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Barcelona 18-20 January 2013- Monk Parakeets and a fall of Black Redstarts?

Catalan weekend or snow at home?

The 18th January saw the perfectly forecasted heavy snowfall at home in Gloucestershire arrive, the garden was alive with birds feeding on all the things I had put out and it was not looking good for us getting away as Bristol Airport flights had been shut all day. This was a surprise Christmas present from my wife to have something to look forward to and break the winter up. The snow looked great and by midday we were both thinking it would be OK if we did not travel for the weekend.  Things remained on track, the authorities had cleared the roads and we got to the airport only to wait seven hours before finally getting off. Not ideal but conditions were harsh and they did well to go at all. Hats off to easyjet but an extra delay was a changover of non-easyjet groundstaff, one lot finishing a shift and another taking over…not seamless. A late arrival-0300 at the Chic and Basic Ramblas Hotel (recommended) and re-start of the day late morning on 19th. Obvious birds were Yellow-legged Gulls in the bins, harbourside rubbish bins that is. Ring-necked and Monk Parakeets. The latter the most obvious bird in the city and very common. Many were nest-building in the palm trees and a flock were feeding on berries/fruit in Parc Guell.

Monk Parakeets in Parc Guell

I did note Chiffchaff and Blackcap in the orange trees in the city centre but have to admit that tapas bars and vegetarian restuarants as gleaned from the Rough Guide to Barcelona were more of a distraction, excellent food and Cava! Many of our stops were to admire the work of Gaudi, Parc Guell being especially notable for the fantasy of even hallucinogenic inpsired architecture. All very interesting and a Crested Tit to boot. We took the open topped (with covering as it rained in the afternoon) bus tour, hop on and hop off on Saturday, the all day Metro ticket on Sunday. A short ride to the base of Montjuic and we walked all the way to the castle at the top, took the cable car back down (perhaps the wrong way but calories needed burning for the next meal). At Montjuic Castle the sun shone and the Crag Martins hawked the ramparts for insects. It was crawling with Black Redstarts….

A Crag Martin hurtles past the castle with docks below.

A fall of Black Redstarts?

The heavy snow fall across France may have been responsible for these birds heading further south, the heavy rain and misty conditions in Barcelona and along the coast could have caused them to drop down hence the high density of birds. Around 30-40 were feeding in a very small area at the castle. There is the possiblility that this is normal but it seemed too many for such a small area.

Here is a selction of studies of these active passerines, no adult males as they preferred to feed on the vines growing on the walls and pines opposite, they were aggressive to the other Black Redstarts present.

All images MJMcGill

Interesting to see the castle guns were made by Vickers, MOD.




Filed under: Trip Reports


at 3:31 pm

January to February 2013 blog and sightings

The Bittern from Zeiss Hide-who hasn’t taken a picture of this showy bird.

Bittern, Top New Piece, MJMcGill

BRAMBLING- up to four in the garden.
This one not so well. I disinfect my feeders and table but this may demonstrate not everyone does?

Brambling, female, Whitminster, MJMcGill

COMMON SNIPE- always looking good in the sun

Snipe, Martin Smith Hide, 18 Feb 2013, MJMcGill

TUNDRA BEAN GOOSE- three present at WWT Slimbridge all month.
This one an adult, surely Jackdaw is not a new ‘carrier species’ for geese!

Tundra Bean Goose adult, 18 Feb 2013, The Dumbles, MJMcGill

And the juvenile or first winter

Tundra Bean Goose, juvenile, The Dumbles, 18 Feb 2013 MJMcGill 001 Tundra Bean Goose, juvenile, The Dumbles, 18 Feb 2013 MJMcGill

And with European White-fronted Geese in flight (4th from top right)

E White-fronted Geese with juv Tundra Bean Goose, The Dumbles, 17 Feb 13 MJMcGill

Mixed goose flock over the Dumbles, Slimbridge, 17 Feb 2013, MJMcGill


Bewick's Swans-The Dumbles, MJMcGill


Golden Plover and Lapwing-Tack Piece MJMcGill

KINGFISHER- my first of the year was flying down the A38 at Fromebridge, this one more typically at WWT Slimbridge.

Kingfisher, MJMcGill

9-28 February 2013 Highlights in images above…

8 February 2013 The two male and female Blackcaps are still in my garden.

7 February 2013 A calling overflying wader that headed out and N upriver on the Severn estuary gave a persistent double call , it proved to be a Ruff, rare that I hear them. The Bittern showed well from Zeiss Hide again today.

2 February 2013 A Coal Tit in the garden.

1 February 2013 Just had to go and have a look at the Great Northern Diver that John Sanders spotted whilst getting his morning paper yesterday. It has appeared on Pittville Park, Cheltenham perhaps due to the gales, maybe it is under the weather, whatever the reason this is an unusual place for it to be. This allows a great opportunity to see one up close and not in a sea swell in the UK. I have studied them on the only European grounds in Iceland but this species is effectively North American. It was interesting to see it driving small fish ahead, many leaping out of the water and apparently cornering them against the bank. Some low res studies of the bird follow.


The diver was pleasing enough but I went home to get on with something on the laptop, duing a screen break I looked out the window to see 6 Waxwings in a neighbours birch tree. I crossed my fingers that they had seen my apples….they had! Soon after they flew to my beech tree, then to the wires over the garden, then down onto the apples….result….at last. I have been putting out apples all winter for them and the thrushes and Blackcaps but these are my first Waxwing this winter. It was interesting to see the squabbling amongst them even though there was plenty to go around. They spent just over an hour with me and I even got the County Recorder around to have a look as he is a co-Whitminster resident and had not seen them in the village before. Look out for his pic on the Gloster Birder website.

28 January 2013 The four Great Crane Project Cranes were back on the WWT Slimbridge reserve, I saw them under the oaks apparently foraging acorns. They have also taken to the maize field.

27 January 2013 Two Tundra Bean Geese in flight with a E. White-fronted Goose
An adult and first winter arrived at WWT Slimbridge on 15th with a third adult on 26th January.

And a single Tundra Bean Goose with E. White-fronted Geese 28th January 2013 and a female Goldeneye flies from the Top New Piece 30 January 2013


Reed Bunting at WWT Slimbridge (a few are now on the feeders)

18 January 2013 The snow that fell drew lots of birds to my garden apples. I had 62 Fieldfare on the deck and low shrubs at one point!

Male Blackcap (at least three present)

Even the Blue Tits had a taste

14 January 2013 The Whooper Swan called in again, this time spotted by Nigel Pleass.

Whooper and Bewick’s Swan, The Rushy, WWT Slimbridge MJMcGill

13 January 2013 Despite the Lesser Redpoll flock being present all winter at WWT Slimbridge it is always nice to see them close up on a calm and sunny day.

Acrobatic Redpolls…



Rock Pipit on the Severn














Filed under: Birdwatching Diary


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