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|A Report from birdtours.co.uk
Picos de Europa, Santander, Ciudad Real Area, & Madrid, June 27 - July 17, 2009,
This trip was undertaken by myself and my ever-patient, mostly non-birding girlfriend, Kristina, primarily as a hiking trip in the Picos de Europa. The plan was to complete a nine-day, counter-clockwise circuit around the park, starting and ending in Fuente De, and sleeping in mountain refuges and hostels along the way. This walk is described in Schroder & Thomson's Trekking & Climbing in Northern Spain as "Trek 13: Lunar Landscapes of the Picos de Europa." We were unlucky with the weather, though, and thick fog compelled us to alter our route considerably. Nevertheless, we had a productive week and a half in the mountains, saw a lot of birds, and felt like we'd pretty well covered the spectrum of the Picos' alpine habitat types. We allowed for a few days to unwind on the coast in Santander after the hike, and then took a quick side-trip south to Almagro and Ciudad Real. Here we met up with Vicente Malagon of Natura Indomita (whom I would recommend you get in touch with if you're interested in birding this area: www.naturaindomita.com) and his girlfriend Estefania, who had generously offered to show us the avian abundance that they live amidst. We spent the last few days in Madrid, where I focused most of my attention on paintings by Bosch and Bruegel and cold alcoholic drinks, but managed to squeeze in some birding nonetheless. We got around Spain with public transportation, did our best to live cheaply (aside from the rather large sums we dropped on food and drink), and saw 136 species of birds.
BOOKS & MAPS
Birds of Europe by Mullarney et al.
Where to Watch Birds in Northern & Eastern Spain: Second Edition by Rebane & Garcia
Flora & Fauna of the Picos de Europa by Farino - contains comprehensive checklists of the birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, fish, butterflies, damselflies & dragonflies, and flora of the park, along with short introductory essays to each group.
Trekking & Climbing in Northern Spain by Schroder & Thomson
Adrados Ediciones: Picos de Europa, Western Massif (El Cornion) and Picos de Europa, Central & Eastern Massifs (Los Urrieles y Andara) - the best maps available for the region.
6/27 - Flight from Copenhagen to Madrid
6/28 - Madrid to Santander by bus, Cabo Mayor and Cabo Menor
6/29 - Santander to Espinama by bus, Espinama to Fuente De by foot
6/30 - Fuente De (walking from El Cable to the Torre de Horcados Rojos and return)
7/1 - Fuente De to Potes by bus, walking in the hills of Potes
7/2 - Potes to Arenas de Cabrales (via Panes) by bus, Arenas de Cabrales to Puente Poncebos by foot, Puente Poncebos to Cain by foot (Garganta del Cares)
7/3 - Cain and surrounding hills
7/4 - Cain to Refugio Vega de Ario by foot, via the Canal de Trea
7/5 - Refugio Vega de Ario to Refugio de Vegarredonda by foot, via the lakes of Covadonga
7/6 - Refugio de Vegarredonda to the lakes of Covadonga by foot, lakes of Covadonga to Cangas de Onis by taxi, walking in the hills above the Cangas de Onis bus station, Cangas de Onis to Potes (via Panes) by bus
7/7 - Potes to Fuente De by bus, Fuente De to Pido by foot, walking in the hills above Pido
7/8 - Fuente De to Santander by bus
7/9 - Santander (boat tour of Bahia de Santander)
7/10 - Santander (Cabo Mayor and West, La Magdalena)
7/11 - Santander to Madrid by bus, Madrid to Ciudad Real by train, Vicario Reservoir, Almagro
7/12 - Steppe of Ciudad Real, Las Tablas de Daimiel, Lago Navaseca, Calatrava Castle, hills near Almagro
7/13 - Ciudad Real to Madrid by train
7/14 - Madrid
7/15 - Madrid
7/16 - Madrid (Laguna de El Campillo, Casa de Campo)
7/17 - Flight from Madrid to Copenhagen
6/27 - A smooth flight from Copenhagen to Madrid, arriving in the late afternoon, and an easy metro ride into the city from the airport. Saw only common urban birds in the city: House Sparrow, Feral Pigeon, and lots of Common Swifts overhead.
6/28 - We left Madrid early on a bus bound for Santander. This was a six-hour journey, and I identified what I could through the window as we sped along. My efforts were not altogether in vain, as I saw my first Spotless Starlings, a few White Storks, two Bee-Eaters, and lots of Black Kites, among others. There were lots of distant raptors overhead, but I was unable to identify the majority of them. Upon reaching Santander, we caught a taxi out to the campground at Cabo Mayor, Northeast of the city proper. After setting up camp, we took the short walk out to the lighthouse and the cliffs to take in the scenery. On the rocks below was a Shag, and as we walked, there suddenly appeared at least four Peregrine Falcons that shot up from behind the cliffs, all but two of which sped off and disappeared again in an instant. The two remaining birds gave excellent views as they maneuvered in the wind and flew out over the sea. As we continued around the point, we saw singing Stonechats, a Melodious Warbler, and a Zitting Cisticola conspicuously performing its song-flight. Continuing on to Cabo Menor, the headland directly to the south, we saw a male Black Redstart and a Common Kestrel. We waited out a long, rainy afternoon in a restaurant, but the weather improved in the evening and I spotted a Sparrowhawk overhead before we piled into our tent for the night.
6/29 - We caught another early-morning bus, this time bound for Potes (as we learned, the buses that continue on to Fuente De don't begin until July 1). This was a very scenic ride, and I managed to spot a Hobby along the way. We weren't sure how to proceed from Potes, but learned that our bus actually continued as far as the village of Espinama, a 3.5km walk from Fuente De, so we just bit the bullet and hauled our bags along that stretch of road to the Fuente De campground. Not so bad, really, and there was a Grey Wagtail in Espinama. The campground was an extremely pleasant place, run by a really friendly family with big, calm Samoyed dogs wandering around. The birds in the surrounding woods were more or less the same as the forest birds in Denmark; Jay, Blackbird, Coal Tit, Eurasian Treecreeper, Song Thrush, a Pied Flycatcher, etc. In the evening, though, I looked up towards the cable car station with my binoculars and could see huge Griffon Vultures circling in front of the massive, sheer cliffs that tower up from behind the village.
