8th - 14th April 2000

John Muddeman
Tim Earl


8th April

Our introduction to Spanish birding was at Cafe / Hotel David where a white stork nesting on a nearby chimney gave us an insight into the bird which features so strongly in this holiday. Barn Swallow, Corn Bunting and Serin were also put on the list while the two buses compared notes about two Black-shouldered Kites seen earlier.

Excitement rose, however, when we reached the Arrocampo reservoir where most members of the heron family in Spain popped up to see us. Grey and Purple Herons were expected and Little Egret was also present along with Cattle Egret. One sub-adult and a juvenile Black-crowned Night-Heron gave super views as they flew around and then over us and finally, a female Little Bittern perched obligingly in bushes after flying past us.

Purple Swamphens, a difficult species to see in Europe, tried to pretend they were common with several putting on a noisy show. Kestrels, Black Kites and a fine pair of Marsh Harriers represented the raptor family while our musical entertainment came from singing Cetti's, Savi's, Sedge and Reed Warblers, Water Rail and Quail, with Zitting Cisticola also adding to the chorus.

At Finca Santa Marta we marked our arrival with a few fly-past Azure-winged Magpies, many more White Storks' nests and a lone Sardinian Warbler.

9th April

The beautiful town of Trujillo welcomed us with a spectacular avian show. At least 50 Lesser Kestrels which had been pinned down by rain, soared and swooped, shimmied and shook, called and courted in the clear air, with the stunning backdrop of Extremadura behind them.

Pallid and Common Swifts, Jackdaws and Swallows joined the aerial performance which delighted and enthralled us. Serins, Goldfinches and Spotless Starlings sang to the ballet birds with Hoopoes making up the chorus - and this was just the start of our first full-day's birding.

We moved on to nearby fish ponds after exploring the town. Here we picked up Water and Meadow Pipits but found our eyes constantly drawn to several Black-winged Stilts. Although common in many parts of Europe, these spectacularly graceful birds always delight.

Was it our lunch eaten a few miles away on the bank of the River Tozo which tempted a pale-phase Booted Eagle to pass low over us? Perhaps not as another was to do the same two hours later, by then our fifth of the afternoon.

Raptors marked this lovely walk through wild flower meadows spotted with several species of narcissi, lupins, greater purple viper's bugloss, French lavender and many other plants were enjoyed, particularly by Jennifer and Ted Clements.

Black and Egyptian Vultures, Black and Red Kites all delighted us but it was the sight of a squadron of Griffon Vultures which came up over us that thrilled many people the most. Like flying barn doors they wheeled and glided above us, their wing-tips curling up as they took the weight of the Griffons. A pair of passing Great-spotted Cuckoos caused alarm among the local Magpies, the nests of which they parasitise, while a couple of their calling common cousins illustrated to our American friends where the family gets its name.

Size is not necessarily the most important feature when watching birds, however. At the edge of the reservoir, a flock of 17 Yellow Wagtails containing the white-throated Iberian, blue-headed central-European and all-yellow British races of this diverse species seemed to make the meadow move as they combed the grass for insects.

Wood Larks are often used as an example of how rich and musical bird songs can be so it was wonderful to be able to study the species and hear it singing for us.

Song also gave away a migrating Bonelli's Warbler which John picked up brilliantly. The bird very obligingly stopped its quest for nourishment to sit and preen while we inspected the rather drab plumage.

Our day ended with a walk around the Finca where Booted Eagles put on another show and careful searching finally revealed singing Short-toed Treecreepers.

10th April

Where did we see that Spanish Imperial Eagle? Most of us did not have a clue, but it was at a secret site near Monfragüe Natural Park and a great thrill. The bird loomed up over a ridge and soared for about 15 minutes while we watched in awe, its white epaulets catching the sunshine as it banked around.

The park was a whole-day trip for us although a hovering Short-toed Eagle, Bee-eaters, a distant view of Roller, Rock Sparrows, Mistle Thrush and a Nuthatch were seen on the way to Monfragüe.

We made numerous stops for birds in the park, adding species at almost every one. Red-billed Chough, and Hawfinch fell at Monfragüe Castle where those who braved the wind at the top had the added bonus of amazing views in every direction across Extremadura.

