Northeast Spain spring tour report

Kathie and Mick Claydon from Norfolk, UK, joined us for a private tour of northeast Spain in April.

Yellow Bee Orchids

Yellow Bee Orchids Ophrys lutea

kathie among the orchids

Kathie among the orchids

scarce swallowtail

Scarce swallowtail

Here is Kathie’s meticulous and complete report.

NORTHERN SPAIN Navarra-Aragon 19 April – 2 May 2022
Kath & Mick Claydon

A two-week trip arranged and guided by Steve West (Birding in Spain for just the two of us to explore Navarra, Aragon and a little of Catalonia. In 2017 we’d had a very successful trip with Steve to the Picos region, concentrating on bears and wolves, and we knew Steve would again give us exactly what we wanted (he did!) Our interests are wide and we took things at a relaxed pace in order to enjoy all wildlife rather than concentrating solely on birds. Steve knows these areas well and we built up impressive lists with 177 bird species (without much effort on our part!) at least 13 orchid species, 31 butterflies and plenty more. We opted for lunch ‘on the go’, happy to get by on cheese, ham, fruit, allowing us to spend more time out and about with just an occasional stop for coffee or tea. The weather wasn’t good with rain, lots of cloud and often a cold wind. Fresh snow fell on the higher ground and snowploughs were clearing passes into France; we also had a couple of foggy mornings, but slowly it improved towards the end of the trip although it remained very cool. We stayed in three areas, south of Pamplona, Roncal Valley and Sierra de Guara. All hotels were family-run and very good with comfortable rooms, excellent food and very friendly, accommodating staff. Everything worked well and we had a thoroughly enjoyable trip – roll on the next one!

19 April Steve met us at Barcelona airport late afternoon. Drove (4hrs) to Villafranca, south of Pamplona, Navarra, stopping on route for a light meal. Hospedería Alesves, Villafranca, Navarra
20 April Pitillas lagoon and Bird Observatory / scrub and rocky areas near Ujué / pseudo-steppe and cultivated drylands. “
21 April Steppe near Villafranca / Bárdenas Reales / riverine woodland by Ebro river. “
22 April Izki forest near Vitoria-Gasteiz, Álava / Sierra de Urbasa / drylands near Ujué / Arga riverside near Villafranca. “
23 April Steppe near Villafranca / another stretch of Arga river. “
24 April Checked out of hotel. Pitillas lagoon opposite side to previous visit / Arbaiun Gorge on route to Roncal valley (Pyrenees) and up to the French border / Isaba. Hostal Lola
Isaba, Navarra
25 April High mountains of Roncal Valley to Amarits in France / return to Isaba with detour to Anso Valley. “
26 April Irati forest, stops on route including Ochagavia village / high mountains into France at Puerto de Larrau / Roncal Valley. “
27 April Anso-Hecho-Fago valleys. “
28 April South Roncal Valley and west of Salvatierra de Esca. “
29 April Checked out of hotel. Headed SE towards Huesca, many stops on route / Montearagon Castle / Bierge. Hostería de Guara Bierge, Aragon
30 April Sierra de Guara and north towards Ainsa with many stops. “
1 May Drylands and riverine woodlands NW of Lleida. “
2 May Checked out of hotel. Headed towards Barcelona / frequent stops at gorges, rich farmland, woods and lakes / scrubby areas near Barcelona airport.


Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus
Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis
Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis
Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo
Squacco Heron Ardeola ralloides
Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis
Little Egret Egretta garzetta
Great Egret Ardea alba
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea
Purple Heron Ardea purpurea
White Stork Ciconia ciconia
Mute Swan Cygnus olor
Greylag Goose Anser anser
Common Shelduck Tadorna tadorna
Gadwall Anas strepera
Mallard Anas platyrhynchos
Northern Shoveler Anas clypeata
Eurasian Teal Anas crecca
Garganey Anas querquedula
Common Pochard Aythya ferina
Red-crested Pochard Netta rufina
Bearded Vulture Gypaetus barbatus
Griffon Vulture Gyps fulvus
Egyptian Vulture Neophron percnopterus
Golden Eagle Aquila chrysaetos
Short-toed Eagle Circaetus gallicus
Booted Eagle Hieraaetus pennatus
Bonelli’s Eagle Hieraaetus fasciatus
Red Kite Milvus milvus
Black Kite Milvus migrans
Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus
Montagu’s Harrier Circus pygargus
Common Buzzard Buteo buteo
Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus
Goshawk Accipiter gentilis
Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus
Lesser Kestrel Falco naumanni
Hobby Falco subbuteo
Red-legged Partridge Alectoris rufa
Common Quail Coturnix coturnix HEARD ONLY
Water Rail Rallus aquaticus
Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus
Eurasian Coot Fulica atra
Great Bustard Otis tarda
Little Bustard Tetrax tetrax
Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus
Stone Curlew Burhinus oedicnemus
Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius
Common Ringed Plover Charadrius hiaticula
Northern Lapwing Vanellus vanellus
Dunlin Calidris alpina
Wood Sandpiper Tringa glaroela
Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus
Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos
Common Redshank Tringa totanus
Common Greenshank Tringa nebularia
Spotted Redshank Tringa erythropus
Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa
Bar-tailed Godwit Limosa lapponica
Ruff Philomachus pugnax
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus
Mediterranean Gull Ichthyaetus melanocephalus
Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis
Whiskered Tern Chlidonias hybrida
Black Tern Chlidonias niger
Pin-tailed Sandgrouse Pterocles alchata
Black-bellied Sandgrouse Pterocles orientalis
Rock (Feral) Pigeon Columba livia var. domestica
Stock Dove Columba oenas
Common Wood Pigeon Columba palumbus
Collared Dove Streptopelia decaocto
European Turtle Dove Streptopelia turtur
Monk Parakeet Myiopsitta monachus
Rose-ringed Parakeet Psittacula krameri
Common Cuckoo Cuculus canorus
Alpine Swift Tachymarptis melba
Common Swift Apus apus
Eurasian Hoopoe Upupa epops
European Bee-eater Merops apiaster
European Roller Coracius garrulus
Black Woodpecker Dryocopus martius
Iberian Green Woodpecker Picus sharpei
Great Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos major
Middle Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos medius
White-backed Woodpecker D. leucotos HEARD only
Eurasian Wryneck Jynx torquilla
Common Skylark Alauda arvensis
Crested Lark Galerida cristata
Thekla Lark Galerida theklae
Woodlark Lullula arborea
Greater Short-toed Lark Calandrella brachydactyla
Lesser Short-toed Lark Calandrella rufescens
Calandra Lark Melanocorypha calandra
Dupont’s Lark Chersophilus duponti
Sand Martin Riparia riparia
Crag Martin Ptyonoprogne rupestris
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica
Red-rumped Swallow Hirundo daurica
Common House Martin Delichon urbicum
Tawny Pipit Anthus campestris
Water Pipit Anthus spinoletta
Tree Pipit Anthus trivialis
White Wagtail Motacilla alba
Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava
Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea
Eurasian Wren Troglodytes troglodytes
White-throated Dipper Cinclus cinclus
Dunnock Prunella modularis
Alpine Accentor Prunella collaris
European Robin Erithacus rubecula
Common Nightingale Luscinia megarhynchos
Black Redstart Phoenicurus ochruros
Common Redstart Phoenicurus phoenicurus
Northern Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe
Western Black-eared Wheatear O. hispanica
Black Wheatear Oenanthe leucura
Whinchat Saxicola rubetra
Blue Rock Thrush Monticola solitarius
Song Thrush Turdus philomelos
Mistle Thrush Turdus viscivorus
Common Blackbird Turdus merula
Ring Ouzel Turdus torquatus
Eurasian Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla
Western Orphean Warbler Curruca hortensis
Sardinian Warbler Curruca melanocephala
Common Whitethroat Curruca communis
Spectacled Warbler Curruca conspicillata
Western Subalpine Warbler Curruca iberiae
Dartford Warbler Curruca undata
Zitting Cisticola Cisticola juncidis
Cetti’s Warbler Cettia cetti
Eurasian Reed Warbler Acrocephalus scirpaceus
Great Reed Warbler Acrocephalus arundinaceus
Melodious Warbler Hippolais polyglotta
Willow Warbler Phylloscopus trochilus
Western Bonelli’s Warbler Phylloscopus bonelli
Iberian Chiffchaff Phylloscopus ibericus
Common Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita
Firecrest Regulus ignicapillus
European Pied Flycatcher Ficedula hypoleuca
Great Tit Parus major
Coal Tit Periparus ater
Eurasian Blue Tit Cyanistes caeruleus
European Crested Tit Lophophanes cristatus
Marsh Tit Poecile palustris
Long-tailed Tit Aegithalos caudatus
Bearded Reedling Panurus biarmicus
Eurasian Penduline Tit Remiz pendulinus
Eurasian Nuthatch Sitta europaea
Wallcreeper Tichodroma muraria
Short-toed Treecreeper Certhia brachydactyla
Woodchat Shrike Lanius senator
Iberian Grey Shrike Lanius meridionalis
Eurasian Magpie Pica pica
Eurasian Jay Garrulus glandarius
Western Jackdaw Corvus monedula
Alpine Chough Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax
Red-billed Chough Pyrrhocorax graculus
Carrion Crow Corvus corone corone
Common Raven Corvus corax
Spotless Starling Sturnus unicolor
Eurasian Golden Oriole Oriolus oriolus
House Sparrow Passer domesticus
Rock Sparrow Petronia petronia
Common Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs
Common Linnet Carduelis cannabina
European Goldfinch Carduelis carduelis
European Greenfinch Chloris chloris
Citril Finch Serinus citrinella
European Serin Serinus serinus
Eurasian Bullfinch Pyrrhula pyrrhula
Common Crossbill Loxia curvirostra
Yellowhammer Emberiza citrinella
Cirl Bunting Emberiza cirlus
Corn Bunting Miliaria calandra

