Spanish Pyrenees

Saturday 13 - Saturday 20 May 2000

Kevin Cook, John Muddeman

13th May

A good sign! We arrived at Bilbao in strong sun and a warm balmy atmosphere where we met John Boucher, the owner of the Berdun centre and our co-leader John Muddeman. However after having had to change planes at Heathrow due to a faulty seal we were already over an hour late and we were further frustrated when we discovered that Eddy's suitcase had failed to arrive. After some time with the airline staff Eddy rejoined us in surprisingly high spirits telling us he was assured the missing case would arrive at Berdun the next day....

On the way to Berdun we stopped at a village to see nesting White Storks - the only opportunity we expected to have on the whole trip. High up on the tower of the village church were two young storks being tended by an adult. Later we stopped for coffee and a snack and heard our first Corn Bunting and close views of Black Kite and even a Booted Eagle. A field cricket scurried across the car park too÷

It was a weary but cheerful bunch of Travelling Naturalists that arrived in the historic village of Berdun so perfectly placed on its hill top. An excellent and welcome dinner was had at Emilio's Restaurant followed by a much needed sleep.

14th May

A lovely start to the day. We had a pre breakfast walk around the ramparts which yielded the traditional over friendly greeting by an ecstatic Berdun dog followed by excellent sightings of Griffon Vultures and an Egyptian Vulture. The scrubby slope of the hill was alive with the song of Serin, Blackcap and Nightingales.

Today we walked down to the Rio Veral in the morning, lunch in the village and then a walk to the Rio Aragón in the afternoon - all at a very gentle pace of course. As we walked down from the village to the Veral we saw our first 'southern' Speckled Wood butterfly, its orange colouring so similar to the Wall butterfly which we would see later. Soon birds were spotted - a singing Wryneck, a Cirl bunting and Black and Red Kites soaring close by. Thyme and Spanish Broom, White Rockrose, Henbane and the Beautiful Flax and Globularia were just some of the plants at the top of the valley. Remarkably we saw a distant Short-toed Eagle, thanks to John's 'eagle eyes', which landed on a bush. Melodious Warblers, Nightingales and Serin sang in the valley and again the eagle reappeared close by over the village whilst Alison and I looked at shield bugs crawling on the leaves of a milk thistle. Jeff appeared with an oil beetle - people were getting used to the style of the holiday already!

The hot weather continued encouraging Common Blue butterflies, tiny Baton Blues and lots of Scarce Swallowtails to fly. A Crested Lark was heard calling and 2 Honey Buzzards spotted some distance away. After about two hours gentle strolling we made it to the river - Eddy heard some Bee-eaters and soon we were enjoying views of two of them. John spotted a Short-toed Treecreeper going into its nest in the crack above a window shutter and then a Hobby flew over - I think the whole group were now appreciating what an amazing place this was for wildlife. After admiring some Early Spider Orchids we were amazed when Peter cried out 'STORK ! ' and yes, overhead, was a Black Stork, no doubt migrating from its southern Spain wintering grounds towards central Europe. Jeff then heard a Turtle Dove, and a Dartford Warbler was spotted in a hedge and our first Berger's Clouded Yellow flew by - Wow, all before lunch too÷

After lunch we reassembled and walked south of the village, our goal the Rio Aragón. The sunshine was encouraging more butterflies to emerge (the weather had been cold until the day of our arrival). Bright yellow Moroccan Orange-tips, Brimstones, Wall Browns, Swallowtails and other butterflies were seen by all. As we walked along the road between farm buildings we had excellent views of Crested Larks - at one time three were on the road ahead of us. The road passed between fields and patches of stony ground and a small orchard. Louise spotted a Lax-flowered Orchid (Orchis laxiflora) whilst Jeff showed me a finely marked black and white cuckoo-bee. Several day flying moths were on the wing too - Mother Shipton, Orange Underwing and Burnet Companion.

John's fine field skills picked up an Orphean Warbler in the orchard, the first one we have recorded in this area. By now it was getting very hot and we made for the river. Above us was a flock of eight Black and Red Kites and a Griffon Vulture as we walked alongside the river to look at Military Orchids, Butterfly Orchids, Broad-leaved, Violet and Sword-leaved Helleborines (found for us by Viv Boucher who had come down to drive us back to the village). So many Nightingales here this year but we were unable to find our usual Great Reed Warbler alongside the river, perhaps because so much willow is now growing through the reed. However John more than made up for this by hearing the high-pitched call of a Penduline Tit, though the bird hid itself well.

We were ferried back to the village by John and Viv and reconvened for dinner at Emilio's. That night we gathered in the garden next to the church and listened over the wall for Scops owls. We were soon rewarded by two birds calling and then moved to the north side of the village where we briefly saw two side-by-side in a tree.

What a great way to end our first day in the Pyrenees! Well, nearly÷. Where was Eddy's suitcase?

15th May

The morning walk yielded a Firecrest singing though neither John or Eddy could spot it, but they did find an Early Thorn moth on a tree trunk. But even before we had got on our coach Ailsa found a most peculiar insect on a narrow village street. It turned out to be a Mole-cricket which must have been brought into the village by a bird as they live in damp meadows - what a great find.

Today we visited the Foz de (gorge of) Arbayun where a concrete platform has been built at the end of this stunning natural site. From there we had just amazing views of this deep gorge to the river below. The gorge sides are vertical buttresses eroded in places to form ledges where we could see Griffon Vultures nesting with a few young birds on show. Every so often Griffons and an occasional Egyptian Vulture would glide below and above us, dwarfed by the scale of the landscape. Swirling in the skies above was a flock of about 50 Alpine Swifts chattering as they swept by. Flying quietly below us too were some Crag and House Martins and soon a pair of Chough appeared. Louise explored the nearby banks finding Pyrenean Hyacinth, Asphodel and Blue Aphyllanthes. Nearby we found the strange, yellow flowered, poisonous Swallow-wort, and once we had clambered around the hillside on the other side of the road we discovered more plants. Eddy spotted Woodcock Orchid and further up other orchids were found along with Birthwort and the showy creamy white flowers of Thalictrum tuberosum. A Spanish Festoon butterfly zoomed by but now it was time for lunch and a visit to the Foz de Lumbier.

