Is it Catalunya, Cataluñia or Catalonia?

Catalunya, Cataluñia or Catalonia? That’s the question! Can you place it on a map? It’s the north-east corner of Spain, or the Iberian Peninsula.

Squacco Heron (Duncan Macdonald)

When thinking of Catalunya then maybe Barcelona springs to mind first. A lively, energetic metropolis with connections to the artist Gaudi, the famous Las Ramblas and of course, one of the greatest football teams on the planet! Maybe one thinks of Salvador Dali, the great surrealist, or the family holiday destination of the Costa Brava? There are many reasons for visiting Catalunya, but did you know that Catalunya is probably the richest region in Spain for birds?

Citril Finch (Duncan Macdonald)

One of the main reasons for this richness is the diversity of habitat, where one can be watching species like Lammergeier and Citril Finch early morning in the high Pyrenees and ending the day with shearwaters and Audouin’s Gulls off the Mediterranean coast. Catalunya is predominantly a mountainous region of Spain, with a rocky coastline in the north, but there is much more.  There are large steppes around the city of Lleida with species like Calandra Lark, Pin-tailed Sandgrouse, Little Bustard, Roller and the last remaining Lesser Grey Shrikes in Western Europe. The woodlands, pastures and lower sierra of the Pyrenean foothills hold Red-backed Shrike, Egyptian Vulture, Honey Buzzard and Whinchat, among a suite of others.

Red-Backed Shrike (Duncan Macdonald)

Catalunya has one of the most beautiful areas of the Pyrenees, sometimes described as the Iberian equivalent of the Swiss Alps with a landscape dotted with lakes and surrounded by towering peaks, pasture and woodland. This is a land of Lammergeier, Wallcreeper, Citril Finch and Alpine Chough, but is also home to rarer species like Capercaillie and Tengmalm’s Owl. There are still Brown Bears in the forests of the Catalunyan Pyrenees!

Greater Flamingo (Duncan Macdonald)

Perhaps the habitat that Catalunya is most famous for however, is the mighty Ebro Delta to the south of Barcelona.  It is difficult to do justice to the Ebro Delta in just a few lines, but the wealth of birdlife to be found here is extraordinary. Herons, egrets, 70% of the World’s population of Audouin’s Gull, seven species of tern, Red-crested Pochard, Greater Flamingo, Moustached and Savi’s Warblers as well as the endemic race of Reed Bunting all make a living from this rich delta.

Griffon Vulture (Duncan Macdonald)
Short-toed Eagle (Duncan Macdonald)

Catalunya is quite simply a birders paradise and I don’t make that statement lightly. With nearly 450 species recorded including the majority of Iberian specialities, Catalunya should be high on any enthusiasts list of birding destinations. Catalunya also sits quite neatly on a migration route to and from Africa, so is also perfectly placed to attract and catch the unexpected. Around 25% of the bird species recorded are rarities that the ever increasing number of birders find!

Alpine Accentor (Duncan Macdonald)

Foremost among Catalunyan birders is Ricard Gutiérrez – working for the Government of Catalunya within biodiversity conservation, Ricard has been passionate about the birdlife of his region almost all his life. He has and does sit on a variety of rarity and other ornithological committees and is the founder and author of the websites: www.rarebirdspain.net and the newer www.rarebirds.cat as well as the author of ‘When and Where to Watch Birds in Catalunya’.

White Stork

Given his ‘birding pedigree’ I was delighted when Ricard agreed to co-lead a holiday for Speyside Wildlife to Catalunya in May 2019.  Given the diversity of Catalunya and the expertise and passion of Ricard, the tour, I am sure, will be very special indeed.  Why not join us?

If you would liek to join Duncan and Ricard, then you can book online. Please phone 01479 812498 if you ahve any questions.