The Pyrenees – Part Two – Malcolm Palmer

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Egyptian Vulture by Greta Owen©

We still had distance to travel to get to the Pyrenees after the first night of our trip to the North, and set out early to drive quickly around Zaragoza, seeing plenty of White Storks as we did so. Stopping briefly near to the magnificent Mallos de Riglos, where huge sandstone rocks loom over the rushing River Gállego, we soon found Egyptian Vulture amongst the many Griffons. We drove up the Hecho Valley and booked into the superb Hotel Castillo d’Archer, where we were to spend three nights.

After a bite of lunch, the erstwhile Wallcreeper site at the Boca del infierno proved to be home only to lots of Crag Martins, so we continued up the valley, along the familiar, potholed road, seeing birds all the way. An unusual sight was a Grey Wagtail perched high in a tree, but we soon found several beautiful Red-backed Shrikes – very much a ‘speciality’ in these parts, as well as Dunnock, Cirl Bunting and Wren. Red-billed Chough were numerous, calling as they flew up and down the valley. When we arrived at what is rather optimistically termed a ‘car park’ we crossed the stream and walked a little further. Just as well we did, because the trip’s only Lammergeier soared high overhead as we cleared the tree-line. I remembered an occasion, years ago, when, with the late Brian Conduit, my younger legs had taken me up this track, and right over into France!

Now, we drove carefully back down the road, then took the winding side-road up to Gabardito, where we soon found a small flock of the delightful little Citril Finches picking up gravel from the track. Greta wandered further and managed to find and photograph a fine male Bullfinch – which the rest of us couldn’t relocate! Back at the hotel Rex strolled into the village and watched a Black Redstart going into its nest-site, but we all enjoyed the quite excellent dinner provided by the hotel.

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