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Montsià view ©Iben Hove Sørensen

The Ebro lands, including the Ebro Delta, Montsià and Els Ports

Tour leaders: Cristian Jensen Marcet & Iben Hove Sørensen

Group members: Mark Finn & Lesley-Anne Berry

138 species recorded

This trip was arranged by the tourist board of the Terres de l'Ebre as an introduction to and promotion of the area. It included all aspects of the tourist industry, and the birding was at times interrupted by visits to hotels, restaurants and historical sites. However, the birds were the main attraction, and this trip report still gives a good idea of the species likely to be encountered in the Ebro lands during this time of year.

Trip report written by Iben Hove Sørensen

Thursday March 2nd – Day 1

Mark and Lesley arrived at Barcelona airport in the late afternoon, and barely out of the airplane their birding adventure began. Little Grebe, Jackdaw and White Wagtail were amongst the first species to be recorded, soon to be followed by Magpie, Wood Pigeon and Yellow-legged Gull. A short stop in Cambrils provided excellent views of a large group of Mediterranean Gull, interspersed with more Yellow-legged and Lesser Black-backed Gull. From Cambrils we continued straight to the Ebro Delta, where we would be spending the next two days birding. We arrived after sunset and caught just a glimpse of the delta and its inhabitants before the welcome dinner.

Friday March 3rd - Day 2

Great White Egret

The next morning we started out with a couple of hotel visits in L'Ampolla, where we also got great views of Audouin's Gull in the harbour. From L'Ampolla we went to the lagoon of Les Olles, where we saw many warblers in the bushes and reedbeds by the beach. Chiffchaff was dominating everywhere, and Cetti's Warbler, Zitting Cisticola and Reed Bunting were numerous the reeds. At Les Olles we also had our first encounter with Crested Lark, Lapwing, Sandwich Tern and Whiskered Tern.

As we made our way along the coast of the Fangar Bay, we had great views of a male Bluethroat foraging in a small channel, and we also heard a couple of Moustached Warbler singing in the reedbeds. Large groups of waders, ducks and flamingos were present in the bay itself, including a group of Common Scoter. Closer to the coast thousands of Dunlin were foraging on the mudflats. Between these were also small groups of Red Knot, Sanderling, Little Stint, Grey Plover, Eurasian Curlew, Bar-tailed Godwit, Redshank, Spotted Redshank, and Greenshank. The large group of more than two thousand Greater Flamingo contained several banded individuals, many of which were young birds born in the delta in 2004. As we were watching the flamingoes, a group of ten Caspian Tern caught our attention - the presence of this big and beautiful tern is often unpredictable in the delta and always a welcome addition to the daily species list. Due to inundations of the access point, we were unable to visit Fangar point itself.

After our picnic lunch we went to the Ecomuseum in the village of Deltebre, where we got a good introduction to the history and importance of the Ebro Delta. After the short visit to the museum, we went towards the Garxal lagoon, which is directly connected with the Ebro River. Along the river we found a group of Night Heron resting in a tree, as well as several Black-tailed Godwit and a single Ruff foraging in the dry rice fields. The lagoon itself held several shorebirds and ducks, of which the most numerous were Spotted Redshank, Shoveler and Red-crested Pochard. Both Purple Gallinule and Common Snipe were seen along the edges of the lagoon, and several Great White Egret were hunting opposite the bird hide. A single Osprey was posing on a pole in the middle of the lagoon, and we all had good views of this magnificent bird of prey. Walking through the salt vegetation surrounding the observatory, we saw our first Lesser Short-toed Lark and also had good views of Stonechat, Robin and Greenfinch.

On the way back to the hotel, we visited the lagoon of Canal Vell, where many ducks and egrets were settling in for the night. We heard a Penduline Tit calling in the reeds, and also had brief views of three Glossy Ibis coming in to roost. Numerous Great Crested Grebe were hunting in the lagoon.

We had a great traditional tapas dinner in a local restaurant and arrived at the hotel quite late.

