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FOR THOSE OF YOU THAT PARTICIPATED IN A WINGSPAN TOUR DURING 2016, THANK YOU FOR YOUR CUSTOM & YOUR COMPANY AND WE WISH YOU HEALTH AND HAPPINESS FOR 2017.

THE PROGRAMME FOR SPRING 2017 IS NOW ON MY

WEBSITE BUT HERE IS A PREVIEW



Jan 15th - 28th. - Sri Lanka. £1750

Feb 12th -27th - Costa Rica - full

Mar 20th - 30th Morocco - 10 nights. - £1190

April 5th - 12th - Andalucia migration tour. - £750 - 2 places

April 16th - 24th - Coto Donana & Extremadura - £950 - 2 places

April 29th - 6th May. - Lesvos - £875

May 8th - 15th - Portugal - full


May 13th - 21st Bulgaria - £850

May 23rd - 30th - Andalucia birds and butterflies - £750

May 31st - June 8th. - Extremadura and Sierra de Gredos - £950

June 12th - 20th - Pyrenees and Picos de Europa - £1050


FLIGHTS NOT INCLUDED IN THESE PRICES



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Red-throated Bee-eater

Red-throated Bee-eater
join us for a fantastic tour of The Gambia this November

Sunday, June 30, 2013

ANDALUCIA - 5 DAY TOUR - DAY 3 JUNE 30TH 2013...

ESTACION DE CORTES (RIO GUADIARO) - LLNOS DE LIBAR - MONTEJAQUE (DAM) - RONDA - ENCINAS DE BORRACHES

Another superb day of excellent birding with some quality bird sightings and fantastic scenery, the weather wasn't bad either.

Simon came down to breakfast at 7am, Dawn didn't make it so we ate quickly and off we went. Just outside of Gaucin we picked up John, my friend from American who is staying in the village for the summer.

Short-toed Eagle - Bob's pic above and Simon's below



Our first stop was down at the river at Estacion de Cortes, a Grey Heron was our first bird which was quickly followed by White Wagtail and then Little Ringed Plover. Our walk along the river produced some lovely sightings, a family party of Woodchat Shrikes entertained us for a while as did a nice view of Rock Sparrow. We also found many common species including our first sighting of Common Nightingale.

At the dam there were more Little Ringed Plovers, a Kingfisher, Serins, Goldfinches, Spotless Starlings and at least 4 Short-toed Eagles showed up and plenty of Griffon Vultures. AS good number of swifts were coming down to drink with Barn and Red-rumped Swallows. We identified Common and Pallid Swifts and suddenly I got on to a WHITE RUMPED SWIFT! What a great find, the bird came down to drink and promptly disappeared, my fellow birders, Simon and John, only got brief glimpses of the bird.Just after the swift sighting a couple of Bonelli's Eagles drifted over the hillside and circled above us, wow, another great species within a couple of minutes of the first one!

Woodchat Shrikes - Bob



Next we drove up to Montejaque and spent a couple of superb hours walking the track and scanning the magnificent limestone mountains that are a fantastic feature of the valley. We quickly found Alpine Swift, Black Redstart, Corn Bunting, Blue Rock Thrush and yet another pair of Bonelli's Eagles (that is six individuals in two days), amazing.  Further along the track we had lovely views of Serins, Linnets, Stonechats, Melodious Warbler, Sardinian Warbler and a single Black Wheatear. We ate our lunch back at the car sitting on a concrete bench whilst watching Alpine Swifts, Griffon Vultures and Spanish Ibex up on the mountainsides.
record shots of Spectacled Warbler - Bob



After a brief coffee stop John left us and headed off home on his motorbike whilst we set off for Ronda. Simon spent a short while looking for Red-billed Chough from the famous bridge in the centre of Ronda whilst I waited on a double yellow line. Nothing showed up so we sped off to our last venue of the day which was the track at Encias de Borraches, some 10km south of Ronda.

