Our first ever Lammergeier

Most of May was taken up with travelling north, initially to find some cooler weather for as long as we could and hopefully to enjoy some good birding days. We had to be home by early June for a medical appointment so we wanted to make the most of our trip. Success on both counts. We’re home again now, a bit earlier than we anticipated as there was a dramatic change in the weather the last weekend we were away and the forecast was for heavy rain for the next two weeks. Not so bad if we were alone but with three furry companions with the accompanying aroma of wet dog, it was not something we looked forward to! It’s rained a great deal in our area since we’ve been home and we’ve had to siphon out the pool in order to make room for the next lot of heavy rain to come in a day or two. But thankfully we have had no damage and our hearts go out to those who have been severely affected by flooded homes, farms and businesses yet again. It must be soul destroying.

We took our time going north, taking the scenic routes through small towns and villages and over some high passes. I’m going to let the pictures tell most of the story with just a few words of explanation here and there to accompany our pictorial journey.

Our first stop was Cofrentes where some friends live, unfortunately although we had planned to visit them we found out subsequently that they were in the UK at the time.

Cofrentes Castle

It was at this castle that I hit my first hurdle with the Valencian/Catalan dialect which is so different to the Spanish I have been learning. We met this guy, below, who had been working in the castle for 26 years restoring Islamic pottery much of which is estimated to be 6,000 years old. He was extremely difficult to understand and also he had the deepest of deep voices I have ever heard from a human being! He catalogues all the finds and then endeavours to piece them together. All of the crates behind him contain fragments of various sizes and the wall behind me was lined with more crates too. The pot he is holding, he started on over three years ago. It was fascinating to hear his passion for the job come through, he was determined to make me understand him, although he had not a word of English. I had to ask him to speak slowly to be able to catch some of what he was saying. I ended up thanking him and telling him it was my birthday and he leant forward and gave me a hug and a kiss. What patience and devotion he shows. Maybe if we ever go back he will have finished restoring that pot!

The next overnighter on our route north was the little town of Geldo. We had heard about it from friends Jill and Graham who had stopped here a few weeks previously and they said it was a good dog walking spot. We found it was full of street art …..Nigel got on his bike before we left and cycled round to take pics of them all. Which is your favourite? I think mine is the crying owl but I like them all and the snail making his way upstairs comes a close second. They are all signed by the artists.

Baby pomegranates in Geldo

Next stop was Morella, another day, another hilltop castle.

View from our overnight spot, some loin girding the next morning to get up to the top though we were able to drive a bit closer and park near the walls.
We walked from here, still quite a thrutch to the top
But we made it and enjoyed the old relics!!!!
Remains of 13th Century Aqueduct
Up and up and up!
Watch out, watch out, there’s a chough about….can you spot him?
Up and up some more! Mind how you go! Lots of potential for twisted ankles!

Nigel spent quite some time photographing this humming bird Hawk Moth on the castle walls.
Beautiful poppies in the grounds of the castle

The next town on our route was the delightful old Valderrobres where there was an excellent street market on Saturday morning. We were leaving early but….we had a walk around, bought a few things and then decided to wait to leave until we could buy a rotisserie chicken to set us up for an easy tea with salad, they weren’t going to be ready for another hour or so.

We’d had a morning of castles but we had a wander round Valderrobres too but didn’t go into the caste, steep winding streets were the order of the day again and we were pleased to stop for a beer on the way back to the camper. We bought a couple of bottles of local wine….very nice it was too.

Valderrobres weekly market, very lively and well attended.

Onwards and northwards into the Huesca Province, we had a walk here at the Santa Ana Reservoir Dam and then found an overnight spot higher up with a better view!

Our onward journey took us to an area which Nigel had identified from our birding guide as a good place to see bee eaters, rollers, black wheatears, alpine swifts, eagles, bustards, vultures and kites. We enjoyed it so much we spent two nights here high on the cliffs with birds teeming all around us.

We could see the snow capped Pyrenees calling us in the distance, soon be there! But still wanted an extra day in this idyllic spot. True to form, no Bustards deigned us with an appearance! But we did see a pair of black wheatears and albeit briefly, a roller, not just here but in this area. Those were the first two on our life list.
Happy pooches, able to run free., even Belle took off at times, none of them ever out of sight and straight back to the whistle.

Next was 24 hours in MontaƱana with no phone or data signal. A very quiet hamlet, We had a couple of walks here, very steep cobbly paths again, I was glad of my walking pole!

Glad I don’t have to carry shopping up these streets!

At last we reached the high mountains, the weather was much cooler but still pleasant and mostly dry.

End of the road, France is just 4 k away over those mountains.

Next on the agenda was Ainsa, another two night stopover. We discovered a museum devoted to Pyrenean Birds and it held a wealth of local knowledge. We were then able to go to a regular feeding spot the next day and get wonderful views of many birds, in particular the Bearded Vulture, AKA Lammergeier. The birds are fed twice a week and it was obvious by the gatherings on the ground and in the trees that they can “tell the time!”


On our walk up to the feeding station the vultures were gathering!
Many hundreds were waiting in the nearby trees
As the food was tipped out they acted….well, like vultures as you would expect.
Frantic feeding went on for some time with huge amounts of
dust being kicked up
One of four Lammergeiers who came along a bit later when things had quietened down somewhat.
Red and Black kites were also making the most of the all you can eat buffet
Looking down on Ainsa from our walk up to the bird feeding site
Gargoyles with a difference in Ainsa

After Ainsa, we travelled further north to the little town of Bielsa, very close to the French border, where we spent two nights in order to visit the Ordesa and Monte Perdido Park.

We had a lovely but exhausting walk up to the Cascades de Larri, just Ditto and Poco accompanying us, Belle stayed in the motorhome.
Ordesa and Monte Perdido National Park. On the way down to live here in 2020 we stopped just across the other side of this mountain in France, at the Cirque de Gavarnie. We couldn’t stay as dogs were not allowed, even on leads!
Wild strawberries
Alpine Balsam above the snowline

After this walk we went back down to the town in which we were staying (no overnighting in the national park) and confirmed as expected that the weather was going to be changing drastically and rain was forecast for the next two weeks in the whole of northern Spain and southern France. One wet dog in a camper is bad enough but three???? There was no escape so we reluctantly decided it was probably time to return home. We headed for one more little town for our last night up a very pretty valley where again there was a feeding station for birds. We’d been trying to find wallcreepers to add to our list, they live at high altitudes and this would be our last chance on this trip but despite searching we didn’t spot any. That evening we planned our journey home which we would do in two days.

We decided to head to the coast and visit Tarragona where Richard and Aoife had stopped on their way down to us in April. It is a town rich in Roman history so we hot footed it to the amphitheatre on arrival. Having been in much cooler climes and off the beaten track as far as crowds were concerned it was quite a shock to the system but we’ve added another Spanish City to our visit list. And had some churros for the first time since living here!

Amphitheatre, Tarragona. We didn’t go in, got a good view from above and we don’t like crowds.
Tarragona street art

It was a long drive but we got home about 6pm, had a sort out and were glad to have our own bed to sleep in without this little fella snuggling up to us all night, frequently changing allegiance as he does in the camper.

That’s all for now, Hasta Luego!