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.
Dates: June 25-July 1st
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Wildlife report to the Cantabrian Mountains. Pau Lucio
In this article we analitze the diversity and some of the key butterfly species that can be found in the Spanish region of Valencia, a butterfly sanctuary.
Valencia region, in East Spain is considered one of the most diverse European areas for butterflies. A staggering 159 species of butterflies have been recorded. That means 72% of all the species found in the Iberian Peninsula.
The key of this diversity is due to its variety of habitats. In the South and West, the climate is much dryer, with a semi-desert habitat. Here we find some beautiful butterflies from the Euchloe genera, i.e. Green-striped white (Euchloe belemia), Portuguese dappled white (Euchloe tagis) and Western dappled white (Euchloe crameri). In addition, close to the cereal crops and fallow fields, we can see the Sooty orange-tip (Zegris eupheme).
During March/April, if we visit the Mediterranean scrubland we might find a nice variety of Lycaenidae. Panoptes blue (Pseudophilotes panoptes) and the stunning Adoni’s blue (Lysandra bellargus) are common species. In addition, we can see the colourful Provence hairstreak (Tomares ballus), Black-eyed blue (Glaucopsyche melanops) and the endemic Mother of pearl blue (Polyommatus nivescens).
Other species we might encounter include Spanish festoon (Zerynthia rumina) which tends to be located in small areas where the food plan (Aristolochia pistolochia) is abundant. What’s more, Provence orange tit (Anthocharis euphenoides) and the beautiful Green hairstreak (Callophrys rubi) are abundant species.
Later in the season, the butterfly diversity changes giving place to Spanish gatekeeper (Pyronia bathseba), Southern marbled skipper (Carcharodus baeticus) and Mallow skipper (Carcharodus alceae). Other butterfly species include Dusky heath (Coenonympha dorus) and Striped grayling (Hipparchia fidia). False ilex hairstreak (Satyrium esculi) and the Blue-spot hairstreak (Satyrium spini) are common species in the scrubland.
In the valleys, are found mainly three different groups of butterflies. The first group is formed by species with a marked Ethiopian origin; Two-tailed Pasha (Charaxes jasius), Mediterranean skipper (Gegenes nostrodamus) and African grass blue (Zizeeria knysna), being the three more abundant towards the end of the summer.
The second group are butterflies with a migratory tendency: Desert orange tip (Colotis evagore) and Plain tiger (Danaus chrysippus) which is very common species in marshes. Finally, the third group is for the invasive species such as the Geranium bronze (Cacyreus marshalli).
Two-tailed Pasha is one of the biggest and most spectacular butterflies found in Europe. It is a bivoltine species, i.e., two annual generations. The first generation occurs in May-June and the second, always more abundant, takes place from the end of July until the end of October. What is more, it is the only butterfly which do not feed on nectar and it is greatly attracted to fermenting fruit. It has a marked territorial and hilltopping behaviour.
It lives in open Mediterranean forests where the caterpillar’s foodplant, the Strawberry tree (Arbutus unedo), is abundant. This butterfly can be seen in a butterfly micro reserve set in the hills of Gandia which we survey regularly. Please, contact us for more information.
Two mountainous systems cross the Valencian Region, the Baetic and the Iberian. The Baetic System comes all the way from Sierra Nevada, which is the highest mountain in the Iberian Peninsula. It follows a NE direction and once the system arrives to Alicante, it gives place to numerous mountains ranges reaching over 1500 m.s.s.l. For instance, Aitana or Sierra Mariola, the latest being has its higuest 1390 m.a.s.l.
In May, these mountains are covered by a carpet of aromatic flowers mixed with thyme, sage and chamomile, this is heaven for butterflies! There, we can easily find Spanish marbled white (Malanargia ines) and Knapweed Fritillary (Melitaea phoebe). Silver studded blue (Plebejus argus) and Green-underside Blue (Glaucopsyche alexis) reach good density at the end of May.
Another beautiful butterfly we will find easily in the BaeticSystem is the Western marbled white (Melanargia occitanica).
