Little Bitterns call from the reeds whilst Great Egrets and Squacco Herons stalk the rice fields and as dusk approaches, Black-crowned Night Herons can be seen leaving their daytime roosts. Some of the lagoons and reedbeds have observation towers allowing us superb views, not just of the birds but also the fascinating delta landscape. Red-crested Pochard, Greater Flamingo, Western Swamphen, Caspian Tern, Zitting Cisticola and Great Reed Warbler are common, and the delta also boasts the largest colony of Audouin’s Gull in the world with Collared Pratincole, Slender-billed Gull and Greater Short-toed Lark adding to the variety.
After two days exploring the delta, we head North and inland to Montsonís. Our journey will take us through the Parc Natura de la Serra de Montsant, one of the secret gems of Catalonia. This mountain range is seldom visited by birders even though it is home to one of the highest densities of raptors in this part of Spain with Golden, Bonelli’s and Short-toed Snake Eagles all breeding.
Set amidst a mosaic of Pyrenean and Holm Oaks, scrub and rocky crags, Montsonís is one of the best-preserved medieval villages in the region. We spend four nights in this tranquil spot, enjoying the rich local flora and fauna with Bee-eater, Hoopoe and Western Orphean, Subalpine and Bonelli’s Warblers amongst the species we hope to see, along with Firecrest and Ortolan Bunting.
Our lovely hotel is well situated, allowing for a full three days visiting three very different habitats which are all within easy reach.
The arid steppe around Balaguer and Bellmunt d’Urgell holds the declining Little Bustard and Montagu’s Harrier, whilst Hobby, Stone-curlew, Roller and Great Spotted Cuckoo should also be present. A veritable symphony of larks includes Crested Lark and Thekla – don’t worry Fernando will help you with your identification skills – as well as Greater Short-toed and Calandra Larks.
The terraced landscape to the South of Lleida is home to the last population of Dupont’s Lark in Cataluña. This tricky species often sings at night and then, just as the sun rises, it drops to the ground and promptly shuts up! In order to find it, we will need to be at just the right spot at first light, but it is well worth making the effort to hear its curious song and to glimpse one of Europe’s most enigmatic birds. If further incentive is needed, both Pin-tailed and Black-bellied Sandgrouse also frequent these dry, sandy plains.
The Pre-Pyrenees lie to the North of Montsonís and we will drive into the Southern and lower part, close to the border between France and Spain. Here, the alpine and subalpine habitats are home to species of birds we will not yet have encountered and amongst the limestone gorges of Congost de Collegats and coniferous forests of the Parc Natural de Boumort, we will look for montane specialists such as Lammergeier, Alpine Chough, Citril Finch and Ortolan Bunting.
This exciting new tour has been designed by Limosa’s Spanish specialist Fernando Enrique and can be combined with our trip to Extremadura and Gredos to give a truly memorable Spanish extravaganza.
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