Birding at San pere de rodes monastery

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San Pere de Rodes monastery

Attraction

 

San Salvador castle is the highest point on Cap de Creus, reputedly a site for both species of Rock Thrush and for wintering Alpine Accentor. It is reached by walking from the Monastery of San Pere de Rodes which promises, according to Steve West, a good assortment of warblers, aerial birds such as Crag Martin, Alpine and Pallid Swifts and a chance of the headland’s raptors including Peregrine and Bonelli’s Eagle. However, in June 2018, I had hardly any of these birds; here’s what I did find.

Getting there

 

The monastery is very well-signposted on the road between Port de la Selva and Vilajuiga. There are three car parks; I recommend using the middle one (42.3257N, 3.1612E), nearest the chapel, and walking via the chapel around the south side of the ridge. This is a longer but less steep ascent to the castle but you are still faced with a steep climb for the last 200 metres or so.

 

Notes

 

1.         In the area around the car park the birds were mainly finches, Serin, Goldfinch, Linnet and Chaffinch but the bushes also had Nightingale, Sardinian Warbler, Melodious Warbler and Cirl Bunting. The only aerial birds around the site were House Martins (no Crag Martins, swifts or raptors) but maybe it is different when the tramuntana winds aren’t blowing a gale!

 

2.         On the walk around the north side, the warblers were still Sardinian and Melodious but there were also Woodlarks and Stonechat in the pines near the chapel. A pinnacle of rock to the south of the path had a Blue Rock Thrush, Orphean Warblers sang distantly on the slopes below and a Rock Bunting flew past me. Note that there is no path along the ridge to the castle; you have to drop down on the north side to join the steep path up to the castle. I followed a smaller path up the ridge until it terminated. This gave me views across the rocks below the castle but the only singing thrush turned out to be a Blackbird.

 

3.         At the castle (42.3201N, 3.1677E) there were no further signs of either species of Rock Thrush but a Rock Bunting was singing on the rocky slope below. The warblers within earshot were again only Sardinian, Melodious and Blackcap plus distant Orpheans.

 

4.         The steep path between the castle and the monastery is shrouded in such tall bushes that there’s little chance of the more interesting warblers – just Sardinian and Nightingale.


Being the highest point on the peninsula you might expect this site would be as good as anywhere on Cap de Creus for  species like Dartford, Subalpine and Spectacled Warbler, Black-eared Wheatear, Tawny Pipit, Rock Sparrow and Thekla Lark but my experience proved there were much better places for these species (see page 42).