Extremadura 2005 Tour Report 17th-23rd May
We departed Liverpool airport on time and arrived at Madrid. We eventually left Madrid and headed SE towards our base- Trujillo. Driving down we picked up lots of White Stork and Cattle Egret in roadside colonies. Overhead were many Black Kite. We arrived at dusk and checked in. Walking across to the dining room in the converted Olive Farm (Finca), we heard Little Owl, Scops Owl and 2 Red-necked Nightjar, with Nightjar in the distance. What a start to our holiday. Following a sumptuous meal we retired and sampled a few beers.
Our first full day began with a pre-breakfast stroll around the grounds of our base, a restored finca 10 mins from the historic town of Trujillo. Our walk took us through olive groves along tracks. We saw and heard 2 Golden Orioles, including 1 male. From our rooms we saw Hoopoe feeding on the lawns, in the distance we could see multi-storey White Stork nests. Sat on wires bubbling away were half a dozen Bee-eaters, with a melodic Woodlark above. Searching the groves we found the first speciality bird of the region- our first Azure-winged Magpie, which proved to be very common in the area. The Starlings were worth a second look, as they were Spotless Starling, another speciality of Spain. Walking down a track we were surprised to find a Rock Sparrow, which Gone Birding had not found in the grounds before, although Spanish Sparrow were common. Nightingales were also fairly common, although typically elusive. Following breakfast we headed off east , and our first sight of the vast expansive plains. Black Kite were common with dozens seen. On every post were Crested Lark. Scanning around we saw several Griffon Vulture, plus 2 'Barn Doors' otherwise known as Black Vulture. 3 Lesser Kestrel were seen, allowing comparisons with Common Kestrel. Also in the air were 14 Raven, gronking away. The fence lined tracks were alive with Crested Lark and Corn Bunting, although larger, darker bird , with white trailing edged wings were our target, and sure enough several Calandra Larks were seen and heard. 4 Little Bustards gave tantalising views as they sporadically displayed, although sandgrouse were thin on the ground this year. At a high point 3 Black-bellied Sandgrouse were seen on the deck, and gave pretty good views. Quartering the fields were a pair of Montagu's Harrier. The plains also home to 100's of Cattle Egret. Surprisingly just 2 Southern Grey Shrikes were seen. Following this we went further north to greener river valley's, via Trujillo where we ate lunch, amid the Pallid Swifts and Lesser Kestrel around the bull ring, White Storks and Crag Martins. Along the river valleys we picked up Great Reed Warbler, Hawfinch from the dehasa and Cetti's Warbler, with Cirl Bunting showing well. Overhead were Bee-eater, Black Vulture, Buzzard, Short-toed Eagle and a pair of Black Stork. We returned to our base from a welcome shower and another multi-course meal and free wine!
We ventured a little further for our pre-breakfast jaunt, heading out west to the plains. These well grazed plains proved easier to find birds, straight away 4 Little Bustard were seen, although dwarfed by 12 Great Bustard, which majestically wandered across the plain. Along the fences were 8 Black-eared Wheatear, with 6 Montagu's Harrier in the fields behind, also in the air were 5 Black Vulture, lots of Black Kite and several Lesser Kestrel. Following breakfast we ventured further north again, reaching the Monfrague area. The warmer air currents produced 22 Griffon Vulture circling, 2 Booted Eagles, 20 Black Kite, Short-toed Eagle and Black Stork, plus 20 Pallid Swift. The river attracting c100 Red-rumped Swallow, plus Little Ringed Plover. We moved quickly on to our main destination, the hugely impressive Monfrague National Park. Arriving at the monastery here we made the climb to the top, which yielded Buzzard, Rock Bunting and Blue Rock Thrush. Instantly recognisable was the call of Chough that showed well, as did White-rumped Swift, a speciality of this site, these normally very difficult to see, showed very well indeed as they whizzed past at eye level. Also at eye level were 30+ Griffon Vulture and 4 Black Vulture. Moving in to the park we picked up Black Redstart and 3 Black Stork, plus immature Golden Eagle, Egyptian Vulture and more Booted Eagles. We dipped at an Eagle Owl site, but were more than compensated by stunning Spanish Imperial Eagles at the nest, with a fly by from an adult male- amazing. Back at base we yet again had Scops Owl and Red-necked Nightjar.
