Picos de Europa

Tuesday 28 May - Tuesday 4 June 2002

Teresa Farino, Jamie McMillan


Tuesday 28 May

We landed in light rain at the new (well, new to Jamie) Bilbao airport and were soon greeting Teresa and on our way in the minibuses, firstly around the Bilbao tenements and then onto the splendid coastal motorway that we were to follow to Unquera.

The rain increased as we sped past the green hillsides with scattered fields, copses of Holm Oak and plantations of Eucalyptus and Monterey Pine. There was not a lot of birdwatching in this weather apart from the odd Black Kite and a flock of Cattle Egrets announced by Teresa over the walkie-talkies.

A stop for coffee and sticky cakes gave us views of Mallard and Magpie, two birds that we probably wouldn't see in the Picos. Then we were off onto narrowing roads till we reached the astonishing gorge of La Hermida with jagged peaks rising ever higher into the clouds, the twisty road following the Río Deva that we were to follow right up to our base in Espinama.

We got there at a quarter to nine and were soon installed in the delightful Nevandi and welcomed by Santi and Aurora. Despite her name, we never saw Aurora at any time before sunset, but this evening she presented us with a wonderful meal of steak and trout before we headed off to bed - and it was still raining and cold. Claims of the odd flake of snow from the group were brushed aside by Teresa by the comment "that's not snow, just fluffy rain".

Wednesday 29 May

We awoke to clouds hanging in the valley and a calm morning, and everywhere rather damp (or sodden according to Teresa) after the overnight rain. As we assembled a Serin sang outside the hotel and Crag Martins passed overhead.

We set off down a track to the river, passed our first bank crammed with flowers including a Lizard Orchid Himantoglossum hircinum just coming into bloom. Then we walked up to the woods with many flowers alongside the trail; Spotted Flycatchers called from the treetops and wires, and the first of many Black Redstarts were seen by the river.

We reached the nearby village of Pido where a fine Common Redstart was seen on the fence. Teresa pointed out the old granary and a local man wearing three-legged wooden clogs, the most distinctive footwear in the valley. Above Pido we passed open fields and below a bank of Spanish Gorse Genista hispanica ssp. occidentalis and St Dabeoc's Heath Daboecia cantabrica with its huge (well, huge for a heather) purple flowers. Here Teresa and Rosemary identified a Sicilian Orchid (Dactylorhiza romana ssp. siciliensis or D. markusii). On to the dairy where the local cheese was made; we looked in on the remarkably clean interior where cylindrical goats' cheeses were awaiting the maturation process and, outside, goats were forming in orderly queues ready to be milked.

From here we could see across to the Fuente Dé cable car as it vanished up into the mist, and we could just get an inkling of the scale of the surrounding peaks. A fine male Red-backed Shrike popped up for all to admire as we had our elevenses of almonds and figs. The clouds seemed to be getting lower, though, and more and more House Martins were gathering over the valley, together with our first Griffon Vultures.

Soon afterwards we went into our first meadow, where Teresa showed us a bewildering variety of flowers including Man, Burnt-tip and Early Spider Orchids (Aceras anthropophorum, Orchis ustulata and Ophrys sphegodes). Several meadows formed a swathe of blue: mainly Viper's Bugloss Echium vulgare but studded with the odd spike of Tassel Hyacinth Muscari comosum. Day-flying Moths included Chimney Sweeper and many Burnet Companions, but the butterflies were not obliging in the damp conditions. We did, however, manage to identify Sooty Copper, Glanville Fritillary and Rosy Grizzled Skipper.

It was lunchtime already and we settled down in a Bugloss meadow with Wild Boar scrapings all round us and Teresa spread out the first of the week's feasts. As we tucked in, vultures started descending - a coincidence? - and we had great views of both Griffon and Egyptian Vultures overhead, together with passing Choughs and Ravens.

After lunch we walked up more muddy tracks through damp beech woodland with Bluebells Hyacinthoides non-scripta, Columbines Aquilegia vulgaris and other woodland flowers for company. Above this, one of the wetter meadows was a swathe of Early Marsh and Heath Spotted Orchids (Dactylorhiza incarnata and D. maculata), and provided much of interest including a single Field Cricket and a group of Tongue Orchids Serapias lingua, as well as some Crown Galls on Pyrenean Oak Quercus pyrenaica and a nest of Wood Ants whose acid turned the blue Lithodora flowers pink.

Above this, a shady beech wood had some fine Bird's Nest Orchids Neottia nidus-avis and here we were enthralled by a pair of Treecreepers feeding their three just-fledged fluffy young who were clinging to the trunk in a tight cluster looking like a group of bats.

Above the wood we looked back down the valley at the red roofs of the village of Pido, surely more than two hundred metres below us, and then began our descent through more damp woodland stopping to admire Herb Paris Paris quadrifolia with not just the regulation four leaves, but some with five and one even with seven leaves.