PLANTS all identifications are tentative
Orchid reference mainly

Early Spider Orchid Ophrys sphegodes group.
Mirror Orchid Ophrys speculum
Yellow Bee Orchid Ophrys lutea
Woodcock Orchid Ophrys scolopax group
Dull or Sombre Bee Orchid Ophrys fusca group
Omega Bee Orchid Ophrys omegaifera group (? vasconica )
Early Purple Orchid Orchis
Painted Orchid Anacamptis picta
Champagne Orchid Anacamptis champagneuxii
Provence Orchid Orchis provincialis
Elder-flowered Orchid Dactylorhiza sambucina
Lady Orchid Orchis purpurea
Monkey Orchid Orchis simia
HYBRID simia x purpurea
Burnt-tip Orchid Neotinea ustulata

Birthwort Aristolochia pistolochia
Blue Flax Linum narbonense
Buckler Mustard Biscutella laevigata
Common Bugle Ajuga reptans
Common Globularia Globularia punctata
Common Lousewort Pedicularis sylvatica
Common Lungwort Pulmonaria officinalis
Cowslip Primula veris
Goosegrass Galium aparine
Grape Hyacinth Muscari neglectum
Greater Stitchwort Stellaria holostea
Green Hellebore Helleborus viridis
Hepatica Hepatica nobilis
Honeysuckle Lonicera periclymenum
Hoop Petticoat Narcissus Narcissus bulbocodium
Lady’s Smock Cardamine pratensis
Large Bittercress Cardamine amara
Large-flowered Butterwort Pinguicula grandiflora
Lords & Ladies Arum maculatum
Primrose Primula vulgaris
Purple Toothwort Lathraea clandestina
Pyrenean Avens Geum pyrenaicum
Pyrenean Catchfly Silene borderei
Pyrenean Golden Drop Onosma bubanii
Pyrenean Snake’s Head Fritillary Fritillaria pyrenaica
Pyrenean Squill Scilla liliohyacinthus
Pyrenean Violet Viola pyrenaica
Spanish Iris Iris xiphioides
Spring Gentian Gentiana verna
Star of Bethlehem Ornithogalum umbellatum
Stinking Hellebore Helleborus foetidus
Sweet Violet Viola odorata
Tassel Hyacinth Muscari comosum
Thalictrum tuberosum
Thyme Broomrape Orobanche alba
White Asphodel Asphodelus albus
Wild Clary sp. Salvia (verbanaca?)
Wild Daffodil Narcissus pseudonarcissus
Wild Tulip Tulipa sylvestris australis
Wood-sorrel Oxalis acetosella

