A tale of nature, wildlife and birding from Cheshire, North Wales and across the globe....

A tale of nature, wildlife and birding from Cheshire, North Wales and across the globe....

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Northern Spain Trip Report - Day 5

Day 5 - Thursday 17th April 2014

Our last day in Spain dawned, along with the daunting prospect of a mammoth 300km journey back from Zaragoza to Barcelona ready to catch our evening flight back to the UK. Arriving back at the car, we spotted a flock of swifts screaming and performing their acrobatic flight high above our heads, but they were just too far up to positively nail down to a species. 

Having cleaned up on all our key target species, but still lacking any Bustard sightings, we headed towards a site near the Laguna de Gallocanta to see if we could strike it lucky with these impressive birds. A Griffon Vulture perched on one of the telegraph poles on route gave absolutely amazing views, allowing a close approach and a great photo opportunity.
Griffon Vulture - Northern Spain
Upon arrival and scoping the huge lake, I was thrilled when Alex found two stonking Greater Flamingos in the middle of the water, surprisingly far north and showing just how far up Spain this species can occur. I wasn’t expecting to have flamingos on my trip list at all, so this was a great final lifer to add on the very last day.
Laguna de Gallocanta - Northern Spain
The many terns flitting around proved just too distant to ID, as did the majority of birds on the lake, although several Black-winged Stilts could be picked out feeding in the shallows. A local informed us that we had just missed a Black Stork that had circled round and dropped by on the lake briefly – another of our wanted species – but a search around the area unfortunately provided no further sightings of this majestic and huge winged bird.

There was no sign of the bustards either, and a check in Alex’s site guide told us this was only a wintering site for the two species – the birds would be back on their breeding grounds now and would have more than likely left the area. A small gathering of European Swallowtails, the same species we get back in Britain, was a nice consolation (I’m yet to see the ones in Norfolk) and we watched around 5 or 6 of these large butterflies busy drinking from the muddy puddles on the track.
Swallowtail Butterfly - Northern Spain
A Rock Sparrow on one of the stone huts provided great views for several minutes, especially after our earlier more fleeting glimpses of this species, and an incident in one of the fields involved a true “leg it!” moment which resulted in Alex driving us off at high speed from a seemingly disgruntled local!
Rock Sparrow - Northern Spain
Leg it!
It was soon time to head back to Barcelona however, although despite the long drive (including a 30 toll charge that we had no idea about!), no more species were added to our final trip tally. A stop off at a service station provided some likely Roller habitat in the middle of the Spanish Countryside, but to no avail.

With our three main species tracked down – Wallcreeper, Dupont’s Lark and Lammergeier – the trip had been a resounding success for all 3 of us, with tonnes of laughter and memories made along the way, complete with a bucket load of new birds. 
Massive thanks to Chris who planned the entire trip and was effectively mine and Alex’s guide for the week, his quick off the mark ID skills were second to none and we simply couldn’t have done it without him. Alex also did a sterling job doing the majority of driving throughout the trip - the car certainly had an eventful time as can be seen by the state of it at the end of it's journey, absolutely covered in layers of mud and sand!
The incredible Pyrenean landscapes that engulf northern Spain are simply fantastic, and one of the most beautiful areas I have visited – rich in bird life and highly recommended to everyone. The breath-taking mountain landscapes with the roaring crystal clear rivers gouging out the mountainsides, complete with the fresh alpine air just can’t be beaten in terms of beauty, although the incredible mix of snowy mountaintops, warm open plains, dry grassland and winding forest trails were all simply stunning in their own right – a truly magical place indeed.
Northern Spain

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