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This tiny independent state, covering less than 500km2, lies on the southern slopes of the eastern Pyrenees.
Although it is today well-known as a popular resort for winter sports enthusiasts there are a variety of habitats within the principality and a range of bird species can be seen including all the mountain specialities found elsewhere in the Pyrenees.
Much of Andorra consists of high mountains with narrow valleys and deep gorges. Broadleaved and coniferous woodland covers large areas, in lower parts there are slopes with Mediterranean scrub and at higher altitude there are many flower-filled alpine meadows.
As elsewhere in the Pyrenees raptors are one of the greatest attractions for visiting birders and Lammergeier, Griffon Vulture and Golden Eagle are all seen fairly easily. In addition Northern Goshawk and Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Short-toed Eagle and Peregrine Falcon may be seen. Other mountain species present include Rock Ptarmigan and a few Eurasian Dotterel, Northern Raven and both choughs, Alpine Accentor, Water Pipit, Rock Bunting and Snow Finch.
The birdlife of the forests is rich with Western Capercaillie, Eurasian Eagle-Owl and Tengmalm's Owl, Iberian Green Woodpecker and Black Woodpecker and passerines such as Crested Tit and Coal Tit, both treecreepers, Western Bonelli's Warbler and Citril Finch. More open areas and woodlands edges have breeding Eurasian Scops Owl and European Nightjar in small numbers as well as Dartford Warbler and Subalpine Warbler, Red-backed Shrike and Ortolan Bunting.
The Incles Valley is a good area for a range of birds from Whinchat and Yellowhammer in the lower level farmland and Crested Tit, Common Crossbill and Citril Finch in pinewoods to Golden Eagle, Alpine Accentor and Wallcreeper at higher altitudes and even Rock Ptarmigan at the topmost levels.
To reach this area from Andorra la Vella take the CG-2 to Soldeu and walk up the valley which begins 1km to the north.
Os de Civis
Another excellent area can be walked from Os de Civis reached by taking the La Seu d'Urgell road out of Andorra la Vella and turning right at the village of Aixovall. From Os de Civis follow the road to the Hostal Borda la Plana and continue on the dirt track until a right turn, park there are walk through meadows and up into pinewoods with Black Woodpecker.
For the keener birders it is possible to continue to the Conflent Pass for more upland species and from here to the 2,789m peak of Saloria where Rock Ptarmigan may be found.
From Canillo there is a road to Ordino which is usually open for most of the year and a good spot on this road is the Roc de Quer, a picnic area from which both Lammergeier and Griffon Vulture can be seen. Black Woodpecker, Wood Lark and Short-toed Treecreeper can also be found here. The road continues to the Coll d'Ordino, a high, grassy pass where a similar range of species occurs as well as Western Bonelli's Warbler and Western Capercaillie.
Arcalis Ski Station
From Ordino follow the road northwards to El Serrat and on to the Arcalis Ski-station. Birds found here include Alpine Accentor, both choughs, Water Pipit and Black Redstart. La Rabassa is a ski resort in the far south on the Spanish border and reached from the town of Sant Julia de Loria. Follow the road to the restaurant and the picnic area has Wood Lark, Ring Ouzel, Firecrest and Crested Tit, Common Crossbill and Citril Finch. It is possible to climb to the 2,665m Pic Negre from here for more mountain birds.