Then we emerged into the car park at Fuente Dé where a Spanish group, all wearing identical neck-scarves, were assembled waiting to take the cable car ride, and had cherries and coffee in the café. After this we walked up the nearby scree fan where Teresa pointed out several endemic Picos flowers - Linaria faucicola and Aquilegia discolor - and found a nice group of Fly Orchids Ophrys insectifera and a few Brown Bee Orchids O. fusca. A water trough here held Midwife Toad tadpoles and Fire Salamander efts. It was drizzling and getting cold so we headed back to the vehicles, the most energetic opting to walk back the four kilometres down the road to the village. It had been a fascinating day and an excellent introduction to the Picos - and maybe we would get some sunshine tomorrow.

Thursday 30 May

We awoke to a clear cold morning with sun on the peaks high over the village and snow visible on the tops. An early morning walk behind the hotel produced a singing Firecrest and many Blackcap that proved skulking until it warmed up a bit. Martin found Chamois perched high on a peak which we watched through a telescope. A Honey-Buzzard flew over the road. We also had great views of a singing Garden Warbler.

After breakfast Teresa displayed some of the moths we had caught overnight including a fabulous Striped Hawk Moth. We headed down in the vehicles towards Potes as cloud was building. Hundreds of Swifts were gathering over the town square, but as we climbed towards the San Glorio pass the sun came out. We stopped in the oak woods for Lizard and Bee Orchids Ophrys apifera. As we climbed we got increasingly fine views with the peaks of the Cantabrican Mountains in the background.

We stopped at a viewpoint in warm sunshine. Tree Pipits were singing and we saw a Wall Lizard eating a Small Tortoiseshell Butterfly. Far in the distance we could see the Alto Campóo where the Ebro rises, the start of another of Teresa's excellent tours in Northern Spain.

Further up a field of Daffodils Narcissus pseudonarcissus looked superb and many butterflies including de Prunner's Ringlet were on the wing. The Daffodils were in absolutely stunning surroundings with peaks all round. What would Wordsworth have made of these?

We headed up to a damp meadow with Black Vanilla Orchids Nigritella, which caused the keen botanists some interest and as they have recently been split into various species. We also enjoyed the Large-flowered Butterwort Pinguicula grandiflora, two species of Lousewort (Pedicularis mixta and P. verticillata) and Early Marsh Orchids that swathed the bank in blue and purple. We were so absorbed in this area that we had lunch here, seeing Queen of Spain Fritillary and Small Blue. Over lunch we saw more Chamois in the telescope and Griffon Vultures flew low overhead. Afterwards we drove over the San Glorio pass and down to the drier valleys of the western side between spectacular cliffs of conglomerate water-smoothed boulders, that some think were part of an ancient continental slope.

We turned off up the road to the Arroyo de Mostajal amidst bare hillsides of rock and a low forest of beech and birch. A pair of Rock Buntings showed well by the bridge. Here Green Hairstreaks flitted by the path and a Camberwell Beauty, old and tattered though it was, was admired by all. We stepped over the river amongst a throng of Holly Blue butterflies and found Viviparous Lizards scuttling about in the damp grasslands.

Here were lots of good flowers including white Alpine Pasque Flowers Pulsatilla alpina, Amplexicaule Buttercups Ranunculus amplexicaulis, Tozzia Tozzia alpina, Pyrenean Snakesheads Fritillaria pyrenaica and a splendid group of Wild Tulips Tulipa sylvestris ssp. australis in a wet flush. Teresa showed us the 'Rock Tea' plant Sideritis hyssopifolia, the source of the beverage that we were being offered each evening, and we finished the afternoon with views of Pearl-bordered Fritillary and Western Dappled White butterflies. On the way back we stopped for amazing views across the Camaleño valley to the snow-capped Picos themselves.

Friday 31 May

Another fine, clear morning and a warm day threatened. Before breakfast we headed for the cheese dairy and - disaster ! - the moth trap had been kicked about by the local dogs. The bulb flickered feebly and the trap and boxes were scattered about.

Recovering from the shock, after breakfast we drove up to the Fuente Dé car park and loaded up lunch in glorious sunshine. Then, fearlessly, we headed for the steepest cable-car ride I have ever seen. It is said to be the longest unsupported run in Europe.

At the top we emerged into a fabulous world of alpine rocks and turf surrounded by awesome peaks and studied with snow patches. Wheatears, Black Redstarts and Water Pipits sang from the rocks around. Teresa went running after one of the small orange speckled moths (Eurranthis plummistaria) which she names Fuente Dé Moth) but failed to catch it. No worries though: there were plenty more where that came from.

