Extremadura Trip Report 10th- 16th May 2004    
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Lesser Kestrel

Watching Great Bustard

Species List
Tour Report

1. AF Little Tern

2. AI Alpine Swift

3. Azure-winged Magpie

4. B Blackbird

5. BC Blackcap

6. BH Black-headed Gull

7. Black Vulture

8. Black Wheatear

9. Black-bellied Sandgrouse

10. Black-eared Wheatear

11. Black-winged Kite

12. Blue Rock Thrush

13. Bonelli's Eagle

14. Booted Eagle

15. BT Blue Tit

16. BX Black Redstart

17. BZ Common Buzzard

18. Calandra Lark

19. CB Corn Bunting

20. CD Collared Dove

21. CH Chaffinch

22. CK Cuckoo

23. CO Coot

24. Collared Pratincole

25. Crag Martin

26. Crested Lark

27. CS Common Sandpiper

28. CW Cetti's Warbler

29. DW Dartford Warbler

30. EC Cattle Egret

31. Egyptian Vulture

32. ET Little Egret

33. Fan-tailed Warbler

34. GG Great Crested Grebe

35. GL Grey Wagtail

36. GO Goldfinch

37. GR Greenfinch

38. Griffon Vulture

39. GS Great Spotted Woodpecker

40. GT Great Tit

41. H Heron

42. HM House Martin

43. HP Hoopoe

44. HS House Sparrow

45. HY Hobby

46. IT Black-winged Stilt

47. J Jay

48. JD Jackdaw

49. KB Black Kite

50. KF Kingfisher

51. KT Red Kite

52. L Lapwing

53. Lesser Kestrel

54. LG Little Grebe

55. LI Linnet

56. Little Bustard

57. LL Little Bittern

58. LO Little Owl

59. LP Little Ringed Plover

60. LT Long-tailed Tit

61. MA Mallard

62. ME Melodious Warbler

63. MG Magpie

64. MH Moorhen

65. MO Montagu's Harrier

66. MR Marsh Harrier

67. MZ Bee-eater

68. N Nightingale

69. NB Spoonbill

70. NS Serin

71. OL Golden Oriole

72. OO Woodchat Shrike

73. OR White Stork

74. OS Black Stork

75. Pallid Swift

76. Pin-tailed Sandgrouse

77. Purple Gallinule

78. Q Quail

79. QW Great Reed Warbler

80. Red Avadavat

81. Red-necked Nightjar

82. RK Redshank

83. RL Red-legged Partridge

84. RN Raven

85. Rock Bunting

86. Roller

87. RT Redstart

88. RW Reed Warbler

89. Sardinian Warbler

90. SC Stonechat

91. Scops Owl

92. SD Stock Dove

93. SF Spotted Flycatcher

94. Short-toed Eagle

95. SI Swift

96. SL Swallow

97. Southern Grey Shrike

98. Spanish Sparrow

99. Spotless Starling

100. Subalpine Warbler

101. TD Turtle Dove

102. TG Gull-billed Tern

103. TH Short-toed Treecreeper

104. TN Stone Curlew

105. TS Tree Sparrow

106. UK Great Spotted Cuckoo

107. UR Purple Heron

108. US Great Bustard

109. VI Savi's Warbler

110. VL Short-toed Lark

111. VR Red-rumped Swallow

112. WA Water Rail

113. Waxbill

114. WD Whiskered Tern

115. White Wagtail

116. WL Woodlark

117. WP Woodpigeon

118. WR Wren

10th May The tour group met up at Liverpool airport for our afternoon flight to Madrid, which went almost smoothly, except for a hold-up at the boarding gate and half and hour delay! Arriving at Madrid we quickly sorted out our hire vehicles (a Mercedes and an Alfa Romeo- only the best on a GB tour), before we knew it we were heading SW towards Trujillo, our base for the week. Passing through taste of things to comesparsely populated areas we did see many White Storks, and the occasional colony of Little Egrets, with the odd Cattle Egret. However the highlight was a distant Black-winged Kite, observed by a few lucky folk. As we neared the plains the heaven's opened, and made driving conditions hazardous. You know what they say about the rain in Spain. A rest stop produced Crested Lark, as well as Hoopoe in the improving conditions. (Our bird list was beginning to swell). Arriving at our luxurious rustic apartments on the outskirts of Trujillo, we quickly settled in, followed by a superb evening meal, with complimentary, locally produced wine. Afterwards most of the group heard Scop's Owl as well as Red-necked Nightjar "cho-choking" not too far away. The day also produced Black-winged Stilt, lots of Black Kites, Lesser Kestrel and Spotless Starling, all this just from the journey down.