On the other hand, the Iberian System follow a SE direction colliding with the Baetic system in the Monduver mountain, near Gandia (Valencia). The Iberian range is different in terms of climate and altitude also allowing a nice variety of butterflies. Here can be found Apollo (Parnassius apollo), Purple-shot copper (Lycaena alciphron) and Spanish argus (Aricia morronensis). Some of the blues include Small blue (Cupido minimus), Escher’s blue (Polyommatus escheri) and Meleager’s blue (Polyommatus daphnis) among many others. Moreover, in the green meadows we will find Chestnut heath (Coenonympha glycerion).
There will also beautiful fritillaries like the, Spotted fritillary (Melitaea didyma), Provençal fritillary (Melitaea deione) and Meadow fritillary (Melitaea parthenoides). The food plant of the lovely Spanish fritillary (Euphydryas desfontainii) is wide-spread so keep the eyes open!
When these mountains range decrease in altitude and become dryer and warmer, we find a good habitat for Great banded greyling (Brintesia circe). In addition, we might find Silver-washed fritillary (Argynnis paphia) and Oberthür’s anomalous blue (Polyommatus fabressei).
In conclusion, Valencia region offers a great number of butterflies being one of the most diverse regions in Spain.
We post regularly photos of this beauties in our Instagram page. Join one of our day butterfly walks and tailor-made tours around Valencia Region and beyond! For schedule trips, please visit our tour calendar or contact us.
Butterflies in Sierra Nevada, a European hot spot for wildlife.
Sierra Nevada in SE Spain is the highest mountain of the Iberian Peninsula, with picks exceeding 3400 meters above sea level. This is a wonderful place for enjoying wildlife, especially for butterflies and plants with a high proportion of endemics.
In this impressive altitudinal range has been recorded no less than 127 species of butterflies.
During early July I got an enquire asking me for a couple of days looking for butterflies in Sierra Nevada. After making all the arrangement, I meet the small party on June 5th and we set off to Sierra Nevada ski resort.
The wind is strong in the summit so we decide to walk along small gorge where we should be more sheltered from the wind. Our first sights are a group of Spanish Ibex, a solitary Griffon Vulture and a gorgeous male Rufous tailed rock thrush.
After searching for half an hour, we find the first of many stunning Nevada Blues. The morning is a bit cold, so they are half asleep. Lindsay, Peter and I take advantage of this and take some nice pictures of this endemic butterfly. Later, we carry out our search and find good number of Small tortoiseshell, Adonis, Escher’s and Common Blue butterflies. Furthermore, we get views of Spanish brass ringlet which fly off as soon as we approach. Sadly, the strong wind makes impossible to find the local race of Apollo butterfly.
After coffee and facilities in a near Kiosk, we drive down and park near a hotel. Pau wants to have a look in a wet meadow where he has seen in the pass Purple-shot cooper. The first thing we spot is a beautiful Robust marsh orchid and a common Swallowtail butterfly. Flying around there are dozens of Pallid Swifts, Black redstarts and Northern wheatear. John spots a Purple-shot cooper drinking in the ground and Pau finds a Rock Grayling and a Small skipper.
Our last stop is on the way to the Hotel, in a pond near Villanueva. Here we get 10 species of dragonflies and damselflies, including Blue-eye, Small redeye, White featherleg, Broad scarlet and Violet dropwing among others.
We arrive to the Hotel around 2:30. As it is already hot (31ºC), the rest of the day is spent by the Hotel’s swimming pool.
The following day, we set off again to look for more butterflies in Sierra Nevada. Pau suggests trying another location for Apollo butterfly. After driving for 1 hour, we get over 2200 meter high and park the vehicle. We start following a track finding Water Pipit and Dunnocks. Soon we find our first Apollo butterflies, followed for 30+ more. Other butterflies sightings include Queen of Spain Fritillary, Painted lady, Long-tailed Blue, Amanda’s blue, Wall Brown and Ida’s Blue.
On the way down, we have a quick visit to the Botanic garden. Here we find an adult and a caterpillar of Moroccan Orange Tip. In addition, we see a beautiful Iberian Marbled White and a Silver studded blue “drinking” nectar on a thistle. Regarding birds, a Golden Eagle is seen by Lindsay and John, and in the nearby pine forest a family of Rock buntings feeds on seeds. Pau finds a Crested tit picking insects from the bark.
