Julian Sykes Wildlife Holidays

Plains & Pyrenees Short Break

19th - 23rd May 2009

Report by Julian Sykes

with Rob & Kathy Dowsett, Jim & Viv Harvey
This was a short break specifically designed for the group who had a ‘wish list’ of several species such as Dupont’s Lark, Wallcreeper, Red necked Nightjar, Red knobbed Coot, Lammergeier and Citril Finch. It was a very enjoyable experience with friends that were both terrific company but also very good and keen in the field. Despite the time constraints of just a few days we managed to cover a lot of ground seeing a tremendous mix of species as well as most for their targets. Not only did we focus on the birds but also covered a lot of other forms of wildlife as you will see from the lists below along with some terrific locations. None more so than a quick visit to the ruined 'Old Town of Belchite' - a haunting memory of the Spanish Civil War desimated by Francos army after a long seige where 1000's of people lost their lives. It is though the wonderful and diverse natural beauty of Aragon that creates a lasting memory, from the snow-clad peaks of the High Pyrenees to the Moonscape-like steppes of El Planeron.

Some of the highlights of the short break included seeing all 8 species of lark in one day, watching Lammergeiers soar over the hotel, Northern, Black & Black eared Wheatears in one small area, superb views of a pair of Wallcreepers, point blank Red-necked Nightjars, Citril Finches feeding on Teasel heads amongst stunning mountains and a good comparison of Balearic & Cory's Shearwaters.
Below is a species list for all things identified with some extra text for the birds.

