Explore north-east Spain´s spectacular wintery wonderlands in the quest for Wallcreeper, Lammergeier and Dupont´s Lark
5th February – 11th February 2019
£1,325 for 7 days – price includes all accommodation, meals, guiding, transportation, taxes and entrances but excludes flights.
£180 single supplement.
The Pyrenees in winter are as beautiful as they are thrilling! It’s a challenging place to survive for wildlife, and the harsh conditions bring some star avian species within easy reach for the intrepid birder, allowing you to see them how you’ve never seen them before!
This is an area all about seeing specialist birds with restricted ranges, and spending quality time with star species that are hard to see elsewhere – especially breath-taking Lammergeiers and eye-popping Wallcreepers! Here, Black Woodpecker, Alpine Chough, Citril Finch, White-winged Snowfinch, and even Capercaillie are all possible.
Couple this with a visit to Aragòn’s sweeping steppe landscape near Gallocanta, where Dupont’s Lark sings its eerie song and Common Cranes bugle softly to each other in the dawn light, and you´ve certainly got yourself a trip to remember!
The erstwhile Kingdom of Aragon sweeps down from the Pyrenees, encompassing diverse terrains from permanent glaciers to verdant valleys, rich pasture lands and orchards, through to the arid steppe plains of the central lowlands. Aragon is home to many rivers—most notably, the river Ebro, Spain’s largest river in volume, which runs west-east across the entire region through the province of Zaragoza. It is also home to the Aneto, the highest mountain in the Pyrenees.
As well as it´s fast, spirited traditional dances, it is known for excellent mountain and riverine fare, such as wild boar, truffles and salmon.
This proud and spirited land has its own language and unique local customs, and is soon to be distinct from the rest of Spain. The cultural extravaganza that is Barcelona soon gives way to astounding natural splendour, where snow-capped peaks loom above meadows and pastureland, and medieval Moorish villages nestle by sparkling rivers.
Always hearty and tasty, Catalan cuisine takes its ingredients from both sea and mountain. Bacalao or cod, is often featured, alongside a hearty meat stew, or perhaps some of the prime ham or chorizo for which the area is rightly famed.
On the plains we´ll be looking for Dupont’s Lark amongst the Skylarks, Lesser Short-toed, Calandra, Thekla and Crested Larks, Meadow Pipits and Corn Buntings. Black-bellied and Pin-tailed Sandgrouse both occur, as do Great Bustards, Stone Curlews, Merlins, Hen Harriers, Little Owls and Golden Eagles.
Climbing the Pyrenees, the star species we hope to encounter are Wallcreeper, Lammergeier, Citril Finch, White-winged Snowfinch, Alpine Accentor, Griffon and Cinereous Vulture, Black Woodpecker, Hawfinch, Rock Bunting, Black Wheatear, Blue Rock Thrush, Alpine and Red-billed Chough, Black-bellied Dipper, Bonelli’s and Golden Eagle.
Arrive at Zaragoza; Gallocanta lagoon
We meet you at Zaragoza airport, and whisk you away to the accommodation for the first leg of our trip – the quirky and brilliant Allucant. Perched right on the shores of the famous Gallocanta lagoon, it is a birdwatcher’s paradise.
The lagoon is a wintering site for tens of thousands of Common Cranes, and we should be able to hear their gentle bugling calls throughout the night from the hotel’s cosy, bird-themed bar and rooms.
Light permitting, we´ll take an evening stroll around the lagoon, where we”ll look out for our first sightings of Common Cranes along with Black-necked Grebes and Black-winged Stilts.
The eerie steppe landscape of the local plains will form the backdrop for today´s birding. Here, we will be able to enjoy the spectacle of swirling flocks of huge numbers of wintering larks, pipits and buntings.
The songs of Skylarks, Lesser Short-toed, Crested, Thekla and Calandra Larks fill the air, as well as the calls of innumerable Corn Buntings and Meadow Pipits, and amongst them we will be searching for the scarce and elusive Dupont’s Lark, whose tiny European population can only be found in a handful of sites on the Iberian Peninsula.
