The Pyrenees and more: Northern Spain and Western France, 14th-26th June 2009

This section details the species of birds and other wildlife seen during the trip.

Highlights are shown in brown and the [number in square brackets] at the end of the species name is the number of individuals seen or heard during the trip (or [?] if not counted).

As the place names won't all be known, I've usually broken down the details into the 6 main regions visited, namely English Channel, Western France, Northern Spain (away from the Pyrenees) and the Pyrenees in each of Navarre (Spain), Aragon (Spain) and France.

 

PART 1 - NON-PASSERINES

 

Mute Swan Cygnus olor [?]

Western France: present near La Rochelle on 14th.

 

Shelduck Tadorna tadorna [?]

Western France: Hundreds at the Anse de l'Aiguillon 14th and many on the Loire estuary off Lavau-sur-Loire on 26th.

 

Mallard Anas platyrhynchos [?]

Western France: present near La Rochelle on 14th and at a couple sites on the Loire on 26th.

 

Red-legged Partridge Alectoris rufa [?]

Northern Spain: present in the Belchite Steppes on 16th.

 

Quail Coturnix coturnix [9]

Navarre Pyrenees: 2 singles heard east of Aribe and 1 on the slopes above Ochagavia on 19th-20th.

Aragon Pyrenees: at least 5 heard above Sallent de Gállego and El Formiga on 22nd.

 

Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis [?]

Western France: present near La Rochelle on 14th.

 

Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus [1]

Western France: 1-2 at Bazouges, near Rennes, on 14th.

 

Fulmar Fulmaris glacialis [2]

English Channel: 2 from the ferry between Cherbourg and Portsmouth on 26th fairly close to the middle of the voyage, one probably being nearer France than England.

 

Gannet Morus bassanus [70]

English Channel: About 20 from the ferry between Portsmouth and St Malo on 14th and about 50 from the ferry between Cherbourg and Portsmouth on 26th.

Gannet, N of St Malo, 14-Jun-09 Gannet, N of St Malo, 14-Jun-09

Gannet, north of St Malo (English Channel, France), 14th June

 

Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo [?]

Western France: Small numbers at La Grande Brière on 26th.

English Channel: Small numbers at Cherbourg on 26th.

 

Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis [2]

English Channel: At least 2 at Cherbourg on 26th.

 

Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis [18]

Western France: Groups of between 5 and 8 at 3 sites on both journeys on 14th and 25th.

 

Little Egret Egretta garzetta [51+]

English Channel: Singles flew over the ferry terminals at Portsmouth on 13th and Cherbourg on 26th; also 2 from the ferry at Cherbourg on 26th.

Western France: Small numbers seen at several locations plus at least 40 at Marais Salants de Guérande on 26th.

Northern Spain: 2 just east of Lagroña on 16th.

Little Egrets, Marais Salents de Guerande, 26-Jun-09  

Little Egrets, Marais Salants de Guérande (Loire Atlantique, France), 26th June

 

Great White Egret Ardea alba [1]

Western France: 1 at Marais Salants de Guérande on 26th.

 

Grey Heron Ardea cinerea [26+]

Western France: 1 at Marais d'Yves on 14th; 2 singles on the way out of the Pyrenees on 25th; about 20 at Marais Salants de Guérande and others at nearby sites on 26th.

Grey Heron, La Grande Briere, 26-Jun-09 Grey Heron, La Grande Briere, 26-Jun-09

Grey Heron, La Grande-Brière (Loire Atlantique, France), 26th June - this bird had rusty brown wing-coverts, obvious in flight but unfortunately that didn't make it a Great Blue...

 

Purple Heron Ardea purpurea [7]

Western France: 4 at Marais de la Brie and 1 at Marais d'Yves on 14th; 2 at La Grande Brière on 26th.

Purple Heron, Marais de la Brie, 14-Jun-09 Purple Heron, Marais d'Yves, 14-Jun-09

Purple Herons, Marais de la Brie (left) and near Marais d'Yves (right) (both Charente-Maritime, France), 14th June

 

White Stork Ciconia ciconia [17]

Western France: 2 at Marais d'Yves on 14th; 2 at La Grande Brière on 26th.

Northern Spain: 2 at Villafranca de Ebro on 15th; 4 just W of Zaragoza on 16th; at least 7 around Castañares de Rioja on 16th including some at least 4 nests on the church in the town centre.

