From La Sabina we develop and collaborate on various conservation initiatives with the conviction that our photographic guidance activities are closely related with them. We think that conservation and photography are mutually self-rewarding: if we can not maintain spaces and wildlife that it is difficult for us to photograph them, while photography of this heritage is a great tool to make it known.
Bonelli’s eagle is one of the most threatened raptors in Catalonia with a population of about 65 pairs.
In a pilot project to photograph and protect this species, from La Sabina and in collaboration with the Catalan Government (Departament de Territori I Sostenibilitat from the Generalitat de Catalunya) we have detected negative impacts on the pair of Bonelli’s eagle in the area, consequently, we have developed correcting measures to minimize these impacts.
We have come to agreements with hunters from the area to exclude from hunting zone the nesting area, with the bishopric in order to ban dire-crackers during weddings and other events in a hermitage near nesting area, a breeding success monitoring is carried out as well and a feeding point has been installed.
All these actions have turned out to be very effective. After years of breeding failure, from 2012 the average of chicks has increased from 0 (before) to 1,3 chicks per year, being the Catalan average 0,7-0,8 chicks / year.
During the year 2019 we will extend our conservation actions to the entire province of Lleida with funding from the Biodiversity Foundation (Ministry for Ecological Transition) and the support of the Department of Territory and Sustainability (Generalitat de Catalunya). The project aims to consolidate and expand the actions carried out in the pilot project of Photography and Conservation, export the model to another nearby couple and carry out detailed studies on couples throughout the province for their future management through land stewardship agreements and others.
In Lleida there are 8-9 couples that represent the bordering pairs of both the littoral and pre-coastal population of southern Catalonia (province of Tarragona) and of the Ebro Bassin - Pepyrenees (province of Huesca). The importance of the conservation of these pairs lies above all in the buffer effect for the nucleus of the population and the "spearhead" for the expansion of the species.
We have already begun to execute the first measures to improve the habitat in the conservation project for the Bonelli's eagle in Lleida. These are actions that we expect to be expanding and continuing over time with long-term results. We have worked and planted with old fields cereal for more than 30 years that were abandoned and covered with scrubs so they can feed spices-prey like partridges and rabbits. With the same purpose we have two donkeys (we could soon get more) grazing part of the hunting area of the eagles, near Montsonís, in order to open the vegetation and improve the habitat. We have also fixed a pool that should serve as a trough for wildlife, also connecting tanks that allow to maintain the level of water throughout the year.
The plumage of young ones is very reddish, which easily differentiates them from adults.
Often, adults bring young ones to the feeding point. It is a luxury to have four Bonelli's Eagles together in front of the camera
(Picture taken with an automatic camera)
If you are a climber ...
· Respect the limitations in climbing areas.
· Before opening new routes consult Wildlife Rangers.
· If you find a nest, inform Wildlife Rangers and get away as soon as possible (tel: 112 or (+ 34) 93 561 70 00/24 h)
If you are a hunter ...
· Find out in the Wildlife Rangers Service (CAR) of the areas where you are NOT allowed wild boar beats from the 1st Sunday of February.
· Do not shoot against eagles (and other non-hunting species in general). A correct population of predators is the best indicative of the good condition of their prey populations.
If you are a farmer or forest owner ...
· If you have ponds put anti-drowning exit ramps for wildlife.
· Practice ecological and sustainable agriculture.
· More than anyone else you should be aware of the precarious state of the species. Do not approach the nests and watch them from afar. To make systematic observations you need an authorization.
· If you see any relevant facts, enter your observations in al ornitho.cat (or other citizen science databases).
· If you want to take photos of Bonelli's Eagles ask for the relevant authorizations and consult with experts.
· Respect the marked itineraries and possible temporary limitations.
· If you organize trails through the Natural Environment, ask for authorization and advise yourself on places and times so as not to interfere with wildlife: the passage of many people near a nest can disrupt the breeding. Avoid the months of January to June.
We have edited a diptych about the project of conservation (in Catalan languaje). It can be found in the information points of protected areas and other places of the regions with partridges of Lleida (bars, tourist information points, cultural centers ...). We have also installed an informative placard in Montsonís.
(click above to make it bigger)
Time to take stock at the end of the project: during 2019, La Sabina has consolidated the conservation project in the Munt de Montsonís and expanded it to other points in the Lleida province with the signing of two land stewardship agreements. A pair of dovecotes have been installed: one in an area of occasional presence of Bonelli's Eagles and another in the territory of an already established couple. Habitat improvements have also been made to favor prey species such as the placement of drinking pools, grazing with donkeys to clear up vegetation or planting lost-crop cereals in old abandoned fields.
The 9 pairs of partridge eagle of the Lleida regions have been monitored while the inconveniences and incidents in each territory that may endanger the breeding of this fantastic bird have been detected.
