This trip report is an account of a few days birding in late winter in the Aragón region of the Spanish Pyrenees. The prime intention was to
observe one the rarest and most spectacular raptors in Europe, the Lammergeier (Gypaetus barbatus), and four species of high altitude
ranging passerines. The Alpine Accentor (Prunella collaris), Alpine Chough (Pyrrhocorax graculus), Snowfinch (Montifringilla nivalis), and
Wallcreeper (Tichodroma muraria) are classic examples of birds adapted to alpine habitats and which
exhibit attitudinal migration to various degrees
in response to annual climate patterns. During the winter months observation of these species should, in theory, be easier or at least not
entail some serious hikes into remote areas. Four full days produced everything we hoped for with the surprising exception of the Snowfinch -
perhaps early March was getting too late for this bird even at the elevation of the ski stations although the surrounding hills were thick with
snow. The other targets were fairly easy and required no real effort apart from knowledge of the key locations. Wallcreeper did require time
and patience however.
An unforeseen highlight of the trip was the northerly migration of most of the wintering Iberian population of Common Cranes over the period.
Trips to Embalse de la Sotonera near Huesca or Laguna de Gallocanta near Zaragoza, both of which are well known and important staging
posts in the passage of Cranes, had been planned. However, since so many of these birds were already leaving their wintering grounds we
made a decision just to enjoy them in flight and they certainly added an extra dimension to the scene. The other highlights included fourteen
raptor species notably Lammergeier, Golden Eagle and Egyptian Vulture, Black Woodpecker, Rock Bunting, Citril Finch, Blue Rock Thrush, White Stork,
Hoopoe, Water Pipit, Glossy Ibis and Penduline Tit.
Air travel direct from London Stansted to Barcelona Girona (as the budget airlines are calling it) with Ryanair (www.ryanair.com). Hired a car
from Hertz (www.hertz.com) followed by a five hour drive west to Jaca in northern Spain. We stayed in the Gran Hotel de Jaca (e-mail:
email@example.com). Jaca is a small historic town (pop. 14,000) ideally located for access to the best valleys in the Pyrenees as well as the
foothills to the south. Some relaxed birding within the town (probably best in spring) can be undertaken in the park at the Paseo de la
Constitucion and around the Ciudadela, both of which are located just off the main streets.
GUIDES, MAPS & TRIP REPORTS
1. Crozier, J. 1998. A Birdwatching Guide to the Pyrenees. Arlequin.
2. Rebane, M. 1999. Where to watch birds in North & East Spain. Helm
3. Gosney, D. 1996. Finding Birds in Northern Spain. Gostours.
4. Simpson, F. 2000. Trip Report: Parc Natural del Aiguamolls de L'Empordà.
5. Mullarney, K. et al. 1999. Bird Guide. HarperCollins.
6. Dubin, M. 2001. The Rough Guide to the Pyrenees. Rough Guides.
7. Road Atlas: Atlas de carreteras de Espana y Portugal. AA/Editorial GeoPlaneta.
Day 1 04/03/04 London Stansted > Aeroport de Girona-Costa Brava > Vic> Lleida > Huesca > Jaca.
Day 2 05/03/04 Sierra de Santa Domingo range: Jaca > Santa María > Los Mallos de Riglos > Jaca.
Day 3 06/03/04 Jaca > Castiello de Jaca > Villanúa > Canfranc > Astun > Candanchú > Jaca > Biescas > Escarrillo > Formigal.
Day 4 07/03/04 Jaca > Oroel > Bernués > San Juan de la Peña > Santa Cruz de la Serós > Puente de la Reina > Riglos.
Day 5 08/03/04 Jaca > Puente de la Reina > Javierregay > Hecho > Boca del Infierno > Selva de Oza > Gabardito > Siresa.
Day 6 09/03/04 Jaca > Girona > Figueres > Castelló d'Empuries > Parc Natural del Aiguamolls de L'Empordà > Girona > London.
Thursday 4 March 2004
Small airport, about the size of Glasgow Prestwick. Quick through customs and baggage collection. Picked up the car and had some bocadillos
before getting on the road to the mountains. As the plane touched down a Crested Lark was just getting up off the runway. Common Starling
and House Sparrow were common in the vegetation around the edge of the car park.
GIRONA > VIC > MANRESA > TÀRREGA (on road C-25)
Most of the road snakes through the Catalan pre-Pyrenees with garrigue, maquis and pine-covered slopes. Black-billed Magpie just outside the
airport grounds. House Sparrows fairly common along most of the C-25. The distance markers along the roadside in Spain allow for recording
the locations of birds outside the town and villages.
Km-200 Common Buzzard (1) overhead.
Km-188 Short-toed Eagle and another Magpie.
Km-185 Magpie (2) and Red-legged Partidge (pr).
Km-181 Collared Dove (1).
Km-173 Red-billed Chough (1) circling overhead.
Km-162 Goshawk (m) soaring.
Km-160 Raven (1).
Km-154 Rock Bunting (1).
