Friday, 26 February 2016

Spain - pre-Pyrenees

When we were planning this trip we didn't realise that we were close enough to the mountains to get there easily.

Having done so Internet searching I found a site guide by a guy called Steve West ( who I contacted to see if her could take us up into the mountains for a day. A wise choice as he was excellent and I would thoroughly recommend him if you're this way.

Steve met us early outside the hotel and we headed north towards the foothills of the Pyrenees. First on the agenda was a small village church that had been visited recently by a wallcreeper but we drew a blank. Nice narrow streets to explore though.

A short drive further north to check some riverside gorges but still no luck. Did manage nice views of crag martin and black bellied dipper though.

We headed higher still towards one of the raptor feeding stations that have been set up to help boost the vulture populations thoughout the region in the hope of seeing lammergeier.
The drive up was pretty productive adding providing my 2nd lifer (citril finch) of the trip, singing woodlarks,  Dartford warbler, firecrest, crossbill and several crested tits.

As soon as we reached the top of the hill there were already good numbers of griffon vultures in the air and it wasn't long before the first lammergeier came into view. It was soon joined by another 2 juvs with another 3 distant birds over a far ridge. At one stage we has black & griffon vultures, lammergeier and golden eagle (1 of 5 we saw) in the same binocular view!
It got better as we picked a sub adult bird over the ridge that came really close overhead. Through the scope to could see the orangy underparts and even seen the 'beard' drooping either side of the bill. Awesome bird and the 2nd lifer of the day.

We spent a bit of time looking for alpine chough and alpine accentor before lunch but it seemed that they had already moved to higher altitude with the mild weather. It was good to see decent flock of mixed finches including some cracking cirl bunting and a small group of rock sparrows.

The afternoon was spent hunting for accentors. At one stop I asked Steve if he was looking for wallcreeper. His response was 'I don't think we will see one here' As he finished the sentence, I picked up a wallcreeper on the rockface!!! Although I had seen one on India, this one was actually on a wall and showed brilliantly. Flicking its wings and it moved about the cliffs feeding on spiders.

Our final road of the day didn't produce any accentors either but we did add our 4th vulture species of the day in the form of 4 Egyptian at a small rubbish dump.

A superb day birding made all the better with the local knowledge from Steve giving us an impressive total of...

Lammergeier - 16
Black vulture - 8
Egyptian vulture - 4
Griffon vulture - 200+
Golden eagle - 5
Peregrine - 3
Black kite - 1
Red kite - 10
Wallcreeper - 1
Red billed chough - 100+

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