Friday, 3 August 2012

High Up Away From The Heat

Ron, Jonathan and Paul ready for action

The current hot weather prompted Ron Bennett, Jonathan Kemp, Paul Williams and myself decided to take the drive down to Prats de Mollo Reserve Naturelle in the French Pyrenees.  Our main quarry was to see Lammergeier a iconic bird of this region and one which is seen here on a regular basis.  We began by driving up a very bumpy road to just over 1700 metres.  Here the ground is open and ideal for watching raptors.

Prats de Mollo
It was obviously cooler here with little sunshine but soon we were watching raptors.  A Golden Eagle made a brief flight along a cliff face and then Griffon Vultures began to appear.  We watched them carefully checking carefully their identity.  A passing Peregrine and a Kestrel harried the great scavengers who seemed to ignore their attention.  The Griffons were congregating around a large rock and were very approachable.

Griffon Vulture
Griffon Vultures on their rock
We spent a few moments admiring an Alpine Marmot sitting on top of a lofty crag and then Wow! an adult Lammergeier appeared and put on a wonderful show quartering the ground just underneath us.  An enormous but beautifully designed and specialist vulture thankfully now slowly increasing its numbers in Europe.  Ron had not seen one for years, for Paul it was his first one - Jonathan and I are more familiar with this bird but we all gasped at its spectacular show.

A splendid Lammergeier
There was more to come.  First a superb Short-toed Eagle flew over and this was followed by an amazing Honey Buzzard.  The latter was in full display first lunging upwards whilst clapping its wings at least three times above its head. This is followed by a shallow stoop and then the whole process starts again.  I had only seen this behaviour a couple of times before and was so mesmerised by the whole process I forgot to try a photograph.

Rock Bunting
After a picnic lunch we started our descent looking for passerines. Crossbills regularly flew over chipping and we also managed Water Pipit, a couple of Rock Buntings and a few Mistle Thrushes. We tried a walk in mixed pine and beech forest.  Jonathan heard a brief call of a Black Woodpecker but to Ron's dismay we could not find it.  Plenty of Jays and a Crested Tit were all we could find.  A cup of coffee followed and we headed for home well satisfied with our days work.

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