decided to stay this day in Barcelona and then travel to meet him in the evening. About at 11 a.m. when my other friends started to wake up, we left to the city with potu. We had been walking enough in Shetland so we were ready for a long walk!

First we walked to harbour and from there through the old town to gothic town. Of course we went to see Sagrada Familia and then walked down along La Rambla where many Gaudi buildings were. We also saw some birds: 40 Monk Parakeets that were a lifer to potu and also 2 Serins and Yellow-legged Gulls, but not many other birds.

After 6 hours walk we were back in our apartment where we talked with my friends for some time and then packed our luggage and took a taxi to Sants railway station. Oriol had called and told us to take a train to Girona from where we’d continue to his place to Olot with him. The train to Girona was fast and we were there at 9:36 p.m. Oriol had send me an SMS that he’d be a little bit late but soon he walked to the station and it was very nice to see him again! Outside the station there were also Oriols partner Maria and another couple that had been in the race. So Oriol had just arrived from Baski-country. Of course they had won the race there.

Somehow we managed to get our luggage to Oriol’s Peugeot and soon we were on our way to Olot. After a half an hour driving we were in Oriol and Maria’s apartment and after a Catalan evening meal we were ready to go to sleep.

Relaxed day

On the 18th of October we slept long. We had been extremely tired and of course we had to let Oriol to sleep as much as he needed after a bird-race and before a longer race with us. We had planned to go to PNAE (Park Natural del Aiguamolls Emporia) to do bird census, but the weather forecast had told that there would be more than 120 km/h wind, so we had decided to stay near Olot. So in the morning we walked on the hillside forests near Oriol’s apartment with his dog Sula (Gannet). Potu got his first lifer already on the balcony when a Short-toed Treecreeper was calling in the closest trees. On the hillside we found some Short-toed Treecreepers more. A Mandarin Duck that had been on the river nearby wasn’t found but Nuthatches, a couple of Cirl Buntings, a Wood Lark, Sardinian Warblers, a calling Green Woodpecker, Marsh Tits and Stonechats etc. were found. Also a Firecrest was heard which was another lifer for potu.

During the mid-day we visited a ringing station nearby where a local ringed had just done a round and we got an opportunity to see some common passerines in hand. Robins, Chaffinches, Dunnocks, Blue Tits, a Song Thrush, a Blackbird and so on were of course photographed too. We still made another round but nothing new was caught, so soon we continued back to Oriol’s apartment.

In the afternoon we went to La Vall de Bianya where was a small pool with reed-beds and nice forests. Sula flushed a Red-legged Partridge which was again a lifer for potu, and soon Sula was swimming in a pool and walking in a reed-bed where it flushed a Water Rail – a good dog! Also Serins, some Reed Buntings, a Kingfisher, a Black Redstart and again a couple of Firecrests were seen. In the late evening Maria offered us the best meal of the trip. It included some mushrooms that we have also in Finland.

PNAE bird-census

On the 19th of October we woke up soon after 6 a.m. and headed towards the coast and PNAE. It was really freezing outside, only +2 degrees! While we were driving towards PNAE the wind started to rise and near the cost there was still very windy. We were there when the sun started to rise and it was still really cold. So we had even more clothes than on Foula in the coldest days!

Right behind Estany del Cortalet information centre there was a hide from where we found quite a lot of birds and one of the first waders was a Lesser Yellowlegs that Oriol had found a week earlier. Other birds seen were 22 Flamingos (lifer for potu) and many common waders and ducks. From the next hide we saw the same birds in better light, but there were some horses that had escaped from the owners and they were disturbing birds, so I couldn’t get any good pictures of the Lesser Yellowlegs. Fom the other side of the area we saw a Spoonbill (lifer for potu) together with the Flamingos, a couple of Purple Swamphens (wp-tick for potu), 3 Pochards and on the sky we saw some Pallid Swifts. We continued to Depuradora d’Empuriabrava sewage ponds where we saw a Mute SWan, Green Sandpipers and a Common Sandpiper and more Pallid Swifts. I also saw a Turtle Dove flying with a flock of Wood Pigeons.

After we had done the bird census the weather had warmed up and now it was really hot! We headed to Rose to Vall de Muntjoi valley, where we were checking the bushes and trees for vagrants but found only big numbers of Blackcaps and Sardinian Warblers, a Great Spotted Woodpecker, a Crag Martin and a couple of Firecrests. The wind was almost stormy but it was good because we were going to do seawatching to Cap de Creus. The drive to Cap de Creus was long and on the way we saw some very nice birds when the road was climbing on the high hills. In Pla de Gates we saw 3 Alpine Accentors (lifer for potu), a Ring Ouzel and also briefly a couple of Thekla Larks (lifer for potu).

In Cap de Creus we parked next to the restaurant and then walked the last couple of hundred of metres to the rocky shore. The wind was extremely hard but luckily we found a sheltered place for seawatching. And there were amazing numbers of bird on the sea! Balearic and Yelkoyan Shearwaters were moving all the time in big numbers! Also some Gannets and Yellow-legged Gulls were seen but in the beginning we counted 100 shearwaters passing us in a minute and about 70% of them were Balearic and the rest Yelkoyan Shearwaters. Also some Mediterranean Gulls and a lonely Shag were found. There were also plenty of shearwaters swimming and we really didn’t need anything else to be very pleased! After an hour I found a strange looking skua coming towardds us and it immediately looked like a Long-tailed Skua with only white in the bases of two outer primaries. But it somehow looked too white-rumped. Otherwise the bird looked very dark. It was flying with a couple of Black-headed Gulls and it seemed to be smaller. When it was closest I decided to get some video of it through the scope because Long-tailed Skua would have been the first ever in Cap de Creus and a lifer for Oriol. When the bird was gone we were sure it was a Long-tailed Skua, but when we looked the video I had got, it really looked different! In my video there was a pretty pale looking young Arctic Skua-like bird! I have no idea how the bird had looked so different in live? Without the video we’d been misidentifying the bird! I once again learned how important it is to get some kind of documents of difficult birds like this!

When it was already getting darker and there were only 20 shearwaters passing us in a minute, we decided to leave. When we were back in Olot we just ate and went to sleep.

On the 20th of October the morning was similar than on the previous day and we were again in PNAE when the sun rose. On the way we had seen a Little Owl (a lifer for potu) in St. Pere Pescador. It was perched on a roof of one building. We started the census in La Masrona where were much less birds than on previous days places. The weather was still windy and the morning was extremely cold again. In El Matá pools we found Greylag Geese, Pheasants, 6 Red-legged Partridges, a Peregrine, a Sparrowhawk and a Goshawk. While we were walking on a sandy beach in Platja Can Cornes it started to get really hot. We were stripping our clothes but it didn’t help because it was soon more than 20 degrees! On the shore we saw some Grey Plovers, Kentish Plovers, Ringed Plovers and a Curlew, a Black-necked Grebe, Fan-tailed Warblers, a Bluethroat and a couple of Southern Grey Shrikes (again lifer for potu). The most common bird on the reeds was a Cetti’s Warbler and they were singing loudly. When we were walking back along the beach we saw a Hen Harrier migrating over us. We walked back towards our car along a garden of a camping area but only vagrants we found were a couple of Goldcrests. We still climbed to a high view-tower from where we had nice views to the area that we had been counting for two days. A Lesser Spotted Woodpecker was calling nearby on the trees.

After we had eaten a really good lunch in a small village restaurant we had 3 still places to count. We did it so that Oriol dropped potu to one place, me to one place and went by himself to count the third place. So we managed to count these places in a little bit more than 30 minutes. After that we managed to start our way back to Olot earlier. And we needed time because we had planned to go much further in the evening.

In Olot we packed our luggage and soon started a long drive to west. We dropped Sula to Maria’s parents and then we still had a 3 hours drive to the border of Catalonia ans Aragon. We were finally in Mequinensa late in the evening and there we went straight to Oriol’s friend Juan. Potu tried to find a Barn Owl from the village while we were discussing (unfortunately in Catalan) with Juan. Juan arranged us a nice place to stay overnight in 2 small bungalows. The small buidlings weren’t really good-looking outside but inside they were very comfortable. So soon we were sleeping and dreaming of semi-steppe birds!

Different kind of birds

On the 21st of October we woke up at 8 a.m. and there was a typical weather to Catalonia and Aragon border area, a fog. Anyway it was much warmer than in earlier mornings and many Mistle Thrushes and Spottles Starlings were flying over the plantations. Soon Juan arrived and after a coffee break in a village we continued to La Granja d’Escorp to dry hills. On the first stop we found some Black Wheatears and Thekla Larks. Unfortunately our guide was hurrying a little bit too much to the next “better” place where was no birds at all, so we never got any pictures of these birds. Anyway it was also good to hurry as my only project bird was still coming so we soon continued to a dry semi-steppe area in Secá Granja. We stopped a couple of times but found only a Dartford Warbler and a Southern Grey Shrike, but then when we were driving again we picked up a flock of 4 Black-bellied Sandgrouses flying over us. We stopped quickly and potu managed to get a couple of pictures of these 2 males and 2 females flying. A lifer for me too! Almost in same time we heard a call of a Red-billed Chough and a couple of birds landed to a roof of a building behind us. From a field nearby we still found 4 Calandra Larks in a flock of Skylarks (already the 4th lifer for potu this morning). Later we still found a flock of 7 Black-bellied Sandgrouses that also left immediately, they were probably so flighty because of the Red-legged Partridge hunters that were a lot. I hope these last Black-bellied Sandgrouses of Catalonia survive!

Soon we said thanks and goodbyes to Juan and continued to Aitona to Arrossars Fondo Lliteras wet fields where a Long-billed Dowitcher had been found about a week earlier. On the first fields we had only lots of Snipes and Lapwings, but in the middle of the area we finally found a field with other waders. There were Ruffs, Black-tailed Godwits, some Dunlins and the dowitcher! Potu had his 5th lifer of the day! These waders were pretty far and the haze was really bad so we tried to get closer but the waders were very flighty! Even thought we tried to get some kind of pictures of them for more than an hour, we really didn’t succeed. We found also a Purple Heron and 11 Little Ringed Plovers and there were some Griffon Vultures soaring on the sky.

