“Nicer than the bird up in the tree top
Cheaper than the chip inside my lap top
All the variations you could do with me
Nicer than the girl up in your mind you’re free”
– Risingsong, Massive Attack
After some looong days with a few birds (apart from the always nice blue rock thrushes at Garraf mountains), I needed something very good to cheer myself up. There is almost nothing at Llobregat Delta and it’s always hard to find something interesting along Barcelona coast during these soft winters. Of course, we could always move to Ebro Delta or Aiguamolls de l’Empordà, where there is plenty of birds, but sometimes it’s worth to look at the mountains and not to forget the Pyrenees are one of the most diverse mountains in Europe. It takes only around one hour and a half to drive to some of the best places, where many localized and too often forgotten species are wintering.
Robert, Helena, Andrea, Martí and me, encouraged by the flock of snow finches supposed to be wintering in an approachable area, had decided (already 10 days ago) to visit some of the closest places in order to reconcile with these species. Our first stop has been at Montgrony Monastery, a must-visit spot if you are looking for a wintering wallcreeper. Firstly, we checked the cliffs above the park-site, but without success. The road goes to the other side of the valley, where you can get overall views of almost all the cliffs of the area. Therefore, the chances of finding a wallcreeper from there are higher than from the park-site, but the views are usually poorer. Even we managed to find a distant wallcreeper at a glance, we felt we deserved something better… Suddenly, the bird flew over our heads and landed in a nearby cliff so we were able to enjoy good views of this stunning bird. For sure, one of the jewels of the Pyrenees.
We let the wallcreeper busy with its never-ending climbing activity and keep our way up to Coll de la Creueta, where the snow finches are supposed to be. A few minutes later, and still driving inside of the forest, Robert spotted a raptor that he had identified as a lammergeier. I must admit I got off the car expecting a goshawk, but the bird was indeed an adult lammergeier flying over a pine forest. This kind of surprises are always welcome!
Already around Castellar de n’Hug, in the bocage area surrounding this nice village, lots of fieldfares fed on rose bushes, together with many bullfinches, some redwings and a hawfinch. Helena enjoyed a colorful nuthatch while Martí and me checked the thrushes in the hope that there was a black-throated thrush among them. Not this time, but the fieldfares were pretty enough.
The day was a total success, but as soon as we reached Coll de la Creueta we realized the snow had gone and the finches may had gone with it. The area was plenty of noisy choughs and brightening yellowhammers. Some red-legged (red-legged?) partridges flew away, but nothing else.
After having lunch while hearing to siskins and crossbills, the only we could do was to go down the valley and look for the rest-less black-bellied dippers. The taxonomy of that species in Catalonia probably deserves another look, but the individuals from the Pyrenees are more likely Black-bellied. Anyway, we got very good views of a dipper diving, swimming and doing quite a lot of different things in the Freser river, just in the middle of Ribes de Freser, a village famous because of its bottled water.
To sum up, a very good day, with good views of different birds and, as always, excellent company. It was a bit disappointing to leave the area without seeing the snow finches, but, on second thought, it’s a perfect excuse to come back.