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The Delta del Llobregat

The much shrunken, much maligned yet remarkable Delta de Llobregat lies barely 20km from Barcelona and right under the pathway of Barcelona Airport. Barely 3% of the orginal Delta plain of 100km2 survives, the rest eaten up by agriculture and more recently by the expansion of industry, and what remains is is constantly under pressure from further expansion of the airport. This said, the Delta is still one the most important birding sites in Catalonia. At one time or another, it is home to grey, night,  little, squacco and imperial herons, egrets, kingfishers, marsh harriers and 140 odd birds besides. One or two bitterns out of - 30-40 pairs for the whole of Spain have also been regularly wintering here since 2000, after an absence of 45 years. The Delta is also a great source for rarities will all sorts turning up over the years. Unsurprisingly its a much-loved site among Barcelona's birders.

The complex covers five main habitats, the first three of which represent a classic Mediterranean succession.

  1. Beach
  2. Pinewoods
  3. Marshes and lagoons
  4. River Llobregat
  5. Farmland

1 The beach

There is a viewing platform on the beach. In winter, and if you have a telescope, this a great spot to observe seasbirds including Cory's, Balearic and Mediterranean shearwaters, 3 species of skua, gannets and xxx. Much of the beach area is out of bounds as Catalonia's second largest nesting area for Kentish plover. Large, roosts of Auodin's gulls in spring are another highlight with a varying population of 60-600 birds in 2006, depending on the day. Mediterranean gulls in winter. Presence of Spanish psammodromus. A 2006 rehabiliation centre for injured marine animals is to be built here in the near future (November 2006 news).

2 Pinewoods.

Much of the old dune system was fixed by stone pines (Pinus pinea) at the turn of the 20th century. It is interesting to note how the seaward trees are more stunted in growth from the saline conditions here. The pinewoods have been recently opened to public access. Renowned for the presence of nine orchids though incursions from wild boar caused great damage in 2006 summer. In birding terms the richest woods are those bounding the agricultural fields inland. Breeders include: Sardinian warbler, short-toed treecreeper and several tits, and great spotted cuckoo parasiting magpies. Migration turns up Bonelli's, subalpine, melodious and other warblers and in winter, goldcrests, firecrests, robins, blackbirds, blackcaps and wrens. Referencexxxxx

3 Marshes and lagoons

A set of reed-fringed, semi-saline, permanent lagoons with good hides for observation. The marshes are grazed using wild horses. Grey herons, marsh harriers, little bittern and little egret, are present all year round with purple heron summering here, along with great reed and reed warblers, water rails, coots and moorhens and rare purple gallinule breeding since 2001. squacco, night herons are also present. The Delta attracts 4000-5000 ducks of up to 15 species every winter (mallard -evidently-, shoveller, teal, pintail, ferruginous duck and red-crested pochard), along with large numbers of lapwing and smaller numbers of golden plover, great snipe and a big range of waders. Booted eagle, hen Harrier, merlin and peregrine may also turn up. More here Llobregat Delta by Ricard Gutiérrez

4 The River Llobregat

The river Llobregat is a Mediterranean river with a highly irregular flow. The average yearly flow at Martorell of 21m3/s rose to 3080 m3/s on 20 th September 1971 . This said, so far down stream as far as the Delta is concerned the river is a shackled and tamed beast. The river mouth's has been rerouted several kilometres downstream to create space for port development, which in turn has moved the river closer to the complex of marshes. The river is remarkably wide and clean at its outlet. A few kilometres upstream, it is barely a river at all but rather a sluggish and often polluted current. The difference is thanks to water treatment plant which returns copious amounts of clean water to the river just before it meets the Mediterranean..Unfortunately, while the planners seem to have done a good job creating marsh habitat, the river authorities have refused to create a riverine forest along the river's banks, which are clad in stone, with a view of the developing industrial Barcelona side.

The old bed has however refused to die and after calls from conservation groups, part of the abandoned river bed is to be protected, though as this will lie within the port's boundaries it will be off bounds to the public.

5 Farrmland

Although most of the remaining marshland has been saved, much of the surrounding farmland has been lost to development, which had a big effect on populations of waders and other birds, who had relied on such land a food source.

Birdlife of Delta del Llobregat

See also above for birds present individual habitats

Check out these excellent links:

Invasive species include:

  • Monk Parakeet
    Ring-necked Parakeet
    Black-hooded Parakeet
    Red Avadavat,
    Common Waxbill
    Various weavers.

Other wildlife

Reptiles and ampibians:

  • Amphibians: Fire Salamander Salamandra salamandra, Midwife Toad Alytes obstreticans, Spadefoot Toad Pelobates cultripes and Natterjack Bufo calamita, Iberian Frog Rana perezi and Stripeless Treefrog Hyla meridionalis.
  • Reptiles: Ocellated Lizard Lacerta lepida Large Psammodromus Psammodromus algirus, Spanish Psammodromus Psammodromus hispanicus, Turkish Gecko Hemidactylus turcicus and Moorish Gecko Tarentola mauretanica. Snakes include Montpellier Snake Malpolon monspessulanus, the Southern Smooth Snake Coronella girondica, Ladder Snake Natrix scalaris and Viperine Snake Natrix maura (proably the commonest). Both native Stripe-necked Terrapin Mauremys caspica and introduced Red-eared Terrapin (slider) Trachemys scripta elegans are common though the later are being erradicated as they may pose competition for native species - some research suggests competition for sun spots rather than for food.

Human history of Delta del Llobregat

To come


Getting there

There is a big problem of access.

The best way.
Briefly, leave Barcelona along Gran Via from Plaza España and continue along the C-246, until turn-off for Gava Mar. Take this turn off and double back across bridge and follow signs for Barcelona, which will bring you back onto C-246. The turn-off fopr the park is signposted about 3km back towards Barcelona. Gates are open 9:30-5:30.

This is not comfortable. Catch the 95 bus from Ronda de la Universitat, just off Placa de Catalunya,  which runs every 20-30 minutes. About 20 minutes later get off by a Repsol petrol station on the wrong side of the busy dual carriageway, which I do not recoomend you to cross. Instead use the underpass about 100m up the road, and hope it's not flooded. The entrance to the reserve is about 50 metres back toward the city.

This is not comfortable. Train from Sants to Viledecans, and head seawards through mostly pleasant farmland, after an intital stretch of road. As with the public transport option you will have to negotiate the dual carriageway.


Barcelona nature and birding tours

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Sites we cover
Barcelona and Collserola
Delta del Llobregat
El Garraf

Els Aiguamolls del Empordà
Les Planes de Llérida
Delta del Ebro