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17 Jul

I am regular visitor of the Cantabrian mountains and Picos de Europa. As a result, I have spent many summers searching for its wonderful wildlife. Here you can read my last wildlife trip report in the Cantabrian Mountains.

We usually run two types of wildlife tours. In June, we start leading natural history tours mainly consisting of orchids, butterflies, birds, etc. and during September, the itineraries are more focus on mammals: wildcat, Iberian wolf and brown bear.

 

Wildlife report in the Cantabrian Mountains

Dates: June 25-July 1st

 

Day 1. Santander airport-Boca de Húergamo

 

The group arrives on time to Santander airport and soon we are in the minibus heading to our accommodation in Boca de Húergamo. After 2 h 40 min journey, everyone is willing to stretch the legs before dinner. We walk around the surroundings of the hotel watching Serins, Black redstarts and two White storks in the nest. Mike finds a Hummingbird-hawk moth in a honeysuckle. After that, we stroll down to the river when Pau finds an adult Dipper feeding three grown-up chicks. On the way back, we take another path to see the beautiful Lilium martagon.

 

Day 2. Crémenes. Wildlife report Cantabrian mountains

 

Glanville Fritillary-Wildlife report Cantabrian mountains

We set off at 9:00 driving South to the village of Crémenes. Soon we see the first orchids: Lizzard, Pyramidal and Woodcock orchids. Sadly, the Sawfly orchids are almost over. Black kites, Griffon vultures and Common buzzard patrol the sky and the nearby farms looking for some carcass. As the temperature warms up, we start finding the first butterflies: Clouded yellow and Berger’s clouded yellow, Spotted fritillary, Small tortoiseshell and a Heath fritillary which finds Edward’s T-shirt a good place to land.

Just few of us, manage to see an Iberian chiffchaff which keeps jumping from branch to branch. After that, we continue walking along a small stream watching a Beautiful damselfly and few more species of butterflies: Green-vein white, Adoni’s blue, Essex and Small skippers. Not far from there, we add two more species of orchids: Small-tongue orchid and Green-winged orchid, the last one almost over.

 

Mediterranean habitat in the lowlands: birds and butterflies

 

Iberian Marbled White-wildlife cantabrian mountains

We get back to the vehicles and drive a short distance to a picnic area. As we are enjoying our salads and local cheese, Jenny gets her eyes in two birds which turn to be an Egyptian vulture and a Peregrine falcon. The grass in the picnic area hasn’t been cut yet and therefore, there are lots of gorgeous butterflies such as Iberian Marbled white, Dark-green and Cardinal fritillaries.

Once we have finished lunch, we drive for 20 minutes to our next location. Here the landscape is a bit more Mediterranean, and so are the birds! We enjoy great views of the colourful Bee-eaters and a Red-back shrike. Sadly, just Pau see a Short-toed eagle after it vanishes behind the hill. In addition, we all see a Melodious warbler singing on the top of a bush and an Iberian green woodpecker flying from tree to tree. Some new butterflies include Silver-studded, Long-tailed and Little blue, Large and Oberthür’s grizzled skipper.

 

Day 3. Fuente Dé. Alpine birds and flora in the Cantabrian Mountains

 

Lammergeier-Wildlife report in the Cantabrian Mountains

Today we have a long drive (1 h 40 min) to Fuente Dé. Once we get there, Pau rushes to get the tickets so the waiting time is just 30 min. Meanwhile, we wander around watching a beautiful Firecrest and a Coal tit. In addition, there are large numbers of Painted lady which have been pushed to Europe as a result of the heat wave a few days ago.

Once we get out of the cable car, we soon find some alpine plants. For instance, Trumpet gentian and the Pyrenean toadflax. We continue walking and taking photos of “cheeky” Alpine chough and we are rewarded with the sight of a Lammergeier. That is fantastic! It is even possible to see the numbers in the wing tags as most of the birds in this area are part of a restocking programme. During the winter 2020, a pair of Lammergueiers have mate and laid an egg. This is the first breeding attempt in many decades. Let’s hope they succed!

 

Wallcreeper: The bird that looks like a butterfly!

 

Wallcreeper-Wildlife report in the Cantabrian Mountains

We keep moving as we have more birds to see, but before we get to the spot, Pau sees a Southern Chamois resting among the boulders. Once we get to the “wall”, we wait for 30 min until two Snow finches show up. After that, we stop in another area to scan the walls, finding a Wallcreeper, that is great! It keeps hiding just showing for seconds.

While we wait to get better views of the Wallcreeper, Pau finds two approachable Alpine accentors. Finally, the Wallcreeper remains on view and all the group gets good sight of this stunning bird. The breeze carries the butterflies away and makes difficult to spot any of them, just finding a Common blue and a Common Brassy ringlet.

After some refreshments in the bar, we take the cable car back and set off to the hotel.

 

Day 4. Valdeón valley. Flowers ans butterflies in the Cantabrian Mountains

 

Scarce cooper-Wildlife report Cantabrian mountains

Our first stop today is to add an interesting bird to our list, the Citril finch. In the same spot, we add two more species of orchids: Heath spotted orchid and Dactylorhiza incarnata. After that, we continue driving along the beautiful Valdeón valley and stop near a stream. As we get off the vehicle, we get a nicely perched Yellowhammer and a Linnet. The meadows are packed with flowers such as the endemic Digitalis parviflora, the beautiful Linaria elegans, Trollius europaeus and the purple Jasione laevis just to name few. The hillsides are pink as the heath (Calluna vulgaris) is in full bloom. There are some interesting butterflies like the Scarce Swallowtail, Scarce copper and Turquoise blue.

We keep driving admiring the stunning views from Pandetrave pass, the towering Picos mountains are right in front of us. Our next stop is in Posada de Valedón, where we have coffee and take a stroll along the village. We watch a family of Marsh tits picking insects in the dung and not far from there a beautiful male Common redstart stands out. In a hillside we find a nice Flax (Linum narbonense).

After eating the picnic, we spend the rest of the afternoon wandering around the meadows and we add a new species of orchid, the Dark red Helleborine. There were also Man orchids but already in seedpods. The meadows are full of butterflies: Pearly and Chestnut heath, Iberian marbled white, Glanville fritillary and Short-tailed blue to name few. John and Pau find in different corners of the meadows two Owl flies (Ascalaphidae) which turn to be two different species.

 

Day 5. Lois valley. Butterflies in the Cantabrian Mountains

 

Dusky large Blue-butterflies Cantabrian mountains

Today, we head South to visit the valley where Pau lives. Our first stop is by the road to see a group of blooming Butterfly orchids and some Robust marsh orchids that were starting to come into flower.

We take a stroll along the river finding the path covered by Butterworts and Heath-spotted orchids. Soon we see the first species of butterflies: Ringlet, a Southern brown argus and a sunbathing Spanish purple hairstreak. Suddenly, a large butterfly catches our eyes, an Apollo butterfly! It lands on a Cephalaria allowing us fantastic views! On the way back to the minibus we add Chalk-hill blue and Spanish gatekeeper.

 

 

Crémenes

 

Chapman's ringlet in Picos de Europa

A short stop in the town of Crémenes reveals Common twayblade and Marsh helleborine. The surprise comes when we see a Black vulture, an uncommon species around here.

We set off to Lois where we have a coffee stop before visiting the “smoking house” and the cathedral. The smoking house is a remarkable building from a traditional and cultural point of view. Until the 90’s it was inhabited. The way locals used to isolate the straw roof and to warm the house was by burning wood inside the building and allowing the smoke to get out through the roof and walls. As there were no chimneys in the facilities, the houses used to have a thick layer of soot covering both, walls and roof. Living in the Cantabrian mountains used to be tough!

The cathedral is also worth visiting it. It is a pretty large cathedral considering the tiny size of the village. Moreover, this extraordinary building is a sign of a past when the rights of grazing and the cattle transhumance meant an important income for the villagers.

After lunch, we spend a couple of hours looking for butterflies in the meadows. Amanda’s blue, Champman’s ringlet and White admiral are added to the list. It is getting a bit too hot, so we decide to drive back to the hotel. On the way back, we make a short detour to see a roosting Tawny owl.

 

Day 6. Border with Asturias. Amphibians and dragonflies

 

wildlife report Cantabrian mountains-Sooty cooper

In our last full day, we set toward Asturias. We visit a couple of lagoons hoping to find some Odonata and amphibians. Soon, we find a Four-spotted chaser, Common bluet, Ruddy darter and quite a lot of Western willow spreadwing. In terms of plants, we find a single Dactylorhiza insularis, the lovely Viola cornuta, Arctostaphylos uva-ursi, Valeriana montana and Yellow gentians which are starting to flower. A Booted Eagle and a Tree pipit in full song are seeing. Pau does well when he finds two different amphibians: Stripless tree frog and an Iberian frog. We also see some day flying moths like the Speckled footman and Isturgia flamula.

Our next stop is to have lunch. It is a beautiful sunny day, so we take a stroll and find a worn-out Camberwell beauty. In a nearby meadow, Pau shows us a boggy area where we see the scarce Dusky large blue, one of the rarest and more threatened butterflies in Spain. Other butterflies seen include Cleopatra, Meadow fritillary and Sooty copper among others.

 

Day 7. Boca de Huérgamo-Santander. Wildlife report to the Cantabrian Mountains

 

Wildlife report Cantabrian mountains-Cirl Bunting

As the departure is in the afternoon, Pau has planned a couple of stops on the way to the airport. The first one is South of Guardo in an open plateau. Our first birds of the day are Spotless starlings and a couple of Cirl buntings. In addition, Black-veined whites, Great banded graylings and Gatekeepers seems to be everywhere! Mick finds a pair of Whinchats perched. Pau spots a Tawny Pipit and later we see a Hopooe looking for grubs near a dung pile.

Our picnic and last stop are in the marshes of Santander. A fantastic restoration project and a nice area to walk around. Here we see some rafts where Common Terns are breeding and a large colony of Cattle egrets.

Whit no more time, we drive the short distance to the airport and say goodbye to the group, what a beautiful wildlife holiday!

Should you have any question, please do not hesitate to contact us or visit our tour calendar.

 

 

Wildlife report to the Cantabrian Mountains. Pau Lucio


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29 May

 

Welcome to our wildlife report to Valencia, La Mancha, Madrid and Pyrenees. We planned this itinerary to cover most of the habitats found in mainland Spain in order to get a good diversity of birds. May 2018

 

Day 1. Wildlife trip report. Valencia – La Mancha.

 

Wildlife report Valencia La Mancha Madrid and Pyrenees

At 8:45 sharp, Deidre, Karmela and Rod are picked up by Pau from their hotel in Valencia. They drive west through a busy traffic in Valencia, and about 1:10 h later arrive to Fuenterrobles, close to the border with La Mancha. After a short walk in the scrubland, Pau finds a Thekla Lark and a stunning male Black-eared Wheatear perched on a telephone wire. Pau ears a familiar call and after few minutes searching they get their reward, a beautiful Spectacled warbler. On a nearby field, Greater short toed larks delight the group with their full song in a beautiful morning.

