Thursday, 26 February 2015

The Last post were off to Tosos

Got up 0745HRS it looks cloudy today no cats in the car park we have breakfast and say goodbye to
our lovely host we head for town in the rain to pick up our rolls for lunch.

Its goodbye Gallocanta we headed for another hot spot on route back its called
Embalse de Torcas Lewis and I had been here 4 years ago but today we have come
from a different direction giving us  a splendid view of the res.
On the reservoir we get our first great crested grebe  of the trip plus pochards and comorants,
we decide to drive down and cross the dam wall to our surprise a Golden Eagle is perched at
some distance its not long before a pair start flying.
They now proceed to mob a Bonelli's eagle ,possibly we have Golden and Bonelli's breeding in this
area after scoping we also find a Griffon on its nest too.
On leaving we have a good view of Grey Wagtail as we head for Tosos and our last
stop which is El Planeron a lagoon here holds duck but soon they are off mostly Teal
Scenically this is a wonderful place it look likes something out of a spaghetti western,
however the wind is making it difficult to focus here,this panorama is exceptional.
Well another excellent Nature Trek comes to an end thanks to John and Jenny Willshere and all my
fellow travellers its viva Espana  as we leave Zaragozza

Laguna de Gallocanta 20th Feb

After a breakfast a walk behind the village of Gallocanta quite near to the hotel produced buntings
greenfinch,buzzard and Griffon Vulture.
On the return to the village we heard goldcrest and a number of cranes passed overhead,a
notable butterfly proved to be The Queen of Spain Fritallary how very apt.

We then walked to the lagoon information area followed up to the Allucant bar to see Javier and
photograph Rock Sparrow on the roof.
Lunch was on the reserve at La Ermita,leaving Las Cuerlas we travelled to the observatorio de la reguera where John found Ruff,Ringed Plover and Dunlin among the Shelduck.
Moving on we passed Laguna de la Zaida a dried up lake which produced quartering hen harrier.
Last stop for the day was Laguna Guailguerrero where 10 black bellied sandgrouse flew over,Little Grebe,Cormorant,mallard,pochard and coot.
We returned to the Hotel Secazia getting out of the mini buses Stu shouts out cat and to our amazement a European Wild cat shows briefly at the rear of the car park.

In Search of Duponts Lark

Another early morning excursion in search of the highly elusive Dupont's Lark,left the hotel
around 0650hrs it was -5oc on route a Barn Owl flew across the road .We arrived at an area
called La Yunta on the road to Madrid.
On arrival in the dark  up to dozen birds were singing like vampires they are not keen on the light,
it was difficult but I did locate one on a rock I called for Johns scope viewed it then it moved I was
sure as the plumage and beak was right but John remained sceptical.
The song steadily reduced as it got lighter,on the return another hen harrier and a couple of Jays.

Laguna de Gallocanta

0710HRS departing Hotel Secazia   for dawn watch over the Laguna de Gallocanta,it was  dark as we travelled along the tracks to our view point another hard frost for company.
Early morning produced many cranes and the boar and the harrier as light broke,other
notables were hen harrier,Merlin ,Short eared owl ,larks,tree sparrows and numerous corn buntings.
The early morning jaunt for the sunrise was a highlight of the day the light and evocative calls of the
cranes ,a photographers nightmare or paradise.

We left reluctantly for breakfast and returned with Javier our local guide once again to the lagoon.
A Spanish film crew were doing an agricultural film on Gallocanta and interviewed and filmed us a we
watched the birdies.
At a distance Shelduck and Dunlin were distant ,moving out to a tower hide improved the
viewing somewhat..
Around 1400HRS we had lunch ,another picnic where closer views of cranes were obtained,more
harriers and merlin again.
Moving on 3 Great Bustards took off and a pair of Little Owls obliged near their nest site,filled up with petrol then off looking for the elusive Bustards.

We eventually caught up with the Great Bustards this trio were a bit flighty,we were all a
little jaded after two long days in the field as we arrived back at our hotel.

