waxwing

Outing Report

Spanish Pyrenees - 17th to 22nd March 2013.

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South Dublin members gather for a group picture on the Col de Formigal. Picture by Stephen McAvoy.

South Dublin Members at Col de Formigal, 20th March 2013 (picture: Stephen McAvoy)

Day 1 - Sunday 17th March

Heading for the airport at 3:30 on the morning of St. Patrick's Day, I felt more than a touch of envy watching the Nite Link buses on the Blackrock bypass ferrying their cargo of revellers homeward to their warm, comfortable beds. But, on the positive side, I, along with twenty four other Irish birders, was about to board a flight bound for Barcelona and onward for what was hoped to be an excitement filled week searching for exotic species in the Spanish Pyrenees. As with the groups previous two Spanish trips, to Cáceres, in 2011 and 2012, we were to be accompanied by our experienced guide Godfreid Schreur and again his knowledge of the Spanish countryside and the wildlife thereof was to prove invaluable.


Part of a flock of Little Bustards seen from the highway en route to Huesca. Picture by Colum Clarke.

Little Bustards, near Tarrega, 17th March 2013 (picture: Colum Clarke)

On arrival in Barcelona we straight away boarded a coach for Huesca an old Roman city in the Aragon region which was to be our base for the week. Even before we had left the airport we spotted our first bird of the trip as a single Pied Wagtail scurried along the roadway in front of the terminal building.


We made one birding stop along the way to Huesca, which proved to be quite fruitful with the group getting good views of Little Bustard and Great Spotted Cuckoo. The latter a solitary bird that remained perched on a tree for quite some time providing us with an excellent opportunity to examine its detail. The Great Spotted Cuckoo is slightly larger than the Common Cuckoo but looks much larger with its broad wings and long narrow tail. Grey above with a grey cap, grey wings, a yellowish face and upper breast, and white underparts. Views were also had of Black Kite, Little Egret, and Hoopoe, albeit only briefly in flight, before we moved on to Huesca.


A very shy Great Spotted Cuckoo spotted on the journey to Huesca. Picture by Colum Clarke.

Great Spotted Cuckoo, 17th March 2013 (picture: Colum Clarke)

Huesca is the capital city of the province of the same name, one of three provinces in the autonomous region of Aragon, Spain. The city itself contains many interesting buildings of architectural and historical importance. Outstanding of these is the Romanesque cathedral, built between the 13th and 16th centuries. The city also boasts numerous parks including Parque Miguel Servet, the largest park in the city, with several interesting buildings and statues like the Origami birds statue. Over the course of the week evening time would see at least some of the group scouring the treetops there in search of Firecrest. If not getting neck strain in the park, evening strolls through the city streets brought some good finds such as a Lesser Kestrel perched side-by-side with a Jackdaw on the metal railing surrounding what appeared to be a water tower.


Cirl Bunting near the reservoir at Embalse de la Sotonera. Picture by Stephen McAvoy.

Cirl Bunting, Embalse de la Sotonera, 18th March 2013 (picture: Stephen McAvoy)

Day 2 - Monday 18th March

Our first stop of the day was the Embalse de la Sotonera, a reservoir, which attracts thousands of wildfowl in winter and terns and waders during passage times. Probably the best time to visit is February to early March when up to 20,000 Cranes rest here, en route north from their wintering site at Gallocanta. While we were arriving a little bit later than that, we were optimistic of catching sight of the last of those cranes before they started their journey northwards.


From the bus way we had views of Buzzard, Red Kite and Kestrel. We also caught our first trip sighting of the ubiquitous Spotless Starling. Our guide pointed out a ruined building by the roadside that gave good possibilities for spotting Little Owl. However, all was quiet in the vicinity as we passed on the way to the reservoir. On arrival we had sight of Yellow and White Wagtail, Northern Wheatear and Skylark in the surrounding fields. Other passerines in evidence were Black Redstart, Cirl Bunting, and Serin in the trees near the waters edge. Good views were had of Short-toed Treecreeper, which was only heard on the group's 2012 Spanish trip.


Cranes heading northwards towards the Pyrenees at Embalse de la Sotonera. Picture by Colum Clarke.