We continue the trip looking for butterflies in Sierra Nevada and drive down to a much lower altitude towards Güejar-Sierra. In a meadow, we get Wall brown, Blue-spot hairstreak, Gatekeeper and Southern Gatekeeper. There are also Yellow Clouded, Southern Speckled Wood and Lulworth skipper among others. All flying around plants of the Eryngium genus.
Our final stop is in a path along the Genil river. Marbled White, Cleopatra and Meadow brown are everywhere. The river is patrol by Common Goldenring dragonflies and we also bump into a Large psammodromus which was enjoying a sunbath.
Finally, Pau drives to Granada where the group will remain the following days sightseeing this terrific city. All in all, an enjoyable couple of days in these wonderful mountains full of interesting butterflies. In total, we recorded 65 species of butterflies. Please, do not hesitate to contact us for any schedule or tailor made tour around Granada and Sierra Nevada.
Today I have prepared for Jan and Robert an interesting itinerary which combines wetland birds, with butterflies and orchids in Costa Blanca. The last weeks has been very warm for March (max, temperature of 31ºC!) and butterflies are already very active. In addition, we are at the peak of the Mediterranean orchids so I expect to see a good number and variety of them.
After picking Jan and Robert up in Jávea we set off to Pego marshes. The paddy fields are being drying out and the number of birds is amazing. There are thousands of Little and Cattle Egret, White Wagtails, Pipits, Gulls, etc. Very soon we find 19 Common Cranes feeding in a field and Pau spots a couple of Little Ringed Plover and a Bluethroat popping out from the reeds. As we drive around, we find a stunning male Hen Harrier. It is probably the same bird seen last week by Pau. Other common birds seen include Hoopoe, Serins and Tree Sparrows.
In the North part of the park, we spot 2 Booted Eagles, several Marsh Harrier and 5 Common Buzzard migrating above the Montanyeta verda. Later, we find over 100 Audouin’s Gulls, joined by few Mediterranean Gulls feeding on the invasive american crayfish in a paddy field.
After a rewarding coffee stop in Pego, we continue driving to the near valleys to look for butterflies and orchids in Costa Blanca. In our fist stop, Pau show us 3 spikes of Mirror Orchid (Ophrys speculum) and a couple Sawfly Orchid (Ophrys tenthredinifera). Our next stop is on the shade of a stone oak to have lunch. Soon we have to stand up to see a nice Firecrest and a stunning Moroccan orange tip butterfly. Once we finish and pack up the picnic table and chairs back in the boot, we drive few km more. A short walk reveals few tens of Early purple orchids (Orchis olbiensis). We find from white ones to magenta, a nice variety of colours!
Later we drive to an area near Vall d’Ebo where Pau has found previously orchids and his favourite butterfly, the Spanish festoon. There, we see lots of spikes and basal rosettes of two species: Sombre-bee Orchid (Ophrys fusca) and the endemic Ophrys dianica. Regarding butterflies, we have superb views of Spanish festoon, Bath white and Provence Hairstreak among others. Along the road, we find a Cirl Bunting.
Finally, on the way back to Jávea we make a quick stop to add some cracking orchids: Giant Orchid (Himantoglossum robertianum) and Woodcock Orchid (Ophrys scolopax). Furthermore, we add two hybrids Ophrys x castroviejoi (O. scolopax x O. speculum) and Ophrys x pielteri (O. scolopax x O. tenthredinifera). Regarding butterflies, we add an extra 15 species more of butterflies, including Scarce Swallowtail, Cleopatra, Western Dappled White, Mallow Skipper and Holly Blue.
All in all, a fantastic general wildlife day out with many birds, butterflies and orchids in Costa Blanca, Spain. Should you have any question, please do not hesitate to contact us.
Photos available in our Instagram
Please find a selection of our wildlife trip reports in Spain.