6/30 - Woke up to spectacular weather and Long-tailed Tits moving about in the trees. We left all our non-essential gear at the campground office and set out for the cable car, not expecting to be back for nine days. As "peak season" (July 1) didn't begin until the next day, the cable car made its first trip at 10:00am, not 9:00am. Foremost in my mind was finding Wallcreeper, and as luck would have it, our route for the day passed by the traditional spot for seeing this species. Well described in other online trip reports and in Rebane & Garcia, the directions to this spot are to head northwest from the upper cable car station along the obvious path for about a kilometer; when the path splits, go left. After another kilometer of walking below tall cliffs, along the base of a scree slope, you reach another junction. This junction is the spot. The Wallcreepers hang out on the rock faces above the trail that branches off to the left, and forage on the surrounding scree slopes. En route to this junction, I spotted a Water Pipit performing its song-flight, Black Redstarts, a Northern Wheatear, and a distant Snowfinch flying away. Despite a constant stream of day-trippers, I managed to find Wallcreepers after ten or fifteen minutes; they showed extremely well here, and I got to watch one bathing in a small trickle of water. Really spectacular birds, and comparisons of their flight to both butterflies and Hoopoes are very apt. A Snowfinch also bathed here. An Alpine Accentor put in an appearance, and Crag Martins flew by as they made trips to what I presume was their nearby nest. Quite a nice spot.
We continued northwest along the trail, in the direction of the Cabana Veronica. At this time of year, much of the trail was still covered with deep snow. We spotted several Pyrenean Chamois high up along a ridge to the south. Stopping for lunch a kilometer or so short of Cabana Veronica (the first time, I think, that it came into full view), we were surrounded by Alpine Choughs. An Alpine Accentor sang some distance away, and I picked up another Wallcreeper foraging amongst the rock rubble below us. Just a couple hundred meters further along, I spotted yet another Wallcreeper. As we continued up past the Cabana Veronica, towards what would be the highest point of our walk at ~2400m, we slogged through lots of snow and saw more Snow Finches. At this high point, the trail drops almost vertically for about 300 meters into a huge glacial basin. This is where we ran into our first difficulties. To descend down this route safely, you need to hold onto a steel cable that's been attached to the rock face; when we reached this point, we found that the cable was totally embedded deep within a snowdrift. After much deliberation along with another walker, we decided that it was simply too dangerous to proceed, and turned back to return to Fuente De (we learned later that there's a rather obscure alternate route that follows the western wall of the basin, so it is possible after all.)
So we bailed out, but it was a nice walk back; I saw two more Wallcreepers on the same cliffs where I'd seen one after lunch. A subadult Short-toed Eagle soared high overhead, and we saw one more Chamois just a kilometer or so away from the cable car station. We caught one of the last carriages down, and camped again at the Fuente De campground in the evening. Despite having to turn back, it was a really amazing day. I was really pleased to have seen so many Wallcreepers; I had five sightings in all, of probably 4 individuals. I found one definite and a second probable nest-hole, and saw a male bringing a bill full of food into the former. I gather that a lot of birders only visit this one particular place when they come to the Picos, and I have to say that this is justified to some extent; it was probably my favorite day of birding in these mountains.
7/1 - It was July 1, so the buses had started running from Fuente De again. We caught the first of these, hoping to reconnect with our circuit at Bulnes. I spotted an overflying Egyptian Vulture on the bus ride, twisting around crazily in my aisle seat to get my binoculars on it. We made it as far as the very touristy town of Potes, but during the course of the day, through sheer stupidity, managed to miss both of the buses that could have taken us onwards. We ended up, therefore, spending the whole day in Potes, but this didn't turn out to be so bad. In the morning, we picked up a walking guide from the tourist information office, and went for a hot stroll through the hills to the north of town. This proved to be an excellent spot for raptors; I saw Short-toed Eagle, a few light-morph Booted Eagles, Common Buzzard, Honey Buzzard, and a Peregrine Falcon. Also Ravens and my first Serins. In the evening, we took a pleasant 2-3 hour walk along a small road, that follows the river running through town, up to the north. Birds seen here included Sparrowhawk, an adult Short-toed Eagle that remained hovering in more or less the same spot for almost the entire duration of our walk, and a Green Woodpecker.
7/2 - Finally managed to catch our bus, first thing in the morning, which took us to Panes; from here, we just made the tight bus connection onwards to Arenas de Cabrales. The plan for the day was to walk south along the Cares Gorge to reach Cain, which would put us back on schedule. We didn't want to shell out for a taxi in Arenas, so we walked the rather busy 6km stretch of road to Puente Poncebos. It was actually very scenic here; the road follows the river, which is excellent for Grey Wagtails and Dippers. The former are common, and the latter perhaps even more so; my far from thorough survey turned up eight individuals along this stretch. The walk from Poncebos to Cain along the Cares Gorge was spectacular, though a bit crowded. The trail climbs almost immediately up away from the river, so that was the last we saw of the river birds for awhile. There was a ceiling of grey clouds high above us, which meant that we couldn't see the highest peaks, but it was very atmospheric. I have to say that the scenery overshadowed the birds, but I saw some good ones: two Rock Buntings, one of which was singing; Alpine Choughs with one Red-billed Chough amongst them; tons of Griffon Vultures and a single subadult Egyptian Vulture; a probable Honey Buzzard, a Short-toed Eagle, and Ravens. Crag Martins were wildly abundant. We descended back down to the river just before reaching Cain, where I saw two more Dippers; with the single bird I'd seen on the bus ride to Panes, this brought the day's total for this species up to 11. In Cain I was quite bummed to find a smashed Fire Salamander, guts and tiny yellow eggs spilled out over the road. I'd really hoped to see this species (alive), but it turned out this was the closest I'd get during our trip.
7/3 - I got up early while Kristina slept, and saw that the weather had improved dramatically; now I could see the high peaks that rose up in all directions around us. I took a slow, three-hour walk up a loop trail that ascended up into the hills northwest of the village. Along the way I saw some new birds for the trip; Garden Warbler, Bonelli's Warbler, Dunnock and Wren. After returning, I set out with Kristina for a stroll along the main road in the direction of Posada de Valdeon. This was a beautiful walk, and the traffic was pretty light as it was still on the early side. There were more Dippers and Grey Wagtails in the river below, and several Nuthatches in the trees. Later that afternoon, I wandered around up in the hills to the east of town, across the river, and found several Stonechats and a singing Rock Bunting as I climbed. Not a terribly exciting day of birding, but Cain was very pleasant. As it was still early in the season, there were very few other tourists around in the evenings. We drank the local cider, played with a sheepdog puppy whose owner often hung out our hotel's restaurant, and enjoyed the tranquility.
7/4 - Woke up to the same ceiling of clouds we'd experienced a couple days before. This time we'd be climbing up into them on our 1200m ascent to the Refugio Vega de Ario. A few more Dippers and Grey Wagtails near Cain as we departed, then we began our climb up through the Canal de Trea gulley. I saw four Rock Buntings in all as we climbed up the side of the gorge, but nothing else too interesting. We passed through some open beech forest on our way up, but I was too involved with the task at hand to do much birding. Soon we were above the treeline and enveloped in thick fog; the climb was pretty grueling, so very few birds were seen. As we closed in on our destination, the scenery changed; suddenly we were surrounded by an array of gorgeous wildflowers covered with droplets of mist. It was a very intimate kind of environment, enshrouded as we were with such thick fog. A couple times we could make out nearby Chamois through the haze. Luckily, someone had done an excellent job way-marking the trail with yellow splashes of paint; otherwise, navigation would've been a nightmare. We were well taken care of at Refugio Vega de Ario; it has recently undergone a change in management, and has new contact info (see below). The fog was still extremely thick up here, but on my few trips outside to go to the bathroom, I managed to see Wheatears (one a male with an odd, conspicuous black patch on its breast), a Water Pipit performing its song-flight, and the only Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush of the trip, a singing male.
