NE Spain 2009 - The Ebro Delta, Belchite Steppes and Pyrenees, 7-16 April 2009

James and Emma Packer

The author with the Pena de San Miguel, Salto de Roldan in the background

Getting There

EasyJet flights from Bristol to Barcelona at £110 each. Hire car booked through Holiday Autos who used Solmar at £144 for one weeks hire. This included excess waver insurance. Solmar upgraded us a to a nice diesel Seat Ibiza. We drove just over 1700km in total. Part of the car was left behind on the beach at the Ebro Delta, but this was purely cosmetic and Solmar didn't notice!

Accommodation and Itinery

7-8 April 2009 - Hotel L' Agadir Del Delta at Poble Nou del Delta. A fantastic little hotel in the small village of Poble Nou del Delta. Very modern and clean with lovely hosts. Within walking distance of the l' Encanyissada lagoon. Purple Heron and Marsh Harriers watched while eating breakfast.

9 April 2009 - Hotel Rioja at Quinto. A bit of a dump it has to be said, though room and sheets clean, if ripped. No hot water and no heating. See the Duponts Lark then leave!

10-13 April 2009 - Boletas Birdwatching Centre, Loporzano. Fantastic in every way. Amazing food and wine, great rooms, lovely hosts.

14-15 April 2009 - Hotel Inglaterra, Barcelona. Not birding, but if you fancy seeing Barcelona, this is a great hotel in an excellent location.


Andy Howes, Josele Saiz and Jeff Hazell all provided site recommendations for which we were extremely grateful.

Birding Sites

Ebro Delta
We only birded the south side of the Delta, and site descriptions are available in all the usual site guides. Amazing public birding platforms afforded great views of the masses of birds present. The hides at Reit Veil were particularly good. This is an organic rice farm, which has lots and lots of birds! Find it just west of Els Muntells at km 18.5. It could be possible to miss this place unless you're looking for it. Don't (miss it, that is). We removed the bottom of out hire car on the beach trying to drive to the Punta de la Banya as it had rained torrentially before we attempted it and the puddles were a bit deeper than we hoped!

Belchite Steppes
I was recommended a Duponts' Lark finding technique that worked like a dream. I've since read lots of reports of people looking for them for hours, or missing them completely - well they were easy using this method and you don't even need to get up early (which would avoid the need for you to stay at the Hotel Rioja, and this is may be a good thing!). Step 1: Be on site at 14:30hrs. Yep, that's correct mid afternoon! Step 2: Be in the right place; from the road between Codo and Quinto, take the track north with signpost El Planeron on the west side of the track. This track is a couple of km west of a parking area with a few El Planeron information boards. Follow the track for quite a way until it rises up a slight hill. Over the hill on the righ hand side is a pull in area with a couple of small green El Planeron signs with Stone Curlew heads on (they are painted on, not real heads). Step 3: Park here and listen for the song. Step 4: When you hear them singing, scan the sky and the small bushes, we saw them singing both in the sky and sat on the bushes. We heard them about 5 minutes after parking the car and scoped one immediately. In total we saw at least 3 different birds several times with prolonged scope views. One was even sat on the dirt mound at side of the main track we had just driven down. I have since been told that we were extremely lucky, but it's got to be worth a go!

The day that we travelled across this area the weather was dreadful. It was truly chucking it down. If this is supposed to be a dry steppe area with little rainfall then it must have all occurred on the day we were there. All the dirt tracks were impassable in a car as the rain had turned them to into dangerous slippery mud. Obviously, this slightly limits the birding potential.

Home of Boletas, but also a nice village. You may hear mention of the cemetary, which is on a hill up a track to the left of the swimming pool on the north of the main road. Follow the track to the left. Good area for migrants and Eagle Owl (apparantly!)

Vadiello Dam
In all the site guides, and as good as these guides leads it to believe. And yes, we did see Wallcreeper on the dam.

Penas de Riglos
Dramatic and worth visiting for the scenery alone. We saw at least two Wallcreeper on the really steep scree bit to the right of the church, but the cliff to the left is much easier to view and Wallcreeper were present in this area a day or so later.

A truly stunning medieval village, with good birds too! Check out the plentiful designer walking boots (lots of fit and trendy rock climbers and walkers stay here). Worth visiting for the village as well as the birds.

Pena de San Miguel, Salto de Roldan
A huge cliff that conveniently you can drive almost to the top. About 10km north of Loporzano, access from the E07. Great for vertigo sufferers. Astounding views of Griffon Vulture as they pass within a few metres. take the track around to the right of the cliff. Also has wintering Wallcreeper and Alpine Accentor, Rock Bunting, etc. One of the best sites we visited.

Montearagon Castle
You now have to access the castle via the village of Quicena, not from the N240 as shown on maps. Check the conical formations of sandy rock on the left side of the start of the steep road up to the castle for Black Wheatear.

San Juan de la Pena
It was rather snowy when we visited here, so not many birds were visible, and later in the day it was really busy with grockles, or whatever you call tourists in Spain. Great monasteries though, and good views of Lamergeyer.