Cranes, Embalse de la Sotonera, 18th March 2013 (picture: Colum Clarke)

Out on the water could be seen Garganey, Gadwall and Red-crested Pochard. A number of wader species were also present including Dunlin, Redshank and Black-tailed Godwit. On the far edge of the reservoir were Great White Heron. We also had views of a Black-crowned Night Heron. In the distance in a field on the far side of the water was a small flock of Common Cranes and after a while we had the pleasure of seeing them take off and begin their migratory flight northwards towards the Pyrenees. Even in small numbers they were an impressive sight! As we left Sotonera we had fine views, from the bus, of the Little Owl perched outside its roadside residence.


South Dublin members tackle the Mallos de Riglos tracks. Picture by Joe Geraty.

Mallos de Riglos, 18th March 2013 (picture: Joe Geraty)

The Mallos de Riglos are a set of conglomerate rock formations that make up the impressive backdrop to the village of Riglos some 45km to the northeast of Huesca. Rising to some 300 metres high, they form part of the foothills of the Pyrenees. Because of their relatively vertical sides, the Mallos are a popular destination for climbers. And, indeed on the afternoon we arrived, some members of the local police force were to be seen practicing their mountain climbing skills. These impressive rocks are a good place to see Lammergeier, wintering Wallcreeper and, Alpine Accentor.


After a short walk through the winding streets of Riglos we found ourselves at the base of the Mallos. Within a short space of time we had spotted Griffon and Egyptian Vulture along with Peregrine and Short-Toed Eagle. Off in the distance we caught our first sighting of the impressive Lammergeier, gliding lazily, high over the valley of the Gallego River. We scanned the cliff face for signs of Wallcreeper but to no avail.


A first cousin of our own Dunnock, an Alpine Accentor at Riglos. Picture by Joe Geraty.

Alpine Accentor, Riglos, 18th March 2013 (picture: Joe Geraty)

All of a sudden we heard the most almighty bang coming from what seemed to be right above us. Almost simultaneously one of the group spotted, a short distance in front of us hopping around at the base of the rock face, a single Alpine Accentor. Not knowing the origin of the noise I'd just heard and given that we were very much exposed to the elements my first thought was 'I'm going to die in a thunderstorm stuck on the side of a mountain in Spain'. This was very quickly overridden by the desire to get another tick on my life list. So I put my fears aside and joined my fellow birders getting excellent views of this Robin sized passerine as it foraged among the rocks. We never did establish definitively what that sound was; but, the prevailing school of thought was that it most likely was the sonic boom from a military aircraft as it passed overhead hidden from view by the thick cloud.


South Dublin members playing 'Follow me Leader' at the Castillo de Loarre. Picture by Godefried Schreur.

Castillo de Loarre, 18th March 2013 (picture: Godefried Schreur)

Our next stop was Castillo de Loarre a fortified complex built largely during the 11th and 12th centuries, when its position on the frontier between Christian and Muslim lands gave it strategic importance. In the pine trees near the castle we had views of Crested Tit as it flitted about. Firecrest was heard nearby. But, unfortunately we didn't get a sighting.


From the far side of the castle looking down into the valley we caught sight of Dartford and Sardinian Warbler. Looking back up the hill towards the castle we located our first Choughs of the trip. A Lammergeier flew into view high above the castle. Again it was too far away to be able to discern the fine details of the bird; but, it did come closer than our first sighting at Riglos earlier in the day. Another nice find, and a first for me, was a Ring Ouzel which appeared and disappeared with equal suddenness as it flew among the small scrubby trees that ran down the valley.


The magnificent Lammergeier over Castillo de Loarre. Picture by Colum Clarke.

Lammergeier or Bearded Vulture, Castillo de Loarre, 18th March 2013 (picture: Colum Clarke)

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Day 3 - Tuesday 19th March

On Day 3 the group took in a number of sites to the South of Huesca. Steppe ecosystems are in danger in most of Europe. In one such ecosystem, may be found our first stop of the day, the El Planeron bird reserve. Located 15km from the town of Belchite, it was created by Sociedad Española de Ornitología/BirdLife in 1992 and declared an Area of Special Cultural Interest and Area of Special Protection for Birds thanks to its botanical and ornithological wealth.


Our targets for this part of the trip were two Lark species: The Lesser Short-toed and, the more elusive Dupont's Lark whose entire European population is restricted to a handful of sites in Spain including El Planeron. As we made our way towards Belchite one of our first birds of the day was a lark. Not Dupont's Lark; but, a couple of Calandra Lark running along the road at a motorway exit on way!


