Sunday, May 13, 2018

πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡Έ NE SPAIN 2018 ~ Pyrenees Day 1

πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡Έ☀️-1C/17C Sunday 13th May 2018 ~ The wife and I arrived into Barcelona on Saturday evening and after picking up our rental car took the 3-hour drive north-east to Charo Northern Aragon, a small hamlet based in the Pre-Pyrenees mountain range (Population 36).

~ Our home for the next week ~
Here we'll be staying in our holiday cottage, around 3,000ft for the next seven days before spending a further nine days along the coast near Girona.

~ View from the cottage ~
Thunderstorms during the drive down and rain all evening but today Sunday we woke to crystal clear skies and a temperature of -1C. Before Dazza woke I decided to take an early morning stroll around the wooded areas of the cottage and along a dirt track, which at its apex has stunning views of the surrounding vista. Even this early in the morning I could make out several distant large raptors, presumably Griffon Vultures circling over the snow-capped tops. While watching these a Red Kite drifted by being mobbed by a persistent Raven.

Western Bonelli's Warbler 
There was a good amount of birdsong, mostly from the tracks below the cottages, Nightingale, Golden Oriole, Turtle Dove, Cuckoo and a very vocal Hoopoe. However, I decided to head up a dirt track and into the woodland to see what could be found. It wasn't long before I discovered a pair of nesting Short-toed Treecreeper, which had set up home in a pollarded cork oak tree, both constantly calling to each other I sat and watched intrigued for a while. Two Western Bonelli's Warblers prompted me for a photo but the low sun made things difficult. A few other species before I emerged back into the open which included: Firecrest, Crested Tit and Black Redstart.

Honey Buzzard over the cottage

Griffon Vulture 
Just before breakfast on the terrace, the sky seemed suddenly awash with birds. Firstly a group of noisy Bee-eaters, then a count of (8) Honey Buzzards, a Red Kite which swooped so low over the cottage I could have reached out and touched it and a constant stream of Griffon Vultures, which included a single Egyptian Vulture, and all this before breakfast!

Bee-eaters from the terrace
We decided on a leisurely first day taking a 90-minute drive to Benasque in the heart of the Pyrenees and then on up to around 6,000ft just beyond Cerler. Above the treeline here habitats include Alpine Meadows, rock fields and some glacial cirques so a good variety of species are possible.

Lammergeier (Bearded Vulture) over the Rio Lanata
Shortly after leaving the cottage a brief stop at the local Rio (river) Lanata to try for Dipper. Not only were we successful here but we connected with the first of four Lammergeier (Bearded Vulture) for the day. This bird drifting slowly overhead, offering a perfect photo opportunity of this iconic eaglelike vulture of the Old World (family Accipitridae)

Black Redstart at Elise
Before eventually reaching Benasque we naturally stopped several more times to investigate various habitat and indeed enjoy the stunning scenery. At Elise, we took a stroll around the Embalse (reservoir) de Linsoles but of course being Sunday it was reasonably busy. That said by the time we'd moved off after lunch we'd registered (2) Dipper along the Rio Elise, (4) Common Sandpiper, (3) Yellow Wagtail, (2) White Wagtail and a family of five Black Redstart (incl. adults). A bonus species of Tawny Pipit was found in amongst a small group of cows. Over the water, many Crag Martin and Barn Swallows were feeding.

Alpine Marmot ~ They were reintroduced with success in the Pyrenees in 1948
Despite a great day's birding we had to work hard for every species at Cerler. This due mainly to the major televised cycling event which was taking place, stage 3 of the 2018 Vuelta Aragon. In fact, we were marooned for an hour while the main race took place due to the road closure. That said we simply headed off across the meadows, rock fields and streams and did pretty well, despite the helicopters!

Wheatear ~ Seem look more vibrant in the Spanish light!
Wheatear, at least five Water Pipit, which breeds here, two Citril Finch, Alpine Accentor and among the many Griffon Vultures three more Lammergeier and a Golden Eagle. Today was certainly about quality and not quantity, with most birds either flyover or at distance but we'll be back here later in the week for a second visit!