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Wednesday, 28 June 2017

The wild Arribes del Duero in Portugal and Spain

We had driven north from Vila Velha de Ródão with its towering cliffs known as the Portas do Ródão, where we had spent the night. The following morning we drove to Castelo Branco, and once again crossed the border into Spain, the sky blue, heat haze disfiguring the road as we passed through the Sierra de Gata, our destination La Alberca, high in the Sierra de la Peña de Francia, located
70 Kilometres South of Salamanca and also in the province of Salamanca in Castilla Y Leon.
The road is torturous, the air was cooler as we passed through the pine forest, gaining height, eventually the switchback bends delivered us into La Alberca.  



We awoke early the following morning, refreshed and ready to explore the town and breakfasted on an incredible local bread stuffed with Chorizo sausage.


After breakfast, we once again set out on another zigzagging road, this one spiralling us ever high towards the summit of Peña de Francia.


The views from the top of Peña de Francia, at 5666feet, 1727mtrs are far reaching.


Presumably, this sculptured window is a characterization of Simón Vela and his travels from
Santiago de Compostela via Salamanca to find the Peña de Francia.
It may just be Don Quixote!


Due to its height, the Peña de Francia is home to Alpine Accentors whose breeding grounds are usually above 1800mtrs.


They like barren areas and feed on Insects and seeds. It was certainly barren up there and I guess their main food source would have to be insects as there was barely a blade of grass.


Later in the day, we passed through Ciudad Rodrigo and into the arribes, the local name for the complex of Duero river gorges. Once again these canyons form the border between Portugal and Spain for close to 120 kilometres, and like the Rio Tajo gorges, they harbour important populations
of cliff-nesting birds.    


In both the above Photographs you can see the road that we had travelled, to access the canyon.


At the river level we used one of the giant dams to cross the border back into Portugal, so again you see Portugal on the left and Spain on the right. Swifts, Red Rumped and Barn Swallows hawk over the still water.


Positioned on top of an elevated outcrop, waiting to observe Vultures flying through the gorge, it was a surprise to see this Wren, so high!


The Griffon Vultures look Great in the late afternoon sunshine.


They just soared past just below our viewpoint.


Some of them starting to moult.


The following morning we were back early, just in time to catch a pair of Egyptian Vultures.


As the pair of Egyptian Vultures passed down the gorge the Griffon Vultures start to launch from their roost.



Some off the Griffons wait on the rocks for the early morning air to warm, before launching themselves off the cliff face.


We made slow progress, following as close as possible to the gorge, we were still in Portugal and Spain rising up across the water.


At times the roads and tracks had become so rutted and impossible to travel along we had to hike to the canyon.


Whilst walking we found This lovely Provence Hairstreak butterfly.


Two minutes later we found a Green Hairstreak.

The end of another great visit!

From here we would be travelling further North in Castilla y  León to start our search for the elusive
Iberian Wolf.

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