Monday, May 14, 2018

🇪🇸 NE SPAIN 2018 ~ Pyrenees Day 2

🇪🇸 ❄️☁️☀️4C/20C Monday 14th May 2018 ~Mountain weather is notoriously unpredictable and the Pyrenees are no exception! You can set off in glorious sunshine and end up with low cloud, rain and gusty winds. This was the case when we took the 2 1/2 drive north-west towards the Hecho Valley and in particular the Refugio de Garbardito.

Egyptian Vulture ~ Several around the Hecho Valley
Naturally, the drive took much longer, stopping at various points to investigate different habitats. I can say one thing, Red Kites are abundant here with many sightings today. In fact, there are few occasions when driving along any road where the sky is actually baron of any bird life. Griffon Vultures too seem to appear around every bend, sometimes in four and fives and this area also has a decent population of Egyptian Vultures.

Egyptian Vulture
Just prior to heading on up to the Refugio we paused for a while to check out around a half dozen raptors circling above. Within were at least two Egyptian Vultures, Black Kite, a high Booted Eagle, Lammergeier and naturally two Red Kites.

Citril Finch ~ typically taking on grit in the car park!
It's around a four-mile drive up to the car park at the Refugio through woodland and winding roads but well worth stopping occasionally to listen out, particularly for Black Woodpecker. We knew before we began our ascent that the weather would be an issue! Low cloud had already descended and the odd sleet/snow shower had begun to arrive. However, we were rewarded as we reached the car park with five Citril Finch, typically taking on grit! The meadow in front of the Refugio held six Wheatear and like the Red Kite, Black Redstarts seem to be everywhere.

This as actually a good view!
One of our main reasons for the visit was Wallcreeper and after parking, we headed off through a wooded area. Firecrest, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Crested Tit and the distant call of a Black Woodpecker, which was the closest we got to seeing one. There are also White-backed Woodpecker here but not today! As you continue on the canopy opens out offering stunning views of the cliff face, although seeing it was another matter. We spent a good while up here scanning when conditions allowed, eventually dipping on Wallcreeper but it was time well spent and rewarded with Golden Eagle, Alpine Chough, Alpine Swift and Crag Martin.

Black Stork ~ Way off range but migrating through!
On route home and back into blue skies a few more stops, one at the stunning Urdues Gorge. A very easily assessable site just 180 meters from the road up the Hecho Valley. We enjoyed a good hour here searching the river below for Dipper but it was all happening above with the addition of Honey Buzzard and  Goshawk to the day list. We ended the visit with a surprise when a Black Stork drifted through overhead, way off range until having referenced the Collins, apparently a typical migration route.