20th June 1985 - 4th July 1985
I left London with a small group of 8 people on a flight to Bilbao to start a Cox & Kings birdwatching holiday in the Pyrenees. On arrival the minibus driver was there to meet us and we began the drive east to our base at the Painting School in the hill village of Berdun. Along the way seeing 6 Black Kites, Spotless Starlings, a White Wagtail, 3 White Storks, Corn Buntings, Swallows and Swifts. In Berdun near the hostel we saw a Scops Owl.
The small village of Berdun is situated in the Pyrenees foothills, nearby is a small river called the Rio Veral and this is where we spent our first morning, walking along the bank we saw 6 Nightingales and heard another 4, Spotless Starlings, 4 Black Kites, 6 Egyptian Vultures, 5 Griffon Vultures, 3 Garden Warblers, Serins, a Red Kite, 2 Wheatears, a Crested Lark, a Tawny Pipit, a Black Redstart and 5 Iberian Marsh Frogs.
Later, we drove down to the Rio Aragon and explored along the banks seeing 5 Nightingales, 3 Black Kites, Corn Buntings, hearing several Quail, 4 Crested Larks, 4 Red Kites, 6 Stonechats, 3 Garden Warblers, 2 Melodious Warblers, 4 Wheatears, a Kestrel, a Tawny Pipit, 2 Griffon Vultures, Linnets and Goldfinches, a Western Olivaceous Warbler, a Short-toed Lark, a Woodlark, an Ortolan Bunting, a Whitethroat, 2 Song Thrushes, 4 Cirl Buntings, 2 White Wagtails, 4 Common Sandpipers, 6 Little Ringed Plovers, 4 Grey Wagtails, a Great Reed Warbler, 6 Bee-eaters, a Chaffinch, Serins, a Common Frog and 2 Viperine Snakes.
In Berdun, while waiting for the minibus we saw an Egyptian and 3 Griffon Vultures. Today, we drove southeast to visit the Red Sandstone Pillars at Riglos, on the way seeing 5 Black Kites, 4 Red Kites, 2 Turtle Doves, 5 Chough, a Booted Eagle, a Short-toed Eagle, Crested Larks and Serins, 11 Great Crested Grebes, Nightingales, a Red-legged Partridge, 3 Ortolan Buntings and 3 Alpine Swifts.
Near the pillars at Riglos we saw c20 Griffon Vultures, a Kestrel, 3 Egyptian Vultures, House and Crag Martins, a Buzzard, a Green Lizard, 2 Blue Roch Thrushes, 5 Black Redstarts, a Rock Sparrow, Wrens, a Red Squirrel and a Red Kite.
Then a drive south to the Embalse de la Sotonera on the way seeing a Raven, 5 Red Kites, a Hoopoe, Corn Buntings and Crested Larks, and, finding a Mole Cricket by the side of the road on one of our stops.
At the reservoir there were 8 Griffon Vultures, 2 Marsh Harriers, 2 Wheatears, 2 Bee-eaters, 15 Mallard, a Fan-tailed Warbler, a Great Crested Grebe, heard several Great Reed Warblers, 4 Southern Grey Shrikes, a Little Owl and a Kestrel.
On the drive back to Berdun we saw a Short-toed Eagle, a Southern Grey Shrike, 2 Chough, a Buzzard, a Blue Rock Thrush, 2 Red Kites, a Garden Warbler, 2 Stonechats, a Dartford Warbler, a Cirl Bunting, 2 Ravens and a Wheatear.
Red Sandstone Pillars at Riglos.
Today only a short drive north to the Foz de Binies, spending several hours in this spectacular gorge. From the roadside we saw an Iberian Green Woodpecker, a Turtle Dove, 13+ Blackcaps, 50+ Crag Martins, heard a Chiffchaff and 2 Nightingales, 10 Grey Wagtails, 2 Jays, a Garden Warbler, a Lammergeier which flew along the gorge, 12 House Martins, c40 Griffon Vultures, 4 Black Redstarts, 4 Ravens, 6 Egyptian Vultures, 6 Dippers, 4 Chough, 2 Kestrels, a Common Sandpiper, 2 Spotted Flycatchers, 2 Red Kites and a Melodeous Warbler.
There was also lots of butterflies of several different species all going south through the gorge, plus 2 Hummingbird Hawk Moths.
An early start, firstly driving west to Sigues, seeing 3 Black Kites, Corn Buntings, Skylarks, Nightingales, Chaffinches, a Chiffchaff and a Wheatear. Then onto a minor road going north along the Valle del Roncel and on through the mountains to Larra-Belagua on the Spanish/French boarder, and back again.