Candanchu Ski Resort
Torrential snow storms the previous few days meant that we had to choose our visit to the high Pyrenees carefully. Apparantly we should have gone a bit further on to Astun and looked for Snowfinch, but we didn't realise this! Lots of Alpine Chough but not a lot else. Apart from Snow.

Riglos. Wallcreepers on the cliff on the left

The Systematic List

Common Shelduck
Small groups of less than 10 in the Ebro Delta

Common in the Ebro Delta

Thousands in the Ebro Delta

Small numbers in the Ebro Delta

Red-crested Pochard
Hundreds in the Ebro Delta

Red-crested Pochard in the Ebro Delta

Tufted Duck
Small numbers in the Ebro Delta

Red-legged Partridge
A few near Candasnos

Grey Partridge
Heard near Montearagon Castle

Little Grebe
Common on the Ebro Delta lagoons

Black-necked Grebe
At least three on l' Encanyissada lagoon, Ebro Delta

Common, Ebro Delta

Night Heron
Three flew over Reit Veil, Ebro Delta, on 8th

Squacco Heron
Individuals in a variety of places, Ebro Delta

Cattle Egret
Groups of tens in Ebro Delta

Little Egret
Common and abundant, Ebro Delta

Great White Egret
Small numbers widespread in Ebro Delta

Great White Egret in the Ebro Delta

Grey Heron
Small numbers widespread in Ebro Delta

Purple Heron
Common in reedbeds, Ebro Delta

Purple Heron in the Ebro Delta

White Stork
Six on l' Encanyissada lagoon, Ebro Delta on 8th; common in villages inland and nesting on many church spires.

Glossy Ibis
Groups of up to approximately 30-40 in several places, Ebro Delta

Adult Glossy Ibis in the Ebro Delta

Two, l' Encanyissada lagoon, Ebro Delta on 7th

Greater Flamingo
Common and abundant, Ebro Delta

Black Kite
Common passage migrant in the Pyrenees, with several groups of up to 50 passing high overhead

Red Kite
Common in the Pyrenees, especially around Jaca

Red Kite at San Juan de la Pena

Singles around Vadiello on several dates, Alquezar on 11th and two San Juan de la Pena on 12th

Lammergeier at San Juan de la Pena

Egyptian Vulture
One or two in several places in the Pyrenees

Egyptian Vulture Salto de Roldan

Griffin Vulture
Widespread and sometimes very abundant, especially in the Pyrenees. Groups of hundreds in the air on occasions.

Griffon Vultures Salto de Roldan

Short-toed Eagle
One near Loporzano on 13th

Marsh Harrier
Common in the Ebro Delta, with up to ten on view at any one time. Others widespread.

Hen Harrier
Two ringtails flew past Loporzano on 11th

Montagu's Harrier
At least one male, Belchite Steppes on 9th

Several singles in widespread places in and around the Pyrenees

Common Buzzard
Several singles, usually by the side of the road in the Pyrenees

Golden Eagle
Singles north of Candasnos on 10th and at Montearagon Castle on 11th

Booted Eagle
Singles in the Pyrenees over a wide area. All pale phase.

Singles in the Ebro Delta on 8th and over Alquezar on 11th

Lesser Kestrel
Plenty of Kestrels in the Belchite Steppes area and Monegros were left unidentified, although a colony of approximately 30 Lesser Kestrels were present in a farm building just off the N11 east of Candasnos

Common and widespread

Two or three at the Ebro Delta on 8th

Water Rail
Heard at the Ebro Delta

Common at the Ebro Delta

Purple Gallinule
Quite amazing numbers at the Ebro Delta, for example, 50-100 in a single field! Road casualties also noted.

Purple Galinule at Reit Veil, Ebro Delta

Abundant, Ebro Delta

Great Bustard
Six in agricultural fields south of Buzaraloz on 10th

Small numbers in Ebro Delta

Black-winged Stilt
Common and abundant, especially in Ebro Delta

Black-winged Stilt in the Ebro Delta

Groups of up to 20, Ebro Delta

Stone Curlew
Several singles over a wide area in Monegros on 10th

Little Ringed Plover
Small numbers, Ebro Delta

Ringed Plover
Small numbers, Ebro Delta

Kentish Plover
Only singles noted at various beach locations, Ebro Delta

Only one or two, Ebro Delta

Common on Ebro Delta beaches

Little Stint
Several groups of up to 20 in partly flooded rice fields, Ebro Delta

Small numbers in Ebro Delta

Black-tailed Godwit
About 50, Reit Veil, Ebro Delta

Singles, Ebro Delta

Spotted Redshank
Small numbers widespread, Ebro Delta

Widespread, Ebro Delta

Common, Ebro Delta

Green Sandpiper
Single, Ebro Delta

Common Sandpiper
Single, Ebro Delta

Mediterranean Gull
A couple in with the breeding Black-headed Gulls, l' Encanyissada lagoon, Ebro Delta. A first year near Saint Carles de Rapita.