Between Arbayun and the Foz de Lumbier we saw a flock of 16 White Storks flying by - quite a sight. Every gorge seems to be different - Arbayun is dramatic with a primeval quality, yet nearby Lumbier, formed by the river cutting right through a low mountain is less rugged but equally striking. We lunched at its entrance and then spent the afternoon gently strolling along a track parallel to the river. At the gorge entrance we saw our first Green-underside Blue butterfly and heard the powerful call of a Cetti's Warbler. Once in the gorge John spotted a terrapin swimming strongly in the river. Above our heads the call of 8 Ravens vied with that of about 30 Choughs, whilst lower down we could hear an Iberian Chiffchaff singing, so different to our own. Next we had great views of an enormous green Ocellated Lizard. The walk yielded 2 Blue Rock Thrushes and later another female. Grey Wagtails flitted along the river, Blue Tits nested in a telegraph pole (concrete!) and a pair of Alpine Swifts were seen to fly into a nest in a crack in the gorge. All the time Nightingales sang and vultures soared overhead from their ledges.

At the end of the gorge we went through a long tunnel and out to the other side of the mountain where the more intrepid of the group (minimum age 60) clambered up a stony track to a crumbling bridge over the river and another fine view.

More butterflies appeared too including Black-veined White, Wood White, Small Blue, Adonis Blue and the striking Cleopatra. The award of 'insect of the gorge' must fall to a sizeable black and white beetle which I dubbed the 'sunflower seed beetle' to hide the fact that I did not know its name, but the most amazing creature we found was on the way back when John investigated some rustling in the grass, expecting to find the Ocellated Lizard but found instead an ENORMOUS Ladder Snake, inches wide and probably 5 feet long!

However the best news of the day was yet to come - for on arrival at Berdun we discovered that at last Eddy's suitcase had arrived (by taxi from Madrid!). At least now he could stop wearing Viv's dresses÷.

16th May

Three days of good weather in a mountain region was more than we could have wished for. So today, possibly our last before the weather broke again, we decided to go up into the high mountain region around the Spanish/French border region of Portalet. After about an hours drive from Berdun we stopped halfway up the mountain at Panticosa for a breath of mountain air. As some of the group made friends with some horses the rest were able to see firstly a distant Lammergeier which circled and landed on a peak, and then a Short-toed Eagle flew by.

Our next stop was higher up still and the obliging Nemesio stopped the coach opposite the reservoir at Sallent de Gallego. Here the hillside was bright with Cowslips, Elder-flowered and Early Purple Orchids. Pyrenean Violets grew close to Trumpet Gentians and Ladies Mantle and in damp areas grew Globe Flower and Marsh Marigolds. The fine turf had webs of (Marsh?) Fritillary caterpillars and on a sallow we saw 2 Camberwell Beauty butterflies feeding on nectar, whilst above us for several minutes there was a squabble between a Carrion Crow, a Black Kite, a Kestrel and a Golden Eagle...

At last we reached the snow covered peaks at Portalet where we picnicked surrounded by Birds-eye Primrose, Oxlips, unopened Pyrenean Fritillaries, Pyrenean Squill, Daffodils, and Alpine Snowbell. In the distance we could hear Alpine Marmots calling and soon spotted them sitting on rocks on the opposite slope. Alpine Choughs appeared too. After lunch the party divided, some to have coffee in the nearby bars others to climb the slopes in search of wild things, some to do both. Later some of us went into the French side and found John scooping up Common Toads and Frogs from a melt pool and admired the flowers of White Crocus. The view across to the snow covered mountains of the French Pyrenees was a fascinating patchwork of dark and light patterns where the snow persisted on the rocky slopes.

As we returned to Berdun after an exhilarating high mountain day we could see clouds building up and by evening the temperature dropped and a storm with torrential rain followed overnight.

17th May

A cool start to the day, which was not unpleasant. Nothing new on the morning walk, though I found a dead beetle, Copris lunaris which had a rhinoceros-type horn on its head, though I don't think Emilio appreciated it on his breakfast table. More excitingly though was the finding of a huge giant Peacock Moth on one of the outer walls. Funnily enough the same place where I found one some years ago.

Today we went further south in the hope of catching warmer weather. Our first stop was at the Embalse de Peña where a dam created an interesting short walk full of wild flowers. Firstly we found Salsify and Vipers Bugloss but soon discovered the endemic Pyrenean Saxifrage and the blue Ramonda high up on a buttress. Lower rocks supported Hairy Saxifrage, Pink Rockrose and Rock Soapwort and alongside the path was Nottingham Catchfly and Tower Cress with its distinctive series of hanging pods. The scenery again was dramatic as below us thousands of gallons of water poured from culverts into the river where intriguing steps and tunnels descended the dammed gorge. Common birds like Wren, Blue Tit and Chaffinch sang above the noise and a tiny Subalpine Warbler with its distinctive white moustache was seen.

We stopped further down the road too at a viewpoint below Los Mallos and peered upwards at the soaring Griffon Vultures, hoping for further views of a Lammergeier but to no avail.

On the way to our lunch stop at the virtually derelict Riglos station once again Eddy (now resplendent in his full wardrobe) displayed his extraordinary powers at finding Jays and then we saw a Woodchat Shrike on a bush. A Bath White fluttered lazily about as we ate our packed lunch and we watched Jesus our driver collect snails for his dinner that night.