Still to mountains

Soon we left towards the mountains; we still had one project species left for the day. We drove a little bit more than an hour towards the mountains and then stopped next to beautiful cliffs along the river, but soon Oriol decided that we’d continue still to a better place. So we climbed higher and higher to the mountains and were surrounded by amazing high and steep cliffs. We continued still 45 minutes and saw a party of Griffon Vultures along the road before we stopped to a valley.

When we finally stopped we were in the middle of huge cliffs. We started to walk and all the time watched up to the cliffs. Many Griffon Vultures were flying over us. After about 15 minutes our necks started to hurt but then potu saw a sparrow-size passerine flying very high on the cliffs, but it disappeared behind the ledge. We walked after it and now I saw it flying behind the next ledge. We ran after it and then I found it landing to a steep wall. I put my scope up and there it was – a Wallcreeper! We all managed to see the bird shortly through the scope before it disappeared. Another lifer for potu, 300th Catalonia year-tick to Oriol and my second ever Wallcreeper!

We still tried to find the Wallcreeper for some time but we saw only many Griffon Vultures, a Red Kite and a flock of Siskins and several flocks of Chaffinches that were migrating along the valley. I just wonder how many passerines there might be migrating in a good morning.

Soon we left again as we still had a long way to drive to south-east. We headed towards Ebro-delta and it meant we had to drive through whole Catalonia. Oriol was driving the whole way and somewhere we saw an amazing flock of 4000 Cattle Egrets going to roost!

Finally at 9 p.m. we were in Ebro-delta where we parked to El Canal Vell ringing-station. We carried our luggage to visitors room and then it was time to say thanks and goodbyes to Oriol who still had to drive to Barcelona to sleep to his parents before he’d continue to work at morning.

We walked a little bit outside and checked some of the places in the station before the ringer Pep came from shopping. I had met him 10 years ago in the same place and also in Vic where we’d been ringing too and it was good to find out that we were going to have a good time even though he didn’t speak English well. But he was a funny guy! We decided that Potu was going to communicate with Pep so the language was going to stay simple enough.

Pretty soon we were ready to go to sleep even though Moorhens, Purple Swamphens and different kind of egrets were calling on the reeds. I almost stayed up and went to record the calls, but I was absolutely too tired, maybe next night?

Ringing in Ebro-delta

On the 22nd of October we woke up at 7:15 and soon we were out and looking up to the sky where were egrets and herons flying all the time. Surprisingly there were lots of Great White Egrets. Some bats were still flying around us even though the sun was already rising. We also checked the cages where we found several birds and in the first one was the same Black Kite than 10 years ago. On the next cage there was an Eagle Owl and then there were still 4 Griffon Vultures, a Kestrel and a Little Owl and also lots of turtles and tortoises. The first mist-net round was at 8:15 a.m. and we walked it together with Pep. The night had been warm and dry so it was the first and the last time that we were wearing wellingtons in Catalonia. There were quite a few birds in the mist-nets: Cetti’s Warblers, Robins, Chiffchaffs, Song Thrushes and a Reed Bunting. On the station Pep was ringing the birds and we of course wanted to take pictures of all species as it was far too long time since I’d been in a ringing station and handled almost any birds. Soon it was time to make the next round and now Pep took nets of one side of the station and we took the another side. Again we had nice selection of birds and when we were back in the station we could easily see that Pep got something better with him. Of course he left that one bird-bag last and while we were photographing a Reed Warbler and a Blackbird he carried us a nice Moustached Warbler! And when we were photographing this potus lifer he still carried a couple of Penduline Tits for us, I have no idea where he had them hidden. And soon it was again time to another round.

We had a good time walking the mist-net rounds and then photographing our catches until the mid-day when it started to be much quieter. But now we had time to walk around a little bit and also climb up to the bird-tower of the station to see some more birds. I was also digiscoping an Audouin’s Gull that was perched on a pole while other Audouin’s Gulls were calling on the background with their strange call. During the day we still had another Moustached Warbler which was even more beautiful than the first one, also a locally rare Sardinian Warbler, a late Redstart and the first Goldcrest and a Wren of the season were caught.

Before 3 p.m. we closed the mist-nets for a couple of hours and went twitching. Oriol had called to Pep that there had been a Black Stork found on the other side of the delta. We drove there and found the stork easily but unfortunately it flew too far to the fields to get photographed. On the pools nearby we saw lots of Whiskered Terns (do I need to say – a lifer for potu) and also a Black Tern.

When we were back in the station we put up the mist-nets again and then checked them every hour until the dark. We didn’t catch many birds but now there were lots of bigger birds in the air! We climbed up to the tower from where we saw amazing numbers of ducks gathering to the bay. There were for example 220 Red-crested Pochards! The next lifer for potu was a Glossy Ibis and when we were doing another net-round we saw the first Little Bittern (again a lifer for potu) and then a huge flock of big black birds flying around the bay. I told to potu that they were Glossy Ibises but he didn’t believe me. He said that they must be Cormorants because there can’t be so many Glossy Ibises in the whole world! But when we climbed up to the tower and saw the flock with the scope he had to believe his eyes, there was a flock of 1500 Glossy Ibises flying around! Also other egrets and Grey Herons were seen and some big flocks of Ruffs too, I also counted more than 100 Little Grebes from the bay. When it came dark the war started! There were loads of hunters shooting all the time. Pep told that they were hunting Moorhens, but we think that they were shooting everything that moved, they were shooting so much! Anyway we managed to see the first Night Heron and soon there were plenty of them. We saw maybe 40 of them and when it was absolutely dark we still heard them between the gunfire. Yep – it was again a lifer for potu. The war continued whole night so I had to forget the recordings. It also seemed that Purple Swamphens were now very quiet. On the last round we caught a nice white-spotted Bluethroat. Before 10 p.m. we were ready to go to sleep.

Another day in Ebro-delta

On the 23rd of October we woke up early and I went soon out to record Purple Swamphens, Moorhens, Little Grebes and also Night Herons. There were still some gun-shots, but I managed to get some recordings. Unfortunately Purple Swamphens were still very quiet. Maybe all Moorhens and similar birds were already shot?

We made the first mist-net round with potu so that he did the easier side. I got almost 20 birds but potu only 4, but of course one of them was very badly stuck, so we were in the station in same time. I got one surprise in a bird-bag and I told to Pep to ring it last. Potu tried to guess what it was, but even though he could easily see it was a bigger bird he didn’t get it right. It was a Moorhen. So at least one had survived from last night.

The next rounds were surprisingly quiet; a Great Reed Warbler was anyway very nice. So we walked a little bit around the station but found only a Bluethroat and some Audouin’s Gulls.

We knew that Pep was going to leave to a ringer meeting to Barcelona (where Oriol was also going to be) during the morning and we had planned to leave in the evening, but when Pep was still around in mid-day we asked if we should leave in same train than he. It’d be easier to everyone. Of course it was ok, so at 2 p.m. we closed the mist-nets and packed our luggage and soon left with Pep’s Pajero towards Deltebre city.

To Barcelona again

From Deltebre railway station we took a train to Barcelona. From the train we saw nice views to the coast and lots of tunnels. After Tarragona we saw some Rose-ringed Parakeets flying over a reed-bed area (lifer for potu again).

The train was late but we weren’t in a hurry at all. Finally we were in Barcelona and we jumped off the train in Sants, Pep was going to the next station and change to another train there. We said goodbyes and walked to the station. There we took a taxi and asked the driver to get us to the nearest cheap hotel, but it wasn’t that easy! He told that all hotels were absolutely full because of the season and some kind of diplomatic meeting. He promised to take us to La Rambla where we should find hotels nearby and whole way there he tried to get us a hotel by phone, but everything was full! So soon we were in my worst nightmare, in La Rambla with our luggage and no idea where to go. So potu stayed there with our bags and I started to visit every hotel, hostel and so on. The first one had an empty room, but the price 210€ wasn’t what I wanted. The next 3 hotels were both expensive and full so I started to check only hostels. First 6 were full and then I found a Youth Hostel where they got space, but I didn’t really want to get into a big room with 6 other people that could do anything when we wanted just sleep. I continued along the smaller roads until the edge of the old town where I found a ridiculous small and awful hostel where I got a room for 40€. I took it even though the room was really awful. But I didn’t care anymore! The price was good and all we needed was a lock to the door, so we could leave our luggage there while we were out. I should have taken a picture of potu’s face when he saw the room, but he couldn’t complain either. We were now free to do something in the evening and also next morning.

In the evening we were walking around La Rambla and of course went to eat. We came back to our room when we were absolutely tired so we could immediately get to sleep at 11:00 p.m.

One more lifer before the end

On the 24th of October we woke up at 7 a.m. and at 8:00 we were walking to the end of La Rambla to Plaza de Catalunya station. There we took a train to Baixador de Villadrear. After a half an hour we were there and got out to the station which was surrounded by hills with pine-forests. We had got the info from Oriol to take the first road right and keep on walking towards the hill. There were some Crested Tits and Firecrests calling and after some walking we heard a birdsong which sounded like a Garden Warbler. We knew that there weren’t any Garden Warblers anymore so it must have been the bird that we were searching for. And soon we found the first red-billed bird from the tree, what ever Leiothrix? The story how we were there twitching this strange bird is so funny that I must tell it. When we were in Oriol’s apartment on the first evening he told me to have a look at his books if there was any book I wanted to read in the evening. I immediately noticed a new Birds of Catalonia book and opened it and on the first page I opened there was a strange green red-billed and red-breasted bird. “What the hell is this?”, I asked and Oriol answered: “it’s Leiothrix, a common bird in some places nowadays and you can tick it!”. Well anyway we forgot the bird but when we had decided to come to Barcelona, a night before our flight back to Finland, we had asked Oriol to find out where we could tick this bird. And there they were now at least 5 birds in front of us in the tree! Unfortunately the only camera we had was potu’s and only with the view-lens. Anyway he managed to photograph these birds. Soon we took the train back to Barcelona where we ate a good breakfast, got our luggage from the hostel room and took a taxi from La Rambla to the airport.

