Monday, 29 February 2016

Vulture Extravaganza Catalonia Northern Spain

Along with Matt Wilson I did a 5 day trip to Northern Spain from 14th-19th February 2016. We weren't about to get a tan with overnight frosts, but what we did get was sunshine something in short supply in Northern England this winter. We actually paid out for this trip unusual for two northern tight arses, but it guaranteed close views of vultures. We were certain to see Griffons, maybe Black Vulture but the main target was Lammergeier or Bearded Vulture. Again these weren't guaranteed, in the event we saw hundreds of Griffons, maybe 20 Black Vulture and approx. 15 Lammergeier.

ALL PHOTOS © CARL CORBIDGE no unauthorised use.

Day one
We were met at the hotel and were driven up to the first hide at 6000 ft asl en-route we picked up a dead cow, the rangers collect any deceased beasts that would normally be incinerated and put them out for the vultures. As we approached the hide we could see vultures gathering, within 5 minutes we had seen all 3 species plus a cracking Golden Eagle and we weren't even in the hide. We then spent 8 hours (at zero degrees) in the hide photographing to our hearts content (and yippee not through glass). Cracking views and sounds of 3 species of vulture, hundreds of Raven, Red Fox, Spanish sub-species of Red Deer.

Gathering Griffons
Black Vulture



Griffons




Lammergeier Adult
Sub-adult Lammergeier





Raven
 
Spanish Red Deer








Day Two
Because we had such a good day yesterday we decided that we wouldn't waste too much time in the second hide. This one had a nice backdrop but we were photographing through glass which in the event wasn't too bad if the lens was right up to it. The same species were seen but in less numbers. We left at 12 and drove towards Zaragoza with the intention of finding an Eagle Owl, we saw a few bits and bobs en-route. Alas though Bully's star prize was no where to be seen.






Black Wheatear

Red Kite



Day 3 Belchite to Gallocanta

This was the worst weather of the trip and started a bit drizzly, a bit of snow at midday and sunshine at the end. We stopped off at a couple of cisterns but only found a trapped Natterjack toad which we released. The aim was to have a gander around the Lake at Gallocanta which is a wintering spot of thousands of Common Crane. Whilst photographing Cranes a small raptor had flown in it turned out to be a gorgeous male Merlin but flew off before a pick, we relocated it and got a record shot but it wouldn't let us get close enough. This was the best looking Merlin I have ever seen with a lot of orange on its chest. This was also supposed to be a good area for Great Bustard but none were seen. The day ended well when we went back to the Eagle Owl spot and this time found him high on the cliff.
 
 Black Redstart
 Corn Bunting
 Common Cranes




 
 Little Owl
 Record shot of a male Merlin
Natterjack Toad
 Eagle Owl

 
Sparrowhawk
 
Day 4 Belchite Plains to Mount Cara
Today we had a look around the plains of El Planeron I really wanted to see Pin Tailed Sandgrouse but could only find Black Bellied Sandgrouse but these were very shy and soon flew if approached too closely. We saw a cracking male Hen Harrier but too distant for pics, a Southern Grey Shrike, lots of larks including Calandra and Lesser Short Toed. Also 3-4 Marsh Harriers were seen. We then had a long drive to Mount Cara which is a good spot for Spanish Ibex nothing on the way to the summit where there was a bit of snow but on the way down we saw 3 females/young but no big males.

 Black Bellied Sandgrouse

 Common Buzzard
 Calandra Lark
 
 Chough
 El Planeron
 Southern Grey Shrike
 

 
 
 Spanish Ibex
 
 
 
 View to the coast from Mount Cara
Red Legged Partridge
 
 
SPECIES LISTS

Birds
Grey Heron
Great White Egret
White Stork
Lammergeier (Lifer)
Black Vulture (Lifer)
Griffon Vulture
Golden Eagle
Red Kite
Marsh Harrier
Hen Harrier
Common Buzzard
Sparrowhawk
Kestrel
Merlin
Red Legged Partridge
Common Crane
Black Bellied Sandgrouse
Eagle Owl (Lifer)
Little Owl
Thekla Lark
Lesser Short Toed Lark
Calandra Lark (Lifer)
Black Wheatear
Black Redstart
Stonechat
Robin
Blackbird
Sardinian Warbler
Dartford Warbler
Cettis Warbler
Southern Grey Shrike
Chough
Magpie
Carrion Crow
Raven
Serin
Spotless Starling

Mammals
Red Squirrel
Red Fox
Red Deer (Iberian)
Rabbit
Spanish Ibex

Amphibians
Natterjack Toad