Sunday, 4 June 2017

Belchite area, Zaragoza and travelling North to Hecho Valley, Aragon.

Granada Wildlifes tour of Belchite and the Pyrenees.
Day Two. A second wet visit to the Steppe lands and then an interesting but still damp drive North.

The next storm that was about to arrive.
Again we got up to clouds and drizzle so we did not have an early morning walk but after breakfast and whilst we were loading the vehicle we did see and hear several species including a singing male Cirl Bunting (Escribano Soteno / Emberiza cirlus), Golden Oriole (Oropéndola / Oriolus oriolus), Collared Dove (Tórtola Turca / Streptopelia decaocto), House Sparrow (Gorrión Común / Passer domesticus), Spotless Starling (Estornino Negro / Sturnus unicolor), Barn Swallow (Golondrina Común / Hirundo rustica), Goldfinch (Jilguero / Carduelis carduelis) and Serin (Verdecillo / Serinus serinus).
Rain over some not so distant hills near Belchite.
We drove back out to El Planerón but things were still wet and sticky and the storms just kept on coming through, so after a couple of hours searching through the masses of Short-toed (Terrera Común / Calandrella brachydactyla), Calandra (Calandria / Melanocorypha calandra) and Crested Larks (Cogujada / Galerida cristata) we decided to head north towards the Hecho Valley earlier than planned. Before we moved on we also added Marsh Harrier (Aguilucho Lagunero Occidental / Circus aeruginosus), Little Owl (Mochuelo Europeo / Athene noctua), Red-billed Chough (Chova Piquirroja / Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax), Common Magpie (Urraca / Pica pica), European Bee-eater (Abejaruco Común / Merops apiaster), Lesser Short-toed Lark (Terrera Marismena / Calandrella rufescens) and Stone Curlew (Alcaraván Común / Burhinus oedicnemus) to the day list.
Belchite after a storm has passed by.
As we were going North early I set the satnav to take us on the shortest route avoiding motorways which worked out very well. On the first leg we picked up several rather soggy looking Black Kites (Milano Negro / Milvus migrans) which were sat on the walls of a roadside ruin, a male Montagu's Harrier (Aguilucho Cenizo / Circus pygargus) quartering some cereal fields and several White Storks (Ciguena Blanca / Ciconia ciconia) and Cattle Egret (Garcilla Bueyera / Bubulcus ibis) which were feeding in fileds along side the river Ebro.
One of the damp Black Kites seen whilst we travelled North.
We reached a long bridge which crossed the Ebro near Gelsa, we parked and walked down to the bridge and scanned the water and banks, our first good find were 3 Common Cuckoos (Cuco Común / Cuculus canorus) which were chasing each other down stream. We also had Little Egret (Garceta Común / Egreeta garzetta), Great Reed Warbler (Carricero Tordal / Acrocephalus arundinaceus), Rock Pigeon (Paloma Bravia / Columba livia), Black-headed Gull (Gaviota Riedora / Larus ridibundus), Common Swift (Vencejo Común / Apus apus) and House Martin (Avión Común / Delichon urbica) and just after we left the site and drove around Gelsa Grey Heron (Garza Real / Ardea cinerea) and Red Kite (Milano Real / Milvus milvus) were added to the day and trip list.
Clouds over the Ebro at Gelsa.
We continued on our way and at some point before we reached a town called Bujaraloz we had Common Kestrel (Cernicalo Vulgar / Falco tinnunculus), Carrion Crow (Corneja Negra / Corvus corone), Jackdaw (Grajilla / Corvus monedula), Black-eared Wheatear (Collalba Rubia / Oenanthe hispanica), Red Fox (Zorro / Vulpus vulpus) and 3 fly over the road Pin-tailed Sandgrouse (Ganga Ibérica / Pterocles alchata) which every one saw despite being in the Van rattling along between spots. As we approached Bujaraloz we notice a Laguna off to our right so we thought that it was worth a look and tried to find a way through to it. 
One still needing a name? seen in the Juniper woods on Sierra de Pallaruelo.
As we left the main road we found a small roadside pool which held Eurasian Coot (Focha Común / Fulica atra), Common Moorhen (Gallineta Común / Gallinulas chloropus), Mallard (Anade Azulón / Anas platyrhynchos), Little Grebe (Zampullín Común / Tachybaptus ruficollis) and more Black-headed Gulls. Just down the road we found the Laguna and started to go for a walk, as soon as we got out of the van we had very good views of a pair of Spectacled Warblers (Curruca Tomillera / Sylvia conspicillata) but then the rain started again and this time it was big blobs so we got back in to the van and when it did not look like stopping for a while we pressed on again. As we drove we saw Short-toed Eagle (Culebrera Europeo / Circaetus gallicus), Skylark (Alondra Común / Alauda arvensis), Blackbird (Mirlo Común / Turdus merula) and several more Black-eared Wheatears.