From the viewpoint at the Salto del Gitano ('Gipsy's jump'), two Black Storks drifted around below us at a gap over the Tajo reservoir giving amazing views of their iridescent green necks and heads, before we also saw them later at a nest site.

A Rock Bunting was singing behind us while we watched the storks and when we turned around a Black Redstart joined it. High on the cliff top a Blue Rock-Thrush, singing its heart out while standing on a grey rock against a deep blue sky brought a tear to Julie Jarman's eye as it was one of her top target birds.

But its was probably the wonderful birds of prey which dominated our activities. Griffon Vultures seemed to be everywhere - in the air, perching on crags, and on one memorable occasion feeding a chick in its nest.

A Peregrine put in appearance, wheeling around high above us suddenly to stoop, wings folded in that characteristic yet breath-taking dive that probably spelt death to one of the many pigeons passing through.

At one stop a small party of Alpine Swifts wheeled high over our heads while during our lunch break a male Subalpine Warbler posed for us uncharacteristically on the top of a bramble bush showing its salmon-pink underparts and white moustache. Suddenly, joined by a female, it soared in a thrilling display-flight before the pair disappeared.

After an afternoon break for coffee and a chance to buy postcards and souvenirs where somebody made comments about looking for owls during the day (which John and Tim tried to dismiss, ha-ha) we decided to push on to a special stop.

The group (and dozens of 'oh-la-la-ing' French birdwatchers) observed an Eagle Owl chick in its nest. Seemingly bored, the bird moved around a great deal, stopping occasionally to gaze across at us, its huge yellow eyes with their grey lids looked as if the owlet was wearing mascara.

As if not to be outdone, two Short-toed Eagles perched on a nearby hillside and Black Stork and two Booted Eagles passed over, but could not steal the limelight.

11th April

The plains of Extremadura are vast undulating meadows, criss-crossed by dry-stone walls and cattle fences. Although looking as if they are largely uncultivated grazing land for sheep and cattle, often the fields are ploughed regularly in a rotational manner. When left fallow for two to three years, they are home to myriads of wild flowers and some of Europe's rarest birds.

Our fourth day was spent searching for the most highly desired of these - Great and Little Bustards which are shy, retiring and difficult to find.

Northern Wheatears were the first alternatives to distract us as they flashed their white rumps busily hunting for insects. Their companions were four Tawny Pipits which looked splendid in the strong sunshine. Suddenly two Stone-curlews were found hiding in grassland and eventually we were all rewarded with at least glimpses of them before they flew off to continue their life-long quest for anonymity on the other side of a low ridge.

Bustards dominated our minds, however. They were Ron Neal's birthday wish and for several members of the group top of their target-bird list.

John's knowledge and keen eyes found a mixed flock of five Great and 11 Little Bustards and we were able to study them well, despite poor light, before setting off, greatly relieved, to search for other species.

We found... Great and Little Bustards in profusion.

One party had two males squaring up to each other, tails fanned before the bigger, nick-named the Plains' Master by Tim, strutted off to search for his harem. During the morning we saw at least 28 Great Bustards including five in flight looking surprisingly white for such brown birds on the ground. Almost 40 Little Bustards were seen too, several times in flight.

Among the other attractions of the morning was a Little Owl, seemingly wanting us to inspect it closely, perched against a wall which its resembled, at least in colour. A Great-spotted Cuckoo 'hid' on a fence wire for ages affording stunning views and making some people feel better about the many Magpies, which are hosts to these parasitic birds, that we saw daily.

It was the birds of prey which dominated by midday, however. Griffon Vultures were always somewhere to be seen accompanied often by Black Vultures. At one stop we watched two huge Griffons feeding at a carcass when they were dwarfed by a Black Vulture which literally galloped across the plain to join them after dropping from the sky.

A Golden Eagle drifted so close overhead that we were able to inspect the barring under its wings and tail as it peered down at us. A melanistic form of Montagu's Harrier turned out not to be all-black but beautiful shades of blue-black which mirrored the normal male colours. [See the bird list for comments about these].

Short-toed and Booted Eagles, plus flocks of Lesser Kestrels which had flown out from Trujillo to feed on the plains' grasshoppers and crickets, added to the show. But it was not until just before lunch that the fat lady sang in this birds of prey performance.

