Bird-racing. Des de Desembre 2004

birding team 2006
sponsored by LEICA/DISEFOTO
Left to right, Armand Ramal, Ricard Gutiérrez, John Scovell, Anthony McGeehan

The Rarebirdspain birding team 2006 uses LEICA Optics for birding. Only these top quality products can provide the sharper and top-quality views needed for this kind of competitions.

Race impressions
Race snapshots
Race results (not yet)
Our targets

2006 race impressions

Gutiérrez, Ricard
McGeehan, Anthony
Ramal, Armand
Scovell, John
Bird of the day during 2006 race? Ocell del dia durant la marató 2006? Ave del dia durante la maratón 2006?  
Phalaropus tricolor
Chlidonias leucopterus
Pandion haliaetus
Phalaropus tricolor
Biggest dip? L'ocell que va fallar més estrepitosament? El fallo más estrepitoso?  
Hieraaetus fasciatus
Aythya nyroca
Platalea leucorodia
Hieraaetus fasciatus
Most difficult finding? L'ocell més difícil de trobar? La especie más difícil de encontrar?  
Acrocephalus scirpaceus
Anas acuta
Circus pygargus
Podiceps nigricollis
Best surprise? La millor sorpresa? La mejor sorpresa?  
Somateria mollissima
Phalaropus fulicarius
Pandion haliaetus
Somateria mollissima
Best place? El millor lloc? El mejor sitio?  
Fangar, Delta de l'Ebre Confidential river gorge, Prepyrenees Prepyrenees  mountain range Monastry at Prepyrenees, inland lagoon
Worst moment? El pitjor moment? El peor momento?  
Midday, tired at Lleida steppes Search for Pin-Tailed Sandgrouse, realising 200 species was not going to be achieved At inland lake, when physical difficulties arised While driving, trying not to sleep but resisting rap music
Best moment? El millor moment? El mejor momento?  
Dusk at coastal location The Whimbrel call by the end of the day The evening at the coastal location A Little Bustard calling and displaying at Lleida steppes

2006 race results

According to race rules and restrictions our results will be published here in due course when official scores will be public.

2006 race targets

Birding is sometimes difficult. Not to say dangerous. While preparing the 2006 race, contacts were done with former members of 'Los del Rio (Llobregat)' team, but for work reasons neither Xavier Larruy nor Xavier Santaeufemia could be joining the team. With Armand Ramal recently recovering from a double surgery and thus not at 100%, the prospects for the 2006 race were more complicated than the usual. Ferran López, a former Los del Rio member, contacted us and a previous agreement was stated to form a team. However, during the scouting prior to the race across Lleida, what could had been a fatal accident occurred to Ricard Gutiérrez due to a negligence from the garage where RG had changed the car shock absorbers. A fatal mistake from the garage caused one of the four wheels of the car falling from the vehicle and damaging all the traction system. Fortunately it happened only at 30 km/h speed in a dirty track, but had a psicologycal effect in changing schedules and avoiding a route initially planned to be over the 1000 km drive in 24 h. That was not going to be possible after that event. Given that experience, later communicated to the Catalan Consumers Agency and ultimately repaired by the official garage without cost, RG decided not to do the ultimate itinerary initially planned and, if any, make a shorter (safer) attempt to make a good score. Ferran López kindly understood the circumstances and formed the team 'Sin Perdón' with a bunch of friends (F.López, A.Ollé, X.Macià) and RG contacted some people, without success, to form part of a team to collaborate in the SEO bird-race, not thinking in being too competitive, but to contribute to a final decent score. At the end, while sailing off Palamós in search of Mediterranean Shags, Anthony McGeehan, the RSPB warden who had come to join 'Los del Rio' in its championship winner 2001 team, and a well experienced 'official' member of the awarded european bird-racing team 'The Transatlantic Vagrants', having raced in the USA New Jersey World Series of Birding and in the 1999 Great Texas Birding Classic (with RG too), came to join the team bringing the also RSPB warden John Scovell, another regular visitor to Catalonia to complete the party.

Catalonia at 90 kph!.Photo: Anthony McGeehan

Given the past experience and the lack of time to prepare a proper itinerary not involving long driving, an attempt to an area of the Prepyrenees was done but the day before the race we realised that that area could not be used for race standards. So we changed our plans 10 hours before the race start, not to plan B but to plan C (!), which we eventually had done partially the year before.

Black-Winged Stilt at Ebre delta the day after the race. Photo: Anthony McGeehan

We searched and found sponsorship from DISEFOTO, the LEICA representative in Spain after we confirmed the Irish were coming. Another 'Leica leader in the field' was invited to join the group but eventually he had already travelled to Greece from where he welcomed the invitation which had to wait for a future year. We are very grateful to Disefoto and Leica,  particulary to Leonel Berger and his staff, as we are indebted to all from whom we had received help and support, all listed below. The race was carried out in the windy night followed by the the chilly (almost below zero!) morning and sunny afternoon of 29th April 2006 ranging from Lleida province Pre-pyrenees into the sea at Ebro delta, for the 1st time ever in this birding team (or previous versions). 