On this journey we saw 3 Black Kites, 6 Ravens, lots of House and Crag Martins, Goldfinches, 35 Chough, 48 Griffon Vultures, 3 Rock Sparrows and hearing more, 9 Egyptian Vultures, 8 Grey Wagtails, Serins, 2 Blue Rock Thrushes, 5 Red Kites, a Viperine Snake, 2 Black Redstarts, Blackcaps, 2 Short-toed Eagles, Rock Doves, Chiffchaffs, an Alpine Swift, a Garden Warbler, a Dipper, Coal and Great Tits, 4 Yellowhammers,
11 Citril Finches, 7 Wheatears, lots of Linnets, 4 male Red-backed Shrikes, 2 Cirl Buntings, a Lammergeier, a Buzzard, Nightingales, a Kestrel and a Hobby.
I had brought a Sony Walkman cassette recorder and a small microphone with me to record anything of interest, not great quality, but better than nothing. Here recorded flight calls of Citril Finch with Water Pipits and mountain stream in background.
Another visit to the Rio Aragon, this time spending much of the day here, seeing Nightingales, 3 Subalpine Warblers, Linnets, Crested Larks, a Stonechat, a Hoopoe, 7 Cirl Buntings, Corn Buntings, 2 Whitethroats, a Tawny Pipit, Magpies, 4 Egyptian Vultures, 6 Bee-eaters, 3 Red Kites, a Black Kite, 2 Western Olivaceous Warblers, 2 White Wagtails, 3 Common Sandpipers, 3 Little Ringed Plovers, 4 Grey Wagtails, 3 Cetti's Warblers, 2 Melodious Warblers, a Grass Snake, 5 Garden Warblers, a Spotted Flycatcher, Crows, Chaffinches, a Yellowhammer, 2 Griffon Vultures, a Woodlark, a Blackcap, 2 Great Reed Warblers, Goldfinches, a Swallow and a Spanish Wagtail.
An early start, we drove east through Jaca then north to Panticosa seeing 4 Black Kites, 3 Red Kites, 3 Grey Wagtails, 2 Garden Warblers and several Crag Martins. From Panticosa we drove along the Rio Caldares Gorge stopping regularly, we saw Chaffinches, Jays, Coal Tits, 4 Water Pipits, 2 Black Redstarts, 2 Alpine Chough, heard 2 Alpine Marmots, a Griffon Vulture, a Chough, a Chiffchaff, 2 Crested Tits and 2 Iberian Rock Lizards.
Returning to Panticosa we continued north to Formigal near the Spanish/French boarder, where we saw 2 Black Kites, a White Wagtail, lots of House Martins, 5 Black Redstarts, 6 Wheatears, 6 Water Pipits, a Red Kite, 3 Alpine Chough, a Skylark, a Common Frog, an Asp Viper and an Alpine Marmot. The viper and marmot were new for me, marmots were introduced to the Pyrenees several centuries ago.
Black Redstart alarm calls with Water Pipits and mountain stream in background.
Iberian Rock Lizard.
A very late or early 1am walk outside of the hostel in Berdun, where we saw a Scops Owl and heard another, also heard a Quail calling from nearby fields and saw several Fireflies.
In the morning proper, we walked down a track leading from the village to the Rio Aragon seeing a Rock Sparrow, 2 Red Kites, a Chiffchaff, Swifts, 2 Egyptian Vultures, 3 Ravens, 3 Garden Warblers, 4 Nightingales, 5 Whitethroats, 2 Crested Larks, several Skylarks and Corn Buntings, Goldfinches, 6 Subalpine Warblers, 2 Griffon Vultures, a Tawny Pipit, Serins, 2 Melodious Warblers, 6 Stonechats, 5 Cirl Buntings, 6 Wheatears, a Western Olivaceous Warbler, 2 Cetti's Warblers, 2 Kestrels, a Buzzard and a Black Redstart.
In the evening we went to the Foz de Binies, this time just south of the gorge, where it broadens towards the foothills, we saw 3 Griffon Vultures, Crag Martins, 2 Egyptian Vultures, a Blue Rock Thrush, an Alpine Swift and towards dusk an Eagle Owl which flew from a cliff ledge some distance away, then close to us and down the valley, a new bird for me.
In Berdun we saw the Scops Owl again, then we drove east to Jaca and north to Candanchu, on the way seeing 3 Red Kites, 2 Black Kites, lots of Crows and a Raven.
At the Ski resort of Candanchu there were c50 Chough, c35 Citril Finches, 12 Wheatears, 3 Black Redstarts, 3 Rock Sparrows, 16 Alpine Chough,
9 Water Pipits, at least 2 Rock Thrushes, a Griffon Vulture and 3 Ravens. On the way back we stopped at the Castle of the Robbers at Canfranc where we saw 8 Black Redstarts, a Green Lizard, 2 Ravens, another 4 Citril Finches, Chaffinches and lots of tits including Crested Tits.