Common Morel Morchella esculenta (Hecho Alley)


Red Fox Vulpes vulpes 2 Roncal Valley
European Rabbit Oryctolagus cuniculus frequent
Pyrenean Chamois Rupicapra pyrenaica 5 (three days: 1 + 3 + 1)
Roe Deer Capreolus capreolus 1 buck
Badger Meles meles footprints
Wild Boar Sus scrofa prints/signs

INVERTEBRATES all identifications are tentative
Mallow Skipper Carcharodus alceae
Dingy Skipper Erynnis tages
Spanish Festoon Zerynthia rumina
Scarce Swallowtail Iphiclides podalirius
Swallowtail Papilio machaon
Wood White Leptidea sinapis
Orange-tip Anthocharis cardamines
Provence Orange-tip Anthocharis euphenoides
Western Dappled White Euchloe crameri
Large White Pieris brassicae
Small White Pieris rapae
Green-veined White Pieris napi
Western Bath White Pontia daplidice
Clouded Yellow Colias croceus
Berger’s Clouded Yellow Colias alfacariensis
Brimstone Gonepteryx rhamni
Cleopatra Gonepteryx cleopatra
Small Copper Lycaena phlaeas
Green Hairstreak Callophrys rubi
Holly Blue Celastrina argiolus
Baton Blue Pseudophilotes baton
Panoptes Blue Pseudophilotes panoptes
Green-underside Blue Glaucopsyche alexis
Black-eyed Blue Glaucopsyche melanops
Chapman’s Blue Polyommatus thersites.
Common Blue Polyommatus icarus
Adonis Blue Lysandra bellargus
Weaver’s Fritillary Boloria dia
Red Admiral Vanessa atalanta
Small Tortoiseshell Aglais urticae
Wall Brown Pararge aegeria
Narrow-bordered Bee Hawkmoth Hemaris tityus
Hummingbird Hawkmoth Macroglossum stellatarum
Oak Eggar (caterpillar) Lasiocampa quercus
Scarlet Tiger (caterpillar) Callimorpha dominula
Fox Moth (caterpillar) Macrothylacia rubi
Eurranthis plummistaria
Silver Y Autographa gamma
Marbled Clover Heliothis viriplaca
Common Heath Moth Ematurga atomaria
Clearwing sp.
Broom Burnet Zygaena lavandulae
Striped Chafer sp. Anoxia (australis?)
Green Tiger Beetle Cicindela campestris


Palmate Newt Lissotriton helveticus
Iberian Water Frog Pelophylax perezi Common
? Iberian Painted Frog tadpoles Discoglossus jeanneae

Ocellated Lizard Timon Lepidus
Wall Lizard Podarcis sp.


Wednesday 20 April
Rain continued all night and into the morning, having started not long after we arrived at Barcelona yesterday afternoon. We had to abandon our plan to visit a DuPont’s Lark site at 07:00h and settled for a leisurely breakfast. The rain continued as we headed for Pitillas lagoon and we sought shelter from both rain and a cold wind at the Bird Observatory; amongst a wide range of species were Black-necked Grebe, Red-crested Pochard, Garganey and Purple Heron. When the rain eased we moved on to quiet roads around Ujué. Flowery roadsides, scrub, rocky areas and trees produced a good number of birds and at least three orchid species. We could see there had been recent snowfall on the distant Pyrenean peaks. The cold wind remained quite strong, particularly at our next stop in an area of ‘drylands’ and pseudo-steppe (a mosaic of cereal crops, recently ploughed areas and stretches of uncultivated stony ground) but all thoughts of putting on another layer of clothing were forgotten as we saw the 12 Great Bustards! It was hard to turn away from them in order to watch a single Little Bustard on the rough ground behind us. Despite the noise of the wind we could hear Larks singing non-stop. We planned to be back at the hotel by 18:00h but a rain-flooded field at the edge of Villafranca delayed us by at least half an hour: masses of waders, gulls and storks enjoying a feast and a Hobby flew overhead. Back at the hotel we enjoyed the first of many excellent evening meals – and a few drinks. An excellent start to the trip.

