North of the province of Lugo there are ridged, low-lying mountains. Don't be fooled, the entry of wind and clouds directly from the Bay of Biscay make this range and its surroundings a rugged and inhospitable place where few birds survive successfully. 

The northern mountains

An intricate, seemingly friendly massif rises nearly from the edge of the Bay of Biscay which often sends its fleet of clouds to collide in these mountains, dumping constant rainfall in the midst of dense fog. In winter, despite its modest altitude (peaks barely reach one thousand metres above sea level), the rain becomes snow.

As such, the landscape found in O Xistral seems to be a replica of mountains in the north of the British Isles or Scandinavia, with large areas of peatland enveloped by fog and mystery. So much so that there are only traditional human settlements in the valley, at a much lower altitude, where average temperatures are much higher. The rainfall and terrain gives rise to numerous rivers that flow into different basins.

The mountains of this range were exploited only through extensive grazing using cows and horses that, even today, roam free. Well into the last century, attempts to cultivate pine were made with mixed success due to the harsh climate. Currently, the major energy source of these mountains -wind- is intensely exploited.

 

The routes
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Route by car: Labrada - Alto Capela da Pena

BEST TIME

From May to September

DISTANCE

23 Km, one way

DURATION

3 hours (one way)

DIFFICULTY

None

COUNCILS

Abadín, Alfoz, O Valadouro

PATH

Labrada - Capela de Santa Filomena - Alto Pena da Capela

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Key points on the route:

  1. The route starts at the village of As Basilias (Labrada parish) (1) and, after a few metres, crosses the Pedrido river (2) and climbs towards the mountains. In this section pay attention to small birds such as the eurasian bullfinch.
  2. In the first pine forests (3) make a stop to try to see the citril finch and eurasian siskin.
  3. The route circles a large peat bog (4) and begins to descend. Stay alert to the emergence of common vultures and other birds of prey such as the merlin in winter and black kite in spring.
  4. At the bottom of Rego das Furnas (5), on the bridge, grey wagtail can be seen, as can eurasian bullfinch and cirl bunting around the chapel of Santa Filomena (6).
  5. Climb up to the Alto da Pena da Capela (7), where there is a television repeater, while remaining very attentive to the dizzying road and the appearance of different birds of prey such as common vultures and common kestrels. Small stops provide a chance to see water pipit. At the top of the mountain make a stop to view the nearby mountains.
  6. After descending, continue along a mountain area where common vultures and merlin can be seen in autumn and winter.

Route by car: Labrada - O Viveiró

BEST TIME

From May to September

DISTANCE

21 km, one way

DURATION

2 hours (one way)

DIFFICULTY

None

COUNCILS

Abadín, Muras, Vilalba

PATH

Labrada - O Viveiró

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Key points on the route:

  1. The route starts at Lamacide (1) in a valley that borders the range. Look out for common vultures and other birds of prey.
  2. Between the villages of Ferreiros (2) and A Balsa (3) there is a very interesting hilly area where montagu's harrier can be seen in spring and summer.
  3. Up to the village of O Viveiró, the route passes through a valley (4) where numerous common buzzards and common kestrels can be seen in late summer along with merlin in winter.
  4. The surroundings of O Viveiró (5) are recommended for watching common snipe and western yellow wagtail.

Route on foot or by bicycle: Xestide bridge - O Tremoal

BEST TIME

From May to September

DISTANCE

13 Km

DURATION

4 hours on foot, 2 hours by bicycle

DIFFICULTY

Low

COUNCILS

Abadín

PATH

Xestide bridge - Val dos Infernos - O Tremoal

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Key points on the route:

  1. The route starts in a small valley (1) where common buzzard, grey heron and numerous passerines can be seen.
  2. Take a track that leads to the pine forest (2) and look out for citril finch and eurasian siskin. Common vultures may appear, especially after noon.
  3. In the area around the vast peat (O Tremoal) (3) eurasian skylark and water pipit are common.

Route on foot: A Balsa - Fraga de Rebordelos

BEST TIME

From May to September

DISTANCE

9 Km

DURATION

3 hours

DIFFICULTY

Medium

COUNCILS

Muras

PATH

A Balsa - Fraga de Rebordelos

Maybe some resources are not geo-referenced and they are not being displayed.

Key points on the route:

  1. Leave from the crossing near the village of A Balsa (1) where song thrush, spotless starling and, in spring and winter, red-backed shrike can be seen.
  2. Make your way down to the Fraga de Rebordelos (2), where eurasian bullfinch can be seen.
  3. Continue ascending to the top of the mountain (3) and descend on the other side. The road is surrounded by heather. If the day is sunny, common vultures, common ravens and even common snipes are common in winter.
The birds

The list of birds in O Xistral is not very long as it is a rugged mountainous area. However, those found there are very interesting. Notable is the nearly constant presence throughout the year of griffon vultures and the occasional cinereous vulture which makes its way in the midst of its cousins. Peatlands and wide open expanses are the realm of the water pipit and eurasian skylark. In the pine woods, which today are very naturalised, the elusive citril finch can be seen nesting, as can the eurasian siskin. Dozens of northern wheatear can be seen in migration while in winter the snow bunting and merlin can appear anywhere.

Tips and resources
  • Weather in O Xistral can be harsh and surprising: in the middle of summer a thick fog can move in within minutes. Check the weather forecast before embarking on any trip. 

  • The mountain roads are narrow and winding. Pay the utmost attention at all times. 

  • In the mountains, horses and cows roam free. Don't disturb them. Be extremely careful when driving on the roads and drive at a low speed. 

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