News archive

September 2017

Thursday, 21 September 2017

LG TRIP TO THE PICOS DE EUROPA MAY 2018

LG TRIP TO THE PICOS DE EUROPA MAY 2018

THE PICOS DE EUROPA
Wallcreepers, Great Bustards, Snow Finch, Bluethroats.... and Bears!
A tailor-made holiday for members of the RSPB York Local Group
Spain is famous for its mountains and plains. No finer examples can be found than the mountains ofthe Picos de Europa and the plains around Los Oteros, just to the south. High altitude birds such as Snow Finch and Alpine Accentor are fairly easy to find in the Picos and there is an excellent chance of seeing the enigmatic Wallcreeper. Great Bustards are nowhere more common than around the steppes of Zepa de los Oteros. Nearby lakes are also the temporary home of large numbers of waders, ducks, gulls and terns.
Two days at Fuentes Carrionas gives us an excellent chance to observe Brown Bears. In the spring there is very little for them to eat in the forest. Instead they venture into open areas to eat grass and dig up bulbs. There are more birds to look for here too.
We will spend four nights at Riano in the Picos de Europa, followed by three nights in El Parador de Fuentes Carrionas. By flying to Bilbao we will keep the travelling to a minimum.
ITINERARY
PICOS DE EUROPA
Rising to over 2600m, the Picos de Europa is the most impressive part of the Cordillera Cantabrica, a mountain chain which runs the length of Spain's north coast. Our hotel here is the lovely Hotel Presa in the village of Riano, about three hours drive from the airport. One day will be spent in the beech woods near our hotel. On one visit we saw Iberian Wild Cat and Pine Marten! Birds present include Honey Buzzard, Booted Eagle, Black Woodpecker, Middle Spotted Woodpecker, Woodlark, Western Bonelli's Warbler, Iberian Chiffchaff, Firecrest and Crested Tit. The Citril Finch is rather scarce, but we have found one site where they sometimes come to drink at a permanent pool at the edge of a pinewood. A cable car at Fuente De will take us to over 1800m in the heart of the mountains. This is Wallcreeper country. Although never guaranteed, this is one of the best places to look for them; they can often be seen at eye-level on the boulder scree. Both Snow Finch and Alpine Accentor should also be found above Fuente De, along with Water Pipit, Red-billed Chough, Alpine Chough and Black Redstart. The pretty Cantabrian Chamois, an alpine antelope, is common here.
On another day we will search for nesting Bluethroats in their Spanish stronghold. Breeding high in the mountains, they favour wet areas with stunted willows and Spanish Broom. Rock Thrush are scarce in the Picos, but are reliable here too. A suite of raptors includes Egyptian Vulture, Golden Eagle, Peregrine and numerous Griffon Vultures. We have seen Lammergeier here on several occasions, thought to be wandering birds from the Pyrenees.
On day five we will drive to Fuentes Carrionas, a Parc Natural just over an hour's drive to the west, for a stay of three nights. En route we will visit the extensive agricultural and steppe areas of Zepa de los Oteros and Zepa Jamuz. This area has the largest concentrations of Great Bustards in northern Spain. A scan from almost any fixed point produces sightings of up to 50 Great Bustards; mainly displaying males. Other steppic species include Black-shouldered Kite, Lesser Kestrel, Montagu's Harrier, White Stork, Quail, Stone Curlew, Calandra Lark, Tawny Pipit, Hoopoe, Bee-eater, Southern Grey Shrike, Black-eared Wheatear and Rock Sparrow. There are small numbers of Little Bustards in the area too. Thekla Lark is common, as is Red-backed Shrike, Rock Bunting, Spotless Starling, Red-rumped Swallow and Crag Martin.
A large wetland formed from reclaimed farmland at La Nava offers spectacular birding. We visit at the optimum time of year, with high water levels and abundant birdlife. There are good numbers of Black-winged Stilts and Avocets, plus smaller numbers of Little Grebe, Gadwall, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Spoonbill, Marsh Harrier, Curlew Sandpiper, Ruff, Black-tailed Godwit, Gull-billed Tern and Whiskered Tern. Great Reed Warbler, Bearded Reedling and Penduline Tit can all be found in the extensive reedbeds here.
FUENTES CARRIONAS
Our last three nights are based at the excellent Parador de Fuentes Carrionas. The park is most famous for its population of Cantabrian Brown Bears. Approximately 200 bears live in the mountains of northern Spain, and Carrionas is an excellent place to see them. Normally shy and reclusive, for a few weeks every year, the population ventures from its forest home onto open hillsides in search of food. It is quite remarkable that such a huge mammal can sustain itself on grass, but there is little alternative for them after they come out of hibernation. Our local guides know all the best spots to find them, and during our time here we can hope for sightings of adult males, adolescents or females with young. We will not neglect the birding here either. Crag Martin, Black Redstart, Red-billed Chough, Red Kite, Goshawk, Rock Bunting, Dipper, Short-toed Treecreeper and Firecrest are amongst the assorted birdlife that can be found. Iberian Green Woodpecker is now thought to be a separate species from the more widespread European form, and we shall try to get a good view of one to see the subtle identification features. Butterflies will be on the wing, including Swallowtail, Cleopatra and Queen of Spain Fritillary. On day eight we will leave Fuentes Carrionas early in the morning and head for Bilbao, arriving in good time for our flight home.
PACE
Breakfast will be taken at about 7.30am most mornings. Basic fitness is all that is required. Full days will be spent in the field and short to medium length walks on the flat will be undertaken regularly. In the Picos there is a small amount of uphill walking, although normally we can get to the desired altitude by vehicle and cable car.
ACCOMMODATION AND FOOD
Full-board accommodation is provided, with four nights at the Hotel Presa in Riano and three nights at the Parador de Fuentes Carrionas. Both have en suite bathrooms. Packed lunches will be taken every day.
PRICE INCLUDES .....
All birdwatching excursions with expert leader, full-board accommodation (starting with lunch on 22nd, ending with breakfast on 29th), local transport by mini-bus, cable car fee, reserve entrance fees, return flights and airport taxes.
WHAT IS NOT INCLUDED
Travel insurance, personal items, drinks, laundry.
INTERNATIONAL FLIGHTS
Scheduled flight with Easyjet from Manchester to Bilbao.
Outbound flight departs early morning, return flight arrives back midday.
7 nights: 22nd to 29th May 2018

Principal leader: Paul Willoughby
Local guides: provided by Wildwatching Spain
Maximum group size: max 28 clients with a ratio of seven clients to one leader
Cost: £1590 per person sharing
Single supplement: £190
Deposit: £300 per person
To book please Download and print the Booking Form (below) and post the completed form with deposit payment to Bird Holidays.
The Conditions of booking can be seen on Bird Holidays Website (link below)

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Thursday, 7 September 2017

Autumn Newsletter September 17

Autumn Newsletter September 17

Did you know back copies of the Newsletters for the last 4 years are available in the News Archive?
Click on News in the header above and you will see the News Archive on the right side of the page, arranged by month. Newsletters are published 3 times a year in April, September and December.

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Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Summer Walks

Summer Walks

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