The group then moved on into the village of Riglos, a remarkable location where the whitewashed village is dwarfed by towering red buttresses above. As we left the coach a Sardinian Warbler was spotted in nearby bushes and a Cetti's warbler called loudly. But enough of that - what we wanted was a bar, so I lead the group to our usual bar and hammered on the door in our traditional way. After some time and doubtful mutterings from the group our hostess appeared and said this bar had closed but she would walk down to the new one they had built and open it up for us - I couldn't see that happening in England! A fully refreshed group then explored the upper village and surrounding almond groves below the steep conglomerate cliffs.

We walked along a stony path alongside kermes oak shrubs and nettle trees. Another Woodchat Shrike was seen and Stonechats and Cirl Bunting were seen. On a small field at the top of the path Pheasants-eye and Pyramidal and Woodcock Orchids were found and then John spotted a Lammergeier soaring high along the mountain range. It was travelling very fast left to right and we could see how these creatures could travel vast distances in a day. Insects were not ignored either - Alison found a nest of a paper wasp in a bush and Eddy found a small chafer Oxythyrea funestra, Small Blues were on the wing and we had a good look at the Mother Shipton moth and saw clearly the face of the witch on its wing.

On the return journey we stopped at a reedbed alongside the reservoir (Embalse de Peña) and managed to hear and briefly see the great reed warbler that we missed earlier in the trip and clearly heard a Cuckoo calling on the other side of the water.

Another good day and very different to the mountains and gorges close to Berdun.

18th May

Another pleasant morning, cooler than earlier in the week but comfortable and dry. Low clouds in the nearby hills quickly vanished as we made our way to St Juan de la Peña, a mountain top monastery, now empty but surrounded by grassland and pine woodland. On our arrival there we were immediately surrounded by the familiar bird song of Robin, Blackbird, Song Thrush and Dunnock. Firecrest then appeared and soon we had good views of Crossbills feeding up in the tree tops. The strange leaves of Hepatica grew on the paths sides and in the grass was the Champagne Orchid, a type of green-winged orchid.

Very soon, less than 100 yards from the bus, we heard a Crested Tit and soon managed to see two followed by Long-tailed Tit, Garden Warbler, Jay and Wren. Further up the ride Louise spotted a green butterfly - a Green Hairstreak. Our walk terminated at a high viewpoint overlooking a plain with the gorges and mountains of the Pyrenees beyond and we spent some time trying to identify the gorges and peaks we had visited and would later visit.

A short walk north on a path through Pyrenean Avens and Asphodels and we came to a rocky slope where Gill spotted a yellow Wild Tulip. Soon after a Honey Buzzard flew by and we then walked south again noticing more butterflies - several Green Hairstreaks, Pearl-bordered Fritillary and a freshly emerged Wall Brown which confused us for a moment as its size and clean colours suggested something else.

On our return to the grass around the monastery John spotted about 6 Citril Finches in a small ash enclosure whilst a small group of us gained excellent views of a Firecrest family - there were so many here!

After lunch the bright sun brought out hats and sunglasses and Peter did a great impression of Inspector Clouseau (unknowingly). We wandered through more Champagne Orchids and Wood Sanicle and watched a beautiful adult Citril Finch on a road feeding on dandelion seeds. Soon we passed into another pine wood and saw the most robust Bird- nest Orchids I have ever seen, and then we were buzzed by a Broad-bordered Bee Hawkmoth that paid us too brief a visit. Once again the walk ended at a superb view over woodlands to a cliff beyond and down below the old monastery which we hoped to visit.

Unfortunately just as we turned up at the old monastery two coachloads of school children arrived so we decided to drive down to the village of Santa Cruz below where some of the party visited the Romanesque church, others explored the village and some discovered a small bar for a refreshing beer.

19th May

My favourite site of the trip today - a walk up Binies gorge. The gorge is only a few miles from the village and we were dropped off at the bottom and spent the morning gently walking up the road alongside the Rio Veral. It was a cold but sunny start to the day, ideal for walking. On arrival we saw several Tree Sparrows and heard the weak call of a Bonelli's Warbler which then appeared. In the gorge the water roared through but we could still hear the loud song of Wrens singing their hearts out. John scanned the towering buttresses where vultures soared about, in the hope of seeing a Wallcreeper - ever the optimist. We discovered Petrocoptis pyrenaica, both pink and white forms growing on the rocks, a local plant to this area. Crag Martins flitted around us and landed onto their low mud nests above us. We found Blue Gromwell and Blue Lettuce, Globularia and Common Columbine and next to some steps leading down to the water, scented Solomon's Seal. Eddy and John were pleased to see Dipper in the river though no Kingfishers this year. A bit cool for butterflies in the gorge but we saw Dingy Skipper and Chequered Blue though my lasting memory will be seeing Gill and John crouched next to a puddle at the top of the gorge watching about 12 Scarce Swallowtails drinking (and my photo's aren't too bad! - JM).

Lunch was brought up to us by Viv - wonderful tortillas, salad, sausages and red wine, a memorable picnic lunch on our last field trip. We ate in a small meadow where the gorge opened out and nothing could have been more perfect for me.

After lunch Eddy spotted a Sparrowhawk and butterflies suddenly started appearing - Grizzled Skipper, Wood White, Green-underside Blue, Common Blue, Chalkhill Blue, Small Blue, Spanish Fritillary, Moroccan Orange-tip, Spanish Festoon, Adonis Blue, Berger's Clouded Yellow, Dingy Skipper, Mallow Skipper and Heath Fritillary - wow all in just about 2 acres of meadow!

And as if this was not enough just as we were leaving John appeared with the news that Alison had found a patch of Purple Toothwort, an excellent find. We returned slightly earlier to the village today as the flight the next day demanded a very early start, but it gave us all a chance to rest and reflect on what we had seen.

