An increase in sightings of the white winged snowfinch in the Els Ports Natural Park
The winter season 2012-2013 has been especially good regarding sights of the white winged snowfinch (Montifringilla nivalis). The snowfinch is from the Passeridae family, where we also find the house sparrow (Passer domesticus). This species is adapted to living in alpine areas in the highest mountains of Europe and Asia.
Very few of this species nest in Catalonia, however there are probably almost 50 pairs scattered throughout the Pyrenees. During the winter they can be seen not only in these mountains but also in others quite far from their nesting areas. This is probably on account of the harsh meteorological conditions encountered in the Pyrenees each winter.
The white winged snowfinch wasn’t recorded as wintering in Els Ports until December 2011, when a group of seven were sighted on different dates in the same area of Horta de Sant Joan. Last winter the species was observed on a total of five occasions in three different places, more specifically Horta de Sant Joan, Alfara de Carles and Paüls. Numbers each time were between one and eight, and all sightings were in the highest areas of the Park in places with very little vegetation, like fields, scrublands, plains and rocky areas. They are places similar to where you can find the alpine accentor (Prunella collaris), a species which is also native to the Pyrenees but winters more regularly in this area.
If you want to see this species and other wintering birds you can go on one of the tours (Tortosa – Mont Caro) recommended in the Patronat de Turisme Terres de l’Ebre (Terres de l’Ebre Tourist Office) ornithological brochure.
The last section of this route (route 4) is a great place to see the alpine accentor (Prunella collaris), as well as other species such as the fieldfare thrush (Turdus pilaris).
In areas where the Phoenician juniper (Juniperus phoenicea) grows you might also spot the ring ouzel thrush (Turdus torquatus), and near the cliffs the colourful wallcreeper (Tichodroma muraria).
Always present is the griffon vulture (Gyps fulvus) and other birds of prey like the golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) and the peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus) which will accompany you on your excursion.