Birding Guide

Fígols is situated in an area of astonishingly varied habitats, as well as being in the centre of important migration routes to and from Northern Europe. Situated as it is at some distance from the natural barrier of the high Pyrenean ranges the countryside hereabouts provides shelter and feeding for numerous migrants both before and after their exertions. Of note also is that the seasons arrive both earlier, i.e. spring, and last longer than in the higher regions, so migrants heading only as far as that also pass time in the district.

Short-toed eagle, courtesy of David and Kath, May 2008

Our bird list has come from three distinct sources:

Firstly, with thanks to the local authority, the ‘Ajuntament de Tremp’. A survey carried out in 2006 by SEO Birdlife, the Spanish equivalent of the RSPCB, which was to serve as a benchmark research into the avifauna of the newly commissioned ‘La Terreta’ wildlife conservation zone. This survey also included parts of Fígols’ territory, which adjoins La Terreta to the south, in order to begin to broaden the scope of the research to allow for the wide variety of habitat within Tremp’s municipal territory. SEO used a standard survey method, SACRE, so that the results could be incorporated with Europe-wide statistics.

Secondly, and with special thanks. Three sets of our guests have contributed either full bird lists or photographs and so deserve special mention: Peter and Angela of North Devon, who stayed at Casa Rafela in the spring of 2005,  Mike and Victoria from Cumbria, who spent their honeymoon there that same summer (and so deserve a very special commendation!), Both couples commented that most of their birding took place in and around the village, mainly from the terrace of Casa Rafela, whereas the SEO survey of Fígols was carried out on the Serra de Montllobat, some distance away from the village and its fruit orchards and more sheltered woodland. Finally, David and Kath from North Yorkshire, who spent a full two-weeks birding holiday in May 2009, and travelled throughout the province, making full use of the specialised – and excellent! – information provided by the Lleida Tourist Office. One of thier highlights  was at the wetland habitat around the karstic lakes at Basturs, which coincides with one of Our Favouite Walks; they liked it so much they returned and were rewarded with the image of a Short toed eagle – I think it’s a buzzard, which are very common heaeabouts, but then I’m not a birdier!

Thirdly, ourselves! We do not pretend to be more that passing enthusiasts of ornithology, but we do love the local countryside and, furthermore, have been out and about in it more-or-less daily for the past ten years! So our observations tend to fill in the gaps from the above ‘survey method’ observations.

Notes on the list itself:

The lists are presented in columns: English common names, scientific names and Catalan common names. Followed by a column showing which the identifier of each species, i.e. who saw what!

I’ve included the Catalan names both for the use of our friends and neighbours and also specifically for the interest of ‘amateur’ birders like ourselves; Catalan is a very rich language and the names have a high level of ‘poetic’ quality, e.g. onomatopoeia as in: ‘Rossinyol (Nightngale – repeat it quickly out loud!) or ‘Puput’ (Hoopoe); otherwise many names are simply beautiful and evocative.

Species that were identified exclusively by either group, i.e, the SEO surveys or the Casa Rafela crowd, appear in bold script. Thus far it’s England 12 – Catalonia 52! Come on!

It is important to note that the SEO La Terreta survey conformed fully to the SACRE methodology whereas the SEO Fígols survey was only partial, having about 25% of field observations. Also that the Fígols survey focussed one just one type of habitat, open sierra at approx 1,000 metres, wheras the La Terreta are is more heterogeneous as it contains higher mountain ranges and riverbank environments.

The Casa Rafela observations were by contrast much less systematic and, furthermore, pertained to short periods in given seasons. They do, however, very much reflect what other guests at Casa Rafela can expect to find ‘on your own doorstep’!

We have only included reference to our observations in order to mention specific instances or point out special circumstances, to this end we append footnotes to the table.

The identifier codes are as follows:

  1. The SEO ‘La Terreta’ survey
  2. The SEO ‘Fígols’ survey
  3. Peter and Angela’s survey, i.e. first half of May
  4. Mike and Victoria’s survey, i.e. mid-August
  5. Simon and Polly’s observations 1986 to date!
  6. David and Kath, mid-May 2008

