Parc Natural dels Aiguamolls de L'Empordà & Catalunya

Casa Mila, Barcelona  Parc Natural dels Aiguamolls de L'Emporda  View north to the foothills of the Pyrenees

    3-17 June 2000

    Observers: F. Simpson




    The wetlands of the department of Alt Empordà in the province of Girona in northeast Spain are probably the best coastal area for breeding waterbirds in Spain after the Coto Doñana and the Ebro Delta. The fact that over 100 species breed in a relatively compact area of diverse habitats with a good infrastructure make it an excellent base for experiencing many specialities of the western Mediterranean. I decided to spend two weeks in the area after being impressed during a brief visit in July 1998. The first week I concentrated solely in the area around the Parc Natural dels Aiguamolls de L'Empordà (42º20N 03º10E). During the second week my brother and friend arrived with a car and, while we did more touristic things, I also birded nearby at Parc Natural del Cap de Creus, north of Cadaqués and in Andorra. The excellent Camping Nautic Alamata where I camped for the duration is right on the doorstep of the natural park and this means that the wildlife can be experienced from dawn to dusk with out any further travel. Although the area is relatively flat the landscape can be particularly beautiful amongst the marshes with the Mediterranean Sea on one side and the backdrop of the Pyrenees on the other. Weather was very warm to hot with blue skies for the most part with the exception of two or three days of crazy, stormy weather mid-trip.



    Bee-eater · Night Heron · Hoopoe · Savi's Warbler · Purple Heron · Purple Swamp-hen · Stone Curlew · White Stork · Fan-tailed Warbler · Great Reed Warbler · Little Bittern · Black-winged Stilt · Little Crake · Whiskered Tern · Montagu's Harrier · Short-toed Lark · Great Spotted Cuckoo · Golden Oriole · Great White Egret · Gull-billed Tern · Kentish Plover · Black Kite · Alpine Swift · Lesser Grey Shrike · Greater Flamingo · Squacco Heron · Collared Pratincole · Roller · Olivaceous Warbler · Short-toed Eagle · Woodchat Shrike · Blue Rock Thrush · Rock Sparrow · Thekla Lark · Pallid Swift · Black-eared Wheatear · Tawny Pipit · Mediterranean Shearwater · Cory's Shearwater · Lesser Kestrel · Crag Martin · Honey Buzzard · Ring Ouzel · Red-backed Shrike · Cirl Bunting · Slender-billed Gull · Avocet.



    Return flight from London Stansted to Barcelona El Prat with GO (now deceased) was £148. Quick rail connection from the airport to Sants Station in the Catalan capital from where I caught a clean, comfortable and hassle-free train (nice change from London) to Figueres (2hrs, 1290 Pts./€7.75). Did have to hang around for a bit for the local bus service from Figueres to Castelló d'Empúries which runs from the terminal near the town square (20 minutes or so, 150 Pts./€0.90). On reaching Castelló I had a cool drink in a bar where the friendly staff phoned me a taxi for the last leg of the journey (~10minutes) to the campsite between here and San Pere Pescador.




    Camped at the first class Camping Nautic Almata ( which boasts plenty of facilities including restaurant, bar, disco, car wash, washing and ironing facilities, foreign money exchange, etc, etc. It opens around mid-May and during my visit was still relatively peaceful and quiet but beware that during July and August the place is extremely packed with families. However, this is probably the least productive time to bird the marshes anyway.



    1.    Rebane, M. 1994. Where To Watch Birds in North & East Spain. Helm.
    2.    Svensson, L. et al. 1999. Bird Guide. HarperCollins.
    3.    Tolman, T. & Lewington, R. 1997. Butterflies of Britain & Europe. Collins.
    4.    Sterry, P. 2000. Complete Mediterranean Wildlife Photoguide. Collins.

    5.    Mapa topogràfica de Catalunya No. 4 (1:25000): Parc Natural del Aiguamolls de L'Empordà.




    Day 01          03/06/00       London > Barcelona > Figueres > Castelló d'Empúres > Parc Natural dels Aiguamolls de L'Empordá.
    Day 02          04/06/00       Parc Natural del Aiguamolls de L'Empordá: Reserva Natural Integral de Les Llaunes.
    Day 03          05/06/00       Aiguamolls de L'Empordá: Les Llaunes, Cortal Can Comas, Estany Europa, Estany d’en Turies.
    Day 04          06/06/00       Aiguamolls de L'Empordá: Reserva Natural Illa de Caramany - Fluvia, Sant Pere Pescador, Estany del Matà.
    Day 05          07/06/00       Aiguamolls de L'Empordá: Les Llaunes, Estany d’en Turies.
    Day 06          08/06/00       Aiguamolls de L'Empordá: Les Llaunes, El Cortalet > Castelló d’Empúries (GR 92 footpath).
    Day 07          09/06/00       Aiguamolls de L'Empordá: Les Llaunes > Reserva Natural Integral dels Estanys (Vilaüt).
    Day 08          10/06/00       Aiguamolls de L'Empordá: Rained out!!! Camping Nautic Almata.
    Day 09          11/06/00       Aiguamolls de L'Empordá > Besalú, Garrotxa.
    Day 10          12/06/00       Aiguamolls de L'Empordá > Montserrat > Cardona.
    Day 11          13/06/00       Aiguamolls de L'Empordá > Roses > Cadaqués > Parc Natural del Cap de Creus.
    Day 12          14/06/00       Aiguamolls de L'Empordá > Andorra.
    Day 13          15/06/00       Aiguamolls de L'Empordá > Barcelona.
    Day 14          16/06/00       Aiguamolls de L'Empordá: Les Llaunes, Cortal Can Comas, Estany Europa, Estany d’en Turies.
    Day 15          17/06/00       Aiguamolls de L'Empordá > Castelló d'Empúres > Figueres > Barcelona > London.



    Saturday 3 June 2000
    London Stansted > Barcelona El Prat > Figueres > Castelló d'Empúries > Camping Nautic Almata, Parc Natural dels Aiguamolls de l'Empordà

    Strong heat haze over the runway. Magpies and House Sparrows on the runway and around the terminal building. Many pierid butterflies.

    Species noted from the train through marginal farmland and suburban habitats on the edge of the city: Stonechat, Swift, Magpie, and Starling.

    BARCELONA > FIGUERES, 1620-1815h
    Species noted from train journey through various agricultural areas: Swifts extremely numerous particularly over rivers and around the edge of towns. Yellow-legged Gulls over the river in Girona. Bee-eater hawking insects over a barley field between Girona and Figueres. Several Turtle Doves on the outskirts of Figueres. Goldfinch, Warbler sp., Magpie, Swallow, House Martin, Wood Pigeon, Feral Pigeon, Starling, House Sparrow.

    FIGUERES, 1820h
    Had to wait over an hour on a bus which goes to about ever village in L’alt Empordà area. Several Serins singing from trees in the town square.

    Screaming parties of Swifts racing over the old town. Numerous House Martins breeding.

    Several Black-winged Stilts and Mallards in wetland areas. At least 10 Night Herons counted passing overhead. Fan-tailed Warblers song-flighting.

    Arrived just before reception closed. Nightingales singing all over the campsite in a parkland-like habitat of olive and strawberry trees, etc. Nightingales holding territory along the main drive and just above tents and caravans. Four singing males between the reception building and my pitch in zone six. As I began to pitch the tent, two Night Herons passed overhead, followed by a flock of 15 Little Egrets. The boundary fence of the integral part of the reserve is also the boundary of the campsite - just a few metres from the tent - and the sights and sounds of a large expanse of wild wetland were all around. Great Reed, Reed, Fan-tailed and Savi’s Warblers singing from the reed bed. Goldfinches and House Sparrows in small trees around the pitches. Yellow-legged Gulls passing overhead to roost. Cicadas and frogs calling from dusk.


