Quality time

3 08 2014

 “We were right we were giving, and this is how we kept what we gave away.”

– Comes a time, Neil Young

It’s been already a month since all these events happened, but I’ve kept them in my mind since they are gonna be one of the best memories I’d preserve from 2014. After a busy spring  coming and going from Barcelona to elsewhere, it happened that Stephen suddenly came to visit us and I had not got the time to plan the trip properly. Neither had Marc and Martí, and hence we ended up in Vall d’Aran looking for some nice birds/butterflies/orchids but basically spending some quality time together. It was the first time that Marc, Martí, Stephen and me were at the same time in the same spot but I’m pretty sure it’s not gonna be the last one.

The first thing we did was to ring a Rock bunting. Stephen had fallen in love with the species in the very first time he came to Catalonia. Now he is not in a hurry to see everything, we can spend some time to actually look at the birds. As expected, when we caught it and realized it was a boring adult (3+, Euring 6, 2nd cycle, …) Stephen recognized it was not that nice and claimed for a 2nd year. After we had politely suggested him to go and screw himself, we left the area and finally faced the Pyrenees.

The first stop was at a very nice place Marc knew was plenty of Pyrenean brook salamander Calotriton asper. Nice to see them but once you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all. In case you wonder, it’s Stephen holding the newt in front of his brand new t-shirt he had bought in London airport.

calotriton asper

In Vall d’Aran we saw some Lammergeiers, a Cinereous vulture, Citril finches and quite a lot of orchids. Since Martí is been very into orchids lately, it was nice to learn from him. As I can’t be arsed to make the usual collage that usually ilustrates this kind of paragraphs, I will just post a photo of the one I liked the most: Sword-leaved Helleborine Cephalanthera longifolia.

cephalanthera longifolia

But the best was this Black hairstreak Satyrium pruni: the first record for Catalonia! More on that soon…


After some Black-bellied sandgrouses, whiterby Reed buntings and displaying Red-necked nightjars in Lleida steppes, we came back to Barcelona to target Pekin robin (currently Red-billed leiothrix or something like that). We failed despite there were several singing around. However, we caught a couple of Sardinian warblers and some baby Firecrest that made Stephen happy. So did the omelette and the Iberian ham we got for dinner.

We still had a day to fill up some lagoons: we still needed to see a male Roch thrush. We went to a place near Marc’s area where they used to breed. Nowadays they don’t, but it’s still an interesting Mediterranean bushland area good for Ortolan bunting, Western orphan warbler, Red-rumped swallow, blue rock thrush… We put up the nets and managed to catch a 2cy male Western Orphean, an Iberian subalpine wabler (currently inornata iberiae) and a Red-legged partridge. To finally see a male Rock thrush we had to go up to Turó de l’Home, the highest peak in Montseny mountains. Fortunately, we found one almost immediately and it ended up being the last bird of the trip.

sylvia hortensis

Almost one month later, and just before coming to Sweden, I came back to Vall d’Aran, this time with Laura. The air, the wildlife and the landscapes of this area is perfect for a reset in life. We didn’t look for anything in particular, our only purpose was to be there and forget about the stressful city, without cell phone signal, using electricity only for listening to music. We managed, and now I feel ready for the start of a new ringing season in Falsterbo.

Lycaena virgaureae


In conclusion

30 08 2012

“Rain is also very difficult to film, particularly in Ireland because it’s quite fine, so fine that the Irish don’t even acknowledge that it exists.”

– Alan Parker

Not an easy August in Soria from a naturalistic point of view. The drought that devastates the region since the spring is the main cause. Most of the fields have not been harvested since the cost of the gas was much more than the price of the crop. The irrigation channels were almost dry and the trees started to loose their leaves as soon as late july. Of course, neither butterflies nor dragonflies have had his best season.
The Ringing in the gardens around my house revealed an extremely low breeding success. The 60% of the captures of local species were adults and only the early influx of Pied flycatchers have offset the breeding failure in the total number of captures, keeping it at a considerable values. However, I managed to catch some interesting species such as Western orphean warbler, golden oriole, Iberian chiffchaff… most of them adults.

How can I pass my time? A good alternative to ringing could had been the Monteagudo pond. It’s not a perfect wetland, there’s an almost total lack of vegetation in the marshes and the carps have proliferated til alarming levels, but it still has some interest since it’s the only water point within a 100km radius. A couple of Pied avocets, a nice adult Curlew sandpiper and 2 Black storks have been the best in the pond.
The track that links the villages of Utrilla and Monteagudo is also interesting. Large amounts of Lesser kestrels coming from the south do concentrate in late summer, pursuing the wave of grasshoppers. This year there has been many of them, but they leave Andalucia to reach a wetter area and I guess Soria was not what they had expected. I saw 12 of them in a typical place, sat in the electric towers, but just for a week.

The landscape in that area are always impressive, and even more if you are lucky to come across a summer storm.

The only thing I could do, apart from going to most of traditional festivities that every village organize during all the weekends in august, was to go north, looking for something interesting. Juan Luis and Jesús had found some Aquatic warblers in Fuentecantos wet meadows. Sylvia and me went to see them and we managed to see at least 3 of them. The place must be a regular stopover point during post-nuptial migration and 14 birds had been already ringed this year by Victor Salvador and Jesús Ruiz. It would be interesting to develop a ringing campaign in that place to quantify its true importance.

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