We must have had a purple patch as everything we looked for turned up. As soon as we got out of the car and through the gate we found a Black-eared Wheatear, whilst we were watching that bird we found a Southern Grey Shrike in the background, number two of our target species. A short walk produced both Crested and Thekla larks, Corn Buntings, Stonechats, Linnets, Goldfinches and a single Red-billed Chough which was perched high up on the cliff face.

Rock Thrush (archive)  - Bob

Next was our second mega of the day. We scanned a low lying rocky area near a dried up pool for Thekla larks and found instead a superb male ROCK THRUSH!!! How exciting was that?? The3 bird posed long enough for us to get out our cameras and promptly buggered off just as we focused them, what a shame.

It was quite windy out in the open valley so we didn't hold much hope of finding scrub warblers out on the heathland and after 30 minutes we were proved wrong. A male Spectacled Warbler sat up and sang whilst carrying a mouth full of food, it showed really well for a while and then dropped out of sight, Then a second male ROCK THRUSH flew over the top of us also carrying food, the bird disappeared over the heath as it headed for a cliff face, I am convinced that this was a second bird as the distance between sightings was quite a way.

Further searching of the heath produced at least two more Spectacled Warblers and a family party of Dartford Warblers, yet another one of our target species. This final sighting was the cue for us to head off for home but not before we watched another 3 Southern Grey Shrikes, Woodchat Shrike, Lesser Kestrel, Red Deer and lots of butterflies. A great end to another superb day.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

ANDALUCIA - 5 DAY TOUR - DAY 2 JUNE 29TH 2013...

RIO GENAL - RIO GUADIARO - SAN PABLO TRACKS - SAN ENRIQUE WOODS - PALMONES SALT MARSH - SIERRA CRESTELLINA

An action packed day today, with an early start and beautiful weather all day long (except for the string wind in places).

Simon and I set off at 7:30am for a short drive down to the Rio Genal Valley, it was a lovely morning clear blue sky and no wind. We parked near the bridge on the Casares road and walked up river. It was fairly quiet, not a lot of bird song, just a few Blackcaps and a Chaffinch were in song. Until, that is,  we heard our target species, the Golden Oriole. We had several short glimpses of this beautiful yellow and black bird until a male sat out in full view, what a star. During our vigil we also watched a party of Long-tailed Tits, Blackcaps, Cetti's Warbler and a Grey Wagtail. On the way back to the car we notched up White Wagtail, Serin, Cirl Bunting and a lovely Turtle Dove. A Booted Eagle drifted overhead a very distant Griffon Vulture did the same.

ALL PICTURES TAKEN BY SIMON VICKERS
a lovely Turtle Dove

From the river we drove to Casraes where we collected my friend Penny who was joining us for the day. Off we all went to the valley of the Rio Guadiaro which was not far from Casares. We stopped a couple of times to look at Woodchat Shrikes, Tawny Pipit, Stonechat, Crested larks and Corn Buntings, all were perched on the fenceline or scurried along the lane in front of us.

An adult Woodchat Shrike above and the juvenile below



At the Rio Guadiaro we parked up and walked through clumps of tamarisk to view the river. A small pool held no less than 18 Little Ringed Plovers, incredible, it was really nice to see so many juveniles in the group. A Green Sandpiper flew off upstream only to return a few minutes later giving lovely views. Whilst we watched the plovers our target species appeared in a bush just behind them, an Olivaceous Warbler popped out and worked its way along the bush before disappearing over the top, great result and it saved us some searching. Another Booted Eagle drifted high above as we made our way back to the car.

