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Sunday 9th September
We met up with the group by the Downs Water Tower in Bristol & boarded the coach to Plymouth. We got to the Ferry Terminal in the afternoon and our tour guide, Paul Burley was waiting for us. We then boarded the Brittany Ferries, Pont Aven for the overnight sailing to Santander. We put our cases in our cabins, before having dinner in the Le Flora Resturant.

Monday 10th September
After breakfast, we went up on the deck to look for Whales & Dolphins in the Bay of Biscay. We saw lots of Gannets flying past along with Manx, Sooty and Great Shearwaters. A few Short-beaked Common Dolphins were seen, but sadly no Striped Dolphins. Paul said it had not been a very good for Cetaceans this year due to the lack of Plankton moving northwards. Although, we did see a few Fin Whales. We docked in Santander about lunchtime and we boarded the Spanish coach to take us to the hotel.

We stopped for lunch at the port of San Vincente de la Barquera. The birds of note here were Common Sandpiper, Ringed Plover, Curlew, White Wagtail, Great White & Little Egrets.

We continued our journey to our lovely hotel in Playa de la Franca, overlooking a beach in an small unspoilt cove. From our balcony window we saw a Geranium Bronze Butterfly, which is a first for me.

In the evening, we went for a walk around the area. We saw a few Yellow-legged Gulls, Kingfisher, Mediterranean Speckled Wood & Crested Tit. A Juvenile Black Redstart was hopping around in front of the hotel. Chris Perry also managed to see & photograph a Long-tailed Blue, which most of us missed. In the evening, Paul introduced us to a local guide called Javier, who told us what to expect for the next 2 days.

BOC trip to Picos de Europa National Park
9th-13th September 2018

Plymouth breakwater

Fin Whale

Entering Santander

San Vincente de la Barquera

 Sunrise, Bay of Biscay, Spain

Gannet

Common Sandpiper [Adult]

Mediterranean Speckled Wood

Geranium Bronze

Yellow-legged Gull [2nd Winter]

Yellow-legged Gull [Adult]

Black Redstart [Juvenile]

Crested Tit [Adult]

Playa de la Franca

Covadonga

The Picos Mountains

Griffon Vulture [Adult]

Griffon Vulture [Adult]

Mountain Small White

Wall Lizard

Tuesday 11th September
After breakfast we headed towards Panes & then along the stunning Cares Gorge to Covadonga. We dropped the tourists off at the impressive Basilica and Holy Caves, while we headed up to the feeding station. The rangers waited for us to arrive before putting the food out for the Vultures. The skies were full of Griffon Vultures coming down to feed and there were 3 Lammergaiers in the area. Two birds were seen perched the hills, but sadly due to lack of wind they didn't fly over to the feeding station. We saw some Wall Lizards around the viewpoint. A few Butterflies included Mountain Small White, Clouded Yellow & Chalkhill Blue.

We headed to Covadonga Lakes, where we had lunch. Around the picnic site was a Juvenile White Wagtail, Black Redstart & Spotted Flycatchers. In the afternoon we walked up into the hills looking for raptors. We saw more Chalkhill Blues & Clouded Yellows on the the way. I managed to see a Humming-bird Hawkmoth feeding on some of the flowers. The views were stunning and we saw lots more Griffon, Eygptian and Lammergaiers on the way up, along with Short-toed Eagle. We sat at a viewpoint, listening to the cowbells ringing in the valley. A Booted Eagle flew towards us giving brilliant views. We saw and heard lots of Red-billed Chough. Afterwards, we made our way back down the hill to our coach to pick up the tourists, before heading back to the hotel for dinner.  The Juvenile Black Redstart was still hopping along the lawn in front of the hotel. A few Yellow-legged Gulls were foraging on the beach.

Chalkhill Blue

BOC group watching Raptors at Convadonga Lakes

Griffon Vultures

Picos Mountain Range

Chalkhill Blue

Humming-bird Hawk-moth

Booted Eagle [Adult-Pale Morph] with Griffon Vultures behind.

Lammergaier [Juvenile]

Booted Eagle [Adult-Pale Morph]

Geranium Bronze

Yellow-legged Gull [Adult]

Black Redstart [Juvenile]

Wednesday 12th September
On our final morning in Spain, we left the hotel and headed through the beautiful Hermida Gorge to Potes. We continued to Fuente De, where we took the cable car up to the Picos de Europa Mountain Range. At the top station, a Black Redstart was feeding near a tractor and hopped onto the wheel. We walked further up the mountain and heard some Chough calling overhead. A Water Pipit was feeding along the path. A few more Chalkhill Blues & Wall Lizards were seen along the way. We managed to see some Alpine Accentors foraging on the ground & on the rock, until they flew over the top when an Eygptian Vulture flew through the valley briefly. We walked further along the rocky track to see if we could see any more alpine birds. A Rock Grayling was resting by the path. We stopped for lunch at a good Wallcreeper site and soon had fantastic views of them foraging around the rocks & the cliff face. While we were having our lunch, a couple of Alpine Choughs flew in & landed on the rock in front of us, so we shared our sandwiches with them. An Alpine Accentor also came down, giving excellent views. Afterwards, we started to make our back down the mountain. Another Egyptian Vulture soared over our heads. By the top station, there were lots of Alpine Choughs perched & flying around, unafraid of all the people there. We then took the cable car back to the car park at Fuente De, where our coach was waiting.  We said our goodbyes to Javier and the other guides and headed back to Santander to catch the ferry.   

Cable car

Fuente De Mountain Range

Fuente De Summit

Water Pipit [Adult]

Chalkhill Blue [Female]

Wall Lizard

Rock Grayling

Alpine Choughs

Alpine Accentor [Adult]

Alpine Accentor [Adult]

Alpine Accentor [Adult]

Walllcreeper

Wallcreeper

Brown Mountain Grasshopper

Egyptian Vulture [Adult]

Heading back to the cable car

BOC Group watching Alpine Choughs

Alpine Choughs

Thursday 13th September 2018
We had an early start at 6:30am to get on deck for a seawatch. We saw an impressive number of Great and Sooty Shearwaters passing by along with a few Manx Shearwaters. Plenty of Gannets were still flying about and we also saw some Common Dolphins. After breakfast, we went back for some more seawatching. We saw a couple of Sabines Gulls close to the boat and a Bonxie (Great Skua) chasing a Tern. As we neared the Ushant Islands we saw a few Manx Shearwaters and Common Dolphins.

A Mediterranean Gull flew past the ferry and more Sooty, Manx, Great and the odd Balearic Shearwater. Four more Bonxies were seen along with another Sabines Gull. Also Common and Bottlenosed Dolphins, Tuna and a Blue Shark.

We got back into Plymouth and boarded the coach back to Bristol.
What a fantastic few days!

Great, Manx & Sooty Shearwaters  

Sooty Shearwater

Manx Shearwater

Gannet [Adult]

Huge thanks to Paul Burley and Javier for guiding, and to Jane for organsing the trip.

Short-beaked Common Dolphins

Great Shearwater

Short-beaked Common Dolphins

Great Shearwater

Gannet [Adult]

Eddystone Rocks

©  Christopher Teague 2018