Birding at Montgri and estartit

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Montgri and Estartit



Estartit is a small tourist resort on the coast at the base of a rocky cliff which is part of a hilly area called Montgri. Steve West describes Bonelli’s Eagle, Peregrine, Crag Martin and Blue Rock Thrush in the rocky areas and Black-eared Wheatear, Thekla Lark, Rock Sparrow, Orphean and Spectacled Warbler in the hills with Pallid and Alpine Swifts overhead. Ter Vell is a reed-filled lagoon right next to Estartit which is said to be good for herons and warblers including Little Bittern and Great Reed Warbler. However, in two days in this area I saw hardly any of these species but did get some good birds anyway (scroll down for details).


Getting there


To get to Estartit from the N-11 Barcelona to France road, turn off just north of Girona at junction 6 and follow signs to Costa Brava and then La Bispal d’Emporda. About 15 km from the motorway look for a left turn to Torroella de Montgri. At Torroella, a right turn takes you to Estartit.




1.                     We stayed at Camping Sirena (entrance 42.0484N, 3.1879E) on the south side of Estartit, directly overlooking the wetland of Ter Vell. Birds in the campsite itself included Scop’s Owl, Golden Oriole, Serin and Tree Sparrow. Pallid Swifts were almost constantly overhead, sometimes joined by numbers of Alpine Swift. Occasionally a party of Bee-eaters would pass over.


2.                     In June 2018 there were hardly any birds at Ter Vell. Cetti’s, Reed and Fan-tailed Warblers were only present in small numbers and there were no singing Great Reed Warblers at all. There is a lovely hide on the south shore of the reserve which overlooks the only sizeable stretch of open water but there was nothing to see apart from a few Mallard. Water Rail and Moorhen called from the reeds. Occasionally a Little Egret, Cattle Egret or Night Heron would fly over and one of the regulars at the campsite said he once saw a Marsh Harrier. One evening I counted over 30 Night Herons coming in off the sea, presumably from the offshore Iles de Medes where they apparently breed. However, all but one of them passed over the marsh heading further south or west. Even better, at dusk an Eleonora’s Falcon dashed over the marsh – apparently they are regularly seen in this area. Even more unexpected was a Rose-coloured Starling on the wires near the hide – my visit coincided with a Europe-wide influx including a small group together on the Montgri hills. The best way to find Ter Vell is probably to drive towards the shore at L’Estartit but aim for the beach at the right hand end of the developments. Walk along the beach between the shore and the marsh then turn right on the cycle track that leads to the hide (42.0459N, 3.1929E).


3.                     Where were the herons going? Gutierrez mentions that just south of Estartit there’s a wetland restoration project underway. This might be great one day but by 2018 little progress had been made. A few small pools had Kentish Plover and Little Egret and there were Bee-eaters on the bushes. To get there, take the first obvious right turn as you enter L’Estartit, after Camping l’Emporda. Follow signs past Camping El Molino but turn right when you reach the apartments of Els Griells. Park at the end of the next block of apartments (42.0363N, 3.1916E) and continue on foot along the same lane, past the wetland on your left. UPDATE: September 2021 “The new reserve has been finished and very impressive it is too with an impressive raised hide overlooking the various bodies of water. The only problem is that, apart from crested larks, corn buntings and the odd sardinian warbler, there was a complete absence of birds.” (Richard Brown)


4.                     Montgri can be reached via a track between Estartit and L’Escala. To find this track, continue into Estartit and follow signs to Camping Estartit. Pass the campsite (42.0567N, 3.1973E) on your right and keep going for 1.2 km, ignoring a track to the right. Park just past a large villa (Torre Ponsa) and walk the track between here (42.0624N, 3.1882E) and the next junction. The old olive grove on your left has Orphean Warblers and I also had Woodchat Shrike, Cirl Bunting, Subalpine Warbler, Short-toed Treecreeper and Woodlark here.


5.                     Turn left at the next junction and stop again 600 metres further on, where there’s a gap in the forest (42.0703N, 3.1868E).  This is a good place to scan around for raptors though I failed to get Bonelli’s Eagle here. The heathy scrub had Subalpine, Dartford and Sardinian Warblers and there were Crested Tits and Short-toed Treecreepers in the nearby forest.


6.                     Most of the Montgri plateau is covered in pine forest which is generally rather poor for birds apart from the occasional Woodchat Shrike, Crossbill, Woodlark and Crested Tit. One spot recommended by Steve West for other species such as Subalpine and Spectacled Warblers, Thekla Lark and Black-eared Wheatear is around the next crossroads of tracks (42.0811N, 3.1819E), 1.3 km further on. The area immediately around this junction is tree-covered and unsuitable but if you walk the track to the right and take a ‘dog-leg’, right then left, you will reach open country (42.0813N, 3.1872E) after about 500 metres. This path continues down to the coast at the Cap de Feriol. My brief visit yielded Sardinian, Dartford and Subalpine Warbler, plus Firecrest in the trees.


7.                     You can find another open area by driving inland from the crossroads for 2.5 km until you reach the west-facing slope of the plateau (42.0774N, 3.1517E). On my visit, this was the best area for Sylvia warblers (Dartford, Subalpine and Sardinian) and it also offered the best vantage point for scanning the skies for raptors, such as Bonelli’s Eagle. Pallid Swifts swarmed overhead but the only raptor I spotted was a Booted Eagle. En route I did find a pair of Thekla Larks along the forest track near Roc Feran. The track continues inland to Bellcaire d’Emporda via Sobrestany.


8.                     Steve West also recommends an area called the Punta de Mila where the list of possible species includes Subalpine Warbler, Black-eared Wheatear, Alpine Swift, Crag Martin, Blue Rock Thrush, Peregrine and the occasional Rock Sparrow. I tried to find this site by continuing north from ‘the crossroads’ towards L’Escala but I missed the turning. Basically you need to take the next track on the right (42.0925N, 3.1760E) then turn immediately left and climb as far as another crossroads (42.0966N, 3.1757E). From there, the track straight ahead leads to the point – I’m not sure how much of this route is drivable.


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