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Spanish Pyrenees
1st – 8th JUNE 2009

Leaders Dave Read & Andy Shooter
Participants Doreen Marsh, Derek & Molly Beech, Ken Lomas, Tony Lowry, Robert Waldron and Arthur Read


Monday 1 st June
Our trip began with a direct flight from Manchester to Barcelona, arriving 3 hours later in sunshine and blue skies. With our minibus collected we were soon out of the airport, and with the aid of the sat nav, out of Barcelona without delay. Just as we were leaving the city, 3 Monk Parakeets flew over the road in front of us. After 2 hours of travelling, a rest stop was made at a roadside restaurant, here Spotless Starling and Serin were seen. We then continued towards the village of Loporzano and the Boletas Birdwatching Centre, where we were based for the next two nights. On the remainder of the journey, Black Kite and White Stork were seen. After a further hour of travelling we arrived at Boletas to be greeted by Josele and Esther, who showed everyone to their rooms. From the garden Quail could be heard singing, while several Griffon Vultures passed overhead. Later the group met in the lounge for log call before evening meal.


Tuesday 2 nd June
Some of the group decided on a pre-breakfast walk, adding a male Red backed Shrike to the list before joining the rest of the group back at Boletas. After breakfast we drove a short distance to our first birding site on the edge of the village, here we had a 2-hour walk adding Crested Lark, Woodchat Shrike, Bee-eater, and Orphean Warbler to the list, while a single Booted Eagle and several Griffon Vultures moved overhead. However the highlight here were 2 immature Golden Eagles that showed very close.

Next we moved to a nearby Dam for our packed lunch, while here Crag Martin, Black Redstart, Alpine Swift and Egyptian Vulture were seen. We then headed to our next site, adding Thekla Lark on the way. On the approach 3 Black Wheatear, 2 Black-eared Wheatear and a single male Spectacled Warbler were seen. Once at there a superb male Blue Rock Thrush and a Tawny Pipit were present along with several Rock Sparrows.


Wednesday 3 rd June
After breakfast we said our goodbyes to Josele and Esther and headed for our next hotel up in the Hecho valley, stopping on the way at San Juan de la Pena to break up the journey. Within minutes of arriving at the site we were watching 2 adult Lammergeier circling above the monastery, before they gained height and were lost to view. With every one happy we continued our walk around the pinewoods visiting a viewpoint overlooking the surrounding countryside. After 30 minutes, only Griffon Vultures were seen, so we returned to the van adding Crested Tit and a stunning male Firecrest on the way. Moving to another viewpoint, we had our picnic with only 2 Ravens to keep us entertained. We then travelled the short distance to our next hotel in the village of Siresa. After checking in and taking our luggage to the rooms, we were back in the minibus and moving on to the next birding site, only a short drive from the hotel.

Twenty minutes or so later we parked and walked through some pinewoods, climbing all the time, with the path becoming hard going in places. However eventually the entire group made it, and positioned ourselves at the base of a steep cliff face, where we began scanning with scopes and bins. Red-billed Chough and Crag Martin were present, then after 45 minutes our target bird was located, a stunning male Wallcreeper. With the bird feeding high up on the cliff face, and in view on and off for the next 30 minutes, the whole group was happy, so we made our way back to the van. As we were walking through a grass meadow, Dave located 2 Citril Finch feeding on the ground, so all the group managed to seen them. Once at the minibus we headed back to Siresa for a few cold beers in the local bar over looking the valley before having our evening meal and log call.


Thursday 4 th June
After breakfast we were on our way heading for the ski station of Col de la Pierre St Martin just over the border into France. From our hotel we drove up the Roncal Valley heading towards the border, we had a short stop at a river valley with Grey Wagtail, Red-backed Shrike, Egyptian Vulture and an immature Lammergeier recorded. Just as we approached the French border the road was closed due to road works causing us to make a long detour, which produced little of interest except two mating snakes on the roadside, later identified as Aesculapian Snake. We arrived at the site after a 4-hour journey, on arrival it was time for lunch, so picnics were eaten while watching c60 Alpine Chough, with several birds showing to within just a few metres. A male Rock Thrush was seen in flight only, but then Tony located our first Alpine Accentor with up to 3 seen in the surrounding area. Several Citril Finch were moving over and up to 5 Ring Ouzel were seen. With low cloud and mist moving in we decided to make our way back through the Somport Pass and back into Spain. After a few beers in the bar it was time for our evening meal, log call and bed.