Day Three 18th of Feb

Before breakfast in Alquezar their was a male hen harrier over the town,plus another sighting of
wallcreeper taking us to 5 sightings to date.
Also good views of Alpine Accentors their was up to 30 wintering in Alquezar,unusual
we thought.
Linnets ,Choughs and more Rock Sparrows obliged as we viewed sunrise before breakfast our
last morning in Alquezar.

Leaving today our first stop after supplies was the Sierra de Tramaced hope that's right and here Black Wheatear showed briefly,although an Eagle Owl at some distance was a good find in its crevice be it scoped.

Then a Thekla lark overhead as we arrived at the town of Piracies where Rock Bunting was nice and a White Stork on its nest in the town.
Following the canal on route to Laguna de Sarinera  we had lunch viewing Marsh Harriers and
a calling Cettis Warbler,after lunch headed towards Los Monegros  where 25 Great Bustards showed
in the heat haze with flocks of Calandra larks.
Moving on Golden Eagle,possibly Pin tailed Sandgrouse but certainly Black bellied wizzed over us.
We crossed the Ebro river in full flood no doubt from the winter snow at Sastago.
Around 1630 hrs perhaps a little later we passed through Belchite and viewed El Planeron
briefly where Dartford warbler showed before skulking away.
Passing Fuendetodos Goyas birthplace reaching Carinera then Daroca a pond showed a kingfisher in flight we arrived Gallocanta  around 1900 hrs for a well earned  beer and dinner.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Wallcreepers and Cranes day two

17th Feb a little warmer but a cold wind before breakfast many blackcaps and superb
Black Redstart.
On our way we stopped at Adahuesca on route where on leaving after a few miles a splendid
Goshawk obliged.
We arrived at the dam Rio Alcanta where a Dipper and White Wagtail showed be it briefly.
Finally we reached Santa Cilla Lewis and I had been here 4 years ago but this time we were
with the Amigos del Buitre.
The scene was set for an incredible encounter we drove part way and walked the rest to the
visible escarpment on the distant mountain side
Just as we had settled down Quebrantahuesos the breaker of bones swept over us giving
incredible views.
Well a lot closer than we could ever have hoped for next up the Griffons it was like a giant
bird table and their manners were far from impeccable.
They were less than 6 feet away and were not bothered even by a Fox but the local dogs put a lid on it after 30 minutes or so.
Reluctantly we leave this up close and personal experience with vultures is etched
in our minds.
A picnic lunch and a return to Alquezar and awalk to the bottom the gorge produced Hawfinch before
heading down the gorge to the river bottom proved a little strenuous.
Heady stuff but not for us Brits the stream held some small fish and we had two more
sightings of wallcreeper.

Wallcreepers and Cranes

Left Stanstead for Zaragozza  arrived 1630hrs noted a few spotless starlings and Great White Egret on route arrived Alquezar around 1800 hrs,a wonderful Moorish citadel beckoned as did a beer.
Got up the following morning to a blackcap invasion on the surrounding terraces and gardens.
A good mixture before breakfast including Peregrine,Red Kite and a skulking Sardinian warbler,
over head a Redwing called.
At 0800 hrs we went to the gorge before breakfast and straightaway Wallcreeper obliged to
everyones delight. Rock sparrows and Crag martins overhead and two Common Chough calling.
Breakfast calling 0900hrs before leaving for Adahuesca for lunch supplies where while waiting a
flock over Cranes flew over,in the town orchard thrushes and spotless starlings obliged.
Our first port of call was the River Vero where a Roman bridge span it as we looked for Dipper,
a couple of Chiff chaff showed and a great spotted woodpecker.
The river held little so we moved on to the Barranco de Gargantas where another wallcreeper obliged
this time closer giving crippling views,for the botanist a few Saxifrage below the bridge.In the distance snow capped peaks completed the beauty.

We stopped for lunch where two Ravens appeared as we viewed the Sierra y canones de Guarra,yes
another Wallcreeper now known as Lewis's creeper as he kept finding them.
We descended to the Neolithic caves to see the cave man drawings while Ann found an Egyptian
Vulture which landed next to a Griffon for size comparision.
We left the caves and headed back up to the small forest on top near the car park
a nice stroll here produced Firecrest,Goldcrest and Crested tit.