Birding trip report NE Spain (+ France) June 1999

John van der Woude  -  www.jvanderw.nl 

The publication of the bird atlas of the North-Spanish province of Huesca (by Kees Woutersen,  ISBN 84-605-7422-9) made us visit NE Spain for the first time. We went there for three main areas: Pyrenees (high and low), Ebro plains (steppe and riverine habitats), and Ebro Delta. On the way down and back through France we also made short visits to the limestone Causses on the Massif Central, the Atlantic bay of Arcachon in Les Landes, and the highly varied Brenne lowlands 50 km NE of Poitiers in Central France. The itinerary of this 10-day trip, all in fine weather, was as follows:
Fri. 10 June drive via Lille, where we picked up two british birder-friends, to La Canourgue in the Massif Central, France, hotel Commerce, phone +33 466 328018, fax +33 266 329479.

Sat. 12 June morning birding on the limestone Plateau de Sauveterre (photo above) to Point Sublime for overlook at Gorges du Tarn, back along Le Massegros to highway again. Afternoon on to Spain, short visit to Rosas wetland reserve on Mediterranean coast at Figueras just across Spanish border (behind visitor centre along road from Castello d'Empuries to St Pere Pescador). Then on to Sant Carles de la Rapita in Ebro Delta, hotel Miami Park in town centre, with garage and good restaurant, phone +34 977 740351, fax +34 977 741166 (for 2 nights). They provide a good road map of the delta, with hides etc.

Sun. 13 June birding in Ebro Delta, mainly in Southern part: rice fields directly NE of Sant Carles, Encanissada lagoon, salinas E of that, sandspit to Banya, ferry crossing to Deltebre, lagoon N of Riumar (photo above; with flamingo's).

Mon. 14 June drive along Ebro to lower Cinca valley NW of Fraga, for riverine habitat between Ballobar and Alcolea de Cinca (photo above), and for good steppe between Alcolea de Cinca and Ontinena. Drive on to Monegros steppe, esp. along A2105 S of Bujaraloz and along minor road that splits off from this to W (both less good birding than expected) . Night in Casino hotel, along busy N11 but on quiet hill about 23 km E of Zaragoza. Very good value for money (restaurant also), at least as long as you keep off from the gambling tables.

Tue. 15 June birding in steppe area N of Belchite (40 km SE of Zaragoza), mainly at La Planera reserve along road from Quinto (at N323) to Belchite (photo above) and along unsurfaced side road that splits off N of Codo (to W side of same reserve, where Dupont's Lark was present to the left of the first trail to the right, at 41 degrees and 22.178 minutes North by 0 degrees and 37.724 minutes West; see map). Afternoon drive to Huesca (hotel in town, many there). Evening drive to hilly woodland/fields S of Huesca, mainly at Tramaced canyon area along side road from A131 to Piraces.

Wed. 16 June birding around Riglos in pre-Pyrenees mountains 30 km NW of Huesca: road to Aguero (both photos above), base of cliffs to the right of Riglos village (both photos below), lake Embalse de la Pena N of Riglos mountains. Short late afternoon visit to Monasterio de San Juan de la Pena: pine forest at parking place of new monastery, and lookout point slightly below new monastery. Hotel Anaya in Puente la Reina de Jaca, phone +34 974 377411, fax +34 974 377397, for three nights (central location for Pyrenees valleys).

Thu. 17 June upper Hecho valley, via Anso valley because of (announced) road block in middle Hecho valley.
Tried in vain to have a (proper) look at Wallcreeper at the Boca de Infierno (photo below)

Made a walk from last unpaved dead-end part of uppermost road (photo below).

Fri. 18 June first upper Anso valley, including walk at treeline (many beeches) E of Zuriza (photo below).

Also a nice stay at middle Anso valley (see photo below), near Anso.

Sat. 19 June drive via Jaca and Pau (France) to Arcachon bay SW of Bordeaux, walk trail in coastal reserve Domaine de Certes just NW of Audenge. Drive on to near the Brenne region, hotel La Promenade in Yzeures-sur-Creuse, phone +33 247 914900, fax +33 247 944612, to be recommended for style, hospitality and food. The lady speaks English.
Sun. 20 June morning birding in the Brenne regional nature park (wetlands, pastures with hedgerows, woodlands), along the D78 and the D17, esp. around the Cherine reserve S of Mezieres. Drive back home in afternoon.


Species synopsis

For all the areas together, a total of about 215 species was calculated as being somehow reasonably possible, and we observed 176 or 82 percent of this, which is not bad given the short period. The first 9 of the trip ticks (like Black Kite and Hen Harrier) did we note while driving down to the Massif Central along the toll road. During the 4 hour stay on the Causse de Sauveterre we added 42 trip ticks, including Red Kite, Griffon Vulture (a thriving population now), Quail, Alpine Swift, Wood Lark, Tree Pipit, Grey Wagtail, Melodious Warbler, Bonelli's Warbler, Chough, Raven, Serin, Yellowhammer, and the from now on ubiquitous Corn Bunting.In the Rosas bay in the NE corner of Spain (2 hours visit only) we got 19 new species for the trip, like Little Grebe, Purple Heron, White Stork, Black-winged Stilt, Stone Curlew, Great Spotted Cuckoo, Bee-eater, Hoopoe, Cetti's Warbler, Fan-tailed Warbler, Great Reed Warbler.

