Tour At A Glance

Cost:

1199.00

Deposit:

250.00

Single Room Supplement:

50.00

Tour Code:

Expect some early starts and a lot of travelling on this tour, and also note that we use three accommodation bases. Expect some moderate walking and a couple of steep slopes.

Group Size:

Eight plus leaders

Dupont's Lark Alpine Chough Riglos Alpine Accentor Lammergeier Snow Finch Citril Finch

Spanish Pyrenees & Steppe - Dupont's Lark & Wallcreeper

Date: 26th February - 2nd March (CONTACT US FOR AVAILABILITY) and 2nd - 7th March 2020 (SPACES)
Leaders: Ashley Saunders & Marcus Nash (first tour) and Paul Roberts & Carles Oliver (second tour)

Itinerary

 

DAY ONE
The tour meets at Gatwick Airport for the morning flight to Barcelona. Upon arrival, we will head north around 90 minutes into the Catalan Pyrenees for our first taste of mountain birding. Snow Finch will be our main target this afternoon, as we visit a location by road to around 1900m elevation and hope to find a regular wintering flock, sometimes of up to 70 birds. If time permits, we can also try a location for Eagle Owl and Black Woodpecker in the same area. From here we make the journey west to Balaguer, our base for tonight.
 
DAY TWO
Our destination this morning will be the nature reserve of Boumourt, considered one of the best sites in Spain for raptors. Here we have a very good chance of connecting with the small Pyrenean population of Black Vulture, as well as Lammergeier and many European Griffon Vultures of course! Passerines should include European Serin, Woodlark, Rock Bunting and Rock Sparrow in this picturesque region. At Congost de Collegats, we embark on our first search for one of our target birds of the trip, the much sought after Wallcreeper. If we dont have any luck at the first stop, then sometimes one is wintering in a nearby village, right by a convenient stop for coffee! Blue Rock Thrush is also easy to see, along with Crag Martin and Sardinian Warbler. In the afternoon, we will spend time birding in the area around Isona, and here we have a good chance to find Citril Finch among other species such as Red-billed and Alpine Choughs, and Alpine Accentor. As we head down to the motorway in preparation for our journey west to Huesca, we will make a short stop if time permits at an excellent wetland, a winter home to Penduline Tit, Purple Swamp-hen and White-spotted Bluethroat. We arrive quite late to Arbanies, our base for the next three nights, for dinner and an early night. 
 
DAY THREE
Today, if the weather allows, we may head North to the ski centre at Astun. Accessed by excellent roads, this gives relatively easy access to a high altitude location and dependent on snow levels, we would have a very good chance of seeing Alpine Chough, as well as further chances for Alpine Accentor and occasionally Snow Finch. Nearby in Jaca, we can look for Rock Sparrow and at the adjacent mountain of Oroel, look for Black Woodpecker, Crested Tit, Firecrest, Short-toed Treecreeper and Common Crossbill in the woodlands.  Near Huesca, we conclude the day with a visit to the excellent Embalse de Sotonera to look for the flocks of migrating Common Cranes which stop off in the area. Up to 50,000 birds stop here during early March when they make their northbound migration through the Pyrenees, and this fantastic sight will make for a fitting finale to the day.Great White Egret, Rock Sparrow, Little Owl, Calandra Lark, Water Pipit and Black Kite are also likely here, along with plenty of bill-clapping White Storks tending their nests on the rooftops. 
Overnight Arbanies.
 
DAY FOUR
Another chance to look for Wallcreeper today, at the nearby site of Vadiello Dam. Here the birds are often low down by the rock walls of a series of tunnels carved through the rock face to take the road to the dam, especially if the sun is warming the rock face. Cirl and Rock Butings can both be found in this area, which is also excellent for overhead Eurasian Griffon Vultures and Lammergeier - we have seen early Egyptian Vulture here too. The mountainside scrub is good for Firecrest, and the pines hold Short-toed Treecreeper too. The excellent Montearagon is a beautiful location with dramatic views to the pre-Pyrenees, and is a good place to look for Black Wheatear, Blue Rock Thrush, Dartford Warbler, Thekla Lark and Rock Sparrow. It is also an excellent vantage point for raptor migration which at this early stage of the season comprises mainly Black Kites and Eurasian Griffon Vultures. If we still have not had good views, we will visit the towering sandstone cliffs at Los Mallos de Riglos, another wintering site for Wallcreeper. Birds typical of scrubby hillside such as Rock Butning, Dartford Warbler, Crag Martin, Blue Rock Thrush and Black Redstart can also be found and the site is excellent for Alpine Accentor and Lammergeier. Overnight Arbanies. 
 