Searching for Dupont's Lark on the El Planeron Steppe. Picture by Godefried Schreur.

El Planeron Steppe near Belchite, 19th March 2013 (picture: Godefried Schreur)

It took a while after we arrived at the reserve; but, eventually we did hear Dupont's Lark calling. Even though it sounded like it was nearby we couldn't get a sight at all. We were in any event kept occupied as numerous species were present and showing. A number of raptor species were seen in flight including Griffon and Egyptian Vulture, Black and Red Kite and Marsh Harrier. Stonechat turned up for the first time on the trip. Also sighted were Black-bellied and Pin-tailed Sandgrouse. Crested and Short-Toed Larks made appearances as did the sought after Lesser Short-toed Lark. While waiting for the Dupont's Lark we were treated to good views of Stone Curlew, a nice find on the day. Finally we located the mysterious Dupont's Lark as it ran briefly out from cover. For a good fifteen or twenty minutes we watched as it darted around in the scrubby vegetation and all in the group managed to get at least some view of one of Europe's rarest species.


Down among the reeds, Black-winged Stilts at Bujaraloz Salt Lagoon. Picture by Colum Clarke.

Black-winged Stilts, Bujaraloz, 19th March 2013 (picture: Colum Clarke)

Unfortunately we didn't have time to visit the ruined town of Belchite which stands preserved as a reminder of the Spanish Civil War of the 1930s, so we moved on to our next birding venue, the salt lagoon at Bujaraloz. On arrival we walked a short distance and took up our viewing position near the ruin of the old salt works. From here we could see Black-winged Stilt, Shelduck and Black-headed Gull out on the lagoon. Also showing closer in, were both Kentish and Little Ringed Plover and a Golden Eagle was spotted as it soared above us for a brief period.


As we left the lagoon for our final birding site of the day we passed a roadside pond. An unplanned stop there proved well worth the effort as we had excellent views of Little Ringed Plover, Black-winged Stilt and Green Sandpiper at close range. Sariñena, our final stop of the day, is the largest natural fresh water lake in the Province of Huesca. Here can be found typical water birds like Cormorants, Herons, Egrets, Gulls and numerous species of wader. Over 10,000 ducks spend the winter here. On the day we arrived things were a bit quiet on the bird front. However, we did have views of Chiffchaff and Meadow Pipit while Alpine Swift darted about above our heads. Bearded and Penduline Tit were heard as was Cetti's Warbler.


Perfect Wallcreeper habitat at Embalse de Lanuza. Picture by Joe Geraty.

Embalse de Lanuza, 20th March 2013 (picture: Joe Geraty)

Day 4 - Wednesday 20th March

Day 4 saw the group leaving the plains and heading north towards the Pyrenees, where we were to visit a number of sites along the Tena Valley and Gallego River. Our first destination was the woodland around the hermitage of Santa Elena. Shortly after disembarking the coach and commencing our walk we heard Green Woodpecker in the trees but, unfortunately didn't manage to catch a glimpse of it. From a vantage point on the bridge close to the park's entrance we had excellent views of Dipper.


As we climbed the track higher into the canopy of trees we had sightings of Coal, Great and Long-tailed Tit and Firecrest was also seen flitting among the trees. Lammergeier too put in an appearance again in flight but, close enough on this occasion to be able to identify some of the details of this splendid bird. The underwing showing a dark slate grey/black, contrasting with the buff coloured body and head and a quite distinctive wedge shaped tail. The steep rock faces in the park at Santa Elena seemed to provide ideal habitat for Wallcreeper and it was one of our target species for the site. However, despite thorough scanning none were in evidence while we were there.


The elusive Wallcreeper near the dam wall at Lanuza. Picture by Colum Clarke.

Wallcreeper, Embalse de Lanuza, 20th March 2013 (picture: Colum Clarke)

Continuing our search for the elusive Wallcreeper we moved on to the Embalse de Lanuza and shortly after arrival we hit the jackpot! A single bird was spotted near the top of the dam wall. Due to the uniform light grey surface of the concrete dam this was possibly the best place we could have sighted the small passerine. The plumage is primarily blue-grey. Its most striking plumage feature, though, are its extraordinary crimson wings. The coloured part of the wing is largely hidden when the wings are folded. However, it provides a dramatic splash of colour when the bird is in motion. We had plenty of time to take in the details of this exquisite little bird as it moved about on the vertical face of the dam hunting for insects.


