Birdingpals Trip Report

Birding with Gorka Gorospe a Pal from Pamplona, Navarra, Spain 2005
by Birdingpal Wendy Olsson

July 8-We arrived at the Robledal de Orgi, there was a lot of fog but we heard quite a few birds. The Robledal (literally this means area of oak) is located in the Ultzama valley, and is one of the last remaining natural woods areas in the valley. The mix of beautiful ferns, pine, oaks (except for the non-native (American Red oak, which the Robledal staff is trying to eliminate from the area) provided a wonderful area for bird watching. We first walked on a path to the pueblo of Lizaso, which before agriculture and grazing was surrounded by pure Robledal. The staff of the Robledal is working with farmers and ranchers in the area to introduce them to more sustainable methods of farming. While sustainable agriculture was funded by government grants, as the EU becomes more of a key participant in the agriculture, these grants are becoming scarcer. Gorka pointed out birds considered to be good indicators of the quality of habitat in agricultural zones.

Birds we saw in these areas were:
Eurasian Collared Dove (Streptopelia decdocto, esp. Tortola Turca)
Griffon Vulture (Gyps fulvus, esp. Buitre Leonado)
Red Kite (Milvus milvus, esp. Milano Real)
Black Kite (Milvus migrans, esp. Milano Negro)
Common Buzzard (buteo buteo, esp. Ratonero)
Serin (Serinus Serinus, esp. Verdecillo)
European Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis, esp. Jilguero, Navarra-Cardelina).
Wren (troglodytes troglodyes, esp.choch'n)
Robin (erithacus rubecula, esp. Petirrojo)
Red-backed Shrike (Lanius collurio, alcard'n dorsirojo)
Magpies (Pica Pica, esp. urraca, Navarra-Picaraza)
White/Pied Wagtail (Motacilla alba, esp. Lavendera Blanca)
Stonechat (Saxicola torquata, esp. Tarabilla com'n)
As we entered into the actual village of Lizaso we saw common birds such as:
Housemartin (Delichon urbica, esp. avion com'n)
Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica, esp. Golondrina com'n)
House Sparrow (Passer domesticus, Gorri'n com'n)
Once we got actually into the Robledal itself, we saw and heard forest-dwelling species such as the Black-capped warbler (Sylvia atricapilla, esp. Curruca capirotada) Bonelli's Warbler (P. bonelli, esp. Mosquitero papialbo)
We got an absolutely great view of a family of Bonelli's Warblers.
Iberian Chiff Chaff (Phylloscopus ibericus, esp. Mosquitero ib'rico. This species is not in books, it was separated from the Chiff Chaff (Phylloscopus collybita) a few years ago.
Great Tit (Parus major, esp. Carbonero com'n)
Long-Tailed Tit (Aegithalos audatus, esp.) fabulous bird!
Great Tit (Parus major, esp. Carbonero com'n)
Eurasian Nuthatch (Sitta europaea, esp. Trepador Azul)
Short-toed Treecreeper (Certhia brachydactyla, esp. Agateador norteno)
Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs, esp. Pinz'n vulgar)
Mistle Thrush (Turdus viscivorus, esp. Zorzal charlo)
Song Thrush (Turdus philomelos, esp. Zorzal com'n)
While we didn't see them, we heard Firecrests (Regulus ignicapillus, esp. Reyezuelo listado)
On July 9 we saw totally different types of landscapes and ecosystems. Going from Pamplona we went south through the pueblo of Pitillas to the Laguna de Pitillas. What a spot for bird watching! I can only imagine what this area is like in full migration instead of July. Our first bird of the day was the Hoopoe (Upupa epops, esp. abubilla) hanging out on his habitual fence spot. It didn't take long for Gorka to point out some crested larks (Galerida cristata esp. Cogujada com'n).
Gorka set up the scope on top of a hill between 2 very moist wetland areas and we saw the following species:
Bee-eater (Merops apiaster, esp. Abejaruco com'n) what a showy bird!!
Skylark (Alauda arvensis, esp. Alondra com'n)
Corn Bunting (Miliaria calandra, esp. Triguero)
Tawny Pipit (Anthus campestris, esp. Bisbita campestre)
Stilt (Himantopus himantopus, esp. Cigue'uela) with its very recently hatched young.
Black Kite (Milvus Migrans, esp. Milano negro)
Marsh Harrier (Circus aeruginosus, esp. Aguilucho lagunero)
Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo, esp. Cormor'n grande)
Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea, esp. Garza real)
Purple Heron (ardea purpurea, esp. Garza imperial)
White Stork (Ciconia ciconia, esp. Cigue'a com'n)
Black-headed Gull (Larus ridibundus esp. Gaviota reidora)
Green Sandpiper (Tringa ochropus, esp. Andarr'os grande)
Common Sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos, esp. Andarr'os chico)
