Belchite steppes

Belchite steppes and Dupont’s lark

Just to the south of the Ebro are the Belchite steppes, one of the best places in Spain for steppe birds, in particular at La Lomoza and El Planerón reserves, set up to protect one of best remaining examples of steppe in Europe. Both are lovely spots in the spring, the latter a magnificent rolling plain, framed by low hills and decked in wildflowers. Spanish and European birders come in some numbers to this quiet corner of Aragón every spring its star species; including stone curlews, pin-tailed soundgrouse and above all the rare and ellusive Dupont’s lark, luring Spanish and foreign naturalists to catch fleeting glimpses.

This shy little bird with a curved beak inhabits Spain’s steppelands and emits a characteristic nasal whistle which you’ll need to be up early to hear. It is endangered due to changes in land use, particularly the spread of irrigated farmland so we can all have cheap tomatoes in February, reforestation and wind farms, all of which you’ll see in the area. The estimated 1,300 surviving Spanish pairs represents 100% of the Europe’s Dupont’s, out of a total world population of 13,000-15,000 individuals – the rest of which live in North Africa. 

The old town of Belchite, destroyed over two offensives during the Spanish Civil War, is well worth a visit through a now obligatory guided tour. Scarce birds and war both bring tourists from the North to this obscure corner of Aragón.