Km-142.5 Grey Heron (1) in a dry field.
Km-141 Magpie (2).
Km-138 Kestrel (1).
Km-135 Yellow-legged Gull (1).
Km 131.5 Stonechat (1).
Km-130 Magpie (2).
Km-107 Starling sp. (100+).
Km-106 Kestrel (1).
Km-105 Kestrel (1) and Magpie (1).
Km-97 Crested Lark (1) right at the roadside verge.
TÀRREGA > LLEIDA (on road A-2)
Back down to lowland farmland dominated by vineyards and poplar plantations.
Km-495 Goldfinch (7-8).
Km-487 Magpie (1) in vineyard.
Km-484 Starling sp. (15) and Magpie (1) in vineyard.
Km-481 Common Buzzard (1).
Km-478 Magpie (1).
Km-474 Magpie (2).
Km-468 Magpie (1) House Sparrow (c20).
Km-467 Magpie (1) over vineyard.
LLEIDA > MONZON > BARBASTRO > HUESCA (road N-240)
Km-105 Magpie (4) and Wood Pigeon (1).
Km-115 Wood Pigeon (2).
Km-122 Kestrel (2) and Magpie (5).
Km-124.5 Magpie (1).
Km-126 Magpie (1).
Km-130 Magpie (1).
Km-134.5 Red Kite (4), Little Egret (1), Collared Dove (3) and Carrion Crow (1).
Km-138 Magpie (6).
Km-140 Wood Pigeon (2) and Magpie (1).
Feral Pigeons in the town of Monzon.
Km-152 White Stork (3) circling overhead.
Km-154 Magpie (2).
Km-160 White Stork (3).
Km-185 Griffon Vulture (3) and Crested Lark (1).
Km-188 Common Buzzard (1) circling.
Km-193 Common Buzzard (1).
Km-195 Raven (2).
Km-198 Starling sp. (50-60).
HUESCA > JACA (road N-330)
Road climbing into the Aragónese pre-Pyrenees to the east-west valley around Jaca.
Km-581 Kestrel (1) and Common Buzzard (1).
Km-594 Griffon Vulture (8) and Crested Lark (1).
Km-613 Carrion Crow (3).
Km-618 Griffon Vulture (2).
Km-619 Lammergeier at close range low overhead - fantastic first views. Raven (2).
Km-638 Common Buzzard (1).
Km-639 Common Buzzard (1).
Two Red Kites flying low over the town below the level of the highest buildings
reminded me of old stories of this bird in urban London in previous
centuries. One was scavenging along the main street of Avenida Regimento
de Galicia. After checking in to the Gran Hotel de Jaca we went for a walk in the park outside along the Paseo de la Constitucion. The long
rectangular park, effectively an island surrounded on all sides by a bustling one-way system, is planted with mainly evergreen shrubs shaded
by tall pines. Red Squirrel (1). Blackbird (m). Firecrest (2) - one singing and another observed. House Sparrows common. Collared Dove (4).
Robin (2). Magpie (8). Coal Tit (pr). The western end of the park surveys a valley with the medieval Puente San Miguel over the Río Aragón. A
Green Woodpecker was calling from down near to the bridge.
Nearby we walked around the Ciudadel, a star-shaped fort dating from the C16th which have great views north to the main mountains of the
Valle de Canfranc and south to the impressive limestone mass and peak of Peña de Oroel (1769m). A few Rock Sparrows were heard uttering
their wheezing calls from the turrets and walls of the old citadel before two flocks totalling c50 flew in to roost. Magpies common. White
Wagtails (3) feeding in the short turf of the dry moat grazed by a few Red Deer. Red Kite (1) overhead. Blackbird calling. Several Blue Tits in
the trees along Primer Viernes de Mayo.
Just before dusk we visited the Catedral. Very dark inside with Feral Pigeons and House Sparrows common on the roof outside and a White
Wagtail in the street.
Friday 5 March 2004
PASEO DE LA CONSTITUCION, JACA
Chaffinch (12) and several Collared Doves.
JACA > PUENTE DE LA REINA (road N-240 east towards Pamplona)
Habitat along this road is low-intensive, small scale farming with field boundaries demarcated by strips of rough grassland or small, natural
banks - no hedges or stone walls.
Blackbirds fairly common along the roadside.
Carrion Crow in the village of Santa Cilia.
Km-301 Rock Bunting (1).
Km-300 Common Buzzard (1) and Kestrel (1).
Several White Wagtails observed by the roadside.
Collared Dove also noted on telegraph wires near the villages.
PUENTE DE LA REINA > RIGLOS turnoff south of MURILLO DE GÁLLEGO
Drive south along the A-132 through wooded valleys and gorges following the Ríos Asabon and Gállego to some twisty mountainous roads
sandwiched between the impressive peaks around the Mallos de Riglos and Agüero. Rock Bunting perched on a crash barrier on a sharp bend
at one of the small bridges over the Río Asabon. Had a quick stop here and found Griffon Vulture (8) overhead, several Jays calling, a Buzzard
mobbed by three Carrion Crows, a Sparrowhawk over some beech woodland, and Blackbird (3).
