June 2011 Picos de Europa

What to say about the Picos? Hombre! Bueno! Calor! Quebrantahuesos!

Picos sheep

Our fortnight in the Picos de Europa was packed full of ornithological interest, with a day of life-ticks a-plenty in the Brenne before we even got to Spain. By the time we reached the Picos itself we’d already become accustomed to the Giffon Vultures that would follow our footsteps (sometimes a little too closely for comfort) for the next two weeks, but the one bird we all wanted to see eluded us. Deva, the one surviving Lammergeier from the previous year’s release, was destined to remain nothing more than a brief blip on a radio-tracker, so we had to make do with photographing the very lifelike models in the FCQ visitors’ centre.

Our work was hard, and all the harder for being at altitude and in uncharacteristic unrelenting heat and sunshine. By the end of our stay we were all expert sheep wranglers, bridge builders, and mountain goat impersonators. Not to mention adept at shearing, worming, and hauling iron girders across vast expanses of mountainside.

EuCAN work party in the mountains.

Our nights were filled with spectacular nightjar displays, spectacular musical spectacles, and spectacled moths (among others). And sidra, some of which even made it into the glasses despite our strict adherence to the Asturian tradition of arms-length sidra pouring. Our hosts, Diego and Jose from the FCQ, made us so welcome we were all sad to leave Llueves.

Our minds were truly opened by the experience. We learned so much from our partners about the conservation of the Lammergeier and the unique landscape of the Picos, and the crucial importance of the dying pastoral tradition and the problems the few remaining shepherds face in keeping it alive. We all fell in love with the drama of the scenery, the richness of the flora, the sheer beauty of the mountains.

Itinerary Moth List
Poppy Wood Trip Report
Daniel Greenwood Photo Story
Julian Jones Report
Chris Stapleton The Quest of The Tick
David Norfolk Lammergeier Reintroduction

As well as our participants’ reports, we also have a great video of our bridge-building adventures on the Rio Casaño shot by our friend Inigo, without whose petrol-driven rock drill and boundless enthusiasm we would have been lost:

On one of our “rest” days Spanish wildlife and children’s illustrator Maria Pinta, who designed the FCQ’s eyecatching logo, came with us to search for the Woodland BrownLopinga achine and painted this beautiful picture of the one we found. For more great illustrations see her

Woodland Brown by Maria Pinta.