    Sunday 4 June 2000
    Parc Natural del Aiguamolls de L'Empordá: Reserva Natural Integral de Les Llaunes
    Blue sky, 26ºC, dense mist rolled in off the sea causing overcast conditions between 1300-1500h.

    Woke early, around 0600h, to a Nightingale singing in the tree next to the tent. Set up minidisc to record the dawn chorus. A Hoopoe singing/calling close by, at times inaudible due to a much louder singing Cuckoo. Nearby reedbeds alive with warbler song from Reed, Great Reed and Fan-tailed Warblers. Goldfinches singing around the campsite. Got up at 0700h and went for a shower. Night Herons (13) flying overhead. Egrets, herons and gulls making their way across the marshes to feeding grounds. Nightingales singing all over the campsite. A Swallow’s nest in the wooden supports of the shower block. Adult birds constantly flying in and out, bringing food to a well grown brood of four chicks.

    A saline lagoon surrounded by glasswort and saltwort vegetation, five minutes walk from the campsite. Observations from the trail leading to the hide: Many Nightingales singing - two juveniles in a small willow tree. Crested Larks (2-3) in a field short turf, bare areas and longer grassland with Yellow Wagtails (Ad+juv). Magpies common. Goldfinches common. Several displaying Fan-tailed Warblers, some landing right at the path side a few feet away. Two singing male Stonechats perched on the top of large reed stems. Savi’s Warbler ‘reeling’. Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui) basking on the track - already very warm. Hoopoe singing near the campsite reception building. Several Cuckoos singing. Observations from the hide: Purple Heron, flying left, 0800h. Several Swifts overhead. A Nightingale singing almost inside the hide on a branch right at the window. Purple Heron, flying left, 0809h. Another Purple Heron down onto lagoon-side reeds at 0811h. Marsh Harrier flying low over the reed bed with nesting material (dried grasses) trailing below. Female later hunting around the edges of the water. Great Crested Grebe (1), Moorhen (1), Coot (2), Mallards (13) in eclipse plumage. Black-winged Stilts (2) flying right at 0926h. Little Egret overhead at 0833h. Night Heron flying right at 0957h. Numerous warblers along edges of the reed beds - Reed and Great Reed identified. Yellow-legged Gull perched on very tall post. Starlings overhead. Purple Heron circling at 0900h. Went for breakfast. Great Tit at campsite shop.

    Yellow Wagtails numerous in wet meadowland. Probably 30+ pairs breeding in one large field. Around 20 nesting/feeding Black-winged Stilts. Little Egrets (4) loafing/roosting. One occasionally feeding in an area of long waterlogged grassland, at times chasing prey with wings raised. Hesperiidae species nectaring on a thistle. Green-veined Whites (Pieris napi) numerous. Several Savi’s Warblers ‘reeling’ in this habitat.

    Purple Swamp-Hens (Gallinule) breeding at this lagoon. One pair nesting in full view at the waters edge. Also: Coot, Mallard, Moorhen, and Great Crested Grebe. Fan-tailed Warblers very common - monotonous calls constant. Grey Heron overhead at 1105h. Black-winged Stilt, flying left, 1109h. Great Reed Warbler singing from a tree next to the hide. Marsh Harrier hunting over the reed beds. Purple Heron, flying right, 1114h. Purple Heron (2), flying left, 1116h. Black-winged Stilt, overhead 1117h. several singing Goldfinches in the surrounding scrub. Reed Warblers ‘popping-up’ on the heads of reeds below the hide - song now died down at this time of day. Yellow-legged Gull flew in and alighted on man-made island. Green-veined Whites numerous. Red-veined Darters (Sympetrum fonscolombei) and other sympetrums common.

    Shallow lagoon, now beginning to dry up. Cattle Egret (3) amongst the Little Egrets (14). Grey Heron on the muddy bank. Crested Lark running around the short turf and dried-out areas of the lagoon. Several Mallards, Coot (pr+b/3), Yellow-legged Gull roosting. Bee-eaters (2) hawking insects from 1220h. One bird almost caught a pierid species of butterfly. Sparrowhawk overhead. Many large fish feeding along the lagoon edge. Two or three Stonechats in the scrub and in open areas with rushy tussocks. Many Nightingales singing here - more mature trees and thickets in this area. Tree Sparrows buzzing back and forth in front of the hide. Male Kestrel hovering briefly over the lagoon edge. Another single Coot with a newly hatched juvenile. Also: Fan-tailed Warbler, Yellow Wagtail, Moorhen, Magpie, Swallow, Swift, Starling. Cetti’s Warbler singing. A second Grey Heron arrived at 1232h. One of the Bee-eaters later concentrating its feeding on the ground on a dry, dusty eroded slope next to dust-bathing House Sparrows. Kentish Plover (1) and Black-winged Stilt (1) overhead at 1242h, Stonechat (b/3). Stone Curlew appeared from a dried out ditch onto the short turf. Then standing motionless before settling down to roost. Black-lined Skimmers (Orthetrum cancellatum) common. Common Darters (Sympetrum striolatum) and Southern Darter (Sympetrum meridioale) noted. Broad-bodied Chasers (Libellula depressa) and Four-spotted Chasers (Libellula quadrimaculata) also present.

    Excellent panoramic views over the reserve and the whole Empordàn plain from one of the three rice silos now converted into an observation tower. Estanys del Matà: Over 100 Black-winged Stilts feeding and nesting on the disused rice fields below. Flock of 20+ Dunlin and several Kentish Plovers in the muddy areas. Yellow Wagtail numerous. Little Egret feeding. Visible elsewhere: Cattle Egrets (18) in a field of beef cattle. One bird on the back of a cow resting on the ground. Hoopoe flying over dry field giving a great plan view. White Stork (3) feeding in the area - in muddy field corners and large ditches. Many Swifts hawking around the tower. A few House Martins. House Sparrows and Starlings nesting in the smaller towers. Very useful for getting eye level views of flying birds such as passing Purple Herons and White Storks. Fan-tailed Warblers song-flighting up to the level of the top platform. Cetti’s, Great Reed and Savi’s Warblers singing below. Another Hoopoe flying by, landing the on tarmac road between campsite and tower.

    From the trail: A minimum of 49 Little Stints and seven Curlew Sandpipers feeding in mud and shallows. A stunning Scarlet Dragonfly (Crocothemis erythraea) hovering close by.

    Nightingales numerous in the thickets bordering the path and canal. At least 20 singing males. Cleopatra (Gonepteryx cleopatra) butterflies (2). Speckled Wood (Pararge aegeria aegeria) and Holly Blue (Celastrina argiolus) common. Sardinian Warbler, singing male. Cetti’s Warblers, 3-4 singing males. Tree Sparrows nesting in larger trees. Serin, Greenfinch and Goldfinch singing in the canopy.