They continue driving along the A3 for 1:30 h to a local bar to have lunch. Their next stop is in the lagoons of “La Mancha Húmeda”. By the road, there is a small pond packed with birds, including 40+ Black terns, numerous species of waders and a pair of the most wished Bearded tits. They drive along the track and find the colourful Bee-eaters and distant Lesser Kestrels.

Finally, the afternoon is spent in Alcázar enjoying close views of White-headed Ducks, Black-necked Grebes and Red-crested Pochards.

Dinner is in a local restaurant in Belmonte: Ajoarriero (cod and potato), Patatas bravas, Pisto manchego (ratatouille with egg) and a salad, all washed down with a good bottle of red wine.

 

Day 2. Wildlife report Valencia La Mancha Madrid and Pyrenees

 

Wildlife report-White headed Duck

After driving through gorgeous fields of poppies, they arrive to a private state where Rock sparrows thrive in the ruins of what were the facilities of a quarry. Soon after that, they bump into a small patch of Woodcock orchids. This well managed state is a wonderful place for birds. It just take them few minutes to find Subalpine and Melodious warblers, however these birds are no the main reason why Pau take the group here. After searching for few more minutes, they hit the jackpot!! A cracking Eagle Owl takes off from about 12-15 m from where the group is standing. Smiling faces after seen this wonderful raptor.

The rest of the day is spent in the National Park of Tablas de Daimiel and the surrounding area. From the blind they get fantastic views of a Penduline Tit as well as Cetti’s and Savi’s warblers. After a most wanted coffee, they take a stroll to get some of the targets. Soon, they are rewarded with great views of a pair of European rollers mating and Deidre finds a Purple heron carrying a snake in its bill. They keep postponing lunch as there is a lot going on! Rod enjoys watching a pair of Golden orioles chasing one another from tree to tree and Pau finally gets in its scope some Spanish sparrows.

After lunch, they take a stroll around the reeds finding Spoonbills, a Greenshank and a Common coot with chicks which are photographed by Karmela from many different angles. Finally, we stop in the souvenir shop before driving back to our 18th century Hotel.

 

Day 3. Wildlife report Valencia La Mancha Madrid and Pyrenees

 

Wildlife report Valencia La Mancha Madrid and Pyrenees

After loading the car they set off to the near farmland. Before reaching the first stop of the day, Pau has to pull over so everyone can get excellent views of a Black vulture. From a nearby almond tree, a stunning Great spotted cuckoo can be seen! That’s a good start! They continue driving but Pau stops again as Deidre spots a Stone curlew followed by another one.

Later, Pau takes them to the magic track where everyone gets excellent views of a male Little bustard displaying. Pau says it is his best view ever! Good to see Little bustards, since there has been a huge decline of these magnificent birds in the last decades. They drive to the following village to locate the elusive Great bustards with no luck. Pau decides to move towards Madrid hoping to find them in another area and bingo! They find 5 stunning males feeding in the arable land. After pleasant views, they drive for 1:30 h to make a stop for coffee and facilities in a petrol station near Madrid.

The group continue the journey towards the north of Madrid and make a stop near Tres Cantos. While they have the picnics lunch there, a Spanish Imperial Eagles display in the air. Fantastic! The air is quite warm, so the butterflies are very active: Marbled White, Kidnapped Fritillary, and Yellow Clouded are seen among others butterflies.

Their final destination is in the steppes close to the hotel in Torrelaguna, where they get close views of a group of 15-20 male Great bustards and a distant male Montagu’s Harrier.

 

Day 4. Wildlife trip report. Madrid

 

Citril Finch-Wildlife report to the Pyrenees

Today the group set off to the snow-capped mountains of the National Park of Guadarrrama. The first stop in the mountain pass is rewarded with a group of very confident Citril finches. Everyone enjoys this beautiful bird displaying. Later, after lunch, they visit the woods adding Garden warbler and the Iberian subspecies of Pied flycatcher. The sun is warming up and butterflies start to fly around: Orange tip, De Prunner’s ringlet, Brimstone and Marsh fritillary. Reptiles also seem more than happy with the weather, especially the half meter Ocellated lizard that Pau finds in a wall.  Later we enjoy great views of Tree pipit displaying and raptors such as both kites and Black vultures.

The party leaves the park and head off to the oak forest near el Escorial. Sadly start raining as soon as they find a Cirl bunting. On the way back to the hotel, a flock of Iberian magpies fly right across in front of the car.

After dinner, Deidre and Pau try to locate some of the Red-necked nightjars that Pau saw the previous night. After the rain, the tracks are too muddy to drive with the car so they decide to go for a walk. The night is filled with the sound of Scops owls and Red-necked nightjars. On the walk back to the car, we bump into a Natterjack and a Midwife toad.

 

Day 5. Wildlife trip report. Madrid – Pyrenees.

 

Wildlife report Valencia La Mancha Madrid and Pyrenees

Pau suggests having breakfast today at 6:00 am. He would like to try a spot for Dupont’s lark on the way to the Pyrenees.  Once they get to the spot, the weather is not the best for finding this elusive bird, with wind and showers in a cold morning. However, they do get other interesting birds like Common cuckoo, Montagu’s harrier and Rock thrush. On the way back to the motorway, Pau see a Iberian green woodpecker flying to a poplar tree so pulls over to allow everyone views of this woodpecker. At the same time, a Golden oriole pops up in the top of a tree.

After a welcome stop in a local bakery, they set off to Zaragoza for a stop near el Pilar to see Pallid swifts.

The group arrives to Valle de Hecho around 3:30 pm and decide to explore for a couple of hours the surroundings before going to the hotel. In a farm, they get fantastic views of 5 Egyptian vultures displaying and chasing one to another. Karmela keeps pressing the button of her camera. It is just amazing! Later, along the river, we get long views of a Dipper diving and Pau finds Green-winged and Marsh orchids. In a meadow close to the car, we find 3 gorgeous male Bullfinches and a pair of Red-backed shrikes.

After a long day, we all soon go to bed.

 

Day 6. Wildlife trip report Pyrenees.

 

Wildlife report Valencia La Mancha Madrid and Pyrenees

The morning is spent locally. After 30 minutes hike the party get to the cliffs where the Wallcreeper have been breeding during the last years. After waiting about 40 minutes, they get a glimpse of this stunning bird quite high up in the cliff. Suddenly, another one arrives and both fly off showing their distinctive red patch on their wings. The group decides to wait hoping to get another view and their patience pays off but not with a Wallcreeper but with a Lammergeier.

On route, Pau stops for a coffee in Hecho before visiting the next valley for lunch. In the near meadows everyone gets nice views of Rock bunting and Red kites. Few minutes later, Deidre spots a Griffon’s vulture perched in the ground just few meters from the road. They stop the car to watch the vultures circling around, there must be a carcass. They spend the rest of the day in Ansó, where the group get nice views of a Red Fox and a Crested Tit among other common birds.

Deidre and Karmela are woken up during the night by a loudly Tawny Owl, calling from a small patch of forest near the garden.

 

Day 7. Wildlife trip report Pyrenees.

 

Today, the group sets off to Navarra to look for some alpine birds. On route, Deidre finds an Egyptian vulture perched on a telephone post. It is nice to see that this threatened bird still remains fairly common in the area. Once they get into the valley, they find Alpine chough and lots of Northern wheatears displaying in the meadows. The group carry on towards France enjoying wonderful views of the snowy mountains. The snow still remains in many areas which is quite unusual at this time of the year. Later, Deidre finds a Ring ouzel perched in a pine and Pau quickly focuses the telescope so everyone enjoy fantastic views of a male of the subspecies alpestris. Citril finches chirp and fly in small flocks in front of the vehicle.

On the way down the valley they spot a flock of 4 raptors which turn out to be 3 Red kites and a Booted eagle. Near the road, Pau locates a Water pipit with its distinctive pinkie chest. However, the big surprise comes when Pau finds a friendly Marmot which looks to us hidden in a pile of rocks.

Once they get to the hotel, Karmela, Deidre and Pau walk around the forest and meadows looking for other species. A Firecrest shows well in a nearby Scots pine and Short-toed treecreeper flies every minute to its nest located under a tile on the roof. The rest of the evening is spent drinking some of the local beer and chatting with a group of Swedish birders.

 

Day 8. Wildlife report Valencia La Mancha Madrid and Pyrenees

 

Collared Patrincole in Valencia

Today is the final day of this wildlife adventure around Spain. After passing through Siresa, Pau pulls over to one side as he hears two Wrynecks calling. Everyone see this nice bird. The group continue the long journey ahead, making a couple of quick stops for photographing Common buzzard, Melodious warbler and other common birds.

After a couple of stops for facilities and lunch, they get near Valencia where they spend few hours birding in the coastal wetland of Marjal del Moro. Audouin’s gulls, Little and Sandwich terns fly around while the group stays in one of the hides. While the group waits patiently to see some Little Bitterns, Pau and Deidre get a glimpse of a Purple swamp-hen walking along the shore. Rod also enjoys great views of a Great reed warbler perched up on the reeds. Before they leave the hide, a pair of Turtle doves land on a nearby tamarisk. The final surprise comes when Pau finds in the colony of Sandwich terns, an Elegant tern incubating its nest. Therefore, this pair will be the second breeding in Valencia region this season!

Finally, we drive to the hotel and say goodbye. Thanks to Deidre, Rod and Karmela for making this trip so enjoyable.

To download the complete check-list of the Wildlife trip report to Valencia, La Mancha, Madrid and the Pyrenees, please click here.

Should you have any question, please do not hesitate to contact us or to visit the tour calendar.


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21 Jul

 

Please find our trip report focus on butterflies in Picos de Europa mountains, one of the best places in Europe to enjoy wildlife.

 

Butterflies in Picos de Europa

Every butterfly lover knows how fantastic are Picos de Europa mountains for butterflies. The easiness to reach high altitudes and the variety of flower-filled meadows, deciduous woodlands and deep limestone gorges makes Picos the perfect place for a wildlife trip focus on butterflies.

Usually we organize two trips for year, (please have a look to our tour calendar) one in late June focus on butterflies, orchids, birds and alpine flowers and a second trip in late August-beginning of September when we spend more time in search of carnivours (Wildcat, Iberian Wolf and Cantabrian Bear). Nevertheless, we spend one day looking for Alpine birds and in the midday break there is always time to take a stroll for butterflies.

We plan to spend more time in Picos during summer, so please contact us for a day out or for any information you need.

 

 

July 4th. Santander-Boca de Huérgamo. In search of butterflies.