Morocco-Atlas Mountains and Sahara NEW
Morocco-Atlas Mountains and Sahara
30 March – 5 April 2018 Wildlife trip to Tenerife and Fuerteventura
Picos de Europa
30 August – 6 September 2016 Spanish Carnivorous (Iberian Wolf, Wildcat and Brown Bear)
Local Tours (Alicante, Valencia and Albacete)
10-14 May 2018. 5-birding days in East Spain check list
15-19 November 2017 Birding in East Spain
January 2017 El Fondo, Santa Pola, Monnegre and Alicante mountains
17-18 November 2016 Genet and Steppes of Albacete
22 May 2016 Great Bustard tour-Steppes of Albacete
29 April-1 May 2016 Málaga and Granada
19 April Costa Blanca 2016-Alicante
July Costa Blanca 2015-Alicante
30 November 2015-Alicante
22 December 2015-Valencia
10 September 2014-Valencia
Extremadura and Coto Doñana check list 24 Feb – 3 Mar
22-30 April 2018 Extremadura and Coto Doñana check list
Granada and Tarifa
The Grand Tour
Sierra de Guara
Please find our trip report focus on butterflies in Picos de Europa mountains, one of the best places in Europe to enjoy wildlife.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The sky is clear and the forecast expect 28 ºC, so it seems is going to be a great day for butterflies!!
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 hairstreak, Black-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.
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 heath, Glanville Fritillary, Provençal Fritillary, Red admiral, Spotted Fritillary and Meadow Fritillary. A good variety to finish the day!
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 White, Spanish 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.
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.
This is a birdwatching trip report to La Mancha and Serrania de Cuenca from May 29th to June 4th. We arrive to our hotel in the evening of the 29th after a birding trip in the Pyrenees.
La Mancha and Serrania de Cuenca are wonderful areas to enjoy wildlife. The diversity of birds is fantastic and the Serrania is excellent for orchids and butterflies too. We have been guiding many naturalist and companies to this overlooked area.
After having breakfast in our hotel in Villalba de la Sierra, Lee and I have a quick look to the poplar trees behind the hotel and find a beautiful male of Golden Oriole. After that, we set off for the first stop in La Serranía de Cuenca where we watch Alpine and Common Swift, Blue Rock Thrush and Black Redstart.
Later, we walk around Uña lagoon seeing Great Reed Warbler, Iberian Green and Great spotted Woodpeckers, Nuthatch, Griffon Vulture, Booted Eagle, Short-toed Treecreeper, Marsh Harrier and Bonelli’s Warbler.
Our next stop is in the Spring of Cuervo River. As we walk along the path we find 4 different species of orchids (Narrow-leaved Helleborine “Cephalanthera longifolia”, Red Helleborine “Cephalanthera rubra”, Green-winged Orchid “Anacamptis morio” and Common Spotted Orchid “Dactylorhiza fuchsii“). It is really worth to visit the area for the beauty of the waterfalls and the interesting limestone formations. Keep in mind that during weekends the Cuervo River can be crowded, so better to visit in a week day.
Regarding birds, during the walk we watch a Booted Eagle taking off from a black pine, Firecrests feeding their fledged chicks, a Jay eating a tasty worm, and an Iberian Chiffchaff. After that, we walk near Vega de Codorno seeing Melodious Warbler, Yellowhammer, Black-eared and Northern Wheatear, Nightingale and Rock Sparrow. As I follow a Hobby with the binoculars, other raptors join; for few minutes there are 5 raptors in the sky! (2 Hobbies, an Egyptian Vulture, a Common Buzzard and a Booted Eagle) What a great place for raptors! We have been listening two different Cuckoos and Lee who is from U.S.A., is very keen to see this European specie. We creep along the meadow to watch the shy Cuckoo fly off. Close where it is, we see a Fallow deer.
We start the day walking along the Júcar River to see a 19th century watermill and some birds such as Iberian Green Woodpecker, Cetti’s Warbler, Nuthatch and Wrens. During the morning we visit the fields around the hotel, seeing Bee-eaters, Black-eared Wheatear, Crested Lark, Woodlark, Rock Sparrow, Orphean Warbler, Crested Tit, Hoopoe, Red Kite, Woodchat Shrike and an Iberian Hare. Then we visit and Las Majadas where we find badger scat, a Melodious Warbler, Crossbills and Yellow Bee Orchid and butterflies such as Adoni’s Blue, Provence Orange Tip, Black Veined and Cleopatra, among others,
After having lunch, we visit Beteta to find Bonelli’s Warbler, Short-toed Eagle, Booted Eagle and Griffon’s in their nest looking after their chicks. Nice view! Along the path we also find a Narrow-leaved Helleborine and “Pinguicola mundi”, an interesting endemic Butterwort.