    Freshwater lagoon at the information centre. Little Bittern (m) flying low over the lagoon just as arrived in the hide. Warbler song beginning to increase again from Savi’s, Great Reed, Fan-tailed and Cetti’s Warblers. Marsh Harrier (male) arrived and began hunting - immediately mobbed by a pair of Lapwings and several Swallows. Cuckoo singing. Little Grebes calling. Passing Yellow-legged Gulls mobbed by nesting Black-winged Stilts. Another Little Bittern (m) flew out of vegetation just in front of the hide, crossing the lagoon and giving good views on landing. Disappeared down into a tall dense stand of reeds. Two adult Mute Swans arrived at 1705h. Grey and Purple Herons passing overhead. Another Little Bittern (f) quickly followed the first into the same site, two minutes later - probably a nest site. A few broods of Mallards about. Many White Storks nesting in the area in specially provided artificial platforms.

    Stone Curlew (2) in the dry area of the field behind El Cortalet Information Centre. Several Black-winged Stilts nesting in the wetter areas. Jackdaw (7) - a few chased off by the Stone Curlews. Up to 10 birds present at the Bee-eater colony in the sand bank. Crested Larks common here. Greenfinches on the track. Another seven Bee-eaters over the next field and perched along the wire fencing.

    Estany del Cortalet from Aguait del RoncairesEL CORTALET: AGUAIT DEL RONCAIRES 1835h
    Greater Flamingo present - probably a late migrant or wandering non-breeder from the Camargue or Ebro Delta. Several White Storks wading around with the flamingo. Little Crake calling from just in front of the hide. A pair of Black-winged Stilts with two chicks. Purple Swamp-Hen (ad) present. A few Bee-eaters hawking over the reeds. Minimum of 105 Mallards present. Swallows, Swifts and House Martins overhead. A further 57 Mallards arrived to roost by 1925h. Whiskered Tern, flying left at 1928h. More Mallards arriving by the minute. Many Black-winged Stilts feeding in the shallows. Usual warblers singing.

    Melodious Warblers and Blackcap singing near El Cortalet. Hoopoe carrying food, perched in dead tree. Green Woodpecker heard calling. Kestrel hunting over fields with the horses. Good views of a Cetti’s Warbler - the trail being quiet and free of visitors now. Two Bee-eaters hawking over the scrape at Casot de La Bomba - another small nesting colony here. Pheasants calling. Blue Tit, Serin, Tree Sparrow, and Cuckoo also noted. A male Montagu’s Harrier passing overhead. Sardinian Warbler with three juveniles in scrub.


    Monday 5 June 2000
    Parc Natural dels Aiguamolls de L'Empordá: Les Llaunes, Cortal Can Comas, Estany Europa, Estany d’en Turies

    Three species of lizard observed along the trail: Several small brown coloured lizards with very long tails – Spanish or Large Psammodromus (Psammodromus hispanicus/algirus). Several small green coloured lizards with dark band running along side of body - Common Wall Lizard (Podarcis muralis). One very large and vibrant green coloured species near the Palleja hide - Ocellated Lizard (Lacerta lepida). Cuckoo singing from a dead tree in the marsh adjacent to the Palleja hide. Stonechats (pr+b/3) in the open areas along the trail. Butterflies noted: Clouded Yellow (Cloias crocea), Iberian Marbled White (Melanargia lachesis), Holly Blue. 'Club-tailed’ type dragonfly (Gomphus pulchellus) sitting on the track at Mas Matà. Common Darter, Black-lined Skimmer.

    Black-winged Stilts with chicks on the stony track. Two pairs with four to five juveniles. Adults extremely noisy and agitated by my presence - flying constantly just overhead. Many Crested Larks singing. Short-toed Larks, 2 singing males. Skylark, 1 singing male. A breeding colony of Bee-eaters found in the Closes de Mar - at least 10-12 birds around a two feet high earth bank in an area of open farmland. Watched catching bees and wasps and hitting them of the branches of a dead tree to remove the stings. Male birds observed feeding female in pair bond rituals. Other species noted in the area: Nightingales, Kestrel, Cuckoo, Stonechat, Collared Dove (3) at Can Comes farm. Wood Pigeon, Feral Rock Dove. Butterflies common along the track: Southern Marbled Skipper (Carcharodus boeticus), Bath White (Pontia daplidice), Swallowtail (Papilio machaon), Small White (Artogeia rapae), Large White (Pieris brassicae), Dark Green Fritillary (Argynnis aglaja), Small Copper (Lycaena phlaeas), Iberian Marbled White, Southern Gatekeeper (Pyronia cecilia), Lulworth Skipper (Thymelicus acteon), Clouded Yellow. Green Woodpecker feeding in an open area of olive trees.

    Yellow-legged Gulls (87) loafing around the edges of the lagoon in the mid-day heat. Black-headed Gulls (pr) and Little Grebe (pr) showing territorial behaviour. Black-winged Stilts (min 40) with several small chicks among them. A few pairs of Coots, Moorhens and Mallards. Crested Larks on the dried-up shores. Cattle Egret (1). Whiskered Tern, flying right at 1500h. Bee-eaters passing overhead and feeding on insects just above the water surface.

    Hoopoe perched in a dead tree with food for young. Cattle Egret (1). Corn Buntings singing. Silver-studded Blue (Plebejus argus).

    Great Spotted Cuckoo and Red-legged Partridge observed.

    Salt or brackish lagoon with plenty of Glassworts and Sea Purslane vegetation. Kentish Plover, Hoopoe, Crested Lark, Marsh Harrier (f), Kestrel (f), Yellow-legged Gull, Little Egret (12) and several Stonechats. A few pairs of Black-winged Stilts, Cattle Egrets passing, White Storks passing, Fan-tailed Warblers common, Skylarks singing, Short-toed Lark singing Butterflies noted: Iberian Marbled White, Small White, Large White, Small Heath (Coeonympha pamphilus), Berger’s Clouded Yellow (Colias alfacariensis), Wall Brown (Lasiommata megera), and Baton Blue (Pseudophilotes baton). Another two Great Spotted Cuckoos just outside the hide. A pair if Red-legged Partridges in a harvested cereal field. Two small earth mounds (less than two feet high) with two Bee-eater nest holes each. Flock of 46 juvenile Starlings.

    A male Little Bittern in the same spot as 4/6/00. Purple Swamp-hen present.

    Masses of Swifts beginning to build to c2000 birds around 2000h. White Wagtail (2), Gadwall (2ff), Teal (1m, 2ff), Marsh Harrier (m), Little Bittern (1). Good views of a feeding Night Heron. A full grown adult Wild Boar (Sus scrofa) trotting through the lagoon. Fallow Deer (Dama dama) (3) wading through the shallows between cover. Mallard roost forming. Several Storks and Stilts feeding in the shallows. Whiskered Tern, flying right at 2010h. Mute Swan (pr), Little Grebes, Moorhens, Little Egret (2), Swallows (c50), Coots. Breeding colony of Grey Herons with many adult-sized juveniles.

    At least 15 White Storks nests visible. Cattle Egrets (5) feeding with cows. Fallow Deer (1). Cetti’s Warbler singing. Savi’s Warbler singing in the marsh on the opposite side of the track.

    Corn Buntings singing in rushy pasture. Cuckoo singing. Swifts hawking overhead. Blackcap feeding on berries in hedgerow. Blackbird singing - fairly scarce on the reserve, Stonechat, Kestrel and Tree Sparrow. Singing male Sardinian Warbler at same location as last night, 2103h.

    Purple Herons and Night Herons passing left over the marshes. A male Marsh Harrier hunting before dusk. Yellow Wagtail, Crested Lark and Cuckoo present. 2123h: An adult male Montagu’s Harrier hunting in front of the hide, particularly over reed beds and scrub. Little Egret (7), flying right at 2124h. Purple Heron flying right at 2125h. Pheasants calling, Tree Sparrows calling and Cetti’s Warblers singing.