11th May An early start by all and a pre-breakfast walk around our accommodation base. The wet grey weather failing to dampen our spirits. First star bird of the day was Azure-winged Magpie, and not just a few, but at least 30. Above these were a bubbling group of Bee-eaters, which delighted all. Main Square- TrujilloIn the grounds of the finca, where we stayed were quite a few White Stork nests, most of which were huge, with colonies of House and Spanish Sparrow nesting in the bases. Also around the grounds were several Hoopoe, a few Nightingale and single Quail. Following a sumptuous continental breakfast we took the short drive to Trujillo, visiting several sites around the town, where more White Stork greeted us. Around the bullring were at least 10 Lesser Kestrel, which showed well despite the unseasonably damp weather, as well as a sizeable group of Spotless Starling. Behind the bullring a small pond produced our first Fan-tailed Warbler, Black-winged Stilt and Red-rumped Swallow. A Red Kite was also picked out. The fortified town of Trujillo held more Lesser Kestrels, plus even more White Stork nests, while parties of Pallid Swift proved to be an identification challenge. Lunch was taken in a cafe in the main square (very cosmopolitan!) The weather improved slightly so we headed to the wooded river valleys further north. The Dehasa countryside a little different from home. A walk by the Rio Almonte was justly rewarded. At least 35 Griffon Vultures were counted, with 20+ Black Kites in the area also. Nesting under the road bridge were several Red-rumped Swallow, with good numbers of Crag Martin in the air. A few Woodchat Shrike and Serin were also seen, all good typical Spanish birds. Kingfisher and Little Ringed Plover were also noted. Later in the day and a little further north perhaps the star bird of the area was seen. Flying over a narrow valley a single Spanish Imperial Eagle was found- this voted by all as bird of the day! This great little valley also produced Short-toed Eagle, Dartford Warbler, and a pair of Subalpine Warblers. Returning to our base triumphant after a great first day we sat down to a good meal, with copious amounts of wine and a few spirits. Following the round up of the days birds we retired, knowing we were to hit the plains the the following day. (The Scop's Owl again calling until the wee small hours!). 69Lesser Kestrel species today with Spanish Imperial Eagle voted Bird of the Day (BOTD).

12th May The customary pre-breakfast walk around the finca was dropped in favour of an early morning visit to the plains. The cool grey morning slowly gave way as the sun attempted to break through. Our first notable birds were an amazing 60+ Black Kites, which lifted off the posts by the road, where they had roosted, as we drove by. However our goal this morning were bustards, and it wasn't long before one Little Bustard began to call, then another, then a couple were seen, then one a little closer. We also managed to find, albeit distantly a couple of Great Bustards, strutting about on the plain. We hope for better views later. Eventually everyone in the group heard and saw the "Phantom Raspberry Blower" (Little Bustard). Adding to the dawn chorus of bustards were a few Quail, while Little Owl and numerous White Stork were also seen. We made our way back for a well deserved breakfast. Refreshed we called off in Trujillo for the ingredients for our outdoor lunch, on the way Hobby and Turtle Dove were seen, following our shopping spree we moved east again for a day on the plains.