Friday 5 th June
Today we headed back to the Wallcreeper site for another look at this stunning bird. On arrival a pair of Citril Finch was feeding with a small finch flock, containing Siskin and Linnet in a nearby meadow, while a small flock of Crossbill were in the pines. Once at the cliff face the male Wallcreeper was located within minutes, although it showed only briefly, and not all the group managed to see it. After a further hour spent scanning the bird never returned, so we made our way back to the bus.

We then drove further up the Hecho valley to a traditional Wallcreeper nest site called the Boca del Infierno (Hells Mouth), although birds had been present in the spring, none were seen on our visit so we drove to the head of the valley. Here several Yellowhammer were present and a large flock of Red-billed Chough moved over. In the bottom of the valley, up to c40 Griffon Vultures were feeding on a dead cow, before taking flight and moving off in front of an approaching storm. With thunder, lightening and torrential rain all around us, we decided to drive back to Siresa and do some birding around the village, with 2 Cirl Bunting, Wryneck and Red-backed Shrike the highlights.

Back at the bar, a cold beer was enjoyed while watching Griffon & Egyptian Vultures and a Booted Eagle.


Saturday 6 th June
After breakfast we loaded up the van and left the Hecho valley and headed towards the extraordinary puddingstone peaks known as the Mallos (or fingers), with the tiny white villages of Riglos and Aguero at their feet. Once at the peaks Black Redstart were common, with Blue Rock Thrush also seen and a male Cirl Bunting showed well.  Dartford Warbler was also added to the ever-growing list. Riglos is a very popular place with climbers and with a climbing event taking place at the time of our visit we decided not to spend too much time at this site, so we moved on to our next destination, arriving at Castillo de Loarre just in time lunch. Species seen while at the castle included Stonechat, Spotted Flycatcher and Short-toed Treecreeper while both Hoopoe and Western Bonelli's Warbler were heard. However the star bird here was a stunning male Rock Thrush that gave good views.

We then drove back towards Loporzano stopping first for a break on the way, which produced a family party of Black Wheatear, 2 Black-eared Wheatear. Rock Sparrow, Blue Rock Thrush and Kestrel.  Once back at the Boletas Birdwatching Centre we enjoyed another superb home cooked meal before log call and bed.


Sunday 7 th June
Today was our last full day of birding, so after breakfast we headed south to an area of plains south of the village of Ontinena. Although the plains here are relatively small, with agriculture encroaching on all sides, birds are easy to find as they are confined to this small area. During the one-hour drive south, several Hoopoes flew over the road in front of the van, and both Black & Red Kites were seen. As we drove past a small pond by the roadside, the van was brought to a sudden stop and up to 6 Purple Heron took flight over the reeds.

On arrival a Hobby was seen circling, while this Short–toed Eagle showed well directly overhead allowing photos to be taken. We parked up the minibus and went for a walk to explore the tracks that cross this landscape. The first of many Calandra Larks were seen, and Southern Grey Shrike, Spectacled Warbler and Black-eared Wheatear were located. Two Black-bellied Sandgrouse flew over and while scanning a weedy field, 2 Pin-tailed Sandgrouse were found on the ground, allowing all the group good scope views. Further along the track a Roller was seen, although distant. We then headed back to the van to search another area, while driving to the next site a first summer Great Spotted Cuckoo was sat in the road catching grasshoppers, and despite only viewing from the van, good views were obtained. During the remainder of the morning we searched many of the tracks trying to find Little Bustard which are present in this area, although none could be found, however we did have two more sightings of Black-bellied Sandgrouse, as they flew overhead giving there distinctive flight calls.

We then left the plains behind us, as we headed further south to Clot de la Unilla, a small lake that Josele had told us about, where we decided to have our picnic. The birding here was excellent with up to 10 Black-necked Grebe, Marsh Harrier, Great Reed & Cetti's Warbler, Common Tern and Red-crested Pochard the highlights. After an hour at this site we started our journey back north towards Loporzano, stopping off on the way at a large reed fringed lake near the town of Sarinena. Here we added Bittern, Nightingale, Bearded Tit and Stone Curlew to the ever-growing list.

We then drove the short distance back to Boletas stopping off for a quick look at the White Stork that was nesting on the church tower in Loporzano.


Monday 8 th June
After an early breakfast we loaded up the bus and said farewell to Josele and Esther and made a start on the 3-hour journey to Barcelona airport. The drive back was pretty uneventful, although we did add 3 new species to the bird list, with Little Egret, Cattle Egret and Night Heron all seen in flight from the van.

This brought the trip total to a respectable129 species

We would like to thank everyone involved with this tour, for making it such an enjoyable and very rewarding trip.