White Stork, Marais d'Yves, 14-Jun-09 White Stork, Marais d'Yves, 14-Jun-09

White Stork, near Marais d'Yves (Charente-Maritime, France), 14th June

 

White Stork, Lavau-sur-Loire, 26-Jun-09  

White Stork, Lavau-sur-Loire (Loire Atlantique, France), 26th June 2009

 

Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia [6]

Western France: 1 at La Grande Brière and 5 at Lavau-sur-Loire on 26th.

Spoonbill, La Grande-Briere, 26-Jun-09  

Spoonbill, La Grande-Brière (Loire Atlantique, France), 26th June

 

Black Kite Milvus migrans [84]

Western France: Many seen from the road, mainly in the south - the most northerly being 1 at La Grande Brière on 26th and the largest concentration being near Bordeaux where at least 20 seen on 14th.

Northern Spain: Common: mostly seen from the car along valleys but not uncommon in higher areas either.

Navarre Pyrenees: 2 between Aribe and Ochagavía on 20th.

Aragon Pyrenees: 1 in the Hecho Valley and 6 in the lower valley between Aisa and Jaca on 21st.

Black Kite, N of Lumbier, 18-Jun-09 Black Kite, N of Lumbier, 18-Jun-09

Black Kite, north of Lumbier (Navarre, Spain), 18th June

 

Red Kite Milvus milvus [26]

Northern Spain: 2 at Lumbier on 18th.

Navarre Pyrenees: 1-2 at several sites on 19th-20th.

Aragon Pyrenees: Small numbers at several sites on 20th-21st.

French Pyrenees: 2 on 23rd and 1 over a very high peak at Gavarnie on 24th.

Red Kite, Lumbier, 18-Jun-09 Red Kite, Lumbier, 18-Jun-09
Red Kite, Lumbier, 18-Jun-09 Red Kite, Lumbier, 18-Jun-09

Red Kite, Lumbier (Navarre, Spain), 18th June

 

Red Kite, above Ochagavia, 20-Jun-09 Red Kite, above Ochagavia, 20-Jun-09

Red Kite, above Ochagavía (Navarre, Spain), 20th June

 

Black-winged Kite Elanus caeruleus [1]

Western France: One hovering beside the D834 at Toujarot about midway between Pau and Aire-sur-l'Adour on 25th.

 

Egyptian Vulture Neophron percnopterus [1]

Northern Spain: At least 1 at Lumbier on 18th.

Aragon Pyrenees: Singles in the Ansó and Hecho Valleys on 20th, another in the Hecho Valley on 21st with a second higher up above El Formigal the same day.

Egyptian Vulture, Lumbier, 18-Jun-09 Egyptian Vulture, Lumbier, 18-Jun-09

Egyptian Vulture, Lumbier (Navarre, Spain), 18th June

 

Egyptian Vulture, Anso Valley, 20-Jun-09 Egyptian Vulture, Anso Valley, 20-Jun-09
Egyptian Vulture, Anso Valley, 20-Jun-09 Egyptian Vulture, Anso Valley, 20-Jun-09

Egyptian Vulture, Ansó Valley (Aragon, Spain), 20th June

 

Griffon Vulture Gyps fulvus [250]

Northern Spain: 1 between Zaragoza and Lagroña and at least 30 in the Sierra de la Demanda on 16th; Large numbers, perhaps 100, at Lumbier on 18th where there is a vulture feeding station in place.

Navarre Pyrenees: The commonest, or at least the most easily seen, raptor with over 80 recorded including groups of up to 21.

Aragon Pyrenees: Smaller numbers than in Navarre but those that were seen included 20 in the Hecho Valley around Gabardito on 21st.

French Pyrenees: 4 at Col du Pourtalet, 10 at Col du Soulor and at least 2 at Gavarnie on 22nd-24th.

Griffon Vulture, Lumbier, 18-Jun-09 Griffon Vulture, Lumbier, 18-Jun-09
Griffon Vulture, Lumbier, 18-Jun-09 Griffon Vulture, Lumbier, 18-Jun-09
Griffon Vulture, Lumbier, 18-Jun-09 Griffon Vulture, Lumbier, 18-Jun-09
Griffon Vulture, Lumbier, 18-Jun-09 Griffon Vulture, Lumbier, 18-Jun-09

Griffon Vultures, Lumbier (Navarre, Spain), 18th June

 

Griffon Vulture, Gabardito, 21-Jun-09 Griffon Vulture, Gabardito, 21-Jun-09
Griffon Vulture, Gabardito, 21-Jun-09 Griffon Vulture, Gabardito, 21-Jun-09

Griffon Vultures, Gabardito (Aragon, Spain), 21st June 2009

 

Short-toed Eagle Circaetus gallicus [11]

Northern Spain: Singles at El Planerón (Belchite Steppes) and Sierra de la Demanda on 16th.

