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EXTREMADURA
7th 13th APRIL 2008

Leaders: Dave Read & Andy Shooter.
Participants: Keith Foster, Simon Kent, Arthur Read, John & Sheila Richardson, Steve Robins.

Day 1
Our trip began with a direct flight Birmingham Madrid, where we landed safely and were soon clear of the airport, and with the aid of our Sat Nav, out of Madrid without delay. Our journey south to Trujillo was pretty uneventful, largely due to the torrential rain that had followed us all the way from Madrid. However a small break in the clouds allowed us to visit a nearby area of marshes north of Trujillo.

Our first stop was at a small farm on the approach to the marshes where we enjoyed good views of Spanish Sparrow , Crested Lark and Southern Grey Shrike . Once at the marshes, we were soon enjoying the many White Stork , Lesser Kestrel and Black Kite that nest here, with the latter showing exceptionally well overhead. We also saw Black-winged Stilt , up to four Purple Herons and a male Little Bittern in flight over the reed beds. A distant Savi's Warbler was singing from a reed-top, and showed long enough for everyone to get good views. Meanwhile a singing Cetti's Warbler was heard, and at least two Purple Gallinules were watched creeping through the reeds.

As the rain once more began to fall, we continued on to Trujillo where we were based for the next five nights. Once at the hotel we checked into our rooms before meeting in the restaurant for our evening meal. The meals here were of a good standard and the menus had English names making ordering a lot easier.


Day 2
After breakfast we headed straight to Monfragüe National Park, stopping first at Penafalcon. Griffon Vultures gave excellent views as they soared low overhead, with Black Redstart , Red-rumped Swallow , Crag Martin , Serin and up to 3 Rock Buntings also showing well here. Other highlights were Black Storks on a nesting ledge and a pair of Chough . We then continued to a known site for Bonelli's Eagle, which produced two Short-toed Eagles at least 2 of both Egyptian and Black Vultures along with a fine male Sub-alpine Warbler . Andy spotted a lone raptor drifting over fast, we rushed to scope the bird but by the time we had done so it was a speck in the far distance. It was certainly a Bonelli's , but none of the group got on the bird well enough to note its features; we would have to get better views than that to be happy.

We then headed to the Parque campsite for a coffee, where on arrival a Booted Eagle showed extremely well circling over the road. We also enjoyed good views of Azure-winged Magpie here, with a pair nest building in a tall Oak close to the restaurant.

We then moved to a nearby picnic site where we ate our packed lunches, two Egyptian Vultures drifted in through the drizzle, which had just began to fall, and landed on the rocks upriver, with this one close enough to photograph. Continuing through the Parque we visited Portilla del Tietar, the famous Eagle Owl site. Here as with all the crags in the area Griffon Vultures and Black Kites were common, other raptors included more Egyptian Vultures , another Short-toed Eagle and a Sparrowhawk. Dave managed to locate two Eagle Owl chicks at the nest, however in the cold damp condition they sat motionless, which made picking out these surprisingly well camouflaged birds very difficult.

With heavy rain setting in for the day, we headed back towards Trujillo to spend the remainder of the day on the plains. This proved to be a good move, as not only did we see five Red Deer by the roadside as we left the park, but before long a superb pair of Black-winged Kites . A single bird flew from a roadside post, just in front of the minibus and flew out over an area of grassland where another joined it. Both birds then landed on the top of a bush and allowed prolonged good views through the scope, with the birds even mating briefly before the male flew across the road and began hunting with its typical Kestrel like hovering technique.

Continuing on we soon entered a vast area of open steppe, where up to seven Montagu's Harriers were seen along with several Calandra Larks and two distant Great Bustard . Iberian Hare was also noted here. A small pool close to Trujillo revealed a pair of Black-winged Stilt and a Green Sandpiper, with a large flock of c400 Spanish Sparrow nearby.


