Thursday, 25 February 2016

Spain - settling in

Rather that stay at home, we decided to use up the last of my leave on a short break to NE Spain with the hope of seeing a few bustards and larks.

After a 90min flight this morning we were heading west of Barcelona to the plains around the town of Lleida.

Birding started as soon as we got into our room over the adjacent wasteground from the window. Black redstart, serin, crested lark, tree sparrow, blackcap and cirl bunting all seen before unpacking the scope.

We decided to spend the afternoon looking around the fields south of the town for sandgrouse and larks.

Several corn buntings were feeding around a small pool when I had my first tick of the trip, 4 calandra larks flying over.
Good numbers of raptors were in the area and it was nice to compare black and red kites sparring together. At least 2 marsh harriers and a smart male hen harrier were also present.

The highlight of the afternoon were the calandra larks. Once we had moved out of the arable fields they were everywhere. Most of the views were in flight as they displayed but we did see several really well on the tracks. The song reminded me a bit of corn bunting.

We continued to tour the tracks for sandgrouse. Didn't get any  although a couple of hoopoe were a bonus. We did find a couple of pools that we will visit early doors to see if they use them.

Probably the strangest sighting of the day were 9 red - billed chough! A species that we normally associate with rugged coastline looked so out of place feeding in the dry arable fields!

A good start to the trip.

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