Km-50 Magpie (1).
Km-48 Blackbird (1).
Head of the Embalse de la Peña, 42° 24' 01N 000° 45' 29W
The river, which was a strange aquamarine blue colour like much of the water in this area, widens to from a reservoir surrounded by
phragmites reedbeds. In the distance, from a southerly bearing, we heard an approaching flock of birds which were uttering resounding and
trumpeting yelps. As they neared on a northerly course I realised they were Common Cranes and this flock held 74 birds flying in a V-shaped
formation. Scanning with the binoculars revealed a flight path in which several more flocks were following. The second flock contained around
400 Cranes, 64 in the third, 185 in the fourth, 180 in the fifth and 87 in the sixth congregate, all at a height of around 200 to 250 metres
overhead. Also in this area: Several Siskins and Coal Tits calling, a Grey Partridge over the road, a Cormorant on the reservoir, a Griffon
Vulture drifting lazily south and a Grey Wagtail downstream. After the last of the Cranes we continued on towards Riglos but then had to stop
at the small village of Santa María when it became apparent that this was not just a small passage of Cranes. Getting out of the car at 1115h
and looking south again, we saw the start of a much larger passage. Hundreds and hundreds began passing over - I estimated 10000 in the
next 30 minutes! The collective ensemble of calling birds grew louder and the atmosphere in the valley became quite strange. Every dog in
nearby villages and farms began barking at the tops of their voices, though whether at the birds or just joining in was difficult to work out.
The whole sky was scored with lines and Vs trailing to the north. Some confusion broke out as a group of four birds came back from the north.
On meeting a front of over 500 birds they caused them to dissipate from their steady northerly courses. Had these returning birds exchanged
some information on the weather and flying conditions over the main chain where it appeared to be snowing quite heavily? They all appeared
to alter their route and turn south but as hundreds more were continuing from the south they were soon so caught up in the eagerness for
the journey home that they ultimately continued north as intended. Over the next few days, more and more of the wintering Iberian
population flew over to France arriving at the next stepping stone on the route to Scandinavia. Also around the village of Santa María: Cirl
Bunting (2) singing, Blackbird calling, Long-tailed Tits calling, Hoopoe in the a tree beside the bar restaurant, Red Kite, Green Woodpecker
calling, White Wagtail, House Sparrow, Tree Sparrow, Griffon Vulture (4), Great Tit singing and a Grey Partridge calling.
Santa María to Murillo de Gállego area:
Griffon Vulture (87) overhead between the Mallos of Riglos and Agüero. More Cranes over the circling vultures. Many vultures sitting on the
crags here in a group of nine on a pinnacle. Blue Rock Thrush (f).
Small unclassified road from the A-132 to Riglos:
Immediately after turning off to the left for the road north towards the village is an area of olive groves. Many Crested Larks here including
several singing and displaying birds. White Wagtail (1), Griffon Vulture (o/h), Goldfinch (10), Great Tit (3-4), Serin (2) and another singing
male, Firecrest singing, Dunnock (pr), Cirl Bunting (pr), and Chiffchaffs (4-5) flitting around the grove on the right. A male Stonechat perched
further along the road.
RIGLOS & LOS MALLOS DE RIGLOS 42° 28' 55N 000° 43' 51W
The village (691m) is very small with very narrow streets where only residents are allowed to drive. Riglos is at the end of a road which meets
the slopes below the towering and impressive red sandstone peaks known as Los Mallos. Parked outside the village just before entering and
walked up through the steep, narrow streets towards the church. In a garden full of fruiting plants, Blackcaps (7-8, mainly males) were
feasting on the berries along with more Chiffchaffs flitting restlessly around the vegetation. House Sparrows were numerous and their calls
were the loudest sound around the quiet settlement. Blackbird and Robin were also fairly common, probably representing a fair amount of
wintering birds from the higher Pyrenees. While taking a few photos on arrival at the church, LK spotted the first Wallcreeper (a male) on the
wall of the first house below the church. By the time I arrived it had disappeared and there was a long, long wait before I was to eyeball the
gem. After around 30 minutes of searching the wall and roofs at this end of the village and noting Black Redstart (imm), Crag Martin (2),
Spotless Starling, Kestrel, Blackcap (f), White Wagtail, Robin, Chaffinch, Blue Tit, Feral Pigeon, and Song Thrush (2-3), we headed up to the
slope above the church at the base of the cliffs. While standing just upslope of the church and searching the cliffs, LK looked back towards
the village and found another Wallcreeper on the church tower just metres away. This female individual provided exceptional views over the
next two to three minutes as it scaled the walls and hopped over a tiled roof. Bobbing and flicking its wings as it climbed revealed the
distinctive red, black and white pattern in all too brief glimpses but when the bird took to the air its dazzling pattern was fully exposed as it
metamorphosed into something between a butterfly and a Hoopoe. On the wall it was a confident climber on the vertical surfaces but now in
flight it appeared weak in a jerky, fluttering manner which was interspersed with brief glides. It flew the short distance to the cliffs, towered
upwards and disappeared around a face into a deep cleft. Alpine Accentor (2) feeding in the short turf of the slope. Walking left along the
slope, at least 15 birds were present. Occasionally they would fly up a feed on the rocky surfaces on the base of the cliffs. In flight, they
appeared quite big uttering lark-like calls in undulating flight. Relatively tame. Blackbirds relatively common in the scrub at the base of the
cliffs up to the right of the church. Another two Crag Martins overhead. Black Redstart (Ad male). Linnet (4) including a singing bird. Blue Tit
(1). Robin (2). Sardinian Warbler (singing male). Chaffinch calling. Another two, or the same, Crag Martins. Blue Rock Thrush (m). Linnet (8-9).
