CANTABRIAN MOUNTAINS & PICOS de EUROPA
Friday 1st – Friday 8th September 2017
We are delighted to offer you this exciting tour to a destination still unspoilt by tourism yet full of wildlife and ancient rural traditions. This relatively unknown part of north-western Spain encompasses the Cantabrian Mountains and the Picos de Europa, known as Green Spain. It is at the time of the Transhumance where beribboned flocks of sheep and herds of cows are brought down from their alpine pastures to their winter quarters.
We will be working in connection with advice given by the Spanish Bear Foundation and local rangers in the area. At this time of the year these Cantabrian Bears roam the open hillsides browsing on berries and fruits which they find on low bushes and small trees. Their exact location will depend on nature’s seasonal bounty. We do not use hides and honeyed maize as in other countries. These are wild bears going about their daily life, so some dawn and dusk walks will be arranged. We will visit several look-outs where telescopes can be used to view the bears from a safe distance. Also we will learn about animal tracks and why Bear conservation is successful in this region. Wolf is also present, but by no means guaranteed. Maybe Chamois and Red Deer will be spotted too. The birdlife is prolific in this two-centre holiday, ranging from woodland to much sought-after alpine species.
Day 1- Travel
Arrive from London to Northern Spain where we will be met by our guide Cristian Jensen. We then transfer to a delightful village in the heart of the Natural Park, this will be our base for the next 4 nights. Bird-watching opportunities en route in a variety of habitats probably viewing our first raptors. Crested Larks, Corn Buntings and Sardinian Warblers will be likely at comfort stops.
Overnights x 4: A family-run hotel within Somiedo N.P.
Day 2- Searching for Bears
We will make a start straight away to go searching for Bears. From previous visits, we know of several viewpoints where we have seen up to four bears at a time! Whilst on our bear-hunt we will be aware of many raptors overhead and birds of meadows and scree slopes. We can expect Short-toed and Booted Eagles, Hobby and Peregrine Falcon, Raven, Red-billed Chough and Rock-Bunting.
Day 3- Bear-watching
Another day spent in the NP enjoying changes of location near to open rocky hillsides favoured by Iberian Bears. On the craggy peaks and slopes we can anticipate Griffon Vultures, Blue Rock Thrush, Black Redstart, Northern Wheatear and Water Pipit, besides many of the regular raptors and passerines.
Day 4- Rivers and meadows
There are beautiful river valleys and secluded woodlands to explore for extra bird species; such as Woodlark, Shrikes, Iberian Green Woodpecker, Jay, Short-toed Treecreepers, Crested Tit and Firecrest. Grey Wagtails and Dippers may be spied in the rivers and on our last two tours Wildcat have been seen. Butterflies abound in meadows carpeted with an array of flora.
Day 5- Transfer day from Somiedo N.P. to Picos de Europa
It’s a journey of around 150 miles, which will take 4 hours plus birding and comfort stops. Our selected route should enable some good birding at hotspots en route. On reaching Potes we head west up a quiet alpine road to the quaint farming village of Espinama, aiming to check into our delightful family-run hotel by 6pm, followed by orientation, checklist and Dinner with wine at about 8pm.
Overnights x 3: A cosy hotel in the rural mountain village of Espinama.
Day 6- Alpine heights of Fuente Dé
Today we head for the heights with very little road travel. We aim to take the short, swift and spectacular cable-car ride up the mountain of Fuente De. In this beautiful mountain scenery, birding should be very relaxing on easy tracks which for the most part follow the contour lines. We have a really good chance of alpine species such as Wallcreeper, Snowfinch, Alpine Chough and Alpine Accentor, all within a small area. In the past we have had Wallcreeper land beside us as we ate our picnic! We may be able to add other quality species such as Black Redstart, Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush, Water Pipit, Griffon Vultures, Booted and Short-toed Eagles. Last time we even saw a Lammergeier! After dinner in the hotel we can take a stroll nearby to listen for owls.
Day 7- Valleys, rivers and meadows
Another gentle day spent in glorious scenery. The mixed habitat of river, woodland and meadows increases our chance of finding Dipper, Black Woodpecker, Red-Backed Shrike, Cirl Bunting, Wryneck and Honey Buzzard plus a good selection of warblers.
Day 8- Departure day
Depending on the flight schedule, it may be possible to have a leisurely drive back toward the north coast. We can stop in La Hermida Gorge, a possible breeding site for Bonelli’s Eagle and Wallcreeper. Dippers can be seen in this lively river. Check-in at Airport, depart for UK.
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