BIRDS

Little Grebe 
2 at Moro Marsh on 22nd
Great Crested Grebe
1 at Moro Marsh on 22nd
Balearic Shearwater 
20+ from the Denia/Javea Headland on 23rd
Scopoli’s (Cory’s) Shearwater 
30+ from the Denia/Javea Headland on 23rd
Grey Heron
Seen on 3 days mostly Moro Marsh on 22nd
Purple Heron
2 at Moro Marsh on 22nd
Squacco Heron
3 at Moro Marsh on 22nd
Little Egret
20+ on 22nd around Moro Marsh
Cattle Egret 
20+ on 22nd around Moro Marsh
White Stork
Seen en-route on 19th & 22nd
Mallard 
Seen on most wetlands
Red Crested Pochard
20+ at Moro Marsh on 22nd
European Honey Buzzard
Seen on 3 days around the Pyrenees
Red Kite
Seen on 4 days in good numbers
Black Kite
Seen on 4 days in good numbers
Lammergeier
7- 8 seen very well over 3 days in the Pyrenees
Egyptian Vulture
Seen on 4 days in the Pyrenees
Eurasian Griffon Vulture
Seen most days in good numbers
Short-toed Eagle
1-2’s seen on 18th, 21st & 22nd
Western Marsh Harrier
3 'cream crowns' seen en-route on 19th
Montagu’s Harrier
3 at El Planeron on 18th, 1 at C. de Loarre on 19th
Sparrowhawk
1 over Ayerbe Petrol Station (well done Kath), 1 on 21st
Common Buzzard
Seen on most days in small numbers
Golden Eagle
1 adult at Blancas on 18th, 1 at Gabardito on 21st
Booted Eagle 
Singles seen on 4 days
Eurasian Kestrel
Seen on most days in small numbers
Lesser Kestrel
A pair around farm buildings at Belchite on 19th
Peregrine Falcon 
1 at Gabardito on 20th, 4 at Denia/Javea on 23rd
Red legged Partridge
1 at El Planeron on 18th, 2 en-route on 19th
Quail
Heard calling around Villareal on 21st
Purple Swamphen
2 seen at Moro Marsh on the 22nd
Moorhen
1 at Moro Marsh on 22nd
Common Coot
6 at Moro Marsh on 22nd
Red knobbed Coot 
4 at Moro Marsh on 22nd
Black-winged Stilt
Several found at Moro Marsh on 22nd
Stone Curlew 
One pair seen at El Planeron on 18th & 19th
Yellow-legged Gull
Lots seen on the coast
Black-headed Gull
Several en-route through the rice fields on 22nd
Audouin’s Gull
Several seen on 22nd & 23rd
Gull-billed Tern
Several en-route through the rice fields on 22nd
Little Tern
2 at Moro Marsh on 22nd
Whiskered Tern
50+ at Moro Marsh on 22nd
Pin-tailed Sandgrouse
5 at El Planeron on 18th, heard only on the 19th
Black-bellied Sandgrouse
4 at Blancas on 18th, 2 at El Planeron on 19th
Rock Dove
Several at the Castillo de Montearagon on 22nd
Common Wood Pigeon
Seen on all days in good numbers
European Turtle Dove
Seen in several places on 18th, 19th & 22nd
Eurasian Collared Dove 
Lots seen on most days
Common Cuckoo
Heard at Castillo de Loarre (19th), Villareal (21st)
European Scop’s Owl
1 at Oliva Paseo on 22nd
Eurasian Eagle Owl
1 briefly near Puente de la Reina on 20th
Little Owl
1 at El Planeron on 19th
Red-necked Nightjar
10+ at Pego on 22nd
Pallid Swift
Breeding colony on Denia/Javea Headland on 23rd
Common Swift
Seen in good numbers on most days
Alpine Swift
10+ at Gabardito on 20th
Monk Parakeet
4 around Denia on 23rd
European Bee-eater
Seen on 3 days in small flocks
Hoopoe
Seen in singles in several places on 18th & 19th
Golden Oriole
4 at El Planeron on 18th heard at the Badlands on 21st
Wryneck
1 showed well at the Badlands on 21st
Great Spotted Woodpecker
Singles seen on 18th, 19th & 21st
Black Woodpecker 
Heard at Gabardito on 20th
Iberian Green Woodpecker
1 seen at Gabardito on 20th
Calandra Lark  
Small flocks at Gabardito on 18th & 19th
Greater Short-toed Lark
20+ at Blancas on 18th
Lesser Short-toed Lark
Lots seen at El Planeron on 18th & 19th
Dupont’s Lark
1 at Blancas on 18th, 4 on El Planeron Reserve on 19th
Crested Lark
Seen on 4 days in good numbers
Thekla Lark
2 at Blancas on 18th
Wood Lark
2 at El Planeron on 18th
Skylark
Single at Blancas on 18th
Eurasian Crag Martin
Seen most days in the Pyrenees in small numbers
Barn Swallow
Lots seen on a daily basis
Red-rumped Swallow
1 good record at the Castillo de Montearagon on 22nd
House Martin
Lots seen on a daily basis
White Wagtail
Small numbers seen on 4 days
Spanish Yellow Wagtail
2 at Villadoz (en-route lunch stop) on 22nd
Grey Wagtail
3 seen on the Rio Aragon on 20th
Tawny Pipit 
Singles seen well on 3 days
Water Pipit
6 singing high up at Portalet on 21st
Firecrest
