Crossbill Guide: Spanish Pyrenees and Steppes of Huesca

Crossbill Guides cover various wildlife-rich areas in Europe. This one suggests various habitats to visit in the province of Huesca, which is the northernmost and most diverse of the three provinces in the Aragon region of Spain. This is a fabulous book that you should get your hands on. It has a lovely solid, reliable feel and balances perfectly in the palm of your hand as you flick through the pages. The graphic design is very pleasing, as are the many beautiful colour photographs which not only depict the sites but also the region’s wildlife and plants.

After a short introduction on how to use the guide and listing eight highlights of the area, it becomes apparent this book is aimed at wildlife enthusiasts as well as birders. The first few sections cover the landscape, geology, climate, topography and fauna and flora of the area.

The bulk of the book is a description of 21 routes through various habitats and the species that you are likely to encounter. As well as birds this includes mammals, reptiles, amphibians, butterflies, dragonflies, crickets and plants.
Each route has a brief overview, which is followed by a more detailed ‘hand-holding’ description of the actual journey. The colour maps are bright and clear, with both a scale and magnetic north shown.

The closing pages have some more general logistical tips followed by a bird list, which specifies the best routes for seeing certain species. This is the section birders will turn to if they want to know instantly where the most reliable locations are to see some of the more charismatic species, such as Wallcreeper and Dupont’s Lark. You can also go to the Crossbill Guide website and download a plant list, which identifies the best routes for some of the plants. Exact locations are not given, so if you want to find Lady’s Slipper Orchid you will still need to use other sources or – dare I say it? – employ the services of a guide.

The last section is a list of the plants, birds, reptiles, amphibians and invertebrates recorded in the region, in English, Latin, German and Dutch. It would be an improvement if this was somehow combined with an index, or one was provided separately.

In short, this is a near-perfect site guide that I’ll have firmly clasped in my hand next time I’m leading tours in the area. In fact this book is so good it could almost have done me out of a job.
  • Spanish Pyrenees and Steppes of Huesca by Dirk Hilbers and Kees Woutersen (Crossbill Guides, Arnhem, The Netherlands, 2012).
  • 256 pages, numerous colour photos, illustrations and maps.
  • ISBN 9789050113823. Pbk, £20.95. Birdwatch Bookshop from £18.95.