Other specialist plains species are also found here, such as Black-bellied and Pin-tailed Sandgrouse, Great Bustard and Stone Curlew, as well as Merlins, Hen Harriers, Little Owls and Golden Eagles.
El Planeron, Quinto de Ebro, Talarn
Today we depart at the crack of dawn, allowing us to experience the spectacular sunrise and dawn chorus as we start our journey north to the Catalonian Pyrenees.
On the way, we may explore the famous plains of El Planeron nature reserve, giving another perspective on the area´s fascinating steppe habitat.
We´ll take a break en route to enjoy the meanders of the Ebro river at Quinto, where we’ll look for riverside delights like Purple Heron and Black Crowned Night Heron, Marsh Harrier, Kingfisher, Zitting Cisticola, Cetti’s Warbler, Penduline Tit and Tree Sparrow.
Our accommodation will be in a delightful Pyreneen cottage in the centre of the medieval village of Talarn.
Mont Rebei Gorge area; Talarn
Today our exploration of the foothills of the Pyrenees will take us to the spectacular forests and gorges of Mont Rebei. As well as many engaging birds like Hawfinches, Black Redstarts, Golden Eagles, Blue Rock Thrush, Northern Ravens and Red-billed Chough, we will be scouring the gorge walls for that much-coveted, flashy little gem of a bird, the Wallcreeper.
We will explore the picturesque sandstone streets of our village in the afternoon, enjoying the typical medieval architecture, golden light and who knows, maybe some urban birding surprises!
Serra D´Aubenç, Cadí-Moixeró National Park; Borredà
Our journey to our next base high in the Catalonian Pyrenees will be at a leisurely pace, allowing us to take in all the beautiful scenery and winter birding the area has to offer.
We will take time to explore the farmland, orchards and crags on the outskirts of the Serra D´Aubenç, looking for species like Citril Finch, Cirl Bunting, Hawfinch and Tree Sparrow,
At this time of year, many high mountain species come down to seek shelter in quaint pyrenees villages, so we if we wrap up warm for al fresco elevenses at a local cafe, we may be able to enjoy Blue Rock Thrushes and Rock Buntings while we snack!
We will arrive at our hotel with plenty of daylight left with which to explore the superb grounds and local area. El Querol Vell is a charming country hotel with stone walls, nestled amongst the coniferous forests of the upper valley of the Margençol river. In this area, Black, Lesser Spotted, Great Spotted and Iberian Green Woodpecker, Marsh, Crested and Coal Tits, Golden and Bonelli’s Eagles, Common Crossbill and Hawfinch are all present.
As darkness falls we’ll retire to comfy chairs around a cosy fireplace to recap our day´s birding with a warming drink, before enjoying a delicious gourmet dinner of local specialities courtesy of our hosts.
Serra del Cadì; Coll de Pal
Today we reach for the heights! We head for the village of Bagà, where, amongst wintering Blue Rock Thrushes on the buildings we start our ascent to the snow-capped peaks at Coll de Pal, some 2,100m above sea level. Our winding route takes us through deciduous and coniferous forests permeated by gushing half-frozen streams.
Amongst this truly breath-taking scenery we will be searching for numerous woodland birds Hawfinch, Crested Tit, Firecrest, Black Woodpecker and Short-toed Treecreeper whilst also searching for Black-bellied Dipper on the streams.
As the trees give way to rocky scrubby slopes, we will look out for Rock Buntings, White-winged Snowfinches, Alpine Accentors, Golden and Bonelli’s Eagles, Rock Ptarmigan, Black Wheatear, Griffon Vultures and the ‘ Bone-breaker ‘ itself – the Lammergeier.
Depart Barcelona airport
Today it´s time to say goodbye to the dramatic scenery, spectacular birding and warm fireside welcomes of Aragòn and Catalonia.