Day 3
The day started with a morning visit to the Belén Plains, where almost immediately Andy spotted the rusty rumps of two Thekla Lark close to the road. Several Calandra Larks were seen from the minibus before stopping to scan an area known to us for Great Bustard . Sure enough a quick scan revealed 15 of these huge birds at a lek, with at least one male in full display. Little Bustard was also seen here, with several males in the area; and a pair of Black-bellied Sandgrouse flew over. Other birds included Red Kite , several Hoopoes and up to four Great Spotted Cuckoos , which gave excellent close up views perched along the roadside fence.

We then had a quick coffee stop in Trujillo, before heading back out to the nearby plains where before long we were watching a small group of Bee-eater . Stops were made frequently along the way, producing more Montagu's Harriers, Calandra Larks and several Hoopoes. The time was now fast approaching lunchtime and stomachs were beginning to rumble, so we turned of the main road and ate our packed lunches by a small river valley. The river itself held several Spanish Terrapins along with a pair of Kingfisher , with both birds carrying fish, no doubt nesting in the area. Keith spotted three birds above a ridge, two were Ravens; the third however was a sub-adult Golden Eagle , which showed well before moving further along the ridge.

After lunch we headed back to Monfragüe, with the usual White Storks and Black Kites on the way but two Black-winged Kites were a bonus. Once in the park we headed straight for Portilla del Tietar where once again Dave located the two Eagle Owl chicks, which were showing a little better this time. With the onset of more heavy rain we retreated into the hide where Andy succeeded in finding one of the adults roosting in a tree. Everyone enjoyed good views of this bird, which was undoubtedly one of the day's highlights. Other birds on or over the crags included Raven, Short-toed Eagle , Egyptian Vulture and of course many Griffons. In the trees surrounding the hide were Serin, Sub-alpine and Sardinian Warbler, Jay and Robin.


Day 4
Our first stop was at a large reservoir on route to the Paddy fields in the south of the region. Here we found a distant Great White Egret and several Great Crested Grebe and Black-winged Stilts. A single Black Tern was perched on rocks, with a Gull-billed Tern noted nearby. A striking summer plumaged Black-necked Grebe was diving repeatedly but showed reasonably well between dives. Heading back a splendid male Black-eared Wheatear was found and was soon joined by a female, the pair then showed well allowing us prolonged views.

Continuing to the paddy fields in search of our target the Red Avadavat, we stopped at a small pool where a couple of Little Egret was roosting, and a single Greenshank and Green Sandpiper were present. Further on two better-vegetated pools held Purple Heron and Moorhen, and with some persistence a few Red Avadavat were seen briefly. Moving to a better-sheltered pool nearby, we had up to 25 birds, but again were mostly in flight due to high winds. Other birds here included Cetti's Warbler, Collared Pratincole , Little Ringed Plover, Black-winged Stilt, and two male Marsh Harriers .

Returning to Trujillo we stopped for lunch and had good views of Woodchat Shrike , Sardinian Warbler and Woodlark, with Quail heard. Once in Trujillo we had a short break before heading up to the castle to look for Pallid Swift . Almost instantly Andy spotted our target, managing to get everyone on them without too much trouble. Several Lesser Kestrels were also present, along with the many White Storks that nest here. A group of Griffon Vultures drifted low overhead, and were almost certainly moving on in front of an approaching thunderstorm. Like the Griffons we decided to take cover, so headed into a nearby café for a drink. Here we enjoyed good views of two male Lesser Kestrels , which like us were sheltering from the rain under one of the castle ledges.

The group was then offered a choice of either an evening on the plains in search of sandgrouse, or exploring the sights of this beautiful historical town. Only Sheila opted for the latter, so the rest of the group headed out to a site where in the past Pin-tailed Sandgrouse have been reliable. After walking along a small track for some distance a flock of nine Pin-tailed Sandgrouse flew over and landed just out of sight. Moving position we scanned the field and before long managed to locate them. A count revealed a total of 13 birds, which showed fairly well through the scope. Whilst on the plains 6 Great Bustard , 4 Little Bustard , several Calandra Larks and both Black and Red Kites were also seen.