Entering the plains we scanned the horizon for raptors, which duly obliged Griffon Vulture as well as our first Black Vultures Plainsof the tour were observed, with the occasional Booted Eagle drifting over. Today was basically a day of driving a few hundred yards, stop, scan and listen. This produced quite a few Skylark, but the target was Calandra Lark. These big, bulky, larks were easily separable in flight with their big bills, dark underwing and white trailing wing edges, everyone soon got to grips with the song. Although the Calandra Lark were outnumbered by the very common Crested Larks which fed on the verge. Although declining in the UK, Corn Bunting are very numerous, with almost every fence post holding a singing male. Further down the single track road we again stopped and scanned. One keen eyed member of the group picked up 2 distant Great Spotted Cuckoo, which some folk managed to get on to- lets hope we get closer views later. Then amazingly in the distance a small group of Great Bustards were picked out. Although tantalisingly distant we could get nearer. A drive down a a rough track was worth it, parking behind a derelict farm gave us cover as an array of scopes and cameras were quickly erected. A total of 15 Great Bustards were clearly visible as they gracefully wandered about in a tight group- this is what we all had come to Spain for. Pulling off the main road we stopped for our picnic lunch, although binoculars were kept close to hand, to pick up the occasional Southern Grey Shrike or Red Kite. During lunch a single Montagu's Harrier was picked up over a nearby field, this field also produced a brief Short-toed Lark. At lunch the illustrious leader (me) played the calls of Little and Great Bustard- both sound extremelGreat Bustardy rude. Like a true professional the ever vigilant leader called out Oystercatcher as he heard one go over. Now given the fact we were many miles from the coast it did strike the leader as odd, turning around to follow the call he looked skywards, only to find that the CD player in his bag was still playing and Oystercatcher was the next bird after Great Bustard. You just cannot get the staff anymore! Continuing further down the road the only trees of note held a thriving colony of Little and Cattle Egret, with a few White Stork for good measure. Our final detour took us towards a farm, and an area of water. The air was filled with the bubbling calls of a quite a few Bee-eaters, the water obviously attracting many insects. Also in the area was a sizeable colony of Lesser Kestrel and surprisingly at least 25 Raven.

Returning to our finca in reasonable time we wandered around the grounds before the evening meal. At least 20 Azure-winged Magpies were counted, with several Nightingales in song, one showing particularly well. Golden Orioles were also heard from a small woodland. Slightly away from the finca Redstart and Short-toed Treecreeper were found, the latter calling loudly, this readily identifiable from our Treecreeper, whCork Oakile several Woodlark punctuated the air. Two of our party went off in search of the local Red-necked Nightjar- despite the very wet weather and undergrowth the two had stunning views of a perched bird, after it flew from a wall and landed in the lea of a wall. So unconcerned was this bird that it fell asleep whilst being being observed. The group gathered for the evening meal and wine as per usual, with our bird log following. 67 species today with Little Bustard voted BOTD.

13th May Today was a big day and involved a looping drive westwards to the vast plains of Caceres, returning via a few choice sites. During the night the insomniacs of the group recorded Red-necked Nightjar and Scop's Owl again. It must have been early when we set off because yours truly took a wrong turn, and missed the area where we were supposed to be, never mind. The weather had taken a significant turn for the better and the photographers managed some great sunrise shots. All was not lost as lots of Quail were heard, with the occasional raspberry from a Little Bustard. Calling off a rocky outcrop on the return we flushed a Great Spotted Cuckoo, which called raucousscanning for sandgrousely as it flew away- this making up the poor distant views the other day. Again we had a great breakfast and strong black coffee to kick start our systems. We headed off west again, this time on the right road towards Caceres. The route would take us through some remote countryside on little more than tracks, but this did reveal some excellent birding. Almost straight away we encountered Black-eared Wheatear of the Iberian 'hispanica' race. By the roadside a teasing Little Bustard called not too far away, hidden by the tall grass- occasionally raising his head to display. On a dirt track we were mesmerised by a dozen Montagu's Harriers, effortlessly quartering the fields, or perched on fence posts, 15 were counted during the day. Also numerous here were Quail. Although the star bird for me were the 9 Great Bustard which put on a bit of a show, strutting their stuff.