Thursday 21 April
A pre-breakfast walk to try for the DuPont’s Lark. It wasn’t ideal weather, still very windy, heavy cloud cover and a little light rain but at least we heard two and a Western Black-eared Wheatear and some Bee-eaters brightened the morning. After breakfast we went to the well-known semi-desert ‘badlands’ of Bárdenas Reales. Very busy! Hordes of mostly French tourists, many in big campervans. Steve disliked this even more than we did and quickly found us a quiet route that others didn’t seem to know. A flock of nine Pin-tailed Sandgrouse dropped down close to the car, then two small flocks of Black-bellied Sandgrouse came by. With Golden Eagle, Montagu’s Harrier, three Wheatear species, and ever-present larks singing, we couldn’t have asked for more even though it remained cool, cloudy and windy. To round off the day we had a leisurely stroll through riverine woodland with many mature Aspen trees beside the Ebro river, finding Pied Flycatchers, Grey Wagtails and Firecrests. A quick scan through the waders at the flooded field near our hotel turned up 15 Greenshank and a Booted Eagle was hunting low. It had been a very good day.

Friday 22 April
This morning we went to Izki woods, a Natural Park southeast of Vitoria Gasteiz, stopping on route in some open woodland where Iberian Chiffchaff was singing – good views, too. It was a peaceful walk at Izki and we saw no one apart from two workers at the start. The air was filled with the trill of Bonelli’s Warblers! A Middle Spotted Woodpecker was happy to show itself, as were Cuckoos, but the many Short-toed Treecreepers were less obliging. Although it was bright sunshine the air was cold and we needed fleeces and even gloves for a while. Cloud built up later when we went to explore an area new for Steve, Sierra de Urbasa. It’s a nice mix of woodland, carpeted with Hoop Petticoat Narcissus, Green Hellebore and Cowslip. Birds, however, were hard to find and the expected loop-road was blocked (perhaps a management disagreement between Navarra and Aragon as the park straddles the border) so having identified as many plants as we could, we turned back and returned to the Great Bustard area. Good decision. Immediately we saw a displaying male close to the car, then another three males and five females. Lots of display and marching back and forth with males flying after escaping females. A pair of Montagu’s Harriers were chasing around, too. After all that excitement we opted for a gentle stroll beside the Arga river west of Villafranca where we had brief but good views of Wryneck – we could also hear at least 3 calling. The hoped-for Penduline Tits weren’t showing but we were more than happy with our day.

Saturday 23 April
Rain again, which didn’t ease until 09.00h. The wind was still blowing but we decided it was time to try for a DuPont’s Lark again. We heard two as we arrived but it took ages to pinpoint them, hidden in sparse, low vegetation. One sounded so close but we didn’t see it until it shot up into the air, in full song, before plummeting back down towards us, still singing – a superb view! Thekla, Greater Short-toed and Calandra Larks were everywhere and further on, where the habitat changed a little, Lesser Short-toed, then Crested Larks were added to the list. A short watch by a rocky cliff turned up 7 or 8 Lesser Kestrels. Moving on we added Spectacled and Melodious Warblers then along a different stretch of the Arga river there were good numbers of Nightingales and Wrynecks. We’d covered less ground today but it was an interesting, fulfilling day.

Sunday 24 April
It was foggy last night and into this morning but had cleared by the time we checked out of the hotel. First stop was a different part of Pitillas lagoon. A single fly-by Bar-tailed Godwit was a good find for this area, which pleased Steve, but we were more interested in the Purple Heron and Stone Curlews (on this side the lagoon abuts pseudo-steppe). We had to be careful where we trod in order to avoid trampling the hundreds of Yellow Bee and Mirror Orchids and a few specimens of the weird-looking Birthwort . Heading for the Roncal Valley we stopped for a while at Arbaiun Gorge which together with Lumbier is part of the largest sanctuary for raptors in Navarre. Eye-to-eye views of Griffons here and Egyptian Vultures were close, too. A man came along, climbed over the barrier and put out salt licks for the semi-feral goats! It was then a scenic, interesting route to Roncal Valley. We stopped for coffee and tea in the valley and had a tantalizingly brief view of a Bearded Vulture. In a couple of grazing fields we noticed several Black Redstarts, then more and more, as well as many pipits and wagtails; had last night’s fog grounded them? There was a lot of fresh snow higher up and, fittingly, we encountered a flock of Alpine Chough. We drove across the pass a short way into France but it was getting foggy again and we decided to turn back and check in to Hostal Lola at Isaba. We ate far too much of the huge portions served to us this evening!