We walked amongst the alpine grassland seeing both Trumpet and carpets of Spring Gentians (Gentiana acaulis and G. verna), Chamois Cress Hutchinsia alpina, Cone Saxifrage Saxifraga conifera, the Picos endemic, yellow-flowered saxifrage Saxifraga felineri and ferns including Brittle Bladder and Holly (Cystopteris fragilis and Polystichum lonchitis). We stopped by a lovely pool where Alpine Newts with startling orange bellies cavorted in the water alongside Midwife Toads. One of the former was seen eating a Fuente Dé moth.

Here we turned round to see a band of Chamois jumping across the gap about a hundred yards behind us. We walked up the track looking down at a swallow-hole full of water, which according to Teresa can drain completely within a matter of hours, and then up into the hot high dry rocks by the main track and onwards to the snow filled corries.

We got to our lunch-spot and within a minute or two had found two male Wallcreepers chasing about the boulders. These then flew around us onto the cliffs opposite and out again low over our heads, showing their crimson, black and white wings to perfection before vanishing into the boulder field. A fabulous moment!

During lunch a raptor over was identified as a Black Vulture - an extremely rare sighting here - then Alpine Choughs descended to share our picnic. We had another superb view of one of the male Wallcreepers, but the cloud which had been bubbling up since mid-morning started closing in overhead and as we walked back the first thunderclap started echoing around the peaks behind us.

We got to the Col looking back down the track that heads in a wide sweep to Espinama busy with picnickers and then headed across the grass slopes getting some very close views of Snowfinch and rather less good views of Alpine Accentor heading to the cable-car just as rain was starting. It proved to be excellent timing. Down in the café below the cable car the heavens opened and the thunder came right overhead, as torrential rain hit the car park. The cable car by this time had stopped altogether.

We went back to the hotel and then, as the afternoon cleared, we drove down to the Santo Toribio Monastery. Here we admired the illustrations of the Book of Revelations dating back to the eighth century, and had a few wildlife revelations too: a fine Red Squirrel, Firecrest, Bonelli's Warbler and Redstart. But the best was yet to come. Back down the road towards Potes Teresa suddenly stopped; she had spotted a Wryneck on a fence post. We had superb views down to five yards of this bird sitting perfectly still. It was still there as we headed back towards Espinama and into the hotel for dinner.

Saturday 1 June

It was a glorious sunny morning; cowbells echoed around the valley and flocks of sheep were on the road: 1st June is apparently the day for moving livestock to the high pastures in this valley. Some of the group joined us to examine the contents of the moth trap early on, and after breakfast we were joined by Sara one of the National Park wardens.

We headed up to Bejes, via the Hermida Gorge. At Bejes it was obviously going to be hot, and many butterflies were on the wing including Short-tailed Blue and Wood White. A water trough in the village provided more Alpine Newts and also Palmate Newts and Midwife Toad tadpoles. We saw a roadside Woodcock Orchid Ophrys scolopax and had a fine view of a Short-toed Eagle flying over. Here around the village the hay-meadows were just being cut and were absolutely at their flowering perfection; the crowds of butterflies here included Marsh Fritillaries.

We had a long walk up the road through the Genista scrub in the hot sunshine. At the top we stopped to look at some Griffon Vulture cliffs but failed to find any on the nest. Teresa took us to one of her special places: a field full of Black Pasque Flowers Pulsatilla rubra, here and there studded with Pink Butterfly Orchids Orchis papilionacea: a truly remarkable sight. While we were photographing these, Robert flushed what from his description could only have been a Quail.

Inside the woods it was lovely and cool, and we watched a pair of Nuthatches visiting a nest-hole while Short-toed Treecreepers and Bonelli's Warblers called around us. Here Peter pointed to the ground. He had found Yellow Bird's-nest Monotropa hypopitys, an amazing flower without leaves or chlorophyll that lives off the decaying plant matter in the darkest part of the forest. We then climbed up a steep hill to a place which Teresa described as an excellent place for 'hill-topping' butterflies, and we saw both Swallowtail and Scarce Swallowtail at their favoured meeting point.

Back through a shady wood we saw some excellent ferns, with Hairy Saxifrage Saxifraga hirsuta and Whorled Solomon's Seal Polygonatum verticillatum. We stopped at a water trough where Sara refilled my water bottle with the most delicious cool water from a spring, and then it was time to head back for lunch rather later than we had intended: in fact Teresa, Sara and Lin ran ahead to prepare it for us, in the local bar in Bejes.

As we downed our much-needed cool beers, a wonderful kettle of twenty-five Griffon Vultures and a fine Short-toed Eagle soared around the cliffs overhead. As we drove away after a nice shady lunch inside the café Teresa saw a couple of Magpies, a very rare sight in this area.

We then headed for the Urdón Gorge, a tributary of the main Desfiladero de La Hermida. Here the scenery was probably even more dramatic than at Fuente Dé with huge limestone buttressed cliffs soaring above us with squadrons of Griffon Vultures flying overhead. Here were new plants including Maidenhair Fern Adiantum capillus-veneris and the endemic Petrocoptis glaucifolia. We also admired an Iberian Wall Lizard.

