Catalonia-Pyrenees Grand Tour
For many, Catalonia rose to fame in 2017 during its last attemp to become a full independent State from Spain, in what was another chapter in the long, rather tortuous history of disagreements between both countries. This sophisticated, open-minded land keeps a strong and different personality, as it has clearly differentiated language, culture, gastronomy and history. It borders on France and Andorra to the north, and on the Spanish regions of Aragón and València to the west and south.
Despite its relatively small size (a bit more than 30.000sq kilometers), Catalonia can count itself as one of the European regions with a widest range of birdlife. And this is not surprising when considering its vast array of ecosystems that goes from everything in between alpine grasslands to semi desertic areas, and from coastal salt marshes to boreal forests. This is a land of contrasts, where in the morning you can see Lammergeier and Black Woodpecker in the dramatic Pyrenees, and in the afternoon enjoy the special Little Bustard “jumps” in the steppes.
Thanks to its privileged geographical location at the North-East corner of the Iberian Peninsula, this is also an excellent area for migratory birds as many passerines fly directly from Algeria to Mallorca, and from there to the Catalan coast. When easterlings blow from the Mediterranean, specialities such as Red-footed Falcon, Red-throated Pipit, Collared Flycatcher and Icterine Warbler can appear in good numbers!
This tour explores Catalonia in the best moment for bird migration, but it is also a great moment as all summer visitors are already back to their nesting territories, and the whole area is full with the songs of Warblers and Flycatchers!
Our tour shall start in Barcelona, the iconic city by the Mediterranean, from where we will drive southwards through opulent wineyards to arrive to Ebro Delta, one of the major wetlands in the Mediterranean Sea. Here we will be granted with spectacular flocks of Greater Flamingoes and Glossy Ibises while in search of specialities such as Caspian Tern, Collared Pratincole, Audouin’s & Slender-billed Gulls, Savi’s Warbler and an excellent variety of nesting terns, and migratory passerines and waders. From here we will drive northwards to explore the dry lands around Lleida. This landscape, mid way between traditional farming and natural grassland, holds an impressive list of birds, and supports good densities of sough-after birds including Little Bustard, Pin-tailed Sandgrouse, Ortolan Bunting, Great Spotted Cuckoo and Montagu’s Harriers to name a few. An incursion into neightbouring Aragón will allow us to contact with Black-bellied Sandgrouses while searching for the extremely elusive Dupont’s Lark.
The gentle ondulations in Lleida Steppes will lead us to the mighty Pyrenees, where we will explore gorges, extensive pine forests, almond orchards and alpine grasslands in search of a long array of goodies including Lammergeier and Wallcreeper (small chances) but also Citril Finch, Cinereous Vulture, Bonelli’s Eagle, Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush, Black Woodpecker and, if lucky, Tengmalm’s Owl. From the mountains we will step down to the enchanting Empordà plain. Here we will look for migratory scarcities that may easily include Little Crake, White-winged Black Tern, Great Snipe, Red-footed Falcon or Black-winged Kite along with a superb variety of migratory waders and herons before ending our tour back in Barcelona.
At the end of the tour, our list will increase over 210 species!
Born in Barcelona, Carles Oliver has been birdwatching most of these locations since his childhood, and he will be happy to join lead our group throught some of his favourite birding spots. This is a tour of unique accommodations, excellent local food, short transfers and wide variety of birdlife.
A book to help you understand Catalonia: “The time of the doves” (1962) by Mercè Rodoreda (1908-1983).
|Days 1 & 2. Ebre Delta. Meet and welcome at Barcelona International Airport or in another place previously agreed. This first day we will explore Ebre Delta, where we will spend two nights. We will have two full days to explore this vast wetland and the variety of birds that it hosts. Greater Flamingo, Audouin’s & Slender-billed Gulls, Glossy Ibis, Western Swamphen, Black-winged Stilt, Whiskered Tern and Squacco Heron are all common! Collared Pratincole, Savi’s Warbler, Temmincks Sting, Great Reed Warbler, Curlew Sandpiper, Little Bittern are also some of our targets. Here the variety of migratory birds can include some Crakes along with scarcities such as Broad-billed Sandpiper or Caspian Gull.
|Day 3. Lleida Steppes. After breakfast we will have a last look into Ebro Delta before going to the inmense steppe area around Lleida. Here we will look for Black-eared & Black Wheatears, Great Spotted Cuckoo, Rock Sparrow, Hoopoe, Turtle Dove, Iberian Grey Shrike, Short-toed Eagle, Lesser Kestrel, Roller and, if lucky, Eurasian Eagle Owl.