 

wildflowers in Cantabrian Mountains

While I wait to my four guests in Santander airport, I get the confirmation that my licence to capture butterflies (research proposes) has been renewed. That is great news!

We make a stop for lunch before reaching the impressive gorge of el Desfiladero de la Hermida. Then continue our journey to the hotel in Boca seeing on the way Black and Red Kites, White Storks, Kestrels and Common Buzzard. After check-in we have a nice walk behind the hotel where we found Provençal, Knapweed and Heath Fritillary, Chestnut and Pearly heath, Large and Small white and plants such as Linaria triornithophora. Regarding birds, Bonelli’s Warbler, Raven, Rock Sparrow and Red-rumped Swallow are spotted for all, and Large Psammodromus is seeing as we walk back trough the town.

Dinner and red wine is served at 20:00. While we eat with appetite, we chat about the itinerary we plan to do the following days.

 

July 5th-Lario (Butterflies in Picos de Europa)

 

Common blue damselfly in Cantabria Mountains

Our first stop is in a pool where soon we find Broad bellied chaser, Western willow spreadwing, Common bluetail damselfly, Large red damselfly and Common bluet. We also find Natherjack tadpoles, lots of tiny Common toads and an Alpine newt. Regarding butterflies, there are good numbers of Yellow Clouded, Common Blue, Knapweed and a Pearl-bordered Fritillary found by Hilary. Cuckoo, Quails, Tree Pipits and Skylarks sing from the nearby fields

We drive for 10 minutes to reach a picnic area where we have our lunch. On the sky we are marvelled by a a Honey buzzard displaying. After coffee and facilities we walk the path in Ventaniella finding Swallowtail, Brown Argus, a fast flying Brimstone, Wood white and Meadow brown. Later a beautiful Purple-edged copper shows up and Math decides to chase it. The story ends when with Math falling in a ditch! Nothing serious, just trousers covers by mud, no photo of him allowed though!

The weather is changing and stars to drizzle, so we decide to go back to the hotel.

 

July 6th-Fuente Dé (Alpine birds)

 

The weather looks miserable, still drizzling and thick fog. Anyway, we can’t do anything, so we carry on with the plan. As we drive towards Fuente Dé we see a Woodchat Shrike and a female Red-backed Shrike 200 meters away. Once we get there, the rain stops but the fog remains. That is a pity as we are going to miss the breathtaking views from the cable car. While we wait for it to take us, we see an Egyptian vulture flying low opposite us and a big flock of Common Swifts.

The astonishing 800m vertical ascent was enjoyed by the group. Once we are up in the mountains, Alpine Choughs fly and pick leftovers from the path left by tourist and Alpine accentors sing as if we were in a sunny summer day! Jim spots the only butterfly of the day a Red Underwing Skipper and Pau finds a party of Snow finches passing fast to our side. Water Pipits sing as it ‘parachuted’ past. Gorgeous alpine plants such as Trumpet Gentians, Leafless-stemmed Globularia, Arenaria purpurascens and Erinus alpinus are seeing for everyone. Northern wheatear and Black Redstar sing from the crags.

Seeing that the weather is not going to improve, we return to the van after lunch and go for sightseeing to Potes.

 

July 7th-Valle de Valdeón (Plants and butterflies in Picos)

 

The sky is clear and the forecast expect 28 ºC, so it seems is going to be a great day for butterflies!!

butterflies in Picos de europa

First we stop in a stream where we find a good variety of butterflies: the endemic Chapman’s ringlet is seeing very well for everyone as it drinks from a muddy pool. Pau finds a cracking Damon Turquoise in a thistle. Adoni’s blue, Orange tip, Green hairstreakBlack-veined White, Mazarine Blue and Grizzled Skippers are seen in few minutes, what a display! Hilary finds an strange insect that turns to be a Owl-flie (Ascalaphidae). In the same path we also find interesting flowers: Digitalis parviflora, the endemic Erygnium bourgatii, Heath Spotted and Early marsh Orchids. In addition, Garden warblers and Black caps keep singing all morning and Pau spots an Iberian wall lizard sunbathing on a bush.

A few km following the road is located the view point of Pandetrave where we have a quick stop to witness the massive massif Central right in front of us. A quick look through the scope reveals a pair of Chamois and Griffon vultures in one far high hillside. In the meadows behind us there are numerous Small heath and Knapweed Fritillary, and at least 2 males Rock buntings.

Our next stop is for having lunch in Caín. Then, we follow the path of the Río Cares seeing large numbers of Cleopatra, Small Cooper  and Iberian Grizzled Skipper along the path. Large Wall Brown, Wall brown, Speckled Wood, Painted Lady and a pair of Queen of Spain Fritillary feed on the abundant flowers.  On the way back to the minibuses John does very well finding a Dipper bouncing in the river. White and Grey wagtails are also seen.

 

July 8th-Piedrasluengas

 

Fritillary-butterflies in Picos de europa

Today I am ready at 6:30. Yesterday while we had dinner, I was told by a local farmer that a Wildcat was seeing in the next town. I am not very optimistic as July is not the best month for Wildcat, but anyway I am trying as Hilary loves this animals and she is happy to join me. We get to the spot at the break of the day, not much happen the first half and hour but then a stunning male Wildcat crosses the field heading to the forest! Fantastic, but a bit far to get a sharp picture in a poor light conditions, though. After that, we join the rest for breakfast and everyone notices that we are in high spirits.

The first stop is in a mountain pass where soon Pau spots a chirping Citril finch. The Cattle has eaten most of flowers so the diversity of butterflies is lower than we expected. However, we locate good numbers of Purpled-edged and Stooty Cooper, Silver-washed Fritillary, Black-veined White, Brown Argus, Short-tailed Blue and other common species.

We continue towards Piedraluengas stopping in a local bar for lunch and facilities. In Piedrasluengas,  we can see a flock of 5 Red-Billed Chough and butterflies such as Chapman’s ringlet, De Prunner’s ringlet, Heath Washed Fritillary, Small heathGlanville FritillaryProvençal Fritillary, Red admiralSpotted Fritillary and Meadow Fritillary. A good variety to finish the day!

 

July 9th-Mountain pass (Butterflies in Picos de Europa)

 

butterflies in picos de europa-Iberian marbled white

Today is going to be our last full day in Picos. Temperatures of 30ºC are expected, so we all agree to spend the evening chilling out in the bar and having a cold bath in the river, no for me!!. So, first stop in the morning is a river located near Riaño. Math is amazed by the abundant and variety of Marled butterflies: Marbled WhiteSpanish and Iberian Marbled Whites. Along the river we find an inm. Black-tailed Skimmer and few Common blue damselfly. Common Chiffchaff and Firecrest sing from the deciduous forest. Butterflies include Chapman’s ringlet, Adoni’s blue, Turquoise blue, Idas blue, Mallow Skipper and Chequered Skipper are relatively common in the beautiful meadows of daisy wheel.

Later, we have our lunch in the hotel terrace and spend the evening at our leisure.

 

 

July 10th-Boca de Huérgano-Liencres-Santander 

 

Once we are down in the coast the weather worsened. We head for the Dunes of Liencres to spend few hours before taking the plane. There we find numerous Sea Spurge with what seems Spurge Hawkmoth caterpillars. A young Cuckoo flies from the forest, Linnets feed on seeds and Crested Lark move up and down. On the shore there were Lesser Black-backed and Yellow legged Gull.

Finally, we get to the airport and say goodbyes.

We hope that this report about butterflies in Picos de Europa will bring back memories of a rewarding and enjoyable trip in NW Spain.


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21 Apr

Birding Costa Blanca, a surprising wildlife-rich region in Spain. Please find the trip report to two of the most interesting birding reserves: Salt Pans of Santa Pola and El Hondo.

 

Trip report Costa Blanca 19/04

 

I got an enquire from Allan who was willing to see some of the wildlife in the area. Please, find following our bird watching trip report in Costa Blanca:

Roseate tern-birding Costa Blanca

Our first stop is in the Salinas de Santa Pola where the previous days, a pair of Elegant Terns have been reported. The day is warm but very windy, good for breeding gulls and terns (they don’t venture to the sea) but no so good for passerines.

Greater Flamingos, Audouin’s Gulls, a female Red Crested Pochard, Curlew Sandpipers, Dunlins, Swifts, Avocets, Little Stints and other common birds are our first sightings. As we stroll back to the car, a Little bittern flies down to a ditch covered by reeds. Unfortunately, Allan and his wife miss it.  Five minutes after getting out of the car in our second stop, a strange sound catches my attention. It is a Roseate Tern!!! a very unusual bird in the region. On Sunday was located for the first time but no one could find it again yesterday, so it is a nice surprise to relocate it. Great bird! In addition, there is Little and Common Tern, Yellow Wagtail, Turnstone, Kentish Plover and Slender-billed Gull.

Then, we walk down to the second hide to witness more than 600 Sandwitches terns and to try to locate the pair of Elegant terns. All the birds take off twice and settled down again. After that, at the end of the island I find the 2 Elegant Terns, what a bill! In the same island we find Collared Pratincole, Common Sandpiper and Greenshank. The time is passing fast with so many birds and we are getting hungry. Therefore, we stroll back to car park to have our picnics.

 

El Fondo d’Elx reserve

 

After lunch, we drive to el Fondo, stopping first for a coffee. As we get in the first hide, a Purple Swamp hen with two chicks shows well. Besides, we see a Red-knobbed Coot nesting, Cattle Egret, Squacco Heron and Whiskered Terns. After this, we move to add more “lifers”. The sky is covered by Common Swifts and among them, we can spot 3 Pallid Swifts! In the next hide, we get Purple Heron, Black Tern and Marble Teals. Allan is having a great time photographing so many new birds! We carry on and have a look to a promising pool. There we get Gull-billed Terns, Mediterranean Gulls, a Ruff, Wood Sandpiper, Little and Ringed Plover and lots of other waders

I have one last stop for White-headed Duck and Black-necked Grebe but they feel tired, so we leave it for the next time.

All in all, a particularly good day despite the wind. Two local rarities the same day!

If you would like to expereince the wildlife of the regio, please see our 5-day tour around Valencia and Alicante. Should you have any question, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Have a good Birding Costa Blanca day! 

 

 

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17 Mar

Extremadura Wildlife trip report: March 13th-17th

 

Welcome to our Extremadura wildlife trip report on March 13th-17th. We will be back next season to this wonderful Spanish region!

 

Day 1. Madrid-Arrocampo. Marsh birds and early orchids

 

In this occasion, I have been invited by the Valencian Government to the Extremadura birdfair (FIO 2016) to promote wildlife tourism in my region “Comunitat Valenciana”. Once the fair finished on Sunday 13th, I drove to Madrid to pick up Beatrice, Tom, Matthew and Susan from Barajas’ airport.