    Tuesday 6 June 2000
    Parc Natural del Aiguamolls de L'Empordá: Reserva Natural Illa de Caramany - Fluvia, Sant Pere Pescador, Estany del Matà
    Partly cloudy, 25ºC, very stong northerly (tramuntana) wind at times.

    A large clearing with private holiday homes in old oak woodland: Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers present - a female feeding a juvenile. Bee-eaters, Green Woodpecker, Nightingale and several Swallows. Spotted Flycatcher feeding from a large tree over-hanging the river. Goldfinches numerous in this habitat as elsewhere. Cetti’s Warblers singing from mature woodland. Long-tailed Tit, Blue Tit, Great Tit. Little Egret overhead.

    Area of poplar plantations: Golden Oriole (f) flying low over a meadow between two poplar plantations. More Bee-eaters in this area with Cattle Egrets and Swallows also present.

    Edge of a field of sunflowers: Colony of Bee-eater, Greenfinch, House Sparrows and Hoopoes feeding.

    El Fluvià (river): Mallard, Coot, Feral Rock Dove, Yellow-legged Gull. Swifts, Swallows and House Martins overhead. Sand Martin colonies common along certain areas of the riverbank. Serins singing from gardens in San Pere Pescador. A Hoopoe feeding on the lawn of one large garden. Collard Doves singing from T.V. aerials. Purple Heron passing overhead. Goldfinches (mostly juveniles) feeding on thistles in a waste area/undeveloped plot between two houses.

    Scrub and poplars on the other riverbank, upstream of San Pere Pescador: Melodious Warblers, Cetti’s Warblers and Nightingales singing. Green Woodpecker feeding on the ground below an apple orchard.

    Hoopoe feeding on a lawn in a garden centre along the road out of the village. Ortolan Bunting singing from the edge of an apple orchard, 200 metres further along. Bee-eater catching insects over an area of wheat production. Also a Common Kestrel here. Picked up a large white heron flying over which dropped height and landed in a nearby field c400 metres - Great White Egret! Crested Lark whistling from a farm track crossing a cereal field.

    Purple Heron overhad. Nightingales singing from scrub. Fan-tailed Warbler, Yellow Wagtail, Stonechat, Starling, Kestrel, Song Thrush, Greenfinch, Serin, Barn Swallow, House Martin, Goldfinch, House Sparrow, and Yellow-legged Gull noted.

    ESTANYS DEL MATÀ 1910-2105h
    Little Stint (30+). Curlew Sandpiper (5+). Ringed Plover (1). Several Sand Martins feeding in the company of Barn Swallows. Cattle Egret (38). Little Egret (13). White Stork (3). Purple Heron (1). Grey Heron (1). Black-winged Stilt (100+). Whiskered Tern (7 ads + 2 juvs). Hoopoe feeding by a cattle trough.

    Movements: Purple Heron flew right followed by a Grey Heron flying left and then seven Night Herons back and forth. A total of 53 Starlings flew past to a roost site in the reedbed during the fifteen minutes. Tree Sparrow noted.


    Wednesday 7 June 2000
    Parc Natural del Aiguamolls de L'Empordá: Les Llaunes, Estany d’en Turies.
    Blue sky, 26-27ºC, northerly wind decreasing.

    Black Kite circling high overhead. Marsh Harrier hunting. Purple Heron (1, flying left, 1231h). Swallowtail passed by at 1240h. Great Reed Warbler singing. Mallard (6), Coot (4), Yellow Wagtails passing, Marsh Harrier (2) hunting from 1250h. Purple Heron overhead at 1241h. Kingfisher c40-50 metres up in a dead tree above the reedbed opposite Mas Matà. This is the highest above the ground I have seen one perched.

    ESTANYS DEL MATÀ (old rice fields) 1300-1340h
    Gull-billed Terns (2), both adult birds, now present. Much larger than Whiskered Terns, paler upperparts, large/heavy beak and more extensive black cap. Also new in: Black-tailed Godwit (3), Wood Sandpiper (1), Redshank (1), and Kentish Plover (1). Whiskered Tern (7-8), Ringed Plover (2), Black-winged Stilt (100+), Little Stint (30+). Plus the other usual waterbirds present. Sand Martin, Swift, Swallow, House Martin, Yellow Wagtail, Savi’s Warbler, Goldfinch, Pheasant, Nightingale, Stonechat.

    Alpine Swift (2) north overhead at 1411h. Reed Warbler, Purple Heron, Serin, Swift, Cetti’s Warbler, White Stork, Grey Heron, Fan-tailed Warbler, House Sparrow, Stonechat, Coot, Nightingale, Goldfinch, Yellow Wagtail, Black-winged Stilt, Sardinian Warbler, Hoopoe, Swallow, Kestrel, Melodious Warbler, Great Reed Warbler, Pheasant, Cattle Egret, Greenfinch, Little Egret, Marsh Harrier, Mallard and Cuckoo all observed.

    Pair of Linnets in the open area of fields/pasture and scrub. Butterflies noted: Iberian Marbled White, Orange Tip (Anthocharis cardamines), Large Skipper (Ochlodes venatus), Holly Blue, Small White, Large White, Queen of Spain Fritillary (Issoria lathonia), Small Heath, Speckled Wood and Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta). Sardinian Warblers calling and Serins singing. Corn Buntings singing. Fan-tailed Warblers singing. Tree Sparrows nesting in dead trees. Crested Lark (2) on the track. Nightingales singing. Swifts overhead. Stonechats common. Bee-eater, Reed Warbler, Magpie, Cuckoo, House Sparrow, Greenfinch and Blackbird also noted.

    At least four Whiskered Terns feeding over the freshwater lagoon. Female Marsh Harrier mobbed by Black-winged Stilts, Yellow-wagtails and Swallows. Gadwall (f+b/3), Little Grebe (pair), Purple Gallinule (1), Coot (b/1). Great Reed Warbler singing from the very small island in front of the hide. Bee-eaters and Black-winged Stilts passing all the time. White Storks circling. Mallard (f+b/9), Grey Heron, Little Egret, Cuckoo, Greenfinch, Sand Martin (30+), Savi’s Warbler, House Martin, Mute Swan (pair), Fallow Deer (3), Yellow-legged Gull, Magpie and Swift noted. A pair of Marsh Harriers flew down into the reedbed - probable nest site c300m away.

    Pallid Swift (2) heading north, low over head. Clouded Yellows common. Bee-eater, Crested Lark, Stonechat, Skylark, Linnet, Yellow Wagtail. Stone Curlew disturbed from sandy soil beside the track.

    Great Spotted Cuckoo perched in scrub around 300 metres away for 30 minutes before flying off in an area of mainly tamarisks, olives and holm oak. Black-winged Stilt (b/2), Kentish Plover (1), Mallard (3), Little Egret (7). Stonechats common, Skylarks singing, Yellow-legged Gull (2), Nightingale, Fan-tailed Warbler, Magpie, at least (50) Swifts overhead, one positively identified as a Pallid Swift. Another Great Spotted Cuckoo perched in a tree on the track leading to the hide. Took off and flew straight towards me, passing within a few metres. Red-legged Partridge (1). Eventually found a Lesser Grey Shrike at 1935h. Bird first observed flying from reserva integral perimeter fence to isolated line of wind beaten (and some dead) trees. Difficult to follow as it moved between trees but eventually settled on a small dead tree. Great views obtained. At 1949h it looked as if it was choking but then coughed up a small pellet. After it had disappeared around eight, I went to look at the pellet and found masses of pellets and droppings below the tree. Obviously it is a regular spot. Pellets composed mainly of beetle wing cases. Also some bits of small rodents so probably used by other shrike species. Later watched the bird at closer range on the fence (with a Stone Curlew in the background in the same ‘scope field of view). It darted off, taking some prey on the sandy soil. Lapwing (2), Painted Lady (1).

