The Naranja de Bulnes campground that where we stayed in the Picos de Europa mountain range is a fine place. Our pitch was in a shady spot next to the Cares River. After a electric bike ride up to the mountains in the morning of our first day, I spent the part of the afternoon reading and snoozing in my recliner. The bird life here is incredible. There are dippers in the river and a jay that poses on a post a couple of pitches down The usual sparrows and a tame juvenile robin (minus redbreast) were tempted by the noggin of the Spanish bread that I was breaking up for them. However I was most excited about the friendly nuthatches. The cheeky monkeys came begging before I even put out the food.
Now I’ve learned that there’s not just one species. The nuthatches that became my pals are probably the Eurasian variety. I’d even worked out what subspecies they might belong to by the pinky colour underneath their tails. Wow! I’ve come a long way in my ornithological knowledge. Once I found myself in a bird hide on the Exe estuary as I’d heard rumours that spoonbills had been spotted. And yes! I saw them. But there was a very earnest birder there asking whether a mallard was a particular variant. Heck, I felt like telling him that I barely knew the difference between a duck and a goose!
I’m not a proper birder but I do love spotting our feathered friends when on my travels. They add to my memories. There were flamingos in the Camargue, the huge marshland area in Southern France. Even though I have never spotted our own colourful kingfishers in the UK I have seen the larger monochrome pied variety in Yellowstone. Of course, there were bald eagles too. But my favourite birding experience has to be the Lammergeier, a huge bearded vulture with a seven foot wingspan that hovered overhead on a hike in the Cretan mountains. He eyed me up for a while but must have gone away when he realized that carrion doesn’t move around!