Day 5
Despite the promise of better weather we awoke to thick grey clouds and heavy rain. We had hoped to return to Monfragüe in search of Spanish Imperial Eagle, however with this now looking unlikely we headed to an area of high mountain ridges to the northeast of Trujillo. Here we would look for Black Wheatear, one of the hardest birds to find in the region, but also one of the most sought after. With most of the group still in need of it as only Keith, along with leaders Dave and Andy saw the male that was found earlier in the week.

On arrival it was still raining hard but not wanting to be beaten by the weather we took to birding from a nearby bus shelter, with three Cirl Bunting and several Stonechats being recorded. Eventually the cloud began to break and almost immediately several Griffon Vultures began to appear.

Leaving the minibus behind and walking into the hills up to three Rock Buntings were noted along with Black Redstart, Blue Rock Thrush and a Grey Wagtail, while a Booted Eagle drifted over. After about 20 minutes a stunning male Black Wheatear was found showing well on rocks just above the path. While still watching the Wheatear Andy called out a Bonelli's Eagle, which slowly drifted low overhead allowing good views. Walking around the cliff face we relocated the Wheatear which again showed well, albeit briefly. Walking back down to the minibus Steve and Andy were lucky enough to come across a pair of Black Wheatear low down, with the male appearing to be displaying, unfortunately these vanished as swiftly as they appeared, and couldn't be relocated.

As the weather was now improving and blue skies were beginning to appear, we headed for Monfragüe hoping for Spanish Imperial Eagle. We headed directly to one of the many view points with a good record for the eagles, however despite scanning the whole time as we ate our packed lunches there was no sign of this impressive raptor, however we did find a Black Vulture nest, and had good views of the striking Spanish Festoon butterfly. With no Eagle here we moved to Portilla del Tietar where all three vultures and a Short-toed Eagle were seen. Ravens put in several appearances and up to three Black Storks flew over. One of the highlights here was a Red Fox, which came down from the hillside and approached us down to just a few feet. We decided to move position to a nearby restaurant from where we could scan back over the hillside whilst having a coffee, adding Short-toed Treecreeper and Nuthatch.


Day 6
After breakfast we loaded up the minibus and set off for our final day birding, with the aim of adding a few target species still missing from our list, the first of which was Roller so we headed towards Cáceres. On the way we passed a group of ten Great Bustard and several Montagu's Harriers with up to 11 birds in the air at once. After searching for some time, a single bird flew up from the ground and landed on the wires. We watched the bird for a while before moving to try and get closer to the wires. Before long we relocated the bird along with a further two, which showed much better. Six Great Bustard also showed well here.

From Cáceres we headed towards Monfragüe, stopping for a while at the Rio Almonte Bridge which houses an Alpine Swift colony. These gave excellent views, and was another addition to the trip list, Red-rumped Swallow and Crag Martin also showed well here.

Upon reaching Monfragüe we immediately headed to the castle, where we parked and began our climb to the top. A flock of eight Chough circled overhead and several Red-rumped Swallow darted past as we made our ascent. Once at the top the impressive Scarce Swallowtail butterfly showed well, other butterflies here included Red Admiral, Small Heath and Wall Brown. On the top of the castle we were treated to excellent views of Griffon Vulture , while Egyptian Vulture , Booted , Short-Toed and Bonelli's Eagle were all recorded. Black Stork , Black Redstart, Blue Rock Thrush , Alpine Swift , Raven and Rock Bunting were also noted and a singing Short-toed Treecreeper was heard.

From there we moved to one of the many viewpoints in the park, where we had our packed lunch while scanning for Raptors. Sure enough this paid off with a distant Spanish Imperial Eagle . Despite the bird being distant it did however show for several minutes, allowing everyone time to get on the bird and view its characteristic pale crown and leading edges to the wing.

We then left the park and made for Madrid in good time to check in to our hotel for the night. Next day, after breakfast we returned to the airport to catch our return flight home.