7/5 - There was an open patch of blue sky above us when we got up, so we finally got the spectacular views we were after. We headed out from the refuge at 8:30am or so, and had a very nice morning's walk down to the lakes of Covadonga. The clouds enveloped us from time to time on this section, but for the most part we had sunshine. Water Pipit was very common, as was Northern Wheatear, Linnet, and Black Redstart. Both species of Chough were present. After some time, we started meeting hordes of day-trippers coming up from the lakes, which are apparently the biggest tourist attraction in the park. We had a brief but beautiful view of Lago de la Ercina, with Coots and Mallards swimming in its waters, before the clouds closed in for good. We spent the rest of the day enveloped in dense fog. Fortunately, it was a straightforward ~600m ascent to the Refugio de Vegarredonda. Not surprisingly, we didn't see a whole lot of wildlife. We spotted a very bold vole by Lago de Enol, which I had no idea how to identify to species level. Aside from a pair of Common Redstarts, the birds we could see were pretty typical; Robin, Dunnock, Raven, Serin, etc. We had a glorious five minutes of sunshine when we reached the Refugio, and spotted a Chamois before the gloom swallowed us up again. The Refugio offered the unthinkable luxury of hot showers; I thoroughly enjoyed mine until it cut out after five minutes. Stepping back into the icy spray to rinse the soap suds off was like spending fifteen seconds getting hit by lightning. We debated whether we should press on with our route the next day, it being quite a long one with difficult route-finding under good conditions, and ultimately decided that we'd have to bail out if the fog hadn't lifted by tomorrow morning.
7/6 - We woke up, and visibility was zero, so that was that. We walked back down to the lakes, droplets of dew forming on the ends of my eyelashes and every hair on my head. Saw the usual Water Pipits and Black Redstarts on the way down, two Chamois, and a Common Kestrel. The numbers of Red-billed Choughs near the lakes were by far the highest we'd yet seen. Lots of what must have been very unhappy tourists at the lakes, though visibility had improved enough that one could actually see them this time. With no bus service, and big packs and muddy boots precluding hitching, we decided to take a taxi (28 Euros) to Cangas de Onis. Our goal at this point was to make it back to Fuente De for a couple days; there we hoped we could spend another day hiking above the cable car station, and a day hiking in the surrounding beech and oak forest. Upon arriving at the bus station in Cangas de Onis, we saw that we had a six-hour wait ahead of us before we could travel onwards to Panes. I immediately noticed two adult Egyptian Vultures circling low overhead, and surmised that I could use these hours profitably by walking around in the wooded hills that rose up from behind the station. Birding was very slow, though, and my best find was the first Red Squirrel of the trip. There were lots of raptors above the hills around the city, mostly Common Buzzards and Griffon Vultures. Unfortunately, lighting conditions were very poor, and most of the birds were too distant for me to identify confidently. I think I spotted at least one Peregrine Falcon amongst these raptors. Kristina was glad to see me again when I returned, as she'd been being hit on persistently by an aged, toothless war veteran. We finally got out of there and made it Panes, where, later in the evening, we caught yet another bus onwards to Potes, where we spent the night.
7/7 - The weather was still lousy and cold. We caught the first bus to Fuente De, and upon arriving, set up our tent. Kristina's feet were a mess from walking in wet boots for so many days, and she decided to stay at the campground while I headed out to explore the woods. I hoped that I might have a slim chance at seeing Capercaillie; it looked like the best habitat would have been in the Southwestern portion of the park, the part of our route we were now skipping, but it seemed to me that there was enough good forest around Fuente De that seeing them here shouldn't be a total impossibility. I walked down the main road towards Pido, seeing a Red-backed Shrike on the way. I decided to take a track up into the hills that began above Pido. This track is behind an unlocked green gate, and is about half a kilometer east of the track that many people follow down from the cable car station to Espinama. Birding here was quite good. Almost immediately, I flushed a group of at least four Green Woodpeckers from the edge of the track. Coal Tits were common. A couple Great Spotted Woodpeckers disappointed me by not being Middle Spotteds. After half an hour or so of walking, I caught a brief glimpse of two Black Woodpeckers. Walking a little further, I relocated them, but they disappeared quickly again. Upon reaching a small open clearing, I startled a female Roe Deer. The trail gradually became quite faint, but I continued up through the forest until I emerged out from it and into meadows where a few cows were grazing, at the base of some tall cliffs. From here I had a fantastic view out over the valley to the south, and could see an adult Egyptian Vulture wheeling around in the sky. Crag Martins swooped around the meadow, Red-billed Choughs flew around the cliff faces, and a Rock Bunting sang. I hiked up to the base of the cliffs, and sat down for lunch. The most incredible thing about this spot was that Griffon Vultures were constantly soaring just overhead, so close that it was almost unsettling. I scanned the rock faces and scree for Wallcreepers, but this was probably way too low for them. On the way back down to Pido, I found a rather stagnant water trough in the woods that was full of larval newts and tadpoles. Some more birds, too: Pied Flycatcher, Great Tit, and a couple Bonelli's Warblers, but not surprisingly, no Capercaillie. When I got back to Fuente De, I found two Firecrests in the conifers around the lower cable car station. Kristina and I spent the rest of the afternoon chilled to the bone, amazed that we had managed to find a place with colder summers than Denmark, and vowed that we would move on to the coast if the weather wasn't dazzling the next morning.
7/8 - I woke up to the sight of a pair of Bullfinches outside our tent. Outside, I could see that the mountains were totally enshrouded in clouds. That was enough for us. We bundled together all our crap to take on the bus to Santander in search of sunlight. By the time we'd gathered all our luggage at the bus stop, the clouds had vanished entirely, the mountains were gorgeously illuminated by the morning sun, and it was abundantly clear that we'd made a bad decision. So it goes. On the bus ride I saw a Dipper past Potes and a Grey Heron. Santander was grey, but at least it wasn't freezing cold. We took a stroll by the Harbor, and saw Common Terns, Black Kites, and lots of Yellow-legged Gulls.
7/9 - A slow day without much birding; we mostly just enjoyed the first sunny day we'd had in a while and strolled around the city. We did, though, take a midday boat tour of the Bay, on which I thought it might be possible to see European Storm-petrels. I was under the impression that 1.) there was a breeding colony of Storm-petrels on Isla de Mouro, which the boat sails past, and 2.) that at this time of year, the birds come and go constantly as they bring food to their chicks. I was apparently wrong on one or both counts, as we saw nothing but Yellow-legged Gulls. We did see several Sandwich Terns flying around the bay, though, and two or three Lesser Black-backed Gulls perched on sandbars. We later spotted Sandwich Terns from land, too.