Monday 25 April
It was a clear, crisp morning and we had to scrape ice off the car windows before driving up to the pass again. We took it slowly, stopping often for birds along the valley; not so many passerines in the fields today. Higher up were Alpine Accentor and Dunnock, Alpine and Red-billed Choughs, Northern Wheatear, Ring Ouzel, Blackbird, Song and Mistle Thrushes – the only sounds we could hear were from the birds. We got as far as the French village of Amarits. In the fôret d’Issaux we heard White-backed Woodpeckers – Steve tried hard, but we couldn’t locate one. The mountains drop away much more gently on the French side and we lingered by lush meadows and small woods. Birds, however, were not numerous so we went back over the pass and took a turning towards Anso valley where we found plenty to keep us happy: we heard Wrynecks as well as distant Black Woodpeckers and a Pied Flycatcher showed well. We had several good views of Citril Finch and a flock of 40 Crossbills. Trying to identify the many plants, including orchids, kept us busy. We returned to the hotel a bit earlier today as there was so much still to identify and we needed a bit of time to catch up!

Tuesday 26 April
We planned to spend most of the day in another forested area, Irati (the second largest beech and fir forest in Europe after Germany’s Black Forest). We stopped frequently on the way, including a while at the picturesque riverside village of Ochagavia at the northern end of the Salavar valley with Griffon vultures soaring above us and Crag Martins around the buildings. We walked in the forest and found some nice plants such as the parasitic Purple Toothwort but struggled to find birds – Firecrests, Crested and Marsh Tits were heard more often than seen. Driving and stopping at suitable spots gave us more interesting sightings such as a pair of Nuthatches at a nest hole and foraging Short-toed Treecreepers and we spent ages photographing insects and plants. Steve found Palmate Newts in an old water trough then we drove to the high mountains into France at Puerto de Larrau and added Red Kite to the list along with another Golden Eagle. A Bee-eater at the pass was a bit of a surprise. To end an easy-going, very enjoyable day we slowly returned to Roncal valley, taking a detour to watch Griffon Vultures on cliffs.

Wednesday 27 April
After a rainy night and fine drizzle first thing, we weren’t sure what sort of day we were in for. We headed for the Anso-Hecho-Fago valleys hoping for the best and we got it: warm, sunny spells, good birding, orchids, fungi, butterflies and moths! In the Anso valley we enjoyed fabulous views of about 150 Crossbills, including many juveniles, with a Woodlark singing above us. Yet more orchids greeted us in Hecho valley, along with some impressive specimens of Common Morel fungi, a Weaver’s Fritillary butterfly and a reasonable, though distant, view of a Bearded Vulture plus two Egyptian Vultures and two Goshawks! Along the narrow gorge we met some British birders who were dead keen to see Wallcreeper; Steve explained this was a good place for them but it was now rather late in the year. Of course, just minutes after they left we struck lucky – one flew towards the rock face giving us great views as it investigated cracks and ledges. In Fago and then Roncal valleys there were more raptors and a Western Subalpine Warbler that was more obliging than usual. It was raining by the time we went for dinner this evening.

Thursday 28 April
Early rain turned to drizzle that eased off by mid-morning but it remained a dull, cloudy and cool day. We drove up Roncal valley and over the French border but again fog and mist meant we saw very little (Alpine and Red-billed Choughs, Crested Tit) so we returned to the lower Roncal and explored quiet roads to the west of Burgui. It turned into an ‘orchid day’ (Monkey Orchids and hybrid Monkey x Lady Orchid were perhaps the best) with occasional birds (Short-toed Eagle, Woodlarks, Western Orphean Warbler, a Melodious Warbler which gave us the run-around and only allowed glimpses).

