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Navarre

Rock Bunting Emberiza cia ©Joël Bruezière Website

Navarra is a relatively small autonomous community in the north of Spain, stretching southwards from the western edge of the Pyrenees. Relatively small it may be, but insignificant it most certainly is not: Navarra has an awful lot of biodiversity to offer the travelling naturalist, with a representation of virtually all the biotopes present in the Iberian Peninsula (except coastal ones), and surprising and often abrupt contrasts.

The northeast corner of Navarra is the only part of the province-community with peaks reaching over the 2,000m mark, and this fact is reflected by its being the western limit to the ranges of several high Pyrenean species such as Wallcreeper, Ring Ouzel, Ptarmigan and Snowfinch. Follow the Roncal Valley up to and beyond the French border to try for some of these and other species like Alpine Chough, Citril Finch, Lammergeier, Black Woodpecker, Rock Thrush, and Alpine Accentor, appreciating at the same time how a valley of inspiring bucolic beauty takes on a more rugged natural demeanour once past the Rincon de Belagua.

These same youthful Pyrenees lose height as they pass westwards through Navarra towards the Atlantic Ocean, which is precisely why a large number and variety of migratory birds can be seen from its mountain passes, especially those of Etxalar, Ibañeta (Lindúx), and Urkiaga, in the autumn months: thousands of Cranes, Honey Buzzards and Red Kites, along with regular Ospreys, Hen Harriers, Short-toed and Booted Eagles, Black Kites, Black Storks and others.

Woodpecker drill is another interesting feature, bearing in mind the good number of Black Woodpeckers present in Navarra's areas of mature deciduous and mixed forest, and above all the fact that this community also holds by far the greatest part of the Spanish population of White-backed Woodpeckers (the endemic Pyrenean race lilfordi), estimated at between 60 and 70 pairs. The forest of Irati stands out as the main destination for avid woodpecker watchers visiting the region, although the species could be seen at Quinto Real or even, with a lot of luck, in the Roncal Valley.

As we pass south through some spectacular limestone gorges (Foces), wooded hillsides and rushing rivers we should expect to encounter many of the species common to other similar areas in the autonomies of Aragón and Catalunya: Lammergeier, Griffon Vulture, Egyptian Vulture, Dipper, Blue Rock Thrush, Alpine Swift, Red-backed Shrike, Rock Sparrow, Rock Bunting, Golden Eagle, Peregrine Falcon. In this respect the foces of Lumbier, Arbayún and Burgui certainly deserve the passing birder's attention, equally so in the winter months when the possibility of coming across the dazzling Wallcreeper can never be discarded.

Before long everything seems to change as the vast expanses of the Ebro Valley open up before the traveller. The Bardenas Reales Natural Park in the southeast of the province, shared in part with Aragón, protects the most striking archetype of an Ebro Valley steppe landscape that you are likely to find anywhere. Although many of its most characteristic species have suffered important declines, the park's almost 56,000 ha still hold varying numbers of steppeland species such as Little Bustard, Pin-tailed and Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Lesser Short-toed and Dupont's Larks, as well as Black Wheatears, Egyptian Vultures, Spectacled Warblers and Red-necked Nightjars.

Navarra's wetlands are few, but the Lagunas of las Cañas, Pitillas and Dos Reinos are worthy of mention for their interesting breeding colonies of Purple and Night Heron, and smaller numbers of Red-crested Pochard, Black-necked Grebe, Little Bittern, the more irregular Great Bittern, Little Crake and Penduline Tit. Further birding interest is to be discovered in the Sotos of the River Ebro near Tudela, gallery woodland along meanders and river islands supporting an intersting array of birds such as Kingfisher, Fan-tailed Warbler, Cirl Bunting, Booted Eagle, Wryneck, Great Reed Warbler, Pendulline Tit and Golden Oriole.

So don't forget, there's much more to Navarra than the festival of San Fermín!