We walked along to the bridge where we saw an absolutely huge fern, Woodwardia radicans overhanging the river. While we were admiring this Teresa shouted: she had found Gyas gigantea! These are monster harvest spiders, about as big as my hand, which were seen clinging to the wall of the gorge. Having only seen three of these before in her life Teresa was delighted to find a group of five, although less so when, as she looked down at one through her hand lens, it lurched towards her, causing her to emit a blood-curdling shriek that echoed round the gorge walls.

Back down the gorge Robert had spotted something that we had overlooked: a Dipper feeding young at a mossy domed nest. We were enthralled watching these birds and seeing the young poke their heads out as the adults arrived. We walked back to the minibuses in cool shade having had a delightful day.

Sunday 2 June

Hazy sunshine to start with, and we were heading to the Piedrasluengas Pass. A steady climb through the oak- and beech-woods produced a Red Squirrel running across the road but little else of note apart from Teresa's new house, which was in a splendid and enviable setting. Up the top it was very pleasant with a cool breeze and sunshine. Here Woodlarks were singing and Quail were calling. Teresa pointed out beautiful clumps of Violet Mountain Pansy Viola bubanii, and Jane spotted some late-flowering Romulea bulbocodium.

One of the first birds that we saw was a White Stork, the only one of the trip soaring above the pass. We stopped to do a bit of cow-pat ecology here too and found various dung beetles, but were soon into the birds as a Rock Thrush was seen displaying over the impressive pinnacles. As we were watching this together with the trip's only Mistle Thrush, a Short-toed Eagle gave excellent views as it passed low overhead.

We then headed through the Genista scrub and up to a rock face studded with Grooved Saxifrage Saxifraga canaliculata, Anemone pavoniana and mats of Globularia repens. Below the bluff a Rock Bunting male was showing well, and then around the corner we saw another pair of Rock Thrushes at last allowing telescope views of the superb male. We wended our way down to a wet meadow with Early Marsh Orchids and a distant pair of Red-backed Shrikes and heard Corn Bunting for the first time.

We had lunch across from the village and found two baby Black Redstarts hopping about on the floor of an electricity substation hut. By now the sun was getting warm and the wine bottles were getting empty, and it was definitely 'flake-out time' for some of the group. However Teresa soon had us on our feet again and we wandered through yet more flowery meadows looking for butterflies including Dingy and Mallow Skippers and Pearl-bordered Fritillary. It wasn't till late in the afternoon that we heard our first clap of thunder, and it was raining quite hard on the way back - who knows, maybe it had been raining all day up in the Espinama valley?

Monday 3 June

After early sunshine, the fog closed down suddenly and we were in cloud as we drove down towards Potes for a morning in the market. Here was a chance to make our vital purchases for excellent local cheese and tasty local honey. We headed off again just before twelve, first of all to the Lizard Orchid site at Frama. In the poor conditions many raptors were trying to gain height and seemed to be on the move below the cloud. These were mostly Griffon Vultures; forty-eight were counted here all going the same way, and with them two Honey Buzzards and four Egyptian Vultures. Here Cetti's Warblers sang from the valley and the many butterflies included Spotted Fritillaries and together with Meadow and Provençal Fritillaries.

Teresa was pointing out flowers like mad here including several annuals like Weasel's Snout Misopates orontium and Annual Scorpion Vetch Coronilla scorpioides. But lunch beckoned, and we were soon climbing the Tudes road. We stopped for some excellent Pink Butterfly Orchids on the way up, and as we pulled up at our lunch spot a dark-phase Booted Eagle flew low overhead and was to perform well here throughout the lunch hour.

Afterwards we started our walk back down towards Potes, firstly through Tudes village where there were fine old buildings, some in considerable disrepair, but mostly with wooden balconies. Here in a green algae-covered water trough we saw three Marbled Newts, huge Salamander-like creatures, and a Cirl Bunting was perched on the wires.

We headed down through the Holm Oaks Quercus ilex ssp. ballota redolent with the songs of Bonelli's Warbler and Firecrest. Here Heath Fritillary butterflies were seen, and further down some larvae which were probably the same species on Cow-wheat Melampyrum pratense plants. The understorey here consisted of lovely plants of St Dabeoc's Heath and Sage-leaved Cistus Cistus salviifolius, forming a mass of white and purple together looking superb. In amongst them Ann spotted some Violet Limodore spikes Limodorum abortivum, an exciting find. Under a clump of heath a Large Psammodromus Lizard sheltered.

Further down we reached the cork oak Quercus suber zone. Here there were more butterflies in the sunshine including Duke of Burgundy Fritillary and Pearl-bordered Fritillary and, surprisingly to me a Red Helleborine Cephalanthera rubra in flower just by the trackside.

