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Tour Price
£850pp
More Details
NORTHERN SPAIN 
Wallcreepers & Lammergeiers
28 Feb - 5 March 2019

The Pyrenees has long been a favourite with birders, offering a good selection of target species and stunning scenery. Many of the regions most sought after species become easier to view during the winter months as they descend to lower altitudes to escape the harsh weather. This tour is designed to take advantage of this and we can expect to receive good views of the enigmatic Wallcreeper, along with other sought-after species such as Lammergeier, Alpine Accentor and Citril Finch. We will also spend some time on the nearby plains where Great & Little Bustards and both Black-bellied and Pin-tailed Sandgrouse occur. It is also timed to coincide with the annual migration of Common Cranes returning to their northern breeding grounds.

Day 1
Meet at the airport for our direct flight to Barcelona. Then transfer to our base in Alquezar, a stunning fortress town built around a spectacular 8th century Moorish citadel sat above the gorge of the Río Vero, where we will be based for four nights. This quaint and ancient town, with its narrow cobbled streets is set in the beautiful Sierra de Guara National Park, which is said to have the highest density of wintering Wallcreeper in the whole of Spain, with many reliable sites within easy reach.

Days 2 - 4
During these days, the Sierra de Guara, which was protected as a national park as recently as 1990 will be our main focus. It comprises of a fine tapestry of oak woodlands, almond orchards, olive groves, small traditional farms and picturesque villages. But it is best known for its numerous limestone gorges, canyons and spectacular cliffs, columns and towering rock pinnacles.

It is here that a number of traditional Wallcreeper wintering sites can be found and we will visit several to boost our chances of enjoying good views of this beautiful bird and observing their unique behaviour. The first of which is just a two minute walk from the hotel and will hopefully provide our first sighting of this very special bird. Other species which share this habitat include small groups of wintering Alpine Accentor as well as Rock Bunting, Black Redstart and Crag Martin. While above us the aerial antics of Red-billed Chough and Raven will keep us entertained.

At a nearby ruined hilltop castle another of our targets, the delightful Black Wheatear can often be found along with Thekla Lark, Blue Rock Thrush and Rock Sparrow. While beneath the castle a small area of heath bordered by arable fields often holds Crested Lark, Dartford Warbler and Zitting Cisticola.

Raptors are also well represented within the park and include another of the regions most sought after targets, the impressive Lammergeier, which we will likely observe as they glide effortlessly over the gorges in search of food. The more numerous Griffon Vulture can be seen in high numbers, while other notable species should include Golden Eagle, Peregrine and Red Kite. In some years we have also found an early returning Egyptian Vulture or Short-toed eagle.

Another attraction is the many Common Cranes that winter in the area, with numbers boosted significantly at this time of year by birds which have overwintered further south. In some years as many as 50,000 birds gather and roost at a nearby reservoir to rest and refuel before continuing their journey over the Pyrenees. Here, movements of cranes at dawn and dusk can be spectacular and will be one of the tour highlights.

One day we will move higher and visit an area of mixed woodland - mostly pine and beech - where Black Woodpecker is resident, with calling and drumming males making locating them much easier than at other times of the year. Firecrest, Crested Tit and Crossbill also occur and often give good views, while Citril Finch is often present during the winter months. A viewpoint here offers fantastic panoramic views of the area and looks across to the distant snow-capped peaks to the north. Griffon Vulture and Lammergeier often cruise by at close range and Goshawk can sometimes be seen over the woodland.

Day 5
To the south of Alquezar lie vast areas of plains, much of which have now been converted into farmland, but enough habitat remains to hold Black-bellied and Pin-tailed Sandgrouse along with a few Great and Little Bustards. Other highlights may include Southern Grey Shrike, Hoopoe, Little Owl and Stone Curlew or perhaps an early Great Spotted Cuckoo. Marsh and Hen Harriers can regularly be seen quartering the grassland and Merlin can sometimes be seen harassing large flocks of finches, larks and pipits.

In the evening we will move to our next hotel close to the historical town of Belchite. This is conveniently located close to the El Planeron reserve, home to some of the best areas of steppe in the whole of Spain. With its scrub covered, dusty red earth and wind weathered plateaux, you could be forgiven for mistaking this for Morocco, but it is here that the rare Dupont's Lark has its European stronghold.

Day 6
An early start is essential to make sure we are in position at the El Planeron at dawn, where as the sun begins to rise, larks - including the Dupont's - take to the air and sing, significantly increasing our chances of finding this most elusive of birds. Lesser Short-toed & Calandra Larks on the other hand are both common and conspicuous.

After breakfast we will make a start on our journey back to Barcelona, where we will visit a wetland site only minutes from the airport, where many species not possible elsewhere on the tour can be found. Open areas of fresh water attract a good selection of wildfowl including Red-crested Pochard as well as Black-necked Grebe and Great White Egret, while Audouins and Mediterranean Gulls often come to drink and bathe. In the extensive reedbeds lurk the elusive Purple Gallinule along with Penduline Tit, Common Waxbill and occasionally Bittern. The surrounding scrub is good for Serin as well as both Sardinian and Cetti's Warblers, while Monk Parakeet and Spotless Starling can often be seen on the edge of the reserve. A few surprises are often found and on past tours these have included Greater Flamingo, Glossy Ibis and Common Scoter. Later we return to the airport for our flight to the UK.

 

 

More Details

Total Cost £850pp   Price Breakdown  
Deposit £200pp   Air price £150pp
Single room supplement £100pp   Ground price £700pp

 

Whats Included
All Flights, All ground transport once in Spain, 5 nights accommodation, Breakfast and Lunches, Drinking water, Reserve entrance fees and Guiding services throughout.

Not Included
Evening Meals, Additional drinks, Insurance and Items of a personal nature.

Group Size
Maximum of 9, including leader Dave Read.

General
This tour will be run at a moderate pace, with a comfortable amount of walking over easy terrain. The climate at this time of year is usually quite pleasant although cooler evenings are expected with frosty mornings to follow. Rainfall is of course possible, however snow is unusual. Accommodation will be in good quality hotels with private facilities. Transport will be by minibus. Insects are not a problem and there are no special health requirements.

 

    

 

Financial Protection
Many of the flights and the flight-inclusive holidays on this website are financially protected by the ATOL scheme. But ATOL protection does not apply to all holiday and travel services listed on this website. Please ask us to confirm what protection may apply to your booking. If you do not receive an ATOL certificate then the booking will not be ATOL protected. If you do receive an ATOL certificate but all the parts of your trip are not listed on it, those parts will not be ATOL protected. Please see our booking conditions for information, or for more information about financial protection and the ATOL certificate go to www.atol.org.uk/ATOLCertificate

 

Lammergeier

Wallcreeper

Dartford Warbler

Common Cranes

Great Bustard

Dupont's Lark

Audouin's Gull

Citrill Finch

Alpine Accentor

 

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