Well it was a happy bunch of Travelling Naturalists that dined at Emilio's that night and none happier than myself and John as we realised that Berdun had woven its very special magic - excellent weather, superb birds, butterflies and plants and a memorable trip for all those who went.


Great Crested Grebe: Seen on 3 days, with 1 on 13th & 6 on 15th at Emb. de Yesa, and 1 at Emb. de la Peña on 17th.

Little Egret: A single seen by a river from the bus on 13th.

Grey Heron: One at Emb. de Yesa on 15th.

Black Stork: One over Río Veral on 14th gave fine views.

White Stork: Two nests (inc. adult and chicks) on buildings en route from Bilbao on 13th, and a flock of 16 heading E near the Foz de Arbayún on 15th.

Mallard: One male on Emb. de Yesa on 15th, and three Emb. de la Peña on 17th.

[European] Honey Buzzard: Seen on 3 days, with 2 near Río Veral on 14th, 1 at Foz de Arbayún on 15th and 2 at San Juan de la Peña on 18th.

Red Kite: Noted regularly, with good numbers each day, and excellent views at several sites.

Black Kite: Also seen regularly each day, though perhaps slightly less than Red Kite overall.

[Eurasian] Griffon Vulture: Noted each day, including nests with very large chicks at a few sites, and several groups of c. 100, e.g. Foz de Arbayún and en route back from Riglos.

Egyptian Vulture: Noted on 6 days with birds regularly around Berdún, and maxima of 3+ on both 15th at Foz de Arbayún and Foz de Lumbier and 17th in Riglos area, and 4+ on 18th at San Juan de la Peña and en route from there.

Lammergeier: Seen on 2 days, with 2 very distant birds near Sallent de Gállego on 16th, and a rather closer adult drifting through rock towers at Riglos on 17th.

Short-toed Eagle: Noted on 4 days with 2 on 14th and 1 on 19th, but a fine pair over mountain meadows at Sallent de Gállego on 16th (though 3 birds that day), and 3 together at Emb. de la Peña and 2 later at Riglos on 17th.

[Eurasian] Sparrowhawk: One seen from bus en route to Berdún on 13th, and a female low over picnic at Foz de Biniés on 19th.

[Common] Buzzard: Seen in small number on five days, mostly on roadside posts.

Golden Eagle: 1 at Sallent de Gállego being mobbed by a Kestrel, a Carrion Crow and a Black Kite and an apparent adult very high over the Foz de Biniés on 19th.

Booted Eagle: One or two noted on 3 days, with max. of 3+ on 15th over the Foz de Arbayún and Foz de Lumbier.

[Common] Kestrel: Just ones and twos noted on 5 days at widely scattered sites.

[Eurasian] Hobby: One over the Río Veral on 14th.

Peregrine Falcon: Just one briefly over the Foz de Lumbier on 15th.

Common Sandpiper: 4 flying together over Emb. de Yesa seen from bus on 15th.

Yellow-legged Gull: Ones or twos seen over rivers and reservoirs on 5 days.

Rock Dove/Feral Pigeon: Very small numbers noted on 4 days, all were presumably Feral Pigeons though some wild-type birds seen.

[Common] Wood Pigeon: Noted on just 2 days, with max. 5+ San Juan de la Peña on 18th.

European Turtle Dove: One heard singing at Río Veral on 14th.

[Eurasian] Collared Dove: Seen regularly in moderate number around towns and villages on all days.

[Common] Cuckoo: Heard on 5 days at widely scattered sites, with max. 2 on 18th.

European Scops Owl: Heard nightly in or around Berdún, with 2 seen at lights there on 14th.

Tawny Owl: One, probably this species, near lights at Berdún on 13th, and one calling in full daylight at San Juan de la Peña on 18th.

Alpine Swift: Excellent views of 50+ Foz de Arbayún and 20+ at Foz de Lumbier on 14th, 5 at Emb. de la Peña on 17th, and 2+ Foz de Biniés on 19th.

[Common] Swift: Noted daily over Berdún and almost all other villages and towns.

[European] Bee-eater: 5+ at Río Veral on 14th, and singles by road near Riglos on 17th, and Santa Cruz de los Serós on 18th.

Wryneck: One heard calling and seen perched at Berdún on 14th.

Great Spotted Woodpecker: 2+ calling at San Juan de la Peña on 18th and 1 calling Berdún early morning on 19th.

Crested Lark: Small numbers from bus almost daily, though with 3+ around Berdún on 14th.

[Eurasian] Sky Lark: One in song-flight near Berdún on 14th and one singing at Puerto de Portalet on 16th.

Crag Martin: Seen daily, and especially well at the Fozes de Arbayún, Lumbier and Biniés.

[Barn] Swallow: Noted each day; extraordinarily abundant in Berdún.

House Martin: Noted each day in generally small numbers; cliff nesting noted at several Fozes.

Yellow Wagtail: Two at Río Aragón on 14th.

White Wagtail: Noted on 6 days with small numbers at many sites, inc. Berdún.

Grey Wagtail: Seen on 4 days. Seen well at Foz de Lumbier on 14th and Mallos de Riglos on 18th.

Tawny Pipit: Only seen around Berdún, where 3+ on 14th and singles early morning on 16th and 17th.

Water Pipit: Several heard and a few seen in alpine meadows up to and including the Puerto de Portalet on 16th.

Red-backed Shrike: Singles seen from bus on 14th, 15th and 17th at widely scattered sites.

Woodchat Shrike: 1 near Berdún on 14th and 5+ from bus, especially near Riglos on 17th.

[White-throated] Dipper: Just one in the Foz de Biniés on 19th.

[Winter] Wren: Heard singing on 4 days, and also seen at San Juan de la Peña on 18th.

Hedge Accentor [Dunnock]: At least 1 singing at San Juan de la Peña on 18th.

Blue Rock Thrush: Noted on 3 days, with 3 at Foz de Lumbier on 15th, 1 Emb. de la Peña on 17th and 1 Foz de Biniés on 19th.

