Birding in Spain: Birding in Catalonia
Guided day tours, short breaks and holidays in the Llobregat Delta.

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Same-day add-ons:

Garraf Massif

Collserola (autumn raptor migration)

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Photos by Phillip West, Alex Vargas, Stewart Abbott and other tour members

Birding in the Llobregat Delta :

Visitors to Barcelona may not be aware of the Llobregat Delta, a birding haven with over 350 recorded bird species that sits on its doorstep. With thousands of birds passing through each year, it's quite metaphoric that it's annexed to Barcelona airport and not surprising that it's become known as the migrant capital of Catalonia.

With spring migration stretching from February to June and autumn passage from July to November, it seems like the parade of White-winged Tern, Glossy Ibis, Osprey, Garganey, Common Crane and crakes, to name a few, is non-stop. And Llobregat has more than its fair share of vagrants too [Article of interest: why migratory birds from Asia land in Europe].

Also, with the addition of two new sites at Cal Tet and Can Camins to add to the Remolar-Filipines reserve, bird watching tours, short breaks and birding holidays are now even better as the extra habitat has increased the chances of seeing Moustached Warbler, Little and Great Bittern, Collared Pratincole and Penduline Tit amongst others. Read more...

Llobregat Delta Birding Tours:

! Lunch !

An excellent full home-made picnic based on local cuisine is available at €10 per person

Llobregat Only

Llobregat + Garraf Massif

Llobregat + Collserola Park

'Add-on' to other tours

Bird Tour Checklist:

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Birding in the Llobregat Delta: All Year Round

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All / Most of year round :

Shelduck (nt)
Gadwall (3)
Shovelor (3) (nt)
Red-crested Pochard (3) (vu)
Common Pochard (2)
Little Grebe
Great Crested Grebe
Black-necked Grebe (nt)
Great Cormorant
Night Heron (3)
Cattle Egret
Little Egret
Great White Egret
Grey Heron
Eurasian Spoonbill (2) (vu)
Marsh Harrier
Common Kestrel (3)
Water Rail
Purple Swamphen (3)
Crested Coot (3) (cr)
Pied Avocet (2)
Kentish Plover (3) (vu)
Little Stint
Dunlin (3)
Ruff (2)
Black-tailed Godwit (2) (NT)
Spotted Redshank (3)
Common Redshank (2) (vu)
Green Sandpiper
Common Sandpiper (3)
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There's so much migrant activity through the year at the Llobregat Delta that bird tours on two consecutive days could easily paint completely different pictures. Which is why we usually squeeze in more than one visit during a bird watching holiday, or even a short birding break.

But even during the rare 'quiet periods' there's always enough herons, waders, shorebirds and passerines in the lagoons, marshes, beaches, rivers and pinedas of the three reserves to justify sneaking a few birding hours off from the stag weekend, business conference or other activity that has brought you to Barcelona.


"From the first few minutes at Llobregat I knew it would be a great trip. I've got so many fantastic memories of amazing birds and stunning landscapes and the experience has definitely inspired me to plan a return trip. I've really benefited from the time I've spent with you... your enthusiasm and breadth of experience are obvious. All the best with your business. You're already off to a fantastic start - Amazing!"
Declan Savage, Ireland, May 2006

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Mediterranean Gull
Black-headed Gull
Slender-billed Gull (3) (vu)
Audouin's Gull (1) (NT)
Yellow-legged Gull
Sandwich Tern (2) (nt)
Stock Dove
Wood Pigeon
Collared Dove
Monk Parakeet
Ring-necked Parakeet
Little Owl (3)
Hoopoe (3)
Iberian Green Woodpecker (2)
Crested Lark (3)
White Wagtail
Stonechat (2)
Cetti's Warbler
Fan-tailed Warbler
Moustached Warbler (vu)
Sardinian Warbler
Long-tailed Tit
Penduline Tit
Crested Tit (2)
Coal Tit
Blue Tit
Great Tit
Short-toed Treecreeper
Starling (3)
Spotless Starling (4)
House Sparrow (3)
Tree Sparrow (3)
Common Waxbill
Corn Bunting (2)
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Birding in the Llobregat Delta: Spring and Autumn Passage

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As the officially designated migrant capital of Catalonia, it's not surprising to hear that the best time to take a bird tour to the Llobregat Delta is during passage times. But the good news is that these times barely stop.

White-winged Tern and Marsh Sandpiper may be the pick of the April-May peak, but Spring actually spans from late February (e.g. crakes) to early June. And before the month is out waders in full summer regalia kick-off the Autumn, via raptors and Dotterel, to the November stopover of Common Crane.

