Mary’s Blog – The Pyrenees part one –

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After spending a few days exploring Burgos, Guernica, San Sebastian and Hondarribia, we moved on to The Pyrenees for some birding. We had already ticked off Black Kite, Griffon Vulture, Swift and Reed Warbler around Burgos. Outside our hotel near Guernica we heard Wren, Blackcap, Zitting Cisticola and Melodious Warbler singing. Around the San Sebastian area we added Jay, Swallow, Buzzard, House Martin and House Sparrow.

Day one – 3rd June – San Sebastian to Anso

On our way to our accommodation in Anso we called at Aibar to look for a few birds we usually see there, namely Black-eared Wheatear and Ortolan Bunting. Sadly they were not showing there today. However, as soon as we arrived a raptor flew over and I was jumping up and down telling John it was fantastic Short-toed Eagle! A great start! At the same place we had great views of a Rock Sparrow and heard Serin, Corn Bunting and Orphean Warbler singing (according to the Merlin App). At the picnic area we could also hear a Nightingale and along another track we found several Linnets drinking in a small stream, but still no Ortolan Bunting. We continued to our accommodation in Anso to settle in.

Day 2 – 4th June – Zuriza and Belegua Valley

Our first stop was at a viewing area where we had previously watched Lammergeiers on a nest, but there was no sign of them today. We continued across towards Isaba and were happy to find Red-backed Shrikes in the area where we had seen them on previous visits. We sat taking photos for a while before moving on to Isaba. A quick coffee stop here saw us greeted by a Black Redstart on the car park.

Moving up the Belegua valley, a favourite place of mine, we initially stopped by the refugio where a Wheatear sat up nicely on a rock. We continued to the bridge where the road loops round and immediately found our target bird. Several Citril Finch were hanging around on the rocky wall under and around the bridge, along with the odd Serin.

On the way back to the refugio car park we added Alpine Chough and Red-billed Chough. We ate our lunch at the car park and a confiding Egyptian Vulture flew around the area giving great views. As we watched the Egyptian Vulture I spotted another raptor in the distance and as it flew closer we were delighted to confirm it was a Lammergeier! We had good views of the bird as it flew slowly past before continuing up the valley and flying higher and higher. Not long afterwards it came back giving more excellent views of this absolute star bird!

Red Kite, Black Kite and Raven were also seen today, along with a Kestrel and a few species already noted.