Saturday March 4th – Day 3

Slender-billed Gull

We decided to meet at 8.30, and we all seemed to benefit from the extra half hour in the morning. As we left the hotel, we scanned the rice fields and found a couple of Squacco Heron foraging between the far more numerous Cattle Egret and Little Egret. We went straight to the little ferry crossing the river, as this day was to be spent in the southern part of the delta.

Our starting point was the Migjorn bird observatory, which offers great views over Illa de Buda, L'Aufacada and the Migjorn beach. Along the channel separating Illa de Buda from the main part of the delta, Cristian spotted a Booted Eagle in a group of trees, and several Marsh Harriers were seen in the rice fields on the other side of the road. In Illa de Buda we spotted a group of Black-winged Stilt - some of the first spring arrivals of this species. Avocet, Spotted Redshank, and Great Cormorant were also seen in this bird haven with restricted human access. In L'Aufacada, Iben spotted two Temminck's Stint between the snipes, and a small group of Glossy Ibis flew in to feed in this extensive reedbed.

After a short visit to a hotel in the village of Eucaliptus, we went to the Riet Vell reserve. Riet Vell is a part of SEO/Birdlife and is the only producer of organic rice in Spain. The reserve is an important place for many bird species, and the presence of numerous insects and amphibians not seen elsewhere in the delta provides valuable food items during the breeding season. From the observatory we spotted numerous ducks, including Gadwall, and also a large number of Common Moorhen.

From Riet Vell, we continued along the coast to the Tancada lagoon. Although Mallard was the dominating species in the lagoon, the ducks also included Common Pochard, Shelduck and Teal, and around 400 Avocet were resting on the far side of the lagoon. From Tancada we went for a drive towards the saltpans in Punta la Banya, where Slender-billed Gull and Audouin's Gull were numerous. Along the thin strip of land we also saw Turnstone, and several small groups of Dunlin and Sanderling.

After lunch, we headed towards the little museum of Casa de Fusta by the Encanyissada lagoon. On the way there, we stopped briefly at Pont del Través. By now the wind had picked up, which made the birding less easy in the flat lands of the delta, but we still had very close views of a Red-knobbed Coot, and we enjoyed the large number of Marsh Harrier soaring above the reedbeds of the Clot lagoon. One of the ubiquitous wintering Kingfishers was hunting along the channels, and the surrounding reeds were teeming with warblers. After visiting the museum we went for a drive around the rice fields, which produced groups of Golden Plover, Stone Curlew, and a very large number of Grey Heron.

The evening was spent in Sant Carles de la Ràpita with hotel visits and a lovely dinner in the Llansola Restaurant.

Sunday March 5th – Day 4

Ports Nature Park ©Iben Hove Sørensen

After checking out from the hotel, we headed inland towards the nature park of Els Ports. From Tortosa, we headed for the southern part of the mountain chain, but were soon discouraged by the strong winds and a sudden snowfall. Instead, we spent some time searching the olive plantations and were rewarded with large flocks of Blackcap and Chaffinch, as well as Sardinian Warbler, Siskin, Cirl Bunting, and Rock Bunting. Continuing our route inland along the river valley, we made a short stop to have our picnic lunch at the side of the road. The only birds around seemed to be Yellow-legged Gull and Common Kestrel until an early spring bird caught our attention: A Short-toed Eagle making its way up the valley.

Another stop further up the valley rewarded us with great views of a pair of Bonelli's Eagle, as well as Griffon Vulture, Firecrest and Blue Rock Thrush. We decided to go for a walk in a sheltered valley, which held several passerines such as Blackbird, Coal Tit, Blue Tit, Great Tit, and Short-toed Tree-creeper. Another Short-toed Eagle flew close overhead.

