Griffon and bearded vultures in Spain


This video is about Manuel’s vulture restaurant in Santa Cilia, Spain.

After 3 November, 4 November 2014 in Aragon in Spain.

We went to the Sierra de Guara, the mountains south of the highest Pyrenees summits. It is a beautiful area; flowers like edelweiss grow there.

Sierra de Guara sign, 4 November 2014

All photos on this blog post are cellphone photos.

We went to see a vulture restaurant on a mountain above Santa Cilia village which has been going for decades.

On our way to Santa Cilia, we passed a hunting estate. We could see red deer, fallow deer and mouflons.

Santa Cilia village, 4 November 2014

In Santa Cilia there are beautiful old houses.

The vulture restaurant above the village has been organized for thirty years by Manuel; from the Amigos del buitre, friends of the vultures, organisation. A young woman, responsible for the organisation’s museum in Santa Cilia, helps him today.

The organisation has started a restaurant for vultures in Gambia as well.

As the sun begins to shine, griffon vultures spread their wings to dry them. It had been raining all night, making their wings wet.

Griffon vultures, 4 November 2014

A small trailer brings 100kg of slaughterhouse offal to the mountain. About 20 kg of this is meat for the griffon vultures; much is bones. Today, there are about eighty vultures. So, on average, each vulture gets about 225g meat. So, the vulture restaurants help the vultures; but they still have to find more food elsewhere.

This video is about the vulture restaurant on 4 November 2014.

Manuel tells that the griffon vultures, coming closest to him, eating out of his hand, are birds which he used to care for when they were ill.

While the griffon vultures are feeding, one bearded vulture, later two, circles above them. They don’t like to join the griffon vulture crowds. If they wait till the griffon vultures have stripped the meat from the bones, they can pick up the bones. Then, they will drop the bones from the air on rocks, breaking them. This way, they can get their favourite food: bone marrow. It takes young bearded vultures a long time to learn how to drop the bones in the right way.

Two ravens, and two golden eagles flying. Sometimes, these species join the griffon vultures for feeding. Today, they don’t seem to be hungry.

Griffon vultures mate for life, Manuel says. If one bird’s partner dies, then that vulture will not breed for some years. They also usually await their turn during feeding. Sometimes they quarrel. Maybe in wildlife films, quarrels among vultures while feeding are over-emphasized, as they look more spectacular in the film.

Sierra de Guara view, 4 November 2014

From the vulture restaurant, a beautiful view of the surroundings.

Later that day, we go to a reservoir. Two little grebes swimming.

A female siskin along the road.

A bit further, we have the privilege to see a wallcreeper again. It cleans its feathers.

In a park, we hear a great spotted woodpecker. Goldfinches in a tree.

Little owl and Thekla lark in Spain


Little owl, 3 November 2014

This little owl was photographed in Spain, on a hillock in a plain, south of the Pyrenees.

After 2 November, 3 November 2014 in Aragon.

To Monegros plain.

A green sandpiper on a lakelet bank.

Foggy weather. There has been drought for a long time. As we walk, many millipedes on the dry soil.

Also, many young natterjack toads. Still very small, less than one centimeter.

Many larks flying and singing. Most of them are calandra larks. Also some, smaller, lesser short-toed larks.

We had hoped to see sandgrouse here, but we don’t see them.

We do see the little owl, pictured at the top of this blog post.

A meadow pipit drinking at one of few puddles.

Then, sandgrouse at last: three black-bellied sandgrouse.

This video is about black-bellied sandgrouse (and chukar partridges)  in Israel. We could not see these three ones in Spain as well, as they flew overhead fast.

A crested lark on a field.

A bit further, eight red-legged partridges.

A male merlin on a wall. A hoopoe on a rock.

Six black-bellied sandgrouse on a field.

A flock of choughs.

Thekla lark, 3 November 2014

A bit further back along the same road, a Thekla lark. Sometimes, it sings.

Thekla lark, Aragon, 3 November 2014

We go back to the lakelet. A snipe.

Butterfly, Spain, 3 November 2014

Though it is already November, still butterflies. Like this one.

We climb a hillock. At first, we see hardly any birds. A bit later, we can see scores of pin-tailed sandgrouse.

After a long time of exerting our eyes and binoculars near a village, we finally manage to see a well-camouflaged stone curlew on a field near a village. The scores of cattle egrets on a building there are easier to spot.

Little grebe, Spain, 3 November 2014

Finally, a hide near a lake. A little grebe.

Teal male, 3 November 2014

A teal.

Water pipit, 3 November 2014

A water pipit.

Marsh harriers, 3 November 2014

Two marsh harriers, flying to the reedbeds for sleeping.

Migrating cranes and marsh harriers in Spain


Riglos, 2 November 2014

Still 2 November 2014. After the Alpine accentor, still in Riglos village in Aragon, Spain.