It had been a delightful walk, and Teresa and I went on down towards Potes to pick up a taxi to go back and collect the minibuses. We got back down to the village and everyone was in the bar, cold beers at the ready, before we drove up through increasing cloud back to Espinama. Our final dinner was celebrated with bottles of bubbly and small gifts from Teresa, and everyone said their thanks to her for a wonderful week of flowers, butterflies and birds in such marvellous surroundings.

Tuesday 4 June

It was cloudy and damp as we reluctantly said farewell to Espinama and headed back down the valley and through the Hermida Gorge. We stopped at the church of Santa María de Lebeña, one of the area's finest pre-Romanesque churches, containing alabaster windows, and a wonderful Celtic altar-stone only discovered a few years ago by accident. Here a Nuthatch performed very well on the church gate and our final Griffon Vultures soared overhead.

We drove down towards the coast and, near Santander, headed off towards the dunes at Liencres. Here we stopped in the pinewoods as Teresa had spotted a clump of Lesser Butterfly Orchids Platanthera bifolia. In fact there were many spikes of this amongst the woodland. Across the road were also Large Tongue Orchids Serapias cordigera and many Pendulous-flowered Helleborines Epipactis phyllanthes, still tightly in bud.

Down on the dunes themselves there were many flowers including Jersey pink Dianthus gallicus and coastal crucianella Crucianella maritima, while birds included a Tawny Pipit , and the 'lunch monitors' added a new bird for the trip, a passing Sandwich Tern. It was raining yet again as we returned to the airport, but it didn't matter now as we were leaving. The weather had timed it perfectly again.

My grateful thanks to Teresa Farino, one of the best field naturalists I have ever worked with, who not only guided us superbly through the week but also put this wonderful area of Spain on the map for visiting naturalists. My only regret is that I hadn't visited this wonderful area for wildlife a bit sooner.

Jamie McMillan




PL - Piedrasluengas

ST - San Toribio

AM - Arroyo de Mostajal


Cattle Egret Ardeola ibis Flocks seen from coastal motorway on the way to Espinama, 28th

White Stork Ciconia ciconia One over PL on 2nd June. One was also seen here on the trip two years ago. These breed just to the south.

Mallard Anas platyrhynchos One pair seen by our coffee stop near the motorway.

European Honey Buzzard Pernis apivorus One over Espinama on 30/5; two at PL, 2/6. At least 6 on way from Tudes to Potes, 3/6.

Black Kite Milvus migrans Several seen en route Bilbao-Espinama and return. Noted on 4 days on Picos with singles at Fuente Dé, Bejes and PL, and at least 3 Tudes/Potes

Monk/Eurasian Black Vulture Aegypius monachus One high over the Fuente Dé peak on 31/5 was highly unusual in the Picos.

Eurasian Griffon Vulture Gyps fulvus Seen daily in Picos, with good concentrations over Bejes and in Urdón Gorge on 1/6; max 69 counted in cloudy conditions between Tudes and Potes on 3/6

Egyptian Vulture Neophron percnopterus Noted 3 days - in Hermida gorge, above Espinama, and once over San Glorio pass on 30/5. Best views in superb light at PL.

Short-toed Eagle Circaetus gallicus Noted 4 days, max 5 over San Glorio pass on 30/5. Best views at PL.

Common Buzzard Buteo buteo Seen daily. Widespread.

Booted Eagle Hieraeetus pennatus A dark-phase performed superbly over Tudes on 3/6. A light phase over Potes later that day.

Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus Seen on 3 days. Max over Bejes on 2/6.

Common Quail Coturnix coturnix One flushed above Bejes and another heard there. At least two calling at PL.

Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus One seen from minibus at Santander.

Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis Seen on coast on both travel days.

Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis One on the coast at Liencres, 4/6.

Rock Dove (Feral Pigeon) Columba livia Only seen in Potes.

(Common) Wood Pigeon Columba palumbus One or two noted most days.

Eurasian Collared Dove Streptopelia decaocto One at Espinama on 29/5. Two Potes 3/6.

Common (Eurasian) Cuckoo Cuculus canorus Heard at Espinama and PL on 2/6 and at Tudes on 3/6.

Tawny Owl Strix aluco At least two heard on 3 evenings at Espinama.

Common Swift Apus apus Noted each day with hundreds seen over Potes on several dates.

(Eurasian) Wryneck Jynx torquilla Superb views of one on a fence post yards from the road down from ST monastery 31/5. One heard at Tudes

Great Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos major Two above Bejes. One on fence-posts below ST monastery on 5/6. One calling Lebeña.

Green Woodpecker Picus viridis Noted calling on 4 days, but only seen below Tudes.

Wood Lark Lullula arborea Singing at PL.

(Eurasian) Sky Lark Alauda arvensis Singing at San Glorio.

Eurasian Crag Martin Hirundo rupestris Noted daily.

Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica Noted daily.