We make a comfort stop along the motorway to grab some lunch. Here, we get our first views of Black and Red Kites, Common Buzzard, Barn Swallows, White Storks and Cattle Egret. Once we finish we continue until we stop at the wetlands of Arrocampo where we get a pair of Purple swamp-hens with a youngster, Zitting Cisticola, two Spoonbills, Little Egret and a Great White Heron. In addition, from the reed beds we do see Savi’s Warbler and a Little Bittern flying fast away from us.

In the nearby fields, Lesser Kestrels hover and Pau finds a Purple Heron hiding in the reeds. After that, we move to the other part of the reserve and get an Iberian Grey Shrike perch on a pylon. Griffon vultures soar close to us. Meanwhile, Susan finds a Scarce Swallowtail, Small Cooper and Red admiral butterflies.

Our next stop is just minutes away from Arrocampo. It is a new orchid reserve and what a place! The ground is covered by Naked man orchids and Champagne orchids, Pau finds three gorgeous Giant orchids (uncommon species in this area) followed by Woodcock orchids. Later, as we explore another plot of land, Beatrice finds Sawfly orchids with “resupination or flower inversion”. Six different species in just a small plot of land! Are you interested in orchids? We strongly recommend the following article about orchids tours in Spain.

Finally, we drive back to our Hotel in Trujillo.

 

Day 2. Monfragüe National Park. Extremadura Wildlife trip report

 

Stripeless Tree Frog-Extremadura Wildlife trip report

Today we head off to Monfragüe, one of the top raptor watching places in Europe. Our first stop is in Salto del Gitano, a huge cliff that overlooks the Tajo River. Griffon Vultures are all over the place as well as few Black Vultures. Crag martins are up and down and Cormorants fish down in the river. Pau hears a Rock Bunting that is located later by Matthew and a Black Stork carrying some nest material. In addition, a beautiful Blue Rock Thrush sings from a rock on the cliff beside us.

After that, we drive few kilometres and before reaching the next stop a Red deer crosses the road in front of us. No far from there, Pau pulls over at the River Tajo where we see hundreds of House Martin making their nests. Among there, we spot a Red-rumped Swallow and a far distant Alpine Swift. During a short walk, we find a Hawfinch and a Sardinian Warbler.

We stop at Villareal de San Carlos to use facilities and have a coffee. Pau also arranges dinner for that evening as we will try to locate the Eagle Owl at dusk. On the sky, a different silhouette catches our eye; it is a Short-toed Eagle! On the nearby fields, Linnets, Serin and Corn Bunting feed on seeds. After that, we carry on along the river until the next stop where we have lunch. This is a good spot for Bonelli’s Eagle so we have lunch there. Pau gets an Egyptian Vulture being chased by a smaller raptor that turns out to be an inm. Bonelli’s Eagle, suddenly an adult Bonelli’s and two more Egyptian Vultures turn out from nowhere!!! Great stuff!

Extremadura Wildlife trip report-Spanish Sparrow

We drop down along the river to Portilla del Tietar. There, among the bushes an early Subalpine Warbler is found by Pau and seeing by everyone despite being playing hide and seek. A pair of Raven nests in the cliffs and a Nuthatch climbs up in a near oak tree. We walk back along the road waiting to see the “Queen” and not only we get views of Spanish Imperial Eagle but also a scarce bird in the area: a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker. Superb!

After that, we go to Villareal de San Carlos to have dinner and wait until gets dark to try to spot the Eagle Owl. There is a rumour that the pair of Portilla del Tietar has moved to another area so we try another spot. We hear the bird but we are unable to see it. On the way back to the hotel, we visit a small poll where we get nice views of Stripeless Tree Frog. However, a Wild board in the middle of the road gets our full attention.

 

Day 3. Los Llanos and Belen. Steppe Birds

 

Spanish Imperial Eagle-Extremadura Wildlife trip report

Once the breakfast is done, we stop in Trujillo to see the Lesser Kestrel colony. Then we move to Los Llanos seeing large numbers of Spanish Sparrows and Red-rumped Swallows nesting. Corn Bunting, Calandra Lark and Crested Lark are everywhere. As we drive, two big raptors get closer and closer, they are Spanish Imperial Eagles! Very quickly, we get off the car and enjoy for few minutes cracking views of these superb birds.

In the middle of a field there are 5 vultures resting on the ground (3 Griffon and 2 Black). In the opposite field, a Hen Harrier and Marsh Harrier fly towards us. Besides, Red and Black Kites are all over the place and a Thekla Lark is spotted by Susan. We stop for a picnic in Magasca and get some common birds, Greenfinches, Goldfinches, Tree Sparrows and Common Chiffchaff. It is getting hot and reptiles are active as well as Large White butterflies. Pau finds a Large Psammodromus and a Spanish Terrapin sunbathing. There are also Iberian Water frogs croaking.

Our next stop is in Belen where we get a beautiful Great Spotted Cuckoo flying in front of the car. That is a good start! In a nearby field there are a group of 10 Great Bustards! Not far from them, there is a flock of 25 Golden Plovers. A pair of Egyptian Vultures and a pale morph Booted Eagle are also seen.
Today, we have dinner in the old town of Trujillo where we locate a Scoops Owl and hear a Little Owl.

 

Day 4. Vegas Altas. Steppe birds

 

Lesser Kestrel-Extremadura Wildlife trip report

Our first stop is in a “dehesa” close to Sierra Brava. Sadly, the first thing we find in the track is a death Ladder Snake. Lots of Hoopoes are feeding on the grass and on the wire we find a Woodchat Shrike. On the water, there are several gulls (Black-headed and Lesser Black backed) and 2 Greater Flamingos. Through the scope we can locate Pintails and Wigeons.

We take a diversion to look for some steppes birds, the road is quite busy so we press on and take a track where we find a solitary Great Bustard and a Stone Curlew. In a bush inside the road ditch, Pau finds a male Dartford Warbler. As we drive back to the main road a flock of 20 Great Bustards fly over us. What a moment for Susan, her favourite bird!

Our next stop is to re-fuel the car and have some coffee. Pau spots a flock of Common Swifts feeding in a channel that goes around the town. At least 2 of them are Pallid Swifts! Then, we move to the paddy fields which are quite dry, but along the edges we find a group of Red avadavats. There are Common and Green Sandpiper, Black-winged Stilts and Yellow Wagtail in a small pool. On the grass there is a small party of Spotless Starlings.

A little further down, Tom sees a flock of birds landing. We pull over the car and get good views of Black-bellied Sandgrouses. Good! We follow the track and in another paddy field there is a Crane with two Storks! Hopefully, the Crane can make its trip back north!

We get some information about a new reserve development, so we head off to get some more staff. There we find a pair of Egyptian Goose with two youngsters, a Night Heron, Greenshank, Showelers, Gadwalls and Little-ringed Plovers. As we turn around, we get some close views of Iberian hare.

 

Day 5. Extremadura-Madrid airport

 

Today, is our last day in Extremadura so we decide to stop on Arrocampo for one last target; Black-winged Kite. We are lucky to find it in a pylon before reaching the reserve! Once we get in, we see a Reed Warbler in the reeds and Crested Larks displaying. Tom finds our last bird, a solitary Garganey mixed in a flock of Gadwalls.
It is always a difficult thing to choose the highlight of the trip, but here we go.

Beatrice: The “Queen”. The pair of Spanish Imperial Eagles flying so close. Superb views! Flowery meadows.
Tom: Cracking views of Bonelli’s Eagle chasing/playing with the Egyptian Vultures.
Matthew: Spotted Cuckoo and Spanish Imperial Eagle.
Susan: The big flock of Great Bustards and the Spotless Tree Frog.

Pau would like to thank you all and look forward to sharing further adventures in the future. He also hopes you find this Extremadura Wildlife trip report useful.

Should you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us or visit our tour calendar.


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07 Jan

 

Wildcat and brown bear in Somiedo. Tour report from August 30th-September 4th. 

 

Day 1. Asturias airport – Mammals in Somiedo 

 

Wildcat and brown bear in Somiedo

Mike, Ron, Lisa and Sandra arrive on time from London Stansted airport to Santander ready to start the wildcat and brown bear search in Somiedo. As the weather is sunny with a beautiful blue sky, we decide to grab some lunch and have it in el Playon de Bayas, one of the most beautiful coastal reaches of Asturias. There we see our first birds, Shag, Yellow-legged Gull, Grey Heron and a Peregrin Falcon soaring above us. After lunch, we go for a stroll seeing some migrants like Northern Wheatear and Whinchat. In addition, there are some resident such as Stonechat and Serins.

Around 2:00 p.m, we set off to the Natural Park of Somiedo. After check-in in our hotel in Pola de Somiedo, we drive to our first brown bear stakeout. Pau is informed that a mother bear and her cub have been reported the previous evening in la Peral, so we go straight there. In addition, the weather is fantastic so we have to make use of it and try to locate the bears. Around 5:00 p.m. Pau says “I got them”. Both, mother and the cub are walking peacefully in a rocky slope, about 1 km from where we are. Fantastic! The 5 of us get wonderful views of the bears. A gaggle of vans stop to check what we were watching and join us. On the sky, Common Buzzards, Griffon Vultures and a juv Golden Eagle soar in the crests.

After such a wonderful day start, we drive back to the hotel to have an early dinner. The group has got up early in the morning and we all deserve a  good rest.

 

 

Day 2. Somiedo. Storms over the mountains 

 

We check out la Peral first thing in the morning but the clouds have showed up and it is impossible to see anything in the peaks. Nevertheless we decide to drive down the valley to La Melva for a walk. There we find Coal, Crested and Great Tit and an approachable Firecrest. Some butterflies include Scarce and Swallowtail, Cardinal and whites. Mike spots a Southern Chamois in the hillside right in front of us. Later, once we are back to the car, Pau sets the scope and finds 6 more Southern Chamois. Around mid afternoon the sky darks and rains heavily. Time to go back to the hotel. On the way, we find an almost tame Red Fox who has been in the area for some time.

 

Day 3. Somiedo. Wildcat

 

After breakfast we set off to el Valle del Lago for a nice walk in a glacial valley. Rock Bunting and Yellowhammer are perched on the scrubs and Raven, Red Kites and Red-billed Chough fly above us. Later, once the sky clears we move to El Llamardal where we start our second stakeout. Pau finds a Roe deer grazing in a near field and Lisa 2 Honey Buzzards. While we have picnic, Pau jumps and gets its scope, a Wildcat hunting voles in a nearby field!! Superb! We enjoy the cat for 10 minutes before it hides in the bushes. Then, we walk through a local path searching the hills for more wildlife: Red-backed Shrike, Subalpine Warbler, Bullfinch, Iberian Chiffchaff and Water Pipit are seen.

