Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Pyrenees 17 - Day 1. Col du Tourmalet

OK. I'm up and running!

Briefly...the wedding day (Thursday) was great but we over-indulged a tad and the recovery time for both of us isn't what it used to be...

For the record...

Mr and Mrs Whitehead in front of the Whitehead Clock Tower, Bury 8/6/2017
Friday morning and early afternoon was spent recovering at "the Mothers". We flew to Bilbao from Manchester arriving at 10pm. A taxi to our Hotel saw it sorted for 11.

Breakfast at 8 and car picked up at 9 (pleasantly uneventful), we were heading for France. After a bit of fun negotiating San Sebastian we arrived in France early afternoon and cruised into the Haute-Pyrennes region for an evening meal in Argeles-Gazost. Then onto St Savin for an early night.

Friday morning I opened the shutters at dawn to this rather nice view...

Looking North up the Gave Valley
Anyway...what about the birds?

An early morning stroll around the Village proved surprisingly fruitful...and quite a relief to connect with some excellent woodland species...

However, my first sighting wasn't avain...

Red Squirrel
Jay, Nuthatch, Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Bullfinch, Great Spotted (tried hard to string a Middle) and Green Woodpecker. I also had great views of a Red Kite...


It was also great to see so many Swifts zooming around the village.

After breakfast we headed for Luz and the Col du Tourmalet (famous for the Tour de France). The weather was superb on the tops.

Typical birds seen here included...

Wheatear...



Water Pipit...




Black Redstart...


My main target for the day was to get decent views of SNOWFINCH. I'd seen them eons ago in their finest, when on a school ski trip in the Alps in the early 1990's! I missed them when we came in August 15 as they'd departed their breeding areas. I felt I had a good chance to connect today. What I didn't want was views around picnic tables or cafes, which they are inclined to frequent!

As always I had some information regarding best sites so I headed for the eastern car park at the CdT. I'd been reliably informed that the SF nested in the ski lift supports! After around 45 minutes I hadn't had a sighting. We had lunch and enjoyed the stupendous view...


...and one of the locals having a scratch...


Then I saw one in flight, showing the extensive white on the wings. Once it landed though...it vanished!?  I then noticed a drainage pipe...


I'd seen Black Redstart and Linnet drinking and bathing there, so I decided to see if the star turn would appear. Eventually, it did...


As you can see, a well camouflaged bird, very difficult to pick out against the terrain. It only stayed for a few seconds but this time I was on the ball and managed this pic.

A few Ravens and YB Choughs drifted over but no raptors? I then picked up another SF high on the grass bank...


Later in the afternoon I got my closest pic from the car...


Really pleasing to spend some quality time with this species. A good start.

2 comments:

Richard Gray said...

Congratulations to the pair of you. Great news, great photo.

Alan Whitehead said...

Cheers Richard. Finally did the decent thing!