Our next destination was the old castle of Miravet, where we were to meet the director of the nature reserve at Flix, Pere-Josep Jiménez. We saw Sand Martin and House Martin foraging over the river, and a Hoopoe was easily seen from the car at very close range whilst hiding from the strong winds. From the castle we had excellent views of the area, and we watched groups of cormorants and egrets migrate up river for the night. We also had good views of some of the first Alpine Swift of the year, and in the castle courtyard a pair of Thekla Lark were busying themselves searching for food.

From Miravet, we followed Pere-Josep for a quick visit to the reserve at Flix, where a very successful stork re-introduction project has taken place over the last five years. We saw several White Stork bill-clapping on their nests, and it was a thrill to see the birds up close - some of them wild birds attracted to the area by the presence of the captive storks. The winter visiting Osprey was passing overhead as the Camargue horses received their evening fodder and the storks were settling down for the night.

Our evening meal was served in Bot and consisted of a special menu with a variety of local dishes. All of us made a real effort to finish off the wonderful dishes whilst trying to convince the chef that there was just too much food. After dinner we went to Horta de Sant Joan, where we checked in to our new hotel and went straight to bed.

Monday March 6th – Day 5

Spanish Ibex ©Cristian Jensen

The day started with a solid breakfast and - for the first time during the trip - plenty of coffee. We headed off for the nearby Roques de Benet, but decided to make a stop in another valley first to check for raptors and other birds. A Peregrine Falcon was hunting around a steep cliffside, a group of Chough were circling the mountains, and a Wood Lark was singing in the almond plantations. Back at Roques de Benet we went for a walk despite the strong winds sweeping the mountain sides. Although few other birds seemed to enjoy the weather, Raven and Griffon Vulture were soaring high in the sky. A couple of Spanish Ibex (both beautiful adult males) were sunning themselves in a sheltered place, looking relaxed and content in their mountain home.

A short drive down brought us to the Estret river, where we found a sheltered path in the river forest. A Grey Wagtail was hunting in a small stream joining the river, and the trees were alive with tits, nuthatches and tree-creepers. Several Firecrest also allowed us to get close views. We had our picnic in the leisure area of Mas de la Franqueta, where we had good views of Mistle Thrush and Robin.

After short visits to a rural house close to Arnes we went back to our hotel for a break before having dinner in Horta de Sant Joan.

Tuesday March 7th – Day 6

The last day of the trip allowed Mark and Lesley to get a glimpse of the normal spring weather of the region. After several windy days it was a relief to wake up to a calm day, and we slowly made our way out of the Ports nature park. Driving down next to the Ebro River we approached another mountain chain, the Montsià. A few stops at selected sites in these lower mountains resulted in Red-legged Partridge, and we also had good views of several of the passerines encountered earlier on the trip. Serin, Blackcap and Sardinian Warbler were heard everywhere, and the winter groups of finches were actively searching the olive plantations for food.

The last visit of the trip was to the La Pietat hermitage, where we got a brief introduction to the many cave paintings of the area and were served a lovely paella on the terrasse. The last species on the list was a Brambling spotted by Mark - a fairly rare bird in the area! From La Pietat, the trip went to Barcelona Airport where a flight and the dreaded goodbyes were awaiting us.

A big thanks to Mark and Lesley for a great birding week - we hope that you will both return and wish you a good birding year!