The yellow bill indicates this is an Alpine Chough. Picture by Joe Geraty.

Alpine Chough, Col de Formigal, 20th March 2013 (picture: Joe Geraty)

Having ticked another of our target species we traveled on past the ski resort of Formigal towards the French border at Portalet in the hope of sighting another of our target species: Snowfinch. There was still plenty of snow on the ground at that time and a fair number of skiers out taking advantage of the conditions. Even if we hadn't seen a single bird, it was a pleasure to be in such a beautiful landscape with bright sunshine, clear blue skies and the mountains covered in a thick blanket of snow. But, there were thankfully plenty of birds to be seen.


A number of raptor species were spotted in flight, Golden Eagle, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel and Buzzard. Alpine Chough was also seen at very close quarters. They are quite opportunistic and will get very close to people, particularly if there's a possibility of food. Snowfinch also put in an appearance, albeit briefly, with a small group of maybe a dozen flying past us. They very quickly disappeared over the brow of a hill and no further sightings were had. However, they were in sight long enough to get an impression of the bird, like pale stocky sparrows with strong conical bills.


At home on the mountain side, Pyrenean Chamois. Picture by Colum Clarke.

Pyrenean Chamois, Near Col de Formigal, 20th March 2013 (picture: Colum Clarke)

A comfort stop a short way back down the road from the border brought us sightings of Pyrenean Chamois or 'Izard' as they browsed on whatever small amounts of vegetation could be found on the mountain side. Like other species of Chamois, it was hunted almost to extinction for the production of chamois leather. However, the population has been recovering of recent times and in 2002 was estimated to be about 25,000. We could clearly see five or six animals grazing leisurely, resplendent in their black/brown winter coats with distinctive dark patches around the eyes. During this time we also spotted a total of five Foxes traversing the mountains, in broad daylight, perhaps evidence of the harsh winter. In fact we had the pleasure of seeing one making an attempted kill; launching itself off the ground before making the classic pounce on whatever was lurking beneath the snow.


Griffon Vulture and Lammergeier in the air together! Picture by Stephen McAvoy.

Griffon Vulture (left) and Lammergeier over Santa Cilia, 21st March 2013 (picture: Stephen McAvoy)

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Day 5 - Thursday 21st March

Our schedule for Day 5 took the group to the national park of Sierra de Guara, northeast of Huesca. Making our way to the first stop on the day's itinerary, we had views of Red-legged Partridge, and small numbers of both Mistle Thrush and Fieldfare. Also seen was a single Stock Dove. Again Hoopoe made an all too brief appearance flying at speed across the horizon. A lone Fox was also seen making its way through the fields.


Arriving at Presa de Calcon we got a second opportunity to see Alpine Accentor. A single bird, moving around on the steep rock face above the road allowed good views at close quarters. Robin-sized with a streaked brown back, somewhat resembling a House Sparrow, its most distinctive features are a grey head and red-brown spotting on the underparts. Also sighted was the diminutive blue-grey Dartford Warbler.


Come and get it! Griffon Vultures gather at the Santa Cilia de Panzano feeding station. Picture by Joe Geraty.

Vulture feeding station at Santa Cilia de Panzano, 21st March 2013. (Picture: Joe Geraty).

Travelling onwards to Santa Cilia, as we rounded a bend in the road we came upon a Wild Boar standing just inside the wall of a field. Stopping the bus we got excellent views of this normally secretive animal as it remained stationary for quite some time, its gaze fixed in our direction. It suddenly burst into movement racing diagonally across the field away from us. However, as it reached a small rise in the far corner of the field it stopped; again turning to look at these strange interlopers into its domain.


The threat of Mad Cow disease has meant that, under EU Directives, Spanish farmers are obliged by law to clear up any dead animals on their land. Potentially that was very bad news for vultures which, of course, rely on a supply of carcasses to feed on. However, in a bid to conserve the vultures, a number of feeding stations have been set up where carcases have been provided especially for the birds. As a result, numbers of vultures, particularly Griffons, have increased rather than declined and birders are provided with wonderful viewing opportunities. In addition to substantial numbers of Griffon Vultures, it is possible to see Lammergeier and, in summer, Egyptian Vultures at these sites.


Up close and personal with Griffon Vultures at Santa Cilia de Panzano. Picture by Joe Geraty.

Griffon Vultures at Santa Cilia de Panzano, 21st March 2013. (Picture: Joe Geraty).