Chiffchaff (1). Griffon Vulture (41) overhead at 1525h. Black Woodpecker drumming on the edge of the village on the southern side. Greenfinch
over the village. Red-billed Chough calling.
DRIVE BACK TO JACA
Many Griffon Vultures noted. A Red Fox in an open field on the Pamplona to Jaca road.
Saturday 6 March 2004
House Sparrow, Collared Dove and Feral Pigeon in the park along the Paseo de la Constitucion.
VALLE DE CANFRANC
JACA > CANDANCHÚ & ASTUN (road N-330/E-07)
Magpie in Castiello de Jaca
Km-657 Magpie (1).
Stopped off at a small quarry on the left shortly after Villanúa on the road north. It was being used as a rubbish tip. Searched the cliff and the
crags thoroughly for Wallcreeper but none were present. On arrival a flock of Alpine Chough (72) were circling overhead. Great Tit singing.
Lammergeier (2) circling low overhead at times passing just over the top of the cliffs. Peregrine (1). Red Kite (1). On the cliffs above the
accumulating waste, 49 Alpine Chough were quietly perched probably waiting to return to search for scraps. Migrating flock of 15 Black
Kites heading north through the valley. Wren singing. Raven (2) passed overhead. A Grey Wagtail flew into the rubbish heap. A large flock of
Alpine Chough returned to the site and their cacophony of calls sounded quite different from their red-billed relatives - high pitched, shrill and
far-carrying even in the windy conditions. Around 150 were now present and many of them gradually came down to pick amongst the rubbish,
some birds approaching quite close. Structurally, the Alpine Chough was distinguishable from the red-billed species by a number of features.
Overall it resembled an oversized Blackbird rather than a Corvid. The tail was obviously longer and the wings did not project to the end of the
tail as in pyrrhocorax. This created the impression of a long and slim crow and the shorter, stubby bill gave a small headed appearance. From
memory, the legs appeared shorter too. At close range the smooth, glossy, jet back plumage revealed this species to be a much more
beautiful bird than the Blackbird nevertheless. In terms of aerial behaviour the alpine compatriot was just as stunning and we observed some
fantastic flights of them above the quarry. When the large flock returned they were at a fair height overhead but we watched birds plummet
out of the sky and drop towards us like falling stones as the crows completely folded their wings back against their bodies to quickly loose
height. This was followed by a sudden opening of the long, rounded wings to correct their stalls, all in a fairly graceful manner. A Red-billed
Chough was heard calling but could not be located and perhaps it was actually another rarer call from the yellow-billed crows. Carrion Crow
Driving on up the valley, a flock of around 75-80 Alpine Chough were observed over Canfranc Estación.
Astun ski station:
The area was very busy with skiers and the heavy snow, wind and poor visibility made for poor conditions while we searched for Snowfinch.
Explored around the car park, the streams, around the buildings and even the bins at the back of the hotel but no Snowfinches were found.
Alpine Chough common with birds feeding around the few wind-blown snow-free patches and flocks above the hills. Red Kite (3). Crag Martin
Candanchú ski station:
Couldn't find Snowfinch here either although one of many flocks of Alpine Chough contained over 100 individuals.
JACA > SABIÑANIGO (road N-330)
Km-638 Common Buzzard (1).
Km-635 Carrion Crow (3).
VALLE DE TENA (roads N-260 & A-136)
Magpie at turnoff for Biescas.
Km-509 Magpie (2) and Carrion Crow (1).
Fomigal ski stations:
No Snowfinches found. A flock of 60 Black Kites observed migrating to the pass at the French border in blizzard conditions. Red Kite hunting
around the main ski station.
Stopped at the gorge at the south end of the village. Raven (2). Common Crane (65) north overhead before returning back south - the snow
impeding their passage over the chain. Wood Pigeon (2). Red Kite (2-3) just above the gorge. House Sparrow (c12). Lammergeier (Ad) low
overhead. Griffon Vulture (3). Peregrine (1). Flock of (23) Red Kites circling high overhead.
Road back to Jaca, N-330
Km-633 Raven (1).
Red Kite on the outskirts of Jaca.
