Sunday, 23 February 2014

A spot of urban birding in Barcelona

Last week Chris and I went on a wee holiday to Barcelona - it was our Christmas present to one another instead of stuff, which we have enough of already. Chris isn't too into birds so it wasn't a birding holiday, but I was excited to see whatever I might come across, and hoping for a few lifers as the majority of my European birding up until now has been north of the Arctic Circle :oD

Unsurprisingly the first birds we saw were Feral Pigeons, Common Starlings and Yellow-legged Gulls. However it wasn't long at all before we came across the first of many Monk Parakeets - these noisy guys are in pretty much every tree in Barcelona, even on the busiest roads.

Monk Parakeets in Park Güell.
Monk Parakeet in Parc de la Ciutadella. This one and several of its associates were wearing little neck tags which I think are part of a project studying the dispersal of Monk Parakeets.

I read somewhere that there are 6 species of parakeet in Barcelona, all feral populations - I managed to find 3, as well as the Monk Parakeets we also saw some Rose-ringed on La Rambla, and a good-sized flock of Red-masked Parakeets in Parc de la Ciutadella which was a new species for me.

Parc de la Ciutadella, near to where we saw a flock of Red-masked Parakeets in a large coniferous tree.
In the two parks we visited, we saw plenty of everyday (for us at least) birds - Blackbird, Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Collared Dove, White Wagtail, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Robin, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Jackdaw and Magpie. It was dead exciting to see so many Black Redstarts, they weren't wary at all and we watched one female sitting in a nearby bush in Park Güell for some time.

Spot the Black Redstart!
Park Güell is a most excellent park, with the joyful and intriguing Gaudí architecture of the busier 'monumental zone', and the quieter, richly vegetated wider park area, which is hilly in places giving brilliant views over Barcelona, and where more birds could be found. Just by where the Black Redstart above was, I saw my first Crested Tits - deep joy!

Park Güell monumental zone.

Park Güell.
View over Barcelona from high up in Park Güell.
My first Crested Tits were in this tree :o)
Other lifers included Serin, seen while we were wandering round the city, Spotless Starling which we saw in Parc de la Ciutadella (another top notch park!) and Audouin's Gull, a super-smart gull which could be seen flying around over the sea at the beach.

The beach!

The beach!
There was also something of an owl theme to the trip, not because we saw any but (to begin with at least) because this was my holiday reading:

'Owl' by Desmond Morris, an anniversary gift from Chris!
It was a very enjoyable and accessible read about owls in human culture, which also unexpectedly enhanced our holiday by alerting us to the existence of this mighty owl!

This is supposedly one of the largest owl images in the world! It is on top of a building located at the junction of Avinguda Diagonal and Passeig de Sant Joan in central Barcelona, and was erected as an advertisement for a company that installs neon lighting. Although apparently it doesn't light up any more.
Later on in the book was a large section about Picasso's works featuring owls, which was also fortuitously timed to coincide with our visit to Museu Picasso. I vaguely remembered from A-level art, my art foundation course and previous visit to Barcelona with said course that Picasso had depicted owls but had since kind of forgotten about it so these images filled me with the joy of rediscovery, as well as the joy of just seeing pictures of owls!

Pablo Picasso - Still life with owl and three urchins (1946).

Pablo Picasso - Owl in an interior (1946).
Also in Museu Picasso, I enjoyed his series of paintings of a pigeon loft, they were filled with light and colour, I can imagine the pigeons cooing and bumbling around their peaceful loft in the Mediterranean sunshine.

Pablo Picasso - The pigeons (1957).

Picasso's work is so varied, I think there is something for everybody :o)

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