Common House Martin Delichon urbica Noted daily, with hundreds trapped by bad weather in the Camaleño valley on 29th.

White Wagtail Motacilla alba Seen daily.

Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea Seen daily.

Tawny Pipit Anthus campestris One on dunes at Liencres.

Tree Pipit Anthus trivialis Noted on 4 days, mostly at altitude.

Water Pipit Anthus spinoletta Seen on high pastures at Fuente Dé and PL.

Red-backed Shrike Lanius collurio Noted 6 days mostly in the orchards around the villages.

White-throated Dipper Cinclus cinclus Noted occasionally on Rio Deva. A pair watched feeding young at the nest in the Urdón Gorge.

Winter Wren Troglodytes troglodytes Noted daily.

Alpine Accentor Prunella collaris Two seen above Fuente Dé.

Hedge Accentor (Dunnock) Prunella modularis Noted 4 days - mainly at altitude.

(Rufous-tailed) Rock Thrush Monticola saxatilis At least 4 individuals seen at PL.

Common Blackbird Turdus merula Common - noted daily.

Song Thrush Turdus philomelos Noted on 3 days, usually near villages.

Mistle Thrush Turdus viscivorus One on the high pastures at PL.

European Robin Erithacus rubecula Widespread - noted daily.

Black Redstart Phoenicurus ochruros Very common. Seen everywhere from the villages to the highest boulder-fields

Common Redstart Phoenicurus phoenicurus Noted 3 days in Espinama and other villages.

Common Stonechat Saxicola torquata Noted 4 days, mainly on scrubby hillsides.

Northern Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe The very pale form libanotica noted above Fuente Dé and at PL.

Cetti's Warbler Cettia cetti Heard singing by the river at Frama.

Iberian Chiffchaff Phylloscopus brehmii Noted on two dates, near Espinama and Bejes - both in beech woods.

Western Bonelli's Warbler Phylloscopus bonelli Noted on 5 dates at ST monastery, Bejes with most in the oak wood between Tudes and Potes.

Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla Very common. Noted daily.

Garden Warbler Sylvia borin Noted 5 dates - usually at high altitude in scrub or low forest.

Common Whitethroat Sylvia communis Heard on San Glorio pass.

Firecrest Regulus ignicapillus Noted singing mainly in the oak woods on 4 days.

Spotted Flycatcher Muscicapa striata Frequent around the villages. Noted 6 days.

European Pied Flycatcher Ficedula hypoleuca One female above Bejes, 1/6.

Long-tailed Tit Aegithalos caudatus Parties noted in the woods on 3 dates.

Marsh Tit Parus palustris Heard Espinama on 29 & 30/5.

Coal Tit Parus ater Surprisingly widespread in both conifer plantations and deciduous woods at all levels.

Crested Tit Parus cristatus Pair seen above Pido, 29/5.

Great Tit Parus major Widespread. Noted daily.

Blue Tit Parus caeruleus Not as common as Great Tit. Noted 6 days.

Eurasian Nuthatch Sitta europaea Seen on 4 days. Pair seen feeding young ? above Bejes. Excellent views of one at Lebeña church on the final morning.

Wallcreeper Tichodroma muraria Fabulous views of two males amongst the crags above Fuente Dé, at times flying a few feet over our heads.

Short-toed Treecreeper Certhia brachydactyla Seen and heard calling only on 1/6 above Bejes.

Eurasian Treecreeper Certhia familiaris Superb views of a pair feeding three newly fledged young clinging to a beech trunk above Pido, 29/5.

Eurasian Jay Garrulus glandarius Seen daily in the woodlands.

Black-billed Magpie Pica pica Only noted on the coast, except for a surprising two below Bejes on 1/6.

Red-billed Chough Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax Seen daily around cliffs and rocky areas throughout.

Alpine (Yellow-billed) Chough Pyrrhocorax graculus Only seen at higher levels - San Glorio, Fuente Dé and Sierra Bejes.

Carrion Crow Corvus corone Widespread - noted daily.

Common Raven Corvus corax Widespread - noted daily.

Spotless Starling Sturnus unicolor Starlings were seen on the coast on both airport trips. Several close enough to be identified as this species at Liencres on 4/6.

Corn Bunting Miliaria calandra A few seen at PL and Tudes.

Yellowhammer Emberiza citrinella Widespread around the alpine meadows. Noted on 4 dates.

Rock Bunting Emberiza cia One male seen at AM, 30/5. Another male at PL on 2/6.

Cirl Bunting Emberiza cirlus Male at Tudes on 3/6.

Common Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs Widespread. Seen daily.

European Serin Serinus serinus Very common and showing well in the villages. Seen daily.

European Greenfinch Carduelis chloris Surprisingly scarce. A pair at Espinama showed on a couple of days. Another pair at Tudes, 3/6. Many on dunes at Liencres.

European Goldfinch Carduelis carduelis A few birds noted, mostly on roadsides each day.

