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  • Photograph of Lammergeier

    The huge Lammergeier by Jon Hornbuckle.

    NORTHERN SPAIN

    Best Wildlife in Northern Spain

    Mammals
    (Pyrenean) Chamois and Alpine Marmot (reintroduced). Also a chance of Wild Cat.

    Birds
    The lists below are for the northern spring and summer unless otherwise indicated.

    Specialities
    Lammergeier, Black-bellied and Pin-tailed Sandgrouse, Dupont’s Lark, Wallcreeper, Black Wheatear, Spotless Starling, Citril Finch and (White-winged) Snowfinch. Also a chance of Black-shouldered Kite, and Great and Little Bustards.

    Others
    White Stork, Egyptian and (Eurasian) Griffon Vultures, Red Kite, Booted, Golden and Short-toed Eagles, Lesser Kestrel, Common Crane (mostly Nov-Feb), Great Spotted Cuckoo, Alpine Swift, Golden (European) Bee-eater, Hoopoe, Iberian (Southern) Grey, Red-backed and Woodchat Shrikes, (Eurasian) Golden Oriole, Alpine and Red-billed Choughs, Calandra, Lesser Short-toed and Thekla Larks, (Eurasian) Crag Martin, Crested and (Eurasian) Penduline Tits, (White-throated) Dipper, Firecrest, Iberian Chiffchaff, (Western) Bonelli’s, Dartford, (Western) Orphean, Sardinian, Spectacled and Subalpine Warblers, (Western) Black-eared Wheatear, Blue and Rufous-tailed Rock Thrushes, Alpine Accentor, Rock Bunting and Rock Sparrow. Also a chance of (Eurasian) Eagle Owl, (European) Roller, and Black and even White-backed (lilfordi) Woodpeckers.

    Invertebrates
    The Pyrenees supports one of the highest diversities of butterflies and moths in Europe, including Apollo, Clouded Apollo, a great diversity of blues and fritillaries, Spanish Moon Moth and Giant Peacock. During mid-July it is possible to see 120 species of butterfly in a week.

    Plants
    The rich flora of the Pyrenees includes many orchids.

    Best Sites for Wildlife in Northern Spain

    Best Times for Wildlife in Northern Spain

    The peak time to visit Laguna de Gallocanta for cranes is usually late February when the greatest numbers are normally present – between 20,000 and 50,000, prior to their northbound migration over the Pyrenees to their breeding grounds in northern Europe. This is also a good time to look for wintering Wallcreepers in the Sierra de Guara. The best time for butterflies and flowers in the Pyrenees is mid-June to the end of July, which is also a good time for birds although mid-May to mid-June is usually the peak time for birds during the summer.

    Recommended Books etc. for Northern Spain

    Collins Bird Guide by L Svensson et al. Collins, 2010 (Second Edition).

    Birds of Europe by L Jonsson. Helm, 1999.

    Where To Watch Birds In The Western Spanish Pyrenees by G Critchell. G Critchell, 2012.

    Finding Birds in North Spain by D Gosney. Easybirder, 2010 (book and/or DVD).

    Where to watch Birds in Northern and Eastern Spain by E Garcia and M Rebane. Helm, 2008 (Second Edition).

    Where to watch Birds in Spain by J A Montero and SEO/Birdlife. Lynx Edicions, 2006.

    A Birdwatching Guide to the Pyrenees by J Crozier. Arlequin Press, 1998 (2001 Reprint).

    Collins Butterfly Guide by T Tolman and R Lewington. Collins, 2009 (Third Edition).

    Butterflies of Britain and Europe: A Photographic Guide by H Aarnio et al. A & C Black Publishers, 2009.

    Wild Flowers of the Mediterranean by M Blamey and C Grey-Wilson. A & C Black, 2004.

    Mammals of Europe, North Africa and the Middle East by S Aulagnier et al. Helm, 2009.

    Mammals of Britain and Europe by D McDonald and P Barrett. Collins, 2005.


    Apps etc.

    Collins Bird Guide.

    Where to watch birds in Europe & Russia by N Wheatley. Helm, 2000.

    Don’t know which country/countries/regions to visit in Europe? Then it may be worth considering taking a look at this book, written by this website’s author. It is many years old of course but it still provides a starting point, an overview and a guiding light to the best birds and the best places to look for them in the region, and could save hours of searching for similar information on the internet. However, it is important to check more up-to-date sources for sites which have been opened up, sites and species which have been discovered, lodges that have been built etc. since the book was published.

    Trip Reports for Northern Spain

    Many trip reports, some for Northern Spain, are posted on the websites listed here. On some of these websites some reports are independent and some are posted by tour companies who organize tours to Northern Spain. These tour companies and others also post their own reports on their websites, which are listed under 'Some Organized Tours to Northern Spain' below.

    Local Guides and Tours in Northern Spain

    The costs of organized tours partly reflect the quality of the tour leaders. Some leaders are certainly better than others and many companies claim their leaders are the best but even the best rely at least to some extent on the exceptional skills of the local guides they employ. If you are travelling independently, employing such local guides will greatly increase your chances of seeing the wildlife you wish to see.


    Accommodation in Northern Spain

    Some Organized Tours to Northern Spain

    There are many tour companies who organize tours to see mammals, birds, other wildlife and other natural wonders. The cost of these tours vary considerably according to such variables as the airlines used, the number of days the tours last, the number of sites visited, the number of people in the group (an important consideration if you wish to see such wildlife as rainforest mammals and birds), the number of tour leaders, the standard of accommodation and transport, and the percentage profit the company hopes to make. Generally, where the number of days tours last and the number of sites visited are similar, the cheapest tours are those that use the cheapest airlines, accommodation and local transport, that have the largest groups with the least number of leaders, and that make the least amount of profit. The most expensive tours tend to be those which are exceptionally long, use the most expensive accommodation (ridiculously lavish in some cases, even for single nights) and which make the most profit. Some tour costs partly reflect the quality of the tour leaders. Some leaders are certainly better than others and many companies claim their leaders are the best but even the best rely at least to some extent on the exceptional skills of the local guides they employ.

    While tour companies organize tours with set itineraries many also organize custom tours for individuals and private groups who instead of taking a tour with a set itinerary want to follow their own itinerary to suit their own personal tastes, whether it be mammals, birds, other wildlife, other natural wonders or even man-made attractions, or a mixture of them all. Many organized tours with set itineraries are also fast-paced and target as many species as possible, whether they are mammals, birds or other wildlife or everything, which usually leaves little time to enjoy the best sites and individual species, but on a custom tour those taking part can specify the pace and the sites and species they wish to concentrate on. Custom tours also suit people who like to travel with people they already know, rather than with a group of strangers, and people with partners with different interests. Individuals and small groups will almost certainly have to pay more than the price of an organized tour with a set itinerary but a large group of friends may be able to travel for less than the price quoted for a set tour.

    Tour companies who run organized tours or can arrange custom tours to Northern Spain include the following.