My favourite insect, however, and indeed my favourite creature of the trip, was this split-eyed owl-fly, Libelloides longicornis - an immense creature. I was enthralled by five or six of them cruising three metres above the meadows at Besande, before crashing to the ground unceremoniously.
The birds I was keen to see all occurred up high in the Picos. The best (and easiest place to try for them seemed to be Fuente Dé. Here, Snow Finch and Alpine Accentor were relatively common, being seen anywhere along the track north of the restaurant, and along the La Vueltona path. The latter species was marked with colour rings, presumably as part of a research project. The same was true of Alpine Choughs at this site.
This immense cliff appeared to be the area where most people saw Wallcreeper. I expected to see it - if I found it at all - distantly high up on the rocky face. I was far more fortunate than expected. Walking along the La Vueltona track, I turned left at a major fork just after the huge cliff ended (and where the LV path scrambled up to the right). Immediately on the right, amidst large boulders directly below a small cliff face, I found a Wallcreeper feeding actively in the shadowy crevices between the rocks. It was mostly concealed, but I nevertheless enjoyed it for an hour, on and off, down to 5 metres range. Amazing!
The two species I was keenest to see were Lammergeier and Wallcreeper. I have seen both once only, both in France during 1994. (For the Wallcreeper that Dave Gandy and I found on migration at the Pont du Gard, Dave famously held me by the ankles as I dangled over the edge of the bridge to photograph the ascending butterfly-bird.) A single adult or near-adult Lammergeier flew past us as we descended from the La Vueltona track to the restaurant. It then circled above the immense cliff at the start of the track.
I have covered butterflies and moths on the first blog. Some other insects were fun. Covadonga - in the flushes and acidic ponds - held some good dragonflies. The highlights was Common Hawker, but also present were Red-veined Darter, Keeled Skimmer, Emerald Damselfly sp. and Emperor. Common Goldenrings were at Arroyo de Mostajar and another site. Western Demoiselle was at a few sites in the Picos. Beautiful Demoiselle was at Llanes. A few other common species were scattered around.
Furry creatures were a little disappointing, to be frank. The odd dusk/dawn drive produced a few moggies, but no Wild Cat in the recently cut hay meadows. In an area (below Puerto San Gloria) known for Pyrenean Desman, I found a European Mole dead on the road. It was warm, supple and unmarked: a mysterious death. At Tudes, I encountered a single Red Squirrel early one morning, and a Roe Deer late one afternoon. At Fuente Dé a single Isard showed well until flushed by climbers up a cliff.
The second part of my blog-cum-trip report, the first instalment of which ishere.
I didn't plan to spend much time birding, it being July and birds typically hunkered down breeding. But the Picos' feathered interest was actually considerable. In suitable habitat, birds such as Cirl and Rock Buntings, Firecrest, Spotted Flycatcher, Common and Black Redstarts, Water Pipit, Middle-spotted Woodpecker, Western Bonelli's Warbler, and Griffon Vulture were all common. I enjoyed Iberian Chiffchaffs and Western Subalpine Warblers at Besande. Overhead in Tudes, mostly from the swimming pool, I had Egyptian Vulture, Bonelli's Eagle, Short-toed Eagle and several Booted Eagles. Crag Martin was common wherever there were rocky cliffs. We had a single Goshawk at Arroyo de Mostajar. Best of all, Citril Finch was easy at Puerto San Gloria. I had them within three minutes on each of three visits, with a peak count of 30 shortly after dawn (when the birds came to drink at a pool by the car park, and there was no human traffic to disturb them).