Non-birdwatching holiday in Spain: Part One

In the heat of the preparation and organisation of World Shorebirds Day and the Global Shorebird Counts, I forgot to add a summary of my first ever Spanish holiday. So here it comes…

While it wasn’t a birding holiday, thanks to my ever patient daughter, I could manage to add 3 life birds to my World and Western Palearctic list.

Juvenile Woodchat Shrike is on the hunt. Sony RX10 IV © Gyorgy Szimuly
A small flock of Pin-tailed Sandgrouse flew over our car at the lower slopes. Sony RX10 IV © Gyorgy Szimuly
Upper hillside. Sony RX10 IV © Gyorgy Szimuly

As travelled by car from the UK, I had chances to see the Spanish countryside and saw birds I don’t see often. After we passed the western side of Pyrenees, we visited a location where Dupont’s Lark has been reported several times on eBird. We spent the night in the wild east of Arbitas, Navarre. We had a nice walk in the morning and saw a few birds but sadly, the Dupont’s Lark was not among them.

This is the bird list from the area:

Rock Dove (Columba livia) 1
Common Swift (Apus apus) 3
Eurasian Thick-knee (Burhinus oedicnemus) 1
Little Ringed Plover (Charadrius dubius) 3
Common Sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos) 1
Wood Sandpiper (Tringa glareola) 1
Eurasian Marsh-Harrier (Circus aeruginosus) 2
Black Kite (Milvus migrans) 2
Lesser Kestrel (Falco naumanni) 1
Woodchat Shrike (Lanius senator)  1
Eurasian Magpie (Pica pica) 2
Calandra Lark (Melanocorypha calandra) 19
Crested Lark (Galerida cristata) 6
Bank Swallow (Riparia riparia) 14
Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica) 35
Cetti’s Warbler (Cettia cetti) 1
Zitting Cisticola (Cisticola juncidis) 13
European Stonechat (Saxicola rubicola) 1
Western Yellow Wagtail (Motacilla flava flava) 12
Eurasian Linnet (Linaria cannabina) 3
Corn Bunting (Emberiza calandra) 68

It was really nice to watch a bird composition different to what I can see on my local patches. I really love the rugged and arid landscapes and this small lake was surrounded by dry hills. As I drove up to the hills and saw a flock of Pin-tailed Sandgrouse. Sadly, they fed behind a fenced area but I saw them flying over the road. Sandgrouses are one of my favourite bird families.

Eurasian Griffon ruled the skies. Sony RX10 IV © Gyorgy Szimuly
Female Eurasian Kestrel over the hillside. Sony RX10 IV © Gyorgy Szimuly
European Bee-eaters hunted along the dirt road. Sony RX10 IV © Gyorgy Szimuly

Here is the eBird checklist from the upper hill area:

Rock Dove (Columba livia) 4
Common Wood-Pigeon (Columba palumbus) 11
Pin-tailed Sandgrouse (Pterocles alchata) 8
Eurasian Griffon (Gyps fulvus) 3
Eurasian Marsh-Harrier (Circus aeruginosus) 1
Red Kite (Milvus milvus) 3
Black Kite (Milvus migrans) 2
European Bee-eater (Merops apiaster) 11
Greater Short-toed Lark (Calandrella brachydactyla) 17
Calandra Lark (Melanocorypha calandra) 9
Crested Lark (Galerida cristata) 6
Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica) 19
Melodious Warbler (Hippolais polyglotta) 1
Sardinian Warbler (Sylvia melanocephala) 1
Eurasian Linnet (Linaria cannabina) 5
European Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis) 1
Corn Bunting (Emberiza calandra) 22

On the way to our apartment in El Campello, I gave finding a Dupont’s Lark another chance. I didn’t have any expectations really, as it was too late in the morning and was already scorching hot. As expected we couldn’t see much at the Reserva Onitológica El Planerón managed by SEO.

Sign post of the Reserva Ornitológica El Planerón with the iconic Dupont’s Lark. Sony RX10 IV © Gyorgy Szimuly
It would be rather fashionable to say this is the result of global warming but in fact, this has been happening every summer in large parts of Europe for decades. Sony RX10 IV © Gyorgy Szimuly
Reserva Onitológica El Planerón. Sony RX10 IV © Gyorgy Szimuly

eBird checklist from the Reserva Onitológica El Planerón (12:25 PM):

Eurasian Griffon (Gyps fulvus) 3
Iberian Grey Shrike (Lanius meridionalis) 1
Woodchat Shrike (Lanius senator)
Lesser Short-toed Lark (Alaudala rufescens) 36
Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica) 2
Northern Wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe)1

During the rest of the journey, I could only do incidental birding as we were running late. One of them was a short sandwich break with a few cool birds.

N-420, Montalbán Teruel, Aragón (40.8246,-0.8418)

Eurasian Griffon (Gyps fulvus) 12
Booted Eagle (Hieraaetus pennatus) 1
European Bee-eater (Merops apiaster) 2
Red-billed Chough (Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax) 42
Eurasian Crag-Martin (Ptyonoprogne rupestris) 4

Our accommodation in El Campello was lovely and more importantly a quiet place, near Alicante. Red-rumped Swallows and Pallid Swifts flew over the private villa and while having fun in the pool I enjoyed the close views of these birds.

Red-rumped Swallows were feeding over our apartment. Sony RX10 IV © Gyorgy Szimuly
Another Red-rumped Swallow shot from the villa. Sony RX10 IV © Gyorgy Szimuly

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