DAY FIVE
Today we’ll be heading south to spend the morning birding at the area known as Los Monegros, and while vast, a couple of productive areas is all it takes to pick up some excellent birds. Pin-tailed and Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Little Bustard, Stone Curlew, Thekla Lark, Calandra Lark, Iberian Grey Shrike and possibly early migrant Great-spotted Cuckoo could all be seen in this area, as well as an outside chance of Great Bustard. We will also call at an excellent wetland site where we have a good chance of seeing White-spotted Bluethroat and Penduline Tit, as well as large numbers of wildfowl, Cattle and Great White Egrets, Marsh Harrier and Zitting Cisticola. Mid afternoon, we will arrive at our next base, the Hotel Rural Rincon del Cierzo near the small town of Belchite. After check in, we will head back out into the field to end the day looking for Dupont’s Lark in the surrounding steppe. Never easy to find, the birds sing almost exclusively at dusk and dawn, and this represents our best chance of a sighting. The steppe is a magical place, with huge flocks of Calandra and Lesser Short-toed Larks to keep us entertained, and often passing flocks of migrating Black Kites and Short-toed Eagle. Overnight Lecera.
 
DAY SIX
We rise before dawn and position ourselves again on the steppe at El Planeron to listen to the Dupont's Larks in song. Hopefully as the sun rises over the hills we have a chance of a sighting, but we must work hard! After breakfast we begin our journey back to Barcelone, which takes around three hours. Once here, we will visit the Llobregat Delta, right next to the airport. Depending on available time, we can visit a couple of the hides and have great chances to see Moustached Warbler, Bluethroat, Penduline Tit, Purple Swamp-hen and occasional Little Bittern and Greater Flamingo. If the migration season is early, we could also find passage waders and wildfowl here and Iberian Green Woodpecker is sometimes seen and heard in the surrounding trees. From here we head to the airport where we catch an early evening flight back to London.
 

 

Additional Information

 

WHATS INCLUDED
Five nights accommodation, all meals from dinner on day one to lunch on day six, return flights London/Barcelona, guidance and transport in Spain.
 
NOT INCLUDED
Transport to/from Gatwick and any overnight stay that may be required, travel insurance, drinks and any items of a purely personal nature. 
 
WHAT TO EXPECT
Due to the nature of the area covered, you can expect some fairly long days on the road on this tour. The accommodation we use at Casa Oliban is a traditional style small rural hotel with typical Aragonese cuisine. The second base is more motel style, but still of a good standard and en suite throughout. At Los Mallos de Riglos, the path is very rocky/stony and those unsure on their feet would find this difficult. At El Planeron, please bear in mind that we do not use a tape for Dupont's Lark and prefer to stay in the vehicle as much as possible to avoid disturbance to this threatened species.
 
PASSPORT, VISA & HEALTH
Visas are not required by UK nationals. Passports must have 6 months validity beyond the return travel date. Standard health and innoculation requirements apply for UK nationals, visit www.masta-travel-health.com to check these and if necessary, download a free health brief to take to a travel appointment at your local medical practice. 

 

Tour Reports

 

2014     2015     2016    2017    2018    2019a   2019b

 

2016 Flickr Album

 

2017 Custom Tour April    

 

2019 Album

 

Testimonials

 

"Thanks Ashley, the trip exceeded all my expectations.  Fabulous birds in stunning locations, look forward to the next one." A.T, Liverpool

 

"Great trip and report. Fantastic birds and views of them - practically the only thing the Dupont lark didn't do for us was the pasa doble !"  D.H, London

 

"Thanks Ashley, what a fantastic trip report.  We had so many magic moment, what a lucky group we were." R.B, Liverpool

 

"Just brilliant - who would have expected such fantastic views of Wallcreeper and Dupont's Lark" M H Hampshire

 

" Another superb tour with Oriole Birding" M & F S Leicester

 

 

 

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