|Extremadura 2006 Tour Report 13th -19th May|
Species List for 2006 Tour
We arrived in good time at Liverpool airport, for our lunchtime flight to Madrid, and after some refreshment we boarded the plane for the short flight to Madrid. Arriving ontime we quickly gathered our luggage and collected our MPV vehicle and in glorious weather headed out of Madrid leaving the hustle & bustle behind. Before long we were observing Cattle Egrets in the fields & trees, as well as White Stork on the roof tops and Black Kites over head, as well as Bee-eater & Hoopoe. As well as our first views of Spotless Starling. We arrived at our base, on the outskirts of Trujillo. Following our evening meal some of us heard (in the dark) several Scops Owls in the grounds.
Our first full day in Spain, and a pre-breakfast walk around the grounds of our farm, was worth the early start. In the gloom we heard several Nightingales, and 4 Hoopoe, walking away from the farm(finca) we walkedpast Olive Groves and small copses, via narrow rustic tracks. These were alive with birds. On the wires and calling incessantly were Bee-eaters, and our first star birds, feeding in the Olive Groves- Azure-winged Magpie, with 4 this morning, plus several Short-toed Treecreeper. Over head we saw both m & f Golden Oriole, which sang, giving the males location away. Woodlark were also heard, with the distraction of a scratchy m Sardinian Warbler from scrub plus Subalpine Warbler. Both Cuckoo and Woodchat Shrike were seen on wires. We returned to our base, via the clattering of many White Stork and several Spanish Sparrow for a buffet breakfast and much needed strong black coffee. After breakfast we took a short drive to Trujillo, itself an impressive fortified town , but also has plenty of birds to see. Parking at the Bullring we saw countless Spotless Starling, with another star bird- Lesser Kestrel. A nearby pool produced Little Ringed Plover and Griffon Vulture, thermaling in the bright warm sunshine. Moving into the town we stopped in the main square for lunch and more Lesser Kestrel, as well as separating the Pallid Swifts from Common Swift. After lunch we ventured further N to Extremadura proper, and past the Dehasa (semi natural, wooded/ cleared parkland), we stopped at a river valley and spent the afternoon here, walking up and down and scanning for raptors. A total of 137 Griffon Vultures were seen, as well as 2 Black Vulture plus 6 Crag Martin around a road bridge and 4 Short-toed Eagles. Along the river were Little Ringed Plover, Hawfinch & Cirl Bunting, with 2 Booted Eagle overhead. Returning to Trujillo in the early evening we had a spruce up in our very comfortable & spacious rooms before enjoying a few beers, followed by a 4 course meal & free wine. An excellent start to our tour.
We ventured E before breakfast today, to a large chilly plain near Trujillo, as the sun rose it became warmer and the birds began to come alive our target were the bustards, which didn't disappoint. Straight away we heard Little Bustard, with their disconcerting 'raspberry' call. The air quickly filled with the sounds of larks, the majority were Crested Lark, and were perched on every fence post, along with Corn Bunting (that's where they've all gone!). These were interspersed with larger, black-winged larks, yep, our goal- Calandra Lark, longer winged, with a diagnostic dark underwing & white trailing edge. In the distance we spotted a couple of large Great Bustards, our third target species of the morning Looking more closely the count rose to 13. We also had a single Pin-tailed Sandgrouse and Black Vulture, with Little Owl perched on a wall, whilst all around the comical rasping of Little Bustard, which were occasionally seen, as well hoards of Cattle Egret. Returning for breakfast we found Hawfinch, Rock Sparrow and Short-toed Treecreeper near the car park. After breakfast we again headed N, this time through the Dehasa and valleys to Monfrague National Park, where we were to spend the day. Parking near