A morning of steppe species and an evening in the mountains.
Granada Wildlife Pyrenees Tour Day Two.
After a very nice breakfast that Ruth prepared a little earlier than the usual time so that we could get out birding we had a quick look around the hotel and started the day list off with Melodious Warbler (Zarcero Común / Hippolais polyglotta), Golden Oriole (Oropéndola / Oriolus oriolus), Black Redstart (Colirrojo Tizón / Phoenicurus ochruros), Tree Sparrow (Gorrión Molinero / Passer montanus), Collared Dove (Tórtola Turca / Streptopelia decaocto), Common Swift (Vencejo Común / Apus apus), White Wagtail (Lavandera Blanca / Montacilla alba), Carrion Crow (Corneja Negra / Corvus corone), House Sparrow (Gorrión Común / Passer domesticus), Serin (Verdecillo / Serinus serinus), Greenfinch (Verderón Común / Carduelis chloris), Goldfinch (Jilguero / Carduelis carduelis), Nightingale (Ruisenor Común / Luscinia megarhynchos), Barn Swallow (Golondrina Común / Hirundo rustica), Mallard (Anade Azulón / Anas platyrhynchos), Blackbird (Mirlo Común / Turdus merula) and a single Grey Heron (Garza Real / Ardea cinerea) on the pool at the bottom of the track we also recorded Mute (Cisne Vulgar / Cygnus olor) and Black Swans (Cygnus atratus) both of which were well and truly clipped so the group would not let me put them on the trip list !!
From here we drove the 20 odd KM to the start of the track out into the steppe area's of Belchite, on the way we had both Iberian Grey (Alcaudón Real Meridional / Lanius meridionalis) and Woodchat Shrikes (Alcaudón Común / Lanius senator), Spotless Starling (Estornino Negro / Sturnus unicolor), Black Kite (Milano Negro / Milvus migrans), Red-legged Partridge (Perdiz Roja / Alectoris rufa), Woodpigeon (Paloma Torcaz / Columba palumbus), Raven (Cuervo / Corvus corax) and Common Magpie (Urraca / Pica pica).
We turned on to the dirt track and made our way out into the dry agricultural areas beyond and made our first stop after a KM or so and scanned the area picking up Short-toed (Terrera Común / Calandrella brachydactyla), Thekla (Cogujada Montesina / Galerida theklae) and Crested Larks (Cogujada / Galerida cristata), Corn Bunting (Triguero / Emberiza calandra), Linnet (Pardillo Común / Carduelis cannabina) and Hoopoe (Abubilla / Upupa epops). Further on we stopped to have a look at the first Calandra Larks (Calandria / Melanocorypha calandra) of the trip and amazingly what turned out to be the only Montagu's Harrier (Aguilucho Cenizo / Circus pygargus) of the tour which was a fine leucistic male. Again we moved on a short distance and stopped to look at a male Marsh Harrier (Aguilucho Lagunero Occidental / Circus aeruginosus), Common Buzzard (Busardo Ratonero / Buteo buteo) whilst we watched this we started to hear a call in the distance but which was getting nearer which we could not put to a species at first but it soon became apparent that this almost corvid like crock was being made by a group of 3 Pin-tailed Sandgrouse (Ganga Ibérica / Pterocles alchata). These birds passed near by giving us nice views but were soon followed by two more birds which came right over our heads, this was the moment I realized I had left the camera in the van. We continued to hear these birds and others of the same species for a while whilst they moved around the site, we walked a way along this track adding Stone Curlew (Alcaraván Común / Burhinus oedicnemus), Zitting Cisticola (Buitrón / Cisticola juncidis), Griffon Vulture (Bultre Leonado / Gyps fulvus), Common Kestrel (Cernicalo Vulgar / Falco tinnunculus), Clouded Yellow (Colias Común / Colias corcea), Bath White (Blanqiverdosa / Pontia daplidice), Southern Brown Argus (Aricia cramera), Mallow Skipper (Carcharodus alcae), Common / Southern Blue (Icaro (Dos Puntos) / Polyommatus icarus / celina), a teneral male Red-veined Darter (Sympetrum fonscolombii), Rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) and Red Fox (Vulpus vulpus).
Further on we checked an area near an almost completely dry lake and picked up just Little Owl (Mochuelo Europeo / Athene noctua), Lesser Kestrel (Cernicola Primilla / Falco naumanni) before dropping down to a side track which lead out to a small pool which still held a small amount of water, as we drove to this point Mike H quietly said he thought he had seen a slightly strange looking lark on the right of the vehicle just a few meters from the track so we reversed back and scanned the spot and soon relocated this bird. With in a couple of seconds it showed fully in the open and we where watching the prize of the day a very smart immature Dupont's Lark (Alondra Ricotí / Chersophilus duponti) which pottered around in amongst the dry grassy tussocks giving us great views for the next couple of minutes before slipping out of view into the denser vegetation. We were all very pleased with this bird as I had mentioned in the itinerary that the bird was present but very hard at this time of the year and the chances of seeing one let along getting the views we did were slim to say the least.
We parked by the small pool and checked the reeds and Tamarisks nearby and soon added a few species to the Dragonfly list including Iberian Blue-tail (Ischnura graellsii), Small Red Damselfly (Ceriagrion tenellum), Common Blue Damselfly (Enallagma cyathinerum) and Scarlet Darter (Crocothemis erythraea) along with Iberian Water Frog (Rana Común / Rana Perezi) and Large Psammodromus (Lagartija colilarga / Psammodromus algirus).