Our Baltic Airlines plane left at 1:55 p.m. and we landed to Riga at 6:00 p.m. in Finnish time. We spent a couple of hours in the airport queuing and eating pizza. At 8:10 p.m. left our plane to Helsinki. We landed to Finland at 9:30 p.m. and from the airport we found my father and potus companion Kirsi. We said goodbyes to each others and Potu and Kirsi started a long drive to Mikkeli and I got my fixed car and started even a little bit longer drive to Parikkala. My father wanted to try how he can get to Kirkkonummi by public transportation. Finally I was at home at 2 a.m. Potu and my father had been at their homes about in same time an hour earlier (there hadn’t been many trains or buses for my dad).

In Catalonia we had seen 158 species and 2 od them had been lifers for me, potu had got 24 lifers. I have to thank Oriol, Maria and Pep one more time! You made our trip unforgettable! During the last 5 weeks we had seen altogether 260 bird-species, 8 of them had been new wp-ticks for me, 38for potu!

Spain Andalucia 16.-21.9. 2008

Spain Andalucia from 16th to 21st of September

And we go again

On the 16th of September: We had just last day came from Madeira, when we packed all new clothes to our luggage and drove back to Helsinki-Vantaa airport with our car that had been fixed during the last week. Our SAS plane left to Copenhagen at 12.50 p.m.

At 1.30 we landed to Copenhagen where we spent a couple of hours while waiting our Iberia flight to Malaga. The airport was surprisingly big and also cheap so the time ran fast.

We had already started to wonder why our next flight was taking so long when we surprisingly landed to Madrid instead of Malaga. Nobody had told anything about the stop in Madrid and the English call came when most of the Spanish were already leaving the plane – it told that we should go to the airport and find our next flight as soon as possible. Iberia always surprises!

In Madrid airport we met Jaakko Paju who was representing BirdLife Finland in this trip where we had been invited. After an hour at 8 p.m. started the boarding to Malaga so we were once again pretty much late. So I sent an sms to our contact person in Malaga that they’d know when to pick us up from the airport.
In Malaga we found our luggage easily and soon we met Mike Lockwood, a British living in Girona – he was our English speaking guide during the next 4 days tour in Andalucia. After we had found also a Belgian participant Sophie we were ready to carry our luggage to a small bus and start our way to Ronda.
During the 1.5 hours drive to Ronda we saw a Barn Owl crossing the road and finally about at midnight we were in our Hotel San Gabriel, where the rest of the participants had already had lunch and were already sleeping in their rooms. Luckily we had also something to eat in our room and soon we were able to go to sleep.

To the mountains

On the 17th of September we woke up before 7 a.m. and at 7 we had all the birding equipment ready and went to have a breakfast. There we met the rest of our group invited to this bird tour in Andalucia. There were participants from 10 different countries: Finland, Sweden, Norway, Belgium, Nederland, Germany, France, Britain, Ireland and of course Spain. Most of the participants were leaders of bird tours but there were also some journalists. Only familiar face was Swedish Christian Cederroth, whom I’ve met on my previous trip to Andalucia Donana when I was participating to the first international congress of bird-watching in Andalucia 1.5 years earlier. Mike introduced the rest of the tour-leaders of this trip Lola Crespo and Sergio Gonzales.

At 7.45 we packed all luggages to 2 similar buses and started our first birding near Ronda. After some driving we met our guides of the day from Ornironda and followed them to Cueva del Gato limestone-ridge, where a river was coming out underneath the ridge. There were lots of birds around: the bushes were full of Corn Buntings, Spottles Starlings were flying around, Cettis Warblers were singing, Robin was calling… I put my scope ready and started to watch to the top of the mountain ridge and the first bird I found was a Black Wheatear! Only Hanna managed to see the bird briefly before it dropped down and we could find only some Blue Rock Thrushes and Alpine Accentors anymore. Also the first mammals – Spanish Ibexes were seen.

We walked down to the riverside where we found Grey Wagtals, Dippers, Chiffchaffs, a Garden Warbler, a Blackcap and a Sardinian Warbler and soon Christian found a warbler from the closest bush and after some work we managed to identify it as a Western Olivaceous Warbler!

After some hundreds of metres walk we headed to a cave where we were told that plenty of different bat-species were living, but there were also birds around. Crag Martins and Alpine Swifts were flying in and out from the cave and it was nice to hear the Alpine Swift call so well. A couple of migrating flocks of Black Storks were found from the sky where also a Short-toed Eagle, Booted Eagle and an Osprey were found soon. Luckily we found soon also several Black Wheatears from the ridge so everybody now saw this species too.

The schedule was tight so soon we walked back to buses but luckily from the next bushes we managed to find another Western Olivaceous Warbler. This bird we managed to see better. We would have enjoyed staying in this place much further but we continued to Sierra de las Nieves.

We started to climb higher along a bad road between karst-rocky mountains and from the windows we saw some more Black Wheatears, Black Redstarts, Stonechats, Yellow Wagtails, Rock Buntings, some Griffon Vultures and a Common Whitethroat. After all there weren’t many birds in this dry habitat. We walked a kilometer or so in a pasture where were lots of cows, pigs and sheep and saw 2 flocks of Rock Sparrows, some Thekla Larks and lots of Spottles Starling before we arrived to a oak-forest where were totally different birds. Nuthatches, Firecrests, Short-toed Treecreepers and different Tits were calling, an Azure-winged Magpie was also calling somewhere in the forest, some Redstarts, Pied and Spotted Flycatchers, Mistle Thrushes, Tree Pipits, Chaffinches, Wrens and a Sparrowhawk were seen. In a small spring that had been masoned to a drinking place for stock we saw Chiffchaffs, Willow Warblers, Firecrests and a Subalpine Warbler coming to drink and also a Cirl Bunting. While we’re already driving back down we found a Southern Grey Shrike perched on the top of a bush.

We continued to the next place where we had lunch in a small hut in the middle of the forest. Then we walked to a strange spruce-forest. Local sausage-dogs were leading us deeper to the forest. Some Common Crossbills were flying over us and we heard a call of a Green Woodpecker that we managed to imitate so well that it came closer and flew several times over us but never landed. A young Golden Eagle was soaring over the mountains but otherwise the place was pretty birdless. Of course the mid-day wasn’t the best time to do birding in a forest. Anyway we spent too much time in this place before we started a long way to our next hotel in Benalup-Cajas Viejas (Cadiz)

We were already badly late when we finally arrived at Benalup. On the way we passed a Medina lagoon that would have been one of the most interesting places to visit during the trip but we had spent so much time in the forests that we had to skip this place. Birds on the way were 3 Black-shouldered Kites, several flocks of Red-legged Partridges, Crested Larks, Cattle and Little Egrets and a Little Owl.

In Benalup we lodged to an extremely elegant Fairplay Golf hotel, where the price of our suite was 720€ without a breakfast! We hadn’t got time to enjoy our luxurious room or even a shower but we had to rush to a lunch to a city to a 1920s stylish restaurant. And as the habit in Spain the lunch was a spectacle that took more than 2 hours. But no nooed to opmplain, the food was excellent! After all we were back in our hotel after midnight.

La Janda

On the 18th of September we woke up later than we had planned but the last day had been very long so we changed the schedule. After the breakfast we met our guides of the day from Ornitour and started our way to Laguna de la Janda fields. Janda had been a huge delta like Donana some tens of years earlier but it had been dried for plantation.

Next 2 hours we were driving in the middle of huge fields without stopping at all. All the birds we saw were possible to identify from the bus: Turtle Doves, a couple of young Bushchat Shrikes, Kestrels and some flocks og Lesser Kestrels which I might have wanted to have a better look.

Finally we stopped to a small pool where we found some waders: Green Sandpipers, Wood Sandpipers, Common Sandpipers, Ringed and Little Ringed Plovers, Black-winged Stilts, a couple of Snipes and Ruffs and a Moorhen. After all the only better bird was a Red-rumped Swallow that was flying in a flock of Swallows.
Soon we continued to other even bigger fields where we found lots of Pheasants and Red-legged Partridges, White Storks and some Glossy Ibises. A couple of Common Buzzards were soaring on the sky, a Kingfisher flew over the road, Zitting Cisticolas were beeping, a young Night Heron was escaping our bus from the reeds and a Hoopoe from the ground. Somehow Janda was a disappointment as was the quality of the local bird-guides too – again.

Tarifa

At mid-day we continued towards Tarifa. Once we were there we went to a raptor-watching place where we saw only some Honey Buzzards, a Peregrine and a couple of Montagu’s Harriers migrating, a Cormorant and some local Griffon Vultures, Short-toed Eagles and Booted Eagles. Unfortunately the weather was very bad during this 2 hours – it was raining.

Next we continued to the first BirdFair of Tarifa. We met some partners that had made this tour come true and then walked around the main tent. The Fair seemed to be pretty good – there were plenty of people even though it was only the first day! Local companys had really efforted to their offers as they had really good leaflets and lots of other material, but unfortunately everything was only in Spanish. So I coulnd’t find anything to buy. We checked briefly a carcass where an Egyptian Vulture was seen before we had to hurry to eat again. Again we spent a couple of hours eating but luckily the weather was now so bad that there wasn’t really mean to go birding either.

After the lunch we went back to the BirdFair to check another 2 tents but they weren’t that good – there were plenty of empty space in the art-tent, so I decided to go to the shore nearby to do some birding. Some trip-ticks were a Gannet, Auduoin’s Gulls, Whibrels, Kentish Plovers, Sanderlings, Sandwich Terns and so on.
In the evening we had again a longer way to drive to El Rocio Donana. We were there very late at night but again we went to eat for 2 hours before we were able to go to sleep. Luckily the schedule had changed so that now we’d stay in the same Malvasia hotel for 2 nights so we were able to open and unpack our luggage for the firts time during the trip.