Casa Rafela – Bird List

English Name Scientific Name Catalan Name Observations
Bee-eater Merops apiaster Abellerol 1,2,3,4,5a
Blackbird Turdus merula Merla 1,2,3
Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla Tallarol de casquet 1,2,3,4
Bunting, Cirl Emberiza cirlus Gratapalles 1,2,3
Bunting, Corn Miliaria or Emberiza calandra Cruixidell 1,2
Bunting, Rock Emberiza cia Sit negre 1,2
Bunting, Yellowhammer Emberiza citrinella Verderola 1,2
Buzzard Buteo buteo Aligot comú 1,3,4,5b
Buzzard, Honey Pernis apivorus Aligot vesper 3
Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs Pinsà comú 1,2,3,4
Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita Mosquiter comú 1,2
Chough Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax Gralla de bec vermell 1,2
Chough, Alpine Pyrrhocorax graculus Gralla de bec groc 1
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo Corb marí gros 1,5c
Crossbill Loxia curvirostra Trencapinyes 1
Crow, Carrion Corvus corone Cornella 1,2,3,4
Cuckoo Cuculus canorus Cucut 1,2,3,5d
Dipper Cinclus cinclus Merla d’aigua 1
Dove, Collared Streptopelia decaocto Tórtora turca 5e
Dove, Rock Columba livia Colom roquer 1,3,4
Dove, Stock Columba oenas Xixella 1
Dove, Turtle Streptopelia turtur Tórtora 1,2
Dunnock Prunella modularis Pardal de bardissa 1,4
Eagle, Booted Hieraaetus pennatus Àguila calçada 1
Eagle, Golden Aquila chrysaetos Àguila daurada 4
Eagle, Short-toed Circaetus gallicus Àguila marcenca 1, 6
Finch, Citril Serinus citrinella Llucareta 4
Goldfinch Carduelis carduelis Cadernera 1,2,3,4
Greenfinch Carduelis chloris Verdum 1,2
Hawfinch Coccothraustes coccothraustes Durbec 1
Firecrest Regulus ignicapilla Bruel 1,2
Flycatcher, Pied Ficedula hypoleuca Mastegatatxes 1
Flycatcher, Spotted Muscicapa striata Papamosques gris 1
Golden Oriole Oriolus oriolus Oriol 4,5f
Gosshawk Accipiter gentilis Astor 2
Gull, Yellow-legged Larus michahellis Gavià argentat 1,2
Harrier, Hen Circus cyaneus Arpella pàl.lida 5g
Heron, Grey Ardea cinerea Bernat pescaire 5h
Hobby Falco subbuteo Falcó mostatxut 5i
Hoopoe Upupa epops Puput 1,2,3,4,5j
Jackdaw Corvus monedula Gralla 2
Jay Garrulus glandarius Gaig 1,2,3,4
Kestrel Falco tinnunculus Xoriguer comú 1,2,3
Kestrel, Lesser Falco naumanni Xoriguer petit 1
Kite, Black Milvus migrans Milà negre 1,2,3,4
Kite, Red Milvus milvus Milà reial 1,3,4,5k
Lammergeier Gypaetus barbatus Trencalòs 1,2,3
Lark, Crested (PH) Galerida cristata Cogullada vulgar 1,2,3
Lark, Skylark Alauda arvensis Alosa vulgar 1,2
Lark, Thekla Galerida theklae Cogullada fosca 1
Lark, Woodlark Lullula arborea Cotoliu 1,2
Linnet Acanthis or Carduelis cannabina Passerell 1,2,3
Magpie Pica pica Garsa 1,2,3
Mallard Anas platyrhynchos Ànec collverd 1
Martin, House Delichon urbicum Oreneta cuablanca 1,2,3,4
Martin, Crag Ptyonoprogne rupestris Roquerol 1,2,3,4
Nightingale Luscinia megarhynchos Rossinyol 1,2,4
Nuthatch Sitta europaea Pica-soques blau 1,2,4
Ortolan Emberiza hortulana Hortolà 1,2,3
Owl, Eagle Bubo bubo Duc 5l
Owl, Tawney Strix aluco Gamarús 4,5m
Partridge, Red-legged Alectoris rufa Perdiu roja 1,2,3
Peregrine Falco peregrinus Falcó pelegrí 1,3
Pigeon, Wood Columba palumbus Tudó 1,2,3,4
Raven Corvus corax Corb 1,2,3,4
Redstart Phoenicurus phoenicurus Cotxa cua-roja 1,3
Redstart, Black Phoenicurus ochruros Cotxa fumada 1,2,3,4
Robin Erithacus rubecula Pit-roig 1,2,3
Quail Coturnix coturnix Guatlla 1,2
Pipet, Meadow Anthus pratensis Titella 1.2
Pipet, Tawney Anthus campestris Trobat 1,2
Pipet, Tree Anthus trivialis Piula dels arbres 1
Sandpiper, Common Actitis hypoleucos Xivitona 1
Serin Serinus serinus Gafarró 1,2,3,4
Shrike, Red-backed Lanius collurio Escorxador 1
Shrike, Southern Grey Shrike Lanius meridionalis Botxí meridional 1
Shrike, Wood Chat Lanius senator Capsigrany 1,2,3,4
Sparrow, House Passer domesticus Pardal comú 1,2,3,4
Sparrow, Rock Petronia petronia Pardal roquer 1,2,3
Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus Esparver vulgar 2
Starling, Spotless Sturnus unicolor Estornell negre 2,3,4
Stonechat Saxicola torquatus Bitxac comú 1,2,3
Swallow Hirundo rustica Oreneta vulgar 1,2,3,4
Swift Apus apus Falciot negre 1,3,4,5n
Swift, Alpine Apus melba Ballester 1,2,4
Thrush, Blue Rock Monticola solitarius Merla blava 1,2,3
Thrush, Mistle Turdus viscivorus Griva cerdana 1,2
Thrush, Rock Monticola saxatilis Merla roquera 1,2
Thrush, Song Turdus philomelos Tord comú 1,2
Tit, Blue Parus caeruleus Mallerenga blava 1,2,4
Tit, Coal Parus ater Mallerenga petita 1,3
Tit, Crested Parus cristatus Mallerenga emplomallada 1
Tit, Great Parus major Mallerenga carbonera 1,2,3,4
Tit, Long-tailed Aegithalos caudatus Mallerenga cuallarga 1,2
Treecreeper, Short–toed Certhia brachydactyla Raspinell comú 1,2,3
Vulture, Black Aegypius monachus Voltor negre 3,4,5o
Vulture, Egyptian Neophron percnopterus Aufrany 1,4,5p
Vulture, Griffon Gyps fulvus Voltor comú 1,2,3,4,5
Wagtail, Grey Motacilla cinerea Cuereta torrentera 1,4
Wagtail, Pied Motacilla alba Cuereta blanca 1,2,3,4
Wagtail, Yellow Motacilla flava Cuereta groga 1,2
Wallcreeper Tichodroma muraria Pela-roques 1,2,5q
Warbler, Bonelli’s Phylloscopus bonelli Mosquiter pàl·lid 1,2,4
Warbler, Cetti’s Cettia cetti Rossinyol bord 1
Warbler, Dartford Sylvia undata Tallareta cuallarga 1,2
Warbler, Garden Sylvia borin Tallarol gros 1
Warbler, Melodious Hippolais polyglotta Bosqueta vulgar 1
Warbler, Orphean Sylvia hortensis Tallarol emmascarat 1,2
Warbler, Sardinian Sylvia melanocephala Tallarol capnegre 1
Warbler, Sub-Alpine Sylvia cantillans Tallarol de garriga 1,2
Water Rail Rallus aquaticus Rascló 1
Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe Còlit gris 1,3
Wheatear, Black Oenanthe leucura Còlit negre 4
Wheatear, Black-eared Oenanthe hispanica Còlir ros 2
Whinchat Saxicola rubetra Bitxac rogenc 4
Woodpecker, Greater Spotted Dendrocopos major Picot garser gros 1,2,3,4
Woodpecker, Green Picus viridis Picot verd 1,2
Wren Troglodytes troglodytes Cargolet 1,2
Wryneck Jynx torquilla Colltort 2