Black-headed Gull
Large breeding colony on l' Encanyissada lagoon, Ebro Delta

Slender-billed Gull
Two near Saint Carles de Rapita and small groups of less than 10 La Tancada lagoon, Ebro Delta

Slender-billed Gulls at the Ebro Delta

Audouins Gull
Common in the Ebro Delta, including some a few fields inland

Audouins Gull at the Ebro Delta

Yellow-legged Gull
Abundant along the coast

Little Tern
Singles at various lagoons, Ebro Delta

Gull-billed Tern
A group of about 10 over a rice field near Saint Jaume d'Enveja, Ebro Delta

Gull-billed Tern, Ebro Delta

Caspian Tern
Up to about 10, l' Encanyissada lagoon, Ebro Delta

Caspian Tern in the Ebro Delta

Whiskered Tern
Abundant, Ebro Delta

Whiskered Tern, Ebro Delta

Sandwich Tern
Abundant on the sea off Ebro Delta

Common Tern
One or two, Ebro Delta

Rock Dove
Common and sometimes abundant

Widespread in small numbers

Collared Dove

Rose-ringed Parakeet

Monk Parakeet
Abundant, Barcelona

One heard from Salto de Roldan on 13th

Scops Owl
Great views of one singing nightly in the garden of Boletas

Little Owl
One north of Candasnos

A group of about 20 over Ebro Delta on 8th

Alpine Swift
About 10, Alquezar on 11th with smaller numbers elsewhere

A group of 20 over Loporzano cemetery on 13th

Common in Ebro Delta, less so towards Pyrenees

Black Woodpecker
Heard but not seen, San Juan de la Pena

Great Spotted Woodpecker
Heard, San Juan de la Pena

Dupont's Lark
At least 3-4 seen very well at La Planeron, Belchite Steppes on 9th

Dupont's Lark singing at El Planeron

Greater Short-toed Lark
Singles, Ebro Delta

Lesser Short-toed Lark
Abundant, Belchite Steppes

Crested Lark
Common and widespread

Thekla Lark
Identified at La Planeron but enthusiasm always dwindles with this species!

Calandra Lark
El Planeron, Belchite Steppes

Sand Martin
Small numbers, Ebro Delta

Crag Martin
Widespread in the Pyrenees

Barn Swallow

Swallow at Reit Veil, Ebro Delta

House Martin

Tawny Pipit
Single, Montearagon Castle on 11th

Yellow Wagtail
Small groups of tens, Ebro Delta

Presumably Iberian Yellow Wagtail at the Ebro Delta

White Wagtail
Widespread, even in the snow at high altitiude with the Alpine Choughs!



Alpine Accentor
At least 3-4 at Salto de Roldan on 13th

Alpine Accentor at Salton de Roldan


One singing Loporzano on 13th

Black Redstart
Common and widespread in the hills

One female, Ebro Delta on 8th


Northern Wheatear

Black-eared Wheatear
Singles in a couple of places, Ebro Delta on 8th-9th and singles in a few places in the Pyrenees including Montearagon Castle on 11th

Black Wheatear
Three pairs, Mantearagon Castle

Blue Rock Thrush
One of two in many rocky areas such as Alquezar, Riglos, Roldan, etc

Ring Ouzel
One near Loporzano on 11th

Abundant and widespread

Mistle Thrush
Several at San Juan de la Pena

Cetti's Warbler
Ebro Delta

Savis Warbler
Small numbers singing and seen very well at l' Encanyissada lagoon, Ebro Delta on 7th-9th

Sedge Warbler
One singing Ebro Delta on 8th

Common and widespread

Orphean Warbler
One singing Alquezar on 11th

Spectacled Warbler
Singing at Montearagon Castle on 11th

Dartford Warbler
Common in hills

Subalpine Warbler
Male, Ebro Delta on 8th

Sardinian Warbler
Common and widespread


Willow Warbler

Singing at San Juan de la Pena and Salto de Roldan

Spotted Flycatcher
Barcelona on 15th

Blue Tit

Great Tit

Crested Tit
Heard San Juan de la Pena

Coal Tit

San Juan de la Pena

At least two, Riglos on 11th with one singing male, and one male, Vadiello Dam on 12th

Wallcreeper on the Vadiello Dam

Short-toed Treecreeper
At least two, San Juan de la Pena

Southern Grey Shrike
Just one in El Planeron on 9th

Woodchat Shrike
Several, Ebro Delta


Alpine Chough
Hundred or so, Candanchu Ski Resort on 12th

Alpine Choughs in the snow

Common in foothills of the Pyrenees

Chough at the Salto de Roldan



Spotless Starling
Very common and widespread

House Sparrow

Tree Sparrow
Abundant, Ebro Delta

Spanish Sparrow
Single, Ebro Delta

Rock Sparrow
This species eludes me, so one from the bedroom window at Boletas was impossible for even me to miss!#

Rock Sparrow at Boletas






At least 2-3 at San Juan de la Pena

Rock Bunting
At least 2-3 Salto de Roldan on 13th

Reed Bunting
Ebro Delta

Corn Bunting
Very common and widespread

Corn Bunting at El Planeron

No wonder we didn't see any Cirl Buntings!





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