Southern White Admiral Limenitis reducta© Teresa Farino
Wildlife of the Aragonese Pyrenees
A wealth of flowers, butterflies and birds in the Benasque valley, amid spectacular landscapes at the foot of the highest peak in the Pyrenees
The narrow, glaciated valley of Benasque is squeezed between the granite bulks of Aneto (3,404m) and Posets (3,369m) – the two highest peaks in the Pyrenees – and is part of the 33,267-hectare Posets–Maladeta Natural Park. From our base in the small town of Benasque itself, we shall be making forays into the surrounding subalpine and alpine habitats, Great Yellow Gentian Gentiana lutea© Teresa Farinoincluding high- and middle-altitude haymeadows, thick coniferous forests, peatbogs and both granitic and limestone rock gardens, as well as taking in some of the drier, more Mediterranean habitats at lower levels towards the southern end of the valley.
In late June, Benasque's species-rich haymeadows teem with eye-catching plants such as Pyrenean Pheasant's-eye, Great Yellow Gentian, the related Gentiana burseri, Leafy Lousewort, Pyrenean Hyacinth, St Bernard's, Martagon and St Bruno's Lilies, White False Helleborine, Lily-of-the Valley and Greater Butterfly, Small White and Frog orchids, as well as the vanilla orchid Nigritella austriaca ssp. iberica.
In really boggy areas, we might find Bird's-eye Primrose, Yellow Mountain Saxifrage, Alpine Bartsia, Tofield's Asphodel and Early and Robust Marsh Orchids, while drier pastures support a colourful array of Pyrenean Pink, Mt Cenis Restharrow and Pyrenean Golden Drop. More shade-tolerant plants of the conifer forests include at least three species of wintergreen, Baneberry, Herb-Paris, Twayblade and Bird's-nest Orchid.
Sempervivum arachnoideum© Teresa Farino
An exploration of the granitic rock gardens might turn up Lesser Clubmoss, Alpine Snowbell, Vitaliana, Mountain and Cobweb Houseleeks, Alpine Avens and Southern Gentian, while outcrops of limestone add to the floristic diversity, hosting a fabulous array of Tufted Soapwort, Net-leaved and Pyrenean Willows, the columbine Aquilegia viscosa ssp. hirsutissima, Thore's Buttercup, Narcissus-flowered Anemone, Pyrenean, White Musky, Livelong and Blue Saxifrages, Garland Flower, Alchemilla-leaved Cinquefoil, Mountain Avens, Ramonda, Pyrenean Yam, and, last but not least, Edelweiss.
In terms of its fauna, Benasque is every inch a Pyrenean enclave, with the most visible mammals being Alpine Marmot and Isard, and notable birds including Lammergeier, Griffon Vulture, Golden Eagle, Wallcreeper, Alpine Accentor, Rock Thrush, both Chough and Alpine Chough, and Snow Finch. Among the birds of open grasslands seen fairly frequently in the Benasque valley are Red-backed Shrike, Whinchat and Ortolan Bunting.
Alpine Accentor Prunella collaris© Teresa Farino
The coniferous forests are the haunt of the Pyrenean subspecies of Capercaillie as well as Tengmalm's Owl and Black Woodpecker, although all three are rather scarce these days and tend to be confined to the most remote areas enclaves, so we'll probably have to content ourselves with Citril Finches, Crossbills and Crested tits.
Pyrenean Brook Newts are fairly common in the highest mountain streams, with drier habitats home to Western Whip Snakes and diverse species of lizard. Among the more interesting butterflies on the wing at this time of year are Marbled Skipper, Clouded Apollo, Mountain Dappled White, Mazarine, Large and Mountain Alcon Blues, Purple-shot and Purple-edged Coppers, Southern White Admiral, Mountain and Shepherd's Fritillaries and a whole host of ringlets, and we should also keep an eye out for Sombre Goldenring, which is a rare dragonfly indeed in Spain.
Large Blue Phengaris arion© Teresa Farino
Wildlife of the Aragonese Pyrenees
Leader: Teresa Farino
2017 Dates: Tues. 20 June – Tues. 27 June
(8 days / 7 nights)
Price: 1,430€, per person, including half-board, en suite accommodation at the family-run Hotel Avenida in Benasque, picnic lunches, transport by hired minibus throughout, all entry fees and the services of the leader. A single-room supplement of 150€ is applicable, but individual accommodation is limited. Flights and travel insurance (obligatory) are the responsibility of the client.
Although the cost of the tour is given in euros, clients may pay in sterling, the exchange rate to be calculated at the time of payment using www.oanda.com.
Pick-up details: In order to offer the best range of UK departures, we have decided to start this tour at Barcelona airport. A number of airlines – both scheduled and low-cost (easyJet, Ryanair, Jet2, Norwegian, British Airways, Iberia, etc.) – fly to this destination from a range of British airports, which should make your life as easy as possible. All we ask is that you book a flight to arrive in Barcelona before 3pm on Tuesday 20 June, and a return flight departing after 4pm on Tuesday 27 June.
Please contact Teresa to discuss flight times and pick-up arrangements further if you have any queries, as the itinerary is flexible, up to a point.
Narcissus-flowered Anemone Anemone narcissiflora © Teresa Farino
If you wish to extend your visit in order to explore Spain further, please remember that if you require transport to the hotel you must arrange to be at Barcelona airport by 3pm at the latest on Tuesday 20 June. Alternatively, those travelling to Benasque independently can arrange to meet the group at the Hotel Avenida on the first evening.
Group size: maximum 8 persons.
Booking information: please contact Teresa Farino for further details and a booking form, or if you have any queries about this tour.
|Office phone: ||(+34) 942 735154|
|Mobile phone: ||(+34) 656 337129|
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