|Lanius Bird Tours
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.
Days 2 - 4
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.
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.
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.
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