Common Linnet Carduelis cannabina Widespread around the alpine meadows. Noted 5 days from high above Fuente Dé down to Tudes.

Eurasian Bullfinch Pyrrhula pyrrhula Seen on 3 occasions at Espinama, Tudes and PL.

House Sparrow Passer domesticus Common around the villages.

Eurasian Snowfinch Montifringilla nivalis Around 10 amongst meadows above the top cable car station at Fuente Dé.


Western Hedgehog Erinaceus europaeus A few roadside corpses noted on 2 dates.

Roe Deer Capreolus capreolus Pair with a fawn near Espinama on 29/5. Another seen on 30/5, with two opposite the hotel 4/6.

Chamois Rupicapra pyrenaica parva Seen high above Espinama 30/5 with excellent views of at least 10 above Fuente Dé on 31/5

Red Squirrel Sciurus vulgaris Noted on three occasions at ST Monastery, towards PL and between Potes and Tudes.


Fire Salamander Salamandra salamandra efts in water trough, Fuente Dé

Marbled Newt Triturus marmoratus Three in a water trough at Tudes.

Alpine Newt Triturus alpestris Many seen in a pool above Fuente Dé; a few in a water trough at Bejes.

Palmate Newt Triturus helveticus Seen at Bejes.

Midwife Toad Alytes obstetricans Tadpoles seen in water trough on 4 days; adults seen and heard calling above Fuente Dé.

Common Toad Bufo bufo Road casualties seen on two days.

Common Frog Rana temporaria Seen on 3 days at and above Fuente Dé and at PL.


Large Psammodromus Psammodromus algirus One in oakwoods below Tudes 3/6.

Iberian Wall Lizard Podarcis hispanica One in the Urdón Gorge, 1/6

Common Wall Lizard Podarcis muralis Widespread. Noted on 4 dates.

? Schreiber's Green Lizard Lacerta schreiberi Green lizard sp. seen on two days; once on the way up to San Glorio and again above Bejes.

Viviparous (Common) Lizard Lacerta vivipara Seen in the damp meadows at AM.


Swallowtail Papilio machaon 'Hill-toppers' noted at Bejes.

Scarce swallowtail Iphiclides podalirius 'Hill-toppers' noted at Bejes

Black-veined white Aporia crataegi A few at Tudes, 3/6

Large white Pieris brassicae Noted 2 days.

Small white Artogeia rapae Noted 4 days.

Green-veined white Artogeia napi Noted at San Glorio and Frama

Western dappled white Euchloe simplonia Only at San Glorio.

Orange-tip Anthocharis cardamines Widespread and common - seen on 5 days.

Moroccan orange-tip Anthocharis belia Only seen at PL, 2/6

Clouded yellow Colias crocea Widespread and common - seen on 6 days

Brimstone Gonepteryx rhamni Widespread - noted on 4 days

Cleopatra Gonepteryx Cleopatra Only seen in the sunny weather at Bejes.

Wood white Leptidea sinapis Like the previous species, only at Bejes

Green hairstreak Callophrys rubi Seen well at AM, Urdón Gorge and PL.

Sooty copper Lycaena tityrus Common in the hay-meadows. Noted 4 days.

Short-tailed blue Everes argiades Only seen at Bejes.

Small blue Cupido minimus Widespread in the alpine meadows, but never numerous. Noted on 4 days.

Holly blue Celastrina argiolus The most abundant blue - seen on 3 days, but in excellent numbers at San Glorio, Bejes and PL.

Black-eyed blue Glaucopsyche melanops Seen at San Glorio and below Tudes.

Spanish brown argus Aricia cramera Several seen at Frama, 3/6.

Mazarine blue Cyaniris semiargus One at PL 2/6.

Adonis blue Lysandra bellargus Seen above Espinama, Bejes and PL.

Common blue Polyommatus icarus Surprisingly scarce. Noted on 3 days in the same areas as Adonis Blue.

Duke of Burgundy fritillary Hamearis lucina One well seen below Tudes, 3/6

Camberwell beauty Nymphalis antiopa Singles at AM, 30/5 and PL, 2/6

Red admiral Vanessa atalanta Seen at Bejes

Painted lady Cynthia cardui A few noted on 4 dates

Small tortoiseshell Aglais urticae Widespread, more numerous at altitude. Noted 5 days.

Queen of Spain fritillary Issoria lathonia Noted 3 days, with over 10 seen PL.

Pearl-bordered fritillary Clossiana euphrosyne Seen AM, PL and below Tudes.

Glanville fritillary Melitaea cinxia Noted 3 days in hay-meadows.

Spotted fritillary Melitaea didyma Two at Frama.

Heath fritillary Melitaea athalia Two below Tudes. Larvae seen on cow wheat nearby were probably of this species.

Provençal fritillary Mellicta deione Singles at Bejes and Frama.