A colony of at least five pairs of Montagu's Harriers floated on their long narrow wings over the fields, occasionally dropping to catch prey, close to the minibuses. The males in particular were stunning as perfect light showed off their black and pale-grey plumage. It was hard not to believe that they knew we were there to be impressed.

Our wonderful day ended in a tiny valley where we watched a Spectacled Warbler building its nest while about six male Dartford Warblers took it in turns to dance out their display flights above us. These are two extremely scarce breeding species in Extremadura and wonderful to find together.

12th April

Our quest for plains' birds continued with a trip out west of Trujillo to search for elusive Black-bellied and Pin-tailed Sandgrouse.

We foundÍ. Great and Little Bustards, a male of the latter popping up and calling so close to the minibuses that we did not need binoculars to see its black and white 'Newcastle United' v-necked collar. As if not to be outdone, several Great-spotted Cuckoos cavorted around close by, making their harsh calls.

Great Bustards also put in an appearance before we stopped at a huge ploughed field to search for sandgrouse. Fortunately, their habit of flying around occasionally led us to find several mixed parties, albeit at a long distance. However, the comment from Billie Gordon - 'I saw them fly; I saw them land; and then the earth swallowed them' - was close to the experience most of us had. Watching for moving rocks was a good tip but it did not make finding them any easier.

Montagu's Harriers again put in an appearance with yet another colony, this time even larger than the first, quartering wheat fields in their hunt for prey, and providing relief from searching for the living rocks in the adjacent field.

The Río Magasca produced our only sighting of Kingfisher, at one time hovering over a pool in its quest for fish. The same site produced our only Cirl Bunting, a lovely male perched low over the road, although some people in the party also saw one at the Finca.

Heading back, we continued to search the steppes, and eventually, we came across a party of Pin-tailed Sandgrouse closer to the road and at last were afforded views of these enigmatic birds. While watching a group of three Common Cuckoos feeding on the ground, we disturbed two Stone-Curlews, which flew off but obligingly landed where we could watch these curious waders at leisure. The final stretch of dehesa also came up trumps with a small dying tree by the roadside which was brightened up by the nests of a number of Spanish Sparrows, several males of which posed on top of their creations reminding many of their not-so-distant links to the African weavers.

13th April

We set off after breakfast for the Embalse de Sierra Brava, a large reservoir where uncommon waterbirds such as Black-necked Grebe and Gull-billed Tern, plus Black-headed Gull and Common Sandpiper were added to the list, along with a superb singing Black-eared Wheatear.

Unexpectedly, it was the view away from the reservoir which grabbed most people's attention: there in the fields below us were eight Great Bustards and the male was showing off. Clearly, there were females among the group and the Plains' Master did his full display, appearing to turn his white plumage inside out before our eyes, to then walk backwards like an animated cheer-leader's pompom as he impressed the harem and caused the subordinate males to cower.

This was the highlight of the trip for many, especially Joy Lyman and Desmond Bonney, who were moved by the fantastic sight.

A quick stop on an old bridge over a stream proved fruitful, and apart from a perched Bee-eater, three Common Waxbills, and a most confiding male Common Redstart, the hearing senses were switched on, and revealed a wealth of species. This included 'sharming' Water Rail, 'grinding' Great Reed and 'dancing' Eurasian Reed Warblers plus the magnificent tones of a Common Nightingale emanating from a bankside bush.

We had poor views of Collared Pratincoles and a Little Bustard on our way to the lunch stop on the vast plains of La Serena, where further disappointment awaited us: a large flock of Great Bustards had moved at least a mile away over the plain due to two farmers ploughing a vast track-side field.

However, all was certainly not lost, and as we ate with Calandra and Short-toed Larks singing overhead in profusion, Tim noticed birds swooping among the White Storks and Cattle Egrets which were following the ploughs and realised that a flock of at least 20 Collared Pratincoles was taking advantage of the unexpected food supply. We watched the breath-taking spectacle of these swallow-wader-tern-like birds working the furrows a few feet from us, at times passing between us as they flew between the field and their nearby steppe nest-sites.

It was to be the final breath-taking sight of an exciting week birding Spain's extraordinary Extremadura.

A converted farmhouse and olive mill, Finca Santa Marta proved to be a wonderful base for us to stay. The staff were attentive, led by the owner, Henri Elink, the food delicious and nourishing, and the rooms comfortable.