We returned to the van and retraced out way a short distance along the track before turning off and then parking again near an area of the lake which still held some water, in the reeds and sedges on the margins we found Western Willow (Lestres viridis) and a couple of Migrant Spreadwing (Lester barbarus) as well as Common Stonechat (Tarabilla Común / Saxicola torquata), Dartford Warbler (Curruca Rabilarga / Sylvia undata), a couple more Marsh Harriers and lots more Short-toed Larks.
We continued on to another T junction turned left and drove out in to the fields again and had very nice views of a Lesser Short-toed Lark (Terrera Marismena / Calandrella rufescens) which sat on the track and another couple of Pin-tailed Sandgrouse before we turned around and headed back towards the road. On this short drive we saw Sardinian (Curruca Cabecinegra / Sylvia melanocephala) and Orphean Warblers (Curruca Mirlano / Sylvia hortensis), Red-billed Chough (Chova Piquirroja / Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax) and Black-eared Wheatear (Collalba Rubia / Oenanthe hispanica). At the end of the road I put Hecho into the Satnav and we started the drive North as it was starting to warm up out on the fields, we did make a short stop at a mirador which looked over the whole area before continuing our drive. We travelled up past Zaragoza seeing lots of White Stork (Ciguena Blanca / Ciconia ciconia) and stopped at a bridge whih crossed the Embalse de Ardisa and had a look along a short track in the woodland there. We added Blackcap (Curruca Capirotada / Sylvia atricailla), Cetti's (Ruisenor Bastardo / Cettia cetti) Garden (Curruca Mosquitera / Sylvia borin) and Subalpine Warblers (Curruca Carrasquena / Sylvia Cantillans), Booted Eagle (Aguililla Calzada / Hieraaetus pennatus), House Martin (Avión Común / Delichon urbica), European Bee-eater (Abejaruco Común / Merops apiaster), Cattle Egret (Garcilla Bueyera / Bubulcus ibis), Common Chaffinch (Pinzón Vulgar / Fringilla coelebs), Turtle Dove (Tórtola Europea / Streptopelia turtur), Spotted Flycatcher (Papamoscas Gris / Muscicapa striata), Robin (Petirrojo Europeo / Erithacus rubecula), Song Thrush (Zorzal Común / Turdus philomelos), Common Treecreeper (Agateador Norteño / Certhia familiaris),Nuthatch (Trepador Azul / Sitta europaea), Great Spotted Woodpecker (Pico Picapinos / Dendrocopos major) and heard Long-tailed Tit (Mito / Aegithalos caudatus) and Wryneck (Torcecuello / Jynx torquilla). Butterflies included Cleopatra (Cleopatra / Gonepteryx cleopatra), Brimstone (Gonepteryx rhamni), Speckled Wood (Pararge aegeria), Large White (Pieris brassicae) and Scarce Swallowtail (Chupaleches / Iphiclides podalirius feisthameli).
A little further on our attention was drawn to a group of farm buildings due to the large number of Griffon Vultures that were circling the spot, we soon guessed that it was some sort of feeding station so we pulled over and had a look. Some of the birds were so over loaded with food that they could not get off the ground and were just bouncing around in a nearby cereal crop field which looked quite comical whilst others were still feeding and were covered in the bloody evidence. In the same area we saw the first Egyptian Vulture (Alimoche Común / Neophron percnopterus) of the trip, Red Kite (Milano Real / Milvus milvus) and in a roadside ditch several Copper Demoiselle's (Calopteryx haemorrhoidalis) and Keeled Skimmer (Orthetrum coerulescens). Again we continued on past the impressive rocks of Peñas de Riglos where we stopped and took a couple of view shots and near by picked up a Peregrine Falcon (Halcón Peregrino / Falco peregrinus). We eventually reached the small village of Siresaand checked in to the Hotel Castillo D'Acher were we going to be spending the next six nights. Once everyone and the kit were in their rooms we went and had a drive to the well known Boca del Infierno where we checked out the stunning gorge and cliffs for birds, here we added Rock Pigeon (Paloma Bravia / Columba livia), Crag Martin (Avión Roquero / Ptyonoprogne rupestris), Alpine Swift (Vencejo Real / Apus melba), Dipper (Mirlo Acuático / Cinclus cinclus), Wren (Chochin / Troglodytes troglodytes) and Jay (Arrendajo / Garrulus glandarius). In the same area we had Wall Brown (Lasiommata megera), Pyrenean Rock-rose (Helianthemum nummularium ssp. pyrenaica), Pyrenean Saxifrage (Saxifraga longifolia) and a fine male Mouflon (Ovis orientalis) with some stunning horns. We headed back down the valley after a great but tyering day and had the first of many good meals at the hotel.
Some of the above photgraphs have been taken by guests on the day and are credited on the photo's, thanks for allowing me to use them to make the blog more interesting.
Photographs from the top: John, Judy, Mike H, Mike L, Mary-Ann, Linda and Nick, Short-toed Lark (Terrera Común / Calandrella brachydactyla), Pin-tailed Sandgrouse (Ganga Ibérica / Pterocles alchata), Migrant Spreadwing (Lester barbarus), Lesser Short-toed Lark (Terrera Marismena / Calandrella rufescens), Iberian Water Frog (Rana Común / Rana Perezi), Ruined Finca, Small Red Damselfly (Ceriagrion tenellum), Mary-Ann looking for a Golden Oriole, Griffon Vulture (Bultre Leonado / Gyps fulvus), Egyptian Vulture (Alimoche Común / Neophron percnopterus), Keeled Skimmer (Orthetrum coerulescens), Scarce Swallowtail (Chupaleches / Iphiclides podalirius feisthameli) and male Mouflon (Ovis orientalis).