House sparrow male, Riglos, 2 November 2014

The house sparrows were still there.

We left Riglos. At 15:55, a southern grey shrike in a tree.

At 16:43, we were near a reservoir. The water level was much lower than we expected.

Scores of great cormorants flying.

Cranes flying, Spain, 2 November 2014

At 5pm, about a hundred cranes flying overhead. We could hear the trumpet-like sounds of the adults; and the higher pitched voices of this year’s chicks, flying along on their first migration ever.

Marsh harrier, 2 November 2014

The reedbeds along the reservoir also attracted another migratory bird species: marsh harriers, preparing to spend the night there as the evening approached.

Marsh harrier, Spain, 2 November 2014

Alpine accentor in Aragon, 2 November


This video shows Alpine accentors in the snow.

After the morning of 2 November 2014, the afternoon. No snow yet, quite the contrary: rather high temperatures for November. Still, we would like to see whether birds like Alpine accentors had already arrived from their high summer homes to their lower summer abodes.

Near Riglos village, in the Sierra de Guara, mountains south of the highest Pyrenees.

Alpine accentor, 2 November 2014

Fortunately, an Alpine accentor was present, close to the footpath under the steep cliff faces.

Alpine accentor, looking up, 2 November 2014

It was looking upwards …

Alpine accentor, looking down, 2 November 2014

.. and downwards, to see if there was any food.

Alpine accentor, still looking down, 2 November 2014

Alpine accentor, looking up again, 2 November 2014

The bird looked up again …

Alpine accentor, looking down again, 2 November 2014

… and down again.

Alpine accentor, still looking down again, 2 November 2014

Alpine accentor near plant, 2 November 2014

Sometimes, the Alpine accentor was close to the sparse vegetation.

Alpine accentor still near plant, 2 November 2014

Alpine accentor on rock, 2 November 2014

Sometimes, it was on rock, seemingly bare except for small bits of lichen. Nevertheless, it did manage to get food.

Alpine accentor still on rock, 2 November 2014

A clouded yellow butterfly flying.

Red-legged partridge and little owl near Spanish castle


Montearagón castle, 2 November 2014

After 1 November came 2 November 2014 in Aragon, Spain. We went to the surroundings of Montearagón castle, not far from Huesca town.

In 1094, Christian king Sancho Ramirez of Aragon had Montearagón castle built, to help with his plans to conquer Islamic Huesca. Later, it became a monastery. Now, it is a ruin.

A kestrel on a pole.

On a rock, a Thekla lark. This species was named by German zoologist Alfred Edmund Brehm in 1857 for his sister Thekla Brehm, who had died recently, only 24 years old.

A stonechat.

Rock sparrows on a wire.

A little owl, resting on a rock.

On another rock, a black wheatear cleanses its feathers.

Crag martins flying around.

A raven flying.

Closer to the ground, a Dartford warbler in a bush.

Zitting cisticola, 2 November 2014

A zitting cisticola on another bush.

Zitting cisticola, on 2 November 2014

Common linnets.

Red-legged partridge, 2 November 2014

A beautiful red-legged partridge.

Near Montearagón castle, view, 2 November 2014

Near the castle ruin, a griffon vulture flies.

Rock face near Riglos, 2 November 2014

We continue to another part of the Sierra de Guara mountains, around Riglos village.

Rock face near Riglos, on 2 November 2014

Near Riglos there are many steep rock faces, attracting much mountaineering tourism. Some of the people who used to climb here have died on the still more difficult north face of the Eiger mountain in Switzerland.

Riglos church, 2 November 2014

House sparrow male in Riglos, 2 November 2014

House sparrows live in Riglos. We want to see if there are also less common birds around here.

Birds and chamois in Aragon


Portelet pass, Pyrenees, 1 November 2014

This is a photo of the mountains around the Portelet pass, near the Spanish-French border.

Still 1 November 2014 in Aragon, after the earlier wallcreeper and other birds.

We are going higher and higher in the Pyrenees mountains.

A pied wagtail on a roof in Escarrilla village.

We get at our highest point, almost 2000 meter, near the French border.

Lichen, 1 November 2014

A few small trees just surviving in favourable spots. All other vegetation is much smaller. Like this lichen.

Lichen, Portalet pass, Aragon, 1 November 2014

Lichen, Portalet pass, 1 November 2014

Lichen, at Portalet pass, 1 November 2014

Near the Portelet pass, yellow-billed choughs, common chougs, and two ravens flying together. The choughs tried to drive a raven away.

On a rock, a northern wheatear.

On another rock, near a lakelet, a yellowhammer.

Two Pyrenees chamois walking on a mountain meadow. We now know it is a different species than the Alpine chamois.

We go back, following the Rio Gallego river downwards.

As we went back, two sparrowhawks circling. Lots of mallards in a lake.

Red kites flying.

Dipper, 1 November 2014

On the river banks, two dippers. Every now and then, they dive.