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For nearly a thousand years, theCamino de Santiago de Compostelaor 'Way of St. James' has been themost travelled pilgrimage route in Europe.However, rather than being a single route,the Camino is in fact a collection of manypilgrimage routes, all of which converge onthe cathedral of Santiago de Compostela inGalicia, north-west Spain, where traditionhas it that the remains of the apostle St.James are buried. Many of these ancientpathways pass through spectacularlandscapes and scenery, and none aremore enticing for the naturalist than theseries of paths which cross the Pyreneesand then descend through Aragón to link upwith the main pilgrimage route in Navarra. While the northern, French valleys of thePyrenees are wet, green and thicklyforested, the Spanish side of this dividingrange is dry, arid and generally moreMediterranean - home to a very differentvariety of plant and bird species. Thesesunny southern slopes are characterised bystunning limestone erosions, cliffs andcanyons, and a rich variety of scrub, maquisand arable farmland as well as extensivebeech and conifer forests. Our comfortablebase for this 8-day holiday is a delightful'casa rural' situated right on the Camino, inthe pretty hilltop village of Berdún whichenjoys fine views of the Pyrenees,surrounding foothills, and valleys of theVeral and Aragón Rivers. We'll makeleisurely daily walks exploring a combinationof the wildlife and historical highlights (formany isolated and ancient waysidechurches and hermitages may be found)along key Aragonese stretches of theCamino. In addition, we'll make detours offthe beaten track, along ancient footpaths,as we search for birds, plants andbutterflies.We begin this holiday with a flight toZaragoza, exploring the spectacularlimestone gorge, Foz de Lumbier, en routefrom the airport to Berdún. The gorge ishome to such bird species as EgyptianVulture and Spectacled Warbler; butterfliesabound, as well as flowers such as Narrow-leaved Valerian and Pyrenean Saxifrage. Onsubsequent days we'll walk differentstretches of the Camino, one of our firstexcursions being to the Pyrenean pass ofSomport, situated on the French-Spanishborder at 1,640 metres, from where we'lldescend to the village of Villanua at 953metres, following the Camino along the RioAragón as it passes through alpinepastures, woods and fields. This routeoffers the chance to see birds such asGriffon Vulture, Lammergeier, Short-toedEagle, Crag Martin, Alpine Chough and CitrilFinch, and we should also see manybutterflies and - in June - such orchidssuch as Early Purple, Elder-flowered, LesserButterfly and Fragrant, as well as otherflowers such as Pyrenean SnakesheadFritillary, Pyrenean Squill, Pyrenean Violetand Pyrenean Scabious.On another day, we will walk the short butpicturesque cabañera or 'drovers' road' toJaca, the first large town medieval pilgrimswould have come to when walking intoSpain. A bustling provincial town, Jaca hasa magnificent Romanesque cathedral, andfor the energetic there's an optional walk tothe summit of the sacred mountain PeñaOroel, where Griffon Vultures breed. Thiswalk also offers a wealth of wild flowers,among them Woodcock Orchid, PyreneanHoneysuckle and Beautiful Flax. We will alsospend a day on another branch of theCamino which enters Spain via the Col dePau and drops to the Roman road down theHecho Valley - one of the most beautifulvalleys in the Pyrenees, where bothLammergeier and Wallcreeper may befound.Taking a detour off the Camino, we willexplore a route that would once have beentaken by medieval pilgrims to see the holyrelics (including the Holy Grail!) at themonastery of St. Juan de la Peña. For thenaturalist, this is a quiet and rewarding spot,where Black Woodpeckers breed in theforest around the monastery and vulturesnest on the south-facing cliffs beneath it. Having explored the higher Pyrenean areas,we will enjoy a couple of walks at loweraltitudes where the drier, moreMediterranean habitats support a verydifferent flora and birdlife. First, we'll walkfrom Hecho into the Veral/Anso Valley,descending along a dramatic path to thespectacular Binies Gorge. Then, on our finalday, we'll walk from the Ermita de La Virgende La Peña, spectacularly perched at thetop of a cliff, to the fascinating abandonedvillage of Escó (close to the Yesa reservoirwhich attracts fishing Black Kites, andmigrant Ospreys and waders in theautumn); two more walks offering thechance to savour pathways followed for athousand years by a multitude of devoutpilgrims - routes greatly enhanced fortoday's naturalist by the wealth of waysidewildlife and spectacular sceneryencountered along them.JACAZARAGOZABERDÚNLOURDES TOULOUSE ANDORRA BILBAO MADRID ORDESSA NATIONAL PARK FRANCE SPAIN 140Call now or visit www.naturetrek.co.ukfor your free Trip ItineraryOutline itineraryDay 1Fly Zaragoza andtransfer to Berdún.Day 2/7A programme of daywalks along the Caminode Santiago from ourbase in Berdún.Day 8Fly Stansted.AccommodationA characterful 17th centuryAragonese dwelling, situated in adelightfully unspoilt village. Allrooms have private facilities.Food and wineAll included in the price.GradingGrade B. Day walks only, but somemore challenging terrain covered.FocusBirds, plants and butterflies; alsowalking and history.Leader Richard Cash.Single room supplement£140.ExtensionsArranged on request.Web quick search: ESP26Spain'sCaminodeSantiago & its Natural History An 8-day holiday of natural history walks along parts of the ancient Camino de Santiago, Europe's bestknown pilgrimage route, combining birds, plants and butterflies with a touch of history.Sunday 22nd September - Sunday 29th September Cost: £1,295 Short-toed EagleScarce CopperWalking along the Camino, Taxeras