Racing is a tyring experience but rewarding sightings such as this of the Ebre river are rewarding. Photo: Anthony McGeehan

Visiting summits, gorges, cliffs, steppes, forests, wetlands or lagoons, a trip (not that long) across this part of eastern Catalonia produced magnificent sightings and experiences (including almost frozening by some of us) which are partially reproduced in the snapshots you can see here. For species conservation purposes and business secret, the itinerary itself cannot be explained but, as proof of our sightings, we recorded a GPS track and waypoints for every single new species we were adding to the list.
A major number of events happened, some of which can be summarized here in the race impressions section where we have explained our own.

The Lleida Steppes not only hold birds but also nice landscapes and flowers such as these. Photo: Anthony McGeehan

We did not visit nor disturb any nest (except a location for Lesser Kestrel in which we stood nearby without disturbing the birds) neither in advance nor during the race. We believe racing is mostly a fun experience to explain and make public how important are our areas for the conservation of birds and even for birdwatching and somewhat green-tourism.  How important and diverse are the endangered Lleida steppes (as it was in former races the case of the Llobregat Delta) or how diverse can be a visit to the different areas in not so well known places for the general public but important for bird conservation. For that reason, members of our team have raced not only at home but abroad (Irish in Catalonia) or even in another continent (europeans in America) always scoring well, not depending only on a year-round work to locate nests but on the birding day skills, the true value of a team.

Conservation of the Lleida Steppes is crucial for species such as Little Bustard. In this patch we saw a displaying male. Photo: Anthony McGeehan

Any area can be good for racing. One score, one number, can bring the attention of the media to that local patch in need of protection and otherwise neglected by local media headlines, always in need of the breaking news. Some countries have understood this. We, birders, not only have to contribute to the promotion and discovery of our own areas richness, but to the global conservation of birds through an activity that brings out the importance of all species, in a day in which a Short-toed Eagle has the same value as a Woodlark, a Tree pipit or a Woodpigeon. We'll be back next year, if nothing happens, to do our best. With good LEICA optics, with good friends and hopefully with the good sensations we gather that 29th April 2006. That's the most important record.

Rarebirdspain Birding Team

Catalonia holds breathtaking scenaries worth visiting and you can see alpine species to seabirds in a single day.Photo: Anthony McGeehan


To Leonel Berger, from DISEFOTO for sponsoring the team and answering so well in such a short time.
To Helena and Gloria Arbonés, from TotBo shop, for the logistic support
To Josep Arbonés and Lluïsa Mor, for lodging facilities at Juncosa
To David Bigas and the Parc Natural Delta de l'Ebre for access facilities and previous support
To the following birders for different support and information before the race: Jaume Bonfil (Lleida steppes), Gerard Bota (Lleida), Joan Estrada (Lleida plains), Diego García-Ferré (Pre-pyrenean information), Emma Guinart (Ebre delta), Xavier Larruy (Llobregat delta) and Xavier Parellada (Mediterranean raptors).

RICARD GUTIÉRREZ uses Leica Ultravid BR 10x42 and Leica Apo-Televid 77
ARMAND RAMAL used the astonishing Leica Ultravid BR 10x32
ANTHONY McGEEHAN used Leica Ultravid BR 8x42
JOHN SCOVELL uses Leica Ultravid 10x42

RBT 2006 was formed by Ricard Gutiérrez (L'Hospitalet de Llobregat, Barcelona), Anthony McGeehan (Bangor, Northern Ireland), Armand Ramal (Barcelona) and John Scovell (Belfast, Northern Ireland). 
RBT 2006 va ser format per Ricard Gutiérrez (L'Hospitalet de Llobregat, Barcelona), Anthony McGeehan (Bangor, Irlanda del Nord), Armand Ramal (Barcelona) i John Scovell (Belfast, Irlanda del Nord)
RBT 2006 fue integrado por Ricard Gutiérrez (L'Hospitalet de Llobregat, Barcelona), Anthony McGeehan (Bangor, Irlanda del Norte), Armand Ramal (Barcelona) y John Scovell (Belfast, Irlanda del Norte)

Leica Leader in the Field for Spain 2005-2007 


2006 race snapshots

The night was windy and hard

Vultures did not flight until 8ºC level was reached

But that temperature lasted a long time to be scored...
Not all steppes are always dusty and yellow

Nor all wetlands are blue

The 1st-ever Lapwing nest for Lleida. A nice finding!

In search of the Black-necked Grebe

A major, and welcome surprise, the Wilson's Phalarope (left)

Armand looking at the terns

And amongst them, a White-winged Black!

After all, the results were very good indeed.

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