[Common] Blackbird: Noted in small number on all full days.

Song Thrush: Several singing in woods at San Juan de la Peña on 18th, and 1 singing Foz de Biniés on 19th.

[European] Robin: 3+ San Juan de la Peña on 18th and singing in Foz de Biniés on 19th.

[Common] Nightingale: Heard singing daily and in quantity in almost all lower scrubby areas, especially around Berdún; absent from higher woods.

Black Redstart: Seen daily in and around Berdun, with others Fozes de Arbayún and Lumbier on 14th, San Juan de la Peña on 18th and Foz de Biniés on 19th.

[Common] Stonechat: Noted on 5 days, with adults and juveniles near Berdún on 14th.

[Northern] Wheatear: Noted on 3 days, with 2 males near Berdún on 14th, lots around the Puerto de Portalet on 16th, and one en route to Riglos on 17th.

Black-eared Wheatear: A male seen briefly from the bus S of Riglos on 17th.

Cetti's Warbler: One or two heard on 4 days, with one seen on 17th.

Great Reed Warbler: 1 rather elusive bird, singing at Emb. de la Peña on 17th.

Melodious Warbler: 3+ around Berdún and towards the Río Veral on 14th, and 1 singing briefly at Riglos railway station on 17th.

Blackcap: Heard and or seen at widely scattered sites on all full days.

Garden Warbler: 1 at Emb de la Peña on 17th, lots at San Juan de la Peña on 18th and a few in the Foz de Biniés on 19th. It was nice to compare songs of this and Blackcap in the field.

Orphean Warbler: 1 seen in flight and singing in scrub on road to Río Aragón on 14th, and one briefly singing in scrub near picnic site Foz de Biniés on 19th.

Sardinian Warbler: 3+ in scrubby fields at Riglos on 17th.

Subalpine Warbler: 1 near Río Veral and another towards Río Aragón on 14th, 1 singing Foz de Lumbier on 15th, 1 singing Riglos railway station on 17th and 1 singing San Juan de la Peña on 18th.

Dartford Warbler: 1 very briefly ner Río Veral on 14th and 1 singing Riglos on 17th.

[Common] Chiffchaff: 2+ singing near Río Aragón on 14th, and 2+ San Juan de la Peña on 18th.

Iberian Chiffchaff: 2 singing (1 seen briefly) in riverside trees in Foz de Lumbier on 15th.

[Western] Bonelli's Warbler: 3+ singing Sn Juan de la Peña on 18th and 2 singing Foz de Biniés on 19th.

Goldcrest: 1 calling Foz de Biniés on 19th.

Firecrest: Heard in pines at Berdún daily, though only seen twice there, but lots, including recently fledged young at San Juan de la Peña on 18th were notable.

Spotted Flycatcher: 2+ San Juan de la Peña on 18th and 4+ Foz de Biniés on 19th.

Long-tailed Tit: 2 Río Aragón on 14th, 3+ Riglos on 17th, 15+ San Juan de la Peña on 18th and 2 Foz de Biniés on 19th.

Penduline Tit: 2+ heard calling in willows by Río Aragón on 14th. Vivian later mentioned that she has found a nest there, so they are indeed breeding.

Coal Tit: Several at San Juan de la Peña on 18th.

Crested Tit: 5+ seen and heard well at San Juan de la Peña on 18th.

Great Tit: Noted daily.

Blue Tit: Noted almost daily, but scarce except at San Juan de la Peña on 18th.

[Eurasian] Nuthatch: 2+ pairs feeding nestlings, inc. a nest-hole in the side of the church!

Short-toed Treecreeper: A pair feeding nestlings by Río Veral on 14th, several heard and seen at San Juan de la Peña on 18th and 1+ Foz de Biniés on 19th.

Eurasian Jay: 1 near Riglos on 17th, 3+ at San Juan de la Peña on 18th, 2 Foz de Biniés on 19th.

[Black-billed] Magpie: Noted each day in generally small numbers.

[Red-billed] Chough: 10+ Foz de Arbayún and 30+ Foz de Lumbier on 15th, 3+ Puerto de Portalet on 16th, 10+ Mallos de Riglos and Riglos on 17th, 2+ at San Juan de la Peña on 18th and 4+ Foz de Biniés on 19th.

Alpine Chough: Just one at Puerto de Portalet on 16th.

[Eurasian] Jackdaw: Only noted Fozes de Arbayún and Lumbier on 15th.

Carrion Crow: Noted almost each full day in small number.

[Common] Raven: Seen each full day at widely scattered sites.

Golden Oriole: Just 1 heard briefly and distantly during picnic at Foz de Lumbier on 15th.

Spotless Starling: Seen daily in small number, especially around Berdún.

Yellowhammer: One at Puerto de Portalet on 16th, and 2 Riglos on 17th.

Cirl Bunting: Noted on 4 days, with max. 5+ around Berdún on 14th and 3+ Riglos on 17th.

Ortolan Bunting: One fly-by at Sallent de Gállego on 16th.

Corn Bunting: Noted in moderate number each day, especially around Berdún.

[Common] Chaffinch: Noted on all full days in small number.

[European] Serin: Seen on all days, especially around Berdún.

Citril Finch: At least 6, including 2 adult males at San Juan de la Peña on 18th.

[European] Greenfinch: Small numbers heard and or seen at widely spread locations on all full days except 19th.

[European] Goldfinch: Noted as widespread and common each full day.

[Common] Linnet: Noted in small number on 5 days.

Common Crossbill: 10+ in pines at San Juan de la Peña on 18th.

[Eurasian] Bullfinch: A pair in woods at San Juan de la Peña on 18th.

House Sparrow: Noted daily around towns and villages, inc. Berdún.

Tree Sparrow: One at Berdún on 18th and 6+ Foz de Biniés on 19th.