Birds abounded and during the week, most people had excellent views there of Azure-winged Magpies, Great-spotted Woodpeckers, Red-rumped Swallows and nesting White Storks. Scops Owls called almost every evening as did Quails each morning.

We would like to thank all members of the group for making this such an enjoyable, successful and interesting trip. Special thanks are due to the unknown rain master among you, who kept us mercifully dry almost every day, and to Ron, for letting us share his birthday. We look forward to seeing you again soon.

John Muddeman and Tim Earl

Extremadura bird list 8-14 April 2000:

This is the combined list for the whole group. H = heard only; Emb. = Embalse (reservoir); FSM = Finca Santa Marta. Common names per Wells' "World bird Checklist".

Little Grebe: Noted on 4 days with singles or pairs on ponds in widely scattered locations, but max. 6+ on Trujillo fishpond on 9th.

Great Crested Grebe: Seen on 3 days: 1 at Emb. de Arrocampo on 8th, 10+ (inc. nests) on Emb. del Tozo on 9th and c. 20 on Emb. de Sierra Brava on 13th.

*Black-necked Grebe: A total of 5 on Emb. de Sierra Brava on 13th.

[Great] Cormorant: One at Monfragüe on 10th and 5 over Emb. de Sierra Brava on 13th.

*Purple Heron: At least 6 at Emb. de Arrocampo on 8th.

*Little Bittern: A good fly-by female at Emb. de Arrocampo on 8th.

*Black-crowned Night Heron: Two, a 2nd calendar-year and a sub-adult (?3rd cal-yr) flying around over the Emb. de Arrocampo on 8th.

Grey Heron: Ones and twos daily, except 3+ at Emb. de Arrocampo on 8th, 4+ at Emb. de Tozo on 9th , and 3 on 13th .

Cattle Egret: Noted daily, mostly in a few quite large flocks, especially by roadside N of Finca Santa Marta, but 50+ on 11th and 13th, inc. following the plough on La Serena.

Little Egret: Seen on 4 days, mostly as scattered singles: 5+ at Emb. de Arrocampo on 8th, 6 on 9th between the Trujillo fishpond and Emb. de Tozo, and 6+ on 13th, especially at the Emb. de Sierra Brava.

Black Stork: Seen on 3 days: one over dehesa beside the NV S of Jaraicejo on 8th, 5+ at Monfragüe on 10th and one over dehesa near Aldeacentenera on 11th.

White Stork: Very common and seen daily with many nests on trees and buildings, including on the roof of FSM, where bill-clapping heard even at night.

Gadwall: 7+ at the Emb. de Tozo on 9th.

*[Common] Teal: 10+ at the Emb. de Tozo on 9th.

Mallard: Seen daily in small numbers, with a max. 15+ Emb. de Tozo on 9th.

*[Northern] Shoveler: At least 3 at the Emb. de Tozo on 9th and a male at Emb. de Sierra Brava on 13th .

Black-winged Kite: A total of 4 singles: 2 hovering beside the NV on 8th, one by the roadside north of FSM on 12th , and another very briefly at FSM late evening on 13th .

Red Kite: Noted daily in small numbers, with 6+ on 9th, 12th and 13th, and 8+ on 11th.

Black Kite: Seen more-or-less commonly daily, and generally much commoner than Red Kite. Especially well seen at the Emb. de Tozo on 9th.

Monk/[Eurasian] Black Vulture: Noted on 4 days from 9th to 12th, with some excellent views at the Emb. de Tozo and Belén Plain, and with one 'galloping' there.

[Eurasian] Griffon Vulture: Seen daily from 9th, with a max. at least 50 on 10th at Monfragüe, where some excellent fly-bys at the castle were notable.

Egyptian Vulture: Noted on just 3 days: 4 over dehesa near Emb. de Tozo on 9th, 8+ over dehesa and in Monfragüe on 10th , and 2 distant birds on 11th .

Short-toed Eagle: Seen from 10th to 13th, after first over road S of Monfragüe on 10th, and 2 perched on hillside there later that day, with max. 6 at scattered sites between Zorita and La Serena on 13th.

