The lads have been at it again! Just a small number of very old lads, that is! Spain is always so tempting for birders in spring offering sunshine, good birds & cheap living expenses, so 4 intrepid old mates ventured forth via Luton & Barcelona to the lower slopes of the Spanish Pyrenees with high hopes of getting a WPA‘lifer’. One extremely old lag was only going for the beer (& why not?) but Eagle Owl & Dupont’s Lark were target birds along with Wallcreeper, Citril Finch, Lammergeier & other inhabitants of the high mountains up to the snow line. It all went far too well initially – flights smooth & on time, wheels excellent, hotel well situated, beer consumed in evening sunlight & 11 euros of excellent menu dias. Then the bedbugs got me! They did have a feast! However they were soon forgotten when we got into Wallcreeper & Vulture country up the Valle de Canfranc to the ski resort of Astun & the French border. Lovely scenery, Griffon Vultures, Lammergeiers, Citril Finches & butterflies everywhere but absolutely zero Wallcreepers or Alpine Accentors. Crossed over the border but the French couldn’t provide either. OK, we’ll get Eagle Owl this evening at that guaranteed spot just West of Jaca. Driver drinking limon until he could take no more, quite a while hanging about & not a sniff of an Eagle Owl, but we heard nightjar (big deal!)
Off up the famous Hecho Valley next morning gave us Osprey munching fish on top of a post & Red-backed Shrike before we’d gone far but we were after the elusive Wallcreepers again. What an excellent adjective! The Boca del Inferno is most spectacular & famous for easily accessible breeding Wallcreepers except for this year! Lammergeiers again, Booted Eagle & Crag Martin. So, on to Gabardito –THE place to look for Wallcreepers & Black Woodpeckers & again we drew a blank. Spoke to a German birdtour guide & he couldn’t believe it! Also spoke to the exceedingly charming lady running the refuge there who shook her head but provided us with beers & ham omelette sandwiches in compensation. Could have stayed quite a long time there but we eventually dragged ourselves away & back down the valley picking up Rock Sparrow, Hoopoe, Black Kite etc. The driver was definitely not prepared for another evening on the limon, so the Eagle Owl remains on the list for next trip.
Our last day in the mountains & it’s further West, past the attractive town of Berdun into the Anso Valley & Binies Gorge. Wow, impressive or wot! Lumps of fallen rock all over the road & surely heaving with Wallcreepers…… Oh well, that’s another on the pending list. Then we headed South to Riglos & Loarre Castle by which time I think we’d given up looking for anything special & contented ourselves with Rock Thrush, nesting Hoopoe & various butterflies but the thought of an evening beer in the street soon dominated. Last full day & whatever we did in the early part was of no significance as Dupont’s Lark was on the hit list for the late afternoon & early evening if necessary! We knew just where to go from last year – absolutely guaranteed, no probs. Well, at 2030hrs we had to retire for our evening meal in Fuentes del Ebro. Another fine 3-course menu dias (10 euros with wine & water inc) & we laid our plans for an early start to return to the plains for dawn. We were there, we heard a few utter a note or 2 but could we see them…..! 3 hours or so there & we were off to Barcelona with mixed emotions; it was all good fun be didn’t get the birds!