7/10 - Another day in Santander. I got up early to walk out to a site that's mentioned in Rebane & Garcia (who assume you'll drive there), a marshy area by the airport called the Marismas de Parayas. This was not so easy as it appeared, however. After an hour of walking south, I gradually became totally surrounded by a snarl of impassable multi-lane roads. It was impossible to proceed any farther, and I had to give up and turn back. It's probably an exercise in futility to try to reach this site by foot, but if you feel like giving it a go, I would recommend trying to stick to the eastern side of the S-10; the western side is no good.
Kristina and I headed out to Cabo Mayor, where we had a nice lunch at a restaurant near the lighthouse. Barn Swallows swooped around overhead as we ate calamari in the sunshine, and we had good looks at a Peregrine Falcon which appeared from behind the cliffs. After lunch, we took a pretty walk west along the cliffs for a couple kilometers, seeing a light-morph Booted Eagle, a couple Ravens, a Common Kestrel, etc. After a while, we came upon a lot of "Danger" signs, but a local fellow walking his dogs told us that it's perfectly safe to walk there, regardless.
7/11 - We left Santander on the 8:00am bus to Madrid, taking a slightly different route than we'd come, via the city of Burgos. Birding on the six-hour bus trip was quite decent; after leaving Burgos, I saw a total of five Griffon Vultures, lots of White Storks (many nesting), a Bee-eater or two, a Short-toed Eagle, and, shortly before we reached Madrid, a Red Kite. From Madrid, we continued south to Ciudad Real by high-speed train.
A few weeks earlier, before we'd left for Spain, I'd posted on an internet message board asking for advice on seeing bustards and sandgrouse on our way south from the Picos. We got a reply from a guy named Vicente who not only provided us details for finding these species in the area that he lived in La Mancha, but offered to take us around and show them to us himself. And that is how we found ourselves in Ciudad Real.
Vicente, and his girlfriend Estefania, whom we met later that evening, turned out to be really friendly people, great hosts, and excellent birders. Estefania is an especially amazing spotter, as well as a masterful maker of picnic lunches. Vicente spoke better English than ninety-nine percent of Spaniards we met, and was very knowledgeable about the region's cultural and natural history, so we got a very thorough introduction to his home city of Almagro and the Ciudad Real region. He had recommended to us that we stay in Almagro instead of Ciudad Real city, and this turned out to be good advice; Almagro is a very charming old city, whereas Ciudad Real is pretty modern and unattractive. We stayed at a pleasant campground (which has a rather surreal website, here: www.campinglosarenales.com) just outside Almagro, that cooled off enough in the night time to be very comfortable for tenting, despite daytime temperatures of nearly 40 degrees centigrade. They had a pool, which was a godsend.
Vicente and Estefania had put together a very full itinerary for the next day and a half, and we began almost right away. While driving through Almagro, Vicente pointed out a Lesser Kestrel near a stone tower, where I gather a colony is based. After setting up our tent, we all headed out to a small wetland area called Vicario Reservoir for the evening. We birded from the car en route as we drove through open, grassy fields. Here we had Red-legged Partridge (a very common species here) with chicks, Little Bustard (three adults in all, one of which was accompanied by two large chicks), several meridionalis Great Grey Shrikes, juvenile Woodchat Shrikes, and Marsh Harrier. Vicario Reservoir was teeming with birds. The Ciudad Real area has been throughly drained of water by agriculture, so the few remaining wet spots attract tons of wildlife. Apparently, one can see all of the regularly-occurring European herons here, with the possible exception of Great Bittern. On our visit, there was Cattle Egret (abundant), Little Egret, Grey Heron, Purple Heron, Squacco Heron, Black-crowned Night Heron, and Little Bittern (several sightings of at very least two individuals). Whiskered Terns foraged near the far shore, and a Water Rail made a brief appearance out in the open. A perched juvenile Collared Pratincole provided me with my first very sighting of a Glareolid, and we saw several more adults during the course of the evening. Estefania brought my attention to three overflying Pin-tailed Sandgrouse, my first time seeing birds from this order. Spanish Sparrow was yet another lifer. Black-winged Stilts, Common Sandpipers, Great Crested Grebes, Coots and a profusion of Mallards rounded out the picture. While my attention was elsewhere, I missed a distant flying flock of four Eurasian Spoonbills that the others spotted, apparently a very unusual site for this place at this time of year.
At 10:00 or so, when it began to get dark, we headed over to a blind to try our luck at finding Otters, which are seen here from time to time. After half an hour or so we hadn't managed to spot anything, and there was almost no sunlight left. Then Vicente noticed that something was causing the resting mallards to disperse slowly across the water; it was an Otter. It surfaced briefly several times as it moved gradually closer to us, before disappearing from view for good behind some reeds. That was the end of our birding day, and we spent the rest of the evening eating and drinking in Almagro, which was packed with people attending a theatre festival.
7/12 - After a quick few hours of sleep, we got up at 6:30am to try to catch Great Bustards out in the open before they retreated out of sight into the shade. In the minutes before Vicente and Estefania picked us up, I found the first of the several Stone-curlews we'd see during the day, and Red-legged Partridge in the field in front of our campground. And then we were off, driving along the back roads that cross the steppe outside Ciudad Real. Our first stops yielded no Great Bustards, but we did see lots of Rabbits, Hare, Corn Bunting, and Crested Lark (very common). Pin-tailed Grouse were audible. Driving again, we saw a juvenile Black-eared Wheatear and Spanish Sparrow. Another stop, this time with a distant flying Pin-tailed Sandgrouse. Vicente explained that Pin-taileds were the only sandgrouse we were likely to see, as Black-bellied Sandgrouse tend to keep to the hills in the summertime. As we drove on, a female Little Bustard flew overhead. One more stop, and this was where the Great Bustards were. One bird was up to our left, in good scoping range, with a Little Owl and meridionalis Great Grey Shrikes close by. A group of ten more birds roamed a hillside up ahead of us, and we drove onwards in that direction for better views, which we duly obtained. After some time, the bustards flew off, quite an impressive sight. One more Great Bustard further down the road took flight as we drove past, looking absolutely huge as it propelled itself through the air with heavy wing beats.