 

Day 4. Somiedo. Cantabrian Brown Bear and Wildcat day

 

Honey Buzzard during wildcat and brown bear trip in Somiedo

Today is our full last day and Pau wants to try another area for bears. We head close to la Rebollada. Soon after we get there, a huge male bear is seen for few minutes in an orchard feeding on rotten apples and vegetables. What a start! We walk a bit to try to relocate it and we found some colleagues from the FOP (Brown Bear Foundation), apparently the bear has been in the area for few days. We stay in the area until lunch time, hoping to see this wonderful mammal again. While we have lunch we see some birds such as: Woodchat Shrike, Short-toed Treecreeper, Spotted and Pied Flycatcher, Willow Warbler and common finches.

After lunch we drive to La Peral for our last stakeout. The afternoon is quiet, just the chat of various dozens of people congregate in the same area. When we were thinking to go back to the hotel, someone says “Gato montés”, a Wildcat has been spotted in the fields below. The feline walks slowly along the edge and soon disappears.  The weather has been good and that has helped us to get great views of our two main targets.

 

Day 5. Somiedo-Asturias airport 

 

We depart this stunningly beautiful part of Spain seeing Black Kites and two dippers in the river Somiedo on the way to the airport. Mike, Ron, Lisa and Sandra are over the moon (as well as me), not only for all the wildlife we have seen but also for the beauty of the mountains. End of our wildlife trip to enjoy to top carnivorous, the Wildcat and brown bear in Somiedo

For more details about our trips to Picos de Europa visit our landing page.

This trip can be combined with Wolf watching during August and September. should you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact us!


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11 Jun

 

13-DAY BIRD WATCHING TRIP AROUND SPAIN:  From the Med to the Pyrenees with steppes in between

 

5 May – 17 May, 2015

This is a report of a 13-day bird watching trip in Spain that my wife Cherrie and I took with Pau Lucio, owner of the birding tour company “Birdwatching Spain.” Phillip, from Muncie, Indiana, joined us and made it a foursome.

Pau (pronounced “Pow”) timed the trip to be early enough to coincide with the later stages of spring migration and late enough to give us access to the high Pyrenees. We birded from May 5 through May 17. We also added a couple of days pre- and post-birding to enjoy some touristy sights in Valencia and Madrid.

It was especially nice that Pau, in addition to being an excellent birding guide, was an extremely knowledgeable naturalist. He pointed out a variety of butterflies, frogs, lizards, mammals, and flora. A major bonus for Cherrie was Pau’s help in tracking down and photographing several species of rare orchids.

 

 

ITINERARY (13-day bird watching trip around Spain)

 

Pau met Phillip at the train station in Valencia and the two of them then picked us up at our nearby hotel. We drove south approximately 40 miles to the small city of Gandia on the shores of the Mediterranean. Gandia is Pau’s home town and a major vacation destination for beachgoers later in the summer. We used Pau’s own vehicle, a Peugeot van/SUV that proved to be perfect. It was very roomy, accommodated our luggage, and was a good birding platform. The three of us clients rotated our seating every day.

Pau’s game plan was to use Gandia as a base of operations for the first five days. Each day we birded in a different area/habitat within an hour or two’s drive of Gandia. We then headed inland and north birding along the way through La Mancha until we reached the Pyrenees where we spent three days. We then turned south for Madrid and spent our final day birding in the foothills west of that city.

 

The birding itinerary on each day were as follow:

 

Day 1, Tuesday, 5 May – Travel to Gandia and check into our seaside hotel. We then birded the Gandia Marshes and two ravines in the Quatretonda area. Both sites were in the province of Valencia.

Day 2, Wednesday, 6 May – Natural Park Albufera de Valencia, in the province of Valencia. We birded Racó de l’Olla Visitor Center and Tancat de la Ratlla.

Day 3, Thursday, 7 May – Gandia Marshes (for Red-necked Nightjar), Pego Marshes in Valencia/Alicante Provinces, and Vall d’Ebo in Alicante Province.

Day 4, Friday, 8 May –  Steppes of east Albacete, Albacete Province.

Day 5, Saturday, 9 May –  Monnegre Gorge, Natural Park el Fondo and Salt Pans of Santa Pola, all in Alicante Province.

Day 6, Sunday, 10 May – Travel to La Mancha. Bird farmland around Belmonte in Cuenca Province. Bird lagoons of Alcázar de San Juan near Ciudad Real Province in Castilla la Mancha.

Day 7, Monday, 11 May – Natural Park Serranía de Cuenca in Castilla la Mancha region.

Day 8, Tuesday, 12 May – Serranía de Cuenca and Steppes of Belchite.

Day 9, Wednesday, 13 May – Travel from Belchite to the Pyrenees. Bird Belchite Steppes, Huesca area, and the Hecho Valley up to Selva de Oza.

Day 10, Thursday, 14 May – Parque Natural de los Valles Occidentales: Hecho, Ansó, Roncal.

Day 11, Friday, 15 May – Hecho Valley and then ski areas at Candanchú up to the French border, north of Jaca and Canfranc-Estación.

Day 12, Saturday, 16 May – Travel from Hecho to Madrid, birding in Huesca Province and in Natural Park Sierra de Guara for Tawny Pipit and Lammergeier.

Day 13, Sunday, 17 May – Sierra de Guadarrama, west of Madrid.

This itinerary, which stitched together some of Pau’s shorter birding forays, covered just over 2000 miles. We birded every inch of the way!

 

WEATHER

 

The weather was sunny and hot during the day and cool at night. Temperatures reached 34C on a few days, which was very unusual for mid-May. The Pyrenees cooled us off on the 14th and 15th. We encountered rain showers, and at higher elevations, sleet and then snow. Temperatures reached 0C during the day and the winds were very strong making birding in the high country on the days we were there somewhat challenging.

 

BIRDS: birding trip around Spain

 

The field guide we used to prepare for this trip was the  Birds of Europe (2009, 2nd Ed.) authored by Svensson, Mullarney, and Zetterstrom. We follow their taxonomic order in the list of birds presented below. We indicate the date on which we first saw each species and provide brief comments. Life birds for George are indicated by an *. Also indicated are birds that apparently represent new subspecies for George. We record the bird if any member of our group saw or heard it.

Check-list of the bird watching trip around Spain.

 

Wildfowl

(Common) Shelduck (Tadorna tadorna) – 6th. Saw several on four days.

Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) – 5th. Many on every day except in Pyrenees.

Gadwall (Anas strepera) – 8th. A couple of birds on each of two days.

Marbled Duck* (Marmaronetta angustirostris) –  A single on the 6th and  two on the 9th. Very rare bird, barely hanging on.

(Common) Pochard (Aythya ferina) – 6th. A couple on each of two days.

Red-crested Pochard* (Netta rufina) – 8th. A few of these striking birds on the 8th, 9th, and 10th. The crest appears to glow.

White-headed Duck* (Oxyura leucocephala) – 9th. We saw three of these on the 9th and 10th. One was a knockout male in breeding plumage with a bright, light blue bill. Candidate for Trip Bird.

Partridges and Pheasants

Red-legged Partridge* (Alectoris rufa) – 5th. Two walked across a dirt road in front of the vehicle. We had one flying bird on the 11th.

Grebes

Black-necked (Eared) Grebe (Podiceps nigricollis) – 8th. Only a couple.

Little Grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis) – Two birds on the 9th.

Great Crested Grebe (Podiceps cristatus) – A nice male on the 9th.

Egrets, Herons, Storks, Ibises

Little Bittern (Ixobrychus minutus) – 9th. A couple flying over the marsh.

(Black-crowned) Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax) – 6th. Two flying.

Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis) – 5th. Several over four days.

Squacco Heron (Ardeola ralloides) – A few on the 6th, 7th, and 9th.

Little Egret (Egretta garzetta) – 5th. Several in the Gandia area.

(White) Great Egret (Casmerodius albus) – 6th. Only one of the trip. (ssp. C.a.alba)

Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea) – 5th. Several over five days.

Purple Heron (Ardea purpurea) – One each on the 5th and 7th.

White Stork (Ciconia ciconia) – 10th. Many on nests as we drove through Zaragoza on the 13th.

Glossy Ibis (Plegadis falcinellus) – 6th. Three birds over three days.

(Greater) Flamingo (Phoenicoterus roseus) – 6th. Many birds over four days. Abundant in breeding colonies.

Birds of Prey: Spain is a top destinations!

Lammergeier (Gypaetus barbatus) – One bird on the 14th and then great close looks at two soaring birds on the 16th.

(Eurasian) Griffon Vulture* (Gyps fulvus) – 10th. Seen on eight days. Common in the right locales. Enormous wing span.

(Eurasian) Black Vulture* (Aegypius monachus) – One soaring overhead on the 17th,  the last day of the trip. Sierra de Guadarrama west of Madrid.

Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus) – 11th. Good looks at several over four days. (ssp. N.p.percnopterus)

Spanish Imperial Eagle* (Aquila adalberti) – 17th. Another bird for the last day! Great looks at a single as it soared overhead. The white leading edges of the wings left no doubt about the identity of this bird.

Short-toed Eagle (Circaetus gallicus) – One soaring bird on the 11th.

Booted Eagle* (Aquila pennata) – 10th. Several soaring birds over six days.

Red Kite (Milvus milvus) – 13th. Several flying and perched birds on five days near the end of the trip.

Black Kite (Milvus migrans) – 8th. Many over six days throughout the trip.

Eurasian Marsh-Harrier (Circus aeruginosus) – 6th. Several good looks at birds in flight on five days.

Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo) – 10th. Good looks at soaring birds on three days.

(European) Honey Buzzard (Pernis apivorus) – 12th. Good looks at two birds soaring overhead on rounded wings.

(Common) Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus) – 5th. Seen on five days, all loners.

Lesser Kestrel (Falco naumanni) – 10th. Several of these “groupies” at a nesting colony.

Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus) – 5th. Singles on three days.

Rails and Crakes

(Common) Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus) – 5th. Several in various marshes.

(Eurasian) Coot (Fulica atra) – 5th. Several over four days.

Red-knobbed Coot (Fulica cristata) – 9th. Only a couple on one day.

Purple Swamphen (Porphyrio porphyrio) –  6th. Great looks at two and heard another over three days. (ssp. P.p.porhyrio)

Bustards

Great Bustard* (Otis tarda) – 8th. A single and then a flock of 13 giving great looks. One of the world’s heaviest flying birds!

Little Bustard* (Tetrax tetrax) – 8th. Stunning looks at a displaying male out in the open on plowed fields. Superb! Candidate for Trip Bird.

Waders

(Pied) Avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta) – 8th. . Several over the course of three days. Handsome birds.

Black-winged Stilt (Himantopus himantopus) – 6th. Common bird.

Stone Curlew* (Burhinus oedienemus) – 13th. Three in flight from a treed area on the Belchite Steppes. Reminded me of large Willets.

Collared Pratincole* (Glareola pratincola) – 6th. Had great looks at standing and flying birds over four days.