Moving further west the wild country produced a plethora of Calandra Lark, and the outskirts of Caceres produced a small colony of Roller, which made good use of nesting boxes erected on electric poles. Unfortunately time was becoming slightly short, so we had to press on to a well known site for Sandgrouse. Despite a speedy drive we did pick up Black Vulture and several Booted Eagle. At the site we met a 3 birders who were watching several Great Bustard. As we watched these we heard the call of Sandgrouse, and sure enough over the hosandgrouse countryrizon came a mixed party, which landed about 50m away from us, although difficult to pick up in the vegetation everyone eventually had good views of some of the 21 Pin-tailed Sandgrouse and 13 Black-bellied Sandgrouse, with comments like, "Well you see the horizon, well there's two green patches, come down at 8 O'clock from the second green patch and come straight down from there and sandgrouse are by the patch of dead grass!" It did take some time but we all had excellent views of both species, and were able to compare both together in the same field of view, as well as hear them call. Reaching our furthest westerly point we had already picked up over 100 Cattle Egret, c50 Black Kite and 25 Lesser Kestrel. Back on the main road and beginning our easterly return we crossed the Rio Almonte. Stopping here we picked up quite a few Alpine Swift, although our goal was the scarce Black Wheatear. Scanning the rocks we failed to locate any, although we did find 3 Black Stork. However just as we were about to leave we picked up a single Black Wheatear sat on a rock, this disappeared before everyone saw it, then it reappeared- peering through scopes revealed the bird wasn't disappearing , but diving into a crack in the rock with food, obviously the bird was feeding young. At one point we had both adults together. Moving on to our final destination, we saved the best until last. Parking off road, and walking down a track brought us to an open area, with green fields and scattered trees. Here we scanned the area for Black-winged Kite. Then in the distance two specks on the pylon wires were deciphered as a pair of Black-winged Kites, which promptly flew off, luckily towards us. Over the next 15mins were treated to an aerial display of perhaps the most stunning raptor in Spain. The display included a good deal of hoveringMonfrague National Park, and culminated in a bird mobbing a Black Kite, which was perched on a pole, allowing everyone to focus scopes and bins on the Black-winged Kite, as it continually mobbed the Black Kite. This a fine end to an excellent day. We returned tired, but elated, and again had a hearty meal. Our log revealed 74 species today, and debate continued as to the Bird Of The Day (BOTD). Many wanted the Black-winged Kite, but because of the numbers involved Montagu's Harrier won out.

14th May This morning the group split for the pre-breakfast jaunt. Most wandered around the finca and were rewarded with the usual suspects. However the four who drove out to Santa Marta de Magasca had a great morning, 4 Black-eared Wheatear greeted the four, as did the 10 Montagu's Harrier. Little Bustard were numerous, but were eclipsed by 19 Great Bustard, which looked superb in the morning sun. Complimenting these were single Stone Curlew. Frustratingly 18 Black-bellied Sandgrouse were seen in flight only, although singles were heard most of the morning. Breakfast allowed both groups to compare notes. Post breakfast birding today involved an hours drive to the famous Monfrague National Park. We were to spend the rest of the day here, again stopping, looking and then moving on, although the day had it's high and lows. Rising through the foothills we were could see the monastery and the ridge which marks the boundary of the park. Unfortunately we suffered a setback- the car park at the monastery was being re-contoured, and was closed. This meant we couldn't climb to the top and have eye level views of the passing raptors. Undeterred we parked at bottom and looked up. Pena Flacon was almost as good as thGriffon Vulturee monastery with lots of Alpine Swift, we also had the bulk of our 6 Black Vulture here. From the car park we could look over the valley and noticed several Blue Rock Thrush, which contributed to a day total of at least 8, also here were a family party of Black Redstart. This spot is also well known for Black Stork, and on cue 4 were observed.

Further down the valley we pulled in and had lunch overlooking the reservoir. This site had previously produced Bonelli's Eagle, needless to say, bread, cheese, fruit and water went flying as folk grabbed their bins as a pair circled over us, the black and white markings on the underwing, and the pale patch on the mantle the give-aways. Lunch was consumed as 98 Griffon Vulture were counted in a single group, which contributed to a day total of 150 birds. At lunch a Woodchat Shrike obliged, but frustrated the photographers, 2 Booted Eagle, 2 Egyptian Vulture were also seen, an adult an immature, the latter seen on the journey home. High numbers of birds were seen today. Day totals included 60 Black Kite, a total of 200 Crag Martin and 30 Red-rumped Swallow. Moving further down and round we stopped at an Eagle Owl site, which appeared not to be nesting this year. However several lunch stopSubalpine Warbler were located, plus Redshank. We scanned the outcrop where in previous years young Eagle Owl were seen, but not today, however we returned to Pena Falcon following hot news on an Eagle Owl site, despite picking up several owl shaped rocks, non were seen, perhaps if we had stayed or returned later that evening we would have been successful, but our base was an hour away and we were hungry! Despite the disappointments of the closed Monastery and lack of Eagle Owls, the group again returned elated to our base for more food, wine and spirits. Following our log BOTD was voted unanimously as Bonelli's Eagle, with a handsome 78 species recorded today.

