Monday, 30 May 2011

Spanish Fiesta. Part I, Sierra de Guara

Right, after all the excitement of the Lesser Yellowlegs, better make a start. It all started with an Easyjet flight from Luton to Barcelona. There was no sign of Lorraine Chase selling Campari after all. However, there were two groups of hen parties at the check-in queue.

You could tell they were hen parties because they all wore specially printed T-shirts to mark their auspicious occasion. With one group having "Debbie Does Barcelona" printed all over them, with rather suggestive names of each young lady on the back.

"I wonder which poor sod is going to have to sit next to them?" I thought. Well, would you believe it, it was me! Actually there was no need to worry, because "Curvy Carly" and "Juicy Jude" were actually very nice, probably because they were sober!

But anyway, good luck to both hens, Debbie and Angela, as I left them behind and on the road out of Barcelona. About three and a half hours later, arriving at the little village of Loporzano, and to the Boletas guest house for the first three nights.

Birds seen along the way included Booted Eagle, Thekla Lark, Spotless Starling, White Stork and what turned out to be the only Sparrowhawk. After dinner and wine (there'll be a recurring theme regarding wine!) there was a calling Scops Owl from the garden.

The area around Boletas isn't really the high Pyrenees, more an area of foothills I suppose, called the Sierra de Guara. I was advised of a few areas to try for birds, all within a short distance of Boletas. The first stop was San Julian De Banzo.

As the temperature rose, up went about 30 Griffon Vultures and my first Lammergeier, woohoo! Also around the farmland were Red and Black Kites, Turtle Doves, Red-backed and Woodchat Shrikes, Serin, Subalpine Warbler, Melodious Warbler, Tawny Pipit, a calling Quail and Bee-Eaters.

The next spot to try was the Vadiello Dam.

This can be a good place to look for Wallcreeper and Alpine Accentor earlier in the year, but too late now. More Griffons here, plus an Egyptian Vulture, Choughs, Alpine Swifts, Blue Rock Thrush.

A rather scrubby area around the Castillo De Montearagon:

turned out to be Wheatearville, with 2 Black Wheatears, 1 Black-eared Wheatear and 3 Northern Wheatears. Also Rock Sparrow and Spectacled Warbler here.

The last spot for the day was a gorge at Piraces. Supposedly a good spot for Eagle Owl, maybe one would appear roosting in a cliff. There wasn't one, but there was a Short-toed Eagle, another Black-eared Wheatear, Orphean and Dartford Warblers, 2 Egyptian Vultures and a brief churr of a Nightjar.

The next day started with another spot to try for Lammergeier and other raptors, at Santa Cilia De Panzano. Again, plenty of Griffon Vultures at this spot, and it took quite a while longer before another Lammergeier appeared. Also around were 3 Honey Buzzards, a Common Buzzard, 2 Golden Orioles, Cirl Bunting, Sardinian Warbler and Spotted Flycatcher.

A bit more higher up next, to Santa Eulalia de la Pena, with some pretty spectacular cliffs and views.

By far the largest numbers of Griffons here, and a wonderful sight of a flock of around 50 Choughs!

Decided to finish birding around this part of the trip with a walk around Loporzano. There's a White Stork nest, with three young, on the the church tower.

Nightingales and Corn Buntings were really common throughout this part of Spain, and also in the farmland surrounding Loporzano were Melodious and Subalpine Warblers, Serin, Woodchat Shrike and this Red Kite.

The hospitality, food and wine at Boletas really was lovely, so it was a little sad to move on. But move on I did, towards the Hecho valley in the high Pyrenees.

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