- On arrival in Bilbao we head directly to the UNESCO Biosphere reserve of Urdaibai, one of the only successful breeding sites for osprey in Spain. Here we spend the afternoon exploring the coastal wetlands, where we hope to find a wide array of waders, aquatic and coastal birds.
- Later we will transfer to Uncastillo a lovely medieval village with spectacular sandstone buildings over which lesser kestrels soar.
- Accommodation: Casa Rural Txapi Txuri, Uncastillo, 3-nights on full board basis.
- Explore the steppe-like plains of Bardenas Reales Nature Park and the surrounding semi-desert, where heavily eroded cliffs loom over scrubby undergrowth, like a smaller version of Utah’s Monument Valley. Here we’ll come across all the larks: crested, Thekla, calandra, lesser and greater short-toed, as well as skylark and the much sought-after Dupont’s lark.
- Nearby we visit Laguna Las Pitillas, a saline lagoon renowned as one of the best spots in Spain for bittern. The lagoon is a great place to see marsh harrier – it hosts a permanent breeding population of 35 pairs, while in winter numbers can swell to as many as 200. In the surrounding farmland we should find bee-eater, roller, hoopoe and corn bunting.
- Our transition day takes us along the foothills of the Sierra Santo Domingo to the rocky massifs of Agüero and Riglos. Towering 300 metres above the tiny villages below, these lofty, isolated outcrops are the home of one of the largest breeding colonies of griffon vulture in Northern Spain.
- We finally wend our way to the village of Berdún, our base for the next four nights.
- Accommodation: Casa La Sarasa, Berdún, 4-nights on full board basis.
- We spend the next three days in the foothills and mountains of the Pyrenees. This is the land of the lammergeier with its mighty three-metre wingspan, as well as other mountain specialities such as the elusive wallcreeper, citril finch, alpine accentor, red rock thrush, Alpine chough, black redstart and northern wheatear.
- The fields around Berdún are some of the best places in Northern Spain to see red and black kites, while the riverside woodlands are where we’ll find Orphean, Sardinian and sub-Alpine warblers, as well as golden oriole, penduline tit and wryneck.
- At dusk we head out looking for eagle, long-eared and little owl.
Day 8 Transfer to Bilbao and fly back to the UK
All prices are per person and include:
- Services of the naturalist leader
- Guided activities
- All meals
We stay in a three-star hotel in the village of Uncastillo and a delightful small complex of restored village houses in Bedún, owned by an English couple. All rooms are en suite, and the restaurant offers an excellent, original and very varied cuisine.
All meals – other than lunch on the first day – are included.
Breakfast and dinner are taken at the hotels, whereas lunches are generally picnics at a suitably scenic spot.
Our tour takes us into one of the best areas in Europe for raptors, and we look for osprey, Egyptian vulture and black kite soaring over the hillsides and mountain peaks.
- Griffon vulture
- Marsh harrier
Generally easy, up to three miles per day over mainly easy terrain, but may include occasional shorter stretches on steeper slopes. The terrain is quite rugged and rough underfoot, so we recommend wearing walking boots or shoes with cleated soles for good traction.
Price includes return scheduled flights London – Bilbao – London.
Typically warm and sunny (temperatures in the range 12-26°C), but can be chilly early in the morning. As with any upland area, periods of rain or showers, low cloud or poor visibility are possible. In summer, it is often possible to avoid localised bad weather by moving to a different altitude.