Sunday, May 20, 2018

πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡Έ NE SPAIN 2018 ~ Pyrenees Day 6

πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡Έ☀️🌩21C Friday 18th May 2018 ~ On our final full day in the Pyrenees, we visited the monastery of San Juan de la PeΓ±a "Saint John of the Cliff", a religious complex in the town of Santa Cruz de la SerΓ³s, to the south-west of Jaca, Huesca. During the middle ages, this was one of the most important monasteries in Aragon. Its stunning two-level church is partially carved in the stone of the great cliff that overhangs the foundation. Legend has it that the chalice of the Last Supper (Holy Grail) was sent to the monastery for protection and prevention from being captured by the Muslim invaders of the Iberian Peninsula.

Monastery of San Juan de la PeΓ±a
Not only is the scenery spectacular here but it's also renown as a good place for birds. I'm not sure about the latter, as in recent years the monastery has been greatly modernised so isn't perhaps as attractive to hole-nesting species such as Rock Sparrow and Red-billed Chough, which were once found here.

Bonelli's Warbler ~ Common throughout our stay
We enjoyed the visit and did indeed get all the species you'd expect to find in the surrounding woodlands. Bonelli's Warbler, Chiffchaff, Firecrest, Crested Tit, Marsh Tit, Nuthatch, Short-toed Treecreeper and Great Spotted Woodpecker. The meadows held Yellowhammer and Linnet but as expected no Citril Finch, Rock Sparrow or Chough. It's also known for Black Woodpecker but again, no sight nor sound! A number of raptors overhead, which included the usual flow of Griffon Vultures, plus Booted Eagle, Red and Black Kite.

Crested Tit at the Monastery
For our final destination, we decided to give Refugio de Gabardito a second visit. If you remember we were hampered by bad weather during our visit on Monday and today the weather was a lot kinder. This area is renown by some to be 'the best-known breeding site for Wallcreeper in the Pyrenees'.

On arrival in the car park, where unlike Monday's visit there were no Citril Finch, we were today greeted by a drumming Black Woodpecker, which I'm happy to say we did thankfully get a brief glimpse of. We searched for a short while longer for a chance of better views but sadly the bird had moved on.

Red-billed Chough above Gabardito
It was late afternoon so we decided to head up to the cliff face without too many stops. Having found ourselves a good spot for scanning we began in earnest to look for the elusive Wallcreepers. Our best hope really was to find one in flight, to see one clinging to the cliff face at this distance would be difficult.

Dazza's turn on the scope
There were several Griffon Vultures nesting, two Lammergeier circling often over the tops, Red-billed Chough, Alpine Swift, Crag Martin and a high Golden Eagle but sadly after two hours, no Wallcreepers!πŸ˜’

Our quest goes on for this elusive of species. I'm still adamant about finding our own one in Spain and simply refuse to go on any tour offering that guarantee of seeing one at a known nesting site, were's the fun it that! Unfortunately, or search must continue another time as tomorrow we head down to the east coast. Our incredible week in the Pyrenees comes to an end, some stunning highlights, stunning scenery and a few hits and misses on the birding front, but WOW!

** A quick thank you for the emails and messages we've been receiving during the last week. Its good to know that we have such a keen group of followers πŸ‘