15th May A quick wander around the finca before breakfast produced about 30 Azure-winged Magpie, plus about 5 Melodious Warblers on the back tracks, and the usual Woodlark etc... Today we headed south to the more lush, greener rice growing areas, which provided a nice contrast in birds and habitat. After breakfast we drove south, picking up bread, pate, cheese, fruit, buns and water for lunch (I keep you well fed). Passing the plains we continued south, eventually finding the right road, to the confusion of our second drivers. Parking off road we came to our first stop, almost our first birds were 4 Little Ringed Plover, the croaky call of several Great Reed Warblers alerting us to the fact we were no longer on the plains. A steady walk around produced a snake! and a couple of Subalpine Warblers. Today followed the trend of other days, i.e. stopping at several sites, looking, and then moving on at our leisure. Disconcertingly a few of the paddies were lacking birds, however we did notch up Gull-billed Tern, with a day total of 30 birdsBlack Vulture. Moving slightly further north we picked up 3 Roller by the roadside, which we later discovered were nesting, as they flew to and forth to a hole in the side of a wall. Lunch was taken by a canal. More Great Reed Warblers were heard here, but Golden Orioles were a delight , with several seen as the fluted away. Generally the day had been slightly disappointing, but a final stop at a well known site turned up trumps. Again by a river a male Little Bittern was seen 3 times as it flew up and down the river. a few of managed to see a small flock of Waxbills, with a single Red Avadavat recorded. The day ended superbly at our final destination. Alarmingly quite a few of the paddies had been converted back to farmland, so there were fewer birds than usual, however one of our party, who was feeling a little ill and had spent most of the day asleep, with the occasional foray outside, came into his own, when from a doze he woke up, looked out and exclaimed "Collared Pratincoles"- and promptly fell back asleep. We stopped and began to count them- with 13 in total. Looking back the day had actually been quite good, when the totals were added up, 6 Cettis Warbler, 400 Cattle Egret, although just 4 Little Egret, 100 Bee-eater, 4 Black-winged Stilt, 10 Fan-tailed Warbler, Red Avadavat, 14 Waxbill and 13 Collared Pratincoles. The drive back was sedate, as we were tired and knowing that this was the final full day. Tomorrow would see us return to Madrid,after some birding of course. 70 Species were seen today, and not surprisingly Collared Pratincole was voted BOTD, even though they kept us waiting until the end of the day. Our last meal was memorable, with everyone having had a great time, needless to say more wine was consumed than usual. After our meal we decided to rice paddiesconverge on the terrace. This we did, with more wine in hand, although our senses were not completely dulled as 3 different Scop's Owl were located, plus the local Red-necked Nightjar.

16th May Our final pre-breakfast walk around the finca produced the usual suspects, some of them almost like our regular garden birds back home, having seen them almost every morning. Our regular Hoopoe, Nightingale, Bee-eater, Golden Oriole, Quail and Spanish Sparrow became familiar to us. Following our final breakfast we packed up, said our goodbyes and journeyed north, although this was broken by a visit to a series of ponds just off the motorway about an hour north of Trujillo. Either side of the road were 2 large ponds, which immediately revealed 2 Little Tern, slightly later a couple of Whiskered Tern flew by. At the same time at least 2 Savi's Warbler were reeling away, all of which boosted our list somewhat. On the waters edge a Common Sandpiper proved elusive although more obvious were the Greagreat foodt Crested Grebe in the middle of the pond. Over a distant reedbed several Marsh Harriers quartered, although a distant Spoonbill dropped out of the sky and into the reeds, never to be seen again. The smaller body of water was shallow and well vegetated, ideal habitat for our main target bird, Purple Gallinule. After a while one was located, then another, to the delight of all. The other 'purple' birds were 4 Purple Heron wading and flying over the main body of water. Conscious of time we headed north again and back to Madrid. Our journey back was decidedly drier than our journey down. Having to circumnavigate Madrid we were a little pushed for time. Having driven right around Madrid, we then drove right around the airport, but eventually found our spot, and dropped off our hire vehicles. Some of the party were staying on in Madrid for a couple of days, so we quickly said our goodbyes and hurried to check in, and the return flight back to Liverpool airport.

A great bunch of people on another great tour, with some cracking birds. See you there in 2005?

Extremadura Tour Group 2004our accommodation

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