Ciudadela area: Rock Sparrows calling. A total of 31 Magpie observed flying to roost between 1845h and 1900h. White Wagtail (2). Red Kite
Catedral: Feral Pigeons. Red Kite overhead at 1907h just before dusk.
Sunday 7 March 2004
Carrion Crow outside the hotel at 0736h.
JACA > OROEL
Blackbird (pr). Robin calling. Raven croaking.
Around the parador: Wren singing. Coal Tit singing. Chaffinch singing. Crested Tit (4+). Goldcrest. Coal Tit. Black Woodpecker drumming in the
distance. Griffon Vulture (4+) overhead. Blue Tits calling and singing.
BERNUÉS > SAN JUAN DE LA PEÑA (road A-1603)
Long, winding 12km road up to the new monasterio on the top. Jays calling - one observed. Rock Bunting by roadside. Red Kite (1). Robin
SAN JUAN DE LA PEÑA 42° 30' 42N 000° 39' 34W
Mass migration of Cranes evident again today. Hundreds of birds passing north.
Wren singing. Several Short-toed Treecreepers singing and observed. Chaffinches common. Nuthatch (8) in the woodland around the
monastery. Three Great Spotted Woodpeckers observed and another two birds drumming. A pair of Bullfinches eating the flowers of a birch
tree. Firecrest singing. Mistle Thrush singing. Crested Tits common and many birds singing. Great Tit singing. Griffon Vultures overhead. Raven
Balcon del Pirineo:
Walked through Scots Pine woodland with a rich understory of Holly to a fantastic viewpoint north across a wide area of the Pyrenees. Close
views of Griffon Vultures with around 30 birds in the immediate area - more in the distance. Distant views of a Lammergeier. Scoping north
towards the snow capped peaks revealed a broad front of hundreds of Common Crane passing over into France. Crag Martin (2). A nymphalid
butterfly was glimpsed disappearing over the edge before it could be identified. Red Kite. Long-tailed Tit (2-3) at the mirador. Chaffinch
Woodland south of the grassy area at the monastery:
Goldfinch overhead. Mistle Thrush (pr). Great Tit, Nuthatch, Blue Tit, Short-toed Treecreeper, Goldcrest, Crested Tit and Coal Tit.
Trail up to the telecommunications mast:
Blue Tit, Firecrest singing, Chaffinch calling, Raven (4) overhead, Blackbird alarm calling, Great Tit and Sparrowhawk (m). While 'scoping the
woodland towards the ridge I picked up a large black, crow-sized bird in undulating flight. It landed on a tree trunk - Black Woodpecker!
Crested Tits calling. Griffon Vultures and Wood Pigeons overhead.
Road down to Santa Cruz:
Golden Eagles (2 imms) stooping from a great height into the valley here. Griffon Vulture carrying nesting material. Carrion Crow (2) in the
N-240 > PUENTE LA REINA
Km-296 Common Buzzard (3) and Carrion Crow (2).
Km-297 Crested Lark (2) in Santa Cilia.
Km-299 Red Kite (1) and Carrion Crow (1).
Km-300 Common Buzzard (1) perched on telegraph pole.
PUENTE LA REINA > RIGLOS (road A-132)
Clouded Yellow (Colias croceus) (m).
Km-66 Red Kite (1), Common Buzzard (1), Mistle Thrush (30-40).
Km-57 Mistle Thrush (10).
RIGLOS & LOS MALLOS DE RIGLOS 42° 28' 55N 000° 43' 51W
Blackbird, House Sparrow, Crag Martin (3-4 at 1530h), White Wagtail (1), Blackcap (f), Sardinian Warbler calling, Egyptian Vulture (2), Linnet
(pr), Crag Martin (100+ at dusk), Blue Rock Thrush (2 mm), Alpine Accentor (c10), Stonechat (m), Black Redstart (m+f), Linnet (4), Peregrine
(1). Feral Pigeons flying around the cliffs resembled wild Rock Doves. Finally at 1755h as we were about to leave, a Wallcreeper flew overhead
about 50 metres up along the cliff face. Followed it along to the left but couldn't relocate it. Leaving again at 1820h, another flew left in
almost the same area as the first individual. Watched this bird for around 20 minutes as it worked its way up the face towards the top,
eventually getting too high to be watched through the scope. Identified as a male coming into breeding plumage. Cirl Bunting singing at
sunset. Alpine Accentors still feeding at the base of the cliffs after sunset.
Monday 8 March 2004
GRAN HOTEL JACA
Blue Tit (3) in trees outside the hotel in the Paseo de la Constitucion. Chaffinch singing and Magpies overhead.
JACA > PUENTE DE LA REINA (road N-240 east towards Pamplona)
Km-287 Great Tit (1) Magpie (2).
Km-290 Red Kite (1) and Carrion Crow (1).
Km-296 Red Kite (1), Carrion Crow (3) and Starling sp. (4).
Km-300 Blackbird (1).