Meadow fritillary Mellicta parthenoides Two at Tudes

Marsh fritillary Eurodryas aurinia Several at Bejes, in hay-meadow. One at PL.

de Prunner's ringlet Erebia triaria Ringlets seen in many habitats - this species positively identified only at San Glorio, where several were seen.

Meadow brown Maniola jurtina Noted at Bejes and Tudes.

Small heath Coenonympha pamphilus Noted at San Glorio and PL.

Speckled wood Pararge aegeria The distinctive southern form noted on 1-3/6

Wall brown Lasiommata megera Noted 1-3/6

Large wall brown Lasiommata maera seen in meadows above Bejes.

Grizzled skipper Pyrgus malvae Positively identified only on two dates at San Glorio and 1/6 at PL.

Rosy grizzled skipper Pyrgus onopordi Noted in meadow above Pido, 29/5.

Red-underwing skipper Spialia sertorius In alpine meadows at San Glorio, PL and Tudes

Mallow skipper Carcharodus alceae One below PL, 2/6

Dingy skipper Erynnis tages Several at PL

MOTHS found by day

6-Spot burnet Zygaena filipendulae Seen above Pido, 29/6

Hummingbird hawkmoth Macroglossum stellatarum Noted 5 days, with 10 + between Tudes and Potes, 3/6.

Silver Y Autographa gamma Noted 5 days with 20 + at PL.

Burnet companion Euclidia glyphica Very common in meadows. Noted 5 days.

Latticed heath Semiothisa clathrata Noted mainly at altitude on 3 days.

Speckled yellow Pseudopanthera macularia Noted 4 days in meadows.

Eurranthis plummistaria Eurranthis plummistaria 'Fuente Dé moth'. Incredible numbers above Fuente Dé - virtually in constant view.

Chimney sweeper Odezia atrata Several above Pido 29/5

Black-veined Moth Siona lineata One or two above Pido 29/5

Forester sp. Adscita sp. One in damp flush ? PL.

Yellow shell Camptogramma bilineata One Tudes.

Common Swift Hepialus lupulinus One seen at PL.

Oak Eggar larva Lasiocampa quercus One at PL

Great Prominent Moth Peridea anceps Found by roadside at Espinama - also caught in moth traps.


Field Cricket Gryllus campestris Heard each day. Seen on 3 days.

Ascalaphid Libelloides longicornis Seen in meadows on 3 dates.

Oil beetle Meloe sp. One at AM.

Colorado Beetle Leptinotarsa decemlineata Seen on potatoes at Tudes

Glow Worm Lampyris noctiluca One at Frama

Trichodes alvearius A striking blue and red beetle seen above Pido.

Cockchafer Melolontha melolontha Seen Espinama - also caught in moth traps.

Gyas gigantea Europe's largest harvest spider, found triumphantly by Teresa in the Urdón gorge.

Sphaeridium scarabaeoides Dung beetles at PL.


Brown trout Seen in streams at Espinama





Garden Pebble

Evergestis forficalis



Latticed Heath

Semiothisa clathrata



Ringed Carpet

Cleora cinctaria




Brown Silver-line

Petrophora chlorosata



Black-veined Moth

Siona lineata




Lace Border

Scopula ornata




Lesser Cream Wave

Scopula immutata



Garden Carpet

Xanthorhoe fluctuata




Chesias rufata



Striped Hawk-moth

Hyles livornica



Small elephant Hawk-moth

Deilephila porcellus





Stauropus fagi



Great Prominent

Peridea anceps




Tawny Prominent

Harpyia milhauseri




Swallow Prominent

Pheosia tremula



Pale Tussock

Elkneria pudibunda

2 m

1 m

1 m

Spanish Scarce Footman

Eilema pseudocomplana




Orange Footman

Eilema sorurcula





Watsonarctia deserta



Hyphoraia dejeani




Poplar Grey

Acronicta megacephala



The Coronet

Craniophora ligustri



The Spectacle

Abrostola triplasia



Burnished Brass

Diachrysia chrysitis



Silver Y

Autographa gamma



Vine's Rustic

Hoplodrina ambigua



Brown Rustic

Rusina tristis




Angle Shades

Phlogophora meticulosa



Oligia sp.




Light Brocade

Lacanobia w-latinum




White spot

Hadena albimacula



White Point

Mythimna albipunctata




The Delicate

Mythimna vitellina



Common Quaker

Orthosia cerasi



Hebrew Character

Orthosia gothica




Silver Cloud

Egira conspicillaris




Flame Shoulder

Ochropleura plecta



Large Yellow Underwing

Noctua pronuba




Pearly Underwing

Peridroma saucia




Dark Sword-grass

Agrotis ipsilon



Heart & Dart

Agrotis exclamationis




Turnip Moth

Agrotis segetum





Agrotis simplonia



© The Travelling Naturalist 2002