Technically it’s still winter, and most migrants and summer visitors are yet to arrive. But in the Monegros steppes, a region west of Catalonia belonging to Aragon, you can feel the spring is near. The sky already filled with the songs of Calandra Larks and Lesser Short-toed Larks. And even a much rarer song to hear these days, the secretive Dupont’s Lark, can be enjoyed at some special spots. Yesterday we were lucky enough get some pretty spectacular views of them.
Dupont’s Lark is in real trouble in Iberia, due mostly to loss of suitable habitat. Unlike other lark species, it is not well adapted to live in agricultural land. Moreover, Dupont’s Lark chooses only flat or nearly flat areas with low vegetation, disliking too steep terrains. But most of this land is already used to grow cereal or even worse, transformed into irrigation. Thankfully, European directives have forced to protect a part of its habitat, but much work still needs to be done.
Anyway, if you like wide horizons, amazing landscapes and rich wildlife, Aragon is surely a place you don’t want to miss. This is how it looked at sunrise.
We were there well before dawn, as Dupont’s Lark likes to sing early in the morning. It is somehow magical to just sit, wait and listen to birds start singing. First, Stone Curlews, which are quite nocturnal, then a Thekla’s Lark, then a Calandra Lark, then… then this simple and beautiful song, just a few notes repeated every now and then. And yet so unique.
Here is a short video we managed to take. No audio recordings were used to lure the bird closer. Just a little patience. Turn up the volume to listen to its song.
Sometimes they call it “The Ghost of the Steppes”, because it is really hard to see. It manages to move fast among the short vegetation, like a mouse, and its cryptic plumage make it easy for it to go unnoticed. So don’t get fooled by the openness of its habitat. If it’s not singing, you probably won’t see it.
Here are some pics of this sought after bird. Click to enlarge:
Window from outdoors to outdoors, witness of a long gone past.
The climate in the steppes is quite extreme, with cold and windy winters and very hot summers. But most of all, the limited annual rainfall is what defines its landscape and its wildlife. Yet, in this dry habitat there are some amphibians to be found, like this Natterjack Toad hiding under a rock.
After spending all morning birding in the Monegros steppes and having a wonderful time, we decided to visit the riparian forest of a nearby river, as well as some cliffs, where we had good views of Black Wheatear, Blue Rock Thrush and Golden Eagle, among others. White Storks were already on their nest in riverside town.
Lesser Short-toed Lark
Iberian Grey Shrike
Iberian Green Woodpecker
Great Spotted Woodpecker
Blue Rock Thrush