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.
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.
We kicked off our 2016 hiking season 6 weeks ago with a superb meal in Ricon el Montañes in Biescas. Since then we have welcomed, explored and shared the Pyrenees with many new as-well as familiar faces returning for their second, third or even fifth holiday with us!
Lakes and Valleys, 29th May – 5 June.
A superb first week with the early spring flowers still making an appearance. We also encountered some patches of snow which added an extra enjoyable element to our hikes!
Superb views during the Lacs d’Ayous hike
Alpine daffodil in the Ayous valley.
Tackling the odd snow patch!
Valle de Tena Explorer, 5 – 12 June
This week we welcomed Terry, Cathy and Clare back on their second holiday with us. They along with others explored the Valle de Tena, we even sneaked over the border for a day hiking in France.
Clare on her second holiday with us. Standing proud on top of Punta del Pacino. Thanks for the photo Clare
Bernie, Terry and Clare getting to grips with snow.
I found an orchid that I’d not seen before earlier this week – an Autumn Lady’s Tresses (Spiranthes Spiralis). It’s a short orchid (around 15 cm) with tiny flowers (only around 6mm) that spiral around the stem in a very attractive way.
Autumn Lady’s Tresses – Spiranthes Spiralis
It’s not in my Pyrenees flower books so took a bit of research to find out what it was. It likes calcareous soil and I think a more mediterranean climate than we get in most of the Pyrenees.
This weekend Biescas town hall is running a series of guided orchid and flora walks. They’re led by Jose Miguel who has written 7 books on Pyrenean flora.
The orchid on the advert is a woodcock orchid – one of the fascinationg Ophrys family of orchids. Each variety is highly specialised to attract only one certain type of insect – the flower mimics the look of the insect and even gives off a scent resembling the female insects pheremone in order to attract male insects who pollenate the flower.
They walks are free to join and really interesting (and make for great Spanish practise!).
I was hiking up Punta del Pacino at the weekend which is one of my favourite peaks in the valley – not high at 1965 metres but with a fantastic position right in the centre of the valley and you get superb views in all directions from the summit. The lower sunny slopes are covered in elder flowered orchids and spring gentians.
Summit views from Punta del Pacino
This is the view looking south west over Embalse de Escarra to the Sierra de Partacua. Still a lot of snow higher up but most peaks around 2000 metres have only patchy snow. Higher than this there is still a lot of snow – particularly along the route of the GR11.
Our friends Dave and Elena are over at the moment with their daughter Evangeline. We all went hiking from Sallent up to the embalse at La Sarra which is a lovely spot. Isabel and Evangeline went in the backpacks and loved it.
Wild daffodils in the meadows
The spring flowers are really getting going now and there were meadows full of wild daffodils.
It’s a great walk and can be done as part of our village to village walking holiday either as an extension to day 3 or as an easy option for day 4.
Overlooking Sallent with Punta del Pacino in the background
The wonderful and very rare Lady’s Slipper Orchid (Cypripedium calceolus) has been in flower again this June. The Valley de Tena is luck enough to have a population of around a dozen of these fantastic plants.
It’s one of only 3 populations left in the Pyrenees – the others are in the Valle de Pineta and the Cataluynan Pyrenees. They were discovered by a French botanist in the 80′s right next to a new road to Formigal. Whlst they are in flower they are guarded continuously. Around 6 plants are in an area where you can walk and photograph them and the others are kept behind a roped walkway. The guardian tells me that in the area where peole can walk no new orchids are growing while in the roped area lots of new plants are coming up which is great news.
Lady’s Slipper Orchid
The season is well underway here in the Pyrenees and we’ve had a couple of Lakes & Valleys guided walking holidays as well as lots of guests doing self guided walking holidays. We’ve been blessed with some fantastic early season weather with lots of warm sunny days and perfect views.
Punta del Pacino has – as always – been one of our most popular walks with it’s fantastic panoramic views from the summit.
Walking in the Valle La Ripera near Panticosa
The magnificent Corona de Rey (King’s crown)
The warm weather during April and May means that the Pyrenees are already bursting with life and lots of species of wildflowers that I wouldn’t normally expect to see at this time of year are already flowering – these are all photos taken on my hikes over the last couple of weeks.
Saxifraga Longifolia are one of the specialities of the Pyrenees. Known locally as Corona del Rey (Kings Crown) they grow slowly on cliff faces for about 4 or 5 years before exploding into flower for just one season before dying. The flower stem can be up to 60 cm tall and is covered in small white flowers.
Spanish Moon Moth – a huge moth with a wingspan of almost 15cm
This Spanish Moon Moth was a fantastic find. First time I ever saw it was on an outdoor bench in my backyard, but couldn’t quite get a shot. It was the biggest moth I’ve ever seen with a wingspan approaching 15cm and had fantastic colours. They live in pine forests and are quite rare so it was a real privilege to see it.
Saffron is the most expensive spice in the world and sells for more than $4000 a kilo. Production is hugely labour intensive with the delicate task of removal of the stamens only possible by hand. Good report on the BBC on how Spain is hoping this years saffron harvest will help boost employment for the troubled Spanish economy. Read the report.
Walking in the Valle de Ordiso
The walking season is in full swing here in the Pyrenees and we’ve had a couple of great walking holidays already this June with a Lakes & Valleys and a Discover Ordesa walking holidays. We’ve had some fantastic hikes visiting high alpine pastures, abandoned villages, the Ordesa and Anisclo canyons and some superb summits. Continue reading
Looking up to Pena Telera and the cliffs of the Sierra de Partacua
The mountains of the Valle de Tena are looking beautiful and bursting into life. Spring gentians, trumpet gentians and elder flowered orchids are covering the sunnier meadows around Ibon de Piedrafita and above the village of Sandinies.
Trumpet Gentians in the Pyrenees
Woodcock Orchid – Ophrys Scolopax
Ophyrs orchids attract male bees by imitating the shape, colour and scent of female bees. Each orchid is specialised to be pollinated by only one type of bee. Read an interesting article on the bbc today about bees cross pollinating different orchids creating hybrids. Continue reading
Early primroses in the Pyrenees
Few signs of spring as I took a walk out from Biescas yesterday. First few primroses are coming out in sunny spots alongside the path and few hepatica have started to join them. The stinking hellebore have been out a few weeks – the flowers of these remain green as there’s nothing else in flower at this time of year to compete for insects attentions. Continue reading