THE PYRENEES MOUNTAINS - ORDESA NATIONAL PARK AND SURROUNDING AREA
DAY 3 - NOVEMBER 24TH 2017
Free time has been very brief on this whirlwind tour, Alberto our guide has done a remarkable job trying to pack in as much as he can during this short Familiarisation trip. Today we left at 7am in the dark and drove for an hour into the Odesa National Park, we passed through several small towns and villages arriving at, according to Alberto, "the is the best place in the world to see Bearded Vulture (Lammergeier)". During a stop along the way we did in fact see two of them circling above the mountains!
Our arrival in the park was punctuated by two impromptu stops, the first was to look at an ALPINE ACCENTOR which was feeding in the rocky scree along the roadside. Next we stopped to watch a Chamois, it was a fine male but a bit distant. We reached our destination which was a footpath to the crest of a ridge which afforded unbelieveable panoramic views into the park. Unfortunately, the weather today was not in our favour, we had low cloud with very low temperatures, in fact, it snowed for most of the time we were there! We walked up to 2,200 meters where the views were to die for (once the cloud had lifted).
We saw right across the glacial valley to the distant Mt Perdido, which at 3355 meters is the tallest mountain in the Pyrenees. During our hour long stay we watched both Red-billed and Alpine Chough and a couple more Alpine Accentors.
For the afternoon we visited a lovely area around Laminia and Revilla viewpoint. There, a new feeding station for the Lammergeier has been established but with the current weather conditions we never saw one near the site. We did however see a number of Griffon Vultures and Red Kites, a single Peregrine Falcon and a Common Buzzard.
Our walk into a very picturesuqe valley gave us the opportunity to list a few passerines, we saw Black Redstart, Firecrest, Chaffinch, Hawfinch (flyover), Serin, Great Spotted Woodpecker and Nuhatch. We had an extended lunch at a lovely restaurant in Laminia and it wasn't until around 4pm that we left the area.
On the way to our next guesthouse we stopped in Ainsa which is a beautiful old town which many 16th Century biuldings and a fabulous interpretation centre which concentrates on the the Lammergeier conservation effort. It was almost 8pm by the time we arrived at our guest house, it was late but well worth it.
We were now in Albella and we stayed in a wonderful guest house, a restored 16th century building and owned by a British couple. It was a fantastic place to stay.
Day 4 - November 25th 2017
We all woke to a much clearer morning and to a wonderful view from the guest house terraces. A Hawfinch sat in a garden tree and a flock of Siskins came down to feed on seeds. We also saw Long-tailed Tit, Coal Tit, Blue Tit, Firecrest and more Chaffinches.
The rest of the day was spent visiting the valleys to the west of Ordesa, we drove from Albella (stopping at the River Ara to watch a Dipper from the bridge) and went to the Hecho Valley first via Sabiñanigo and Jaca. After a visit to the Hotel Uson we drive to the Boca de Infierno (the mouth of hell), where we stopped to look for a Wallcreeper without success.
It was very cold today with overcast skies and a cold northerly wind, not a nice day to be out birding. We drove the entire length of the Hecho Valley which reaches into France and becomes quite barren. Bird sightings were few and far between, the odd Red Kite, Iberian Green Woodpecker, but not much else. We did see a Fieldfare as we drove back down the valley.
Our lunch stop was a cold affair, we ate a picnic in the shelter of a pine woods, but it still produced some nice sightings, a Red Squirrel ran around the picnic site and we saw Marsh Tit, Coal Tit and heard Crested Tit. Other sightings in the valley included Grey Wagtail, Jay, Raven, Carrion Crow and other common species.
From the Hecho valley we drove across to the Anso Valley heading for the unique village of Berdun. Our route took through another very scenic gorge called the Foz de Binies. It was there taht we found our first Wallcreeper, it fed on the steep gorge walls and not too high up either, click, click! A second bird was found further into the gorge but this one was much higher.
We finished the day in the picturesque town of Berdún, it was too late to go sight-seeing so we checked into our wonderful guest house Casa Sarasa on the edge of town. Our host Peter and Melanie run a superb guest house with a great selection of superb rooms. Peter is also a bird guide and joined us early to guide us through the two valleys we visited.