Short-toed Eagle sat obligingly for us


Next we drove along several kilometers of track to our next destination near San Pablo, unfortunately, our short cut took us a few kilometers out of our way but we got there in the end. Just before we arrived at our destination we stopped to watch a colony of Bee-eaters, these most colourful birds sat on wires and fences and "chirrupped" at us (there's a new word for you!). Along the track we looked for our target species the Rufous Bush Robin and before long one popped out of the hedge and perched nicely for us, thank you. We had a couple more sightings of this brown bird with a red tail before a lot of disturbance by local farmers herding cattle, put paid to our birding. In the meantime we got superb views of a Short-toed Eagle perched on a pylon, Sardinian Warblers in hedgerows, Tawny Pipit, Corn Bunting, Serin and Linnets either on the track or on wires.
Brimstone above and Speckled Wood below


From San Pablo we drove across the valley to look for Lesser Kestrel at a site well known to me, it was very successful, many pairs had raised chicks and were visiting their nest holes to feed them, we had splendid views of this action.

a juvenile Lesser kestrel waiting to be fed, and below an adult male arrives with food



Our next target species were the Black-winged Kite and Roller, both of these species had been seen regularly in recent weeks but they didn't show up for us, what a shame. On the way round to the site of the Kite we stopped to watch an amazing numbers of Griffon Vultures, there were 64 on the ground and another 50+ in the sky above them, Simon clicked away with his Canon SX50 bridge camera.

We then drove through San Martin and onto San Enrique where we spent some time in the woods alongside of the river Guadiaro. Tree Sparrows were quickly in the bag before we sat on a log to each our picnic. Then we walked through the woods noting Spotted Flycatcher, Short-toed Treecreeper, Blackcap and lots more Serins.

One of the sixty Vutlures on the ground at the side of the road near San Martin


A short stop and a brief walk in the pine Woods at Pinar del Rey produced some nice sighting especially of butteflies. Cleopatra, Brimstone, Speckled Wood, Ilex Hairstreak and Clouded Yellow. Birds started to appear after a while but it was very windy: Jay, Chaffinch, great Tit and then a flurry of Bonelli's Warblers (many of them singing), Blue Tits , Crested Tit (found by Penny) and Blackcaps.


At the river mouth of the Rio Palmones we scoped across to a sand bar and recorded Sandwich Tern (39), Black-headed Gull (1) and several Yellow-legged Gulls. Two Kentish Plover appeared for a short while and two Little Egrets paddled in the distance. One Yellow Wagtail showed briefly on the salt marsh and that was about the sum total of our findings. Passing through San Roque on the way back home we stopped to look at many White Storks, most of the nests held grown chicks ready for departure.


We made another attempt at finding the Black-winged kite without success before dropping Penny at Casares. Simon and I stopped at Sierra Crestellina to look for Bonelli's Eagle and after a short wait we got great views of an adult bird which was soaring high-up with the Griffon Vultures, it then dived down to perch in a tree near the ridge of the mountain. A minute later a juvenile bird drifted along the mountain face and landed nearby, it was great to see that the young bird had fledged successfully and was still alive and kicking.

That sighting rounded off a lovely day that gave us 60 species and lots of pleasure finding them.


Friday, June 28, 2013

ANDALUCIA - 5 DAY TOUR - DAY 1 JUNE 28TH 2013

MALAGA AIRPORT  - GUADALMAR (GUADALHORCE NATURAL PARK) - MANILVA -  SIERRA CRESTELLINA

Today I was back on the birding scene after a few days break, I collected Simon from Malaga Airport at 11:30am and we drove directly to Guadalmar for our first birding extravaganza.

Our first bird was a Bee-eater which flew around the car as we pulled up, several of them were nesting in the low sand banks near to the beach. As we walked across the sand dunes towards a row of eucalyptus trees we saw several small groups of Monk Parakeets making their way noisily towards another clump of trees.

Booted Eagle taken by Simon Vickers



Jackdaws were perched high up in the trees as were a number of Spotless Starlings and dozens of Goldfinches. We approached a small stream that had virtually dried up but a pair of Little Ringed Plover fed on the dried mud and four or five Turtle Doves came down to drink. A family party of White Wagtails also fed on the water's edge whilst a Little Egret spent most of its time eating fish. A Hoopoe flew from the nearby golf course carrying food and a pair of Common Kestrel flew menacingly around the trees, this disturbed the House Martins, Barn Swallows and Red-rumped Swallows causing them to call out in alarm.