During Autumn passage, an added birding tour to watch raptor migration from the Collserola Park is a must.

Spain birding: Llobregat Barcelona: Spring and Autumn itinerary

"Stephen was an excellent bird guide. He knew exactly what I wanted to see on the day and made every effort to ensure that as many of these were on our route. His knowledge of the area and the associated birds was fantastic, and I would definitely call him up again if I was visiting Barcelona or the surrounding area."
Joel Lund, UK, June 2008

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Passage Only :

Mute Swan (V)
White-fronted Goose (V)
Ruddy Shelduck (V)
Blue-winged Teal (V)
Garganey (3) (vu)
Marbled Teal (1) (VU) (V)
Ferruginous Duck (1) (NT)
Eider Duck (V)
Glossy Ibis (3) (vu)
White Stork (2)
Osprey (3) (cr)
Black Kite (3) (nt)
Short-toed Eagle (3)
Montagu's Harrier (4) (vu)
Golden Eagle (3) (nt) (V)
Booted Eagle (3)
Bonelli's Eagle (3) (en) (V)
Hobby (nt)
Spotted Crake
Little Crake
Baillon's Crake (3)
Common Crane (1)
Oystercatcher (nt)
Dotterel (en)
Red Knot (3)
Temminck's Stint
Pectoral Sandpiper (V)
Curlew Sandpiper
Bar-tailed Godwit (3)
Marsh Sandpiper
Ruddy Turnstone
Little Gull (3)
Caspian Tern (3) (V)
Black Tern (3) (en)
White-winged Tern
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Birding in the Llobregat Delta: Summer (and Passage)

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The complex eco-system that is the Llobregat Delta continues its resistence to definition with Summer actually providing refuge for non-breeding waders, early waves of Autumn migrants and post-breeding arrivals of Kingfisher ready for their winter stay!

The orthodox Summer attractions include Little Bittern playing hide and seek at Cal Tet, Collared Pratincole and Spoonbill outside the Filipines hide and flocks of waders, Audouin's Gull and Gull-billed Tern on Ca L'Arana beach.

And you always have the option of adding a visit to the Garraf Massif or Collserola as part of your birding day trip.

“We really did enjoy ourselves. Both locations were great. We had a terrific day, saw some wonderful birds, all of which was made the more enjoyable by the lovely friendly personality of Stephen. We were very impressed with his bird spotting plus his sharing of his extensive knowledge without us feeling inferior. We would love the opportunity to spend more time with him at some of the other locations he goes to. If you want good birding contact him."
Bill & Doreen Colvin, Ireland, October 2006

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Great Spotted Cuckoo
Pallid Swift
Roller (2) (NT)
Wryneck (3)
Sand Martin (3)
Red-rumped Swallow
Tawny Pipit (3)
Red-throated Pipit
Yellow Wagtail sub-species
Common Redstart (2) (vu)
Northern Wheatear (3)
Black-eared Wheatear (2) (nt)
Mistle Thrush
Savi's Warbler (nt)
Melodious Warbler (4)
Spectacled Warbler
Sub-alpine Warbler
Western Orphean Warbler (3)
Common Whitethroat
Garden Warbler
Wood Warbler (2)
Western Bonelli's Warbler (2)
Willow Warbler
Pied Flycatcher
Hooded Crow (V)

Summer (and passage) :

Yelkouan Shearwater
Little Bittern* (3)
Squacco Heron (3) (nt)
Purple Heron (3)
Greater Flamingo (3) (nt)
Collared Pratincole (3) (vu)
Black-winged Stilt
Little Ringed Plover
Ringed Plover
Wood Sandpiper* (3)
Gull-billed Tern (3) (vu)
Common Tern (nt)
Little Tern (3) (nt)
Whiskered Tern (3) (vu)
Turtle Dove (3) (vu)
Common Cuckoo
Common Swift
Alpine Swift
European Bee-eater (3)
Barn Swallow (3)
House Martin (3)
Iberiae Yellow Wagtail
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Birding in the Llobregat Delta: Winter (and Passage)

A bubbling carpet of thousands of ducks, Golden Plover and Lapwing provide a boisterous backdrop to a birding tour to the Llobregat Delta in Winter - and in amongst them a full set of wintering waders as well as Kingfisher, Penduline Tit, Little Bittern, Water Pipit and Bluethroat.