Rock Sparrow: Seen daily in small number at Berdún, plus at the Foz de Lumbier on 15th.

105 spp.


Swallowtail Papilio machaon : Seen near Berdún on 14th and 1 Foz de Lumbier on 15th.

Scarce Swallowtail Iphiclides podalirius : Seen widely on all full days with 12+ Foz de Biniés on 19th.

Spanish Festoon Zerynthia rumina : 2 Foz de Arbayún on 15th and 3+ Foz de Biniés on 19th.

Black-veined White Aporia crategi : Noted Foz de Lumbier on 15th, Riglos on 17th and Foz de Biniés on 19th.

Large White Pieris brassicae : Ones and two noted on 14th, 15th and 18th.

Small White Artogeia rapae : Singles noted on 14th and 17th.

Bath White Pontia daplidice : 1 seen Riglos on 17th.

Dappled White Euchloe simplonia : 1 near Berdún on 14th.

Orange-tip Anthocharis cardamines : Plentiful and widespread, seen all full days.

Moroccan Orange-tip Anthocharis belia : 2 near Berdún on 14th, several Foz de Lumbier on 15th, several Riglos on 17th and 1 Foz de Biniés on 19th.

Clouded Yellow Colias croceus : Ones or twos seen on 14th and 15th.

Berger's Clouded Yellow Colias australis : 2 on 14th near Berdún and 1+ on 19th Foz de Biniés.

Brimstone Gonepteryx rhamni : Small to moderate numbers daily.

Cleopatra Gonepteryx cleopatra : One or two Foz de Lumbier on 15th and Riglos on 17th.

Wood White Leptidea sinapis : Ones or twos seen on 5 days at widely spread sites.

Green Hairstreak Callophrys rubi : 1 Río Veral on 14th, 6+ San Juan de la Peña on 18th and 2+ Foz de Biniés on 19th.

Small Copper Lycaena phlaeas : 1 Sallent de Gállego on 16th.

Small Blue Cupido minimus : Several Foz de Lumbier on 15th and lots Foz de Biniés on 19th.

Green-underside Blue Glycopsyche alexis : 1 Foz de Lumbier on 15th, 1 Riglos on 17th, and several Foz de Biniés on 19th.

Baton Blue Pseudophilotes baton : Several around Berdún on 14th and Fozes de Arbayún and Lumbier on 15th.

Panoptes Blue Pseudophilotes panoptes : Several around Berdún on 14th and a few San Juan de la Peña on 18th.

Chequered Blue Scolitantides orion : Several in Foz de Biniés on 19th.

Chalkhill Blue Lysandra coridon : Probably 10+ in meadows above Fox de Biniés on 19th.

Common Blue Polyommatus icarus : A few near the Río Veral on 14th, at the Fozes de Arbayún and Lumbier on 15th and plenty in Foz de Biniés on 19th.

Adonis Blue Lysandra bellargus : 1 Foz de Lumbier on 15th and several Foz de Biniés on 19th.

Southern White Admiral Limenitis reducta : 1 at Riglos on 17th.

Camberwell Beauty Nymphalis antiopa : At least 2 feeding on Sallows in sub-alpine meadows at Sallent de Gállego on 16th.

Red Admiral Vanessa atalanta : Small numbers at various sites on 14th, 15th and 18th.

Painted Lady Cynthia cardui : Small numbers seen at various sites on 14th - 16th.

Small Tortoiseshell Aglais urticae : Ones and twos from 16th - 18th.

Pearl-bordered Fritillary Clossiana euphrosyne : 2+ at San Juan de la Peña on 18th.

Glanville Fritillary Melitaea cinxa : 1 at Foz de Biniés on 19th.

Heath Fritillary Melitaea athalia : 1 at Foz de Biniés on 19th.

Spanish Fritillary Eurodryas desfontainii : 1+ at Foz de Biniés on 19th.

Small Heath Coenonympha pamphilus : 1 near Berdún on 14th and 1 Foz de Biniés on 19th.

Speckled Wood Pararge aegeria : Seen in often good numbers all full days except 16th.

Wall Brown Lasiommata maera : Seen in small numbers all full days except 16th.

Grizzled Skipper Pyrgus malvae : Seen in variable numbers all full days except 15th.

Mallow Skipper Carcharodus alcaea : 1 at Foz de Biniés on 19th.

Dingy Skipper Erynnis tages : Odd singles during week, but several Foz de Biniés on 19th.

40 spp.


5-spot Burnet Zygaena trifolii : 1 on 18th.

'White-collared Burnet' Zygaena lavandulae : 2+ on 14th near Berdún and 1 Foz de Biniés on 19th.

Giant Peacock Moth Saturnia pyri : 1 on wall at Berdún on 17th.

Hummingbird Hawkmoth Macroglossum stellatarum : 1 Berdún on 14th.

Broad-bordered Bee Hawkmoth Hemaris fuciformis : 1 San Juan de la Peña on 19th.

Early Thorn Selenia dentaria : 1 Berdún on 15th.

?Fox Moth Macrothylacia rubi : 1, possibly this species Berdún on 16th.

Cream-spot Tiger Arctia villica : 1+ near Berdún on 14th.

Mother Shipton Callistege mi : Several near Berdún on 14th, 1 at Riglos on 17th and San Juan de la Peña on 18th.

Burnet Companion Euclidia glyphica : Several near Berdún on 14th, 1 at San Juan de la Peña on 18th and 1 Foz de Biniés on 19th.

Latticed Heath Semiothisa clathrata : Several near Berdún on 14th and 1 Foz de Biniés on 19th.