Our next destination was Las Tablas de Daimiel, once a massive water body at the confluence of two rivers, but now a mere shadow of its former self due to agricultural draining. More good birds were seen on the short drive to the park; a low-overflying Pin-tailed Sandgrouse, an adult male Montagu's Harrier, several Hoopoe, two Rollers, a large nesting colony of White Storks, a Black Kite, and plenty of Bee-eaters. A flock of four Pin-tailed Sandgrouse landed nearby in a field, and I finally got the good views of this species I'd been hoping for. By now, the mid-day heat was pounding down, but the birding at Las Tablas de Daimiel was excellent nonetheless. Stonechat and Black-winged Stilt were abundant. Estefania and I simultaneously spotted a Penduline Tit clambering around in the reeds, which is apparently very uncommon here. Vicente got the scope on a beautiful Moustached Warbler. A little ways further along the boardwalk loop, we found six female Red-crested Pochards with nine ducklings. Here we also saw a few sunning European Pond Terrapins, with a single introduced Red-eared Terrapin amongst them. A well-hidden Little Grebe could be seen by its nest, concealed in the reeds. Further on, a small pool of water had attracted at least forty resting Collared Pratincoles and nearly so many Northern Lapwings. We tolerated the heat long enough to find an eclipse-plumaged male Red-crested Pochard, and for Estafania to pick out one more very inconspicuous bird from the reeds; a striking male Bearded Reedling. A visit to the park's avian rehabilitation center (mostly for ducks) wasn't terribly exciting, as most of the birds were out of sight, hiding in the shade. Under better conditions, one can see some of Spain's rarest ducks recuperating here; White-headed, Marbled, Ferruginous, etc. We drove to a cool, shady spot just outside the park, and ate a delicious picnic lunch, spotting Rollers and Red-rumped Swallows as we ate.
We had one more site to visit before taking a break for the afternoon, called Lago Navaseca, where we hoped to see White-headed Ducks. Vicente had heard that there had been an outbreak of harmful bacteria here, so we were not sure what we'd find. We arrived to this small, out-of-the-way lake, and were met with a staggering number of birds. From our vantage point, I counted 21 weird, gorgeous white headed ducks. Adult males with grotesquely swollen, bright blue bills, females, juveniles and even a black-headed variant, first-summer male. I counted 37 Flamingos. Black-headed gulls were abundant; grebes, including breeding-plumaged Black-necked Grebes, were easy to see, and we found a single Purple Swamp-hen. A short drive around the perimeter revealed Little Ringed Plover, Green Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, and a Wood Sandpiper. The sun was beating down mercilessly, though, and we were all pretty exhausted so we left this amazing spot to go take a siesta.
After a nice, cold swim and a rest in the grass that we spent battling ants, we met our hosts at 7:00pm and drove out to see Calatrava Castle, which was built in the 1200's, if memory serves correctly. On the way, we passed a lake that is used as a staging area by White Storks. We didn't count, but there were many hundreds of them present, maybe as many as a thousand. The castle was a pretty impressive place, and its location atop a large hill made for excellent views. It was also good habitat for mountain birds; Black Wheatears were common here, we saw three Rock Buntings, and Blue Rock Thrush can normally be seen, though Vicente was the only one to spot one rather distant bird on this occasion.
We spent a good couple hours here, leaving at 9:00pm for the hills around Almagro, which are apparently full of large birds of prey. We first stopped at the base of a tall rock face which contained three Golden Eagle nests. One juvenile was present, and as we watched a second appeared, and then an adult. A Golden Oriole and Turtle Doves sang in the background (the latter of which we managed to see). Driving down the track from here, Estefania spotted two Eagle Owls on the cliffs, and we piled out of the car for excellent scope views. It was getting quite dark by now, and this was a good spot to try for Red-necked Nightjar. A trip down the long, dirt road from the hills failed to produce any, but we did flush a Little Owl from the highway on the drive home.
7/13 - After a little birding around the campground in the morning (the highlight of which was a Stone-curlew), Vicente and Estefania graciously gave us a ride to the train station, and that was the end of our excellent trip to La Mancha. From here we returned to Madrid, where we took a little break from looking at birds.
7/14 - A day without birding. The common city birds of Madrid that you can see without any effort are House Sparrow, Feral Pigeon, Wood Pigeon, Common Swift, Magpie, and Blackbird. Stock Doves are also quite easy to see and are relatively tame.
7/15 - Another day without any real birding, but we did walk past the Campo del Moro, which held a few birds, on our way to San Antonio de la Florida (a pretty great place). Here we saw Stock Doves, one Green and a couple Great Spotted Woodpeckers, and White Wagtails.
7/16 - I got up at dawn to visit a site on the southern outskirts of the city called Laguna de El Campillo ; this is mentioned in Rebane & Garcia (as Parque Regional del Sureste), and is explained in some detail, along with good walking directions, here: (http://www.aba.org/birding/v38n2p38.pdf). It consists of some cliffs and a large lake, which has a 4km trail running around it. It took a good hour and a half to get out here by public transport from downtown Madrid, but was not a bad spot. I had two and a half hours to explore the cliffs and to circumnavigate the lake, which left me feeling a little rushed. I saw about thirty species, mostly common ones, but not the Golden Oriole nor Rock Sparrow I was hoping for. Some of the highlights were large numbers of Stock Dove, abundant Rabbits, Black Kite, Melodious Warbler, Long-tailed Tit, Black Redstart, Bee-eater, Red-rumped Swallow, and a juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron. White Storks were abundant near the Rivas de Vaciamadrid metro stop, and I saw about fifty of them swirling around in a thermal. This was the first site where I saw Tree Sparrows, and there were a couple interesting warblers that I couldn't quite identify. The first of these, a probable female Sardinian Warbler, disappeared for good when a jogger tore past. It was rather surprising how many bicyclists and joggers were out there so early on a weekday.
In the afternoon, my beloved Kristina indulged me and we took a cable car ride in the Casa de Campo for a bit of afternoon birding in the baking sun. I was hoping to see Azure-winged Magpie here, which didn't happen, but it was still quite a good time. We walked pretty much due west from the upper cable car station, and things were pretty slow at first. Then, on going to investigate some birdsong, I flushed a Little Owl from its roost. It paused on a branch in front of me, wide-eyed and bobbing up and down, before flying onwards. Hoopoes were quite common here, and once we reached some pines deeper in the forest I saw a Woodchat Shrike, and Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers. While I was a little ways off looking at the shrike, some dude hanging out amongst the trees had been beckoning creepily to Kristina. Lurking nutjobs in the woods on top of the ungodly heat was a bit too much, so we headed back to the station, seeing another Little Owl on the way. There is a shady little stand of pines in front of the cable car station, which is a good place to drink a slushee, and while I was lying on my back on the grass, doing exactly that, a Crested Tit appeared above me, a nice sighting to end the day with.
7/17 - Went directly from our hotel room to the airport, and flew home to Copenhagen.
SOME ADVICE FOR TRAVELLING IN THE PICOS DE EUROPA
High Season in the North of Spain - The high season here doesn't begin until July 1. That means, among other things, that bus routes are severely curtailed before that date. The cable car at Fuente De starts running an hour earlier on (9:00am instead of 10:00am), and continues running later in the evening. The bus out to Cabo Mayor in Santander doesn't start running until the 1st, either.