Navarre Pyrenees: 2 between Aribe and Ochagavía on 19th.

Aragon Pyrenees: 3 in the Hecho Valley on 21st; 3 above Sallent de Gállego and El Formigal on 22nd.

French Pyrenees: At least 1 at Gavarnie on 24th.

Short-toed Eagle, Sierra de la Demanda, 16-Jun-09 Short-toed Eagle, Sierra de la Demanda, 16-Jun-09
Short-toed Eagle, Sierra de la Demanda, 16-Jun-09 Short-toed Eagle, Sierra de la Demanda, 16-Jun-09

Short-toed Eagle, Sierra de la Demanda (La Rioja, Spain), 16th June

 

Short-toed Eagle, Aribe, 19-Jun-09 Short-toed Eagle, Aribe, 19-Jun-09

Short-toed Eagle, east of Aribe (Navarre, Spain), 19th June

 

Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus [17]

Western France: A total of 7 between Marais de la Brie and Marais d'Yves on 14th; 4 at La Grande-Brière and 3 at Lavau-sur-Loire on 26th.

Northern Spain: 2 at El Planerón (Belchite Steppes) and 1 west of Zaragoza on 16th.

Marsh Harrier, Belchite Steppes, 16-Jun-09  

Marsh Harrier, Belchite Steppes (Aragon, Spain), 16th June

 

Montagu's Harrier Circus pygargus [3]

Northern Spain: 2 at El Planerón (Belchite Steppes) on 15th with a single, perhaps one of the same, on 16th.

Western France: Between Bordeaux and Nantes a fine male flew over the A83 west of Fontenay-le-Comte on 25th.

Montagu's Harrier, Belchite Steppes, 15-Jun-09  

Montagu's Harrier, Belchite Steppes (Aragon, Spain), 15th June

 

Goshawk Accipiter gentilis [1]

Navarre Pyrenees: 1 seen in flight and then landed in a small tree on a hillside at Selva de Irati on 19th.

 

Buzzard Buteo buteo [21]

Small numbers seen in all regions.

Buzzard, La Grande Briere, 26-Jun-09 Buzzard, Gavarnie, 24-Jun-09

Buzzard, La Grande Brière (Loire Atlantique, France), 26th June

Buzzard, Gavarnie (Hautes-Pyrénées, France), 24th June

 

Golden Eagle Aquila chrysaetos [1]

French Pyrenees: 1 at Col du Soulor on 23rd.

 

Booted Eagle Aquila pennatus [2]

Northern Spain: Between Zaragoza and Lagroña, 1 at Alfaro on 16th.

Navarre Pyrenees: 1 on the east side of Selva de Irati on 19th.

 

Kestrel Falco tinnunculus [?]

Very small numbers seen in both countries.

 

Moorhen Gallinula chloropus [2]

Western France: singles at Canal du Clain on 14th and La Grande-Brière on 26th.

 

Coot Fulica atra [?]

Western France: small numbers at 3 sites.

 

Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus [27]

Western France: 8 near the Marais d'Yves on 14th; at least 15 (plus at least one chick) at Marais Salants de Guérande and 2 each at La Grande-Brière and Lavau-sur-Loire on 26th.

Black-winged Stilt, Marais Salants de Guerande, 26-Jun-09  

Black-winged Stilt, Marais Salants de Guérande (Loire Atlantique, France), 26th June

 

Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta [45]

Western France: at least 15 (plus several well-grown chicks) at Marais Salants de Guérande and at least 30 at Lavau-sur-Loire on 26th.

Avocet, Marais Salants de Guerande, 26-Jun-09  

juvenile Avocet, Marais Salants de Guérande (Loire Atlantique, France), 26th June

 

Ringed Plover Charadrius hiaticula [10]

Western France: 10 at Anse de l'Aiguillon on 14th.

 

Lapwing Vanellus vanellus [?]

Western France: Small numbers breeding at 2 sites around La Rochelle and Marais d'Yves on 14th; larger numbers at Marais Salants de Guérande and Lavau-sur-Loire on 26th.

 

Dunlin Calidris alpina [2]

Western France: 2 at Anse de l'Aiguillon on 14th.

 

Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa [50+]

Western France: A flock of perhaps 50-100 seen in flight from Lavau-sur-Loire on 26th.

