Last weekend, from 26th to 28th May, we gave an Initiation to Ornithology course at the Albergue La Aldea, in Bejes (Cantabria). The objectives were simple: learn how to identify birds, get to know something about these essential living beings and, most of all, have fun and spend a weekend in contact with nature.
Begoña and Miguel organized the weekend and had everythng ready and under control. They run the hostel La Aldea in Bejes, a beautiful little village on the Cantabrian side of Picos de Europa. We highly recommend everybody to spend a few days there, you will not be disappointed. They thought about everything, even the rain schedule: it only rained at night, so that we would not get wet during the day. Begoña was in charge of the kitchen and the feasts she kindly cooked for us, there is no other way to talk about such delicious and plentiful dishes! as for Miguel, he guided us through the surrounding hills as well as he kept us entertained good mood.
The course was aimed at inexpert people willing to learn about our winged friends but Gabriela and Luis, who alredy are bird lovers and know a lot about them, decided to join us and spend the weekend in a new environment. They were also expecting to spot some new birds.
For the other participants, Isa, Pepe, Susi, Paco and Yolanda this were their first time bird watching. Our biggest concern was to lead them through their initiation and have a fun weekend at the same time. The lessons were: how to use binoculars, how to handle guides to birds and a lot of hiking in order to practice what they learnt al the hostel.
Birds from the woods are constantly moving from one branch to another, getting the birdwatcher into troubles to identify them. Especially when you are learning and you don’t have enough time to notice any defining details from the bird. Sometimes our birdwatchers didn’t even have time to locate the bird through the binoculars. But we also found some individuals who decided to colaborate: the stood still so that our rookies had plenty of time to pay attention to the details and, once they had memorized, look throughout the guide to, finally, identify the species.
And then, at this right moment, magic showed up: their looked like kids, aware of what they had done, with their eyes sparkling. However, there were other times they didn’t succeed, something normal when you are learning. But even on those moments they enjoyed with all the aspects about birds they were learning and they had never noticed before.
We spotted a common chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs) perched in a tree very close to us, so quiet we had enough time to get the scope ready, aim him, focus and all of us observed him through the telescope. They were able to appreciate in detail the colorful feathers, the beak and the eyes. It seemed he had been hired for this performance. At this moment, as they were letting the next one look through the telescope, their eyes were sparkling again. And all their comments encouraged them to keep searching and observing.
Finally, after the banquet on Sunday, the course was closed with farewells and promises to buy a bird guide and keep practicing with what was learned at the weekend. As for us, we are delighted with our double goal achieved: everyone goes back home with a new way of looking to our winged neighbours, besides of being able to spend three unique days in Picos de Europa.
We hope that, sooner or later, we meet them again and they tell us their new adventures of this bird watching new world that gives you so many satisfactions.
Now, there it is the list with the spotted species. Maybe there are one or two missing:
– Egyptian vulture. Neophron percnopterus.
– Griffon vulture. Gyps fulvus.
– Golden eagle. Aquila chrysaetos.
– Common swift. Apus apus.
– Great spotted wood-pecker. Dendrocopos major.
– Barn swallow. Hirundo rustica.
– Crag martin. Ptyonoprogne rupestris.
– Tree pipit. Anthus trivialis. This was a hard one. Thanks, Luis!!
– White wagtail. Motacilla alba.
– White-throated dipper. Cinclus cinclus.
– Winter wren. Troglodytes troglodytes.
– Dunnock. Prunella modularis.
– European robin. Erithacus rubecula.
– Black redstart. Phoenicurus ochruros.
– Common redstart. Phoenicurus phoenicurus.
– Common stonechat. Saxicola rubicola.
– Blackbird. Turdus merula.
– Blackcap. Sylvia atricapilla.
– Common chiffchaff. Phylloscopus collybita.
– Spotted flycatcher. Muscicapa striata.
– Blue tit. Cyanistes caeruleus.
– Great tit. Parus major.
– Eurasian nuthatch. Sitta europea.
– Short-toed treecreeper. Certhia brachydactyla.
– Common magpie. Pica pica.
– Carrion craw. Corvus corone.
– House sparrow. Passer domesticus.
– Common chaffinch. Fringilla coelebs.
– European serin. Serinus serinus.
– Common linnet. Carduelis cannabina.
– Eurasian bullfinch. Pyrrhula pyrrhula.