Extremadura ‘Phlog’

28 April to 2 May 2017

Early departure at 03:45 for a flight to Madrid from lovely Luton. Temperature on arrival a mere 3 degrees centigrade.  Extremadura boasts a wide variety of  habitat (Cork and Holm Oak forests (Dehesa), grass land, rivers, reservoirs, scrub, mountains) and low human population with the result that it supports a wealth of wild life.  Having some insider ‘birding gen’ certainly is critical for the hard-to-find species, but quite frankly,  it is amazing what a non-expert could spot along the quiet roads and byways without too much effort.  The land scape was sweeping and colourful with a back drop of the Sierra de Gredos mountains, snow capped and rising to 2,591 at Pico Almanzor.

We dropped bags at Villar de Plasencia, a maze of a village where we got quite disoriented. This became the norm in most of the villages we travelled through. The road map was hopelessly lacking in detail but made for some exciting driving on incredibly narrow and sometimes steep streets, watched by bemused residents.  We headed to Puerto de Tietar in Monfrague National Park and with patience were welcomed by a Spanish Imperial Eagle as well as Griffon Vultures, Black Kites and Egyptian Vultures.

The following morning the weather was poor. We explored the Embalse de Arrocampo-Almaraz where there are a number of hides, ideal to escape the worst of the rain. These however proved a mixed blessing – one had a door that would not open, one had a door that once opened, would not close, forcing us to sit in a howling gale. The last had no seating, so it was impossible to see out of the hatches. Fortunately the weather cleared and hiding no longer a necessity. We saw, black shouldered kite, little bittern, swamp hen and purple heron, Spoon Bill, amongst much else.

Extremadura, Spain 2017 04

Purple Heron, Swallows, Sand Martins and Swifts

Extremadura, Spain 2017 04

White Stork

Extremadura, Spain 2017 04

Cattle Egrets and Black Winged Stilts

We drove to Salto del Gitano and the Monfrague Castillo in the heart of the National Park. The sun now high in the sky, Griffon, Black Vultures and Black Kites cruised, drying their wings after the rain. Also a wonderful sighting of Black Storks, far less prevalent elsewhere than their white counterpart.

Extremadura, Spain 2017 04

Griffons

Extremadura, Spain 2017 04

Black Stork

We climbed the steps up to the castle and then up the tower. We followed the path down to the river. The walk made me realise that our planned hike up Breche de Roland later in the summer, was going to be more of a challenged than previously reckoned, cancer treatment through the winter having knocked me back.

Extremadura, Spain 2017 04

Serin

Extremadura, Spain 2017 04

Extremadura, Spain 2017 04

Dehesa

2017 04 Extremadura Andy's photos

That evening we supped on fried Dorade at Villar Real de San Carlos.

The following morning we were up for the dawn and out looking for Western Orphean Warbler.  Alas it eluded us due to gale force winds and driving rain. Next stop Embalse de Talavan.

Extremadura, Spain 2017 04

Then on to Rio Almonte to seek nesting Alpine Swifts. After a while we realised we were at the wrong river crossing. Eventually we found the correct bridge but no Alpine Swifts. However, we did get a rare sighting of a lovely Golden Eagle.

Extremadura, Spain 2017 04

Old and new roads over the Rio Almonte

Extremadura, Spain 2017 04

The roads were so empty we could reliably stop bang in the middle

That evening we landed at Casa Rual El Recuerdo, just south of Trujillo, home of Martin Kelsey whose knowledge of the bird populations is unsurpassed. The following morning armed with Martin’s clear directions we went in pursuit of Great and Little Bustards, Black-bellied and Pin-tailed Sandgrouse and Rollers all of which we saw.

Extremadura, Spain 2017 04

Trujillo in the morning haze

Extremadura, Spain 2017 04

Corn Bunting

 

Extremadura, Spain 2017 04

Roller boxes on electricity pylons

Extremadura, Spain 2017 04

Scrub and grassland

Extremadura, Spain 2017 04

At sun down, we walked 2/3rds up one of the village lanes and perched ourselves on a sun-warmed stone wall. Holding our breath, we listened for a Red-necked Nightjar. The weather was perfect, warm and still. Insects, particularly moths, in abundance. And then we heard it – a car alarm. That’s it! The bird soared right over our heads, circled, and came back over. A world tick for Andy.

Up and out early on our final morning to seek out more Bustards. We got them. A gaggle of males, females all hidden away egg sitting.

Extremadura, Spain 2017 04

There’s a Cattle Egret in there somewhere!

2017 04 Extremadura Andy's photos

Great Bustard in the scope

Then we took a slow route back to Madrid crossing a great plain between Belen and Deleitosa where we came across a Vulture fest in full swing!

Extremadura, Spain 2017 04

Extremadura, Spain 2017 04

Five Griffons crossing the road

Extremadura, Spain 2017 04

Griffon Vulture

Extremadura, Spain 2017 04

Black Vulture

Then on through Valdecanas de Tajo, Bee Eaters and Theckler Larks at close range.

Extremadura, Spain 2017 04

Bee-eater

Extremadura, Spain 2017 04

Thekla lark

A mad dash to the airport followed. No time to pick up petrol. Walked straight through on onto the plane, last on. Great trip!

Trip list

(All logged en route on BirdTrack – never leave home without this fabulous app!)

Ducks:
Mallard
Gadwall
Red-crested Pochard

Herons:
Grey Heron
Purple Heron
Great White Egret
Little Egret
Cattle Egret
Glossy Ibis
White Stork
Black Stork
Spoonbill
Little Bittern
Night Heron
Cormorant

Great Crested Grebe
Little Grebe

Great Bustard
Little Bustard

Red-legged Partridge
Quail

Moorhen
Coot
Purple Swamphen

Birds of Prey:
Griffon Vulture
Black Vulture
Egyptian Vulture

Black Kite
Red Kite
Black-shouldered Kite

Spanish Imperial Eagle
Golden Eagle
Booted Eagle
Short-toed Eagle
Buzzard
Marsh Harrier
Montagu’s Harrier
Kestrel
Lesser Kestrel

Waders:
Black-winged Stilt
Little Ringed Plover
Common Sandpiper (dog place)
Lapwing
Stone Curlew (opposite side of road to track to first bustards, under trees)

Pin-tailed Sandgrouse
Black-bellied Sandgrouse

Common Tern
Gull-billed Tern
Black-headed Gull

Wood Pigeon
Collared Dove
Turtle Dove

Little owl
Red-necked Nightjar

Swift
Pallid Swift

Near passerine (perching birds)
Bee-eater
Roller
Hoopoe
Cuckoo
Great Spotted Cuckoo

Passerines:
Swallow
House Martin
Crag Martin
Red-rumped Swallow
Sand Martin

Calandra Lark
Thekla Lark
Short-toed Lark
Crested Lark

Wren
White Wagtail
Tawny Pipit

Corvids:
Azure-winged Magpie
Magpie
Jay
Jackdaw
Raven

Golden Oriole

Sardinian Warbler
Subalpine Warbler
Blackcap
Great Reed Warbler
Reed Warbler
Zitting Cisticola
Cetti’s Warbler

Blue Rock Thrush
Blackbird
Wheatear
Black Redstart
Song Thrush
Spotless Starling
Nightingale

Corn Bunting
Cirl Bunting

Finches:

Chaffinch
Goldfinch
Greenfinch
Linnet
Serin

Rock Sparrow
House Sparrow
Spanish Sparrow

Green Woodpecker

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