 

Curlew Numenius arquata [?]

Western France: Small numbers at Anse de l'Aiguillon on 14th.

 

Redshank Tringa totanus [3+]

Western France: At least 3 at Marais Salants de Guérande on 26th.

 

Green Sandpiper Tringa ochruros [2]

Western France: 2 at Lavau-sur-Loire on 26th.

 

Turnstone Arenaria interpres [30]

Western France: 30 at Marais Salants de Guérande on 26th.

Turnstone, Marais Salants de Guerande, 26-Jun-09 Turnstone, Marais Salants de Guerande, 26-Jun-09

Turnstones, Marais Salants de Guérande (Loire Atlantique, France), 26th June

 

Black-headed Gull Larus ridibundus [?]

Western France: present at most sites on or close to the coast.

 

Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus ridibundus [4]

Western France: At least 3 at Lavau-sur-Loire on 26th.

English Channel: 1 at Cherbourg on 26th.

 

Herring Gull Larus ridibundus [4]

English Channel: Seen from the ferry on approach to St Malo on 14th June and at Cherbourg on 26th.

Herring Gull, Cherbourg, 26-Jun-09  

Herring Gull, Cherbourg (Manche, France), 26th June

 

Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis [?]

Western France: Large gulls at Anse de l'Aiguillon on 14th and Marais Salants de Guérande on 26th appeared to be this species, though views were never good enough to establish precisely what form was involved.

 

Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus [?]

English Channel: Small numbers seen from both ferries.

 

Common Tern Sterna hirundo [?]

Western France: Several at Marais Salants de Guérande on 26th.

 

Whiskered Tern Chlidonias hybridus [1]

Western France: 1 at La Grande-Brière on 26th.

 

Pin-tailed Sandgrouse Pterocles alchata [40+]

Northern Spain: Common at Belchite Steppes on 15th-16th. Largest numbers were seen at the El Planerón reserve where small numbers were continually flying in and out of the pool. Numbers difficult to estimate as relatively few were present at any one time, a minimum of 40 but quite possibly nearer 100. Odd pairs seen in flight at the Lomaza reserve.

Pin-tailed Sandgrouse, Belchite Steppes, 16-Jun-09 Pin-tailed Sandgrouse, Belchite Steppes, 16-Jun-09
Pin-tailed Sandgrouse, Belchite Steppes, 16-Jun-09 Pin-tailed Sandgrouse, Belchite Steppes, 16-Jun-09
Pin-tailed Sandgrouse, Belchite Steppes, 16-Jun-09 Pin-tailed Sandgrouse, Belchite Steppes, 16-Jun-09
Pin-tailed Sandgrouse, Belchite Steppes, 16-Jun-09 Pin-tailed Sandgrouse, Belchite Steppes, 16-Jun-09
Pin-tailed Sandgrouse, Belchite Steppes, 16-Jun-09 Pin-tailed Sandgrouse, Belchite Steppes, 16-Jun-09

Pin-tailed Sandgrouse, El Planerón, Belchite Steppes (Aragon, Spain), 16th June

 

Black-bellied Sandgrouse Pterocles orientalis [15+]

Northern Spain: Easily seen at the El Planerón reserve at Belchite Steppes on 15th-16th where they were freqently seen coming to the pool with Pin-tailed Sandgrouse. As with that species numbers were difficult to estimate but there were clearly fewer than Pin-tailed Sandgrouse - I guessed 15 but it could easily have been double that.

Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Belchite Steppes, 16-Jun-09 Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Belchite Steppes, 16-Jun-09
Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Belchite Steppes, 16-Jun-09 Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Belchite Steppes, 16-Jun-09
Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Belchite Steppes, 16-Jun-09 Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Belchite Steppes, 16-Jun-09

Black-bellied Sandgrouse (with Pin-tailed Sandgrouse in upper photos), El Planerón, Belchite Steppes (Aragon, Spain), 16th June

 

Rock Dove Columba livia [3]

English Channel: A Feral Pigeon landed on the ferry while it was still some way off from St Malo on 14th.

French Pyrenees: 3 on rocks in a river at Gavarnie on 24th all appeared identical to wild Rock Doves and were perhaps therefore the genuine thing as opposed to feral birds.

Rock Dove, Gavarnie, 24-Jun-09  

Rock Dove, Gavarnie (Hautes-Pyrénées, France), 24th June

 

Stock Dove Columba oenas [1]

Western France: 1 heard singing at Forêt de Rennes on 14th.