5a) Bee-eater: There are two colonies locally, one along the C1311 road into Tremp and another in the countryside near Fígols whose location know to us.
5b) Buzzard: Although this does not appear in the SEO ‘Fígols’ survey there are in fact at least two nest/roosts near the village. In fact Buzzards are a common sight all around the district.
5c) Cormorant: Cormorants can be seen along the rivers Noguera Robagorçana and Pallaresa, i.e. within the ‘La Terreta’ survey area but not in Fígols itself.
5d) Cuckoo: Large numbers of Cuckoos inhabit the woods around Fígols in early April, prior to crossing the Pyrenees. The ‘resident’ pairs arrive quite separately some weeks later.
5e) Collared dove: I’m not sure why I’m the only person to observe these birds, they really are a common sight!
5f) Golden Oriole: These birds seem to come and go depending on the year.
5g) Hen Harrier: One example can be seen dismembering its prey on a ’telegraph’ pole, a hundred metres in front of Casa Rafela. Each year it seems to alternate with a Hobby, presumably they share the same ‘niche’?
5h) Grey Heron: A very common sighting along the Noguara Pallaresa, but not in Fígols itself, nor, I assume, in La Terreta. Although I have seen both Herons and mallards Ducks at various water holes around Fígols, I think that these must be taken as one-offs!
5i) Hobby: See 5g) Hen Harrier, above.
5j) Hoopoe: Large numbers pass a week or so at Fígols shortly before the arrival of the Cuckoos, see 5d) above.
5k) Red Kite: There are about six resident pairs which can be seen daily around the land-fill site a few kilometres from the village, however, this is located outside of the SEO ‘Fígols’ survey area.
5l) Eagle Owl: These are really notorious in the district as they prey on domestic animals. I nearly ran into one feeding on the C1311 road one night!
5m) Tawney Owl: Highly vociferous around the village around dawn. I’m not sure why the SEO surveys don’t observe any owls. The summary of the research method appears limited to daytime observation, so maybe that explain it.
5n) Swift: It really is bizarre that Swifts don’t appear on the SEO ‘Fígols’ survey. They are present in very large numbers!
5o) Black Vulture: This is a newcomer to the La Terreta reserve.
5p) Egyptian Vulture: I watched one lonely example perch around the village off and on for over ten years now, but it’s still only an occasional visitor. Frequent sightings can be made at the Congost de Terradets ravine, however.
5q) Wallcreeper: We see these feeding on the earth ‘mortar’ in various abandoned houses in the depths of winter – just as the textbooks describe! So it’s no surprise that guests at casa Rafela shouldn’t see them, even though they are a reportedly well known sighting at the nearby Congost de Montrebei ravine.
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