PUENTE DE LA REINA > VALLE DE HECHO (road A-176)
Km-0.5 Stonechat (3).
Km-1 Red Kite (3) and Carrion Crow (2).
Km-1.5 Blackbird (1).
JAVIERREGAY 42° 35' 01N 000° 43' 51W
An impressive flock of Griffon Vultures (78) circling beside the village and descending towards what was probably some fresh carrion hidden
from view behind the small hill to the south. One bird settled on a small electricity pylon. Also a single Egyptian Vulture (1) within the flock.
Red Kite (2) also in attendance. Noted around the village: Chiffchaffs in scrub, White Wagtail, Blackbird, House Sparrows (numerous), and
VALLE DE HECHO (road A-176) (cont.)
Km-8 Red Kite (1).
Km-9 Grey Wagtail (1), Mistle Thrush (5), Blackbird (1), Common Buzzard (2).
One of the Buzzards was perched on the ground, the other on a telegraph pole.
Km-13 Blackbird (1).
Km-15 Red Kite (1) over the river.
Km-15 Carrion Crow (1).
Km-16.5 Red-legged Partridge (pr).
Red Kite in the village of Hecho - observed picking something off the ground while in flight without landing. A further two Red Kites seen over
the village. Chaffinch (10+) at the turnoff for Gabardito. Grey Wagtail feeding in a muddy puddle here and a Dipper flying downstream along
the Río Aragón through the narrow gorge.
BOCA DEL INFIERNO 42° 40' 01N 000° 43' 45W
This impressive chasm with the road tunnelling into the mountainside is a well known site for seeing Wallcreeper and one of the lowest
breeding sites in the Pyrenees. On arrival it was cold and windy and two feet long icicles hung from the rocks. By the time we left in the early
afternoon the temperature had increased remarkably with a Common Wall Lizard (Podarcis
muralis) basking in the sunshine while melt water dripped
everywhere. Dipper (1) over the river. Griffon Vulture (4) overhead.
Searched the gorge from 100 metres below the tunnel to 400 metres above the tunnel. Following an unsuccessful search we decided to drive
on up the valley but just around the bend the way was blocked by a sheet of ice swathing the road due refrozen melt water dripping off the
cliff. One car was already trapped so we turned back until the sun was high enough to thaw it. Returned to investigate the gorge and after
about an hour, while driving back towards the tunnel, a Wallcreeper was observed in flight heading upstream over the top of the gorge about
level with the road. This was around 200 metres north of the tunnel and I immediately stopped at a convenient lay-by here. The gorge is at it
narrowest at this point and the pines and vegetation along the road obscure much of the view of the opposite rock face. For another hour we
patiently waited and searched 500 metres of the gorge again until the high, faltering piping call/song was heard for a short time above the
tumbling river. Twenty minutes later we were ready to move on when walking back to the car
when one flew past less than 100 metres north of the
tunnel and landed just opposite us at the top of the rock face! It was only about 15 metres distant and, like the Riglos bird, was unperturbed
by our presence. This individual was identified as a male moulting into breeding plumage with the black colouring on the throat beginning to
form. Had great views for about an hour and in all this time it contented itself with feeding along a 20 metre stretch of the gorge. It was still
there when we left. This prolonged observation allowed more study of its unique behaviour. When it occasionally changed its vertical position
it would drop or dive outwards away from the rock in a flutter of spread wings before spinning back in and landing on a bare vertical surface
lower down. Invertebrate food was regularly found particularly in crevices or around the roots of plants with tenacious holds on tiny ledges.
Spiders appeared to be the most consistently caught food. Also noted: Eurasian Treecreeper (2), Firecrest (2) with great views of a male,
Crested Tit (common), Goldcrest (1), Black Kite migrating north through the valley followed by another (5) birds, Long-tailed Tit (4-5), Blue Tit
and another Dipper.
SELVA DE OZA
Nuthatch feeding in snowy pines. Eurasian Treecreeper, Chaffinch, Carrion Crow, Goldcrest, Blue Tit and Great Tit noted. Two of the
treecreepers were watched feeding on man-made structure (my first observation of this behaviour in this species, although noted in
woodpeckers). One was on an old bar/restaurant, climbing up the white painted walls. The second was on the same building but searching for
food on the wooden window shutters. Grey Wagtail over the river. Griffon Vulture (2) overhead.
ROAD UP TO GABARDITO
Griffon Vultures circling overhead. Great Tit and Coal Tit singing. Crested Tits calling. Raven (4) and calling. At Gabardito a pair of Marsh Tits
were watched a close range in some scrub in the open area - first picked up by their calls. Crested Tits common here. Flock of c20
Chaffinch feeding around bare patch of ground around a stream in forest which was beginning to thaw. A distant flock of
10 Citril Finch
observed flying over the forest. Spectacular views of the surrounding peaks here.
DRIVE BACK DOWN THE HECHO VALLEY
Stopped at the village of Siresa 42° 47' 09N 000° 43' 41W
Red Kite (4) and a Griffon Vulture over the village. Checked a small gorge for Wallcreeper here - none present. Black Redstart, Rock Bunting,
Raven, Chiffchaff, Chaffinch, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Great Tit, Magpie, Robin and Wren noted.
