Bird-racing. Des de Desembre 2004

birding team 2007
sponsored by DISEFOTO / LEICA

Bruce Mactavish, Anthony McGeehan, Xavier Larruy & Ricard Gutiérrez

The Rarebirdspain birding team 2007 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
Our targets

2007 race impressions

Gutiérrez, Ricard
Larruy, Xavier
McGeehan, Anthony
Mactavish, Bruce
Bird of the day during 2006 race? Ocell del dia durant la marató 2006? Ave del dia durante la maratón 2006?  
Coccothraustes coccothraustes
The sum of raptors inland
Monticola saxatilis
Gypaetus barbatus
Biggest dip? L'ocell que va fallar més estrepitosament? El fallo más estrepitoso?  
Buteo buteo
 Buteo buteo
Most difficult finding? L'ocell més difícil de trobar? La especie más difícil de encontrar?  
Emberiza hortulana
Carduelis cannabina! 
Best surprise? La millor sorpresa? La mejor sorpresa?  
Coccothraustes coccothraustes
 Monticola saxatilis male
Dipper coming down a bridge bridge A Rock Thrush appearing in an unsuspected place
Best place? El millor lloc? El mejor sitio?  
Pyrenees Lleida steppes
Worst moment? El pitjor moment? El peor momento?  
When we realised that the weather was going to beat us, only two hours before sunset Discover that our target would not be reached Weather at the Ebro when facing we would not reach the 200 score Looking for Mute Swan
Best moment? El millor moment? El mejor momento?  
Inland when almost every single species appeared When inland we were finding all we wanted Lammergeier sighting in the morning Lammergeier and male Rock Thrush coming across

Top of the hill, dark and cold. End or start of good birding days.

2007 race results

The Official results are in the SEO/BirdLife webpage here. Our team has been 2nd overall with 185 species, but it has been the 1st to use only conventional ground transport to travel within the race. 

2007 race targets

After 2006 score, we decided to give it a try to the 2007 race given Anthony McGeehan, the RSPB warden who had come to join 'Los del Rio' in its championship winner 2001 team and last year 'Rarebirdspain' team, had decided to come again. But not alone!. This year, a major figure in bird-racing scenario was to join us. Since 1999 Great Texas Birding Classic we had not met him: Bruce Mactavish, the Newfoundland specialist in gulls, and awarded member of the international birding team 'The Transatlantic Vagrants' was to come to join the 'Rarebirdspain Disefoto/LEICA' team in 2007. Three out of the four members of the awarded 'TTV' 1999 team were forming this 2007 Rarebirdspain team. But they were not alone. Two more local members were called to join the team. Sadly, one of them, Armand Ramal, despite having worked a bit in the scouting for this race, was not recovered from its 2006 surgery and at the very last end he could not take part in the event. But an old member of the former 'Los del Rio (Llobregat)' team came back to reinforce the local branch of the gang: Xavier Larruy was in the business again.

A race day provides the opportunity of not only seeing good birds but also nice scenery 

This time we had beaten our own record: the day before not only we did not know where we would begin the race (our initial plans had been frustrated by the April late snow storms that made some areas completely unaccessible) but we also did not know where to finish it. We had to decide the very last week on either repeating the 2006 itinerary (the most feasible option in mind) or doing something new (again). Different circumstances changed our plans though. And the day before the race, just as it happened on 2006, we finally decided we were going for the riskiest option. Something now characteristic of this team?. It may well be.

We are a team that is not very 'site-dependant'. We don't base on the knowledge of nests, something that may be even disturbing for the species in some cases. Neither we have never used tape recordings. We are ready to race everywhere, because based on our knowledge of birds, we 'feel' which areas can be good for this or the other species and we rely on our extensive knowledge on both visual and auditive identification. That was after the success of the Transatlantic Vagrants in Texas in 1999, playing not only at home but in another continent! and it was the kind of challenge we feel this kind of races provide. Of course, adding a new place every year gives the chance of exploring new places and learn more. This way of proceeding is perhaps worst in terms of the chances of winning we finally have but are 'the' real fun. On the contrary, we think that trying to improve your mark in an otherwise routine trip visiting well-known places can perhaps bring you more awards but nothing else. You can learn more about our way of thinking on birdracing in this LEICA international e-magazine online paper.

Some years ago this species, the Little Bustard (Tetrax tetrax) was rarely seen, if any, in our races. Now it is a 'fixed species' thanks to the knowledge of their habits and the existance of a sizeable population in Catalonia.

Rarebirdspain birding team received support and sponsorship from DISEFOTO, the LEICA representative in Spain after the 2006 successful experience. We are again very grateful to both Disefoto and Leica,  particulary to Leonel Berger and his staff, as we are indebted to all from whom we had received help and support, including some of the last year top teams this edition not taking part for different reasons, all listed below

The race was carried out in the wet night followed by the the extremely cold (below zero!) morning, then cloudy and finally dark, wet and rainy afternoon of 28th April 2007 ranging from Pyrenees into the sea at a coastal delta, for the 2nd time ever in this birding team (or previous versions). Many habitats were visited and some of the impressions we had are expressed in the photos included in this page, taken during the race (or the day before). No harm was done to any bird, no tape records neither any other odd methods were employed. Our team decided unanimously, despite having opportunities of doing so, not to visit during the race any restricted access area within natural parks or protected areas to be at the same level that any other team in the race. All the route was carried out along public roads, tracks and paths.