 

Woodpigeon Columba palumbus [?]

Seen at several locations throughout, though in smaller numbers than at home.

 

Collared Dove Streptopelia decaocto [?]

Seen in French towns at least from the Loire northwards. I think I saw them elsewhere but missed recording them except for one high-altitude bird on the Spanish side of the border at Col du Pourtalet.

Collared Dove, Col du Pourtalet, 22-Jun-09  

Collared Dove, Col du Pourtalet (Aragon, Spain), 22nd June

 

Turtle Dove Streptopelia turtur [9]

Small numbers in most areas away from the Pyrenees.

 

Cuckoo Cuculus canorus [9]

Western France: Recorded at Forêt de Rennes and Marais de la Brie.

Northern Spain: 2 heard at the Sierra de la Demanda on 16th.

French Pyrenees: 1 heard at Gavarnie on 24th.

 

Scops Owl Otus scops [6]

Navarre Pyrenees: About 6 heard calling in the Selva de Irati (west of the reservoir) on 19th.

 

Tawny Owl Strix aluco [1]

Western France: 1 heard hooting at 11.20 am at Forêt de Rennes on 14th.

 

Nightjar Caprimulgus europaeus [1]

Northern Spain: 1 was heard churring in broad daylight and in the heat of the early afternoon at Lumbier on 18th. It gave a good long bout of churring lasting for perhaps a couple of minutes.

 

Swift Apus apus [?]

Good numbers seen in most areas. All those that were heard calling or that allowed good views were Common Swifts, though many were not checked carefully enough to eliminate Pallid Swift.

 

Alpine Swift Apus melba [14]

Northern Spain: About 10 at Lumbier on 18th.

Aragon Pyrenees: About 4 in the Hecho Valley on 21st. I'm pretty sure I saw some others elsewhere in the Pyrenees but don't appear to have noted them and can't recall where they were.

 

Kingfisher Alcedo atthis [1]

Northern Spain: 1 at Lumbier on 18th. The river was so muddy it is hard to imagine that it would have been able to feed here.

 

Bee-eater Merops apiaster [6]

Northern Spain: 1's and 2's seen at several places in the Belchite Steppes on 15th-16th, only seen in flight.

 

Hoopoe Upupa epops [4]

Western France: 1 at Marais de la Brie on 14th.

Northern Spain: 3-4 seen and heard around Belchite and Codo on 15th-16th.

 

Green Woodpecker Picus viridis [9]

Western France: Singles heard at Forêt de Rennes on 14th and Pornichet on 25th; 2 at La Grande-Brière on 26th.

Navarre Pyrenees: 1 seen plus 3 heard at Selva de Irati on 19th-20th. I am not sure which form occurs in the Pyrenees and views of the bird seen were not sufficient to establish whether or not the Iberian form sharpei was involved or not.

Aragon Pyrenees: A juvenile at Panticosa on 23rd.

 

Great Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos major [4]

Western France: 1 heard at Forêt de Rennes on 14th.

Navarre Pyrenees: 2 at Selva de Irati on 20th.

French Pyrenees: 1 heard at Barèges on 24th.

 

Middle Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos medius [1]

Western France: Having failed to find this species at several locations 1 flew over the road in front of me as I was driving home, at Bernos-Beaulac on 25th. Not really the views I was after, but just about adequate for a firm ID.

 

White-backed Woodpecker Dendrocopos leucotos [1]

Navarre Pyrenees: 1 heard calling at Selva de Irati on 20th. It was at the end of the western approach road at the west end of the reservoir. It called several times and seemed to be quite close in small trees just above the car park but impossible to see. Eventually I caught a couple of very brief glimpses of what was certainly the same bird that was calling but it remained well within the trees at all times. Views were barely adequate to identify it as a woodpecker, let alone a White-backed Woodpecker but as it called many times exactly matching the tapes I guess I can count it. Hardly satisfying though!

 

Black Woodpecker Dryocopus martius [3]

Navarre Pyrenees: 1 heard calling at the east side of Selva de Irati on 19th sounded like it was quite close but unfortunately moved away without being seen. Also in Selva de Irati a distant bird was heard calling on 20th.

Aragon Pyrenees: 1 heard singing at Balneario on 23rd.

French Pyrenees: Frustratingly one probably flew over in front of the car between Gavarnie and Luz St Sauveur on 24th. It was only in view for half a second or so but I can't help thinking that if I'd been more alert at the time I might have clinched it.

 

Click here to carry on to PART 2 - PASSERINES