South of the village of Hecho 42° 43' 20N 000° 44' 51W
Red Kite (5), White Wagtail (20), Griffon Vulture (2), Water Pipit (2) arrived from the south and landed on the telegraph wires, Sparrowhawk,
Km-10 Red Kite (1) and Robin (2).
Km-9 Mistle Thrush (5).
Red Kite at Javierregay.
Km-2.5 Buzzard (1) and a Stonechat over the road.
Km-1.5 Red Kite (1) and Magpie (1).
Km-1 Mistle Thrush (15) and a Blackbird over the road.
PUENTE DE LA REINA > JACA (road N-240)
Km-310 Red Kite (1).
Km-286 Mistle Thrush (8).
White Wagtail (2) and Magpie (3) on the road into Jaca. Magpies flying over the town to roost again.
Tuesday 9 March 2004
JACA 42° 34' 12N 000° 33' 10W
White Wagtail, Carrion Crow and House Sparrow outside the hotel.
JACA > HUESCA (road N-300)
Km-646 Collared Dove (1) and Magpie (1).
Km-638 Mistle Thrush (12).
Km-625 Magpie (7).
Km-617 Collared Dove (2) and Magpie (1).
Km-614.5 Blackbird (1).
JACA > HUESCA (road E-07)
Km-579 Crested Lark (2).
Km-578 Crested Lark (3).
Km-575 Crested Lark (1) and Magpie (2).
HUESCA > BARBASTRO > MONZON > LLEIDA (road N-240)
Km-202 Griffon Vulture (2) and Magpie (2).
Km-201 Starling sp. (7-8).
Km-195 Common Buzzard (1).
Km-190 Griffon Vulture (24).
Km-186 Collared Dove (1), House Sparrows and Starlings.
Km-183 Crested Lark (2).
Km-175 Crested Lark (1).
Km-173.5 Red-legged Partridge (pr).
Km-172 House Sparrows.
Km-170 Crested Lark (1).
Km-166 Red-legged Partridge (pr).
Km-164 Crested Lark (2).
Km-162 Crested Lark (2).
Km-159 House Martin (2).
Monzon: Crested Lark, Collared Dove, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Feral Pigeon and Magpie noted.
Km-146 Kestrel (1).
Km-140 Magpie (1).
Km-138 Magpie (1).
Km-135 Wood Pigeon (1), Magpie (1) and Collared Dove (1).
Km-134 Kestrel (1) and Magpie (1).
Km-130 Collared Dove (1) and Magpie (3).
Km-126 Wood Pigeon (1).
Km-122 Kestrel (1) and Magpie (1).
Km-120.5 Magpie (1).
Km-119 Magpie (1).
Km-118 Wood Pigeon (3).
Km-116 Magpie (1).
Km-110 Magpie (3).
Km-108 Magpie (1).
Km-105 Wood Pigeon (4).
Km-103 Magpie (2).
Km-101 Magpie (2).
LLEIDA > TÀRREGA (on road A-2)
Km-480 Magpie (2).
Km-488 Magpie (2).
Km-493 Magpie (3).
Km-500 Spotless Starling (3).
Buzzard at end of A-2, start of C-25.
TÀRREGA > MANRESA > VIC > GIRONA (on road C-25)
Km-113 Crested Lark (3).
Km-123 White Wagtail (2).
Km-126 Wood Pigeon (1).
Km-142 Magpie (1).
Km-147 Wood Pigeon (1).
Km-167 Goshawk (m) soaring/displaying.
Km-188 Magpie (1).
Km-228 Wood Pigeon (1).
Km-230.5 Mallard (1) over the road.
Km-235.5 Short-toed Eagle (1).
GIRONA > FIGUERES (on road N-II)
Mallard, Eurasian Starling, White Wagtail and Blackbird common.
Km-730 Jay (1).
Km-741 Robin (1).
Km-741 Pierid sp. fluttering along the verge.
Figueres: Crested Lark, Yellow-legged Gull, White Wagtail, Eurasian Starling, Feral Pigeon and House Sparrow noted.
FIGUERES > CASTELLÓ D'EMPÚRIES (on road C-260)
White Wagtail, Crested Lark and House Sparrow noted.
PARC NATURAL DELS AIGUAMOLLS DE L'EMPORDÀ
Road into the reserve from the minor road to San Pere Pescador:
House Sparrows at a muddy pool - some dust-bathing around the drier edges.
Around the car park at the reserve centre of El Cortalet:
About five pairs of White Stork active on nests in trees at the edge of the fields bordering the car park. A few birds began the bill clattering
call when we got out of the car. A male Blackcap was observed and a quick scan around revealed more along with several Chiffchaffs. Song
Thrush and Blackbird noted.
