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SPAIN

Pyrenees

25 May–1 June 2015

On this single-base tour we will search for some of Europe's most beautiful, most elusive and most spectacular birds: Wallcreeper, Dupont's Lark and Lammergeier. The scenery will be equally as diverse, from the rugged snow-capped mountains of the Pyrenees to the stony semi-deserts of the steppes.

Day 1 Flight from London to Bilbao followed by a drive to our base for the whole tour, Berdun, in the foothills of the Spanish Pyrenees. Berdun is in an ideal position from which to explore the many exciting valleys, the steep wooded hillsides and the high altitude sites. We may have time for an early-evening stroll to take in the ambience of our temporary home.

Day 2 After breakfast we will explore the local area, taking a packed lunch. Raptors are a particular feature of the Pyrenees and we should see good numbers of Eurasian Griffon-vultures in the most spectacular of scenery. The real prize, however, is Lammergeier. Although not a common bird, it is now increasing in numbers and we should have excellent views of several of these magnificent raptors. Red-billed and Yellow-billed Choughs patrol the cliff faces and can sometimes be found feeding in the alpine meadows, which, at this time of year, abound with wild flowers. We will take a leisurely lunch break by a stream where we may see Grey Wagtail and White-throated Dipper. The afternoon will be spent searching for several more specialities including Black Redstart, Rock Bunting and Citril Finch.

Days 3–7 These days will be spent further exploring the nearby high mountain slopes and the passes of Hecho, Anso and Astun. We will look for Crested Tit, Firecrest and Black Woodpecker in the conifer forests while at the head of each valley we may find Rufous-tailed Rock-thrush, Alpine Accentor, Water Pipit and White-winged Snowfinch, especially where the snow has recently melted. We must also keep our eyes open for more raptors as Golden Eagle and Peregrine Falcon patrol the peaks while Northern Goshawk can sometimes be seen over the conifer forests. We will make a special effort to see Wallcreeper, but there is a lot of cliff face and there are very few birds! The lower slopes support deciduous forests and the avifauna is totally different, including Black and Red Kites, Booted Eagle, Eurasian Wryneck, Middle Spotted Woodpecker, Short-toed Treecreeper, Iberian Chiffchaff and Western Bonelli's Warbler. Excursions into the Spanish interior will include a trip to Riglos featuring the very impressive pinnacles called "Los Mallos de Riglos" where we can expect to find Eurasian Crag-martin, Alpine Swift, Rufous-tailed Rock-thrush, Rock Petronia, Peregrine Falcon and Lammergeier. A visit to San Juan de la Pena, with its incredible scenery and, of course, incredible birds, is a must. Here we may see lots of raptors but other attractions will include Black Woodpecker, Rock Petronia, Rock Bunting, Western Bonelli's Warbler and Citril Finch. Also, we will make a very early start and visit the stony plains around Zaragosa for more specialised species. This is one area known for holding Dupont's Lark as well as Little Bustard, Pin-tailed and Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Black Wheatear, Lesser Short-toed Lark and Spectacled Warbler.

Day 8 Sadly, today we must say goodbye to the Pyrenees and spend the morning driving back to Bilbao to catch the flight to London.

General Information Although this tour will proceed at relaxed pace, some long days will be spent in the field. A reasonable degree of fitness is required for daily walks of up to about five miles, sometimes at altitude. The climate can vary enormously from below freezing at the snowline to 30°C on the plains near Zaragosa and appropriate clothing is required. There are no special medical requirements. Photographic opportunities will abound.

Group Size Minimum number for tour to go ahead: 7; maximum group size: 14 with 2 leaders.

Alpine Accentor

Alpine Accentor