Spanish Pyrenees 24 April – 3 May 2014
Spring at Berdún
A stunning landscape and a wealth of wildlife make the Spanish Pyrenees attractive in any season. In spring, with vultures soaring, birds singing and flowers in bloom, it’s a wildlife experience difficult to top anywhere in Europe.
Raptors often steal the show. The foothills of the Pyrenees, where we are based, are acknowledged as having Europe’s highest density of birds of prey. Red and black kites feed in the river valleys. Short-toed eagles hover as they search for snakes and lizards; booted eagles are regular too. There are three vulture species: griffons are easily the commonest and increasing, Egyptian vultures are getting scarcer here and everywhere. We are at the heart of Europe’s stronghold for the rare lammergeier.
The scenery is dramatic with the constant backdrop of snow-topped mountains. There are deep gorges that attract griffon vultures, alpine swifts and crag martins. High pastures have gentians and other early alpine flowers, and on lower slopes asphodels and early spider orchids are among the species to be found.
Berdún itself – host to Honeyguide holidays for 20 years – is a charming, fortified village perched on a hilltop in the Pyrenean foothills. Our base now is Casa Sarasa, where Peter Rich and Melanie Hallam offer a warm welcome and fine food.
The Pyrenees may sound quite strenuous, but our itinerary is actually fairly relaxed. Anyone reasonably fit will have no trouble keeping up.
Berdún (Chris Gibson)
Those mentioned above plus golden eagle, bee-eater, hoopoe, crested lark, golden oriole, black-bellied dipper, Cetti’s, subalpine and Sardinian warblers, rock sparrow, spotless starling, chough, blue rock thrush, citril finch and many more.
Lady and elder-flowered orchids, hepatica, amelanchier, trumpet and spring gentians, beautiful flax, wild daffodil, rush-leaved narcissus, tassel hyacinth, Pyrenean saxifrage, petrocoptis to name just a few.
Mammals could include alpine marmot and isard – Pyrenean chamois – at the high tops, and red squirrel. Butterflies include Cleopatra, scarce swallowtail, Moroccan orange-tip and Spanish festoon. Spanish moon and giant peacock moths are often seen.
Isards (Ivan Nethercoat)
Holiday details (2014)
Our coach trips take us to the monastery and pine woods at St Juan de la Peña, the high Pyrenees at Aísa or Portalet, the sandstone cliffs at Riglos and the gorges of Arbayún and Lumbier. Local exploration is equally rewarding to the rivers Veral and Aragón and to Biníes gorge.
Price: £1,520 per person in twin room for ten days (Thursday to Saturday)
Single room supplement: £120
Nine rooms, two of which share a bathroom, the rest have en suite facilities.
Flights: Scheduled Ryanair flights London Stansted to Biarritz
Group size, and if we need a co-leader, will depend on the mix of twins and singles in the group.
Our holiday base at Casa Sarasa in Berdún
Chris Gibson is a marine conservation specialist for Natural England based in north Essex, an author of several wildlife books and has led many holidays for Honeyguide. He is an outstanding all rounder, from birds through flowers to moths, recognised as a ‘naturalist of distinction’ by the British Naturalists’ Association.
The Sociedad Española de Ornitología (Spanish Ornithological Society) manages 1600 acres of steppe, one of the most threatened bird habitats both here in the Aragón region and in Europe. Dupont’s and lesser short-toed larks, pin-tailed and black-bellied sandgrouse and stone-curlews benefit from the establishment of this reserve at Belchite, near Zaragoza.