This is a trip report about a bird watching tour in the Pyrenees. It is widely known that the Pyrenees are one of the best places in Europe to observe dazzling birds such as the Lammergeier, Citril Finch and the Wallcreeper. I am guiding Steve who has been after this three species for years. Following there is a description of one of our birding tour in the Pyrenees “Belchite and the Pyrenees tour“.
It is 11:30 and I am picking Steve up from Valencia airport. His flight from London has been on time and 1:30 h later we are birding in Sierra del Toro (The Bull Mountain). I stop the car as there is something gliding on the sky, they are a high flying Booted Eagle and three Griffon Vultures. That is a good start!!. After that, we continue driving up the hill and we are approximately 1.500 meters above sea level. I pull over the car near a small Scots pine forest and we take a stroll around. First, a large flock of inquisitive Coal and Crested Tits along with a Firecrest and a Short-toed Treecreeper feed intensively around us. Moreover, Crossbills fly pass close to us.
We retrace our steppes and on the way down the mountain we see Rock Buntings feeding in the bushes.
Finally, two and a half hours later we get to the steppes of Belchite. I check that there is no water in the main pond, so I think that is going to be tough to find the two species of Sandgrouses. Birds such as Wood, Crested, Thekla and Short-toed Lark chirp constantly as I drive the car. The winter is coming and large flocks of Corn Bunting are forming. In addition, we enjoy watching an Iberian Grey Shrike perch on the top of a tamarisk while a Dupont’s Lark sings its sweet melody.
An early visit to Belchite to look for the sandgrouses pays off. A group of 8 Black-bellied Sandgrouses feed in a recently harvested wheat field. Now, it is time to continue the bird watching tour in the Pyrenees. An hour and a half later, we are in the castle of Loarre in the Pre-Pyrenees enjoying magnificent views of Crag martins and Red Kites. In addition, Black Redstart and Dunnock move from bush to bush.
After that, we get into the car and drive to the Hecho Valley. After check-in, we drive up to the valley. The views are breathtaking. A walk around reveals Water Pipit, Ring Ouzel, Yellowhammer and Black Redstart.
After breakfast we head for the West of the Hecho Valley. We walk for 35 minutes across the forest in order to reach a cliff where Wallcreeper are often seen. There is none, so we continue walking to the next area. A Black Woodpecker flies in front of us as we reach the second cliff. Chiffchaffs are all over, Redwings fly in small groups and a Iberian Green Woodpecker calls. As we reach the second cliff, a Wallcreeper lands in it, then two more join it. What a spectacle!! Three Wallcreepers all together. While we are enjoying the view, a Sparrowhawk flies over us. Then, we return to the car and have lunch.
During the afternoon we visit Biniés Gorge to watch Rock Buntings, Sardenian and Darford Warblers. Then, after 30 minutes we are in Ansó Valley where we walk for 1,30 h in a steady path watching Marsh Tit, Nuthatch, Alpine Accentor, Common Buzzard, Red-billed Chough, and mammals as the Red Squirrel and Red Deer. Steve looks up and sees a Sparrowhawk being under the attack of tens of Martins.
Today we continue our birding tours in the Pyrenees but in Navarra, to be more precise in the Roncal Valley. Our first stop in a viewing point reveals the familiar silhouette of the Lammergeier. His first for Steve!! What an elegant bird! We move to the highest area in Navarra and despite the cold weather we manage to see Yellow-billed Choughs, Crossbills and Citril Finches. The Pyrenees holds half of the world population of Citril Finch, so there it is the place to watch them.
To finish the day, we move down to the Biniés gorge where we can enjoy the fly of a Golden Eagle.
Time to drive back to Valencia. We stop near Puente de la Reina, in arable fields surrounded by woodland where we find Skylarks, Cirl Buntings and a Great Spotted Woodpecker. We continue driving until we stop to have our picnic in Sierra de Guara. Steve is amazed of seeing the Griffon Vultures so close, we even can hear the sound of their wings cutting the air!. A Peregrine Falcon flies close to the cliffs, and as we are walking to the car, a Wallcreper flies off the cliff, which means that they are already moving to winter in the area.
Rock Buntings hide in the bushes, Dunnocks sing and Red-billed Choughs gather together in the crags.
We spend half morning birding in the Albufera de Valencia before Steve takes the plane. We watch Little and Cattle Egret, Glossy Ibis, Spoonbill, Marsh Harrier, Black-winged Stilt, Dunlin, Yellow-legged Gull and Purple-swamp Hen.
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