|Lanius Bird Tours
Wallcreepers & Cranes
24th – 28th February 2011
Leaders Dave Read & Andy Shooter
Later we arrived at our first base in the beautiful medieval town of Alquezar, where we checked into our very comfortable hotel. After a short break we ventured back out, where just a short walk through the narrow cobbled streets saw us reach the promenade overlooking the Gorge and cliff top Colegiata for which the village is famous. It wasn't long before our first target a stunning Wallcreeper was found on the gorge wall, where it gave prolonged good views.
Moving around to the other side of the Colegiata gave a spectacular view over the Rio Vero as well as good views of a fine male Hen Harrier which flew across the gorge directly towards us. Other birds of note here included Griffon Vulture, Crag Martin, Red-billed Chough and Cirl Bunting. As the light began to fade we headed back to the hotel but not before finding another target as up to 3 Alpine Accentors were found.
It was now fast approaching lunch time so we moved the short distance to a nearby reservoir, which is a favourite of ours and a reliable site for wintering Wallcreeper. On arrival we drove to a small car park where we could have our picnics in peace, however within minutes of getting out of the van a Wallcreeper was found which went on to give crippling views down to just a few yards. Meanwhile a stunning male Firecrest began to sing right by our sides and a Lammergeier drifted slowly overhead, so much for the peaceful picnic. Afterwards we walked further around the reservoir where again we were immediately rewarded with another Wallcreeper, our third peregrine of the day, a pair of Rock Bunting and another sighting of the Lammergeier.
The Castillo de Montearagón was our next destination where on arrival we quickly found a pair of Black Wheatear and with a little searching Rock Sparrow, Blue Rock Thrush and another Golden Eagle. We then visited a nearby café for a quick drink before heading out to look for Eagle Owl. Sadly however despite hearing a male calling, we were unable to locate any before the light had completly faded.
Once at the Ski resort of Astun it was a while before we managed to find anything other than skiers but eventually an Alpine Accentor was found on top of the chalet roof. Moments later 4 Alpine Chough flew in and also landed on the rooftops, where over the next 30 minutes or so their numbers grow to 30 plus. A walk through the car park produced another Alpine Accentor and this time it showed amazingly well down to just a few yards.
We then headed back south in time to visit a large lake, home to one of the greatest spectacles the region has to offer. On arrival we immediately found a female Merlin perched in a low bush, though sadly this was chased off by a Sparrowhawk before we could fully appreciate it. A short drive further up the track revealed what we had come for, with c2500 Common Cranes in front of us, with even more still arriving to roost.
Before long the landscape began to change and we were soon on the p lains, though by now the weather had deteriorated and it was now very windy, making walking never mind birding difficult. With this in mind we moved to try and find a more sheltered area and was rewarded with a flock of c40 Pin-tailed Sandgrouse and 12 Black-bellied Sandgrouse, while other highlights included a pair of Theckla Lark and a Southern Grey Shrike.
We then moved to a nearby lagoon where we ate our lunches, highlights here included Great White Egret, Red-crested Pochard, Black-necked Grebe and several Marsh Harriers. Afterwards further exploration of the plains rewarded us with 21 Great Bustard, 7 more black-bellied Sandgrouse and another flock of c45 Pin-tailed Sandgrouse.
After breakfast it was decided that because of the strong wind we would abandon the idea of further birding on the plains in favour of heading straight back to Barcelona where we could do a little birding at the Llobregat Delta, a coastal wetland bordering the airport. Once there it wasn't long before we started finding some interesting birds with Greater Flamingo, Monk Parakeet, Audouins Gull and Penduline Tit amongst the highlights.
This proved to be a very enjoyable tour with an abundance of stunning scenery, good company and after the dreadful winter this year in the UK plenty of warm winter sunshine. The Birds were also first rate with 116 species recorded, an impressive total for just five days in late winter. We would like to thank everyone involved in this tour for their contribution.
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