Today we head off to the lagoons of La Mancha. In route we have good views of Montagu’s Harriers. The first stop is in Manjavacas lagoon where we find Fan-tailed Warbler, Marsh Harrier, Shelducks, Gull-billed and Whiskered Terns, Kentish and Ringed Plover, Black-winged Stilt, a Common Redshank and a Little Stint in full summer plumage.
Lesser Kestrels hunt in the nearby fields and a Little Owl peer at us from the wall of an abandoned hut. Later, we visit the Lagoons of Pedro Muñoz and find Lapwing, Gadwall, Spotted Starlings, Greater Flamingos and other species seen previously.
About noon, we are in the lagoons of Alcázar de San Juan. There, Lee makes the most of two pairs of White Storks and chicks in their nest. Moreover, we also see juveniles and adults of White-headed Ducks, Black-necked Grebes, Red-crested Pochard and Mediterranean Gull. We also add Black-tailed Godwits, Savi’s Warbler, Bearded Tit, Common Redshank and Wood Sandpiper. In the last lagoon, we find a Black Kite and few pairs of Lesser Kestrel. The last one breed in the area thanks to the construction of a “primillar” (buildings which imitate the countryside houses to allow them to breed there). After that, we drive to our Hotel in Belmonte.
Today we visit the Tablas de Daimiel National Park. A quick stop in the entrance reveals a pair of Penduline Tits, which are really abundant this year in the park.
In the same place, we watch about 8 pairs of White Storks in their nest, Great Crested Grebes, Cattle and Little Egret, Purple and Night Herons. Later, during a short walk in the reeds we observe Great Reed Warblers, Nightingales and Marsh Harriers. Black necked Grebe, Savi’s Warbler, Squacco Heron and Little Bitterns are very active. Finally, we see Spoonbills in their breeding colony on a group of tamarisk trees. Later, after lunch, we drive around the nearby farmland seeing a beautiful pair of Rollers, Lesser Kestrels, Hoopoe, Crested and Calandra Larks. With already 30ºC, we decide to drive back to the hotel.
At 7:30 p.m. we meet at the bar of the Hotel to have some refreshments with our local contact. He is going to show us a bird which I know Lee is very keen to see. Thirty minutes later, we stand in the opposite cliff of an abandoned quarry watching a chick of an Eagle Owl. What a beautiful view! Besides, Bee-eaters delight us with is beauty. They breed just few meters away from the Eagle Owl. My congratulations to the owners of so well manage hunting ground! We encourage landowners to protect raptors as a tourism resource.
Few minutes after setting off to the South of the province, a large bird fly above us, I say: It’s a Great Bustard; Lee reply:“You are kidding”. No, I am not. There it is, a solitary Great Bustard.
One hour later we are in the Dehesa of Munera where we see Sardinian, Dartford and Spectacled Warbler. That’s fantastic, two new species for Lee.
As we drive through the countryside, we find Thekla Lark, more Spectacled Warbler, Booted Eagle, Black and Red Kite. In additio, no far from there, we add Iberian Grey Shrike, Hoopoe, Spotless Starling, Corn Buntings and Woodlark.
After that, we go to the Lagunas de Ruidera Natural Park. In this beautiful spot we watch Purple Heron, Crested Tit, Blue Rock Thrush, Great Crested Grebe, Iberian Magpie, Ocellated Lizards and a wide variety of butterflies: Small Tortoiseshell, Red Admiral, Western Dappled White, etc.
Again, the temperature is over 30ºC, so we go to the Hotel to rest after 14 following day birding around Spain.
I strongly recommend visiting La Mancha and Serranía de Cuenca. Both are superb areas for birding and are unfairly overlooked as a birding and wildlife destination. I hope you find useful this birdwatching trip report La Mancha. Should you have any question, please do not hesitate to contact us or visit the tour calendar.
Have a nice day
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