Short-toed Eagle (Circaetus gallicus, esp. Culebrera europea)
Great-crested Grebe (Podiceps cristatus, esp. somormujo lavanco)
Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos, esp. 'nade azul'n)
Gadwall (Anas strepera, esp. 'nade friso)
Pochard (Aythya ferina, esp. Porr'n europeo)
Coot (Fulica atras, esp. focha com'n)
Fan-tailed warbler (Cisticola juncidis, esp. Buitr'n)
After visiting Pitillas, we headed up towards the village of Murillo del Fruto, where there were more storks with young in the village church. In spite of Gorka's valiant attempts to find Dartford Warblers for us, there were not terribly cooperative and we ended the day without a trace of them in spite of being in very good habitat in various spots in Navarra.
From Aibar we headed to the Foz (Gorge) de Lumbier, with one stop before the Foz to view from the blind the area where carrion is left to feed the large population (one of the largest in Spain) of Griffon Vultures, Egyptian Vultures, and other raptors. The quantity of vultures there had to be in the hundreds. We were assured that the stories of vultures carrying off unfortunate Navarran babies were untrue, although there have been reports of Griffon vultures taking the occasional newly-born lamb or ill livestock. Once at the Foz itself, the heavy swift, swallow, and martin vocabulary had my head swirling. The Foz itself is a huge gorge formed by the River. THe 2-km walk within the Foz offered the following species:
Crag Martin (Ptonoprogne rupestris, esp. Avi'n roquero)
House Martin (Delichon urbica, esp. Avi'n com'n)
Common Swift (Apus apus, esp. Vencejo com'n)
Alpine Swift (Apus melba, esp. Vencejo real)
Rock Sparrow (Petronia petronia, esp. Gorri'n chill'n) Litterally chill'n means noisy or one who screams/speaks loudly, these birds definitely have a loud, plaintive call.
Fabulous views of both Griffon Vultures and Egyptian Vultures.
Rock Dove (Columba Livia, esp. Paloma brav'a)
Jackdaw (Corvus monedula, esp. grajilla)
Gorka caught a glimpse of a Blue Rock Thrush (Monticola solitarius, esp. Roquero solitario), but after a quick view the bird didn't come back out for the rest of us.
Golden Orioles sometimes sing from the trees along the River at the end of the Foz, but both the time of year and time of day (around noon) were against us.
After the Foz de Lumbier, we headed up NA-178 to the Foz de Arbayun. After a brief stop there, we headed towards Arangoiti (1353 m.), a high peak in the Pre-Pyrenean mountains on the Sierra de Leyre. On our way up, we stopped at an area consisting of red pine, LOTS of boxwood, and evidence of logging. Determined to find us a Dartford Warbler or Crossbills (esp. Piquituertos), we walked along a path which took us to an area with clumps of pine. After some listening, Gorka pointed out a family of Crested Tits (Parus Cristatus, esp. Herrilero Capuchino). The Princeton Field Guide, 'Birds of Europe', was right on target with their description of this species: 'Not exactly shy, but usually difficult to approach'. It took a while to actually find them within the pines, and once they were found, they moved constantly. Well worth the wait and work, though. The drive up to Arangoiti was a delight, as never have I seen such a huge expanse of Boxwood. Arangoiti is home to a large television antenna and also a fire watch station. The guard there seemed to be very happy to have company and we all got an excellent view of an Egyptian Vulture sitting on a rock ledge and drinking from a nearby pool of water.
After enjoying the view from Arangoiti and discussing the new highway plans currently in place to speed up the drive from to Jaca during ski season, we headed back down to the Sierra. Our last stop was of course, in Dartford Warbler habitat, brushy scrub heath with heather in full bloom. No luck, but the view was beautiful and it was a pleasure to be outdoors all day. Speaking as someone from the Mid-Atlantic Region of North America, Navarra is a big contrast to my home landscape. While most folks know this area for the Running of the Bulls, it's got a lot of beautiful countryside and many interesting birds. Like everywhere, this area is becoming much more challenging for birds, due to pressure from wind power, development, and the ski industry. An article in "Ecologista" magazine (Number 40, Summer 2004) cites Larra, in the Navarran Pyrennees, as a site threatened by an almost 6-million euro project to expand a cross-country ski trails, a parking lot expansion, and also the construction of 2 more 'ski refuges.

Wendy Olsson
a Birdingpal from Maryland

Last update 17/11/2011