This is a holiday that offers qualityrather than quantity. A quality of light(during daylight hours!) and somequality birds and photographicopportunities. Indeed, winter birdwatchingin northern Scandinavia is very special. Atime when, although a limited number ofspecies is present, such beautiful birds asWaxwings, Crossbills and Bullfinches tendto look even more exquisite in the magicalwinter light, and when almost everymedium-sized bird adorning a treetop islikely to be something special - a forestgrouse, a Nutcracker, a Goshawk or evena Hawk Owl.We will be based in the snow-ladenlowlands of Svartådalen in central Sweden,less than an hour's drive from Västeråsairport, near Stockholm. Svartådalen (theBlack River Valley) offers a pleasingpatchwork of deciduous and coniferousforests, farmland, and lakes and wetlands,frozen and snow-covered in winter. Weexplore this quiet and generally under-exploited landscape via small, windingroads, looking out for such winter visitorsas Great Grey Shrikes and Rough-leggedBuzzards. Resident Goshawks, and bothGolden and White-tailed Eagles alsofrequent the area, whilst both Hawk Owls and Pygmy Owls are regularly seenthroughout the winter as they sit in thetreetops waiting for their favourite prey -voles - to show on the ground beneaththem. Hawk Owls, in particular, once theyhave found a reliable source of food, willoften stay in the same area for monthsduring the winter, before moving north totheir breeding grounds in March.On cold, clear days, the air is dry and icyand the light simply stunning as it turns topicture postcards the pretty, bright, red-painted wooden farmhouses and theglistening white, snow-coveredsurroundings. On our excursions we willnot lack for plentiful snacks and hotdrinks, preferably enjoyed beside an open-air fire; however, the bitter cold burnsenergy, and after a full day's birding it iswonderful to retreat into a warm cottageand to sit in front of a welcoming log firefor a cup of afternoon tea andconsideration of the day's sightings.Indeed, both of the comfortablecountryside hotels we use during this shortbreak offer hearty local food and a goodatmosphere. Each day, during our winter birdingoutings, we will not just scan from theroadsides in our vehicle, but will takewalks into the forest and spend time atbird feeding stations, positioned in avariety of habitats, each attracting adifferent range of species. At one suchfeeding station at a garden feeder in thesouthern part of Svartådalen we shouldsee Hawfinches and magnificentBullfinches amongst a host of otherfinches, tits and thrushes. Further north, ina forest clearing, Nutcrackers and Grey-headed Woodpeckers are the mainattractions, together with a variety of foresttits and other passerines. Many of thesebirds have become very tame over theyears, and Crested, Willow and Coal Titswill sometimes feed from your hand or siton your camera lens whilst curiousNutcrackers gather hazelnuts just metres away.On one day we will drive north for a coupleof hours to a feeding station at Ockelbo.Here, surrounded by the extensive taigaforests which wrap around the planet atthis high latitude, we will look for curiousSiberian Jays which regularly visit thefeeding station in February. Grey-headedWoodpecker, Crested Tit and Willow Tit arealso likely, whilst en route we will stop atthe River Dalälven where Dippers (of theBlack-bellied race) are found and wherePygmy Owls can sometimes be seen bythe roadside. We should also be vigilantthroughout the tour for flocks of softlytrilling Waxwings, which are often seenfeasting on berries in Swedish gardensduring the cold winter months. On our final morning we will walk in theforest in search of Hazelhen, Black Grouseand perhaps, even, Capercaillie. We willalso look out for Goshawks, and bothGolden and White-tailed Eagles, whilstoccasionally Three-toed or BlackWoodpeckers are encountered here.Mammals, too, will not be overlookedduring this holiday, for we have a goodchance of encountering such commonspecies as Elk, Roe Deer, Red Deer, RedFox, both Brown and Mountain Hare, RedSquirrel, Stoat, Weasel and Mink, and aslim chance of one of the more elusiveresidents - a Lynx, Wolf, Beaver, Otter orWild Boar! We will also have fundeciphering their tracks.Sweden in WinterA 4-day short break to experience the peace, tranquillity and snow-laden beauty of rural Swedenin winter as we focus on enjoying and photographing its obliging winter bird specialities. Thursday 7th February - Sunday 10th February Cost: £1,050Thursday 14th February - Sunday 17th February Cost: £1,050Book direct on 01962 733051or see page 284 for Booking InformationNORWAYBALTICSEAKALMARGOTLANDÖLANDMALMÖGOTHENBURGSTOCKHOLMSVARTÅDALENOCKELBOSWEDENOutline itineraryDay 1Fly Stockholm; transferSvartådalen.Day 2/3Winter birding aroundSvartådalen.Day 4Drive Stockholm; flyLondon.AccommodationComfortable guesthouse. All roomshave private facilities.FoodAll included in the price, except forlunch on Day 1 and dinner on Day 4.GradingA. Gentle day walks only. FocusBirds and photography.LeaderDaniel Green.Single room supplement£120.Web quick search: SWE03141SvartådalenWaxwingSiberian Jay