Little Ringed Plover (Charadrius dubius) –  7th. A few. Yellow eyerings.

(Common) Ringed Plover* (Charadrius hiaticula) – 6th. Several nice looks at this small plover over four days.

Kentish Plover (Charadrius alexandrinus) – 6th. Same as above.

(Northern) Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus) – 6th.. Good looks at several.

Sanderling (Calidris alba) – 6th. Phillip and Pau had one on shore of Med.

(Ruddy) Turnstone (Arenaria interpres) – 9th. One at base of old coastal lookout (searching for pirates) tower.

Dunlin (Calidris alpina) – 8th.  Only one bird. (ssp.C.a.alpina)

Curlew Sandpiper (Calidris ferruginea) – 6th. Good looks at a couple wading on two different days.

Temminck’s Stint (Calidris temminckii) – 6th. Two over two days.

Little Stint (Calidris minuta) – 6th. A few over three days.

Wood Sandpiper (Tringa glareola) – 6th. Good looks at several.

Common Sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos) – 5th. Many over four days.

(Common) Greenshank (Tringa nebularia) – 6th. Two on two days.

Ruff (Philomachus pugnax) – 10th. One wild-looking male. Nice!

Gulls

Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus) – 6th. Many on four days.

Slender-billed Gull* (Chroicocephalus genei) – 6th. Great looks at several on two days. Pau’s logo. Distinctive sloping profile.

Mediterranean Gull* (Larus melanocephalus) – 6th. Several great looks on two days. The head is pitch black! Black-headed Gull’s is brownish in direct comparison.

Yellow-legged Gull (Larus michahellis) – 6th. The common large gull.

Audouin’s Gull* (Larus audouinii) – 6th. Very good looks at birds on the water and in flight on two days. This was George’s 49th gull species and one of his most wanted birds on the trip

Terns

Little Tern* (Sternula albifrons) –  6th. Good looks over two days at standing and flying birds, some calling.

Sandwich Tern (Sterna sandvicensis) –  6th. Common on two days at breeding colonies.

Gull-billed Tern (Gelochelidon nilotica) – 5th. Several over four days.

Common Tern (Sterna hirundo) –  6th. Several on two days.

Black Tern (Chlidonias niger) – 8th. One bird. (ssp. C.n.niger)

Whiskered Tern (Chlidonias hybrida) – 6th. Many over three days. Birds were much brighter than my first one, in Delaware.

Elegant Tern (Sterna elegans) – 6th. This ID seemed right to me but there is still discussion about this bird. It is ruling the roost in the middle of a Sandwich Tern colony and is busily producing hybrid offspring! DNA tests have been inconclusive.

Sandgrouse

Black-bellied Sandgrouse* (Pterocles orientalis) – 8th. Four flushed out of a plowed field in the steppes. Black bellies were obvious in flight.

Pin-tailed Sandgrouse* (Pterocles alchata) – 10th. Two were well seen close to a dirt road, hunkered down in a plowed field. The species was also heard two days later. Candidate for Trip Bird.

Pigeons and Doves

Rock (Pigeon) Dove (Columba livia) – 3rd. Abundant. Nearly every day.

Stock Dove (Columba oenas) – One flying bird on the 10th.

(Common) Wood Pigeon (Columba palumbus) – 7th. Four birds on four days, all in flight.

(Eurasian Collared Dove (Streptopelia decaocto) – 3rd.  Abundant everywhere except in the Pyrenees.

(European) Turtle Dove (Streptopelia turtur) – One bird on one day. Good find.

Cuckoos

(Common) Cuckoo* (Cuculus canorus) – 10th. Several heard over four days and two seen in flight. This bird really does sing its name! (ssp. C.c.bangsi)

Great Spotted Cuckoo (Clamator glandarius) – 11th. Heard and then seen as it flew and perched low in an Olive Tree. Parasitizes Magpies.

Owls

(Eurasian) Eagle Owl* (Bubo bubo) – 10th. Third time is the charm! We tried three spots for this bird. At the last we struck pay dirt. Two adults flushed from a large Stone Pine near a quarry. We then found two fledglings at the base of a small pine just below the lip of the quarry. We left as soon as we had taken a couple of unobtrusive photos.

Little Owl (Athene noctura) –10th. One bird perched in a small dead tree beside a back road.  (ssp. A.n.vidalii)

(Eurasian) Scops Owl (Otus scops) – 7th. Bird seen flying. One subsequently heard later in the trip. Area containing the first bird was tragically subject to a major wildfire a few days later.

Nightjars

Red-necked Nightjar* (Caprimulgus ruficollis) –7th. One bird sitting in the middle of a paved road on the outskirts of Gandia as we drove before dawn toward a site where we hoped to find this species. Great looks! We subsequently glimpsed one other bird in flight just before sunrise. How lucky can you get!?

Swifts

(Common) Swift (Apus apus) – 3rd. Nearly every day. Abundant.

Pallid Swift (Apus pallidus) – 6th. Visited a nesting colony at a school. Had excellent looks at this bird from close range.

Alpine Swift (Apus melba) – 11th. Several birds on two days.

Hoopoe, Bee-eater

Eurasian Hoopoe (Upupa epops) –7th. Had several birds over nine days.

(European) Bee-eater (Merops apiaster) – 7th. Had several of these beauties over eight days.

Woodpeckers

Black Woodpecker (Dryocopus martius) – Heard by Pau on the 13th at the Hotel in the Pyrenees. Gave its “alarm clock” call.

Iberian Green Woodpecker* (Picus sharpie) – 8th. We stalked this bird up and down a stream near our hotel and finally had brief glimpses of it. This species has recently been split from (European) Green Woodpecker (Picus viridis).

Great Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos major) – 11th. We had fleeting looks and heard it on the following day. (ssp. D.m.hispanus)

(Eurasian) Wryneck* (Jynx torquilla) – 5th. Bird was seen very briefly as we drove up a dirt track on our way to the first Eagle Owl site. It was perched low in a gnarled tree next to the road.

Larks

(Common) Skylark (Alauda arvensis) – 12th. A few birds seen on this and the following day.  (ssp. A.a.sierrae)

Crested Lark (Galerida cristata) – 5th. A few seen on four days. (ssp. G.c.pallida)

Thekla Lark* (Galerida theklae) – 6th. Excellent looks on four days.

Woodlark (Lullula arborea) – 11th. Also heard on two other days. (ssp. L.a.pallida)

(Greater) Short-toed Lark (Calandrella brachydactyla) – 8th. A few seen on four days. Plain breast.

Lesser Short-toed Lark* (Calandrella rufescens) – 12th. Well seen on two days. Streaking on upper breast.

Calandra Lark* (Melanocorypha calandra) – 8th. Several well seen over four days. Obvious white trailing edge on wing.

Dupont’s Lark (Chersophilus duponti) – 12th. One bird heard incessantly on the 12th  and 13th at the same location. Eventually seen by Pau and Phillip. George dipped!

Swallows and Martins

(Common) Sand Martin (Riparia riparia) – 6th.   A couple.

(Eurasian) Crag Martin (Ptyonoprogne rupestris) – 11th. Several seen over four days in craggy terrain. Notable at the Devil’s Window.

Common (Barn) Swallow (Hirundo rustica) – 5th. Most days. Many.

Red-rumped Swallow (Cecropis daurica) – 9th. Only a couple.

(Common) House Martin (Delichon urbicum) – 4th. Many over most days.

Pipits and Wagtails

Tawny Pipit (Anthus campestris) – 16th. We pulled off the road to begin our search for this bird, looked through the windshield, and saw the bird staring back at us. Talk about performing on cue!

Water Pipit* (Anthus spinoletta) – 14th. A few on two days high in the Pyrenees.

White/Pied Wagtail (Motacilla alba) – 7th. Singles on three days.

(Western) Yellow Wagtail* (Motacilla flava iberiae) – 8th. Excellent looks at this new split (from Eastern and M.f. feldegg).

Grey Wagtail (Motacilla cinerea) – 13th.  One bird perched on wire. (ssp. M.c.cinerea)

Dipper

(White-throated) Dipper (Cinclus cinclus) – 13th.  Two birds along stream in the Hecho Valley. Extremely shy (unlike in Norway). (ssp. C.c.cinclus)

Accentors

Dunnock (Prunella modularis) – 14th.  One bird in the fog and snow just below the French border. (ssp. P.m. mabboti)

Thrushes and Wheatears

(European) Robin (Erithacus rubecula) – 11th. And heard on the 14th.

(Common) Nightingale (Luscinia megarhynchos) – 5th. Finally got good looks at this bird. Seen/heard on five days.

Black Redstart (Phoenicurus ochruros) – 12th.  Good looks on four consecutive days.(ssp. P.o.aterrimus)

(Northern) Wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe) – 14th. One bird. (ssp. O.o.libanotica)

Black-eared Wheatear (Oenanthe hispanica) –9th. Seen on four days. Handsome bird. (ssp. O.h.hispanica)

Black Wheatear* (Oenanthe leucura) – 9th. Took a lot of looking to find this striking bird. Had another on the 13th.

(Common) Stonechat (Saxicola torquatus) – 5th. Several over six days.

Song Thrush (Turdus philomelos) –  13th. Had decent looks at this bird on four days. (ssp. T. p. philomelos)

Mistle Thrush (Turdus viscivorus) – 12th. . Seen on three days.

(Common) Blackbird (Turdus merula) –5th. Yellow bill. Fairly common.

Ring Ouzel* (Turdus torquatus) – 14th. Great looks at a couple of these birds in fog and snow just below the French border. Striking.

Blue Rock thrush (Monticola solitarius) – 5th. Seen by Phillip and Pau at first Eagle Owl site.

(Rufous-tailed) Rock Thrush* (Monticola saxatilis) – 13th. A stunning male, followed by a female on the 16th. Both birds well seen. Candidate for Trip Bird!

Warblers

Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla) – 14th. Heard on the 11th and 12th. Finally well seen at the Hotel in the Pyrenees after a lot of work!

Western Orphean Warbler* (Sylvia hortenis) – 7th. Well seen in an area of maquis bordered by groves of Olive Trees. This area was ravaged by a wildfire a few days later.

Sardinian Warbler (Sylvia melanocephala) – 5th. Nice looking warbler.

Subalpine Warbler (Sylvia cantillans) – 14th . Very nice looking warbler.

Dartford Warbler* (Sylvia undata) – 16th. A single bird on the 16th at Natural Park Sierra de Guara required a lot of work. Finally rewarded with a killer view.

Zitting Cisticola (Cisticola juncidis) –7th. A couple. (ssp. C.j.cisticola)

Savi’s Warbler* (Locustella luscinioides) – 7th. Good looks but only on this one day.

Cetti’s Warbler (Cettis cetti) – 7th. Ditto.

