Bird watching routes at Els Ports Nature Park
Located between Catalonia, Valencia and Aragón, this limestone massif, with steep, rugged terrain has been shaped by humans since prehistoric times. However, the region of Els ports is an invulnerable natural area full of wildlife, where any nature lover would feel stimulated by its different faces: a chain of mountains with beautiful rivers, caves, gorges and peaks standing at over a thousand metres.
Apart from being one of the refuges of the mountain goat (Capra pyrenaica subsp. hispanica), it is also home to the wild boar (Sus scrofa), wild cat (Felis sivestris), otter (Lutra lutra), roe deer (Capreolus capreolus) and 50% of the amphibian species to be found in Catalonia. When adding the richness of bird species here, including a good number of large birds of prey, Els Ports stands out as a place truly worth discovering.
Here we suggest a couple of routes so that you can enjoy this natural countryside which was declared a nature park in 2001.
Horta de Sant Joan – Les Gronses – Coll de Miralles
Horta de Sant Joan
4 – 5 hours
Drive south from Horta de Sant Joan on the T-334, turn right at the crossroads with the T-330, and then take the first left towards “Els Ports”. This road crosses some attractive olive groves where you can take a short rest and see woodlark, cirl bunting, short-toed treecreeper, European serin and hoopoe. Pass the viewpoint on the left and look out for a track on the right-hand side. Here you can walk through the fields adjoining the forest. Along this walk you will see large birds of prey such as the golden eagle, Bonelli’s eagle, griffon vulture, and Egyptian vulture.
Back to the road, go to the top of a hill which has views of Les Roques de Benet on the left and Les Gronses on the right. Here you can wander around because it is a beautiful spot, and you might be lucky enough to see birds such as the common firecrest, European crested tit, melodious warbler, Sardinian warbler and western Bonelli’s warbler in the more woody areas; or the black redstart, house sparrow, blue rock thrush, crag martin and alpine swift in rocky areas. It is also very likely that you will see mountain goats in the countryside around Les Gronses, especially first thing in the morning. By car, go to Mas de la Franqueta. From here you can follow a track up to Coll de Miralles, preferably in a four wheel drive vehicle as the ground is rough and bumpy, plus rocks could have fallen down on to the track. There are some fabulous panoramic views of the northern side of the mountain range along this route.
Tortosa – Mont Caro
3 – 5 hours
Coming towards Tortosa from the north on the C-12, turn right at the first roundabout into a town called Roquetes. Follow the signs to Els Ports Nature Park and Mount Caro. After about 20 kilometres you will reach the top of Mount Caro, the highest peak in Els Ports, at an altitude of 1,442 metres. We recommend stopping sporadically along the way to admire some unbeatable views and see birds from different habitats. The range of species you will find is similar to the previous route, but here you will stand a better chance of seeing the western orphean warbler and Sardinian warbler in the olive groves at the foot of the mountain and the rock bunting in the more exposed and rocky areas higher up.
There is more information on these routes in the ornithological pamphlet edited by Patronat de Turisme Terres de l’Ebre (Terres de l’Ebre Tourist Board).
Taken from the ornithological pamphleta: Observing birds in Terres de l’Ebre, edited by Terres de l’Ebre Tourist Board. Text by Steve West.