All the best,

Cristian and Iben

Bird list

  • 1 Great Crested Grebe
  • 2 Black-necked Grebe
  • 3 Little Grebe
  • 4 Great Cormorant
  • 5 Grey Heron
  • 6 Little Egret
  • 7 Great Egret
  • 8 Cattle Egret
  • 9 Squacco Heron
  • 10 Night Heron
  • 11 Glossy Ibis
  • 12 White Stork
  • 13 Greater Flamingo
  • 14 Common Shelduck
  • 15 Mallard
  • 16 Gadwall
  • 17 Eurasian Wigeon
  • 18 Common Teal
  • 19 Northern Shoveler
  • 20 Red-crested Pochard
  • 21 Common Pochard
  • 22 Common Scoter
  • 23 Eurasian Griffon Vulture
  • 24 Osprey
  • 25 Bonelli's Eagle
  • 26 Booted Eagle
  • 27 Eurasian Sparrowhawk
  • 28 Common Buzzard
  • 29 Eurasian Marsh Harrier
  • 30 Hen Harrier
  • 31 Peregrine Falcon
  • 32 Common Kestrel
  • 33 Red-legged Partridge
  • 34 Common Coot
  • 35 Red-knobbed Coot
  • 36 Purple Swamphen
  • 37 Common Moorhen
  • 38 Water Rail
  • 39 Pied Avocet
  • 40 Black-winged Stilt
  • 41 Northern Lapwing
  • 42 European Golden Plover
  • 43 Grey Plover
  • 44 Little Ringed Plover
  • 45 Kentish Plover
  • 46 Ruddy Turnstone
  • 47 Dunlin
  • 48 Little Stint
  • 49 Temminck's Stint
  • 50 Red Knot
  • 51 Sanderling
  • 52 Common Redshank
  • 53 Spotted Redshank
  • 54 Common Greenshank
  • 55 Common Sandpiper
  • 56 Wood Sandpiper
  • 57 Green Sandpiper
  • 58 Ruff
  • 59 Eurasian Curlew
  • 60 Black-tailed Godwit
  • 61 Bar-tailed Godwit
  • 62 Common Snipe
  • 63 Stone Curlew
  • 64 Black-headed Gull
  • 65 Mediterranean Gull
  • 66 Yellow-legged Gull
  • 67 Lesser Black-backed Gull
  • 68 Audouin's Gull
  • 69 Slender-billed Gull
  • 70 Sandwich Tern
  • 71 Caspian Tern
  • 72 Whiskered Tern
  • 73 Feral Pigeon
  • 74 Wood Pigeon
  • 75 Eurasian Collared Dove
  • 76 Pallid Swift
  • 77 Alpine Swift
  • 78 Kingfisher
  • 79 Hoopoe
  • 80 Great Spotted Woodpecker
  • 81 Skylark
  • 82 Woodlark
  • 83 Crested Lark
  • 84 Thekla Lark
  • 85 Lesser Short-toed Lark
  • 86 Eurasian Crag Martin
  • 87 Barn Swallow
  • 88 Northern House Martin
  • 89 Sand Martin
  • 90 Meadow Pipit
  • 91 Water Pipit
  • 92 White Wagtail
  • 93 Grey Wagtail
  • 94 Dunnock
  • 95 Moustached Warbler
  • 96 Zitting Cisticola
  • 97 Cetti's Warbler
  • 98 Blackcap
  • 99 Sardinian Warbler
  • 100 Common Chiffchaff
  • 101 Firecrest
  • 102 Common Stonechat
  • 103 Blue Rock Thrush
  • 104 Black Redstart
  • 105 European Robin
  • 106 Bluethroat
  • 107 Mistle Thrush
  • 108 Song Thrush
  • 109 Blackbird
  • 110 Long-tailed Tit
  • 111 Eurasian Penduline Tit
  • 112 Crested Tit
  • 113 European Blue Tit
  • 114 Coal Tit
  • 115 Great Tit
  • 116 Eurasian Nuthatch
  • 117 Short-toed Treecreeper
  • 118 Eurasian Jay
  • 119 Eurasian Magpie
  • 120 Northern Raven
  • 121 Carrion Crow
  • 122 Jackdaw
  • 123 Red-billed Chough
  • 124 House Sparrow
  • 125 Eurasian Tree Sparrow
  • 126 Common Starling
  • 127 Spotless Starling
  • 128 Brambling
  • 129 Chaffinch
  • 130 European Serin
  • 131 European Goldfinch
  • 132 European Greenfinch
  • 133 Eurasian Siskin
  • 134 Eurasian Linnet
  • 135 Reed Bunting
  • 136 Corn Bunting
  • 137 Cirl Bunting
  • 138 Rock Bunting


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