It is a paradise for the all-round naturalist with vast numbers of plant species and a host of butterflies. Jagged, snow-capped spires and alpine meadows carpeted with gentians, daffodils and orchids provide a magical backdrop to this week long tour.
The highest slopes are home for Alpine Marmots, Golden Eagles, Yellow-billed Choughs and Water Pipits flushed in their springtime plumage. Squadrons of colossal Griffon Vultures sail around vertically-cliffed gorges, haunt of the ever-elusive Wallcreeper and at any moment, the mighty bone-breaking Lammergeier can drift through. Add to this Hoopoes, Golden Orioles, Bee-eaters, Black Woodpeckers and Scops Owls and you have the recipe for an idyllic week.
London or Manchester / Barcelona / Jaca
Depart Manchester / Heathrow a.m. Arrive Barcelona late a.m. We then make the pleasant 4-hour journey to our friendly, traditional Spanish hotel at Jaca where we will be for most of the week and which is perfectly situated for our explorations of the surrounding area. Time permitting, a stroll around the local park and the citadel should give us first sightings of Rock Sparrow, Firecrest, Black Redstart and Short-toed Treecreeper. At dusk we will listen out for the “sonar blip” of Scops Owls! Overnights Hotel Conde Aznar, Jaca.
Rio Aragon / Biniés / Berdun
We travel east today along the beautiful river Aragon, a favourite spot for Bee-eaters, Golden Orioles and Hoopoes, before heading up into the hills above Biniés for a wide variety of raptors including Lammergeier and Golden Eagle. On the way down, the cornfields near Berdun are good for Red-backed Shrike, Montagu’s Harrier, Tawny Pipit and Quail and the typically uncultivated patches hold Subalpine, Sardinian and Orphean Warblers. We will finish the day back at the Aragon where willows and rushes predominate and we might find Penduline Tit.
After another local stroll down to the river our destination today is up to high ground – the delightful Hecho Valley, where Red-billed Choughs and Griffon Vultures sail out from vertical precipices, home to Chamois and Alpine Marmot. We will search the rock faces for the elusive Wallcreeper, keeping an eye open for the unmistakeable shape of a Lammergeier overhead, patrolling skies shared by a range of other raptors including Golden Eagle. Higher up still we will look out for Citril Finch in alpine meadows covered with every imaginable shape and shade of flower.
We head high into the hills again today, up to the Tena Valley and the Portalet pass. Right on the snow-line we will explore the area for Wheatears, Water Pipits, Rock Thrushes, Ortolan Bunting and Alpine Choughs whilst checking overhead for Golden and Short-toed Eagles plus of course, Lammergeier. Alpine Marmots squeal if they sense danger and we may see small groups of chamois. On a good day the clear alpine air provides breathtaking views over jagged, snow-covered mountains. Once again the flora is magnificent with the deep blues of both Spring and Trumpet Gentians mixing with the yellows of Dwarf Narcissi and Elder-flowered Orchids.
San Juan de la Peña
For contrast we head south today to the wonderful local mountains overlooking Jaca. The route takes us through unintensive farmland, alive with jingling Corn Buntings and we will spend the whole day exploring the fabulous outcrops of Peña de Oroel and Monastery of San Juan de la Peña. These are both sites for Black Woodpecker as well as Citril Finch, Bonelli’s Warbler, Crossbill, Crested Tit and Black Redstart. One of the finest vistas in the region provides more opportunities for raptor watching.
Riglos & Aguero
Today we head south to the stunning sandstone outcrops at Riglos and Aguero where both Black and Black-eared Wheatear can be seen plus Blue Rock Thrush. En route we will check a nearby embalse for Great Reed Warbler, Marsh Harrier, Woodchat Shrike and Bee-eater. Small fields separated by scrub are excellent for various migrants such as Tawny Pipit, Nightingale, Sardinian, Subalpine, Dartford and Orphean Warblers whilst overhead Egyptian Vulture and Peregrine are regular sights.
Jaca / Barcelona
We will be aiming for Barcelona today but we have plenty of time and our journey will involve stops as we cross the Sierra de Guara where Short-toed Lark, Black-eared Wheatear and both Black-bellied and Pin-tailed Sandgrouse occur. This will still give us a chance to get to our hotel before a visit to the nearby Delta de Llobregat. This wetland reserve hosts a wide range of water birds including waders, rails, crakes, herons and egrets. Overnight Salles Hotel Ciutat del Prat.
Barcelona / London or Manchester
After a leisurely breakfast we make the very short journey to the airport to pick up our flights back to the UK.