    A pair of Purple Swamp-Hens present. Juvenile Night Heron feeding along the edge of one of the islands. Gadwall (f+b/3), Mallard (100+), Teal (2prs), Mute Swan (pr). Adult Night Heron in at 2114h. Black-winged Stilt (22) flying left at 2217h. Great Reed, Cetti’s and Reed Warblers singing. White Wagtail (1). Kestrel overhead. Several Grey Herons and White Storks feeding. Night Heron (3) flying left at 2130h. Swallow flock overhead numbering over 100 birds at 2130h. Made some sound recordings on minidisc. Night Heron (6) overhead near the Bomba hide. Tawny Owl hunting along the hedgerow and scrub in the open area along the trail to the old rice paddies. Greater Flamingo (2) flying in from the west to the reserve at 2220h.


    Thursday 8 June 2000
    Parc Natural del Aiguamolls de L'Empordá: Les Llaunes, El Cortalet > Castelló d’Empúries (GR 92 footpath).
    Blue sky, max 27ºC, light easterly wind.

    WALK TO MAS MATÀ 0700h
    Made some sound recordings onto minidisc. Greater Flamingo (3) on the disused rice paddies at Mas Matà.

    Orphean Warbler (pr) observed just metres away, flitting about the scrub and trees. Water Rail calling from the large reed-covered channel under the hide walkway. Reed Warblers all over the reedbeds – singing from the tops at this time of the morning. Great Reed Warblers singing from small bushes on more prominent positions than there smaller relatives.

    Gull-billed Tern (1), Whiskered Tern (2), Curlew Sandpiper (2), Little Stint (min 10), Redshank (3), Kentish Plover (ad + juv), Black-tailed Godwit (3), and Ringed Plover (2).

    Pheasant (f+b/2). Meadow Brown (Maniola jurtina), Large White, Large Skipper, Speckled Wood, Holly Blue, Small White. Red-veined Darters (S. fonscolombei) numerous. One stork nest with three large juveniles.

    Footpath through agricultural areas of wheat, sunflowers and orchards, etc. Hoopoe perched on telegraph wire at a farm near El Cortalet. Another Hoopoe singing 500 metres along the road. Jackdaw (2) overhead. Turtle Doves singing. In hedgerow: Nightingale, Cetti’s Warbler, Goldfinch and House Sparrow. Crested Larks running in the field furrows of a young sunflower crop. Barn Swallow, Common Swift, House Martin and Magpie overhead. Masses of butterflies nectaring on bramble growing along the hedgerow: Iberian Marbled White, Large White, Small White, Holly Blue, Scarce Swallowtail (Iphiclides podalirius), Speckled Wood, Large Skipper, Wall, and Clouded Yellow. Quail calling from farmland around the border of a young sunflower and wheat field. Purple Heron, Bee-eater and Starling overhead. Another Quail calling from a wheat field 100 metres further on. White Stork and Feral Pigeon overhead. Hummingbird Hawk Moth (Macroglossum stellatarum) nectaring on trackside flowers. Blackbirds in apple orchards. Serins song-flighting from poplar trees. Carrion Crow near Castelló. Nightingale singing from apple trees in an orchard near the town. Yellow Wagtails in maize crop.

    Hobby (ad) watched circling over the edge of the town, mobbed by Swallows before diving down into a lightly wooded area. Crested Larks and Serins fairly common around the town.

    Stonechats in sunflower fields. Hoopoe calling at Cortal d’Avinyó. Tree Sparrows in the apple orchards.

    Whiskered Tern (7), Black-tailed Godwit (1), Black-winged Stilt (8), Lapwing (3), Gadwall (f), Cuckoo singing, Greylag Goose (1) and Mute Swan (pr). At least 157 Mallards in view – most males now in eclipse plumage. A female Marsh Harrier watched carrying nesting material of dry grasses into the same site where activity was noted yesterday –an area where the reeds have been left uncut last autumn, less than 100 metres from the hide. On the seaward side is a line of scrub and trees. Later observed regularly carrying in large twigs, stems and dry reed-canes – one twice the length of the harrier’s body. The male arrived at 1941h, circled over the area and settled down at the nest site. White Stork (2). Two singing male Great Reed Warblers in front of the hide. Cattle Egrets moving overhead. Coot. Moorhen. Reed, Cetti’s and Fan-tailed Warblers singing. Goldfinch. White Wagtail. Starling. Yellow Wagtail. House Sparrow. Swift. Barn Swallow. House Martin. Magpie. Yellow-legged Gull. Grey Heron. Nightingale. Bee-eater. Little Egret. Jackdaw. Night Heron (circling at 2007h). Water Rail (calling). Purple Swamp-hen. Little Ringed Plover passed at 2023h. Black-headed Gull. Sand Martin. Blackbird.

    Stone Curlew (pr) observed at fairly close range. Weird-looking birds – the eyes are just not bird-like, more feline. Green Woodpecker perched on the ruined building, 1 km further along the trail. Bee-eaters dust-bathing in dry soil.

    Observation around a freshly cut hay field, c100 metres from centre: Another pair of Stone Curlews, White Stork (2), Cattle Egret (1) and several Tree Sparrow broods. Minimum of 48 Cattle Egrets roosting scrub around the El Cortalet lagoon – observed from the Les Gantes hide. Purple Swamp-hens (pr) perched about six feet up in the reeds on a flattened platform. More Cattle Egrets arrived to roost at 2130h including a Squacco Heron – an adult bird, landing right at the top giving good views. Also a few Little Egrets.

    MAS MATÀ  2205-2230h
    Collared Pratincole hawking insects at dusk over the old rice paddies – mainly over open water but also over adjacent marshy ground. First picked put as it flew close past the fence showing distinctive dark wings, white rump and forked tail. Also a Common Sandpiper (1) new on. Black-tailed Godwit (4). Night Heron (3). Marsh Frog (Rana ridibunda), Common Tree Frog (Hyla arborea), and Stripeless Tree Frog (Hyla meridionalis) found.


    Friday 9 June 2000
    Parc Natural del Aiguamolls de L'Empordá: Les Llaunes > Reserva Natural Integral dels Estanys (Vilaüt).
    Blue sky, partly cloudy after 2000h, max 26ºC, light southerly wind.

    Species noted: Cuckoo, Stonechat, Nightingale, Reed Warbler, Savi’s Warbler, Black-winged Stilt, Pheasant, Whiskered Tern, Little Stint, Mallard, Purple Heron, Crested Lark, Serin, Yellow Wagtail, Coot, Starling, Garden Warbler singing near Palleja hide, Cetti’s Warbler, Kingfisher in the channel at the Palleja hide, Emperor Dragonfly (Anax imperator), Little Grebe, Moorhen, Coot, Fan-tailed Warbler, Swift, Great Reed Warbler, Blackcap, Cattle Egret, Tree Sparrow, Goldfinch, House Sparrow, Yellow-legged Gull, Swallow, House Martin, Great Tit, White Stork and Greenfinch.