Singing Moustached Warbler blow their cover in the reedbeds whilst Stone-curlew stay cryptic on the local farmland and nearby Gannet and Balearic Shearwater contrast with a vibrant and thrilling oceanic display.

But it's the infamous Great Bittern that really gets the heart racing, and is possibly topped only by 'adding-on' a Garraf Massif bird tour for local Wallcreeper.

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Spain birding: Llobregat Barcelona: Winter itinerary

"First of all I would like to thank you for a great day out. I have a few days off in May and would like to see if you were free for a two or three day bird tour." Michael Frankling, UK, March and May 2008

"I loved birding with Stephen. He knows his birds and where to find them and was very friendly and flexible. Great bird guide and lots of birds."
Jory Langner, USA, May 2007

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Reed Warbler
Great Reed Warbler
Spotted Flycatcher (3)
Golden Oriole
Woodchat Shrike (2) (nt)

Winter (and Passage) :
Greylag Goose
Teal (vu)
Pintail (3) (vu)
Tufted Duck (3)
Common Scoter
Balearic Shearwater (CR)
Northern Gannet (2)
Little Bittern* (3)
Great Bittern (3) (cr)
Common Buzzard
Peregrine Falcon (3)
Stone-curlew (3) (nt)
Golden Plover
Grey Plover
Lapwing (2)
Common Snipe (3) (en)
Jack Snipe (3)
Curlew (2) (en)
Great Skua (4)
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Common Kingfisher (3) (nt)
Skylark (3)
Crag Martin
Meadow Pipit
Water Pipit
Grey Wagtail
Black Redstart
Song Thrush
Dartford Warbler (2)
Linnet (2)
Cirl Bunting
Reed Bunting (en)

Key :

SPEC 1 (1)
SPEC 2 (2)
SPEC 3 (3)
IUCN Critical (CR)
IUCN endangered (EN)
IUCN vulnerable (VU)
IUCN near-threatened (NT)
SPAIN critical (cr)
SPAIN endangered (en)
SPAIN vulnerable (vu)
SPAIN near-threatened (nt)
Vagrant/Occasional (V)
Sometimes winter (*)

The Nature of the Llobregat Delta... a personal overview

Whether you need to fill in a couple of rushed birding hours before flying off somewhere or want to take it easy and relax away the whole day, the Llobregat Delta, next to Barcelona's El Prat airport, is the perfect location.

Indeed, as nature creates a freakish metaphor of its neighbour, with thousands of birds and some 350 species passing through each year, it's not surprising that it's earned a reputation as THE place for migrants in the whole of Catalonia.

Everything from Bluethroat, paying but fleeting visits, to Spoonbill, often hanging around for months, takes a stopover here at some point.

Those taking their regular scheduled flights include Osprey, Booted Eagle, Great White Egret, Glossy Ibis, Furruginous Duck, White-winged Tern and Little Gull although by far the most memorable is the invasion of thousands upon thousands of hirundines,

when all five european species including Crag Martin and Red-rumped Swallow, can be seen skimming and darting through every spare centimetre of air space.

And, of course, there are always those who miss their flight and each year ill-winds bring in a mixed bag of rare vagrants all eager to find their way home.

As expected perhaps, the delta is well staffed with natives also and Night Heron, Kentish Plover, Collared Pratincole, Black-winged Stilt, Penduline Tit, Scops Owl and Purple Gallinule all busy themselves during the breeding season.

It does have its quiet side though and, given an early morning, may be a seat overlooking the Vidala and a flask of coffee, you stand your best chance, perhaps in the whole of the Iberian Peninsular, of seeing Water Rail, Spotted Crake and Moustached Warbler.

But be careful you don't miss your flight.

Six reasons why the Llobregat Delta gets bird vagrants

4. Rainfall however can have a major say in precisely where vagrant and migrant birds 'fall' so check locally after night storms.

5. Proximity to an existing migration route ensures sites like the Llobregat Delta benefit from relatively minor weather-related errors.

6. A Coastal location like Llobregat Delta will also benefit from falls of oceanic migrants.

1. A querk in genetic programming, making some birds 'buck the trend', is a safety net of natural selection and can be a precursor to colonisation. See Blackcap.

2. Inexperienced younger birds can migrate past their normal breeding/wintering range.

3. Wind conditions can contribute but it seems unlikely that birds being 'blown off course' plays a crucial role in true vagrancy.

Llobregat Delta Links :

Barcelona Field Studies/Llobregat Delta
Llobregat Delta by Ricard Gutiérrez

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