Day 4. Steppes. Full day in the steppes exploring drier ares than the previous day in search of Pin-tailed & Black-bellied Sandgrouses, Stone Curlew, Greater & Lesser Short-toed Lark and the always elusive Dunpont’s Lark… After a midday break we will spend the afternoon enjoying Thekla Lark, Tawny Pipit, Alpine Swift and Melodious Warbler but also checking some wetlands in search of migratory birds. This day we will have our nocturnal safari, where we will have excellent sights on Red-necked Nightjar, Scops Owl, Long-eared Owl and Western Barn Owl!
|Day 5. Lleida Steppes. Morning birding in a different location in the steppes. A lovely patch of green ondulations host an excellent density of Little Bustards and Rollers along with Great Spotted Cuckoo, Calandra Lark, Ortolan Bunting, Woodchat Shrike and Subalpine and Orphean Warbler to name a few. The area hosts some pairs of Black-winged Kites, depending on the year! Arrival to the Pyrenees in the afternoon, where we will spend two nights.
|Day 6. Pyrenees. Morning Early morning start to explore a small core of locations where we will look for Eurasian Wryneck, Citril Finch, Black Woodpecker, Western Capercaillie, Eurasian Woodcock, Blue Rock Thrush, Woodlark, Golden Oriole, Red-backed Shrike, and Subalpine, Dartford & Sardinian Warblers. We will be moving from montane meadows and boreal forests to almond orchads and rocky acarpments . All along the day we can enjoy excellent views on Lammergeier but also Egyptian Vulture, Griffons and Black Vultures. Booted, Golden and Short-toed Snake Eagles are common.
|Day 7. Pyrenees. Morning birding to enjoy a number of amazing birds. We will visit rocky slopes in search of Citril Finch, Common Rock Thrush, Alpine Chough, Common Crossbill, Ring Ouzel, Black Woodpecker, Mistle Thrush, Firecrest, Crested Tit, Rock Bunting and Short-toed Treecreeper. Occasionally these areas can still hold some Alpine Accentors or Snow Finches.
In the afternoon transfer to Aiguamolls de l’Empordà.
|Day 8. Aiguamolls de l’Empordà. Full day visiting this wonderful wetland. Here we will have good chances for Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Pallid Swift, Moustached Warbler, Little Bittern, European Kingfisher. But the area is specially noted for migratory birds such as Little Crake. Here it is also very likely to catch up with species such as White-winged Black Tern, Red-throated Pipit, Black-shouldered Kite, Red-footed Falcon or even Great Snipe!
|Final transfer to Barcelona (about 2 hores) and delivery in town or in the airport.
7 nights of accommodation in twin room; breakfasts, lunches and evening meals; birding tour leader; ground transport in comfortable, air conditioned vehicle; reserve entrances and travel insurances. All prices include VAT.
International flights to / from Barcelona Airport, drinks out of water, any other item not listed as “INCLUDED”.
We will be pleased to pick up tour participants from their hotels around Barcelona Airport during the first morning of the tour. Pick up time will be around 06:30. We aim tour participants to arrive to Barcelona during the day before the tour starts.
During the tour we will use 4 different accommodations. We will spend two nights at Ebre Delta, 3 at Lleida steppes, 2 at the Pyrenees and a final overnight at Aiguamolls de l’Empordà. We will sleep at high stantard local owned rural houses. All rooms are en suite and with air conditioning. All evening meals are to be at our accommodations or by a gentle walk from them. Middays will combine pic-nics with some restaurant meals depending on the day planning.
Food along the trip is really good. We will combine some examples of excellent local cuisine along with really good “paelles”, and wine.
PASSPORT, VISA & HEALTH
Citizens within Schengen area are not required for any Passport. Visas are not required for any UK, US nor Canadian citizens. All Passports must have 6 months validity beyond the return date. We recommend you to contact your local health authorities to get updated information before travel.
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