We picked up some lunch from a local store and then ate it whilst looking over the Guadalhorce nature reserve, it was very quiet and we only saw a few Yellow-legged Gulls, e didn't venture onto the reserve as time was tight.

A brief stop at Manilva produced great views of a pale morph Booted Eagle and five Griffon Vultures sailed over much higher, a Blackcap sang from a dense bush and a Cirl bunting showed for a short time.

Sierra Crestellina


At Sierra Crestellina more Griffon Vultures showed well and a superb Short-toed Eagle drifted over us. No other birds of prey were seen but passerines sitting on wires and bushes included: Crag Martin, Woodchat Shrike, Stonechat, Corn Bunting and more Goldfinches.

After a brief stop at the Mirador de Gaucin where we saw some lovely butterflies we spent sometime on our top terrace where we added Blue Rock Thrush and hundreds of Common Swifts.

Both Swallowtail species seen at Gaucin Mirador - taken by Simon Vickers



Not a bad start to our five day trip, plenty more species to come in the next few days!

Monday, June 17, 2013

ZARAGOZA - PYRENEES & PICOS - DAY 8 - JUNE 17TH .....

PICOS DE EUROPA - PEMBES VILLAGE - POTES - FUENTE DE

Our last full day of the trip and our last opportunity for birding and it all nearly ended in tears!!  We awoke at 6am in readiness for a pre-breakfast walk but, disaster,  it was pouring with rain. A real catastrophe as we had planned to go up on the cable car to the high peaks but thick low cloud and pouring rain meant that wasn't going to happen.


We ate breakfast at 7am and decided to drive into the mountains in the hope that the rain would ease off, but it didn't. We stopped at the village of Pembes to look for woodland species.This village is absolutely fascinating, it's just like walking back into the 17th - 18th century, every building, door, fence, window looks about 300-400 years old, what an amazing place. The village was full of birds because there are so many holes, broke rooves, nooks and crannies for them to nest in. We saw Barn Swallow, lots of Black Redstarts, even a couple of Common Redstarts, also Spotted Flycatcher, Robin, Great Tit and Blue Tit.

We spent a couple of hours walking along lanes s the rain eased off, but we just got soaked and eventually gave up and returned to the bus.

my little team of Snow Buntings - on the cleared track near the Mirador de Cable, Fuente De


Next we  decided to Visit Fuente De in the hope that the high peaks were free of cloud, but they were not, in fact the weather was even worse there. We stopped for a coffee and never saw the Telefercio (cable car) go up the mountain once. So we retreated back down the valley and stopped in Potes to buy lunch, we then drove out of town and into a country lane which took us back into the hills. We found an appropriate place to eat our lunch and whilst we were doing so the rain stopped, hooray!


For the next hour we walked around the vicinity of the bus and found several woodland species: Great Spotted Woodpecker, Wren, Jay, Song Thrush, Chaffinch and Serin. The weather continued to improve and some small patches of blue sky appeared. This encouraged us to return to Fuente De to try the cable car once again.

To our great joy the cable car was running but we could see that the cloud still shrouded the high peaks and it looked grim. However, not deterred we decided to give it a go and promptly paid our money and off we went. It was now 3pm so we didn't have much time at the top. The dense cloud was very thick and cold as we left the buildings at the Mirador de Cable at the top of the mountains, but the first thing we saw was an Alpine Accentor feeding just a couple of meters from the door. How cool was that? This warmed our enthusiasm so we set off for a walk in the mist. We hadn't gone too far we heard the song of the Water Pipit and during a small break in the cloud we located the bird, it even went up and performed its parachute display flight. next a Black Redstart began to sing and we soon found that too.

the scenery through the breaks in the cloud was stunning




The breaks in the cloud got longer and longer and after about 30 minutes we had good clear views of up 500 meters. We could see the high peaks towering above us and wide snow-covered valleys below, it all looked very spectacular and it was literally breath-taking (it was very cold and the air was very thin).

