Thursday, 9 July 2015

PYRENEES - a review (1)

I wanted to try and post a review before we leave for Arizona. I also want to say that I hope you don't think I'm being flash with two trips in a few weeks. This trip was arranged last minute to celebrate receiving compensation for my hip operation. Richly deserved, even if I say so myself!

Anyway...the Pyrenees. I'd visited the French side in the 90's when my lads were young. We stayed at Luz-Saint-Sauveur with Eurocamp. I had a tremendous slice of luck as a fellow Birder had left detailed directions from the Port de Boucharo to a family of Wallcreepers!! I had amazing views of 5 birds feeding on a scree slope. I also saw 7 Alpine Accentors by the car park plus 2 Snowfinch. A fabulous day!

I toyed with the idea of re-visiting this site but decided another 4 hour journey was just not fair to Louise. Besides I wanted to see birds in Spain on this trip.

Our first couple of days in Barcelona were frankly disastrous. We arrived on Thursday lunchtime as planned and picked up our hire car. Next stop...our Best Western Motel handily named the aeropuerto. Could we find it? NO is the answer. I had even printed Google maps. It was situated in the middle of a large industrial area and it took us over 2 hours to eventually find it. It was only 2 miles from the airport!!

Friday morning we drove into Barcelona with the intention of taking the sightseeing bus. Unfortunately we had a problem with the car which wasted more hours. It was also 40+C which didn't help.

We decided Barcelona didn't like us and when we received our new rental...we headed for the hills!

Saturday morning started with a walk from the Garbadito refuge in search of Wallcreeper. This site is generally recognised as the best site for this species in the Pyrenees. It's also one of the best spots for flies...which didn't go down too well with Louise. We decided to abandon ship on this one, although the first bird I saw as we left the car was this fine (over-exposed) Red-backed Shrike...

The very bright light was a mixed blessing throughout the trip.

The afternoon was spent further up the Hecho Valley and included some time at the Boca del Infierno. No Wallcreeper, despite extensive searching but some amazing scenery!

Magnificent Griffon Vultures were regularly seen. Both in the air...

...and at rest...

Love seeing them from above...

Then I had what was definitely my best moment so far. Not difficult actually as the first half of the trip had been...well...quiet.

We'd driven south down the Hecho Valley and turned west at Hecho with the intention of making our way up to the border to search for high altitude species. After an hour of winding roads I decided to abandon yet another plan and head south down the A1602. We'd driven around 20 minutes down this road when we saw a large lay by. We decided to stop for lunch. It turned out to be a major gorge called the Fosez de Fago with spectacular scenery. There were interpretation boards with plenty of info'...some in English.

After we'd eaten I left Louise to read her novel and had a wonder down the (thankfully) shaded road. Plenty of Griffon's in evidence. I wondered if there might be something else?

There was! I'd just walked through a small, cool tunnel when I noticed a large shadow on the road. I looked out over the gorge and saw this beauty...

Egyptian Vulture
It was a major boost to see this bird as I'd not seen any target birds (Griffon's are fabulous but easily seen) so far and I was getting withdrawal symptoms. This bird certainly made up for this. I watched it circling the Gorge for a good 15 minutes. Magic!

A couple more...

My best ever views by far of this species. Well pleased.

Part 2 Sunday.

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