    Stone Curlews (pr) in a field of tilled soil c200 metres along the road leading out of the main reserve entrance at El Cortalet. Crested Lark and White Wagtails along the road. Tree Sparrow. Goldfinch. Bee-eater. Swift. House Sparrow. Olivaceous Warbler singing from the top of thick, scrubby hedgerow and the telegraph wire running low overhead. A little like a Reed Warbler and bill quite proportionately large. Song fairly fast with fluty and harsh note run together in phrase lasting five to ten seconds. Parts of the phrases repeated in cycles. White Stork. Serin. Starling. Sardinian Warbler with food. Little Owl watched at close range in an apple orchard along the trail. Perched on a large stump used to connect wire supports along rows of trees. Looked straight at me for around two minutes before flying off high into a poplar.

    Got lost several times trying to follow the GR signposts – not well marked through the agricultural areas of sunflowers, wheat, maize, etc. Hoopoe, Nightingale, Barn Swallow, White Stork, Tree Sparrow, Collared Dove, Magpie and House Sparrow noted. Roller observed flying between large isolated mature trees bordering a field of sunflowers in the Closa de la Vila area. Soon after a Short-toed Eagle flapped leisurely overhead. A total of 15 Bee-eaters counted along this section of the trail. Eventually reached the second main reserve area, the Reserva Integral 1.

    Marsh Harrier (m) searching over a large cereal field on the edge of the wetland area here. Olivaceous Warbler watched singing from a deciduous area of rowan and ash. Cetti’s and Reed Warblers singing in the second channel at the area known as the Three Bridges. A Purple Heron in the next channel.

    ESTANY DE VILAÜT 1415-1643h
    The lagoon and wetland area here was completely dried up. Woodchat Shrike observed feeding from a dead tree, c150 metres from the hide. The shrike was watching the surrounding patchy terrain of bare and grassy areas before regularly flying down to the ground and returning to its perch with prey. At least two Short-toed Eagles hunting in the area. One bird was flying high with and dwarfing a Kestrel. Several Bee-eaters in the area. Hoopoes – three observed feeding together in sandy soil below a large cork oak tree. Great Spotted Cuckoo (ad) disturbed from a large cork oak tree – flew off uttering harsh calls. The hide was at least good for exceptionally close views of breeding Corn Buntings, Thekla Lark and Tree Sparrows. Nightingale, Fan-tailed Warbler, Swift, Goldfinch, House Sparrow, Barn Swallow, House Martin also noted. A pair of White Storks with a nest on top of a pylon. At least 15 Swallowtail butterflies counted in five minutes in the Tres Ponts Three Bridges area – several canalised waterways cutting through an impressive reeedbed area. Several Painted Ladies and Clouded Yellows, Common Blue (Polyommatus icarus), Peacock (Inachis io), Iberian Marbled White, Wall, Small Skipper (Thymelicus sylvestris), Essex Skipper (Thymelicus lineola) Speckled Wood, Southern Marbled Skipper and Meadow Brown. Flock of 18 Cattle Egrets feeding in an open, undulating area of recently mown hay meadows broken up with large boulders and rough grassland. Spanish Gatekeeper (Pyronia bathsheba) observed on the road where the GR-92 footpath crosses the Castelló-Roses road. Female Marsh Harrier hunting over a field of oats. The pair of Short-toed Eagles appeared overhead again, some distance from the first area, between 1725 and 1736h – great views of the face and underparts. Also noted in the more intensive cereal areas: Crested Lark, Kestrel, Serin, Goldfinch, Fan-tailed Warbler, Iberian Marbled White abundant along the verges, House Sparrow, Barn Swallow, Swift, House Martin and Tree Sparrow.

    EL CORTALET 1935h
    Comma on bramble trailing along the path.

    Estany del Cortalet from Aguait de les GantesEL CORTALET, AGUAIT DE LES GANTES 2003-2127h
    Black Tern (ad) hawking over the lagoon. Much more energetic feeder than the Whiskered Terns. Erratic twists and turns and sudden dips to the water surface. It covered a larger area when feeding too – hovering much less over particular areas as the Whiskered Terns (two present) do. Top of the Bee-eater colony visible from here. Greater Flamingo (3). Night Heron, Black-winged Stilt, Mallard (b/9, b/2), Coot, Cuckoo, Barn Swallow, White Stork, Nightingale, Little Bittern (m + f), Yellow-legged Gull, Swift, House Sparrow, Cetti’s Warbler, Cattle Egret, Grey Heron, Bee-eater, White Wagtail, Goldfinch, Little Egret, Greenfinch, Great Reed Warbler, Marsh Harrier, Kestrel, Wood Pigeon, Mute Swan, Sand Martin, Starling, House Martin, Purple Heron, Serin, Little Grebe, Reed Warbler, Magpie, Shoveler (male in breeding plumage), Purple Swamp-hen (pr), Savi’s Warbler, Great Tit, Fan-tailed Warbler, and Sardinian Warbler all noted.

    MAS MATÀ 2135-2205h
    Collared Pratincole still present. Hawking energetically, non-stop, and spooking the stilts from hidden locations in the marsh vegetation. Whiskered Tern (4). Several Night Herons flying in to feed. Numerous bats appearing after 2200h and another frog chorus to round off the day again.


    Saturday 10 June 2000
    Parc Natural dels Aiguamolls de L'Empordá: Rained out!!! Camping Nautic Almata all day!

    After a week of superb weather, the Tramuntana began to blow and it rained all day! My brother and friend were flying over today and by the time they arrived in a hire car at dusk they were wheel-spinning in the mud! Didn’t venture out but heard Great Reed Warbler, Nightingale and Fan-tailed Warbler from the tent during periods of less intense rainfall.


    Sunday 11 June 2000
    Parc Natural dels Aiguamolls de L'Empordá > Besalú, Garrotxa
    Showers, partly cloudy with strong north-northeast winds increasing.

    Short-toed Eagles (2) perched on telegraph poles in the hills near Barcelona. Booted Eagle between Barcelona and Besalú. At least 300 hirundines over Besalú. Ringed Plovers in a sandy field adjacent to the confluence of the Fluvià and Capellada Rivers – quite possibly flooded out from a shingle bank nest site on the river. Blackbirds much more common in this area in comparison with Castelló. At least 200 pairs of House Martins nesting above the cobbled streets. The concentrations of nests were so high on some buildings that they were fixed onto each other to form a superstructure. Moorhen with juveniles on a well-vegetated bank of the river. Grey Wagtail feeding along the edge of a shingle bank near the 11th century bridge.


    Monday 12 June 2000
    Parc Natural dels Aiguamolls de L'Empordá > Montserrat > Cardona
    Gale force north-easterly winds, 17
    ºC, cool and cloudy.

    MAS MATÀ 0845-0930h
    Species present: Grey Plover (1), Little Stint, Dunlin, Curlew Sandpiper, Collared Pratincole, Black-winged Stilt, Purple Swamp-hen, Redshank, Purple Heron, Little Egret, Cattle Egret, Yellow Wagtail, Whiskered Tern, White Stork, Kestrel, Yellow-legged Gull, Coot (b/3), Nightingale, Fan-tailed Warbler, Mallard, Black-headed Gull, Grey Heron, Reed Warbler, Cuckoo, Crested Lark and Hoopoe.

    As we were leaving the campsite this morning I noticed a sorry-looking female Little Bittern near the reception centre and got out to check on it. It looked a bit wind battered but soon flew off towards the reserve. Species noticed on the drive: Lesser Black-backed Gull, White Stork, Wood Pigeon, Magpie, Swift, Barn Swallow, House Martin, Cattle Egret and Crested Lark.