Although the weather was for the most part terrible the birds certainly were not, with all of the most sought after species being seen, with prolonged good views of the majority. We would like to thank the entire group for making this one of our most enjoyable trips to this fantastic destination to date.

CHECKLIST

BIRDS SCIENTIFIC NAME Number of days
Recorded out of 6
Max daily count
X = no counts made
A = abundant
H = heard only
LITTLE GREBE Tachybaptus ruficollis 1 2
BLACK-NECKED GREBE Podiceps nigricollis 1 1
GREAT CRESTED GREBE Podiceps cristatus 1 12
CORMORANT Phalacrocorax carbo 3 3
LITTLE BITTERN Ixobrychus minutus 1 1
CATTLE EGRET Bubulcus ibis 6 A
LITTLE EGRET Egretta garzetta 3 2
GREAT WHITE EGRET Egretta alba 1 1
GREY HERON Ardea cinerea 5 X
PURPLE HERON Ardea purpurea 2 4
BLACK STORK Ciconia nigra 3 3
WHITE STORK Ciconia ciconia 6 A
GADWALL Anas strepera 2 X
MALLARD Anas platyrhynchos 5 X
BLACK-WINGED KITE Elanus caeruleus 2 2
RED KITE Milvus milvus 6 2
BLACK KITE Milvus migrans 6 A
EGYPTIAN VULTURE Neophron percnopterus 4 X
GRIFFON VULTURE Gyps fulvus 5 A
BLACK VULTURE Aegypius monachus 5 4
SHORT-TOED EAGLE Circaetus gallicus 4 3
MARSH HARRIER Circus aeruginosus 1 2
MONTAGU'S HARRIER Circus pygargus 3 11
SPARROWHAWK Accipiter nisus 2 1
COMMON BUZZARD Buteo buteo 4 X
SPANISH IMPERIAL EAGLE Aquila adalberti 1 1
GOLDEN EAGLE       Aquila chrysaetos    1 1
BOOTED EAGLE Hieraaetus pennatus 5 X
BONELLI'S EAGLE Hieraaetus fasciatus 3 1
LESSER KESTREL Falco naumanni 6 A
COMMON KESTREL Falco tinnunculus 4 X
RED-LEGGED PARTRIDGE Alectoris rufa 5 X
QUAIL Coturnix coturnix 2 H
MOORHEN Gallinula chloropus 2 4
PURPLE GALLINULE Porphyrio porphyrio 1 2
COOT Fulica atra 1 X
LITTLE BUSTARD Tetrax tetrax 2 10
GREAT BUSTARD Otis tarda 4 17
BLACK-WINGED STILT Himantopus himantopus 3 X
COLLARED PRATINCOLE Glareola pratincola 1 2
LITTLE RINGED PLOVER Charadrius dubius 2 1
GREENSHANK Tringa nebularia 1 1
GREEN SANDPIPER Tringa ochropus 2 1
COMMON SANDPIPER Actitis hypoleucos 2 10
BLACK-HEADED GULL Larus ridibundus 1 2
BLACK TERN Chlidonias niger 1 1
GULL-BILLED TERN Sterna nilotica 1 1
PIN-TAILED SANDGROUSE Pterocles alchata 1 13
BLACK-BELLIED SANDGROUSE Pterocles orientalis 1 2
ROCK / FERAL DOVE Columba livia 6 X
WOOD PIGEON Columba palumbus 4 X
COLLARED DOVE Streptopelia decaocto 5 A
GREAT SPOTTED CUCKOO Clamator glandarius 3 5
COMMON CUCKOO Cuculus canorus 5 1
EAGLE OWL Bubo bubo 2 1ad + 2 young
SWIFT Apus apus 6 A
PALLID SWIFT Apus pallidus 2 3
ALPINE SWIFT Tachymarptis melba 1 c.25
KINGFISHER Alcedo atthis 1 2
BEE-EATER Merops apiaster 5 c.30
ROLLER Coracias garrulous 1 3
HOOPOE Upupa epops 5 15
GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER Dendrocopos major 1 H
CALANDRA LARK Melanocorypha calandra 4 X
CRESTED LARK Galerida cristata 6 A
THEKLA LARK Galerida theklae 1 2
WOODLARK Lullula arborea 2 2
SAND MARTIN Riparia riparia 3 X
CRAG MARTIN Hirundo rupestris 6 X
SWALLOW Huirundo rustica 6 A
RED-RUMPED SWALLOW Hirundo daurica 6 X
HOUSE MARTIN Delichon urbica 6 A
GREY WAGTAIL Motacilla cinerea 1 1
WHITE WAGTAIL Motacilla alba 4 X
WREN Troglodytes troglodytes 4 2
ROBIN Erithacus rubecula 2 2
NIGHTINGALE Luscinia megarhynchos 2 H
BLACK REDSTART Phoenicurus ochruros aterrimus 3 X
WHINCHAT Saxicola rubetra 1 1
STONECHAT Saxicola torquata 6 X
NORTHERN WHEATEAR Oenanthe oenanthe 1 2
BLACK-EARED WHEATEAR Oenanthe hispanica hispanica 1 4
BLACK WHEATEAR Oenanthe leucura 2 2
BLUE ROCK THRUSH Monticola solitarius 3 X
BLACKBIRD Turdus merula 5 X
MISTLE THRUSH Turdus viscivorus 3 2
CETTI'S WARBLER Cettia cetti 4 2
FAN-TAILED WARBLER Cisticola juncidis 4 X
SAVI'S WARBLER Locustella luscinioides 1 1
SUB-ALPINE WARBLER Sylvia cantillans cantillans 2 2
SARDINIAN WARBLER Sylvia melanocephala 3 X
BLACKCAP Sylvia atricapilla 2 X
LONG-TAILED TIT Aegithalos caudatus irbii 2 X
BLUE TIT Parus caeruleus 3 X
GREAT TIT Parus major 2 X
NUTHATCH Sitta europaea 1 1
SHORT-TOED TREECREEPER Certhia brachydactyla 2 2
SOUTHERN GREY SHRIKE Lanius meridionalis 6 X
WOODCHAT SHRIKE Lanius senator 5 X
JAY Garrulus glandarius 1 1
AZURE-WINGED MAGPIE Cyanopica cyana 6 X
MAGPIE Pica pica 5 X
CHOUGH Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax 2 8
JACKDAW Corvus monedula 6 A
CARRION CROW Corvus corone 2 1
RAVEN Corvus corax 5 X
SPOTLESS STARLING Sturnus unicolor 6 A
HOUSE SPARROW Passer domesticus 6 A
SPANISH SPARROW Passer hispaniolensis 4 c.400
RED AVADAVAT Amandava amandava 1 c.25
CHAFFINCH Fringilla coelebs 4 X
SERIN Serinus serinus 5 A
GREENFINCH Carduelis chloris 2 X
GOLDFINCH Carduelis carduelis 6 A
LINNET Carduelis cannabina 1 2
HAWFINCH Coccothraustes coccothraustes 2 1
CIRL BUNTING Emberiza cirlus 2 3
ROCK BUNTING Emberiza cia 4 5
CORN BUNTING Miliaria calandra 6 A
       
       
MAMMALS      
       
RED FOX Vulpes vulpes 1 2
RED DEER Cervus elaphus 1 5
IBERIAN HARE Lepus granatensis 1 1
RABBIT Oryctolagus cuniculus 1 X
       
       
BUTTERFLIES      
       
SCARCE SWALLOWTAIL Iphiclides podalirius 1 2
SPANISH FESTOON Zerynthia rumina 1 1
CLOUDED YELLOW Colias crocea 1 1
RED ADMIRAL Vanessa atalanta 1 2
SMALL HEATH Coenonympha pamphilus 1 1
WALL BROWN Lasiommata megera 1 1
       
       
REPTILES      
       
SPANISH TERRAPIN Mauremys leprosa 1 c.15

 

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