The Pyrenees – Part Four – Malcolm Palmer

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Another restful night in our comfortable hotel at Siresa, in the lovely Hecho Valley, and we had decided to prolong our stay there, rather than chasing off further west, so we did an ‘out-and-home’ trip over into the Anso and Roncal Valleys to seek further birds of interest. The beautiful area of Zuriza was our first destination, and a Honey Buzzard our first reward, but then we drove higher up the valley, finding Crested and Coal Tits as well as several Mistle Thrushes, before we took the road westwards into the Roncal Valley, and Navarra. Along the way, a male Bullfinch was seen by all but the driver (whose primary concern was keeping four wheels on the road!) and two more lovely Red-backed Shrikes were seen. A Yellowhammer sang nearby – its song redolent of youthful summers in Britain.

After pausing in Isaba’s relative civilization to buy supplies, we had a picnic beside the beechwood at the foot of the Belagua pass, and had a nice walk around the woodland paths. We made our way back to the Anso Valley, but no amount of electronic coaxing would elicit a response from the reluctant Black Woodpecker I knew to nest hereabouts. After a while watching the crags from the Mirador, we thought it wise to return our two ‘invalids,’ Greta and Paul, to the hotel, (though they were both reluctant!) so that Rex and I went alone to Gabardito. We had a nice Booted Eagle along the way, and the Citril Finches were again feeding on the path near the Refuge, but we found little else of note. A third good night was all it took for our two sufferers to have made a good recovery, and it was with reluctance that we bade farewell to the most hospitable Hotel Castillo d’Archer on our penultimate day, and drove down through Jaca, turning southwards up towards the Oriel mountain, whose distinctive shape looms over the little city.