Top Sites

Spanish Pyrenees

Satellite View

This mountainous barrier, that separates France from Spain, is made up of high mountains, extensive pine forests, streams, and green mountain meadows, and is especially recommended for its abundance of birds of prey. One can see Golden, Short-toed, Booted and Bonelli's Eagles; Montagu's Harrier; Red & Black kites, Peregrine and Hobby; and the magnificent Lammergeier, which here has one of its two last strongholds in the entire continent. Other interesting avian species are: Ptarmigan, Capercaille, Dotterel, Tengmalm's Owl, Black Woodpecker, Crag Martin, Water Pipit and Dipper. Apart from bird species, it is remarkable for the presence of Pyrenean Chamois and Red Deer. This area is probably one of the last refuges in Europe of the Boreal Linx and the Brown Bear.

Contributor

Steve West

Author of Where the birds are in Northeast Spain

westvidal@teleline.es

http://www.birdinginspain.com

Useful Reading

A Birdwatching Guide to The Pyrenees

Graham Hearl, James McCallum (Illustrator); Jacquie Croxzier Paperback ( 1 January, 1998) Arlequin Publications

ISBN: 1900159805

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Where the Birds are in Northeast Spain

by Steve West Illustrated by Ernest Leahym, Published by Steve West

ISBN: 8460915999

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Where to Watch Birds in North and East Spain

Michael Rebane, Stephen Message (Illustrator) Paperback - 295 pages (20 May, 1999) Christopher Helm

ISBN: 0713647000

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Trip Reports

Click on WAND for tours, guides, lodges and more…

CloudBirders

Trip Report Repository

CloudBirders was created by a group of Belgian world birding enthusiasts and went live on 21st of March 2013. They provide a large and growing database of birding trip reports, complemented with extensive search, voting and statistical features.

2012 [02 February] - Chris Hall

Report

It’s 20th February at the Boletas Birdwatching Centre near Huesca, and the crisp dry early morning air is stirred by the whistles of Spotless Starlings and the bill clapping of White Storks, nesting on the church tower. After breakfast, Josele announces that he has received a call to say that we have an appointment with a Wallcreeper at 10.30am!

2013 [06 June] - Steve West

Report PDF

…It was a very short drive from our hotel before we were sampling the first birds of the Bardenas Reales. This is an arid region where erosion has worked over many years to sculpt some interesting and most unlikely forms from the sandstone bedrock. The vegetation is sparse and low, and so just right for a large number and variety of larks, in particular Calandra, Short-toed, Skylark, Crested and Thekla Larks, with another candidate we were hoping would appear sometime during the morning…

Organisations

Sociedad de Ciencias Naturales GOROSTI

Website

Divulgación de la Naturaleza y el Medio Ambiente Navarros…

Observatories

Observatorio de Aves Laguna de Pitillas

Observatory

La Laguna de Pitillas, con sus 206 hectáreas, es el humedal de tipo estepario, y origen endorréico más extenso de los existentes en Navarra y uno de los más importantes del Valle del Ebro. Destaca por la abundancia y diversidad de especies de aves acuáticas que eligen esta laguna para pasar el invierno o para reproducirse. Es un lugar estratégico para el reposo y alimentación de numerosas aves que realizan la migración a través de la ruta pirenaica occidental…

Museums

University of Navarra - Zoology Museum

http://www.unav.es/unzyec/eng/museo.html

Faculty of zoology and a museum of natural history…

Reserves

Laguna de Pitillas

Website

Satellite View

La laguna de Pitillas tiene una extensión de unas 300 hectáreas localizadas mayoritariamente en el término municipal de Pitillas. Una pequeña extensión corresponde al municipio de Santacara…

Blogs

Cinerea

Blog

Blog dedicado al mundo de las aves…

Other Links

Aves Of Heaven

Website

Pagina de ornitologia de aves de Navarra…

Birding Arbizu

Website

Birding this area of Northern Spain…

Birding in Spain

Website

Birds and Birding Tours in northeast Spain: Plan your Birding trip to Catalonia, Aragon and Navarra..

Observar aves en Navarra [Birdwatching in Navarra]

Website

Navarre offers outstanding conditions for bird watching, thanks to the large variety of species and its numerous natural areas and facilities. In this section you will find all the information you need: species that can be found here, where to find them, how to get there, recommended seasons, services available, information points, and much, much more…