Friday 29 April
Moving on this morning to our final base in Bierge, Huesca. We made a few roadside stops to walk in rough uncultivated patches which turned up a surprising number of orchids (hundreds in one small area – Lady, Mirror, Early Spider, Dull Ophrys and Yellow Bee Orchid), butterflies such as Baton Blue and a range of birds including Crested Larks, Booted Eagle, Woodchat Shrike, Cirl Bunting and warblers. An area of riverine woodland, predominantly poplars, was ‘full’ of Wrynecks (we saw three together and more were calling. Another stop was below Montearagon Castle – 2 Western Black-eared Wheatears, Tawny Pipit, Blue Rock Thrush and a striking specimen of Woodcock Orchid. Continuing our journey through fabulous scenery we were delighted to see two Bearded Vultures not far from where we would be staying. On reaching Bierge, there was time for some exploration of the surrounding habitats before checking in at Hostería de Guara.

Saturday 30 April
The day was spent exploring areas in the stunning surroundings of Sierra de Guara and NE as far as Ainsa. Birds were good: two Turtle Doves on roadside cables (the only ones seen), Nightingales were abundant, Wrynecks common, Alpine Swifts more frequent than previously and we saw another Blue Rock Thrush and the first Red-rumped Swallows of the trip. A bit more sunshine brought out the butterflies and we added Green-underside Blue to our list. Flowers, too, captured our attention, from Wild Tulips and Pyrenean Fritillaries to the beautiful blooms of Thalictrum tuberosum (sorry, no English name for this one). It was a lovely evening, although the fresh breeze kept things cool, so to end the day we sat in the garden watching Bee-eaters, a Hoopoe and a Woodchat Shrike. An invisible Golden Oriole called constantly.

Sunday 1 May
Not a cloud in the sky as we drove about an hour to some very impressive sandstone cliffs. The most numerous bird here was Jackdaw but there were about 10 Lesser Kestrels, at least 4 Red-billed Choughs, Black and Western Black-eared Wheatears, Crag Martins, Red-rumped Swallows and Tawny Pipits – so enough to keep us occupied for more than an hour. We moved on to nearby ‘drylands’ where the views stretched for miles; it was a familiar mix of cultivated and fallow field with rough and bare stretches. Immediately we saw a pair of Pin-tailed Sandgrouse and a Golden Eagle soared above us for several minutes, both Thekla and Crested Larks were here as well as Greater Short-toed Larks. As we watched a Marsh Harrier drifting by we noticed a Roller on a bush – then another in flight. It got quite hot (for a change) and we moved on to the dappled shade of a wooded riverside at Alcolea – Great Reed Warblers were in full song! Before dinner we walked near the hotel: Western Bonelli’s and Melodious Warblers were the most impressive species. Amongst the many Common Blues we found several Panoptes Blues. Yet another great day!

Monday 2 May
Up early to pack in preparation for tonight’s flight and soon we were on our way towards Lleida, stopping at a rugged rock face – 2 Bonelli’s Eagles! Rather a surprise as we hadn’t realised Steve would be bringing us here. It was dull and cool but the eagles were very active. Nearby a family of young Crested Tits was being fed by the parents. Another stop was in an area owned by a wildlife-friendly land owner – growing crops but mainly as sheep fodder, not spraying, allowing trees, shrubs and flowers to flourish as well as planting more trees. Brilliant – a great location. 3 pairs of Rollers, White Storks, Cattle Egrets, Black Kites, Western Orphean Warbler. A nearby nature reserve was our next stop: a large lake surrounded by varied habitats, trees, shrubs and open areas which seemed to be teeming with life: Black and Whiskered Terns, Red-crested Pochard, Greenshank, Common Sandpiper, Black-winged Stilt, Golden Orioles, Penduline Tit, Pied Flycatcher, Cetti’s, Eurasian Reed, Great Reed, Melodious and Willow Warblers, Nightingales, Hoopoes and more. Sadly, we had to move on and get nearer to the airport. Common Waxbills are known to frequent a car park by the airport but we failed to locate them; a Great Egret, two Ring-necked Parakeets and one Monk Parakeet were good enough compensation to round off what had been an excellent trip.