Alpine Accentor


After a walk of some 800 meters we arrived at a fork in the track and this was where I had seen Snow Finch on previous tours. We scanned the mountainside and the high peaks and discovered a Wallcreeper, this bird flew right down and landed very close, where it fed for a while before disappearing over a ridge. More Alpine Accentors appeared and we found Northern Wheatear, Rock Thrush, lots of Alpine Chough and a few Red-billed Chough.

Next came the exciting bit, we located a couple of birds down below us on the edge of a snow patch, we though that they were Snow Finches but they were lost out of sight. Then a flock of eight Snow Finches flew from our left and landed just 20 meters away to our right. They looked absolutely superb sitting on some boulders, there white wing patches showing up really well. They soon flew off giving another great flight display of colour. Fantastic, job done, we had seen all of the montane species in just 2 hours and now the sun was shining too!

Chamois


Our walk back to the Teleferico was delayed by lots of stops to look at the birds but we also found a small group of Chamois, lots of brightly coloured moths that seemed to be emerging in their hundreds and we attracted a small flock of Alpine Choughs by throwing them biscuit crumbs. These birds were incredibly tame and even took food from my hand.

Alpine Chough


We jumped back on the cable car for the ride down some 88 meters which only took 3 and half minutes, the views from the car were truly amazing.

It was now 6pm, we grabbed a quick coffee before heading back to our hotel for an 8pm dinner. So the day started as it was going to be a complete wash-out turned out to be fantastic in the end. It was a fitting and rewarding end to a very enjoyable tour. We had amassed just under 140 species in the 7 days despite losing two half days to rain and cloud.

the view from the cable car just before its 800 meter descent


All the montane Specialites were seen well: Lammergiere, Wallcreeper, Citril Finch, Rock Thrush, Water Pipit, Ring Ouzel, Alpine Accentor, Snow Finch, Alpine and Red-billed Chough, Griffon and Egyptian Vulture, Red Kite and many more. It was a really great tour, why not join us next year?

Sunday, June 16, 2013

ZARAGOZA - PYRENEES & PICOS - DAY 7 - JUNE 16TH .....

TRANSFER DAY   -  PYRENEES TO THE PICOS  - WITH SEVERAL STOPS, NOT MUCH BIRDING AND NOT MANY BIRDS!!!

7:30AM  - breakfast -  another superb morning, clear blue sky not a breath of air and the most beautiful scenery you can image.

8:30am - departure  - we said goodbye to our hosts at hotel Uson and set off on the long journey to the Picos.

9:00am  - our first stop in the mountains of the Anso Valley - very beautiful. we watched an Orphean Warbler singing from a dead twig on the top of a bush. Other birds seen on the journey, Jay, Carrion Crow, Magpie, Griffon Vulture, Black Kite & Red Kite.

Don't laugh - this was a very distant bird!  To hear an Orphean Warbler singing is one of my birding highlights and to see one singing is truly magical


9:30am  -  stop off in the Foz de Binies Gorge. Imagine a gorge twice as high, three times as long and 10 time more impressive than Cheddar Gorge then you have Foz de Binies.  We spent a neck breaking 30 minutes looking for Blue Rock Thrush and Rock Bunting but neither turned up! We did see Black Redstart, Blackcap, Song Thrush and lots of Griffon Vultures.

10:30am  - stop off at the huge reservoir at Yesa on the road to Pamplona, too much water, not enough muddy shoreline. We saw Great Crested Grebe, Great Cormorant, Yellow-legged Gull and a Grey Heron

12 noon   - coffee stop at Logrono - Booted Eagle seen from the bus, lots of Common Swifts.

12:45 - lunch stop on the road to Burgos from Logrono.  Chaffinch and Robin joined us for lunch.

2pm  -  arrived at the Embalse de Ebro on the way the west coast. Again there was too much water and not many birds.  Gadwall, Mallard, White Stork and lots of Black Kites.

4pm -  arrived at San Vicente, a beautiful seaside town on the west coast. The tide was low with the huge salt marsh exposed and lots of mud for waders. What did we see? Zilch!  Not a single wader, only a few groups of loafing Gulls. Yellow-legged, Lesser-black Backed and Black-headed Gulls. Unbelievable!!