(European) Reed Warbler – (Acrocephalus scirpaceus) – 7th. Ditto. (ssp. A.s.scirpaceus)

Great Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus arundinaceus) – 6th. Good looks at this large warbler swaying back and forth in the top of phragmites-like vegetation. Heard one other day.

Melodious Warbler* (Hippolais polyglotta) – 7th. Another good look but only on this one day.

Western Bonelli’s Warbler* (Phylloscopus bonelli) – 12th. Took a lot of work to finally see it well, perched in the open below us.

Iberian Chiffchaff  (Phylloscopus ibericus) – 14th. Heard by Pau on this and  a couple of other days. Very secretive.

Crests and Wren

Goldcrest* (Regulus regulus) – 14th. Had a decent look in a big pine near the entrance to the Hotel in Pyrenees.

Firecrest (Regulus ignicapilla) –11th.  And again on the 14th. Cute!

(Winter) Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes) –7th. Heard this bird on three separate days but never got a look. Does not sing the same song as our Winter Wren. Has a Spanish accent. (T.t. ssp. kabylorum)

Flycatchers

Spotted Flycatcher (Muscicapa striata) – 5th. Again on the 12th. A couple.

Pied Flycatcher* (Ficedula hypoleuca) – 6th. Well seen on this and the following day. Prefers open woodland. Unexpected.

Tits

Great Tit (Parus major) – 5th. A few over four days. (ssp. P.m. corsus)

Coal Tit (Periparus ater) –14th. Heard on two other days. (ssp. P.a. vierirae)

(European) Blue Tit (Cyanistes caeruleus) – 11th.  Also on the 12th. Just two of these good looking birds. (ssp. C.cogilastrae)

Crested Tit* (Lophophanes cristatus) – 12th. Five over three days. Great looks at a small flock of three on the 12th. Much smaller than I expected. Next to the bridge where the first Citril Finch showed up.

Long-tailed Tit (Aegithalos caudatus) –6th. And the 11th. (ssp. A.c. irbii)

Nuthatch, Wallcreeper, Treecreeper

(Eurasian) Nuthatch (Sitta europaea) – 11th. Excellent looks. (ssp. S.c. hispaniensis)

(Eurasian) Treecreeper (Certhia familiaris) –15th. One in the Pyrenees. ID’d by range.

Short-toed Treecreeper* (Certhia brachydactyla) –11th. Excellent looks at this close cousin of the preceding species as it spiraled up trees.

Shrikes

Iberian Grey Shrike* (Lanius meridionalis) – 5th. Well seen on two days. Wavy eyebrow and pinkish gray underparts.

Red-backed Shrike (Lanius collurio) –14th. Two over two days.

Woodchat Shrike (Lanius senator) – 5th. At least three over three days.

Crows et alia

Azure-winged Magpie (Cyanopica cyanus) –17th. Had looks at three birds in flight. One was a decent fly-by. Other population in China.  (ssp. C.c. cooki)

(Common) Magpie (Pica pica) – 5th. Conspicuous. Seen most days.

(Eurasian) Jay (Garrulus glandarius) –12th. One seen in flight. (ssp. G.g.fasciatus)

(Western) Jackdaw (Corvus monedula) –9th. Seen on three days.

(Red-billed) Chough (Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax) –7th. Several seen over four days. (ssp. P.p. erythrorhamphus)

Alpine Chough* (Pyrrhocorax graculus) – 14th. First sighting was of a couple of birds. On the following day, many were seen circling above the “Wallcreeper Wall.” Distinctive in flight.

Carrion Crow (Corvus corone) – 8th. Common . Seen on many days.

(Common) Raven (Corvus corax) – 9th. Several over six days.

Starling and Oriole

Spotless Starling (Sturnus unicolor) – 4th. Not seen on one day. Abundant!

(Eurasian) Golden Oriole (Oriolus oriolus) – 10th. Two sightings this day and heard on five other days.

Sparrows and Finches

House Sparrow (Passer domesticus) – 3rd. Every day in Spain. Abundant!

(Common) Rock Sparrow* (Petronia petronia) – 7th. A few seen over four days. Good looks at this stocky streaked sparrow.

(Common) Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs) – 10th. Seen on four days.

(Common) Linnet (Carduelis cannabina) –5th. Ditto.

(European Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis) – 5th. Singles on five days.

(European) Greenfinch (Chloris chloris) – 6th. Ditto.

Citril Finch* (Carduelis citrinella) – 12th. A very obliging bird landed on the edge of a bridge providing great looks and photos. We had several on the 15th in a Pyrenees meadow setting.

(European) Serin (Serinus serinus) – 5th. A few of these little guys over five days.

Buntings

Ortolan Bunting* (Emberiza hortulana) – 16th. Found a family group in maquis as we were leaving the Pyrenees. Gray head with a yellow moustache. Striking.

Yellowhammer (Emberiza citrinella) – 13th. One very yellow bird!

Cirl Bunting (Emberiza cirlus) – 5th. Singles seen on three days.

Corn Bunting (Emberiza calandra) – 7th. Several of these plain looking birds over seven days. Most were singing from prominent perches.

Rock Bunting* (Emberiza cia) – 9th. Only two of these, one on 9th and one on the 13th. Very bold black on gray head pattern.

Parakeet

Rose-ringed Parakeet (Psittacula krameri) – 19th. Three flying around and calling near the Royal Palace in Madrid.

Waxbill

Common Waxbill (Estrilda astrild) – 7th. A couple. Introduced from Africa.

 

SUMMARY: 13-day bird watching trip in Spain

 

The group tallied 182 species. George got 47 life birds (out of a hoped for 56). He also nailed down eight of 10 species that he had hoped to get a better view of. He also probably picked up 30 new subspecies out of 34 he had targeted. All would agree this was a thoroughly rewarding and interesting bird watching trip to Spain thanks to Pau’s persistence and hard work. Candidates for Trip Bird are: White-headed Duck, Spanish Imperial Eagle, Little Bustard, Pin-tailed Grouse, Eurasian Eagle Owl, and Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush.

 

MAMMALS

 

Wild Boar – 11th. A family group of six or so trotting up a sparsely wooded hillside.

Chamois – 14th. Two below the ski areas climbing up a steep snow field.

Red Deer – 10th and 11th. A few.

Roe Deer – 11th. One.

Iberian Hare – 10th. Three.

Rabbit – 5th and 10th. Many seen in the territory of large raptors.

Red Squirrel. Large bushy tail. Gray and red. Two-toned.

 

OTHER OBSERVATIONS:

 

Many varieties of trees, shrubs, plants and flowers. Most notable: different species of pines; a variety of exquisite orchids; and Valencia

Orange Trees (and unsweetened orange juice!). A variety of small lizards, butterflies, dragonflies, and frogs (heard).

I want to thank George for writing this excellent trip report about 13-day bird watching trip atound Spain. A big thanks to Philip, George and Cherry for so wonderful trip. Should you have any question, please do not hesitate to contact us!

Some photos regarding the trip can be seen in Instagram.


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28 Dec

Iberian Lynx Holidays in Sierra Andújar in late December. Trip report by Pau Lucio.

 

Iberian lynx holidays

I met Martin and Jane at 8:30 in their Hotel’s hall in the city centre of Granada. After driving 2 h, we arrived to Andújar Natural Park.

We skipped the check–in and went straight to the view point where we got close views of Griffon and Black Vultures as soon as we parked. Around noon, a four loud mews caught our attention. We moved toward the mews came from to try to locate the elusive cat. We were unlucky so we moved back to our previous position and had lunch. The afternoon came very quiet (just 15 Cranes in V-formation, well spotted by Jane) so we decided to drive along the track to look for other wildlife.

I parked the car and we walked to find a solitary Daubuton’s Bat, where were the other bats? We continued walking and we spotted two raptors chasing one another right on the top of the mountains, it was an immature Golden Eagle chasing out a Spanish Imperial Eagle!, things were getting interesting!. On the walk back to the car I found something swimming right on the middle of the dam, too far to be identified with the bins but probably a deer swimming. From the same spot, we found a Kingfisher landing in the shore of the dam and a flock of Hawfinches. A quick look before getting on the car revealed a group of Spanish Ibex, a nice end for our first day. It was time to go to the Rural Hotel to enjoy a homemade dinner with a bottle of red wine.

 

December 26th in search of the rarest cat!

 

Mouflon-Iberian lynx holidays

Today we set off to the same view point.  Around 10 o’clock, a mew from the right side of the track called our attention and we moved quickly to join other watchers. We missed the Lynx for few seconds! It went down to the other side of the hill. We stayed in the same spot waiting it to be again in view, but we just could see a distant Mouflon.

We returned to the car and had lunch watching Griffon’s and Black Vultures and a distant immature Golden Eagle. The Spanish Imperial Eagle remained in its usual perch all morning and a Blue-Rock Thrush rested in a rock in front of us. The afternoon was quiet until we heard another mew. Around 3 o’clock all the effort paid off as I found a female Lynx! She was approx 300 m away walking slowly and disappearing/appearing between the rocks and the vegetation. I rapidly pointed it to Martin and Jane, we were over the moon!. We worked out the route she was going to follow, so we relocated our position to get better views. After an endless waiting, we found her laying in a rock at the bottom of two olive trees. What a superb view!

Having seeing our main target, the Lynx, we decided to move to another area to get better views of Spanish Ibex. After taking some close shoots of them, we went to the Hotel.

 

December 27th Iberian Lynx Holidays

 

Iberian lynx holidays

Having seen so well the Iberian Lynx yesterday, we changed our plans and visited a different place where we looked for Otters during the morning. Grey Wagtails, Chiffchaffs, Long-tailed Tits and Cetti’s Warblers were seen along the river but not the Otters. Around 11 o’clock we agreed to go to the view point. As we were arriving I got news that few meters ahead were people listening to the lynxes. Fifteen minutes after parking, I got a view of a Lynx walking along the track. It was difficult to follow it, Jane and Martin just got a glimpse. We relocated it and we were able to see it for approx 10 seconds before it disappeared in the Mediterranean forest.

Around 1 h later Jane and Martin saw the Lynx walking down hill to an open area close to the track. A driver who was driving along the main track waved his hand to stop us, as the Lynx was about to come in view. The Lynx was as fast as hare and crossed the track in a glimpse; it is amazing how agile they are! Later a group of 4 vultures (1 Griffon and 3 Black) came into view. As the sun was setting we drove back to the Hotel to celebrate our second Lynx sighting of the Iberian Lynx Holidays!

 

December 28 th Iberian Lynx Holidays

 

Iberian lynx holidays Andujar

Our first schedule was to have a 5-day tour, but as we did fantastically well with the Lynx, (we have to keep in mind that the Iberian Lynx is the rarest cat in the world) Jane and Martin prefered to return today after lunch and have two days sightseeing the beautiful city of Granada.