One such site lies near the village of Santa Cilia de Panzano, which is approximately 35km northeast of Huesca. This particular station was set up by a non-profit association called 'Fondo Amigos del Buitre' (Friends of Vultures Fund). Parking below the village the group walked along the village's only street. The feeding station is across the valley to the west on a bare patch of ground, a forty minute trek uphill from the village. We had pre-arranged with our guide for a delivery of food to be made and, as he drove up the hill ahead of us, with his cargo of offal, as if on cue the first birds already started to appear circling high above the site. By the time we reached the feeding station, there were upwards of a hundred Griffon Vultures circling above us. The group was requested to stay as quiet as possible and to take up position around the fringe of the site and we did so, crouching against the bare rock.


One after the other the vultures came in to land until there were possibly two hundred on the ground immediately in front of us. Even if you couldn't see the birds you would be aware of their presence as they give off a quite distinct aroma which is only amplified when present in such large numbers. Thankfully we were able to see them, and at very close quarters. They are quite magnificent birds being three to four feet long and with a wing span of up to nine feet across. At this range their features could be clearly identified: White head and neck ruff and a yellow bill; their buff body and wing coverts contrasting against their dark flight feathers. There was something of the surreal being in the presence of such a large number of these prehistoric looking creatures. Not only do they look and smell somewhat strange but they produce a range of grunts and hisses at least when feeding.


Lammergeier in the air near the vulture feeding station. Picture by Joe Geraty.

Lammergeier, Santa Cilia de Panzano. 21st March 2013. (Picture: Joe Geraty).

As luck would have it, we also got to see Lammergeier on the ground as one or two tried to get their share of the spoils. This time we got excellent viewing and were able to see all the distinguishing features of this bird. Notable about the Lammergeier is that unlike most vultures, it does not have a bald head. Also they have a creamy-coloured forehead that contrasts strongly against a black band across the eyes and lores. Black bristles under the chin, form a beard that give the species its English name: Bearded Vulture. One of the most striking features of this bird is the orange or rust colouring on their head, breast and leg feathers, which is actually cosmetic. This colouration may come from dust-bathing, rubbing mud on its body or from drinking in mineral-rich waters. As impressive as the vultures were on the ground, watching them take off was awe inspiring. A few strides and they were airborne and, within half a dozen or so beats of their wings they were able to ride the air currents allowing us to view them from above as they glided effortlessly out over the valley.


Egyptian Vulture on watch over Embalse de Vadiello. Picture by Stephen McAvoy.

Egyptian Vulture at Embalse de Vadiello, 21st March 2013. (Picture: Stephen McAvoy).

At our next stop, the Embalse de Vadiello, Griffon Vulture was again seen, this time coming in to roost on the cliff ledges, while Egyptian Vulture and Lammergeier flew overhead. Eagles were also present, with both Short-Toed and Booted Eagle being seen in flight. A single Yellow-legged Gull leisurely floated in the waters of the reservoir taking advantage of the afternoon sunshine. On the far side of the reservoir a small herd of goats perched precariously on the cliff side appearing to defy gravity as they fed off what little vegetation was available. Over fifteen minutes or so, we watched as the little group slowly edged their way up the almost vertical cliff face until they reached the top and disappeared over the horizon. On the way back to the bus we finally had a decent view of Firecrest as it flitted among the bushes and trees, near the bridge, creating small explosions of colour.


Griffon Vulture over the castle at Montearagón. Picture by Colum Clarke.

Griffon Vulture, Montearagón, 22nd March 2013. (Picture: Colum Clarke).

Day 6 - Friday 22nd March

The final day of our trip began with a short drive from Huesca to the castle of Montearagón, some three kilometres east of the city. The castle was built by the Aragonese king Sancho Ramirez in the 11th century, during the period known as the Reconquista, when the Christian kingdoms of what is now northern Spain were attempting to recapture territory from the Moors, who had occupied most of the Iberian Peninsula in the early 8th century. Leaving the motorway at the turn off for Quicena, we drove through the village towards Montearagón stopping near the first sharp bend at the foot of the castle slope. A number of military personnel and vehicles were present in the area and, as we saw there was a firing range on the flat ground just off the approach road to the front of the castle. As we surveyed the exposed, rather barren-looking landscape, we soon had sight of Crested and Thekla Lark, and Black Wheatear. We also had good views of Blue Rock Thrush moving about on the sparsely vegetated slope.