5pm  - drove into Unquera and searched the salt marsh there - nothing - no waders!  We logged Stonechat and White Wagtail.

5:30pm we set off for the last leg our journey into the Picos. Passing through Unquera and Panes to arrive at Arenas de Cabrales. The Picos mountains look superb with lots of snow on the peaks, when I say peaks we are only talking about 2600 meters about half the height of the Pyrenees.

6pm - arrived at Torrecerrado Hotel in Arenas. Ready for a cold beer I must say.

Very disappointed with the bird list today. I expected to add 20 new species  - instead we only got 3!


Saturday, June 15, 2013

ZARAGOZA - PYRENEES & PICOS - DAY 6 - JUNE 15TH .....

HECHO VALLEY - RIO ARAGON - ASTUN & CANDANCHU SKI RESORTS - ARRES ROAD AND SOTOS DE MARTES

Yet another superb day of wonderful weather, beautiful scenery and some great bird sightings. The temperature rose from 12C to 33C but as usual there was a breeze to cool us down a little.

Last night at the 'Eagle Owl stake-out' I bumped into someone I knew from previous visits to the area and he told me of a Wryneck nest site. So today our first port of call was the very same site and sure enough we had superb views of a pair of Wrynecks visiting their nest hole. The male returned first with a gift of food, he called several times before entering the hole, she wasn't there, so out he popped and called from a nearby branch. Eventually she returned  and he gave her the food and they both flew off. In the area we also saw Golden Oriole and our first Common Sandpiper..

a couple of very distant shots of the Wryneck



Next we drove through Jaca and on up to Candanchu ski resort to look for the Rock Thrush we had missed the other day. As soon as we got out of the car we spotted one, a lovely male sitting on a large rock and ocassionally singing, what a great find. We also found Water Pipit, Black Redstart, Alpine Chough and a Raven.

At Astun Ski resort we stopped to watch a small flock of Citril Finches with Linnets and we saw Alpine Marmot. In the ski resort itself we sat down in the bright sunshine to eat our lunch ans as we did so we found Crag Martin, Dipper, Yellowhammer, Water Pipit and we saw some distant Chamois on the snow high up on the mountainside. Next we had unbelievable views of Lammergiere as a pair drifted down the valley towards us. The birds were 'play-fighting' all the time and locked talons on several occasions, they even tumbled down some 40 meters whilst locked in pseudo battle, what a great sight.

The Rock Thrush at Candanchu


We spent the rest of the afternoon back down the valley on the plains of Aragon between Jaca and Berdun. We spent sometime looking for warbler in a small oak woodland on the Alastuey road, but we only found Bonelli's Warbler and several nice butterflies.

A Southern White Admiral

Queen of Spain Fritillary


On the Arres road we stopped where it opens out to arable fields and scrub on the other side of the road. There we found an Ortolan Bunting with Corn Buntings on the wires. There we also saw Cirl Bunting, Stonechat, Linnets and a lovely Hobby flew over us.

record shot of the Ortolan

We finally spent our last hour at the the lovely riverside habitat of the Sotos de Martes reserve, it was still very warm but a nice breeze blew from the river, We searched for Penduline Tit but never found one. We did see lots of Bee-eaters, a Hoopoe, Golden Oriole, Short-toed Treecreeper, Garden Warbler, Common Nightingale and a Cuckoo put in a brief appearance. We also heard Cetti's Warbler and a Turtle Dove.

a nice orchid to finish off the day


It was soon time to drive back to the hotel for last time, tomorrow we are heading off to the Picos de Eurpoa to complete the last 3 days of our tour.


Friday, June 14, 2013

ZARAGOZA - PYRENEES & PICOS - DAY 5 - JUNE 14TH .....