Leaving Berdun we drove to Jaca, then south to Pena Oroel, an impressive rock outcrop which can be seen for miles, on the road there we saw a Turtle Dove, 2 Red-backed Shrikes, a Cirl Bunting and had distant views of 2 Lammergeiers.
At Pena Oroel a road goes up to near the base on the southern side, along this were 2 Cirl Buntings, Blackcaps, Nightingales, 4 Black Redstarts, 3 Rock Sparrows, 5 Great Spotted Woodpeckers, lots of Coal Tits, 5+ Crested Tits, Chaffinches, 11 Jays, 3 Nuthatches, 5 Crossbills, 3 Short-toed Treecreepers, 3 Chiffchaffs, 3 Firecrests and 3 Bullfinches. Higher up we saw 16 Griffon Vultures, 4 Ravens, 5 Chough, an Alpine Swift, a Kestrel, 4 Egyptian Vultures, 2 Crag Martins and much better views of the 2 Lammergeiers.
On the return drive to Berdun we saw 6 Red Kites, another 2 Egyptian Vultures, a Black Kite and another 2 Ravens.
In Berdun as we were leaving 2 Egyptian Vultures flew over, we drove the short distance to the Foz de Binies again, where we spent the rest of the morning, seeing 5 Grey Wagtails, 2 Garden Warblers, House and Crag Martins, 39 Griffon Vultures, a Kestrel, another 2 Egyptian Vultures, 4 Spotted Flycatchers, 5 Blackcaps, 6 Alpine Swifts, a Red Kite, 4 Dippers, a Bee-eater and a Golden Oriole.
We returned in the evening, but the Eagle Owl didn't show.
An early start, we drove west towards the Embalse de Yesa, then north and west to the view point overlooking the Foz de Arbayun, on the way seeing a Turtle Dove, 11 Black-headed Gulls, 5 Great Crested Grebes and 2 Dartford Warblers.
The Foz de Arbayun is an impressive gorge and from the viewing area we saw 22 Griffon Vultures, House and Crag Martins, 34+ Alpine Swifts, 24 Jackdaws, 3 Egyptian Vultures, Rock Sparrows, a Short-toed Eagle, a Kestrel, a Red Kite and a Booted Eagle.
Above & right: Foz/Gorge de Arbayun.
We then drove southwest to the Foz de Lumbier where we could drive through the gorge alongside the Rio Irati. The narrow road passes through several tunnels and under over-hangs as it follows the river south. In one of these areas was a colony of Rock Sparrows, we also saw 30+ Alpine Swifts, Crag and House Martins, 2 Blackcaps, Rock Doves, 33 Griffon Vultures, an Egyptian Vulture, 22 Chough, a Blue Rock Thrush, 2 Cetti's Warblers, 3 Cirl Buntings, a Garden Warbler, a Black Kite, a Woodlark, a Yellowhammer and 2 Wheatears.
Calls from the colony of Rock Sparrows in gorge,
Chough and river in background.
Foz/Gorge de Lumbier.
A return visit to Candanchu, on the way seeing 2 Red and 2 Black Kites, a Turtle Dove, a Grey Wagtail and a Raven. We continued north to Astun near the Spanish/French boarder, where we saw 12 Water Pipits, Linnets, 2 Black Redstarts, another Red and Black Kite, several Citril Finches, a Griffon Vulture, 4 Wheatears and 2 Kestrels.
Our last full day in the Pyrenees, we decided to go to Monte Tobozo, which I can't now find on a map but must have been on the old one I was using. On the way we saw 9 Black Kites, a Turtle Dove, a Kestrel, 3 Cirl Buntings, 2 Red Kites, a Bee-eater, Serins, 4 Yellowhammers and a male Red-backed Shrike.
At the base of Monte Tobozo we found a valley with scree slopes and large boulders, we saw 80+ Alpine Choughs, 7 Rock Thrushes, a Rock Bunting, 4 Alpine Accentors, c50 Chough, a Dipper, a Raven, 3 Water Pipits, 6 Wheatears, 12 Griffon Vultures, 4 Black Redstarts, 2 Kestrels, a Red-backed Shrike, 2 Grey Wagtails and 2 Alpine Marmots. The marmots mostly kept hidden in the boulders, but were calling the whole time.
Alpine Marmot calls, with Chough, Alpine Chough and streams in the background.
We left Berdun for the drive back to Bilbao Airport, on the way seeing 12 Black Kites, a Montagu's Harrier and 5 White Storks.