the monastery we climbed to the top and were impressed with the views, straight away were seeing dozens of Griffon Vultures, plus several Black Vultures, which looked large as they flew past at eye level. Climbing to the top of the tower up the precarious stairway we scanned the edges of the ridge looking for White-rumped Swift. We didn't have to wait long, as this enigmatic streamlined swift flew past on several occasions. As well as the chunkier & browner Alpine Swift. Negotiating the stairs we looked out from the monastery and saw several Black Stork, as well as more Griffon Vultures, as well as Egyptian Vulture. Moving round to a watch point (Pena Falcon) we were rewarded with Black Redstart and Blue Rock Thrush. Moving down the valley we stopped for lunch at a watch point, which produced Subalpine Warbler & Crag Martin. After lunch we drove further down the valley stopping at various look out points, we had several Black-eared Wheatear, although we saved the best until last. Pulling up we saw a small crowd gathered. We quickly picked out Eagle Owl (ad & juv), and within 50m were a pair of stunning Imperial Eagle, the female with a downy juv, although we had to wait a while for the male to make a return. Although whilst watching the Imperial Eagle we almost missed a Rock Bunting. After our fill of these we moved back to our initial stop and were rewarded with excellent views (eventually) of a pair of Bonelli's Eagle, their long black & white wings obvious when they flew, as was the white saddle on the back. Disturbingly a wooded, craggy hillside, which had held another Eagle Owl last year, had been clear felled, surprisingly no owls were present. Our final port of call was back at the monastery where a hot tip, produced a very showy Rock Bunting for all to see, making up for the glimpse we had previously. We returned to our base, elated at another great day in the field.
Today was a day spent entirely on the plains, we started before breakfast, this time to the W of Trujillo, to a more agricultural area, but excellent for bustards & sandgrouse, which didn't disappoint. Straight away we had 8 Little Bustard and 11 Great Bustard making their way serenely across the plain. Our attention was quickly drawn by the excited bubbling chuckles & purrs of Black-bellied Sandgrouse, as well as the more croaky call of Pin-tailed Sandgrouse, which called constantly as they hurriedly flew across the plain. On a ploughed field we also saw Short-toed Lark, and in the crops Quail were heard, whilst several Montagus Harrier quartered the crops for voles & lizards. We returned for breakfast elated at the view of Great Bustard and both Black-bellied & Pin-tailed Sandgrouse. Post breakfast we returned to the plains directly to the east of Trujillo, making our way up and the tracks that cross the extensive plain. On every post (almost) were Crested Lark & Corn Bunting, with excellent views of many Calandra Lark, allowing comparisons between the species. At a high point we found a distant Stone Curlew, plus several Southern Grey Shrike & Raven. By midday most of the Little Bustards had finished displaying, although the unceremonious rasping call followed us around all day. Towards the eastern end of the plain is a small heronry made up almost exclusively of Cattle Egret, which constantly moved back & forth. We had our picnic lunch here, as we scanned the plains whilst munching away. Scrutiny of the heronry produced a few Little Egret, plus the obligatory White Storks. Not forgetting to glance skyward, meant we continued to see raptors, with 60 Griffon Vultures today, plus 2 Black Vulture and a steady stream of Lesser Kestrel & c100 Black Kite. Checking a few dikes produced Fan-tailed Warbler. We also had Thekla Lark. The day ended on a semi high, when a very distant Black-shouldered Kite flew along a distant ridge, but came no closer, much to the disappointment of all. We returned to our base, after our day on the plains for welcome shower, beer & ample food and wine.
