Tag Archives: fauna

Pyrenees flora and fauna book

New Pyrenees wildflower and fauna guidebook in English

This superb Pyrenees nature and wildlife guide is now available to order from the Hike Pyrenees website – click here for details.

A superb new book on Pyrenees wildlife in English has been published and is a must for any nature lover visiting the Pyrenees. This is very welcome as Pyrenees specific books on flora or fauna in English were nearly impossible to come by before.

Wildlife of the Pyrenees guidebook

What’s even better is that this a fantastic guide with 910 species illustrated. What I really like is that the guide covers a bit of everything with sections on flora, birds, snakes, lizards, insects, mammals, fish, trees, mushrooms and butterflies. There are even a couple of pages on the main livestock species found here so you can now identify the cows, sheep and horses that you see while out hiking too! It really is a great all round guide.

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Asp Viper in the Pyrenees

Snakes in the Pyrenees

Ian a regular reader of the blog recently sent me a couple of photos of some snakes he’d seen on the French side of the Pyrenees to identify.

Ian's mystery snake

Ian’s mystery snake

He’d found a lovely example of a green whipsnake. It’s a long thin snake which can rach up to 2 metres but is usually quite a bit shorter than this around 1 to 1.5 metres.

You can find them across most of southern Europe and like warm scrub covered areas. I don’t come across these very often but when I do they often stay perfectly still and then shoot off very fast. The name whipsnake is for the speed of their movement. They’re non-venemous so there was no need to worry Ian!

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The second highest peak in the Pyrenees: Pico de Posets 3375m

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Me on the summit of Pico de Posets

On the 28th July, Phil & I will be running a Tour of Posets Refugio trip (our first of two this season), which will cover approximately 94km and up to 6770m of ascent over 6 days and include a complete circuit of the second highest peak in the Pyrenees including an ascent of Posets (3375m) itself and four other three thousand metre summits.

In preparation for this, I headed over to the Posets-Maladeta Park to recce the ascent of Pico de Posets from Refugio Angel Orús, and to check the snow conditions following the late arrival of summer.   The starting point for my ‘quick hit’ saw me starting at Eriste, for the short yet scenic walk, through the impressive granitic Vall De Grist up to Refugio Angel Orús at 2100m.  The following morning, an early start allowed me to gain the snow filled Canal Fonda before the snow turned too soft, it also meant making the most of the morning shade.  Above this, the terrain was made up of broken rock and largely clear of snow, and I was on the summit by 9am, from where I was greeted with wonderful vistas of the surrounding mountains.

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Heading up Canal Fonda

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Looking north from the summit ridge

A super quick descent (of 1650m) down the westerly facing slopes ofPosets, made easier by the snow cover, saw me down at Refugio de Biados by 11:30am, where I had planned on spending the night, however, with so much of the day left, I opted to push-on and started making my way along the GR11.2, up to the Collado de Grist (2865m), from where I made the short scramble up La Forqueta and its SE summit, before making my final long descent, past Refugio Angel Orús and down to the van at Plleta de l’Estallo for 5pm, just as the heaven’s opened up!

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Looking back up the westerly slopes of Pico de Posets

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Mamot near Refugio Angel Orus

So, overall, a great outing, and it was good to explore the area in preparation for the forthcoming trip. I would still highly recommended that hikers wear stiff boots and carry an axe and a set of crampons, as particularly early on in the day, the snow will still be firm underfoot.

Pyrenean newt and other sightings

pyrenean newt or pyrenean salamander

The Pyrenean Newt or Pyrenean Brook Salamander found in the Anisclo canyon

Whilst out and about recently we’ve come across quite a few interesting creatures, some of which we’ve never had the privilege of seeing before!

In the past 2 weeks we’ve found this shy creature in the Anisclo Canyon and in the Gargantas de Escuain. The Pyrenean newt also known as the Brook Pyrenean salamander (Calotriton Asper) is endemic to the Pyrenees.  Found at altitudes between 700m and 2,500m in shallow slow moving waters favoring water temperatures of about 15 degrees celsius. They are very sensitive creatures and therefore if found are a good indicator of clean water.

The Pyrenean Newt found in the Gargantas de Escuain

Our next find was a pair of courting Green Whip Snakes (Hierophis Viridiflavus) in the valley of La Ripera.

A pair of courting Green Whip snakes

A pair of courting Green Whip snakes

These snakes are most common in the Pyrenees between the valleys of Hecho and Ordesa. They can grow up to 2 metres in length but generally are not found much bigger than 1.5 meters, they also move really fast which is why they are called ‘Whip’ snake. These two snakes were found wound tightly around each other and paid very little attention to us, they are also not poisonous and were really interesting to watch.

Willowherb Hawkmoth

Finally, we have been lucky enough to also find the rare Willowherb Hawkmoth (Proserpinus proserpina) on the GR11 from La Sarra to Refugio Respomuso. They are found in the Pyrenees up to about 2000m and have a hugely variable wingspan between 36 and 60mm.

We’ll keep you posted on any more interesting finds!

First Lakes & Valleys guided holiday this season

Lakes & Valleys Walking Holiday

Walking beneath the Sierra de la Partacua

It’s all go, go, go here in the Spanish Pyrenees!  We’ve had plenty of self-guided guests exploring the Valle de Tena, and last week saw the first of the guided guests arrive, on a Lakes & Valleys holiday.  The Pyrenees, along with much of Europe, has experienced a remarkably late finish to winter, which has allowed the guests to enjoy some wonderful vistas of snow capped mountains, and down in the valleys, see many flowers, such as the  Elder Flowered Orchid, that may have otherwise finished flowering by now.

Lakes & Valleys Walking Holidays

Griffon Vulture up-close

We’ve been very fortunate with wildlife sightings this week, with the above griffon vulture standing proud, just before taking off, spotted on our descent from Ibon de Piedrafita.

Lakes & Valleys Walking Holidays

Clear views across the Ibon de Piedrafita, over to Garma Negro

Lakes & Valleys Trekking Holidays

Asp viper at Llano Cheto

At Llano Cheto, alongside the Rio de Aguas Limpias, we came across an asp viper, basking in the sunshine.  The asp viper, which is venomous, grows to an average length of 60-65cm, with males reaching a maximum of 85cm, and females 75cm and can be found up to altitudes of 2600m.

Lakes & Valleys Walking Holidays

Pena Foratata in the background

One of the most popular walks during the Lakes and Valleys Holidays is the circuit of Punta Del Pacino, as it offers fantastic panoramic views.  Many guests also choose the optional ascent of the ‘punta’ itself, at 1965m, and makes for a 40 minutes or so round trip from the Collado del Pacino.

An optional ascent of Punta Del Pacino 1965m

Ibon de la Sierra

Rincon de Balsera

The cirque of Rincon de Balsera

Explored the remote Ibon de la Sierra and was rewarded with great views and wildlife including a lammergeier, chamois, kestrels and my first marmots of the season.

It’s an area of the Valle de Tena that I’d wanted to hike in for ages but never seemed to get round to it. It’s a long walk in but really worth it as you get to some really wild valleys lying under the imposing peak of Punta Escarra.

Stemless Gentians

Stemless Gentians – one of my favourite early flowers

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The Iberian Lynx

European Lynx at Parque Faunistico in the Valle de Tena

European Lynx at La Cuniacha animal park in the Valle de Tena

The Iberian Lynx (Lynx pardinus) once roamed over most of Spain but has recently had the unfortunate label of the world’s most endangered feline. Numbers began falling at the start of the 20th century but in the last few decades numbers have fallen dramatically from an estimated 1100 in 1988 to just 120 in 2005. Continue reading