Thursday, 16 August 2012

'Kid in a Sweetshop'- Birding the Pyrenees (Part I- Jaca Ass)

Well let me really rub it in, after Shetland I stayed home for a week watching Father Ted and occasionally editing some photos when I felt like it. However, after a week of this I set off once more on my jollies, this time south to the far flung (and slightly exotic) destination of Portsmouth. From here I boarded the Cap Finestre, the ferry bound for Bilbao in northern Spain. It was with the intention of watching the Tour de France we set out that day from Portsmouth, but with a couple of days before and after we had some time to burn and in such a wonderful location the prospect of doing some light birding suited me down to the ground. We've visited the Pyrenees as a family before so knew some reasonable sites and had high hopes that, going in July rather than August, the birding'd be even better than last time. We broke the trip down into going to a certain number of places, covered in this post are:

- Argomaniz
- Jaca
- Riglos/Aguero

...but going somewhere by boat brings with it opportunities, such as those to watch the Common Dolphin in the bow-wave...!

... and 24hrs after leaving Portsmouth we docked in Bilbao, 5pm local time. We had designs to get to Argomaniz near Pamplona before nightfall for some kip before pressing onto the mountains. After some tricky navigation out of Bilbao we settled down for the night, adding Serin, Cirl Bunting, Goldfinch, Linnet and Melodious Warbler to the mix. However, I concentrated mainly on the Black Redstarts, a Pyrenean speciality and a bird not to be missed in its stunning full plumage. This is the male...

...The Serin waited for the next morning, but didn't resist for long as it sat at pretty much head height on a wall by the road...

...but Argomaniz was but a staging post in our stratospheric journey to one of my favourite places on earth, up there with Shetland, Manchester and Anfield. We arrived in Jaca, a smallish town in a valley on the Spanish side of the range. Our afternoon's targets were a Lesser Spot of Lunch and Rock Sparrow. With the first negotiated with little trouble, we set off to pursue these elusive but very attractive sparrows. They live on Jaca Citadel, and eventually we found them. As expected they proved elusive so we left them to have some tea, returning the next morning. On a tour (or 'Vuelta') of the town we found Bee-eater (a lifer!) and this egg-laying Small Skipper...

...VERY co-operative insect, my best shots of one to date. However, with the shadows lengthening and my eyelids dropping into my peripheral vision I called it a day. Or a Dia, I guess.

An early start and as the sun rose we were in position in the crisp morning air near the citadel. Having watched their activities yesterday I had a battle-plan: wait for them to leave their nests, fly across the moat then hit em at close range over the wall. This worked. Broadly speaking...!

...and that yellow throat that marks them out... not a bad start. We then headed towards the twin-towns of Aguero (not Sergio, thank God!) and Riglos, home of the 'Mallos' (or fingers to the likes of you or I). En-route we stopped for lunch, and I got my first ever acceptable Black Kite shots as it came low through the valley...

...whilst we ate the Crag Martins whirred overhead, I tried to capture a feed as the adults attended to some young in a tunnel...

...if nothing else that 50D can't half deal with noise! That was at ISO 1600 for those interested. As we came in towards Riglos we couldn't help but admire the Mallos, what a structure...! the shrubs at the bottom I found my first lifer of the trip, a Sub-Alpine Warbler. Not a great shot, but crappy light and I was still excited having seen it...!

...and found a lovely Black Redstart nest...

...but aside some very interesting vulture nests, we found little at the towns of the Mallos. Still, that was not a day to be sniffed at and as we meandered back through the scorching Spanish countryside we reflected that, on the whole, it wasn't such a bad life.

1 comment:

  1. I like the look of the area and hope to go there one day.