19th of September – Donana

Luckily we had now an opportunity to do birding in Donana, where I had been once before but Hanna hadn’t. After the breakfast at 8 a.m. we met our local guides from Donana Nature and I managed to get my old friend Abel as a driver and guide of our 4-wheel drive. I knew he really knows the area well and is a good guide too.

We drove first through the forests where the Iberian Lynxes are living but only mammals we saw were a Red Deer and a flock of small Wild Boars. Several flocks of Azure-winged Magpies were seen before we reached the dry clearing where a Tawny Pipit was seen and Short-toed Eagles and Griffon Vultures were perched on the poles. Some of the vultures were feeding on a dead horse carcass and finally we found an adult Spanish Imperial Eagle perched on the top of one of the poles. Unfortunately the light was very bad so the pictures we got weren’t really good but Hanna and many others got a good lifer! A couple of Hen Harriers, a Black-eared Wheatear and some Whinchats were seen before we found another good bird a Little Bustard!

Whole Donana was now extremely dry if comparing to my previous trip in early spring. Even the pool behind the information centre was completely dry. Nearby we found a pool where were lots of Dunlins, Little Stints and Curlew Sandpipers, Greenshanks, Redshanks and Spotted Redshanks and a local rarity a Red-necked Phalarope. Some Little Grebes, a Great White Egret and lots of Flamingos and Spoonbills, Lesser Black-backed Gulls, Common and Sandwich Terns, a flock of Short-toed Larks and a single Lesser Short-toed Lark and a Spectacled Warbler were added to our trip-list too.

We stopped to eat to a same hut where I have been 1.5 years earlier too. After the dinner we continued to the only really good waterbird place this time of the year to Dehesa del Abajo. Already on the way we saw a couple of Purple Herons but the lagoon itself was a bird-paradise! There were crazy numbers of birds! Flamingos, White Storks, Spoonbills and Glossy Ibises were in big flocks. With all the common ducks we found 3 Marbled Ducks and 2 Red-crested Pochards, Black Terns were flying around and catching insects and lots of waders were on the shores. We checked all the Coots carefully but couldn’t find any Crested Coots, so soon we continued to the another side of the lagoon where were a couple of bird-hides where to continue birding in a shadow as it was really getting hot – it was 33 degrees now!

From the flocks of waders we found some Turnstones, a flock of Collared Pratincoles, some Bar-tailed and lots of Black-tailed Godwits and some Lapwings. The huge surprise was swimming in a flock of Black-headed Gulls and a Common Gull – a young Sabine’s Gull! Even thought the gull was really far it was easy to identify – a really good lifer! An sms-answer from my Catalan friend Oriol told that the bird had been found already 2 weeks before but we hadn’t heard about it at all.

We were very happy when we drove back to El Rocio where we had finally some free time to take a shower and also go for shopping. We also bought something to drink for the next days birding as we had really suffered dehydration during the trip. We still managed to rest a half an hour before we went to eat again. I had already used to eat different kind of seafood.

The dessert was a birthday cake as our new friend Simon had told someone that he had a birthday so our guides had planned to surprise him. After some celebrating we managed to go to sleep earlier than in previous nights.

Marismas del Odiel

On the 20th of September after the breakfast we drove west through the city of Huelva and close to Portugal border to Marismas del Odiel pools, where we were just right on the high tide so the pools were full of waders. Our local guide was trying his best to show us some birds but as it was already our last birding-day we had already seen almost all the species many times. Caspian Terns, Slender-billed Gulls, a couple of Pochards, Grey Plovers, some Knots and Curlews, a flock of almost 1000 Avocets and altogether 750 Black-necked Grebes were very good! We spent some time while watching Flamingos, Yellow-legged Gulls and other species and I managed to get some good pictures of Auduoin’s Gulls and together with Christian we managed to read rings of a Lesser Black-backed Gull before we continued to have cold dinner to a parking place of the information centre.

Behind the centre there were a couple of pools that should have had some Crested Coots but we never found one, a couple of Purple Swamphens were nice to see and hear anyway. Black Terns were easy to photograph as they came very close to fly and Christian took many gigas of pictures of gulls!

Quality seawatching

In the afternoon we continued to a long cape of La Cabeza Alta to do seawatching. This couple of hours was really good! Right away we found some 30 Mediterranean Gulls, Gannets were fishing on the sea and some Cory’s Shearwaters were found immediately. Soon we found also some European Stom-Petrels and after some time we had found at least 40 of them! 3 Balearic Shearwaters, a couple of Arctic Skuas, a Pomarine Skua, a Great Skua and a couple of Gull-billed Terns were seen too!
We were more than happy after the quality-seawatching when we continued to Sevilla. At 9 p.m. we were having our last lunch in our good hotel and finally we had also something else than seafood. We were chatting with our new friends for a long time before we had to go to sleep because of we had an early plain to catch.

Back home

On the 21st of September we woke up at 4.30 a.m and after 15 minutes we and the rest of the Nordic people – Jaakko, Christian and Stejn who flew back to Norway via Barcelona, were on our way to the airport. Christian and some others had been in Sevilla city at night so it was amazing to see that Christian wasn’t sleeping at all but he started to do his work right away we were in the airport and he continued again in Madrid where we had 3 hours wait for our flight to Copenhagen.

In Copenhagen Christian continued to Sweden by train but we had more than 4 hours wait for our flight to Helsinki. Finally we were back in Helsinki at 10 p.m.
From Helsinki we drove straight to Parikkala and we were at home at 3 a.m. After some hours sleep I had to go to work…

Summary:

During this bird-trip in Andalucia we saw about 190 bird-species, that nobody could see all, as there were altogether 29 participants in this tour. All longer drives were made by 2 buses and in Donana we were having four 4-wheel drives.

All the birding places in Andalucia are excellent but they are surprisingly far from each others. Many different kind of biotops are found so the numbers of bird-species are really huge! I am sure that it is easy to make a week bird-tour and see much more than 200 species – I am pretty sure that our company Ornio will make it soon in the future.

Big thanks to all the people that made this trip come true: Maialen Gutiérrez Garcia from Spanish Tourist Office, Lola Crespo, Mike Lockwood and Sergio Gonzales from Plegadis and of course all the other participants of the tour!

Tenerife, Canary Islands 9.-25.1. 2004

To Tenerife

9th of January we had had a pretty bad night on the cold floor of the airport of Lissabon. Even we found pretty quiet corner near the airlines offices, there was little too noisy for sleeping. 5 a.m. (Hanna) and 6.30 a.m. (Janne) we woke up to spend some time while waiting for our flight to Madrid.

We had to fly to Madrid because when we bought our tickets there were no flights (or ferries) from Cape Verde to Canary, and it was much cheaper to fly to Canary via Madrid than straight from Lisbon. So even we lost some time, we saved some money.

11.35 a.m. (local time) our Air Luxor plane left towards Madrid, and 1.55 p.m. (local time) we landed to Madrid airport.

At the airport we went directly to tax-free side for shopping. We had again plenty of time before our 7.15 p.m flight to Tenerife. We didn’t find anything to buy. (We are thinking if airport of Helsinki is the only airport where is really cheaper than in normal shops?)

The only birds that we saw in Madrid were Spotless Starlings, which were sitting on the light poles outside the airport. Otherwise we were already pretty bored until… Janne was going (once again) to check when our check-in was going to begin, when he almost collided with a well and dark suited man. Both, Janne and this man, tried to pass each others – of course from the same side, so they both had to stop. Both had been looking down to their feet. When these men saw each others, they both began to smile. Anyway only Janne knew who the another man was – he was Ronaldo! And next to Ronaldo was Raul, soon came Roberto Carlos, Zinedine Zidane, Luis Figo and whole Real Madrid football team! Maybe the best spontain observation of the whole trip. (Only David Beckham wasn’t there, because he had injured in last match. Real Madrid was going to play against Real Sociedad, and they lost 0-1.)

Finally our plane left to Tenerife one and half hour late! When the plane was waiting its turn to go, it was funny to see how big traffic jam there was: we saw seven planes lights when they were coming in line to the airfield!

Lifers right away

10.35 p.m.(again local time) we landed to Northern airfield of Tenerife. We found our baggage very fast, and rushed to wait for a bus to Puerto de La Cruz. The buss came even too early 10.55. We sat in bus (number 102) until its last stop which was Puerto de La Cruz bus station. Then we took a taxi to our place which we didn’t know where it was, we just had an address. So it wasn’t a surprise that the taxi drove several kilometres backwards. When we reached our house we found out that the gate (which shouldn’t have been locked) was locked. So Janne had to climb over 2.5 meters high wall to find the key somewhere. When Janne found the houses key (almost from the place where it should have been) he luckily managed to find the key of the gate pretty soon. (It was the 20th key which he found.) So also our baggage and Hanna managed to get inside, which was much better place to stay the night. The house which we had rented from Janne’s parents friends was really big. There were two floors and even six rooms, kitchen and sauna. So there was plenty of space for us two! (We also had there a car which was in the garage. In garden there was Teide-cat waiting for us. She was a homeless cat which was the best cat we had ever met!) We still put the refrigerator on and water to worm, and after midnight we managed to go to sleep.

We woke up to loud birds singing. Canarian Chiffchaff was singing his simply song very loud. We climbed to the roof of our house, where we realized we were in really good place! We had great views to Teide-vulcano, but there were also a lot of birds. Canarian Chiffchaffs, Blackcaps (heineken), flocks of Canarys with Coldfinches and Linnets (maedewaldoi). Blackbirds (cabrerae) were jumping under the bushes and soon we saw first African Blue Tits (teneriffae) too. So we got straight away several lifers and new subspecies. In half an hour we saw also Feral Pigeons, Grey Heron, Kestrels (canariensis) and Sparrowhawk (granti).