Buses - Relying on public transportation to get around the Picos was extremely frustrating, and I imagine it would be next to impossible before July 1. Buses leave very infrequently, and catching them requires a lot of waiting around, as they can easily arrive a half hour on either side of the scheduled time. The schedules are designed so that locals can make quick connections between buses. For the tourist, this sometimes means that you have a ten-minute window to find an unmarked bus stop in another part of town if you want to make your connection. It's best to ask a local as soon as you step off the bus.
Weather - We had terrible weather on the western massif, and apparently that's to be expected there.TheFuente De area is apparently in a rain shadow, and tends to have better weather than many of the surrounding areas.
Refuges - We made reservations for every night of our walking tour, and this turned out to have been a quite unnecessary thing to do in early July. We were the only guests at Refugio Vega de Ario, and there were only three besides us at Refugio de Vegarredonda. The campground at Fuente De had plenty of space, and there seemed to be plenty of empty rooms in the hostels we stayed at. And the fact that the weather is so unpredictable makes it seem inevitable that a long hike like ours would get disrupted at some point. That said, we did hear that the very big Refugio de Vegarredonda ran out of beds the weekend before our visit, so it might pay to have reservations for Friday and Saturday nights, even early in the season.
Refugio Vega de Ario - This refuge is under new management by a friendly young couple who just had a baby. There are two telephone numbers for the refuge that you'll find listed if you look, but both of these are for old care-takers (one of whom is slightly loony old man who will angrily berate you in Spanish if you call). They've actually got functional internet up there now, and the best way to contact them is via email at email@example.com. This is one place where you should book ahead, as it's very tough for them to get food up there, among other reasons. The woman can speak English.
Raptors - Aside from the alpine species, I think raptors are the most interesting bird group here. I am not an expert at raptor identification, and I found it frustrating to have to let a lot of birds go unidentified. The problem is that a great many raptors are seen at a great distance and are silhouetted against the sky.Knowledge of plumage details was not helpful in these cases, and it was often extremely difficult to judge size. I'm sure that a knowledge of more subtle field characteristics like wing beat patterns and gliding postures would be really useful here.
SPECIES LIST (following Birds of Europe by Mullarney et al.)
Black-necked Grebe / Podiceps nigricollis - quite numerous at Lago Navaseca on 7/12
Little Grebe / Tachybaptus ruficollis - common at Lago Navaseca, also seen at Las Tablas de Daimiel on 7/12
Great Crested Grebe / Podiceps cristatus - a few at Vicario Reservoir on 7/11
European Shag / Phalacrocorax aristotelis - fairly common along the coast in Santander
Little Bittern / Ixobrychus minutus - several sightings of at very least 2 individuals at Vicario Reservoir on 7/11
Black-crowned Night Heron / Nycticorax nycticorax - common at Vicario Reservoir (7/11), 1 juv. at Laguna de El Campillo on 7/16
Cattle Egret / Bubulcus ibis - common in the Ciudad Real area, especially abundant at Vicario Reservoir on 7/11
Squacco Heron / Ardeola ralloides - several at Vicario Reservoir on 7/11
Little Egret / Egretta garzetta - common at wetland sites in the Ciudad Real area
Grey Heron / Ardea cinerea - seen rather sporadically throughout
Purple Heron / Ardea purpurea - common at Vicario Reservoir on 7/11
White Stork / Ciconia ciconia - common to abundant everywhere except the Picos.
Greater Flamingo / Phoenicopterus ruber - counted 37 at Lago Navaseca on 7/12
Greylag Goose / Anser anser - 2 at Las Tablas de Daimiel and 2 at Lago Navaseca, both on 7/12. i think these were probably birds from the rehabilitation center at Las Tablas de Daimiel
Mallard / Anas platyrhynchos - common throughout, except in the mountains, where there were just a few on Lago de la Ercina on 7/5. most abundant at Vicario Reservoir on 7/11
Red-crested Pochard / Netta rufina - 6 fems. w/ 9 ducklings, and 1 eclipse-plumaged male at Las Tablas de Daimiel on 7/12
White-headed Duck / Oxyura leucocephala - a minimum of 21 at Lago Navaseca on 7/12
Eurasian Griffon Vulture / Gyps fulvus - very common in the Picos, also seen on the busride from Santander to Madrid
Egyptian Vulture / Neophron percnopterus - 1 between Fuente De and Potes on 7/1, 1 in Cares Gorge on 7/2, 2 in Cangas de Onis on 7/6, 1 above Pido on 7/7
Golden Eagle / Aquila chrysaetos - 3 in the hills near Almagro on 7/12
Short-toed Eagle / Circaetus gallicus - seen pretty regularly in the Picos, most notably in Potes (7/1). another on the bus ride from Santander to Madrid
Booted Eagle / Hieraaetus pennatus - several in Potes (7/1); a single bird near the cliffs west of Cabo Mayor in Santander on 7/10
Red Kite / Milvus milvus - 1 on the bus ride from Santander to Madrid (7/11), pretty close to Madrid
Black Kite / Milvus migrans - not seen in the high mountains, and only 1 in the Ciudad Real area, but common everywhere else
Marsh Harrier / Circus aeruginosus - common in the Ciudad Real area
Montagu's Harrier / Circus pygargus - 1 ad. male over the steppe outside Ciudad Real on 7/12
Common Buzzard / Buteo buteo - common in the Picos, often seen perched by roadsides.
European Honey Buzzard / Pernis aviporus - 1 definite sighting in Potes on 7/1, a probable sighting in Cares Gorge on 7/2
Eurasian Sparrowhawk / Accipiter nisus - 1 in Santander on 6/28, 1 in Potes on 7/71
Common Kestrel / Falco tinnunculus - several in the Picos. doubtless many in the Ciudad Real area, but tough to distinguish from Lesser Kestrel
Lesser Kestrel / Falco naumanni - one in Almagro in 7/11; lots of kestrels in the Ciudad Real area, and this species is more common than Common Kestrel there, but most birds were rather distant and couldn't be identified with 100% certainty.