Small numbers seen around the Hotel Uson
Dipper
4 seen along the Rio Aragon on 20th
Wren
Several seen and heard around the Hotel Uson
Dunnock
Seen mainly around the Hotel Uson
Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush
1 at Selva de Osa on 20th, 2 at Portalet on 21st
Blue Rock Thrush
Seen in pairs & singles on 3 days
Blackbird
Seen on all days, good numbers in the Pyrenees
Song Thrush
Heard only at Gabardito on 20th
Mistle Thrush
2 at Castillo de Loarre on 19th, 1 at Gabardito on 20th
Zitting Cisticola
Several around Moro Marsh on 22nd
Cetti’s Warbler 
Heard at Moro Marsh on 22nd
Eurasian Reed Warbler
A few seen and heard at Moro Marsh on 22nd
Great Reed Warbler
Several seen at Moro Marsh on 22nd
Common Chiffchaff
Heard on 20th & 21st in the Pyrenees
Western Bonelli’s Warbler
2 @ C. de Loarre on 19th, 1 @Gabardito on 20th
Blackcap
Singles seen around the Hotel Uson
Garden Warbler
1 @ Rio Martin on 18th, 1 @ Selva de Oso on 20th
Western Orphean Warbler
Singles seen @ El Planeron on 18th & 19th
Melodious Warbler
Pairs found @ San Martin, Loarre & Villareal
Sardinian Warbler
1 female seen en-route on 19th
Spectacled Warbler 
2 @ Castillo de Montearagon on 22nd
Spotted Flycatcher
Singles seen on 3 days
European Robin
1 seen around the Hotel Uson on 21st
Common Nightingale
Singles seen on 2 days with lots more heard
Black Redstart 
Seen in small numbers on 5 days
Whinchat
2 at the Badlands on 21st
Stonechat
Seen in small numbers on 3 days
Black Wheatear 
6 near Huesca on the 22nd
Black-eared Wheatear 
4 at Blancas on 18th, 2 near Huesca on 22nd
Northern Wheatear
20+ at Blancas on 18th, singles on 3 other days
Long-tailed Tit 
Only one bird seen at Hotel Uson on 21st
Coal Tit
6 at Gabardito on 20th, several at San Juan de la Pena on 21st
Crested Tit 
2 in pines at Gabardito on 20th
Great Tit
Seen on most days in small numbers
Blue Tit
Several seen around the Hotel Uson
Eurasian Nuthatch
2 at San Juan de la Pena on 21st
Wallcreeper
2 crackers showing very well at Gabardito on 20th
Short-toed Treecreeper
Singles @ Gabardito (20th) & San Juan (21st)
Red-backed Shrike
1 at the Badlands on 21st, 2 at Hotel Uson on 22nd (all males)
Woodchat Shrike
Seen in small numbers on 3 days
Jay
Seen in small numbers every day in the Pyrenees
Eurasian Magpie
Seen on most days except final morning
Red-billed Chough
Seen on most days, 50+ at Gabardito on 20th was notable
Yellow-billed Chough
Only 2 seen at Portalet on 21st 
Jackdaw
2 at the Castillo de Montearagon on 22nd
Carrion Crow
Seen in good numbers on most days
Common Raven
Seen in varying numbers on most days
Spotless Starling 
Common in most areas
House Sparrow
Common in most areas
Eurasian Tree Sparrow
2 amongst a mixed flock at Blancas on 18th
Rock Sparrow
Seen on most days, 20+ at Blancas on 18th
Chaffinch
Seen in good numbers on most days
Common Crossbill
4 at Hotel Uson on 20th, 10+ at Villareal on 21st
European Greenfinch
Several seen in various locations
European Goldfinch
Several seen in various locations
Eurasian Linnet
Small numbers seen over 4 days
European Serin
Common in most areas
Citril Finch 
4 seen very well at Gabardito on 20th, 1 at Portalet on 21st
Yellowhammer
6 in the Selva de Osa on 20th
Cirl Bunting
Singing males at the Hotel Uson (20th, 22nd) and Villareal (21st)
Ortolan Bunting
2 singing males at the Badlands on 21st
Corn Bunting
Seen in good numbers on most days
 

MAMMALS

Marmot
Chamois
Red Fox
Rabbit
Iberian Hare
Roe Deer
 

REPTILES, AMPHIBIANS & FISH

Iberian Water Frog
Iberian Wall Lizard
Common Green Lizard
Common Rock Lizard
Spiny-footed Lizard
Sunfish
 

BUTTERFLIES & INSECTS

Meadow Brown Painted Lady Clouded Yellow
Moroccan Orange-Tip Orange-Tip Speckled Wood
Large White Small White Spanish Marbled White
Common Blue Scarce Swallowtail Wall Brown
Brimstone Lesser Emperor Scarlet Darter
Red-veined Darter Carpenter Bee Blue-winged Cricket
 

FLOWERS

Early Purple Orchid Lady Orchid Elder-flowered Orchid
Alpine Squill Spring Gentian Trumpet Gentian
Viper’s Beugloss Green Hellibore Rock Rose
Grape Hyacinth Pyrenean Saxifrage Common Asphodel
Thyme Rosemary Spanish Broom
 

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