Birds you can see here include:
White Stork, Mallard, European Honey Buzzard, Black Kite, Short-toed Eagle, Lammergeier, Egyptian Vulture, Griffon Vulture, Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Northern Goshawk, Common Buzzard, Golden Eagle, Common Kestrel, Peregrine Falcon, Rock Ptarmigan, Western Capercaillie, Red-legged Partridge, Grey Partridge, Common Quail, Common Pheasant, Eurasian Dotterel, Woodcock, Common Sandpiper, Stock Dove, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Turtle Dove, Common Cuckoo, Barn Owl, Eurasian Eagle Owl, Eurasian Scops Owl, Little Owl, Tawny Owl, Long-eared Owl, Tengmalm's Owl, European Nightjar, Common Swift, Pallid Swift, Alpine Swift, Common Kingfisher, Wryneck, Iberian Green Woodpecker, Black Woodpecker, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Wood Lark, Eurasian Skylark, Eurasian Crag Martin, Barn Swallow, House Martin, Tree Pipit, Water Pipit, Grey Wagtail, White Wagtail, Common Wren, Common Dipper, Dunnock, Alpine Accentor, Eurasian Robin, Nightingale, Black Redstart, Common Redstart, Whinchat, Northern Wheatear, Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush, Blue Rock Thrush, Ring Ouzel, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush, Cetti's Warbler, Melodious Warbler, Dartford Warbler, Subalpine Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Common Whitethroat, Garden Warbler, Blackcap, Western Bonelli's Warbler, Goldcrest, Firecrest, Spotted Flycatcher, Pied Flycatcher, Long-tailed Tit, Marsh Tit, Coal Tit, Crested Tit, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Eurasian Nuthatch, Wallcreeper, Common Treecreeper, Short-toed Treecreeper, Golden Oriole, Red-backed Shrike, Woodchat Shrike, Common Jay, Alpine Chough, Red-billed Chough, Jackdaw, Carrion Crow, Northern Raven, Common Starling, House Sparrow, Tree Sparrow, Rock Sparrow, Snow Finch, Chaffinch, European Serin, Citril Finch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Siskin, Linnet, Common Crossbill, Common Bullfinch, Hawfinch, Yellowhammer, Cirl Bunting, Rock Bunting, Ortolan Bunting, Corn Bunting
Mammals found in Andorra include Marmot Marmota marmota, especially in the La Rabassa and Pic Negre areas, Chamois Rupicapra rupicapra, Wild Boar Sus scrofa, Fallow Deer Cervus dama and Roe Deer Capreolus capreolus. Mouflon Ovis musimon has been introduced. In the woods a very dark form of Red Squirrel Sciurus vulgaris can be found as well as the very elusive Genet Genetta genetta.
Butterflies abound in the colourful flower-filled alpine meadows and include Swallowtail Papilio machaon and Scarce Swallowtail Iphiclides podalirius, Apollo Parnassius apollo and Clouded Apollo Parnassius mnemosyne, Mountain Dappled White Euchloe ausonia and Mountain Clouded Yellow Colias phicomone, Great Banded Grayling Brintesia circe and Silvery Argus Pseudaricia nicias. A variety of ringlet butterflies occurs including Spanish Brassy Erebia hispanica rondui, Garvanie Erebia gorgone, Mountain Erebia epiphron, False Dewy Erebia sthennyo, Piedmont Erebia meolans, De Prunner's Erebia triaria and Lefebvre's Erebia lefebvrei.
Like other sites in the Pyrenees Andorra has a huge range of plant species and there is much of interests for botanists. Among the most spectacular of flowers are the Yellow Turk's-cap Lily Lilium pyrenaicum, the yellow Alpine Pasque Flower Pulsatilla alpina apiifolia and Spring Pasque Flower Pulsatilla vernalis, Pyrenean Iris Iris latifolia and the rhododendron Rhododendron ferrugineum. Soft Snapdragon Antirrhinum molle is endemic to the area as is the Pyrenean Gentian Gentiana pyrenaica.
In recent years the increasing interest in skiing has resulted in much greater accessibilty to the higher areas and there are now seven ski stations with more such development planned for the future.
In such a small country a single base can be used to explore most areas and the capital, Andorra la Vella, is within easy reach of excellent birding habitat.
Access and Facilities
Today tourism is Andorra's main source of income and there is a wide range of accommodation available throughout the country to suit most budgets. Andorra is easily reached by road from both France and Spain.
Content and images originally posted by Steve