With the support of Fundación Biodiversidad of Ministerio para la Transición Ecológica:
In collaboration with:
With this project from La Sabina -BirdPhotoTours we want to explore the possibility of designing hides to operate on the water, replicating the type of hides that we have on land.
The aquatic environment is a wealth of spectacular wildlife, a pole of interest for naturalists and photographers. In the busiest places, there have been birdwatching hides on the shore, but they are too far away from the birds to take photographs.
This is how we designed the following prototypes:
- Hide for individual use.
- Hide for three photographers.
- Remote photography aquatic device.
It has taken into account both displacement systems, stability, or systems of restraint with standing, among others.
We hope that soon we will be able to offer you the possibility of photographing water birds with the same guarantees that we do from the mainland !!
Sports in the natural environment are becoming more and more popular and every day there are more practitioners who frequent the mountain areas in search of new routes and paths where they can practice them. Without being aware of it, the growing overcrowding of access to the natural environment for sports can affect the reproduction and, in turn, the conservation of many endangered species of birds of prey.
With this premise, from La Sabina - BirdPhotoTours we have studied the extent to which the data provided by the same practitioners to applications as popular as Wikiloc can be used to manage the conservation of large birds of prey. 11 sensitive areas for the conservation of large birds of prey in the Montsec range have been selected, over which the public information available on the Wikiloc website has been superimposed in a GIS program, so that the frequency of use in each of the areas.
We've seen the enormous potential of applications like Wikiloc (and others) in monitoring access to the natural environment. It may be promising to use the proposed methodology in other cases such as:
- areas of interest for fire prevention.
- regulation of access to the natural environment for conservation, emergency or other reasons.
- get to know the cultural services of a natural space and compare them between areas.
- detect areas where wildlife users interact with livestock and avoid nuisance (for dogs, for example)
The project "Measuring the impact of sports activities in the natural environment on large birds of prey. Pilot project. (Mesura de l’impacte de les activitats esportives al medi natural sobre grans rapinyaires. Projecte pilot)" has had the support of:
The Bonelli's eagle is a threatened species that is subject to important monitoring and conservation efforts, and the Montsonís project is bringing its grain of sand with a clear improvement in its reproductive success. On the other hand, thanks to the continuity of the photographs, it can be tracked over time, providing data on individuals and plumage changes to detect changes that might otherwise be unnoticed (a study of their plumage is also underway).
That is why the photographs that allow to visualize these changes over time are very helpful. If you have been with us photographing these Bonelli's eagles, we call your collaboration, providing photos where body plumage and wings open on the lower side are clearly seen.
If you want to collaborate, you can send us photos in a position similar to the photos above (important to indicate the date and the author). In no case will the photographs be made public and in case there was an interest in including any of these photographs in a publication on plumages, we would ask for the relevant authorization beforehand.
The photographs can be sent to a size of 1600 pixels long side at email@example.com
In collaboration with:
We are a land stewardship body and as such we have agreements with different land owners and local institutions in order to manage some land for species conservation and photography.
This way we can carry out our activity, at the same time that we favour the wildlife and the land owner can get some benefits from it.
We manage in stewardship two half-mountain farms on the slopes of Montsec, in the region of La Noguera. We carry out tasks to favor endangered species, especially the bonelli's eagle and other birds of prey. Stewardshipis based on:
- Habitat improvement for prey species, such as rabbits or partridges (growingof abandoned cereal fields, construction of ponds for amphibian reproduction and watering of wildlife, undergrowth grazing with donkeys, construction of rabbits' burrows ... )
- Route signage and regulation of access to breeding and feeding areas for large birds of prey.
- Control of nuisance around nests.
- Maintenance of Supplementary Feeding Points for two pairs of Bonelli's eagles.
- Rehabilitation of old buildings to support management.
Resources allocated to the environmental management of these two farms come from the activities of photographic guidance and aid from public and private initiatives.
The abandonment of extensive livestock has long since led to the loss of pools where the herds were to drink. Many of these ponds were vital to wildlife that found places to reproduce (case of amphibians and invertebrates) or places where to go to drink and cool off on the hottest days of summer (birds and mammals) . With the partial financing of the Biodiversity Foundation and the support of the Balaguer Town Hall, we have started together with the Societat Catalana d'Herpetologia a project to recover five of these ponds in the drylands of La Noguera, near where we have some of our photographic hides. A small return in form of habitat improvement to these hard and arid environments, but also so surprising.
After an extremely rainy spring and some last-minute "impediments", in July a couple of black-billed sandgrouses nests a mere 250 m from one of the pools - finally we have been able to start the restoration work . The bucket of those with losses has been impermeable, the water catchment by surface runoff has been improved and access to those that could be used by birds has been facilitated, reducing the slopes and eliminating the excess of vegetation at some points. In a riverside forest of the Farfanya River a new pond for amphibians has been dug up to the water table.
