Birding Without Borders

Day 173: Picnic in France

On a lark, Noah takes a French sojourn.

June 22, 2015, Pamplona, Spain — At sunrise, Gorka and I were in position to look for the Dupont’s Lark, which lives in a certain grassland in northern Spain. The air was noisy with different species of larks. Calandra Larks fluttered above the plain, flashing their white-edged secondaries while belting out a buzzy song; Crested Larks sang a more melodious tune; and Greater Short-toed Larks skulked around the margins, keeping a lower profile. Then we heard a rising phrase in the distance: Rico-teeeee! The Dupont’s Lark (called a “ricoti” in Spanish) greeted the dawn.

Only later did Gorka mention that, at least earlier in spring when most birders go looking, you don’t have to get up early to find a Dupont’s Lark. They sing all day long. “We just helped perpetuate the sunrise myth,” Gorka said. “Foreign birders all think you have to get up early to see one!” It was fun to be out there, anyway, especially when we came across a dozen drop-dead dazzling Pin-tailed Sandgrouse a few minutes later.

For lunch Gorka and I headed into the Pyrenees, a range of high, rugged mountains on Spain’s northern border. The road switchbacked up through fields of sheep and postcard-perfect alpine villages, eventually passing above treeline with bare peaks spanning the horizon. We reached the border of France at a high pass, and, on a lark, continued another hundred yards to have a summer picnic in the French Pyrenees.

I saw a dozen birds and even picked up a new one during our short sojourn in France: A couple of Citril Finches perched next to us while we snacked on fresh cherries. 

As we sat in the grass, Gorka went through a printed list of every bird in Spain and concluded that we’ve practically seen them all. Tomorrow, on my last day in Europe, we will focus on just two more possible species here, the White-backed Woodpecker and Grasshopper Warbler. Then onward: The next morning kicks off two full months in Africa, followed by three months in Asia! This year ain’t even half over yet.

New birds today: 8

Year list: 3057

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