Main freshwater pool at El Cortalet from the Quim Franch Hide:
Good numbers of duck wintering on the pool - Teal, Shoveler and Mallard - and a nice selection of waders too. Little Ringed Plover (8).
Common Snipe abundant with many groups noted huddled in the vegetation. Jack Snipe (1) feeding in characteristic 'sewing machine' fashion.
Little Stint (6). Black-tailed Godwit (5). Single Dunlin present on arrival but this lone bird was joined by several small parties eventually
totalling 33. Cetti's Warbler (2-3) in full song. Chiffchaffs common with many birds feeding in the reeds and flitting across the front of the
hide. Grey Heron (2). A flock of 81 resting Lapwing were joined by a group of c150. Shelduck (pr). More of the ubiquitous Magpies. Robin
calling (not a species I've noted here during the breeding season). Cormorant (c30). White Wagtails common with at least six Water Pipits
with them. The pipits were developing into breeding colours with the nice pinkish wash appearing on most individuals. White Stork feeding right
next to the hide. Another passed over transporting a small branch to its growing nest.
Walked along part of the trail in the direction of Can Comes:
Hoopoe (1) flew up from the dry reedbed on the left just after the Bee-eater sand bank. Watched for several minutes flying in and out of
cover before eventually settling in some scrub. Stonechat (1) singing male on the fence further along the trail. Curlew (9) feeding in the field
on the left along with (c20) Eurasian Starlings. Meadow Pipits (50+) feeding further along. Two displaying Zitting Cisticolas (Fan-tailed
Warblers) over the reedbed. Blue Tit (2) noted. Cetti's Warbler singing. A male Green Woodpecker was observed in the large field on the left
allowing the features of the Iberian race sharpei to be noted: no black plumage around the eye and the moustachial stripe mainly red. Reed
Bunting, Long-tailed Tit and Magpie also found.
Around the reserve centre pond, car park and the farm:
Black Redstart (1). Chased off later by an aggressive Robin. Hoopoe (1). Green Woodpecker (1). Stonechat (2). Tree Sparrow (2+). House
Sparrow (20+). Long-tailed Tit (2 prs). Robin (2). Chiffchaff - fairly common. Serin (2 singing mm). Dunnock (1). Goldfinch (10+). Blackcap -
fairly common. Magpie. Collared Dove (15+) plus a singing individual. Common Starling (150+) at the farm. Wood Pigeon (1). Song Thrush (1).
Great Tit (1).
Mas Matà from the tower - Observatori Senillosa 42° 12' 37N 003° 05' 56W
A Glossy Ibis feeding with Cattle Egret (7) and Little Egret (18). They were later disturbed by something and took a short flight across the old
flooded rice paddies - surprised to see the perpetrator had only been a male Kestrel landing on a water vole or perhaps an amphibian. Both
egret species were in full breeding plumage. Gadwall (2 prs). Several Swallows - later building to over 20
near dusk. Spotted Redshank (1).
Common Buzzard (1) - pale phase morph. First of the Black-winged Stilts (3) arrived back. Marsh Harrier observed hunting over the coastal
reedbeds. Cormorant (69) perched on two trees growing out of the reedbed. Common Snipe (100+). White Wagtails common and at least one
Yellow Wagtail. Grey Heron (2). Coot (2prs). Curlew (3). Linnet overhead. Over 200 Teal on the pool in front of the Closa del Puig hide. Ruff
(m) moulting into breeding plumage. Black-tailed Godwit (2)
Walked along the trail passing Mas Matà towards Camping Nautic Almata:
Fantastic views of a male Penduline Tit feeding on the edge of the reed bed along the path near the Gall Marì hide. Apparently breeds on the
reserve but this was my first following visits in July 1998 and June 2000. Chiffchaffs common along the edge of the reeds here with birds
flitting everywhere. Also Corn Bunting (1), Stonechat (1) and several Blue Tits noted here. Yellow-legged Gull (6) on the old rice fields, which
were being grazed by cattle and Camargue Horses, with more birds passing over to a roosting site. Many Water Pipits appeared to be arriving
in the hour before dusk and over 100 were soon present along with many White Wagtails. Cetti's Warbler singing.
Gall Marì hide:
Three pairs of territorial Little Grebes present on this pool. All birds in full breeding plumage and uttering territorial display calls. Great Crested
Grebe (1). Shoveler (17). Gadwall (3). Mallard (10). Two Marsh Harriers and a wintering female Hen Harrier hunting over the extensive
reedbed. Cetti's Warbler singing. Zitting Cisticola song-flighting. Cormorants overhead. Buzzard. Stonechat (1). Coot
(pr). Yellow-legged Gull (oh). Small groups of Mallards passing.
Walked back to the tower past Mas Matà as the sun set:
A group of 14 Redshank had since arrived. Two Glossy Ibis flying over the reserve
was a nice evocative sight. Sand Martin (20+) hawking insects. Tree Sparrow, Robin
and Blackbird back at the tower. Driving out of the reserve here, a pair of Kestrels were observed flying up to an artificial nestbox mounted on
a small pylon.