Monday 14 August 2023

The Spanish Tour for WINGS - Day 12 - 11th May 2023

It dawned grey and threatening in Tama but the pre-breakfast amble still produced excellent views of a singing male Cirl Bunting along with both Redstart species once again. Ravens kronked overhead and Firecrests sang from the two big pine trees.  The Iberian Green Woodpeckers once again tantalised us and a Wryneck briefly sat on top of an apple tree and sang stridently.

Cirl Bunting

Roe Deer

Common Redstart

Common Redstart

Common Redstart

Our plan was to make it up to the top of the Picos at Fuente Dé via the cable car.  We arrived early to ensure that we got on the first ride up and stood around in the light drizzle watching Gold and Firecrests, Crested Tits and Mistle Thrushes while high above Choughs and Griffons drifted in and out of the clouds.

I have to admit to being slightly trepidatious but the four minute ride up was smooth and the view down below and at the cliff walls was spectacular. Now, I had not quite grasped the nature of this part of the trip (yes, it was all in the blurb I was sent but the ‘bring a warm, coat, gloves etc’ seemed to have passed me by).  I had layers but only my sandals and some ‘hope no one notices’ socks.  It was 0c at the top station and it started to sleet as soon as we got out.  We spent a few minutes adding more layers before venturing out and further up into the mountains. The next couple of hours were spent scouring the cliffs, scree slopes, boulder fields and alpine meadows in somewhat challenging conditions at times with icy sleety snow and billowing cloud.

Straight down...

However, we struck lucky and found a pair of Snow Finches almost immediately foraging with a couple of Alpine Choughs and they even stayed long enough to get the scopes set up.  Black Redstarts, Northern Wheatears and Water Pipits were all in song and busy collecting insects for hidden broods.

Black Redstart

Water Pipit

Northern Wheatear

Black Redstart

Alpine Accentors were also heard and then plonked themselves down in front of us where they shuffled around making quiet little twittery sounds.  It was so good to see them up here in the mountains.  Wallcreepers eluded us but the scale of the search area was huge and I was equally happy to find some more displaying Snowfinches and to pick out circling Griffons even higher up.

Alpine Accentor

Alpine Accentor

Alpine Accentor

Alpine Accentor

Alpine Accentor

Snow Finch

The rock faces lent themselves to the imagination and the mighty Mandrill loomed down at us through our visit. The alpine flora was wonderful and undoubtedly would have been even better with some sunshine and taking pictures in the low light was somewhat challenging.  I was somewhat bemused to find several large Slugs happily grazing away in the near freezing conditions.

Un-frozen Slug

The Mandrill
Alpine Lady's Mantle - Alchemilla alpina

Alpine Pasque Flower - Pulsatilla alpina

Alpine Rock Jasmine - Androsace alpina

Alpine Rock-Cress - Arabis alpina

Alpine Toadflax - Linaria alpina filicaulis

Alpine Toadflax - Linaria alpina filicaulis

Looked a bit like an early Purple Orchid but without spotted leaves... help!

Erinus alpinus

Globularia nudicaulis

Intermediate Wintercress - Barbarea intermedia

Lithodora fruticosa 

Lithodora fruticosa 

Despite being up a mountain it appears to be Matthiola triscuspidata

Alpine Forget-me-not - Myosotis alpestris &  Hoary Plantain Plantago media

Pilosella  breviscapa

Saxifrage sp

Short-leaved Gentian - Gentiana sierrae

Short-leaved Gentian - Gentiana sierrae

Short-leaved Gentian - Gentiana sierrae

Short-leaved Gentian - Gentiana sierrae

Genista hispanica 

Genista hispanica 

Spring Squill - Scilla verna 

Spring Squill - Scilla verna 

Spurge Laurel - Daphne laureola

Trumpet Gentian - Gentiana acaulis

Trumpet Gentian - Gentiana acaulis

Trumpet Gentian - Gentiana acaulis

Viola sp

Chamois tiptoed across scree and glacially scarred rock and Red-billed Choughs joined Alpine Choughs cavorting above us.  A coffee was required but there was still time afterwards (and once I could feel my fingers again) for another brief venture out.  The Water Pipits showed better and then Laura pointed at a large bird drifting above us and through the increasingly heavy snow, just four of us clapped eyes on an imposing adult Lammergeier disappearing back into the low clouds!


Water Pipit


We could not believe our luck but were somewhat nervous about returning to the rest of the party back I the warm. We needn’t of worried as we found them all outside smiling heartly at the two Lammergeiers that had drifted past them!  There were better pictures than my atmospheric one but at least we all saw this most majestic of mountain denizens.

The Alpine Choughs even came to see us before we caught the car back down but we had no crumbs left to share.

Alpine Choughs

Yo-yo cloud

Lunch just around the corner from the centre was excellent with Griffons on view over the ridge and Red Deer in the meadows while Serins sang from the trees outside.  Suitable warmed and refreshed we mossied around the corner for a walk in the woods.  It was still cool and grey but we did quite well considering with Song Thrushes, Crested Tits, Long-tailed Tits (our 3rd Spanish race I think) and Common Treecreepers seen and Firecrest and Bullfinch both heard.  A couple of very dark Red Squirrels scampered around the Beech and Oak trees.

Spanish Bluebells

Florally it was different again with carpets of spent Spanish Bluebells and a variety of new species, some familiar and others new. 


Bitter Vetch - Lathyrus linifolius

Black Bryony

Compfry sp



Viper's Bugloss - Echium vulgare

Liverleaf - Hepatica nobilis

Meadow Saxifrage - Saxifraga granulata

Mountain Kidney Vetch - Anthyllis montana

Pyrenean Valerian - Valeriana pyrenaica

Solomons Seal

Spanish Bluebells

Spotted Dead Nettle - Lamium maculatum

Spreading Bellflower - Campenula patula

Viper's Bugloss - Echium vulgare

Water Ragwort - Jacobaea aquatica

Sweet Woodruff - Galium odoratum

Wild Strawberry

A mighty fine Slug

Red Squirrel

Burnet Companion

One for Antony - on Beech

The weather was not conducive to a lengthy walk and we soon returned to the vans before heading back to Tama with a short stop at Cosgaya to look for Dippers.  Once again I heard them a couple of times and one almost parted my hair as it crossed the road but I still did not see it but thankfully others did. Crag Martins were nesting under the bridge and Grey Wagtails were doing what they do best while an adult Egyptian Vulture cruised the cliff line not far above us. 

With the day done we retuned back to the hotel to chill out before dinner after a most successful day.

No comments:

Post a Comment