Soon we realized we were too hungry to continue and we left to search a shop. We found shops easily after two kilometres walk down to the city. On the way we saw the first Berthelot’s Pipit, normal Chiffchaff, Lesser Black-backed Gulls and Collared Doves. After shopping (finally there was something in shops) we climbed back to our house.

Searching for Pigeons

11th of January we woke up 6 a.m. and soon we were ready to go to our first birding trip in Tenerife. But we lost one hour because we couldn’t get the gate for car opened. We couldn’t find the key again anywhere. When Janne finally used some violence against the gate, it suddenly opened. It hadn’t been locked at all, just stuck. So we could begin our trip towards the laurel forests of Erjos.

We had Clarke & Collins Birdwatching guide to the Canary Islands, which was little old, because all road numbers had been changed. There was also many other changes with traffic systems.

We managed to find a cross to Erjos anyway. There left a small road to the laurel forest. The road was in pretty bad condition, but we managed to drive it with our Honda Civic. We had already seen some Canarian Kingslets (now again just a subspecies of Goldcrest – canariensis), but in forest there was much more of them. After three kilometres driving we found the first Pigeon, which flight over us but it landed to a branch above the road. The Pigeon wasn’t easy. It somehow was really dark without any marks or colours. We identified it as a Bolle’s Pigeon. Possibly it was a young bird, because it was so strange looking.

Soon we heard several Pigeons voices from the top of the high and dense trees. The voice was really low. There was at least four of these Bolle’s Pigeons shouting. They were just almost impossible to see. When we tried to walk closer, we heard just lapping of the wings and saw a shape of a Pigeon flying away. Later we had many this kind of observations more. We also heard voices of Barbary Partridges!

We parked our car and continued walking and saw Robins (superbus) and Chaffinches (tintillon). We also saw plenty of Pigeons escaping us from the tops of the trees but all we saw more than a shape were Bolle’s Pigeons. We continued to the big rock where it was a good view down to the valley where is a lot of laurel trees.

In one hour watching we saw only one Bolle’s Pigeon flying down in the valley. We saw many Robins, six Buzzards (canariensis) soaring on the sky and we heard Ravens. Anyway we were little worried because we hadn`t seen any Laurel’s Pigeons. We decided to walk again, because we had seen much more Pigeons while walking. There was also pretty much traffic on the road (even it was in bad shape). So we walked back to our car and found a smaller road which went to the forest. We thought there could be Pigeons because there wasn`t any traffic in that small road. (On the cross there was a sign ”sin salida” = no exit.) We had walked only 100 metres when a Pigeon escaped once again from the top of the tree. But this time we saw it well, and it even landed visible to one branch. There it was, a Laurel’s Pigeon. Later we saw many glimpses of flying Pigeons along this pretty short road.

Amazing roads!

We were happy when we drove back to the main road, again carefully, and continued just some hundreds of meters to Erjos ponds. We heard right away Moorhens and later we found three of them. There was also a couple of some kind of blue-billed Ducks. We also found one Sardianian Warbler, couple of Buzzards and of course plenty of Canarys.

Next we continued to Mascas mountainous road. The road was something really amazing! If it had been awful to be in an aluguer on the roads of Santa Antao in Cap Verde, it was almost as awful to drive by yourself in Masca road. Even the road was really good and the cliffs were less than half as high as in Santa Antao, the road was so narrow and curvy that it was really difficult to drive. There was also a lot of traffic.

To Ponto del Teno we had to drive even worse road. More than five last kilometres we were driving over and under amazingly sharp edges. Actually the road should have been closed (there were signs in four language) but because locals were driving to Ponto del Teno, we were also. The road is really dangerous in rain and in hard wind, because of the landslides.

We managed to reach Ponto del Teno alive, even it was really hard wind. In half deserted areas there was almost no birds because of the wind. We heard again a Barbary Partridge, but then we continued to the lighthouse to try to do some seawatching.

We watched the sea little bit more than an hour, and Janne managed to see one Little Sheawater (boydi), which unfortunately Hanna couldn’t find flying between the big waves. Other birds which we saw were one Sandwiched Tern and some Lesser Black-backed Gulls (graelssii) and some Yellow-legged Gulls (atlanticus).

To Teide

Next day was a tourist day in the city. Bird observations were good anyway: a Barbary Falcon was soaring over the city and in Central Park there was a lot of Monk Parakeets, Spanish Sparrows and of course Collared Doves. One of the Parakeets thought that Janne’s finger was eatable, and it tasted it when Janne was offering it for the bird. At restaurant there was a Blackbird doing something in a palm tree above our table. We had to eat quickly because the bird was dropping a lot of small pieces of the palm to our plates. On the way back to our house we saw again that Barbary Falcon, now much better and also plenty of Grey Wagtails (canariensis).

13th of January we begun our trip to Teide mountain really early. We drove along the curvy roads and begun to make stops after one kilometre high, where the pine forests begun. We found a lot of Canarys, and Canarian Kingslets. When we were driving in the forest we saw a Finch flying above the road. We stopped and managed to see two Blue Chaffinches flying to the forest.

Next time we stopped in an information centre of Teide national park, which was about two kilometre high. On the yard there were a lot of Canarys but also several Berthelot’s Pipits. In a park there were many mountain plants and one Southern Grey Shrike (koenigi), which was easy to photograph. A couple of workers came to disturb us while we were photographing. First they said it’s not aloud to photograph, but later we understood it`s not aloud to publish the photos we were taking. They maybe thought we were professionals, because of our equipments. We just wondered how would we have known, it is not aloud to photograph there in Teide?

After some short stops we reached a place where was a transportation top to the mountain. Of course we went up there, even it was expensive (21€). So we managed to get very high, just under the highest top, to 3600 metres high. After all it was not possible to reach the top, because a permit is needed for climbing to the top. And how should somebody know that the permit is needed and where to get it? (We heard it should have been applied from some office in Santa Cruz.)

So we just walked the two tracks, which were going up and down under the top. The views were really great. Luckily there were no clouds at all, so we could see even the some of the other islands. For some reason that we didn’t understood, people told to be up for only one hour. It took more than one hour, even from us, to walk both of the tracks, because the air was really thin, and it was really hard to climb. So how on Earth older people could survive there in one hour? Anyway we spent up there at least two hours.

Las Lajas

When we were back in our car, we continued to Las Lajas forest reserve. At Las Lajas we searched a good place and begun to eat something we had with us. We had hardly begun, when first couple of Blue Chaffinches flew over us. When we tried to find them we found several Berthelot’s Pipits, some Great Spotted Woodpeckers (canariensis), African Blue Tits, Canarian Kingslets and ofcourse Canarys. Also a Sparrowhawk (granti) and Kestlers (canariensis) were flying on the sky. After pretty long searchings we found a place where was a pool with water. There birds came to drink. It was close to one small house left side of the main track pretty close from the tables. Even Janne had already managed photograph male Blue Chaffinch there they were much easier.

Next we continued towards the city of Vilaflor. On the way we saw a film group, which were filming a “driving” Mercedes Benz. We laughed that soon there is our small blue car in some local movie.

At Vilaflor we checked all wires hoping to find Rock Sparrows, but we managed to find “just” a couple of Hoopoes and a flock of 200 Plain Swifts.

When we were driving the same road back, we saw this filmgroup again almost in same place than earlier. Now Janne said to Hanna that: “Look who is driving. It might be some star like Richard Gere ;-).” The surprise was really big when we saw the driver was Kimi Räikkönen. Mercedes Benz was filming their new advertisement in curvy pine forest roads of Teide. Pretty good observation again!

There was amazing long downhill from Teide back to Puerto de La Cruz, on the way we saw a flock of 100 Plain Swits.

Northern side of island

14th of January was a “must” day in Loro-park. So we walked in zoo and watched for penguins, gorillas, dolphins… and of course parrots. We saw also some “wild” animals like Blackbirds, Grey Wagtails, Canarian Chiffchaffs, Monk Parakeets, one oily Common Sandpiper and some mysterious Love Bird or something. It was greenish-grey long- and yellow-billed bird which was about size of a Staling.

15th of January we were too tired to wake up when our phone alarmed. But already eight o’clock we were on our way towards bird places at Northern part of island. First we tried to find the bird places near Northern airport, but both bird places and birds were difficult to find. We did find some Corn Buntings and Spectacled Warblers singing.

Our next target was Valle Molinas reservoir. When we reached it, we followed directions, which were in our Collins and Clarke book, and watched the reservoir through a big gate. It was impossible to see the whole reservoir, but we directly found something interesting! The first three ducks were a pair of Tufted Ducks and a female Ring-necked Duck! There were pretty much other birds too: Grey Herons, Little Egrets, Greenshanks, Common Sandpipers, a couple of Pintails and Yellow-legged Gulls. We heard also a Quail shouting somewhere on the fields behind us.

It was little frustrating to watch the reservoir without seeing it well enough. For example we did hear Coots shouting, but we couldn’t see any. We were thinking what else we can’t see? Then there drove a woman outside from the gate, stopped and showed us to go inside if we just close the gate when we are leaving. What luck!
There were birds which we hadn’t seen yet. Of course those Coots but also 2 Moorhens, 2 Green Sandpipers, 4 Wigeons and 6 Snipes were found. The best thing was of course that now we managed to get closer and photograph the Ring-necked Duck.

At Tejina we checked two biggest pool, which were really ridiculous small. There would have been two more pools, but we decided to pass them because we can see enough of Coots and Moorhens in summer in Siikalahti.

Our last target was Punta del Hidalgo, where we found only one Sardinian Warbler, but the views were beautiful. The place was also really good looking for birds. In migration it must be good place for birding.

And Southern parts

Next couple of days was relaxed. Sometimes it’s good to relax, or what? At Puerto we saw a flock of Plain Swifts. We spent our time in the city and, pretty surprisingly, met some friends and relatives. Another morning we tried to find Los Realejos ponds, but we couldn’t find a way there. Many roads were closed in Los Realejos, and in book there was now instructions how to act, if the situation was something not normal.