    Quick walk around the service area in stone pine/oak woodland with some deciduous understorey produced Crested Tit, Firecrest, Bonelli’s Warbler, Short-toed Treecreeper, Sardinian Warbler, Serin, Blackcap, Blue Tit, Coal Tit, Great Tit, Wren, Goldcrest and Robin.

    Blue Rock Thrush singing, Hoopoe, Crested Lark, and  Serin noted. Swallowtail, Common Blue, Western Marbled White (Melanargia occitancia), Meadow Brown, Painted Lady and Clouded Yellow.

    We intended to visit the famous monastery (Monestir de Montserrat) in the serrated mountain but part (or part) of the road up had been completely ripped up and washed away by the atrocious weather of the past few days! Grey Wagtail noted on a nearby river.

    CARDONA 1540h
    Visited the 13th century hilltop castle with views over to a salt mine in the Muntanya de Sal. Observations around the castle: Nightingale, Serin, Sardinian Warbler, House Martin, and Blue Tit noted. Southern White Admiral (Limenitis reducta) and Swallowtails fairly common. Spanish Gatekeeper, Scarce Swallowtail, Wall, Small Copper, Holly Blue, Red Admiral, Painted Lady, Small White, Common Blue, Large White and Meadow Brown noted. Iberian Wall Lizard and Moorish Gecko.

    Stock Dove noted, 15 km from Vic. Raven at the Les Fosses tunnel. Greater Flamingo (3) on the pool near the Nautic Almata campsite gates at 2215h.


    Tuesday 13 June 2000
    Parc Natural dels Aiguamolls de L'Empordá > Roses > Cadaqués > Parc Natural del Cap de Creus
    Blue skies, 28°C, back to light easterly winds.

    Finally a return to fine weather over the Empordàn plain. Drove to Roses at the north end of the Golf de Roses then on to Cadaqués. From here I walked the 16km there and back to the prominent, windswept, headland of Cap de Creus just south of the French border. Complete change of habitat from the marshes today to garrigue, macquis and cistus scrub.

    CADAQUÉS > CAP DE CREUS 1100-1700h
    Sardinian Warblers common in olive groves and scrub surrounding the town. Serins also very common. Nightingale singing from scrub along a dried-up riverbed. Several pairs of Red-rumped Swallows nesting in the stone supports of a road bridge. Blue Rock Thrush singing from a small gorge. Goldfinches common. Great Spotted Cuckoo – juvenile bird observed from above, flying between dead/burnt vegetation. Orange wings striking – more colourful plumage than the adult. Rock Sparrow (2) watched feeding on a stony track leading off the main road onto the hill. Thekla Lark singing from a large rock on a hillside clothed with low, thorny scrub. Pallid Swift (4) overhead. House Sparrows and Serins in the olive groves. Another Blue Rock Thrush seen. A Woodchat Shrike flew across in front of me and began singing from the crown of a nearby stone pine tree. Several Crested, Thekla and Short-toed Larks heard along the road to the lighthouse. Subalpine Warbler singing – not seen, but a female was observed carrying food for the young. Mixed aggregation of Pallid Swifts (20+), House Martins (5) and Red-rumped Swallows (2). Several Moorish Geckos observed in rocky areas, particularly near the roadside. Excellent views of a Woodchat Shrike through the ‘scope in an area of flat grassland with sparse bushes. Also in this area, a pair of Tawny Pipits watched just metres away. Spectacled Warbler singing from an area of tamarisks. A few more Tawny Pipits found higher up along the road. Several Dartford Warblers singing in sheltered areas. Linnet (pr) drinking at a small pool with reed in a damp gorge. Arrived at the lighthouse and a quick five minute scan of the sea produced Mediterranean Shearwater (14), Cory’s Shearwater (1) and Cormorant (4). Acanthus-leaved Carline Thistles (Carlina acanthifolia) and Globe Thistles (Echinops rito) common. Large colonies of Yellow-legged Gulls breeding on the rocks offshore. Several Shags with large juveniles on the biggest islet. Black-eared Wheatear singing from a rocky outcrop amongst the garrigue, later displaying in flight by circling the area. Peregrine watched overhead – landed on a small electricity pylon running to the lighthouse. Common or Iberian Wall Lizard (Podarcis muralis/hispanica) found. Female Black-eared Wheatear later found. Also noted around the lighthouse: Rock Dove, Common Kestrel, Serin, House Sparrow, Sardinian Warbler, Blackbird, Magpie, Common Swift, and Barn Swallow. Butterflies: Southern Small White (Artogeia mannii), Cleopatra, Spanish Gatekeeper, Clouded Yellow, Holly Blue, Painted Lady, Red Admiral, Common Blue and Brimstone (Gonepteryx rhamni). On the road back a Firecrest was found in a small pine wood along with several Serins and a Sardinian Warbler carrying food. Male Lesser Kestrel found hunting in a small valley. Corn Buntings fairly common. Minimum of 58 Pallid Swifts over Cadaqués in the evening. Began to form one large screaming flock at 2100h, circling over the town before ascending into the sky to roost at dusk.


    Wednesday 14 June 2000
    Parc Natural dels Aiguamolls de L'Empordá > Andorra.
    Partly cloudy, 12°C above 1800m, 23°C in the lowlands.

    Camping Nautic Almata: the wilder sideFROM TENT 0700h
    Observations from the tent, over the reserve: Fan-tailed Warbler, Yellow-legged Gull, Great Reed Warbler, Cuckoo, House Sparrow, Goldfinch, Reed Warbler, Cetti’s Warbler, Nightingale, Starling, Swift, Great Tit, Serin, Greenfinch, Savi’s Warbler, Purple Heron, Mallard, Grey Heron, Barn Swallow, Blue Tit and Little Bittern (m).

    DRIVE TO ANDORRA 0915-1345h
    Several Jays flying through wooded valleys near Vic. Stopped off at a service area in the pre-Pyrenees. A Quail calling from a nice flowery meadow nearby along with singing Corn Buntings, Yellowhammer, Serin, Song Thrush, Robin, Blackbird, Chaffinch, Dunnock and Wren. Silver-studded Blue and Small Heath butterflies common. Raven (6) overhead and a Magpie nearby.

    Crag Martins feeding over the town of Sant Julia
    and nesting in the taller buildings. Grey Wagtail and White Wagtail on the river. A Hummingbird Hawk Moth nectaring in a flowerbed in the town centre. Nightingales singing from riverine scrub. Honey Buzzard observed soaring above steep, wooded slopes above the town. Crag Martins (100+) and Pallid Swifts (40-50) over the town of Andorra-la-Vella in the evening between 2050a and 2120h.

    Cool (
    c12°C) and cloudy with no sun here at 2000m. Crossbills common in the conifer woods around the cross-country ski station. Blackbirds singing. Black Redstart (pr + b/3). Ring Ouzel singing. Great Spotted Woodpecker overhead. Firecrests fairly common in pines. Yellowhammer, Serin, Wren, Robin and Dunnock singing. Mistle Thrush (2) overhead. Ring Ouzel nest found in a mountain pine – observed both adults bringing food for the offspring. Superb view of a male Red-backed Shrike perched in juniper scrub and shrubby pines. Woodlarks displaying in the open areas. Watched a pair of Cirl Buntings at two to three metres range – not at all disturbed by my presence. A flock of 10 Crossbills flew over. Treecreeper, Goldcrest, Coal Tit, Blue Tit, and Great Tit noted. Raven overhead.