Praying Mantis Mantis religiosa - 2+ near Berdún on 14th; Field Cricket Gryllus campestris - commonly heard in meadows in many areas; Mole Cricket Gryllotalpa gryllotalpa - 1 found moribund on a street in Berdún on 15th; Egyptian Grasshopper Anacridium aegyptium -singles on 15th and 17th; 'Fire Bug' Lygaeus equestris - a red and black ground bug; 'Fire Bug' Pyrrocoris apterus - several, either of this species or a similar one, on several dates; Green Tiger Beetle Cicindela campestris - several Foz de Lumbier and Foz de Biniés; Glowworm Lampyris noctiluca - several larva in different places; Oil Beetle Meloe sp. - 1 or 2 near Berdún on 14th; Dung Beetle Copris lunaris - a dead one under lights in Berdún; Maybug Melolontha melolontha - 1 around sallows at Sallent de Gállego on 16th and in the Foz de Biniés on 19th; Cryptocephalus bipunctatus - 1 Río Veral on 14th; the 'Sunflower-seed' Beetle (unidentified, but very attractive!) at Foz de Lumbier on 15th; Solitary Bee Cheilodoma sp. - several near Berdún on 14th; Violet Carpenter Bee Xylocopa violacea - various on different dates; Paper Wasp Polistes sp. - several nests at various sites; Bee Fly Bombylius major - several on several dates (probably other species too); Cuckoo bee Melecta luctuosa - on Aragón walk


The following is a list of selected plant species from each of the areas visited. It is not exhaustive and concentrates on the new species seen at each site plus the regional specialities. Most can be found in Grey-Wilson & Blamey, Mediterranean Wild Flowers or The Alpine Flowers of Britain and Europe by the same authors.

May 14th: walks from Berdún down to the río Veral (V), then in the afternoon from Berdún down to the río Aragón (A).


Soft or Mallow-leaved Stork's-bill Erodium malacoides

Wormwood sp. Artemisia sp.

White Horehound Marrubium vulgare

Fennel Foeniculum vulgare

Wild Clary Salvia verbenaca

Purple Viper's Bugloss Echium plantagineum

a Figwort Scrophularia canina

Thyme Thymus sp.

Spanish Broom Spartium junceum

White Rockrose Helianthemum apenninum

Mignonette Reseda odorata

Henbane Hyoscyamus niger

Beautiful Flax Linum narbonense

Flax Linum perenne

Leafless-stemmed Globularia Globularia nudicaulis

Wild Jasmine sp. Jasminum sp.

Shrubby Restharrow Ononis fruticosa

Sainfoin Onobrychis viciifolia

Borage (white) Borago officinalis

Milk Thistle Silybum marianum

Cotton Thistle Onopordum acanthium

Spiny Broom Calicotome spinosa

Lady Orchid Orchis purpurea

Military Orchid Orchis militaris

Cretan Houndstongue Cynoglossum creticum

Early Spider Orchid Ophrys sphegodes

Fly Honeysuckle Lonicera xylosteum

Etruscan Honeysuckle Lonicera etrusca (with the perfoliate leaves just under the flowers)

False Vetch Astragalus monspessulanus

Shrubby Gromwell Lithodora fruticosa

Dragon's Teeth Tetragonolobus maritimus

White Helleborine Cephalanthera damasonium


Judas Tree Cercis siliquastrum

Lax-flowered Orchid Orchis laxiflora

Pyramidal Orchid Anacamptis pyramidalis

Grass-leaved Vetchling Lathyrus nissolia

Lesser Butterfly Orchid Platanthera bifolia

Sword-leaved Helleborine Cephalanthera longifolia

Broad-leaved Helleborine Epipactis helleborine

Violet Helleborine Epipactis purpurata

Woodcock Orchid Ophrys scolopax

Greenweed spp. Genista spp.

Pitch Trefoil Psoralea bituminosa

May 15th: Foz de Arbayún (FA) then Foz de Lumbier (FL)


a Meadow Rue Thalictrum tuberosum

Swallow-wort Vincetoxicum hirundinea

Common Asphodel Asphodelus aestivus

Pyrenean Hyacinth Hyacinthus amethystinus

Blue Aphyllanthes Aphyllanthes monspeliensis

Pyrenean Flax Linum pyrenaicum

Chicory Chicorium intybus

Birthwort sp. Aristolochia pistolochia

Amplexicaule Buttercup Ranunculus amplexicaulis

Greater Butterfly Orchid Platanthera chlorantha

Grape Hyacinth Muscari racemosum


Dwarf Elder Sambucus ebulus

Spiny Fleabane Pallenis spinosa

Saxifrage Saxifraga pubescens

Wild Jasmine sp. Jasminum sp.

Sweet Briar Rosa rubiginosa agg.

Bladder Campion Silene vulgaris

White Campion Silene alba

Brown Bluebell Dipcadi serotinum

Tasselled Hyacinth Muscari comosum

Dogwood Cornus sanguinea

Holm Oak Quercus rotundifolius

Wood Sage Teucrium scorodonia

Blue Lettuce Lactuca perennis

Coris Coris monspeliensis

Pitch Trefoil Psoralea bituminosa

Spring Gentian Gentiana verna

May 16th: a day up at higher altitude, at Sallent de Gállego (SG) and Puerto de Portalet (PP).


Cowslip Primula veris

Bird´s-eye Primrose Primula farinosa

Elder-flowered Orchid Orchis sambucina (yellowish, red and bi-coloured forms)

Early Purple Orchid Orchis maculata

Pyrenean Violet Viola pyrenaica

Common Dog-Violet Viola riviniana

Lady´s-mantle sp. Alchemilla vulgaris

Lady´s-mantle sp. Alchemilla splendens

Globe-flower Trollius europaeus

Kingcup Caltha palustris

Meadow Saxifrage Saxifraga granulata

Radish-leaved Bittercress Cardamine raphanifolius


?? Primula villosa

Oxlip Primula elatior

Pyrenean Fritillary Fritillaria pyrenaica (in bud)

Wild Daffodil Narcissus pseudonarcissus

Alpine Snowbell Soldanella alpina

Pyrenean Squill Scilla pyrenaica

Pyrenean Buttercup Ranunculus pyrenaicus

Yellow Whitlow-grass Draba aizoides

Small-flowered Pennycress Thlaspi brachypetalum

Yellow Star-of-Bethlehem sp. Gagea fistulosa

White Crocus Crocus albiflorus

Trumpet Gentian Gentiana acaulis

Common Butterwort Pinguicula vulgaris (probably this species)

Solid-tubered Corydalis Corydalis solida

Ling Calluna vulgaris

Billberry Vaccinium myrtillus

May 17th: a day at lower altitude, stops mainly at Embalse de la Peña (EP) and Riglos (R).