Our early morning jaunt was again in the grounds of the finca, as we wanted an early start to begin our big loop of the plains to the west of Trujillo. Our preamble yielded the usual Azure-winged Magpies, Hoopoes, Bee-eaters, Woodlark and Melodious Warbler. Buying our lunch we headed west to the heart of the wild Spanish plains. This began with Black-eared Wheatears, Southern Grey Shrike and lots of Montagu's Harrier, plus groups of Black Vulture. Making our way west the landscape became drier and more barren. However we continued to see birds, including Little Bustard and Calandra Lark. Just east of Caceres we found several Roller, which performed well in flight, showing their stunning plumage. A surprise was an imm Golden Eagle,that lifted off from the roadside. Other raptors typically included Short-toed and Booted Eagle, plus the obligatory Red and Black Kite. Scanning a ploughed area we picked up several Short-toed Lark and Tawny Pipit. By the Rio Almonte bridge we heard and saw parties of Alpine Swift and Crag Martin, and eventually found our goal- a pair of Black Wheatear, plus Blue Rock Thrush.. On the return leg we stopped off at regular Black-shouldered Kite site. On cue a single bird performed, albeit slightly distantly. Wedropped down back to Trujillo and our base. A long day, but a great days birding, topped off by Red-necked Nightjar and Scops Owl again.
An early pre-breakfast jaunt to the plains to the east this morning began with a few Calandra Lark, plus 6 Little Bustard, which are more active very early in the morning, as were the 12 Great Bustard. Coming out of roost were 30+ Black Kite, reluctant to fly in the cool morning air. Although our best birds were saved until last, when we returned here at the end of the day. We had a quick look around the finca, which produced Golden Oriole, Rock Sparrow, and the usual Azure-winged Magpie.We heard about a Bonellis Eagle nest, so off we went back to Monfrague. We found the nest and saw a distant chick, with brief views of the adult over an adjacent hillside. Whilst watching this we found out about an Eagle Owl that was showing well, which still showed well by the time we arrived. We also saw plenty of vultures including 100+ Griffon Vulture and half a dozen Black Vulture, plus a few Egyptian Vultures. We also saw Short-toed Eagle, plus a few Rock Bunting, Dartford, Subalpine and Sardinian Warblers. Our luck was in when we returned to the plains in the late afternoon. Beginning with a pair of Great Spotted Cuckoo by the roadside. At an egret colony a reported Bald Ibis duly performed, this a wild bird thought to be from the small Moroccan population. Although the highlight must have been the superb display by an adult Black-shouldered Kite. We also had a single Black-bellied Sandgrouse. An evening off for the finca staff meant a meal in Trujillo, which made a pleasant change, and challenged the parties lingual abilities!
Another pre-breakfast drive to the plains to west produced 3 Black-eared Wheatear, plus 12 Great Bustard and 2 Pin-tailed Sandgrouse, which proved elusive this year. 40 Black Kite put in an appearance, as did a couple of Montagu's Harrier. A total of 10 Calandra Lark were counted, plus single Black Stork. After breakfast and a welcome caffeine boost we moved south, passing through more plains, before arriving at very green rice producing area, and rivers, which provided a different range of species. The plains produced 4 more Great Bustard and Montagu's Harrier, plus a a couple of Stone Curlew and more Roller, plus 100's of White Stork (day total 250). In the south we turned off the road and were greeted by green, lush fields, in contrast to the dry barren plains of the morning. Several Southern Grey Shrikes greeted us, as did a Quail. Although the highlight were several Collared Pratincole sat on a bund, following a display of aerial feeding. Moving onto a bridge over the river we were lucky enough to have brief views of both Red Avadavat and Waxbill. Lunch was taken here, where Little Bittern and Kingfisher flew up and down the river, with Golden Orioles in the trees and Great Reed Warbler along the banks. Waders and terns were thin on the ground this year (10 days later this year), however we did pick up Black-winged Stilt, Redshank, Marsh Harrier and Little Ringed Plover. Moving a bit further south we visited a regular Roller nest, that were again in residence. We returned for our final evening meal at the finca, and more wine, beer and spirits.
A quick wander around the finca was our last birding here, before we packed and headed north to Madrid in time for our afternoon flight. This produced the usual Woodlark, a myriad of Azure-winged Magpies and Bee-eaters, plus Nightingales and Golden Orioles. Making our way back north we made a short detour to an area of water by a power station. This bolstered our species list somewhat as we got to grips with Savi's Warbler, Purple Gallinule and Little Tern, with 2 more Great Spotted Cuckoo and 4 Purple Heron. We sped north, negotiating Madrid, in time to catch our flight back and back to Liverpool. Another excellent GB Tour, catching up with all the speciality birds of the area, taking the time to sit, watch and learn. If we've whetted your appetite, then we return here next year.