    Thursday 15 June 2000
    Parc Natural dels Aiguamolls de L'Empordá > Barcelona
    Blue sky, max 28°C, light easterly wind.

    Did the usual tourist attractions. Lang’s Short-tailed Blues (Leptotes pirithous) common all over the city centre parks and flower beds. Long-tailed Blues (Lampides boeticus) also common, particularly around the futbol stadium. Black Redstart, Alpine Swift, Common Swift, House Martin, House Sparrow and Feral Pigeon noted in the city. Went to hear Radiohead in concert in the evening. On the drive back in the evening a Barn Owl crossed over the road in front of us on the A-19 near the first main town north of the city.


    Friday 16 June 2000
    Parc Natural dels Aiguamolls de L'Empordá: Les Llaunes, Cortal Can Comas, Estany Europa, Estany d’en Turies.
    Blue sky, max 27°C, virutally no wind.

    WALK TO AGUAIT BRUEL 1030-1042h
    Nightingale, 5 singing mm between my tent (in zone 6) and campsite reception building. Stonechat, Serin, Crested Lark, Reed Warbler and Purple Heron overhead.

    AGUAIT BRUEL 1042-1115h
    Purple Swamp-hen (1). Mallard (32). Coot (1). Nightingale singing. Yellow Wagtail. Little Egret passed by at 1058h. Purple Heron passed at 1100h. Fan-tailed Warbler. Moustached Warbler singing from the edge of a large reedbed. Tree Sparrow carrying food back and forth between the reedbed and scrub on dry land. Another Purple Heron passed by at 1106h. Goldfinch. Yellow-legged Gull. Great Crested Grebe (1). Barn Swallow.

    AGUAIT DELL GALL MARI 1125-1140h
    Bee-eater (2). Purple Heron passed by at 1136h. Kentish Plover (2). Mallard (7). Coot (pr).

    ESTANYS DEL MATÀ 1141-1250h
    Slender-billed Gulls (6) feeding in the shallow, disused rice paddies. All birds in beautiful adult plumage: distinctive elongated look of the head apparent with a long, thin, tern-like beak. Feeding behaviour particularly graceful. The slender-bills also fed very close to the stilt chicks with no aggressive defensive behaviour from the adult stilts (unlike when Yellow-legged Gulls appeared). Also 18 Whiskered Terns present (17 ads + 1 juv) and a single Black-headed Gull. Avocet (3) feeding in a small group amongst the 100 or so Black-winged Stilts. Redshank (1). Little Egret. Purple Heron. White Stork. Purple Swamp-hen. Reed Warbler. Yellow Wagtail. Coot. Fan-tailed Warbler. Nightingale. Goldfinch. Barn Swallow. Swift. Tree Sparrow. Sand Martin. Swallowtail.

    Closa del PuigAGUAIT CLOSA DEL PUIG 1250-1349h
    Cattle Egrets (15) following a group of cattle around the lagoon. Stone Curlew (1) standing around on the grazed grassland – doing not a lot for about 40 minutes. Marsh Harrier (imm) passed by at 1257h. On the drying-up banks of the lagoon: Crested Lark, Goldfinch, Yellow Wagtail, Mallard, and Yellow-legged Gull. Feeding in the lagoon: Coot (pr + b/1), Grey Heron and Mallards. Over the lagoon: Pallid Swift (1), Common Swift, Barn Swallow, House Martin and Sand Martin. In the surrounding scrub: Blackcap, Serin, Cetti’s Warbler, Melodious Warbler, Goldfinch, Reed Warbler, Nightingale, Magpie, Tree Sparrow and House Sparrow. Slender-billed Gull (1) and a single Yellow-legged Gull circling overhead at 1338h.

    Black-winged Stilt (26). Black-headed Gull (21). Yellow-legged Gull (24). Mute Swan (2). Mallard. Moorhen. Coot. White Stork. Cetti’s Warbler. Sand Martin observed taking a pierid butterfly on the wing. Marsh Harrier (m). Great Reed Warbler. Barn Swallow. Fan-tailed Warbler. A third Mute Swan appeared, then a forth (2 prs). Another seven Yellow-legged Gulls arrived. Fallow Deer present.

    Little Grebe (pr). Marsh Harrier (m). Bee-eaters. Greenfinch. Two Sand Lizards ran over the path outside the hide. Little Egrets passing by. Grey Heron. Feral Pigeons overhead. Swallowtail. Clouded Yellow. Speckled Wood. Bee-eater (10) hanging around outside the nesting colony.

    Linnet (juv) on the track. Several Bee-eaters along the trail. Short-toed Larks and Skylarks singing. Crested Larks common. The track down to and along the beach (Platja de Can Comes) is closed for several months each year during the year to protect the breeding terns and Kentish Plovers. This was the first day that access was possible. Seven juvenile Kentish Plovers seen. Sandwich Tern (5) heading north along the shore. Two Bee-eaters heading south over the dunes.

    At least six Bee-eaters hawking over the boundary between the camp and the reserve for around 30 minutes. Hoopoe feeding in the short turf of the pitch right next to the tent on sparsely vegetated sandy soil. Nightingale song began to intensify after 2000h. Cuckoo singing. Fan-tailed Warbler and Yellow Wagtail overhead. Movement of Purple Herons, Cattle Egrets and Little Egrets (one flock contained 17 birds) increasing in the evening – birds flying in from all area to roost in the reserve.

    ESTANYS DEL MATÀ 2100-2235h
    Returned for one final look at this superb area. Made some sound recordings on minidisc of the frogs, cicadas, crickets, Nightingales and other wetland birds. Sun dropped behind the Pyrenees at 2110h. Large movement of Night Herons obvious with at least 12 birds flying down into the old rice fields. Two Slender-billed Gulls still present, feeding in areas of open water with 11 Black-headed Gulls. Largest flock of Whiskered Terns seen here in the past two weeks – tonight 22 birds hawking over 124 Black-winged Stilts and three Avocets. More Coots obvious at this time of day with several broods out feeding. A pair of Purple Swamp-hens out feeding in an area of mud/sparse vegetation just 30 metres away. Towering over the Coors were White Stork (2), Little Egret (2), Purple Heron (1) and a Grey Heron. Nightingale, Cetti’s Warbler, Reed Warbler, Savi’s Warbler, Fan-tailed Warbler and Great Reed Warbler all singing. Masses of small bats appearing after 2205h. At least 100 feeding along a 100 metre stretch of wetland. An almost deafening volume of natural sound coming from around the rice fields: frogs, toads, and insects joining in with the warblers and Black-winged Stilts as night fell on the last full day of the trip.


    Saturday 17 June 2000
    Parc Natural dels Aiguamolls de L'Empordá > Castelló d'Empúres > Figueres > Barcelona > London.
    Blue sky, max 29°C.

    Woke up at 0730h. Marsh Harrier (m) over the campsite, c50 metres away. Cuckoo, Hoopoe, Stonechat and Fan-tailed Warbler heard as we packed up. Left at 0955h for
    Barcelona airport. Black-winged Stilts in the small lagoon at the campsite entrance. Crested Larks on the road between the gates and the C-260. Cattle Egrets in the fields along this road to Castelló.

    Flock of 17 Swifts hawking around the terminal building. Alpine Swift (2) sped by. All planes into the UK
    were delayed for hours! House Sparrow, Starling and White Wagtail also noted. Serins singing from the introduced palm trees on the concourse outside terminal A. Last bird of the trip was a Magpie as the plane finally departed, hours late, just before dusk.



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