Before continuing with the work we will have to wait for the autumn storms to settle the work of this first phase and continue with the project.
Autumn rains have begun to fill the ponds. At the moment they look somewhat undeveloped. We hope the materials will be seated, the sediments are assessed to evaluate this first phase and decide the relevant actions for next winter and the beginning of spring next year.
At the end of February, we cleared the Pouets pond, at the departure of La Portella. It is an interesting digged pond on the rock of about 35-40 m3 that collects the rain water of about 1500 m2 through well-picked pipes on the stone. The cleaning has been done with volunteers and students from the agronomy and forestry school of the University of Lleida. After having done this action, we have been able to count three common frog into the pound.
Incorporamos una última balsa al proyecto: la Balsa de les Franqueses. El principal objetivo es controlar el cangrejo americano para favorecer la reproducción de los anfibios. Eliminarlos será prácticamente imposible, pero con una primera captura y el vaciado la balsa en otoño para evitar que se entierren los cangrejos para hibernar puede ser una manera de mantenerlos a raya. Hemos vaciado la balsa, con una excavadora hemos sacado todo el barro que hemos podido (cangrejos incluidos) y hemos construido una aruqueta para facilitar el futuro manejo del agua. En una intensa jornada de captura hemos recogido cerca de 1.500 !!
(A la derecha un alcaraván, una perdiz con toda la pollicada y un alcaudón abrevando todos juntos. A la izquierda una puesta de sapo corredor)
At the end of the month we have completed the pondsc recovery project.. Although they have not yet been consolidated, we already have the first hopeful results regarding the use of them by the fauna of the drylands. Five of the 6 ponds have already been colonized by amphibians (the green frog, the toad and the common toad). Of the two that were designed for drinking birds, one has dried in the middle of the month and the other one has water. We have had 14 different bird species and three mammals that are going to go there. Stone curlews, partridges, calandria lark, lesser kestrel, ... In one (the one that has been dried) we have found black-billed sandgrause tracks, although it did not appear in the automatic camera.
We can not be happier about the repercussion that the project has had in the media. Some examples:
With the support of Fundación Biodiversidad, Ministerio para la Transición Ecológica:
Lesser kestrel disappeared from Catalonia in the mid-80s due to the habitat transformation mainly for agriculture intensification (change to irrigation, pesticide use, missing old buildings to nest…). From early 90s and thanks to a long captive breeding project and reintroduction, lesser kestrel recovered it population and currently there are about 160 couples in Catalonia. Among others, it has been fundamental for this recuperation habilitating old buildings or new constructions so lesser kestrel can nest.
Montagu’s harrier is a summer breeding species very localised and scarce in Catalonia. It nearly disappeared here, where it went down to 2 breeding pairs. From the Catalan government a campaign was started in 1986 in order to locate and protect nests in cereal fields. This campaign has achieved its objectives by elevating to 60 the number of breeding pairs in the Lleida plains.
From 2012, we build hides to photograph lesser kestrel near the breeding colonies in the Lleida plains and in the breeding area of different pairs of Montagu’s harrier.
In return, we collaborate in these species conservation with the Catalan public administration by contributing with material for the annual monitoring and conservation campaign of the species.
From the 80s the public administration and public bodies manage different feeding sites for necrophagous birds in the distribution area of these birds. These modern sites wanted to replace the traditional sites where dead livestock used to be thrown away in the Pyrenees and that slowly were disappearing. These sites turned out to be essential for the recovery of species such as vultures and lammergeyer.
From the foundation, La Sabina has carried out a tourist management of four of these private feeding sites. This has led to the conservation of these birds and the fund of these sites thanks to the photographic activity.
One of this feeding station is of great importance for the Catalan population of Egyptian vulture getting to concentrate more than 60 individuals near the migration season.
Barn owl is considered Vulnerable in Catalonia and in regression in Europe. Hacking is a technique to help individuals settle in a territory where population has disappeared or been reduced. Chicks are fed in an artificial nest before being released.
In collaboration with the Fauna Protection Centre of Vallcalent (Generalitat de Catalunya) hackings have been carried out in Montsonís from 2015. Apart from contributing to the repopulation of the species, dissemination of knowledge and problematics of the species is carried out amongst the public.
In order to foment the knowledge of our Natural Heritage amongst the generalist public, we have developed some didactic initiatives. Amongst others, the project «Land of raptors» with a card game called “Raptors” in Catalan language, to raise awareness about the importance of having those. Another project has been the online courses around the Ivars and Vila-sana lake to help the activities carried out by Egrell organisation and the “Consorci de l’Estany d’Ivars I vila-sana” in this nature reserve, to contribute to the dissemination and knowledge of natural values and its conservation.