A pair of Red-crested Pochards on the Llobregat Delta. Picture by Colum Clarke.

Red-crested Pochard, El Prat de Llobregat, 22nd March 2013. (Picture: Colum Clarke).

Trekking up the winding slope we arrived at the summit where we were presented with commanding views of the surrounding plains. A number of different species of raptor were again in evidence as they soared high over us the in the bright morning sunshine: Griffon and Egyptian Vulture, Black and Red Kite, Kestrel and Osprey were all seen. Soon we had our second sighting of Wild Boar, this time being mobbed by Ravens as it ambled about through the scrub in a gully down below us. From our vantage point we could see these large birds as they repeatedly swooped low over the head of the Boar, teasing it, until eventually they lost interest allowing it to continue its wanderings in peace. As the military seemed to be gearing up to carry out some sort of exercise and we had another 270km between us and Barcelona, we took our leave of Montearagón.


Having stopped off for lunch along the way, we reached our last birding site on the itinerary, the nature reserve at El Prat de Llobregat. Many visitors to Barcelona may not be aware of the Llobregat Delta, a haven for bird watching with over 350 recorded bird species, that sits on its doorstep. With thousands of birds passing through each year it must surely be the prime location for migrant species in Catalonia. Even more surprising is its proximity to Barcelona airport; sitting as it does directly under the flight path.


Cormorants of the continental race sinensis on the Llobregat Delta. Picture by Joe Geraty.

Cormorants, El Prat de Llobregat, 22nd March 2013. (Picture: Joe Geraty).

There are a number of hides and observation posts dotted around the reserve allowing for close-up views without disturbing the birds. As we headed for the first of the hides we could already see a number of duck species swimming about. But, the views from the hide itself were spectacular. Hundreds, if not thousands, of birds could be seen on the water. Numerous duck species were in evidence including Gadwall, Shoveler, Pochard and Red-crested Pochard, and Garganey. Tufted Duck was also present; the male with its distinctive blue-grey bill and obvious black head tuft that gives the species its name. Large numbers of Cormorant lounged about on the small sand bars in the lagoons and similarly large groups of Little Egret could be seen in the distance. Waders were well represented with Spotted Redshank, Snipe, Wood Sandpiper and Ruff all being spotted. There were also numerous Terrapin seen in and around the canal banks.


Yellow-legged Gull coming in to land on the Llobregat Delta. Picture by Joe Geraty.

Yellow-legged Gull, El Prat de Llobregat, 22nd March 2013. (Picture: Joe Geraty).

Walking through the woodland to and from the beach brought us views of Cetti's Warbler, Chaffinch and Goldfinch. On arrival at the beach we were able to take advantage of a well placed observation tower allowing us extended views out over the sea, where, way in the distance, we could just about make out Balearic Shearwater. Closer in we had good views of Mediterranean Gull. On the beach itself we sighted our first Woodchat Shrike of the trip. This beautifully marked bird is the 'Vlad Dracul' of the bird world as, in common with other shrikes, it is known for impaling the corpses of its prey, large insects, on thorns or barbed wire and storing them for consumption at some point in the future. Finally too we had good views of the quirky little Hoopoe, with two or three birds perching nearby on the boundary fence of a beachside property. As evening time drew on, and we needed to catch our return flight, we made our way back to the road and the waiting coach for the short journey to Barcelona airport.


Some More Pictures

Birds

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Black Redstart in an almond grove at Tarrega, 17th March 2013. Picture by Joe Geraty.

Some more pictures of birds encountered during the trip to the Spanish Pyrenees.
Click on the picture and then use the left and right arrows to scroll through them.

