The Pyrenees – Part Five – Malcolm Palmer

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We ascended the road southwards from Jaca, up to the foot of the Oriel Mountain, where I had previously seen Black Woodpecker. No such luck, but when we parked to take a look at the rather fine scenery, the clear, melodious phrases of an Orphean Warbler could be heard, and we were utterly charmed by this splendid song, in the still, spring morning. Moving reluctantly on, we drove down past Riglos, and took a detour around the big reservoir of Tormos, where we added Great Reed Warbler to our trip-list. On, around Zaragoza’s busy intersections, and down to wine-growing Cariñena – we were starting, inconveniently, to get hungry. Eventually, in a village quaintly named Codos (‘Elbows’) we discovered a bar which doubled as the local social club. The barman sent someone off to buy bread, and we had lunch!

That out of the way, we headed for the delightful town of Daroca, keeping pace with a very visible thunderstorm, uncomfortably close. The famous Laguna de Gallocanta was quite dry (and birdless), making it hard to reconcile with the November sights of thousands of Cranes, together with good numbers of Great Bustard, that flock to the area. We found our way south (with some taxing of my memory, and a little local assistance) through Torralba de Sisones (White tower of the Little Bustards) to the track leading over to Blancas, across the desert-like Paramos. Here we had the good fortune to drive right up to at least three calling Dupont’s Larks, and hear their amazing utterances, as well as to see Rock Sparrow and a gorgeous Black-eared Wheatear. Still keeping dry, despite the storms surrounding us, we spent a comfortable night at the Hostal Botero, Monreal del Campo, a hostelry I used to use years ago. During the night, even with a quite strong wind disturbing the poplars visible from my window, the monotonous song of a Scops Owl could clearly be heard. To be concluded………..