Musings and photos of wild and everyday life

SW France, Pyrenees – Review of 2010 – September

September

Sun rising over Collioure, France
Sunrise over Collioure France

Sun, Sea, good food and new birds – it must be holidays away time.  Last year we went to the SW corner of France to a town called Collioure, for 1 week and to the pyrenees for the next.

Collioure is lovely with castles, great food and fine beaches.  There is also plenty of wildlife both around the town and nearby.

Around the town I saw Crested Tits, Sardinian Warblers and Golden Orioles amongst other more normal species.  Outside the bird world there were Purple Hairstreak and Swallowtail butterflies, Hummingbird Hawk moths, Hornets and Robber Flies, Wall and Iberian Rock Lizards and Marbled Swimming Crabs.

Kentish Plover Winter plumage at Etang de Canet near Perpignan

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Nearby there were some good birding spots including the Etang de Canet.  Birds spotted included Chilean Flamingos,Little Egrets, Kentish Plover (left) and a Montagu’s Harrier.

There were quite a few Crag Martins around some of the old towns.

Some had nests on the roof beams of a Church entrance.

Crag Martin on nest in roof of church entrance
Crag Martin on nest in roof of church entrance

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Ordesa Mountains & rio Ara fromTorla Aragon Spain
We went to the Pyrenees via the Dali Museum in Fugueres and the City of Girona, both places of interest in their own rights.  But nothing prepared us for the magnificance of the Pyrenees and particularly, the Ordesa Valley.

The air is fresh, the water sparkling clear and the views incredible.  If you never saw any wildlife you would probably still be happy.

This is pretty close to the view from where we stayed – an incredible sight to open the window to, the first evening we arrived!

There are brilliant views everywhere and there are brilliant birds and other animals but you have to be prepared for some good hikes and severe slopes to make the most of such a brilliant place.

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Egyptian Vulture flying ove Rio Ara Valley Torla Spain.

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If you’re in the Pyrenees, you might expect to see Vultures.  There are plenty here.

We saw this Egyptian Vulture beside Torla, where we were staying, circling around and gaining height in the thermals.

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Dipper in river Ara, Bujaruelo Valley, Spain
Ordesa y Monte Perdido is a national park and the oldest Nature Reserve in Spain. It encompasses the valley and surrounding mountains, including Monte Perdido (Mont Perdu in France or Lost Mountain) reaching 3,355 metres.

In the Summer season it can get quite busy and cars are banned from the park. Access is by foot or bus from Torla. But you don’t have to walk far from the bus stop in the ‘Prairie’ – a flat grassy area on the valley floor – to get away from the crowds.

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Up in the higher valleys, dare-devil Dippers seem to be on every section of every river.

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Large male Mountain Grasshopper (Stauroderus scalaris) Ordesa Valley
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With so much clean air and fresh water, insects abound, especially on the warmer days.

In some parts you could not look at the grass without seeing Grasshoppers although it is their sounds that first brings attention.

Female Black Redstart with insect Ordesa Valley Spain.

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There are some great walks most of them involving steep climbs when you can be sorry for the extra camera lens you brought!

We were rewarded with Vultures, a Wall Creeper, Jays, Ravens, Reed and Willow Warblers.

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At the end of the valley is the Circo de Soaso, a classic glacial ‘cirque’ at the head of a glacial valley.

Here the valley is broader and once again meadow like.  Birds seen here included Water Pipit and Black Redstart.

Waterfalls on river Arazas, Ordesa Valley, Spain
Waterfalls on river Arazas, Ordesa Valley, Spain

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The higher walks are a must if your legs allow.  The views are stunning and you can get closer to the vultures and other birds and animals.

However the valley can be walked along the river, although even this is a bit hilly.  Along the way are many waterfalls, each one seemingly better than the last.

Pyrenean Chamois (Rupicapra pyrenaica) pyrenaica peeing, Ordesa Valley, Spain.

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Marsh Tits and Pied Flycatchers can be seen along the river banks and there are also mammals about.

We saw many Marmots as well as Pyrenean Chamois, like this one peeing on the valley slopes.

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Griffon Vulture flying, Anisclo Canyon, Pyrenees, Spain .

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Bujaruelo valley and Anisclo Canyon, both nearby are well worth a look.  Anisclo is great for Griffin Vultures that fly over the narrow canyon and sit on the high ledges.

Lammergeier or Bearded Vulture flying, Ordesa Valley, SpainWe also saw Red Squirrels, Adonis Blue Butterflies and a Jersey Tiger Moth.

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But the vulture that I wanted to see but didn’t really expect to see is the Lammergeier.

We caught a glimpse of one in the distance early in the week in Ordessa but its wings were so long that at a distance it looked like a falcon.

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Near the end of the week, on a trip along the southern rim of the valley, we finally saw this magnicifient creature properly and could see why it is also known as the Bearded Vulture.

Here high in the mountains, the Lammergeier seems to be at home, gliding without any obvious effort.

It still didn’t look that big but its wings are well over 2 metres across.  They seem narrower and pointier than other vultures which makes them look different.

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A trip along the valley rim by 4×4 is well worthwhile, not just for the birds but also for the views down and along the length of the valley.

It would be great to have a large lens up there but that would mean serious weight and a tripod – hardly conducive to long walks or holidays in general.

Places like this need to be enjoyed slowly, with or without a camera!

2 responses

  1. Gorgeous sunset!

    April 22, 2011 at 11:06 pm

  2. Tanks a tousand! Had a look at your site and now sorry – feeling hungry. Great food pics.

    April 24, 2011 at 1:14 pm

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