Travel & Birds in Andorra – Birding in Andorra

Eurasian-griffon2

High mountains are a habitat I really love. The open spaces and feeling small among the massive landscapes is something that always draws me further and further into the location with a desire to see what the view is like from the top of the next mountain. So, while on a recent holiday in Europe it was exciting to spend a couple of days in Andorra. I could have chosen anywhere along the Spain/France border but I have always found small countries like Andorra intriguing. The high mountains along the France-Spain border are home to a number of exciting European birds but as I was on holiday with a non-birding partner I did not target any species in particular instead we just spent time in beautiful mountain scenery just seeing what appeared along the way; species such as European Griffon Vulture, Water Pipit, Alpine Accentor, Citril Finch, Dipper, Red-backed Shrike and Alpine Chough stood out for me but the real highlight was spending time walking within such fantastic mountain scenery.

Andorra turned out to be a great place to visit with non-birders and still enjoy the outdoors and a number of good birds. I hope the following provides some helpful information to other birders who visit Andorra as there is little online about birding within this beautiful country.We stayed in the village of Ordino which was a picturesque little place and the hotel we stayed in, Hotel Ordino, was comfortable and easy to find. The sites I birded in Andorra are marked on the map below with a pleasant little stream valley close to the hotel for morning birding. Spectacular scenery and some nice birds were the feature of an all day trip to the Arcalis region but the highest abundance and variety of birds were at the Andorra/France border.

Ordino
From our hotel room I was able to see some common birds from our balcony including nesting Crag Martins, House Martin and Black Redstart both of which were very obvious.

Black-redstart

In the early morning I walked down to a nearby stream where I found Dipper, Grey Wagtail and White Wagtail dancing around on the pebbles but there were also Serin, Great Spotted Warbler and an obliging Melodious Warbler as well as a few Blackcaps, a family of Wrens and a couple of Blackbirds. Large numbers of Common Swift were to be seen high in the sky at all times while other birds here included Blue Tit, Carrion Crow, Goldfinch and Tree Sparrow.

Arcalis
The main attraction at Arcalis is the stunning scenery and hiking. We parked at the base of the ski lift where several Water Pipits were obvious, strutting around on the meadows although very little else was around.

Water-pipit2

We took the popular hiking route up to the Tristaina lakes which was quite busy on a beautiful sunny day and it only took 20-30 minutes to get to the point at which we were able to admire the superb views over the lakes with magnificent peaks behind them. From here scanning the skies revealed a number of Eurasian Griffon Vultures, including a couple that came quite close, a Short-toed Eagle and a Black Kite. A number of Citril Finches flew by too but the scenery took most of our attention.

Mountain-cairn

Mountain-lake

Mountain-lake2

 

Being out for a long time always maximizes the chances of seeing something good and our walk took us out until a late lunch. I saw only a few birds but one of these was a nice Alpine Accentor which showed nicely a few times jumping around on rocks; there was also a Coal Tit, a Northern Wheatear, Raven and a couple of closer Griffons.

After our late lunch we took the chair lift up to a view point on the Andorra/France border. More superb scenery and this time there were plenty of very close Griffon Vultures to be seen, wonderful!

Eurasian-griffon

I decided to walk back down rather than take the chairlift only taking around 45 minutes to descend and in the late afternoon a few more birds were active with Black Redstarts, Water Pipits, Linnets and Northern Wheatears suddenly quite numerous. A loud calling noise from a rocky valley sounded like some sort of bird but after scanning with my binoculars the sound proved to come from Alpine Marmots which was a nice sight to end the day with.

Ordino to Canillo
We spent a day driving to our destination in France starting from Ordino. We took it really slowly stopping lots of times and taking walks in some beautiful scenery with lovely meadows full of wildflowers and butterflies, in fact the two sites I have marked on the map between these two villages held by far the most butterflies we saw in Andorra, it was spectacular.

butterly-andorra1

butterly-andorra2

butterfly-andorra3

 

In this area I added a lot of species to the list of birds I saw in Andorra including a nice Red-backed Shrike which attempted to kill a Northern Wheatear. In the forests in this area small flocks of Common Crossbills were frequent and I also saw Long-tailed Tit, Common Kestrel, Eurasian Jay and Serin.

Port d’Anvalira (Andorra/France birder crossing)
I had read that other birders had seen some interesting species around the pass that takes the road from Andorra into France so I spent some time birding here on our way out of the country. Once again the scenery was superb and this time with some breeze and swirling cloud it was very atmospheric too.

Mountains

This area proved to be the place for the best views of Eurasian Griffon with 30-40 of them swirling around most of the time I was in the area and a number of them flew past at very close range.

Eurasian-griffon2

I was also really pleased to see several flocks of Alpine Chough up here and later I heard the call of Red-billed Chough which allowed me to get a good view as they flew past. Water Pipit and Northern Wheatear were common here and when I walked out to photograph some Marmots I saw plenty of Linnets, a pair of Ravens, more Citril Finches and a pair of Grey Wagtails.

Although we had a flying visit to Andorra I was able to see some good birds well while our main object was just enjoying the scenery and having a non-birding holiday. I found prices in Andorra lower than in nearby Spain and France, particularly petrol which is significantly cheaper, and local people were friendly, we seemed to be a bit of a novelty (at least at this time of year) in being English speaking tourists as the vast majority of other tourists were from Spain and France.

I was pleased to get some nice photos of Alpine Marmots as my final shots before leaving Andorra.

Alpine-marmot

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