Black Redstart seen on the way to Huesca, 17th March 2013. Picture by Colum Clarke.
Bird on a wire! A Rock Sparrow observed on the road to Huesca, 17th March 2013. Picture by Colum Clarke.
White Stork carrying nest material at Embalse de la Sotonera, 18th March 2013. Picture by Joe Geraty.
Red Kite, 18th March 2013. Picture by Colum Clarke.
Alpine Accentor at Riglos, 18th March 2013. Picture by Colum Clarke.
Red-billed Chough, Col de Formigal, 20th March 2013. Picture by Colum Clarke.
Alpine Chough, Col de Formigal, 20th March 2013. Picture by Colum Clarke.
Egyptian Vulture, Embalse de Guara, 21st March 2013. Picture by Joe Geraty.
A well groomed Griffon Vulture, Embalse de Guara. 21st March 2013. Picture by Joe Geraty.
White Stork, Huesca Town. 21st March 2013. Picture by Colum Clarke.
A pair of White Storks over Huesca Town. 21st March 2013. Picture by Colum Clarke.
A pair of Gadwall, El Prat de Llobregat. 22nd March 2013. Picture by Colum Clarke.
A pair of Pochard, El Prat de Llobregat. 22nd March 2013. Picture by Colum Clarke.
Female Shovelar, El Prat de Llobregat. 22nd March 2013. Picture by Joe Geraty.
An elegant Black-winged Stilt, El Prat de Llobregat. 22nd March 2013. Picture by Joe Geraty.
Black-winged Stilt, Black-tailed Godwit, Mallard, Shovelar and Teal all together on the El Prat de Llobregat. 22nd March 2013. Picture by Joe Geraty.

Places

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Castillo de Loarre, Huesca Province. Picture by Joe Geraty.

Some more pictures of the locations visited during the trip to the Spanish Pyrenees.
Click on the picture and then use the left and right arrows to scroll through them.

Castillo de Loarre, Huesca Province. Picture by Joe Geraty.
Mallos de Riglos, Hoya de Huesca, Huesca Province. Picture by Joe Geraty.
The reservoir at Lanuza, Huesca Province. Picture by Joe Geraty.

People

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The group in the shadow of the Castillo de Loarre. Picture by Godefried Schreur.

Some pictures of South Dublin branch members on the trip to the Spanish Pyrenees.
Click on the picture and then use the left and right arrows to scroll through them.

Another picture taken at the Castillo de Loarre. Picture by Godefried Schreur.
..and another at the Castillo de Loarre. Picture by Godefried Schreur.
..and yet another at the Castillo de Loarre. Picture by Godefried Schreur.
Marching through the heather on the Steppe near Belchite. Picture by Godefried Schreur.
More marching through heather! Picture by Godefried Schreur.
Sunshine and snow at Col de Formigal. Picture by Godefried Schreur.
More sunshine and snow at Col de Formigal. Picture by Godefried Schreur.
What is it Frank? Even more sunshine and snow at Col de Formigal. Picture by Godefried Schreur.
South Dublin members on the way to the Vulture feeding station at Santa Cilia de Panzano. Picture by Godefried Schreur.
A Vulture is not just for Christmas. Picture by Godefried Schreur.
Getting to know you! Picture by Godefried Schreur.
Stephen points the way at Llobregat. Picture by Joe Geraty.

Miscellaneous

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Swallowtail Butterfly, El Planeron Steppe, 19th March 2013. Picture by Joe Geraty.

Some pictures of other creatures encountered on the trip to the Spanish Pyrenees.
Click on the picture and then use the left and right arrows to scroll through them.

Swallowtail Butterfly, El Planeron Steppe, 19th March 2013. Picture by Stephen McAvoy.
Swallowtail Butterfly, El Planeron Steppe, 19th March 2013. Picture by Colum Clarke.
Portuguese Dappled White Butterfly, Belchite, 19th March 2013. Picture by Colum Clarke.
One of five Foxes observed on the mountains near Formigal, 20th March 2013. Picture by Colum Clarke.
Green Hairstreak at Santa Cilia de Panzano, 21st March 2013. Picture by Joe Geraty.
Bee Orchid, Llobregat Delta, 21st March 2013. Picture by Stephen McAvoy.

Looking back on the trip my foremost memories are of the number, and variety, of birds to be seen across Spain, particularly the number of raptors. Many times I've driven the length and breadth of Ireland and not seen a single bird of prey; whereas, not a day went by that we didn't see them from the bus before we even got to whatever birding site was on our itinerary! At least away from the major urban centres in Spain, raptors may be frequently seen, with Kite, Buzzard and Kestrel being the most common. Of course if you want to see Eagles you might have to venture to the more remote parts of the Spanish countryside. But, they are there to be seen! And something that I remembered from the group's previous outing to Extremadura, and which was brought home to me again on this trip, is the remarkable diversity of the Spanish landscape; from the snow covered peaks of the Pyrenees to the wide open steppe around Belchite and, the Cork Oak woodland in the west of the country. Spain is far more than the resorts of the Costa del Sol and such and well worth exploring if you get the chance.


Jon Field


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