18th of January at six a.m. we began our way towards the Southern bird places of the island. We drove as fast as our Civic was moving (not even 100 km/h). When the sun was rising, we arrived at El Medanos beaches. There we found some common waders like: Sanderlings, Whimrels, Turnstones, Grey Plovers, Greenshanks, Kentish Plovers and Ringed Plovers. We also saw one totally grey parrot flying towards the biggest houses.

Amarillo golf resort was a big disappointment. We thought it is a good birding place, which it may be, but we didn’t like to do birdwatching while disturbing people playing golf, which really is expensive. We walked around the resort and in half deserted areas nearby, but we couldn’t find anything else than some Hoopoes and Bethelot’s Pipits. Only new bird for our trip was a Pied Wagtail, yippee!

Guargachos poor little pool offered us pretty many waders, but they almost all were similar: there were more than ten Little Ringed Plovers and one Common Sandpiper.

We were little frustrated to the quality of the Southern birding places when we arrived at Roguido del Fraile, which we had waited a lot. There had been several American species before in winters and in half deserted areas there was a possibility for several interesting species. After one kilometre walking we had found nothing! Luckily Hanna realized where the reservoir, which we were searching for, was. It was behind a high wall more than 200 metres from the track. We had to watch to the reservoir from small holes to see the birds. And there really were birds! It was pretty hard to watch the birds with telescope through small holes, but it was much harder to realize that all 90 swimming birds were just Coots! We saw also some Ringed Plovers, Little Ringed Plovers, Green shanks, Redshank, 5 Dunlins and Little Stint. Grey Herons and Little Egrets were standing on the betony beach. A flock of Lesser Black-backed and Yellow-legged Gulls came also to visit the reservoir, but that was it.

We were little disappointed when we drove towards the North along mountain roads via Teide. At Arona we saw a Black Kite soaring on the sky. It was maybe our best bird observation of the day.

At night we called a local (actually British) birder, Barry Lancaster, which we hoped to tell us about some rarities or some birding places which we didn’t know. We had already visited all the birding places, which were in our book, which might have something new for us. But no, in autumn there had been some rarities in island (which weren’t good species for us but for the island, except Yellow-browed Bunting), but now only rare bird Barry could tell us was a Ring-necked Duck which we had already found by ourselves. Anyway Barry told he had visited Ponto del Teno in same day and he had seen a flock of Rock Sparrows, which we had already once tried to find there.

Still one lifer

So we knew what to do next day. 200 Plain Swits were gliding over our house when we begun our way to Ponto del Teno again. The “closed” road was still as scary to drive as it had been in first time.

Now we had only one target, a Rock Sparrow. It was easier to begin to walk in big half deserted rocky and desert plants area, when we knew there had been Rock Sparrows just one day before. Last time we visited this place we knew just that there has been Rock Sparrows in winters in 90`s.

We had walked for some kilometres without seeing anything else than some Canarys and Berthelot’s Pipits. Then finally we saw a flock jumping to fly, and we managed to identify the birds as Rock Sparrows. The birds flight pretty far but after five minutes walking we found them feeding in a low vegetation between the rocks. So we could get better views from the birds when they were running between the rocks really fast.

Later we found some more flocks of Rock Sparrows, so totally we saw about 60 birds. Behind a former tomato plantation we found the same flock of Skylaks, which also Barry had seen day before. There were more than 50 birds, just Skylarks.

We were happy when we drove back to our house. We took the afternoon easy and this relaxing lasted after all couple of days more. We visited the botanical garden, saw again Janne’s relatives, wondered in the city and relaxed. Of course we took some sun also, and burned our skin.

Chanajiga

Om the 22th of January we decided to have another look for the Pigeons in a laurel forest. This time we drove to the Chanajiga forest reserve, which we knew can be difficult to find. And it was! Once we took the wrong cross and that was enough. Somehow Hanna managed to localize us to the map, and we were on a road which wasn’t in our map at all. After driving as sharp up- and down hills we didn’t even knew to exist, we managed to find pretty soon to Chanajiga. On the way we managed to see (far from above) those two pools that we hadn’t find earlier from Realejos.

In the forests there were a lot of birds again. We found easily many Canary Kingslets, Robins and first Bolle’s Pigeon which flight over us. We walked for two hours in the forest road and found some more Bolle’s Pigeons and one Laurel’s Pigeon. Surprisingly we found one pair of Blue Chaffinches which were calling very strangely. In their neighbour there were a couple of normal Chaffinches (or not so normal tintillon). We also saw one amazingly small (Canarian) Chiffchaff, which we first thought it was a Kingslet or Wren!

At afternoon we decided that we had been driving enough. It’s not so funny to drive with loaned car which hasn’t any insurances, atleast not in a Spanish traffic and Canarian roads! We drove the car to the garage and had a little fight against the garage door, which we managed to close in 40 minutes.

Holidaying and continuing our journey

On the 23th of January we were just shopping. We even managed to find something to buy. We heard there had been snowstorms in Greece, so we really had to buy some more warm clothes. It was pretty windy and cold, so we needed first time little more clothes in Tenerife too.

Our last day in Tenerife was a packing and cleaning day. Of course we had to clean the house that well that we are maybe welcome there sometimes in future too. At morning Hanna had a crazy idea to try to see an endemic Pigeon from our roof. It was little more than 10 kilometres to the edges of Chanajiga, but with telescope she managed to see two of those Pigeons flying shortly and land to the forest. Of course it was impossible to identify those Pigeons, which of those two species they were, but in future someone should really try to see those birds in this way from somewhere little closer! It could really be the easiest way to see those endemics!
The day was really warm, so we took again some sun. In Greece we should soon keep much more clothes. At afternoon we had some shopping because we would have again some 24 hours travelling.

On the 25th of January our travelling began with calling a taxi 5 a.m. We drove to Puerto de La Cruz bus station and took a bus number 102 again. It drove us to Northern airport to wait our plane to Madrid, which left 7.35 a.m. We were again on our way to new trips and stories.

To be continued…

Spain Catalonia 16.8.-1.9. 2000

Wedding and birding trip to Catalonia 16.8.-1.9.2000

Finally our summer job period ended and we were free to begin our wedding trip to Catalonia (Spain). When the plane was landing to Barcelona we already saw white egrets flying – Cattle Egrets! It was our first trip tick. Our friend Oriol Clarabuch was already waiting for us at the airport. He had helped us planning the trip (actually had been planning almost the whole trip) and he was going to be our guide almost for whole trip.

Oriol is a professional ringer so of course our trip started from ringing station. So we begun our way to Ebro delta ringing station 200 km South from Barcelona. It was very hot, more than 35 degrees! While driving the motorway we saw some birds: Turtle Dove and Black-eared Wheatear… But we continued driving pretty fast. After two hours driving we arrived at big Ebro delta, which showed its nails right away! Small water areas had tens of Whiskered Terns, Purple, Grey and Squacco Herons, Little and Cattle Egrets and Black-winged Stilts. Fan-tailed Warblers were singing in the rice fields, Hoopoe and Kingfisher were flying over us.

When we reached the ringing station David Bigas had already some birds waiting for us: Kingfisher, Great Reed Warbler and Reed Warblers. On the reeds there were Moorhen and Water Rail shouting and from the shore there were Flamingos making strange voices. First Little Bittern was seen from the tower soon, while Whiskered Terns and Fan-tailed Warblers were calling even too loud. Yellow-legged Gulls and Little Terns were flying over the bay; Cormorants were sitting on the poles. Some Whimblers and Osprey were migrating over us, and when some Wood, Common and Green Sandpipers were calling from the sky; I realized there is still some same bird than home.

From nets we found Reed Warblers, Kingfishers and some Tree and House Sparrows, Greenfinches… After the round I climbed to the birdtower. First I found Night Herons flying further while other herons and egrets were flying pretty close for a while. From the bay I scoped hundreds of Coots, Great Crested and Little Grebes, Mallards, Gadwalls and Red-crested Pochards. Soon Oriol, Hanna and David climbed to tower too and right away David found easily a couple of Purple Gallinules! Later we saw big flocks of Starlings with pretty many Spotless Starlings. There was also one totally yellow bird in one flock, some escaper? From nets we got still one nice Subalpine Warbler and totally we got 58 birds ringed.

Later we talked a lot with all other people who were working in the station. They told about their works which included taking care about injured animals. There were some birds and turtles on the cages. At night we wondered lizards which were climbing on the walls and the strange voices of frogs, grasshoppers and egrets. (David left home and we took the ringing responsibility for all the next days.)

Crested Coots

Six a.m. I jumped up and climbed to birdtower while others were still sleeping. Some Slender-billed Gulls and Black-winged Stilts were found directly. On the bay there was some poles which had a Gull-billed Tern sitting on one. Others woke up to the first net round which offered Cetti`s Warbler and Savi`s Warbler. After some rounds we took Oriols car and drove to Playa de la Marquesa, which is the nearest bigger bay of Ebro-delta. There were many waders (like our Catalan friends promised): hundreds of Curlew Sandpipers and Dunlins, some Little Stints and Knots, Sandpipers, Kentish Plovers and Golden Plovers, Black-tailed Godwits with one Bar-tailed Godwit and a Curlew. Sandwiched Terns, Gull-billed Terns and Audouin’s Gulls were flying over the bay. Of course there was also a lot of Whiskered Terns, Egrets, Fan-tailed Warblers etc.

After some hours trip which was pretty hot and sweat (+38 degrees) we rushed back to station. It was totally too hot for birds too – nets were all empty. Finally it was good light to go to have a check to the closest bay. Before I went there I asked Oriol if it’s possible to see Crowned Coots in this area. And Oriol answered: “Impossible”. Well I walked to the bay and started to scan the birds (Little Grebes, Red-breasted Pochards and Flamingos). I didn’t care a lot about the Coots because there was too much of them. But then I realized there was something wrong with one Coot – it had a neck-ring. Funny I thought – it had also something red in his head – Crowned Coot!!! And it was one of the nearest birds! I ran to the station and on the way I heard a Penduline Tit calling. Oriol was amazed but we all ran back to the bay really fast. I found the bird pretty easily and I begun to tell the others where it was. “Little bit left from the Cormorants, behind the `nettas´”. And Oriol translated it to Catalan for other Catalans. Same time Hanna was telling something very weird instructions about finding the bird. But then I found another bird and realized that Hanna had a different bird. But she still had a different place – she had a third bird! And all these three birds were colour-ringed! These birds were the first birds in Catalan in ten years. And the last bird was shot by the hunter and took for the birders, only then they believed. (The head of that bird is still on the bottle in station!) Before that this species had been last in Catalan 40 years ago. (Of course these birds were introduced birds from Southern Spain, but anyway.)

