Well what a difference a year makes! 2017 was a very different flower season in the Picos de Europa to 2016. This led to new discoveries. Just as in England spring started very early in March – in the Picos it had been very dry with little snow, which unfortunately led to some forest fires in April. These burnt areas could prove to be very interesting for wild flowers in the next year or two.
We stayed in the very comfortable Posada El Corcal in Tama run by the Soberon family with other Collett’s guests. Birds such as redstarts and black redstarts are common, serin (a small yellow green finch) and Egyptian vultures, black kites and short toed eagles can all be seen flying around from the Posada, along with numerous house martins, swallows and swifts. Tama is just a couple of miles from the ancient market town of Potes, the central market town of this region, with plenty of shops, bars and restaurants. You can easily walk there along the back road by the river. The red squirrels around here are almost black, I had a close view of one in an orchard opposite the supermarket! Lizard and bee orchids grow in the road verges.
Wildflowers, Birds & Butterflies
A mammal highlight was a probable beech marten crossing the road on the drive to the limestone heights of Fuente Dé. We went up by cable car at Fuente De three times. This year the bright blue spring and trumpet gentians were everywhere, along with pale blue spring squill. A highlight was finding black pasque flowers, which seem to develop after the white and purple species. In the beech woods below Fuente De were many plants that I am familiar with from the Chilterns where I work, including herb Paris and Solomon’s seal. We also found a couple of very early English iris, normally a summer species. In these woods and meadows we found many orchids, some familiar from England like twayblade, pyramidal, early spider, man and birds-nest orchids, but others such as woodcock, dull bee, bartons, sawfly and pink butterfly orchid which occur in the Picos. A first for me was the delicate pink of Lange’s orchid in woodland. We recorded and photographed over 30 species of orchids in the three weeks we were in Spain.
This part of Spain has an amazing range of alpine and lowland flowers, many birds, numerous active butterflies (over 150 species of butterflies have been recorded in the Picos De Europa) and other interesting species. We also found reptiles such as the impressive foot long green Occelated lizard. There are spectacular mountain views from the high passes, making the windy drive up to Puerto de San Glorio with its impressive bear statue worthwhile. I saw my first Citril finch from the picnic site at the pass. One bright sunny day we continued on through the Picos De Europa National Park to Cain and the start of the famous Cares Gorge.
I was pleased to find a number of areas with ancient veteran trees, mainly old sweet chestnut pollards, some now in woodlands but others in wood pasture with grazing cattle and horses. Whilst at Pendes admiring these trees overhead there was a circling flock of over 60 Griffon vultures and not far away Peregrine falcons were calling to their young. Along with a return trip to the highly entertaining nesting storks at Vanes, both the flora and fauna of the amazing Picos de Europa area were as impressive as ever.
Thanks to John and Jo Morris for all the superb photographs!
See Flower Walks in the Picos de Europa for more information.