Another early start for the plains to the west of Trujillo before breakfast, but it was worth leaving our warm beds for- with 21 Great Bustard giving stunning views in the warm light of dawn. These were accompanied by 9 Little Bustard, visible in the cropped grass. Sandgrouse were also very vocal & visible with 9 Black-bellied Sandgrouse flying around calling, and 8 Pin-tailed Sandgrouse doing pretty much the same, the long pointy pale PTSG, contrasting with the dumpier and black- bellied BBSG. On the fence post down to the pain were a single, but regular Black-eared Wheatear. We returned quickly for breakfast, as today would be a long loop around the plains to the west, then continue, returning via the north- a full day in the spectacular countryside. We picked up our picnic lunch and headed out west, to where we were before breakfast, by now it was hotting up , which encouraged the Montagus Harriers to quarter the fields, all 8 of them! Behind the farm building were 6 Raven, (which always seem out place on a flat plain). As we continued westwards we crossed vast plains, with occasional streams, the more substantial ones held Little Ringed Plover, with hoards of Red-rumped Swallow. Woodchat Shrike were very common, using wires & fence posts as vantage posts. By Sta. Marta de Magasca we found 3 Egyptian Vultures. With Blue Rock Thrush in the ravine below. In the middle of nowhere we came across a couple of Roller, utilising telephone poles complete with nesting boxes. A lunch stop enabled us to scan a field that produced close views of Short-toed Lark. Before we began our return leg we reached large road bridge over a reservoir, this always worth a stop. Amongst the House Martin and Swifts were quite a few larger, browner Alpine Swift, which nest in the joints of the high concrete road bridge. Although our main goal was Black Wheatear, which are on their northern limit here. The water levels were exceptionally high, which meant we could not cross the ruined Roman bridge, and had to view from the far bank. After a great deal of scanningwe did eventually see a stunning adult Black Wheatear, complete with white crown and undertail- our patience paid off. We also had brief views of Rock Bunting and probable Rock Sparrow. Our final leg of the loop involved a stint overlooking a vista of wires & pylons, these used by Black-shouldered Kite as perches. It was very hot and still, and after a long wait we decided to head back to base for a cool beer and a shower. However we did pick up Rock Sparrow and Booted Eagle for our trouble. That evening we also heard Red-necked Nightjar from our balcony (before we indulged in more red wine).
Our final full day in the Extremadura region, began with a walk around the immediate grounds of our accommodation. Which began with Golden Oriole, and of course Azure-winged Magpies. A Melodious Warbler showed well, and sang, with a chorus of Bee-eaters & Hoopoe in the background. Nightingale & Short-toed Treecreeper were also seen. After a leisurely breakfast we headed south for a change of scenery, although not before stopping off at a useful small plain. Here we had a further 6 Great Bustard, as well as Marsh Harrier, Calandra Lark and 150 White Stork. Over theplain we also had 2 Gull-billed Tern , which did look most out of place over the dry plain. However the highlight of the morning were at least 6 Roller, viewed from the road, again using nesting boxes put on telegraph poles. We continued our journey to the greener & more agricultural south. Our target were wetland birds, which kicked off with Collared Pratincoles (15 in total) flying around our car. From a patch of reeds were Great Reed Warbler, and more Gull-billed Tern. Around river was a single Red Avadavat, as well as a small party of Waxbill, with 3 Marsh Harrier over the rice paddies plus 3-4 Golden Oriole around the river. On the way back we stopped at a huge reservoir, which produced a nice diversity of wildfowl. Several 'genuine' Red Crested Pochard were obvious, as were the many Great Crested Grebe. Over the water were several Black Tern, as well as Little Tern, Gull-billed Tern & Whiskered Tern. Also on the water were Black-necked Grebe, Shoveler & Gadwall. Returning to Belen plain we had excellent views of Great Spotted Cuckoo, as we looked for our elusive Black-shouldered Kite. We returned to our base for a well-earned meal and the odd glass of wine.
Our final day in Spain, following our breakfast we packed & bid our farewells to the friendly staff at our accommodation and then made our way north back to Madrid, not before making one last stop at several roadside pools on the outskirts of Almaraz. From the car we heard & saw Fan-tailed Warbler, withthe distinctive rattle of Cetti's Warbler in accompaniment. In the distance we heard & saw briefly Savi's Warbler. We scanned the dense vegetation around the water and eventually saw, as well as hearing a couple of oversized Purple Gallinule. Whilst scanning the marsh we also had a pair of Little Bittern flying over, as well as 2 Purple Heron, these rounding off our tour. Time was pressing and we had to continue our journey northwards. We arrived back in Madrid, in time to drop of our vehicle and check-in, in time for our return flight back to Liverpool airport.