HECHO - ALASTUEY ROAD - SAN JUAN DE LA PENA MONASTERY - GALLEGO RIVER VALLEY - EMBALSE SOTONEGRO - RIGLOS - AGUERO - ALASTUEY ROAD AND SANTA CRUZ FOR OWLS AND NIGHTJARS

A packed programme today provided lots of good birding opportunities, we had much better weather and lots more success than yesterday.

A pre-breakfast walk by some of the group produced one new bird for the trip, a Firecrest was seen well,along the lane next to the hotel. Other birds seen included Crested Tit, Song Thrush, garden Warbler and Blackcap.
Hoopoe - taken through my bins - digibining



We spent the rest of day down the valley in the Pyrenean foothills, we had glorious sunshine all day and a nice breeze kept us from frying as the temperature went up to 32C at times. As we drove down the Hecho valley we saw Egyptian Vulture, Red Kite and a flock of some 15 Black kites on the wires.

a pair of juvenile Citril Finches


A quick stop at the small oak woodland on the Alastuey road gave us our first Bonelli's Warbler but efforts to track down an Orphean Warbler failed. At the Monastery we had a great time, as soon as we arrived we saw a couple of Citril Finches in the car park. Our walk through the pine woos there gave us sightings of Coal Tit, Wood Nuthatch (a family party), Robin and we heard another couple of Bonelli's Warblers. At the mirador there fantastic views across the Aragon Plains to high peaks of the Pyrenees, a truly beautiful vista.
Mash Orchid
Whilst we were standing there we located a Great Spotted Woodpecker and a few minutes later a Black Woodpecker appeared just below us on our left. It showed really well for a few seconds then it flew across the top of the woods and disappeared, what a result we had searched several places for this almost 'mythical' bird.

From the Monastery we drove down the entire length of the Gallego valley following the river down to the 'emblase' near Riglos.  We stopped several times and found an interesting selection of species and some nice orchids. We added Booted eagle to our trip list and had great views of a perched Short-toed Eagle, we saw Bee-eaters, Reed Warblers, Crag Martins lots of Common Swifts and we heard a Cuckoo.

After stopping to buy our picnic lunch we set off for the huge embalse at Sotonegro, this reservoir was full to capacity and had flooded a few fields on the western side. This wasn't good for us as we wanted to walk along the western shore looking for Penduline Tit, it also made this section too deep for ducks and waders.

We made several attempt to get good views of the water but were thwarted by the water level, we did see a flock of Cattle Egrets, several Purple Herons, Grey Heron,Mallard, Gadwall, Great Crested Grebe, a couple of Marsh Harriers and a Common Coot. Other stops in the woodland around the shore produced Orphean Warbler, lots of Crested larks and a couple of singing Woodlarks, Greenfinches, Goldfinches, Linnets and Serins. At one point we had very close views of a Hoopoe that remained stationary for quite a while allowing us to photograph it.

We left the area at 4pm after a nice coffee stop, we made one more stop at a small feeder river near the reservoir, we searched for Penduline Tit and came up with Reed Warbler, Cetti's Warbler (heard) and Zitting Cisticola.

Brief stops were made at both Riglos and Aguero to look at the fantastic scenery and to watch the vultures, this provided our new bird of the day in the shape of a pair of Peregrine Falcons. We also saw Red-billed Chough, Raven and Common Kestrel.

the group at Riglos



Back at the hotel for 6pm we got ready for dinner and by 8:45pm we were back on the road again, this time we went searching for owls and nightjars. Not a really successful night but we did hear Common Nightjar and almost ran one over and we had a very brief sighting of a Scop's Owl which flew from a tree just after it called. No sight nor sound of the hoped for Eagle Owl!!  In bed by 11:45pm - a long day over!

Aguero in the background

Thursday, June 13, 2013

ZARAGOZA - PYRENEES & PICOS - DAY 4 - JUNE 13TH ...

HECHO VALLEY - ANSO VALLEY - RONCAL VALLEY - BELAGUA PASS - FORET D'ISSAUX -ASTUN - RIO GAS - ROAD TO ARRES - SOTOS DE MARTES

This was a day of mixed fortunes the morning was a bit of a wipe-out due to low cloud and the afternoon was quite the opposite with glorious sunshine. 

