It really is a feature of this ‘holiday’, and yes we can call this a birding holiday rather than a birding tour that we thoroughly enjoyed our 8am breakfast after a good night’s sleep. And pretty surreal for me to be back here as it must have been 6 years since I last brought a group here – but the experience of leading 15+ tours over the years to these mountains means it quite quickly feels like a ‘home from home’.
After collecting our picnic lunch we drove a short distance to the usual stake-out site for Wallcreeper, which entails a slow 30 minute walk through coniferous forest before the trail opens out to a rocky path. Along the way, Nigel found our first Crested Tit and we saw a few other common birds before reaching the base of some tall cliffs where Alpine Swifts were zooming across the sky and heading like Exocet missiles into their nesting crevices high above us. Many Eurasian Crag Martins were also nesting here, a few Black Redstarts were singing, Red-billed Choughs flew over and some Eurasian Griffons patrolled the skies. But we were here for one species in particular and after a short wait a large ‘butterfly-like’ bird with broad red wings flew overhead and landed on the cliff above us – Wallcreeper! Such an adrenalin rush and this iconic species then showed on and off for the next 2 hours as we watched a pair bringing large beakfulls of grubs into a nest in a hidden crevice. Such a relief for me as this pair will pretty soon take their fledged young off to higher grounds and leave this picturesque place. Phew!
|An English Iris in the Spanish Pyrenees.|
We also had our first butterflies of the day here with Wall Brown and Large Skipper showing well before heading back down to the minibus for lunch. It was quite hot by now and the alpine meadows were hosting Silver-washed Fritillary, Long-tailed Blue, Scarce Copper, Silver-studded and Common Blues, Piedmont Ringlet and others. A Firecrest and another Crested Tit also showed well on the walk back down, with some families of Coal and Blue Tits in the conifer forest as well.
Upon reaching the minibus we had our picnic lunch and then enjoyed some cold drinks at the bar of the refuge, as well as seeing Dark-green Fritillary and a Common Swallowtail. Driving down the winding road we saw our first Marbled White and Brimstone before heading off to the Anso Valley. Just a few kilometres down the road we stopped when a Short-toed Eagle flew over carrying a snake and we jumped out to have a look. Just then we noticed some flowers were attracting more butterflies and we found Spanish Purple Hairstreak, Pearly Heath and a Spotted Fritillary.
|Spanish Purple Hairstreak|
Driving up to the Anso Viewpoint, it was teeming with yet more butterflies most of which were Marbled White, but amongst many fritillaries High-brown was new, and we also had Pale Clouded or Berger’s Clouded Yellow (struggling with the i.d of this one), as well as Small Skipper.
We then drove down to the Foz de Binies and walked into the gorge where some Eurasian Griffons were patrolling overhead, and a few Black Redstarts and Spotted Flycatchers were present. A short stop at Puenta La Reina for fuel and Magnums followed and we then drove back up the Hecho Valley. A pale-phase Booted Eagle showed well and a Southern White Admiral was seen before reaching our lovely hotel with plenty of time to enjoy some cold beers and get ready for dinner.
And we thoroughly enjoyed some home cooked dinner by our fabulous hostess, Lucia. Oh and now this hotel has their own brewery so it would have been rude not to taste a little.... Mmmm...