Eurasian Hobby / Falco subbuteo - 1 on the bus ride from Santander to Potes on 6/29, a couple more probable sightings in the Picos
Peregrine Falcon / Falco peregrinus - at least 4 at Cabo Mayor in Santander on 6/28 (plus another on 7/10), 1 in Potes on 7/1, and a few proabable sightings in the Picos
Red-legged Partridge / Alectoris rufa - common in the Ciudad Real area
Water Rail / Rallus aquaticus - 1 at Vicario Reservoir on 7/11
Common Moorhen / Gallinula chloropus - common at wetland sites around Ciudad Real, also at Laguna de El Campillo on 7/16
Eurasian Coot / Fulica atra - seen at wetland sites around Ciudad Real, plus a few at Lago de la Ercina on 7/5
Purple Swamp-hen / Porphyrio porphyrio - 1 at Lago Navaseca on 7/12
Great Bustard / Otis tarda - two solitary birds and a group of 10 on the steppe outside Ciudad Real on 7/12
Little Bustard / Tetrax tetrax - fairly common in the Ciudad Real area
Black-winged Stilt / Himantopus himantopus - common at wetland sites in the Ciudad Real area
Stone-curlew / Burhinus oedicnemus - fairly common in the Ciudad Real area
Collared Pratincole / Glareola pratincola - common at wetland sites in the Ciudad Real area. highest concentrations at Las Tablas de Daimiel on 7/12
Little Ringed Plover / Charadrius dubius - several at Lago Navaseca on 7/12
Northern Lapwing / Vanellus vanellus - common at wetland sites in the Ciudad Real area
Wood Sandpiper / Tringa glareola - 1 at Lago Navaseca on 7/12
Green Sandpiper / Tringa ochropus - common at Lago Navaseca on 7/12
Common Sandpiper / Actitis hypoleucos - a few at Lago Navaseca on 7/12
Black-tailed Godwit / Limosa limosa - at least 4 at Lago Navaseca on 7/12
Black-headed Gull / Larus ridibundus - several seen in the north, especially Santander; abundant at at Lago Navaseca on 7/12
Yellow-legged Gull / Larus cachinnans - a few imediately to the north and east of the Picos; abundant in Santander
Lesser Black-backed Gull / Larus fuscus - 2-3 seen from the boat on the tour of the bay in Santander on 7/9
Sandwich Tern / Sterna sandvicensis - a few seen from the boat on the tour of the bay in Santander on 7/9, a few more from shore
Common Tern / Sterna hirundo - common in Santander
Whiskered Tern / Chlidonias hybridus - several at Vicario Reservoir on 7/11
Pin-tailed Sandgrouse / Pterocles alchata - fairly common in the Ciudad Real area
Feral Pigeon / Columba livia - common throughout; very high numbers in the Ciudad Real area. i was hoping to see wild Rock Doves on the cliffs of Santander or in the mountains, but had no luck
Stock Dove / Columba oenas - common in Madrid
Common Wood Pigeon / Columba palumbus - common throughout
Eurasian Collared Dove / Streptopelia decaocto - absent from the high mountains, otherwise fairly common throughout
European Turtle Dove / Streptopelia turtur - 1 seen at the Golden Eagle site, in the hills near Almagro on 7/12
Eurasian Eagle Owl / Bubo bubo - 2 in the hills near Almagro on 7/12
Little Owl / Athene noctua - 1 on the steppe outside Ciudad Real (7/12), 1 on the highway near Almagro (7/12), a couple more in Casa de Campo in Madrid on 7/16
Common Swift / Apus apus - abundant throughout, except for high altitudes
Eurasian Hoopoe / Upupa epops - fairly common in the Ciudad Real area, common at Casa de Campo in Madrid (7/16)
European Bee-eater / Merops apiaster - common south of the Picos
European Roller / Coracias garrulus - 4 seen singly in the general vicinity of Las Tablas de Daimiel on 7/12
Black Woodpecker / Dryocopus martius - 2 seen from the trail above Pido on 7/7
European Green Woodpecker / Picus viridis - 1 in Potes on 7/1, at least four on the trail above Pido on 7/7, 1 at Campo del Moro in Madrid on 7/15, 1 at Casa de Campo on 7/16
Great Spotted Woodpecker / Dendrocopos major - 2 on the trail above Pido on 7/7, 2 at Campo del Moro in Madrid on 7/15, 1 at Casa de Campo on 7/16
Crested Lark / Galerida cristata - very common in the Ciudad Real area
Sand Martin / Riparia riparia - seen at Las Tablas de Daimiel on 7/12; common at Laguna de El Campillo on 7/16
Eurasian Crag Martin / Ptyonoprogne rupestris - common in places in Picos de Europa; abundant in Cares Gorge. common at Calatrava Castle (7/12)
Barn Swallow / Hirundo rustica - common throughout
Red-rumped Swallow / Hirundo daurica - seen at Las Tablas de Daimiel on 7/12; three at Laguna de El Campillo on 7/16
Common House Martin / Delichon urbica - common throughout
Water Pipit / Anthus spinoletta - common in appropriate habitat in the Picos; seen on 6/30, 7/4, 7/5, and 7/6
White Wagtail / Motacilla alba - common throughout
Grey Wagtail / Motacilla cinerea - common in appropriate river habitat in the Picos, such as Cares River. high numbers seen on 7/2
Winter Wren / Troglodytes troglodytes - fairly common in the Picos
White-throated Dipper / Cinclus cinclus - common in appropriate river habitat in the Picos, such as Cares River, where 10 were seen on 7/2.
Dunnock / Prunella modularis - fairly common in the Picos
Alpine Accentor / Prunella collaris - three or so seen while walking from the cable car station above Fuente De to Torre de Horcados Rojos on 6/30
European Robin / Erithacus rubecula - common in forested areas of Picos de Europa; many juvs.
Common Redstart / Phoenicurus phoenicurus - a pair spotted on the way up to Refugio de Vegarredonda from the lakes of Covadonga on 7/5
Black Redstart / Phoenicurus ochruros - common everywhere except for the Ciudad Real area, where I didn't see any; even spotted in Madrid (at Laguna de El Campillo on 7/16)
Northern Wheatear / Oenanthe oenanthe - common in appropriate alpine habitat in Picos de Europa; seen on 6/30, 7/4, and 7/5.