CHECKLIST

BIRDS Number of days
Recorded out of 8
Max daily count
X = no counts made
A = abundant
H = heard only
LITTLE GREBE 1 6
BLACK-NECKED GREBE 1 10
GREAT CRESTED GREBE 1 2
BITTERN 1 1
NIGHT HERON 1 1
CATTLE EGRET 1 1
LITTLE EGRET 1 1
GREY HERON 4 2
PURPLE HERON 1 X
WHITE STORK 6 X
MALLARD 2 X
SHOVELER 1 1
POCHARD 1 c12
RED-CRESTED POCHARD 1 c12
RED KITE 7 A
BLACK KITE 8 A
LAMMERGEIER 3 3
EGYPTIAN VULTURE 5 6
GRIFFON VULTURE 8 A
SHORT-TOED EAGLE 1 2
MARSH HARRIER 1 X
COMMON BUZZARD 7 X
GOLDEN EAGLE       2 2
BOOTED EAGLE 1 1
COMMON KESTREL 6 X
HOBBY 3 2
RED-LEGGED PARTRIDGE 3 2
QUAIL 3 H
MOORHEN 1 H
COOT 1 X
STONE CURLEW 1 1
YELLOW-LEGGED GULL 3 X
COMMON TERN 2 2
PIN-TAILED SANDGROUSE 1 2
BLACK-BELLIED SANDGROUSE 1 4
ROCK / FERAL DOVE 8 X
WOOD PIGEON 7 X
STOCK DOVE 1 1
COLLARED DOVE 8 A
TURTLE DOVE 2 3
GREAT SPOTTED CUCKOO 1 3
COMMON CUCKOO 6 H
SCOPS OWL 1 H
SWIFT 8 A
ALPINE SWIFT 3 5
BEE-EATER 2 5
ROLLER 1 2
HOOPOE 3 3
MONK PARAKEET 1 3
WRYNECK 3 2
GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER 1 1
CALANDRA LARK 1 6
CRESTED LARK 7 A
THEKLA LARK 1 1
WOODLARK 1 1
CRAG MARTIN 5 X
SWALLOW 8 A
HOUSE MARTIN 8 A
TAWNY PIPIT 1 1
WATER PIPIT 1 6
GREY WAGTAIL 2 X
WHITE WAGTAIL 8 X
DIPPER 1 1
WREN 5 2
DUNNOCK 3 12
ALPINE ACCENTOR 1 3
ROBIN 3 2
NIGHTINGALE 6 2
BLACK REDSTART 5 X
STONECHAT 2 X
NORTHERN WHEATEAR 3 6
BLACK-EARED WHEATEAR 3 2
BLACK WHEATEAR 2 5
ROCK THRUSH 2 1
BLUE ROCK THRUSH 2 4
RING OUZEL 1 5
BLACKBIRD 8 X
SONG THRUSH 1 1
MISTLE THRUSH 2 2
CETTI'S WARBLER 2 X
FAN-TAILED WARBLER 1 H
SUB-ALPINE WARBLER 2 2
REED WARBLER 1 1
GREAT REED WARBLER 1 7
MELODIOUS WARBLER 2 2
DARTFORD WARBLER 1 2
SPECTACLED WARBLER 2 2
ORPHEAN WARBLER 1 2
COMMON WHITETHROAT 1 1
GARDEN WARBLER 1 1
BLACKCAP 5 X
WESTERN BONELLI'S WARBLER 2 H
CHIFFCHAFF 3 2
FIRECREST 2 2
SPOTTED FLYCATCHER 1 1
LONG-TAILED TIT 2 X
CRESTED TIT 2 5
COAL TIT 2 X
BLUE TIT 2 X
GREAT TIT 4 X
BEARDED TIT 1 2
NUTHATCH 1 H
WALLCREEPER 1 1
SHORT-TOED TREECREEPER 2 2
GOLDEN ORIOLE 2 1
RED-BACKED SHRIKE 5 X
SOUTHERN GREY SHRIKE 1 1
WOODCHAT SHRIKE 5 X
JAY 4 X
MAGPIE 8 X
ALPINE CHOUGH 1 60+
RED-BILLED CHOUGH 5 c40
JACKDAW 2 2
CARRION CROW 5 X
RAVEN 6 X
SPOTLESS STARLING 8 A
HOUSE SPARROW 8 A
TREE SPARROW 1 2
ROCK SPARROW 2 8+
CHAFFINCH 8 A
SERIN 8 X
CITRIL FINCH 2 2
GREENFINCH 6 X
GOLDFINCH 8 A
SISKIN 1 2
LINNET 7 X
CROSSBILL 1 6
YELLOWHAMMER 1 5
CIRL BUNTING 2 2
CORN BUNTING 8 A
     
     

 

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