The rain again stop and so did we as we were crossing the Sierra de Pallaruelo, in amongst the terraced fields and Juniper woods we found several new species including severl Dartford (Curruca Rabilarga / Sylvia undata) and a female Subalpine Warbler (Curruca Carrasquena / Sylvia cantillans), Alpine Swift (Vencejo Real / Apus melba), Common Chaffinch (Pinzón Vulgar / Fringilla coelebs), Woodchat Shrike (Alcaudón Común / Lanius senator), several singing Woodlarks (Totovia / Lullula arborea), European Bee-eaters, Corn Bunting (Triguero / Emberiza calandra) and loads of Rabbits (Conejo / Oryctolagus cuniculus).
Las Peñas de Riglos.
On some fields near by we had more Black Kites, Yellow Wagtail (Lavandera Boyera / Motacilla flava iberiae), White Storks and on the banks of the Barranco de San Juan Zitting Cisticola (Buitrón / Cisticola juncidis), Cetti's (Ruisenor Bastardo / Cettia cetti), Reed (Carricero Común / Acrocephalus scrpaceus) and Melodious Warbler (Zarcero Común / Hippolais polyglotta), Nightingale (Ruisenor Común / Luscinia megarhynchos), Woodpigeon (Paloma Torcaz / Columba palumbus), Mistle Thrush (Zorzal Charlo / Turdus viscivorus), Mallard and more European Bee-eaters.
Asphodel Sp ?? in the Hecho Valley.
Yet again the heavens opened and it meant it this time and it went on for ages, we stopped above Laguna Sarinon but did not get out to set the scopes up in the rain, however we still managed to pick out through the gloom several Great Crested Grebes (Somormujo Lavanco / Podiceps cristatus), Black Terns (Fumarel Común / Chlidonias niger) and a couple of Grey Herons before moving oaround Huesca and towards Ayerbe and to our next stop on the bridge above the Rio Gallago. During this drive we stopped for lunch but did not add any new species but from the bridge we did including Grey (Lavandera Cascadena / Motacilla cinerea) and White Wagtails (Lavandera Blanca / Montacilla alba), Red-rumped Swallow (Golondrina Dáurica / Hirudo daurica), a strange partial Albino House Martin, Green Woodpecker (Pito Real / Picus viridis), Spotted Flycatcher (Papamoscas Gris / Muscicapa striata), Wren (Chochin / Troglodytes troglodytes), Great Tit (Carbonera Común / Parus major), Black Redstart (Colirrojo Tizón / Phoenicurus ochruros) and several Crag Martins (Avión Roquero / Ptyonoprogne rupestris). From this beautiful spot (even in the drizzle) we continued on along some nice river valleys past Las Peñas de Riglos, a stunning rocky outcrop picking up Common Buzzard (Busardo Ratonero / Buteo buteo), two Peregrine Falcons (Halcón Peregrino / Falco peregrinus) and Sardinian Warbler (Curruca Cabecinegra / Sylvia melanocephala) on the way.
Rio Aragon as it cuts through the Boca del Infierno.
We continued on to the river at the lower end of the Hecho where we had Grey Heron again and a couple of Yellow-legged Gulls (Gaviota Patiamarilla / Larus Michahellis) on the shingle and as we moved further up the Valley several Griffon Vultures (Bultre Leonado / Gyps fulvus).
We stopped off in Siresa and sorted the hotel out, it was good to be back at this place as I always like the feel of this Hotel. After everyone was in and sorted we jumped back into the Van and drove a short way up the valley to check out the narrow gorge called Boca del Infierno, on the way we had male and female Red-backed Shrikes (Alcaudón Dorsirrojo / Lanius collurio) on wires in a field. The Gorge is a spectacular spot where in the past I have seen Wallcreeper (Treparriscos / Tichodroma muraria) but they have not breed here for a few years, however we did get views of Egyptian Vulture (Alimoche Común / Neophron percnopterus), Common Treecreeper (Agateador Norteño / Certhia familiaris), Robin (Petirrojo Europeo / Erithacus rubecula), a Dipper (Mirlo Acuático / Cinclus cinclus) which Juliet found and as it was a lifer for her it was even better that she found it herself and just one flowering Pyrenean Saxifrage (Corona del Rey / Saxifraga longifolia).
Our last stop on the long day was at the base of the Gabardito where we had good views of another couple of male Red-backed Shrikes and several species we had seen earlier in the day but nothing new so we went back to the hotel and had a very enjoyable evening meal before a much need earlish night.
In the Boca del Infierno in the Hecho Valley.
Andy M, Andy P, David and myself in Boca del Infierno.
In the Boca del Infierno.
Posing just above the Boca del Infierno.
Juliet watching the Dipper on the river below us.
Pyrenean Saxifrage (Corona del Rey / Saxifraga longifolia).
Silene Sp ??
Linaria Sp ??
Silvery Paronychia (Paronychia argentea).

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