Knowing what kind of species expect in every kind of habitat, such as this mixed forest, help in maximizing the number of species to be achieved.

Catalonia holds a very diverse landscape and you can travel from a high-altitude plateau, through deciduous forests to Mediterranean maquis area and semi-steppes into coastal cliffs or wetlands. That's the secret of the bird-race if combined with a good day for passage migrants and reasonable good weather for birdwatching. 

Flight of the (only) Lammergeier (Gypaetus barbatus) we saw during the race. So spectacular was the sighting that we had to stop to take some record shots such as this. These kind of sightings raise up the interest in these events.

The 2007 race begun well, continued reasonably 'on time' but ended within a storm and an early night for birds (at least three hours earlier than usual) due to dense clouds, rain and strong wind. Those three hours before dusk ultimately determined our fate in this race. When relying on migrants nothing can be done against the elements and in this case we suffered that 'lack of luck'. Certainly this is partially compensated by the fact of having one of our members having got a reasonable bag of 'lifers' back home, and the sensation of having done something serious, nearly-professional like, for the benefit of birds, birding and the conservation of the habitats we visited. The impact of having visitors from abroad 'looking for birds' (even one from Canada!) in an small rural village inland in Catalonia we were is something is still a matter of conversation in the café of that town and may have contributed to change the value some of the people give to their habitats and their birds. 

Some people think that steppe habitats are horrible. We do not. They host not only endangered species and interesting birds but are very rare and unique on their own.

We may not win the first prize but certainly we go back home with the sensation of having done well. Something is certainly the brand Rarebirdspain does and has done. Non-profit, but for the benefit of birds. And birding. With the top-quality LEICA optics provide, with the help of good friends coming from wherever necessary and with a the widespread support from birding community we will be back, if nothing happens, next year to continue our way of racing. 

Rarebirdspain Birding Team

An old legend says that God set his compass at Juncosa de les Garrigues, Lleida to draw the circle of the whole Earth. And a monument states that (behind us). Where else then to have a look during the race days?


To Leonel Berger, from DISEFOTO for sponsoring the team and answering so well again.
To Helena and Gloria Arbonés, from TOTBO shop, for the logistic support
To Josep Arbonés and Lluïsa Mor, for lodging facilities at Juncosa de les Garrigues before the race.

To the following birders for different support and information before the race: Sergi Sales, Joan Estrada (Lleida plains), Diego García-Ferré (Pyrenean information), Emma Guinart (Ebre delta), Jordi Martí-Aledo (Aiguamolls de l'Empordà), Ferran López (Llobregat delta) and Xavier Parellada (Mediterranean raptors).

RICARD GUTIÉRREZ uses Leica Ultravid BR 10x42 and Leica Apo-Televid 77
XAVIER LARRUY uses Leica Trinovid 10x42
ANTHONY McGEEHAN used Leica Apo-Televid 77 
BRUCE MACTAVISH uses Leica Apo-Televid 77

RBT 2007 was formed by Ricard Gutiérrez (L'Hospitalet de Llobregat, Barcelona), Xavier Larruy (Barcelona), Anthony McGeehan (Bangor, Northern Ireland) and Bruce Mactavish (Saint John's, Newfoundland, Canada). 
RBT 2007 va ser format per Ricard Gutiérrez (L'Hospitalet de Llobregat, Barcelona), Xavier Larruy (Barcelona), Anthony McGeehan (Bangor, Irlanda del Nord) i Bruce Mactavish (Saint John's, Newfoundland, Canadà). Es detalla més amunt una crònica de les impressions de la cursa de 2007, amb els nostres objectius i filosofia particular així com la forma que tenim de veure aquesta mena de celebracions.
RBT 2007 fue integrado por Ricard Gutiérrez (L'Hospitalet de Llobregat, Barcelona), Xavier Larruy (Barcelona), Anthony McGeehan (Bangor, Irlanda del Norte) y Bruce Mactavish (Saint John's, Newfoundland, Canadá). Se detalla más arriba la crónica de las impresiones de la maratón de 2007, con nuestros objetivos y la filosofía particular que empleamos así como la forma que tenemos de ver este tipo de celebraciones.

Leica Leader in the Field for Spain 2005-2007 


2007 race snapshots

Bruce looks for one of his race lifers through his LEICA telescope

Bonelli's Eagle did not fail this year

Ricard scans for migrants through his BR 10x42

Anthony points Bruce a Little Ringed Plover, a wanted species for someone coming from the other side of the Atlantic! 

Everybody out! Scopes, binoculars, GPSs, ready to score three more species

Or to add an unexpected Merlin to the list

Rain determined our fate late in the afternoon. But we had to continue till the end

This photo was impossible to take on the race day. We only saw one Audouin's Gull unlike the thousands seen and photographed (in good light, such as this) along the week. The weather set its rules.

Thanks God we've got our polar jackets! Watching blackbirds at night was rather difficult!

And at the end, we did not were punished 'against the wall' as this photo may suggest. Some birds do need audio detection, as the three of us were attempting here. 


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