Black-eared Wheatear / Oenanthe hispanica - one juv. on the steppe outside Ciudad Real on 7/12
Black Wheatear / Oenanthe leucura - common (half a dozen or so) at Calatrava Castle on 7/12
Common Stonechat / Saxicola torquata - groups of several birds at Cabo Mayor on 6/28 and in the hills to the east of Cain on 7/3. abundant at Las Tablas de Daimiel on 7/12
Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush / Monticola saxatilis - 1 outside Refugio Vega de Ario on 7/4
Song Thrush / Turdus philomelos - quite common in the Picos
Common Blackbird / Turdus merula - common throughout
Garden Warbler / Sylvia borin - 1 on the loop trail that ascends into the hills to the northwest of Cain, on 7/3
Blackcap / Sylvia atricapilla - common in the Picos
Moustached Warbler / Acrocephalus melanopogon - 1 at Las Tablas de Daimiel on 7/12
Zitting Cisticola / Cisticola juncidis - 1 performing its song-flight at Cabo Mayor in Santander on 6/28
Melodious Warbler / Hippolais polyglotta - 1 at Cabo Mayor in Santander on 6/28, another at Laguna de El Campillo on 7/16
Bonelli's Warbler / Phylloscopus bonelli - a few on the loop trail into the hills to the northwest of Cain, on 7/3, and 2 near the base of the trail above Pido (7/7)
Firecrest / Regulus ignicapillus - 2 in the conifers around the lower cable car station at Fuente De on 7/7
Spotted Flycatcher / Muscicapa striata - common at relatively low altitudes in the Picos
European Pied Flycatcher / Ficedula hypoleuca - 1 at Fuente De on 6/29, another at the top of the trail above Pido on 7/7
Great Tit / Parus major - common in woodland habitat in the Picos; a recently deceased juvenile near the top of the Canal de Trea on 7/4. 1 at Calatrava Castle on 7/12
Coal Tit / Parus ater - common in the forest around Fuente De and Pido
Blue Tit / Parus caeruleus - common throughout
Crested Tit / Parus cristatus - one in the pines around the upper cable car station in Casa de Campo (7/16)
Long-tailed Tit / Aegithalos caudatus - fairly common in wooded habitat in the Picos, especially around Fuente De. a group of 3 or so at Laguna de El Campillo on 7/16
Bearded Reedling / Panurus biarmicus - 1 at Las Tablas de Daimiel on 7/12
Eurasian Penduline Tit / Remiz pendulinus - 1 at Las Tablas de Daimiel on 7/12
Eurasian Nuthatch / Sitta europaea - common in woodland habitat in the Picos, especially around Pido
Wallcreeper / Tichodroma muraria - 5 different sightings of probably 4 individuals while walking from the cable car station above Fuente De to Torre de Horcados Rojos (and back) on 6/30
Eurasian Treecreeper / Certhia familiaris - 1 near the Fuente De campground on 6/29; another disheveled and silent treecreeper seen on the trail above Pido on 7/7 could've been this species or Short-toed Treecreeper
Red-backed Shrike / Lanius collurio - 1 beside the main road from Fuente De to Pido on 7/7
Woodchat Shrike / Lanius senator - common in the Ciudad Real area (many juvs.); 1 in Casa de Campo on 7/16
Great Grey Shrike / Lanius excubitor - quite common in the Ciudad Real area
Common Magpie / Pica pica - common throughout
Eurasian Jay / Garrulus glandarius - common in the Picos
Western Jackdaw / Corvus monedula - first seen in Burgos (7/11); common in the Ciudad Real area and at Laguna de El Campillo on 7/16
Red-billed Chough / Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax - common in the Picos (highest numbers near Lago de Enol on 7/6). seen as high as ~1400m
Alpine Chough / Pyrrhocorax graculus - common and fearless in the Picos. seen as low as ~500m
Carrion Crow / Corvus corone - seen commonly in areas north of Madrid
Common Raven / Corvus corax - fairly common in the Picos; 2 just west of Cabo Mayor on 7/10
Spotless Starling / Sturnus unicolor - not seen in the Picos, but abundant elsewhere
House Sparrow / Passer domesticus - very common throughout
Spanish Sparrow / Passer hispaniolensis - a group of 4 at Vicario Reservoir on 7/11, another group in the steppe outside Ciudad Real on 7/12. i think that, if i had given it more attention, i would have found many more of this species at these sites.
Eurasian Tree Sparrow / Passer montanus - seen only at Laguna de El Campillo and Casa de Campo in Madrid on 7/16, where they were common
White-winged Snowfinch / Montifringilla nivalis - half a dozen or so seen while walking from the cable car station above Fuente De to Torre de Horcados Rojos on 6/30
Common Chaffinch / Fringilla coelebs - very common in the Picos
Common Linnet / Carduelis cannabina - common on the trail between Refugio Vega de Ario and Refugio de Vegarredonda on 7/5 and 7/6. a single male at the campground at Almagro on 7/13
European Goldfinch / Carduelis carduelis - common throughout
European Greenfinch / Carduelis chloris - seen sporadically and and in low numbers throughout
European Serin / Serinus serinus - common throughout, except the Ciudad Real area, where not noted
Eurasian Bullfinch / Pyrrhula pyrrhula - 2 at the Fuente De campground on the morning of 7/8
Common Reed Bunting / Emberiza schoeniclus - 1 at Las Tablas de Daimiel on 7/12
Corn Bunting / Miliaria calandra - 1 in the steppe outside Ciudad Real and 1 at Lago Navaseca on 7/12
Rock Bunting / Emberiza cia - 2 in Cares Gorge on 7/2, 1 in the hills east of Cain on 7/3, 4 along the Canal de Trea on 7/4, one at the base of the cliffs at the top of the trail above Pido on 7/7, 3 at Calatrava Castle on 7/12
MAMMALS (following Mammals of Europe by MacDonald and Barrett)
Mole sp. - 1 fairly recently deceased individual near the base of the trail above Pido on 7/7
Bat spp. - at least 2 different species at Vicario Reservoir on 7/11
Red Fox / Vulpes vulpes - 1 roadkilled individual on the bus ride from Cangas de Onis to Panes on 7/6
Otter / Lutra lutra - 1 at Vicario Reservoir on 7/11
Roe Deer / Capreolus capreolus - 1 female along the trail above Pido on 7/7
Chamois / Rupicapra rupicapra - 4-6 seen from near the traditional Wallcreeper site, 1 more a bit closer to the upper cable car station on 6/30; a few near Refugio Vega de Ario on 7/4; 1 near Refugio de Vegarredonda on 7/5; 2 on along the path from Refugio de Vegarredonda to the lakes of Covadonga on 7/6
Wild Boar / Sus scrofa - lots of tracks at Las Tablas de Daimiel on 7/12, where they apparently fairly easy to see in the evening
Red Squirrel / Sciurus vulgaris - 1 in the hills above the Cangas de Onis bus station on 7/6
Brown Hare / Lepus europaeus - i must admit that I'm a bit confused regarding the identification of the hares that were common in the Ciudad Real area. MacDonald and Barret indicate that there's only one species of hare in Spain, Lepus europaeus, and that it's confined to the far north. Vicente calls the hares we saw here Iberian Hare (Lepus granatensis).
Vole sp. - 1 near the shore of Lago de Enol on 7/5
Rabbit / Oryctolagus cuniculus - abundant in the Ciudad Real area and at Laguna de El Campillo on 7/16
REPTILES & AMPHIBIANS
We saw several species of reptiles and amphibians on this trip. In the Picos, small lacertas (of which species, I'm not sure), were common. Larval caudates and tadpoles could be seen in some water troughs. I kept an eye out for Fire Salamander (Salamandra salamandra) as we walked, and we had some foggy, drizzly days where I figured conditions would be perfect for them to be out and about, but I never saw a live one. The closest I got was a freshly-smashed individual in Cain. We saw several European Pond Terrapins (Emys orbicularis) and one Red-eared Terrapin (Trachemys scripta) at Las Tablas de Daimiel on 7/12, and one more of the latter at Laguna de El Campillo on 7/16. We found an Ocellated Lizard (Lacerta lepida) by the swimming pool at the campground at Almagro on 7/12.