The Ebro Delta was good for another 31 new species, a/o Little Bittern, Night Heron, Squacco Heron, Flamingo, Red-crested Pochard, Collared Pratincole, Kentish Plover, Slender-billed Gull, Audouin's Gull, Gull-billed Tern, Little Tern, Whiskered Tern, Short-toed Lark, Savi's Warbler, Spotless Starling. The lower Cinca valley (riverine & steppe habitats) produced 9 trip ticks, a/o Egyptian Vulture, Kingfisher, Roller, Penduline Tit (heard only), Golden Oriole.

In the steppes of Monegros and especially Belchite we added 18 species to the triplist, such as Montagu's Harrier, Little Bustard (heard only alas), Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Pin-tailed Sandgrouse, Little Owl, Dupont's Lark, Calandra Lark, Lesser Short-toed Lark, Thekla Lark, Tawny Pipit, Black-eared Wheatear, Spectacled Warbler, Great Grey Shrike, Woodchat Shrike. On the evening visit to the Tramaced area South of Huesca we ticked Short-toed Eagle, Crag Martin, Dartford Warbler, Rock Sparrow. In the pre-Pyrenees around Riglos we added Peregrine, Booted Eagle, Black Wheatear, Blue Rock Thrush, Sardinian Warbler, Spotted Flycatcher. At San Juan de la Pe
a we had our first Lammergeier (Bearded Vulture), several more were to follow in het Anso and Hecho valleys. There, new trip ticks were a/o Goshawk, Black Woodpecker, Water Pipit, Dipper, Alpine Accentor, Olivaceous Warbler, Firecrest, Red-backed Shrike, Alpine Chough. Back through France, Shoveler was about the only specialty we added in the Arcachon bay (although we had 34 species in total on this 2 hour walk).
Then, on the final 2.5 hour visit to the Brenne we got 56 species, including 9 trip ticks, like Black-necked Grebe, Black Tern, Grasshopper Warbler.
Besides the nice 174 species we had some dips of course, like Golden Eagle, Eagle Owl, Moustached Warbler, Rock Thrush, Ring Ouzel, Subalpine Warbler, Rock Bunting and Wallcreeper. The latter was a serious dip for our British friends, but we lucky Dutch look back at the time it stayed for months on top of our university building in Amsterdam...

Species list


X  = from the car on the way down through France
CA = Causse de Sauveterre
RO = Rosas coastal reserve
DE = Ebro Delta
LC = Lower Cinca valley
MB = Monegros and Belchite steppes
ST = Serrania de Tramaced
RI = Riglos
PE = San Juan de la Pena
AH = Anso and Hecho valleys Pyrenees
DC = Domaine de Certes (Arcachon bay)
BR = the Brenne, C. France