As we were driving along the view point, we saw a gathering of people looking at a big bush. That just could mean one thing, the Lynx was close! I parked the car quickly and there we had just 15-20 m away a male trying to mate with a female Lynx! We watched the pair for nearly 4 hours; even we witnessed a fight between them. Obviously the male was waiting her permission and guarding her against any other males. I must recognize that it has been my best sight of Lynx so far! Just mention that there were nearly 100 people amazed of seeing such a wonder.

 

I am very glad about the amazing sightings we had in this tour, it couldn’t have gone any better. We will continue with the Iberian Lynx tour during January and part of February. This itinerary could be combine with wetlands birds in Doñana or/and steppes and forest in Granada. Should you have any question, do not hesitate to contact us.

Have a nice day


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29 May

This is a Pyrenees bird watching trip report from May 25th to 29th. During the previous 4 days, I have had the pleasure of guiding Lee around Valencia and Alicante provinces.

 

Day 1 Gandia-Steppes of Belchite (Steppe birds)

 

Pyrenees bird watching trip-Rock Sparrow

At 6:30 a.m. Lee, Lauren and I are leaving from Gandia to Valencia to drop off Lauren in the Ave train station. At 9:00 we are birding in “La Sierra del Toro”. This open Mediterranean woodland forest mix with traditional farmland holds a good number of interesting species.

Our first observations in the area are Rock Sparrow and Black-eared Wheatear which welcome us from a hut roof. Then, we park the car to walk around the countryside. Woodlarks and Northern Wheatears fly in display. Iberian Green Woodpecker is spotted by Lee. That is great! Woodpeckers are her favourite birds! After that, we move to the other side of the road watching Great Spotted Woodpecker,3 Subalpine Warblers, Cirl Bunting, Serin, 3 majestic Short-toed Eagle, an Egyptian Vulture and an Orphean Warbler! What a place! The area is also full of butterflies such us Eastern Dappled White, Cleopatra, Large and Small Whites.

Thirty minutes later we stop near the Mijares River, in the province of Teruel. There, Skylarks, Ortolan Bunting, Melodious Warbler, Booted Eagle, Bee-eater, Grey Wagtail and Stock Doves are quickly spotted.

Around 2:00 p.m. we leave to our next destination, the steppes of Belchite. Once we arrive there, a great number of Lesser Short-toed Larks are observed along with Thekla and Calandra Larks. Later, while I drive back to the main road to leave the reserve, I spot a Pin-tailed Sandgrouse hidden less than 10 m from the car; quickly I share my finding with Lee. What a gorgeous bird! Few minutes after that, a pair of Black-bellied Sandgrouse fly in front of us. That has been a great end for the first day! Now it is time to rest and have dinner after this intense and pleasant birding day.

 

Day 2. Belchite-Isaba (Mountain birds)

 

Subalpine Warbler-Pyrenees bird watching trip

At 9:00 we head off to the western Pyrenees.  In route we observe Red Kites and White Storks in their nest.

As we drive through the Foz de Bienés, Lee says “there is a Fox”. Quickly I drive backwards and there it is, a beautiful Red Fox in the middle of the meadow looking at us. After that, we continue driving for 20 minutes to reach a viewing point. As I park, a Hare runs to hide in the bushes. We stay for 40 minutes watching Griffon Vultures, a pair of Subalpine Warblers, a Bonelli’s Warbler and a Peregrine Falcon. Then, we move to the Ansó Valley where we enjoy a pair of Egyptian Vultures, Red-backed Shrikes, Red-billed Choughs and Grey Wagtails. Suddenly, a large raptor soars along the valley, I pull over and I shout: it’s a Lammergeier-Lee replies:”You’re Kidding”. There it is, a superb adult Lammergeier in our first day in the Spanish Pyrenees!

As the weather get worst and it rains, we decide to move to the Roncal Valley. There we enjoy watching Water Pipits, Yellow-billed Choughs, Black Redstarts, and other common birds.

 

3 Day. Hecho Valley (Pyrenees bird watching trip report)

 

Citril Finch-Pyrenees bird watching trip

Today we focus on the Hecho Valley. In route we manage to see Iberian Chiffchaff, Dunnock, Subalpine Warblers, Grey Wagtails, Red-backed Shrikes, Yellowhammer, Bullfinches and a Roe Deer.  After parking the car in the middle of the valley, we find 2 Red squirrels playing in a beech tree. Then, we walk for 30 minutes through the forest to reach an excellent point to observe the star of the day “the Wallcreepeer”. During the walk we watch Coal, Citril Finch, Long-tailed and Crested Tits, Nuthatch, Firecrest, Griffon Vultures, Yellow-billed Choughs, Crag Martins and Chamois grazing high in the meadows. Black-veined White and Dark Green Fritillary Butterflies are seen too.

Once we arrive to the right spot, it doesn’t take more than 10 minutes to find the superb Wallcreepeer, excellent! As we feel hungry, we walk back to the car to have lunch. Then, we continue up to the valley seeing Iberian Green Woodpecker, Egyptian Vulture, Common Buzzard, Linnets, Yellowhammer and a Marmot which sadly is missed by Lee. As showers are back, we decide to drive back to the hotel.

 

4 day. Belagua (Pyrenees bird watching trip report)

 

Roufous-tailed Rock Thrush

Showers are the forecast for today. Being today our last full day in the Pyrenees, we will focus on the species we haven’t seen yet. First we stop near Isaba, in reliable point to observe the Dipper. After just five minutes waiting, a Dipper flies right up the river. Lee misses it, so I suggest her staying in the same point while I walk along the river to relocate it. Ten minutes later I turn my head towards Lee and I see her thumb up. She got a fantastic close view of the Dipper catching insects. Great!

Then, I drive to another place where we expect to find the star of the day “the Rock Thrush”. We look out to the rocky slopes, but nothing, the weather is not helping at all. We decide to try a bit further up in the hillside and after few minutes walking I spot this magnificent bird in the top of the rock. Lee is like a dog with two tails! After that, we move to next place where we have great views of Water Pipits, Ring Ouzels, Citril Finches, Goldcrest and Crossbills.

We decide to move down the valley in search of better weather. While we have lunch, we watch a pair of Egyptian Vultures, a Blue Rock Thrush, Red-backed Shrikes, Peregrine Falcons, a Red Kite and a Booted Eagle.

 

Day 5. Sierra de Guara (Pyrenees bird watching trip report)

 

Today we leave the Pyrenees to continue bird watching in La Mancha. As we drive close to Bianés, a Roe Deer crosses the road and a Golden Eagle and an Egyptian Vulture are seen. Later, we stop in the Sierra de Guara to have lunch. There, Tawny Pipit, Bee-eater, Sardenian Warbler, Egyptian Vulture, Red-billed Chough and 2 Lammergeiers are seen. Excellent!

It has been a fantastic tour with lots of interesting birds. It has been a great pleasure to guide Lee. Thanks.

This Pyrenees tour will be available during all the summer and early autumn. Please, contact us for more information or visit our tour calendar.

 

 

Have a nice day


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21 Feb

Birding tour in Spain (South Alicante Province)

 

Today our birding tour in Spain is focused on the South of Alicante. Hans and his wife Fabienne have come from Belgium to this warm area to spend a few days with their resident family. Both of them are keen birders and are looking forward to seeing 3 different “livers”, White-headed Duck, Red-Knobbed Coot, Slender-billed Gull and if time allows us, Bonelli’s Eagle. Nevertheless, they are happy to see other Spanish species which they are not able to watch in their country. Considering this, I suggested to pick them up from Jávea and head to the South of the Alicante province to look for these four “livers”.

 

Clot de Galvany: an interesting bird reserve to visit!

 

birding tour in Spain-Slender bill Gull

Our first stop in this birding Spain tour is in the Clot de Galvany. This interesting reserve was once famous for having a healthy population of Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin, but unfortunately the population has declined dramatically to just 2-3 pairs. However, it is still possible to find it, if you know where to look to. In any case, they are in Africa at the moment.

From the hides of Clot de Galvany reserve, we find Common Tails, Shovelers, Pochard, Morhen, Little Egret, Spotless Starlin, White Wagtail and a wintering Yellow Wagtail. As we are on the hides, an Iberian Green Woodpecker flies off from a Carob tree and dozens of Crag Martins feed intensively on the sky. Then, we continue the path to spot other species such as Sardenian Warblers and a Darford Warbler calling from the top of an Anthyllis cytisoides. It was the first Darford Warbler for Fabienne. Linnets, Chaffinches, Song Thrushes, Robins, Black Redstarts and Chiffchaffs are everywhere.

 

El Fondo/Hondo: the best reserve in Alicante

 

birding tour in Spain-Red knobbed Coot

Our next stop is in the famous Hondo, a superb area for birding. Soon we find the first raptors soaring, a Marsh Harrier and a pale Booted Eagle. An Iberian Grey Shrike controls everything from a wire, Stonechats are frequently seen, and a group of Penduline Tits move among the reeds.

In the second hide is revealed what we were after, a male and a female White-headed Duck among Coots, Little Grebes, Tufted Ducks and two females Red-Crested Pochards. We continue walking to check one of the favourite areas for Red-Knobbed Coots, and there it is, with is white numbered collar. Nearly all the Red-Knobbed Coots come from a reintroduction project in Valencia Region. The same project is also carried out in the Balearic Islands and Andalucia. Not to said, that Ans and Fabienne are over the moon! It is midday and we have seen two of the four targets.

After that, a Grey wagtail flies from a ditch and Montagu’s Harrier soars high above from a close field. On the way back to the car park, a quick look on the previous hide reveals a Purple-swamp Hen feeding in the reeds. As we drive to the exit of the reserve, I see a line of Pine Processionary caterpillar, a sign of the warm climate of the region.

 

A quick visit to the Salinas

 

With no more time to spare, we move to Salinas de Santa Pola, to observe waders and gulls in this birding Spain tour. Twenty minutes later, we are enjoying with a close range stunning Slender-billed gull, one of my favourite species, no wonder why it is the logo of my birding company, Birdwatching Spain. Other species are Black-necked and Crested Grebe, a solitary Dunlin, Curlews, Great White Egret, Avocet, a Kentish Plover, Black-winged Stilts, Sanderlings, Turnstones, Sandwich Terns, lots of Flamingos, Serins, an Audouin’s Gull and a Crested Lark. Then we jump into the car and go to Novelda Mountains to look for the Bonelli’s Eagle. With no luck, we find another interesting species. In the fence of an unfinished and abandoned chalet, Ans with a good eye finds a Little Owl perched remarkably close to a Mistle Trush. Our last stop in a rocky area reveals a Black Wheatear.

It has been a great day birding in this famous birding area, where all great bird watching spots are close one to another. Moreover, Valencia region holds some fantastic steppes to look for bustards, sandgrouses and other top birds. All these lovely bird reserves can be visit during our 5-day bird watching trip.

Should you have any question, please do not hesitate to contact us or visit our tour calendar.

Have a nice day


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