Ramonda Ramonda myconi

Pyrenean Saxifrage Saxifraga longifolia

Hairy Saxifrage Saxifraga pubescens

White Rock-rose Helianthemum apenninum

Pink Rock-rose Helianthemum nummularium ssp. pyrenaicum

Paronychia sp. Paronychia sp.

Pyrenean Honeysuckle Lonicera pyrenaica

Salsify Tragopogon porrifolius

Salsify sp. Tragopogon crocifolius

Snowy Mespilus Amelanchier ovalis

Chaenorhinum Chaenorhinum origanifolium

Rock Soapwort Saponaria ocymoides

Biscutella sp. Biscutella didyma

Towercress Arabis turrita


Aethionema Aethionema saxatile

Pyramidal Orchid Anacamptis pyramidalis

a blue-flowered Broomrape sp. Orobanche sp.

Pheasant's-eye Adonis annua

Dorycnium sp. Dorycnium pentaphyllum

Blue Gromwell Buglossoides purpurocaerulea

Box Buxus sempervivens

Kermes Oak Quercus coccifera

Southern Nettle Tree Celtis australis

Madwort Asperugo procumbens

Black Horehound Ballota nigra

Viper's Bugloss sp. Echium sp.

Giant Reed Arundo donax

Large Mediterranean Spurge Euphorbia characias

Nottingham Catchfly Silene nutans

?? Helichrysum stoechas

Phoenician Juniper Juniperus phoenicea

Herb Robert Geranium robertianum

Mediterranean (Red) Kidney-vetch Anthyllis vulneraria ssp. reuteri / maura

Common Globularia Globularia punctata

Dragon's Teeth Tetragonolobus maritimus

Bastard Flax Thesium sp.

May 18th: a wander round the woods and adjacent grass/scrub -lands at San Juan de la Peña.

Hepatica Hepatica nobilis

Champagne Orchid Orchis champagneuxii (2403b in Med. Wild Flowers)

Pyrenean Avens Geum pyrenaicum

Wild Tulip Tulipa sylvestris

Wood Sanicle Sanicula europaea

Bird's-nest Orchid Neottia nidus-avis

Common Columbine Aquilegia vulgaris

Petrocoptis Petrocoptis pyrenaica (though possibly P. hispanica here).

Mistletoe Viscum album on:

Scot's Pine Pinus sylvestris (This is curious, since two sspp. from the Alps and Appennines are specific to coniferous species.)

May 19th: walk up to Foz de Biniés.

Slender Broomrape Orobanche gracilis

Ivy Broomrape Orobanche hederae

Petrocoptis Petrocoptis pyrenaica

Perrenial Flax Linum perenne

Common Gromwell Lithospermum officinale

'Yellow Onion' Allium moly

'Lesser Salsify' Tragopogon crocifolius

Bastard Balm Melittis mellisophyllum

Butcher's Broom Ruscus aculeatus

Scented Solomon's Seal Polygonatum odoratum

Nice Milkwort Polygala nicaeensis agg.

Purple Toothworth Lathraea clandestina

?? Astragalus lusitanicus

Scented Solomon's Seal Polygonatum odoratum

MAMMALS: a Small Bat sp. - several, though probably Pipistrelles, at Berdún must remain unidentified; a Larger Bat sp. - several at Berdún around lights must also remain unidentified; Common Mole - plenty of hills at San Juan de la Peña; Wild Boar - plenty of 'rooting' signs around, e.g. San Juan de la Peña; Alpine Marmot - total of 7+ on both sides of Puerto de Portalet on 16th; and Yellow-necked Mouse - 2 tipped out of a trap from buildings at Puerto de Portalet on 16th showed characters of this species.

REPTILES & AMPHIBIANS: included numerous Common Wall Lizards (Podarcis muralis) on a few days, single Large Psammodramus (Psammodramus algirus) at Foz de Lumbier on 15th and Foz de Biniés on 19th, the Green Lizard (Lacerta viridis) at Río Veral on 14th, the large Ocellated Lizards (Lacerta lepida), including a female at Berdún on 13th, and males at Foz de Lumbier on 15th, and Foz de Biniés on 19th and the Three-toed Skink (Chalcides chalcides) briefly seen slithering through grass at Riglos on 17th. The terrapin in the Foz de Lumbier was an American Red-eared Slider/Terrapin (Trachemys scripta), while the large snake seen by a lucky few at Foz de Lumbier was an adult Ladder Snake (Elaphe scalaris). Additionally, Common Tree Frogs (Hyla arborea) were heard from the church ramparts at Berdún singing regularly below the town, Iberian Pool Frog (Rana perezi) was heard regularly in small numbers at a number of locations, Common Frogs (Rana temporaria) were breeding in numbers in the mountains around the Puerto de Portalet, where Common Toads (Bufo bufo) were also spawning (while also being seen in the Foz de Lumbier on 15th). Finally, Midwife Toad (Alytes obstetricans) tadpoles were noted in a water trough at Berdún on 14th, where Palmate Newt (Triturus helveticus) was also present.

Kevin Cook and John Muddeman

© The Travelling Naturalist 2000