At afternoon we saw still many interesting birds. So our triplist was getting longer. One Savi’s Warbler was singing, but more interesting was a little poisonous snake which Hanna found from the yard. (They had told us that there is no poisonous animals in the area :-).

Early morning I managed to see one very good bird: I saw an Aquatic Warbler. At day we went to Riumar, Ebro-rivers delta, which showed up to be too much touristic place for us. But after a little driving we managed to find some birds too: Crested Larks were everywhere, Flamingos with 8 Glossy Ibises, Black-winged Stilts, Avocets, other common waders, hundreds of Little Egrets, 3 Little Bitterns, 5 Shelducks, Lesser Black-backed Gulls (different subspecies), Fan-tailed Warblers and over the sea thousands of Yellow-legged Gulls with some Auduoin’s and Slender-billed Gulls. Also we saw and heard many Collared Doves.

From nets we got some Kingfishers, Great Reed Warbler, some Savi’s Warblers, Subalpine Warbler, Willow Warbler, Sedge Warbler, Swallow, Greenfinch, Tree Sparrow, House Sparrow and 38 Reed Warblers.

Southern side of Ebro river

Next morning the first bird from the nets was a Nightingale. Soon we started our way to South side of the Ebro river, and we tried to get to all the best places. One stop in the middle of some fields was good with Skylarks, Short-toed Larks and one Lesser Short-toed Lark. La Tancadas fishpools showed us many Yellow-legged Gulls, one Caspian Tern and 80 Mediterranean Gulls. Soon we continued to the best Lesser Short-toed Lark and Collared Pratincole places. Pratincolas were easy to find. In one place there was at least 13 birds hunting insects. There was also all kind of larks, but we couldn’t see any Lesser Short-toed Lark well.

At Salinas de la Trinitat, we collected some shells and swam a little, because it was far too hot for birding. Some flocks of Sanderlings were flying on the shore of this 7 km long and 100 m wide sandbeach. Also Mediterranean Gulls were found many. Later, when it was still amazing hot, we reached the place where was thousands and thousands of Auduoin’s Gulls. There was a hide from where we could see these gulls more than anywhere else. From the sea we found also one old Gannet and one Arctic Skua which was our 100th triptick!

At sandbeaches we found also Turnsone and collected more shells. Later at La Casa de Fusta it became too hot to have any more birdwatching. So we continued back to ringing station. At afternoon we saw only one Gadwall and almost albino House Sparrow.

Second last morning at Ebro begun with some quiet net rounds. Later we went with Oriol and two local birdwatchers (Jopep-Maria and Ralf) to watch birds to the closest beaches. At El Canalot we found 3 Hoopoes, Spotless Starlings, flock of 45 Black-winged Stilts, Spotted Redshank, Grey Plover, Purple Heron, Flamingos, Fan-tailed Warblers and Cettis Warblers. But the best bird was a migrating Eleonora’s Falcon.

Another side of El Canalot we found more Plovers, Black-tailed Godwits, Ruffs and 26 Curlews (the last ones were the most interesting birds for locals), hundreds of Sandwiched Terns and Audouin`s Gulls – and other gulls, 3 Oystercatchers and 2 Arctic Skuas (last ones were good ones for locals), sandpipers, Purple and Grey Herons and 80 Kentish Plovers! At the evening arrived first Crested Coot twitchers. The last bird from nets was Fan-tailed Warbler (finally).

Misty birds

At next morning we drove to Premia de Mar, Oriol’s hometown, 20 km North from Barcelona. Right away we went to have some seawatching to long beach. 45 minutes seawatching showed: two Gannets, Cory`s Shearwater and Audouin’s Gulls. Later in the evening we went to Tiana hill to try to catch Red-necked Nightjars. We reached the hill about half an hour before the sunset but we found nice birds: Jays (which were darker than our Jays), Alpine Swifts were circling up the sky, Subalpine, Sardinian and Dartford Warblers were calling in the bushes, Crested Tit was calling in the forest, Green Woodpeckers were shouting on the hillside, and Red-legged Partridges were calling down on the fields. We really didn’t know where to watch! But we had to get the nets up before it came dark. With Oriol and his friend Raul we managed to put the nets up very fast. Rauls Boida dog was also following us all the time.

First Nightjars came to fly over the nets even before we had the tape calling. Also Little Owl started to call. So we put the tape for it too. But it was an autumn, birds weren’t very interested about our tapes. Luckily we managed to get one European Nightjar, but we couldn’t even see a Red-necked. But it was nice to sit still and see the Little Owl calling on the moonlight .

Vic – ringing and twitching

Our seventh day in Catalonia was a tourist day. We took the train to Barcelona, where we visited a Gothic city with Barri Gotic and La Seu cathedrals, La Sagrada Familia was of course visited too. Also we made some shopping. But we managed to see some birds too: Parc de la Ciutadella has a breeding population of Monk Parakeets. At afternoon we packed all our stuff with us and started our way to somewhere! We weren’t told exactly where we were going! We just knew we were going to have some ringing and we had some sort of place to stay overnight, and we would have some company – other ringers. Oriol had planned everything ready! Funny!

So we drove to North and to Vic (a home town of Josep-Maria and Raul). On the way we saw some Carrion Crows. At night we met Josep-Maria, Raul and our new “helpers” Alex and Jepi. First we tried one Scops Owl (we did heard it) and after a lunch we went to Ter river to put some nets ready for the next morning.

When in Ter we heard some Bee-eaters but then came the darkness. It was amazing how we managed to put the nets up to that place because it was very difficult even to walk in that place. But somehow we made it. The night we spent on the floor of one old school, and even our place wasn’t five star hotel, we were sleeping very soon.

Josep-Maria woke us up like in army, even we felt like we wouldn’t have slept more than an hour yet. Soon we were wondering a dry river, which had nicely net lines ready in two different places. There was already some Common Sandpipers, Little Ringed Plover, Pied Wagtails and Grey Wagtails hanging on the nets. Also one Blackcap, Robin, Song Thrush, Blackbird and some tits were seen. Wrens were singing like Cetti’s Warblers and Goldfinches too, latter were everywhere and big flocks. Bee-eaters, Stock Doves, Collared Doves and Turtle Doves were also seen. Also we saw migrating Common Buzzard and Peregrine. Golden Oriol was singing shortly like saying hello to Oriol. From the nets we got Cetti’s Warblers, more Grey Wagtails, Garden Warbler, young Magpie, Goldfinch and so on. From the trees we found a Short-toed Treecreeper. But soon it was time to move on again. Locals had a minute schedule planned for us and so we packed the nets.

Driving around

Now we continued close to Rauls home to Vic’s farmlands. Next “bimbo” (a lifer in Catalan) for us was a Cirl Bunting. Soon we reached an old abandoned house, and we guessed right what we were searching for: while others were getting in the house me and Hanna saw a Barn Owl flying out from the window. We tried to find the bird again but we found only two dead owls from the train tunnel. But we found some other interesting bird: Stonechats, Woodchat Shrikes, Wryneck and some Red-legged Partridges, so we were very happy.

Next it was Josep-Marias turn to lead us. We drove up to the 1100 meters high hill, which was reached only with Josep-Marias 4×4 car. On the way we saw some Wood Larks. Again we didn’t know what to search for but Hanna noticed that the place was good for fossils. I tried to look with binos up and down and both sides but I found only Honey Buzzard, Peregrine and some Crag Martins. At same time Hanna, Oriol, Josep-Maria and Jepi were walking noses on the ground. They even found some fossils, but Jepi found the best one: a Scorpion. But the birds that we were searching for weren’t found. The nest was till there – Egyptian Vultures had left the building. But we found still some Firecrests.

PNAE – a bird paradise

We were again in tight schedule and continued driving to next place to Park Natural dels Aiguamolls Empuria. We said goodbye to our helpers, and continued with just Oriol to the coast again. At Sant Pere Pescasor we met again new people: Gabriel Gargallo and his wife were waiting for us in a local restaurant. We ate amazing well before we continued to nature centre, where we had a room to stay. At night we managed to hear a Thick-knee calling but soon we were sleeping.

I woke up early and I heard Little Owl and Thick-knees calling again. White Storks were on the light poles. Nightingales tried to sing a little, and Goldfinches were again everywhere. Also egrets, Collared Doves, Cetti`s Warblers and so on was seen. At the closest birdtower we couldn’t find any bird but some deers.

Soon we left to one good place for passerines; witch unfortunately had burned in big forest fire some weeks before. The fire had been that big that we had heard about it in Finnish news! 10 x 6 km area had burned almost totally. In that dust and ash we tried to catch some passerines – mostly Orphean and Sardinian Warblers. We did catch some Sardinian Warblers and saw some Nightingales. But we couldn’t find any Orphean Warblers. We saw also some Pallid Swifts, Cirl Buntings, young Woodchat Shrike and a nice Borelli’s Eagle flying soaring with also nice Short-toed Eagle! But soon we had to hurry again!

Now we went to Cap de Creus, which is a rocky tip of a cape. We noticed soon it’s difficult to find birds in a place like that. But after half an hour searching we found a Blue Rock Thrush and a pair of Thekla Larks on the top of the same hill. Rock Pigeons were also nice to see – one sort of lifer! Crag Martins and Pallid Swifts were flying very nicely towards the hard wind. On the rocks on the sea there were some Shags sitting and I managed to see one Black-eared Wheatear migrating. But we couldn’t find any Black Wheatears even we really tried.