                  X CA  RO  DE  LC  MB  ST  RI  PE  AH  DC  BR
Little Grebe            RO  DE                              BR
Great Crested Grebe         DE                              BR
Black-necked Grebe                                          BR
Cormorant                   DE                          DC
Little Bittern              DE
Night Heron                 DE                              BR
Squacco Heron               DE
Cattle Egret            RO  DE
Little Egret                DE                          DC  BR
Grey Heron              RO  DE                      AH  DC  BR
Purple Heron            RO  DE  LC                          BR
White Stork             RO      LC                      DC
Greater Flamingo            DE
Mute Swan               RO                              DC  BR
Grey-lag Goose                                          DC
Shelduck                    DE                          DC
Gadwall                 RO  DE                          DC
Mallard                 RO  DE                              BR
Shoveler                                                DC
Red-crested Pochard         DE
Pochard                                                     BR
Tufted Duck                                                 BR
Black Kite        X             LC          RI  PE  AH  DC
Red Kite            CA                              AH
Lammergeier                                     PE  AH
Egyptian Vulture                LC      ST  RI      AH
Griffon Vulture     CA          LC          RI      AH
Short-toed Eagle                        ST  RI      AH
Marsh Harrier           RO          MB      RI
Hen Harrier       X CA
Montagu's Harrier                   MB
Goshawk                                             AH
Sparrowhawk
Buzzard           X CA          LC                  AH      BR
Booted Eagle                                RI
Kestrel           X CA  RO                          AH      BR
Peregrine                                   RI
Red-legged Partridge                MB      RI
Quail               CA                      RI
Moorhen                 RO
Purple Gallinule
Coot                    RO  DE                          DC  BR
Little Bustard                      MB
Oystercatcher               DE
Black-winged Stilt      RO  DE                              BR
Avocet                      DE
Stone Curlew            RO          MB
Collared Pratincole         DE
Little Ringed Plover            LC                          BR
Kentish Plover              DE
Lapwing                                                     BR
Redshank                    DE                          DC
Common Sandpiper                                    AH
Black-headed Gull X     RO  DE                              BR
Slender-billed Gull         DE
Audouin's Gull              DE
Lesser Black-backed Gull    DE
Greater Black-backed Gull                               DC
Herring Gull                                    PE  AH  DC
Mediterrean Yellow-legged GuDE                          DC
Gull-billed Tern            DE                          DC
Sandwich Tern               DE
Common Tern                 DE
Little Tern                 DE
Whiskered Tern              DE                              BR
Black Tern                                                  BR
Black-bellied Sandgrouse            MB
Pin-tailed Sandgrouse               MB
Stock dove                      LC
Wood Pigeon       X CA                              AH      BR
Collared Dove       CA
Turtle Dove                     LC          RI      AH      BR
Great Spotted Cuckoo    RO
Cuckoo              CA  RO  DE                      AH      BR
Little Owl                          MB
Swift               CA  RO  DE                      AH      BR
Alpine Swift        CA
Kingfisher                      LC
Bee-eater               RO          MB  ST
Roller                          LC
Hoopoe                  RO  DE      MB                  DC  BR
Green Woodpecker                                    AH  DC  BR
Black Woodpecker                                    AH
Great Spotted Woodpecker                        PE  AH      BR
Dupont's Lark                       MB
Calandra Lark                       MB
Short-toed Lark             DE      MB
Lesser Short-toed Lark              MB
Crested Lark                DE  LC  MB
Thekla Lark                         MB
Wood Lark           CA
Sky Lark            CA      DE                              BR
Sand Martin                     LC
Crag Martin                             ST  RI      AH
Barn Swallow        CA                              AH  DC  BR
House Martin        CA          LC
Tawny Pipit                             ST  RI      AH
Tree Pipit          CA                              AH  DC  BR
Water Pipit                                         AH
Yellow Wagtail          RO  DE                          DC
Grey Wagtail        CA                              AH
White Wagtail       CA                              AH  DC  BR
Dipper                                              AH
Wren                CA                                  DC  BR
Dunnock                                                     BR
Alpine Accentor                                     AH
Robin               CA                          PE          BR
Nightingale         CA  RO      LC          RI      AH
Black Redstart      CA              MB      RI      AH  DC
Redstart                                        PE
Stonechat           CA  RO                                  BR
Wheatear                            MB              AH
Western Black-eared Wheatear        MB
Black Wheatear                              RI
Blue Rock Thrush                            RI      AH
Ring Ouzel
Blackbird           CA                              AH      BR
Song Thrush         CA
Mistle Thrush                                       AH
Cetti's Warbler         RO                              DC
Fan-tailed Warbler      RO  DE                          DC
Grasshopper Warbler                                         BR
Savi's Warbler              DE                              BR
Reed Warbler                DE                          DC  BR
Great Reed Warbler      RO  DE
Olivaceous Warbler                                  AH
Melodious Warbler   CA              MB                  DC  BR
Dartford Warbler                        ST  RI
Spectacled Warbler                  MB
Sardinian Warbler                           RI
Whitethroat         CA                                  DC  BR
Garden Warbler                              RI
Blackcap            CA                      RI      AH      BR
Bonelli's Warbler   CA
Chiffchaff          CA                                      BR
Firecrest                                           AH
Spotted Flycatcher                          RI      AH
Long-tailed Tit                                     AH
Marsh Tit                                           AH
Willow Tit                                                  BR
Crested Tit                                     PE  AH
Coal Tit                                        PE  AH
Blue Tit                                            AH  DC
Great Tit           CA
Nuthatch                                        PE      DC
Short-toed Treecreeper                                  DC
Penduline Tit                   LC
Golden Oriole                   LC                          BR
Red-backed Shrike                                   AH      BR
Great Grey Shrike                   MB
Woodchat Shrike                     MB      RI      AH
Jay                 CA                          PE  AH
Magpie              CA  RO  DE                      AH
Alpine (Yellow-billed) Chough                       AH
Red-billed Chough   CA          LC          RI      AH
Jackdaw             CA                              AH
Rook              X
Carrion Crow      X                                         BR
Raven               CA                      RI      AH
Starling            CA                              AH  DC  BR
Spotless Starling           DE
House Sparrow       CA  RO  DE  LC  MB  ST  RI  PE  AH  DC  BR
Tree Sparrow                DE
Rock Sparrow                            ST
Chaffinch           CA                              AH  DC  BR
Serin               CA          LC                  AH      BR
Citril Finch                                        AH?
Greenfinch          CA      DE                      AH  DC  BR
Goldfinch           CA  RO                          AH  DC  BR
Linnet                  RO                          AH      BR
Crossbill           CA
Bullfinch                                           AH
Yellowhammer        CA                              AH
Cirl Bunting        CA          LC      ST  RI      AH      BR
Reed Bunting                                                BR
Corn Bunting        CA  RO          MB      RI      AH      BR