We started with a walk along the lane just outside the hotel at 6:30am, it was very quiet and we didn't see much. Red Kite, Garden Warbler, Cirl Bunting, Song Thrush and not much else. It was clear morning and dry.

the group at El Planeron,  in bright sunshine, before we drove up to the Pyrenees
From sunshine to snow - the Plains to the Mountains


After breakfast we set off for a trip into the mountains hoping for views of several species not yet seen, including Black Woodpecker. Just before the town of Hecho we stopped to look at group of Egyptian Vultures that were perched on a hill side, there were 10 of them, they all flew off as we got nearer to try to photograph them. A second stop produced Garden Warbler, Common Nightingale (singing) and a Raven.

Early Pruple Orchids with gentians and buttercups



We drove across to the Anso Valley which runs parallel to the Hecho Valley where we were staying. A few stops in the valley produced very little so we drove to Zorita at the head of the valley, birds seen along the way were Mistle Thrush, Egyptian Vulture, Grey Wagtail, White Wagtail and a Red-backed Shrike.

Having not heard a single woodpecker we drove across to a third valley called Roncal. This has a road that winds its way up over the top of a pass and drops down into France. We worked our way up this road and as we got above the tree line we stopped to look at orchids and a few birds. Our first Water Pipits showed well, they were singing and parachuting in flight song. We also saw Black Redstart, Northern Wheatear and lots of Red-billed and Alpine Choughs.

We could see a thick bank of cloud coming in from behind, we had been warned of a thunderstorm coming in the afternoon, it was a little early. Thunder grumbled in the distance so we made haste to the border trying to keep ahead of the bad weather. Near the border we found more Pipits, some Linnets and a male Ring Ouzel was singing from the top of a bush.

I haven't looked this one up yet - probably Sawfly or Woodcock Bee-Orchid

Tawny Pipit

Greater Butterfy Orchid

The cloud came in and blocked our views completely so we drove down into France to try to below the cloud. But that didn't happen it got worse, the cloud thickened and it started to rain. Some 30 minutes later we finally broke out of the cloud as we headed back to Spain along another route. A quick stop to eat our picnic lunch found us watching a couple of Red Kites and some Blue Tits!

a very tall Pyramidal Orchid



We rove back into Spain at Somport and immediately hit thick c;loud again. Our visit to Astun was a waste of time, the visibility was virtually zero, we saw Black Redstart, Grey Wagtail and a couple of Yellowhammers.

We decided to forget the mountains and rove down the valley into Spain stopping at Candanchu for coffee before passing through Jaca and onto towards the hecho Valley. The lower we got the better the weather, blue sky appeared and sun shine at last.

Our stop at the Rio Gas was to look for Woodpeckers but what we got was Spotted Flycatcher and Golden Orioles, very nice. It rain heavy thunder spots fell on us for a short while. Then the sky cleared and the rest of the afternoon was wonderful. We drove along a road to Arres which runs parallel to the river Aragon, large open fields on one side and open scrub on the other, we spent a lovely time stopping at three locations and listing some nice species.

Many Corn Buntings were singing, Crested larks flew off the track as we passed and Cirl Bunting sang from the wires. We stopped to look at some Stonechats and discovered a beautiful male Ortolan Bunting which also sang to us. A Tawny Pipit was another good find, it sat and posed well for the cameras.

After a few kilometers we came to a large bridge over the river, we parked up and walked into an area of woodland, scrub and open reed marshes, it was called Sotos de Matres. The area was alive with bird song and good numbers of Bee-eaters were flying around us. We found our first Robin, were heard Cetti;s Warbler, Common Chiffchaff, Garend Warbler, Common Nightingale, Common Cucukoo and we saw Hoopoe, Green Woodpecker and Great Spotted Woodpecker, Grey Heron, Yellow-legged Gull and a Turtle Dove.

It was now approaching 6pm so we set off back to the Hecho Valley and up to the hotel for dinner.