Good twitching

At afternoon we were again at the nature centre. We met a local bird guide, which lead us to see some good birds. Soon we found first good one – a young Roller. Soon we saw also two more Rollers. On the way we found also adult Woodchat Shrike, some raptors and Lesser Grey Shrike. 40 Cattle Egrets and Great Woodpecker were also seen. Our next target was a Moustached Warbler which was found pretty easily. In same place we saw amazingly the only Corn Bunting in our trip and Stonechats, Crested Larks, Bee-eaters etc. At the evening we found a flock of 32 Thick-knees feeding in one field. At night Oriol went to see his girlfriend and we went to put some nets with our new “helper” Juan-Carlos. Again we had to do everything in dark, and it was really difficult. But we made it again.

Again it was difficult to wake up, but soon we had power again to do some ringing. There was already some Nightingales, House Sparrows and a Stonechat hanging on the nets. Hobby and Pheasants were new trip ticks. Nice brave White Stork gave us to photograph itself from 3 metres. But we had time for only one more net round before we left to do some twitching again.

Oriol was already waiting for us and we were going again. After some hundred meters Oriol said something about clamator, and it was true a Great Spotted Cuckoo flew over the road! We were driving on a protected area and saw a lot of Hoopoes and Bee-eaters.

At the beaches there were hundreds of Bee-eaters, Kentish Plovers, finally first Southern Grey Shrike, Cuckoo, male Golden Oriol, Short-toed Eagle, Green Woodpeckers, Flamingos, Red-backed Shrike and a lot more. At the centre Juan-Carlos had a Hoopoe which had hit by car. The bird was anyway in pretty good shape.

Later we had to leave PNAE. Before leaving we still checked the last corner of the area and it was worthy! Purple Gallinules were 16, some Flamingos, Pochards, Garganey, some sandpipers with one Temminck`s Sandpiper (rare there), a lot of other waders, 42 White Storks, some Mute Swans and many Bee-eaters and Stonechats.

On the way back to Premia we visited Oriol’s family’s summer home. I think it was more like a castle! 800 years old big house had also beautiful forests, and it was only 30 km from Barcelona. We tried to find some warblers, but the first bird I found was a surprise. I was totally out when I heard that bird’s voice, but it was easier when I saw it – it was a Ring-necked Parakeet! We found also some Short-toed Treecreepers and Yellow Serins. But it was already afternoon so we couldn’t find much more.

To the Pyrenees

26th of August we started our mountain trip to Pyrenees. First we rented a car from Mataro. Oriol had to help a lot because the local people never understood any English! But soon we were driving North to our “honeymoon” just me and Hanna together.

We saw Montserrat Mountains on our way, but neither it nor Red-rumped swallow could make us stop. Also we saw a flock of 40 Cattle Egrets, Roller, Woodchat Shrikes and some new common northern birds as a trip ticks. Close to first bigger mountains there was a nice place to have a dinner. It was even open when we are used to eat! First Griffon Vultures were gliding over the mountains, Alpine Swifts, Carrion Crows, and some Golden Eagles were also seen. Some other Griffon Vultures were seen later but we had to hurry, because we had to be at Pont de Suert in our hotel six p.m.

Our room was pretty nice. And after good night sleep we drove back to same mountains to find some passerines and of course raptors. When we reached the place there was 170 Griffon Vultures soaring in 3-4 flocks with two Egyptian Vultures and some Short-toed Eagles! Soon all Eagles disappeared to the clouds or behind the mountains. Little later we saw two Booted Eagles and one Goshawk but then all raptors were disappeared. So we walked down to the river and we found some passerines: couple of Nuthatches, Redstarts, Pied and Striated Flycatchers, 50 Linnets, Roller, Great Spotted Woodpecker and Cirl Buntings. We also practised some mountain climbing and walked to one small hill. While climbing we found nice female Rock Thrush and some lizards and butterflies.

At afternoon we passed 3400 meters high mountain and drove through 5200 metres long tunnel to Vielha. Vielha was a nice alpine kind of city, and we had some shopping there. At night we arrived back to Pont de Suert to eat at same time than locals.

Tough day

Next day was a mountain day. Early we were driving towards Besiberri Mountains. On the way we realized that it was really cold – only 7 degrees. And I had worn just shorts and t-skirt. On the way we saw some Long-tailed Tits (which weren’t that nice than ours), Bullfinches, Coal Tits and Crested Tits. At dam we tried to find Wallcreeper, but we couldn’t find any. But we saw a lot other interesting birds: a couple of Red-billed Coughs were climbing on the dam wall, Citril Finches were in the bushes, Rock Buntings, Dunnocks and Chiffchaffs were seen too. We also heard a local rarities – Black Woodpecker (it was nothing else than a trip tick for us then). Also more common Green Woodpeckers were heard (much more interesting for us).

When the temperature rose more than 10 degrees, we started to climb. We had planned to climb to 2700 meters high mountain and walk about 9 km long route (most up there). When we passed a sign which had some Catalan with a word expert, we didn’t realize the route could be more difficult than we thought. Well we climbed really steep mountainside, which had some kind of markings telling where the route was going. For a while there was more difficult places when it was important to know where the route was going otherwise we would have been soon food for vultures. Soon we realized the route was so steep that we couldn’t turn back anymore. It would have been too steep to climb down! So we had to continue climbing and hope it won’t get any harder. After two hours climbing we had moved on map less than 500 meters and the dam was still visible under us (but it was just very tiny). Some Griffon Vultures came to watch if we are soon eatable. Also Rock Pipits, Common Crossbills and Goldcrest came to our list. And latter was already magical 200th species on our trip!

Luckily it came safer to walk. But up there in the high mountain it was still really difficult to walk. We had to jump from rocks to rocks. And like always in high there wasn’t many birds. But when we found one it was always interesting one. Alpine Accentors were beautiful. Only two birds were seen but more were heard. When in 2700 meters we saw some Pyrenean Gemses (sort of deers) and also feathers and shit of Ptarmigan! It was really difficult to stay on the route, there was just some rocks stacked every 50 meters. Binoculars helped a lot to see those stacked rocks.

We lost the “track” once, but found luckily right place to start climbing down. In lower altitudes there were again some birds: some tits, Rock Buntings and Black Redstarts. Soon we met first people too. These guys had all mountain climbing equipments with them even this side was really for children if compare to other side from where we were coming. Soon we were down in a grassy meadow, and we remembered someone had told us there were weasels. And soon I found the first one: “Look Hanna just beside of you, size of a beaver!” Then Hanna noticed it too just before it disappeared under a big stone. It really was huge! Soon we found some more weasels and also Meadow Pipits, Black Redstarts and some Citril Finches. From meadow to dam it was some three km to walk. But now we were walking on a highway! And there were also a lot of tourists. Good we had chosen an expert route! 9 hours after leaving our car we saw our rented Corsa again! And we had still one can of Coke waiting for us.

Waiting for Bearded Vulture

Next day we took little easier. We even had breakfast in our hotel! Then we went to one natural park near Boi. In the area it was aloud to walk or take a taxi, but we found out there were too many people waiting for the taxi. So we decided to walk (again).

The route was like a highway and so it didn’t feel as good as yesterday. So we walked only some five kilometres in nice green mountain area. We saw only some birds. Views were beautiful, many butterflies, some Golden Eagles and Griffon Vultures and falcons, one Dipper and so on. Maybe the taxi would have taken us to even better places?

Our last day in Pyrenees was a vulture day. After breakfast we went to that place we had been before. We found a rock where was a lot of Griffon Vultures sitting. But it had been raining all night and it was still cold, so the birds were just sitting. Two Egyptian Vultures were sitting close to 80 Griffons. Some local guardians came to ask (in Catalan) who we are and they really weren’t friendly. But I think they were taking care of those Vultures. But the birds just kept sitting.

Then it happened! Hanna found a different shaped of big Vulture. There it was – a Bearded Vulture! It was amazing. Almost an adult bird was gliding while Griffon Vultures were just watching for it. It was soaring nicely against the mountains for some seven minutes. And just after it disappeared where it had came from, I found a Red Kite soaring with some Griffon and Egyptian Vultures. That was enough for us, so we started our way back to Mataro. We drove pretty fast (I started to used to local speed). On the way we saw one beautiful pale morph bird of Booted Eagle.

Something before the end

Oriol was there again helping for us with the car. (The price was 166 € for 5 days) And soon we were again in Premia de Mar. After a lunch we went again to try to catch Red-necked Nightjars. Raul had already nets ready when we reached at Mataro. Unfortunately it started to rain a little, but not too much. We caught only one old male Sardinian Warbler but we managed to see shortly both European and Red-necked Nightjar flying.

After breakfast we went to nearest hills of Premia. First we wondered nice views to Barcelona and a migration of Alpine Swifts. About 500 birds passed us very close and stopped to a huge flock to soar. We found also some Dartford, Sardinian and Subalpine Warblers. And our last trip tick was a Melodious Warbler which sang a little for our cd-player. We also saw it very shortly. After this we visited a dolm made by Asterix and Obelix I think.

Then it was again Barcelona’s turn. We had still some souvenirs to buy. We also visited Zoological Museum. At the evening we had amazing good lunch at Premia with Oriol and his parents. Later we had to pack our luggage. At early morning Oriol drove us to airport and after goodbyes and thank yous we were on our way back to Finland. Oriol of course continued straight to Ebro to ring some birds.

Totally we saw in our trip amazing 207 bird species! We had just 13 birding days and it was August, which is not the best time to watch bird in Catalan either. Everything was great and we have to thank Oriol and all his friends for everything they made for us!! We were surprised because there were good equipments in all bird places in Catalonia! There were nice hides, bird towers and information centres in those places that we visited. The biggest problem in our trip was that most people couldn’t speak English at all.

Of course the birds were the most interesting part of our trip, but all those views, mammals, lizards and of course all those nice people that really became also our friends made our honeymoon unforgettable!