Marsh Harrier: An adult male and a female at Emb. de Arrocampo on 8th and a very interesting dark bird hunting over La Serena on 13th. This appears to have been a young (2nd-cal year?) bird showing just a slightly paler head, pale crescent around base of primaries on underwing and slightly paler brown tail, rather than a true dark-morph bird (which is rare in E populations).

Montagu's Harrier: Noted on 3 days, with stunning views, especially of males, of 14 on the Belén Plain on 11th , where an adult male dark morph bird (one of probably two) was also very interesting, 20+ during the day over steppe near Santa Marta de Magasca on 12th, and 20+ during the day between Zorita and La Serena on 13th .

Common Buzzard: Seen daily from 9th in moderate numbers, with max. 10+ on 11th on the Belén Plains and back roads to FSM.

Spanish Imperial Eagle: Just one adult watched well near a nest on 10th.

Golden Eagle: A fantastic sub-adult (young adult) with unusually strong wing-barring giving excellent overhead views on the Belén Plain on 11th.

Booted Eagle: Noted on daily from 9th, (when a total of 5) starting with a very close pale phase individual over during lunch at the Emb. de Tozo, and where a displaying dark-phase bird gave odd wader-like calls later that day, while other max. were 6+ seen in and around Monfragüe on 10th, and 5 on Belén Plain and backroads to FSM on 11th .

Lesser Kestrel: Seen on 5 days, especially in and around Trujillo, where 50+ came out to display and dry-off after rain on 9th, and 50+ during the day between Zorita and La Serena on 13th.

[Common] Kestrel: One to four noted daily, but overlooked among the Lessers!

Peregrine Falcon: Just one seen by those in the second bus N of Peñafalcón, Monfragüe on 10th.

Red-legged Partridge: Small numbers noted on 5 days, usually pairs, with max. 4+ near Santa Marta de Magasca on 12th.

Common Quail: Small numbers heard on 5 days at widely scattered sites, though one calling daily at FSM seen early morning by Ron and Yvonne on 12th was a birthday treat!

Water Rail: 2+ 'sharming' (=squealing) at the Emb. de Arrocampo on 8th, and 2+ heard and a 'dash-past' seen at the Río Gargálicos on 13th.

Moorhen: Noted on 4 days: with individuals in roadside ponds or streams on 3 days, and also a total of 6+ between FSM and La Serena on 13th.

Purple Gallinule [=Swamphen]: 4+ seen and heard VERY well at the Emb. de Arrocampo on 8th.

Common Coot: Singles on 8th, 9th and 12th, but c. 100 at the Emb. de Sierra Brava on 13th.

Little Bustard: Seen on 3 days, with a total of 25+ Belén Plain on 11th, a total of 17+ near Santa Marta de Magasca on 13th , including a superb close 'raspberrying' male and other males in display-flight, and 10+ near the Emb. de Sierra Brava on 13th.

Great Bustard: Seen on 3 days, with at least 28 in three groups on 11th on the Belén Plain, 3+ near Santa Marta de Magasca on 12th, and 35+ between the Emb. de Sierra Brava and La Serena on 13th, when the white "turning inside-out / pom-pom / foam-bath" display was seen very well.

Black-winged Stilt: Seen on 5 days, with max. 20+ between the Trujillo fishpond and Emb. de Tozo on 9th, and 10+ on 13th , with 5+ at the Emb. de Sierra Brava.

Stone-curlew: A pair seen briefly, though well on the Belén Plain on 11th, then another pair very well N of Santa Marta de Magasca on 12th.

Collared Pratincole: A small group of at least 6 over fields N of Orellana la Vieja, another of 17+ (excellent views, inc. on the ground) on La Serena, and a single near Campo Lugar, all on 13th.

Little Ringed Plover: Remarkably, only noted on the 13th, with one at the Emb. de Sierra Brava, 2 by the Río Gargálicos and 3 beside the road near the Emb. del Zújar.

Common Sandpiper: Unusually, only one noted at the Emb. de Sierra Brava on 13th.

[Common] Snipe: One seen briefly in flight at the Emb. de Arrocampo on 8th.

*Spotted Redshank: 1 (possibly 2) moulting to summer winter plumage at the Emb. de Tozo on 9th.

Lesser Black-backed Gull: Singles seen beside the NV on 8th, and at the Emb. del Zújar on 13th, with a group of 7 moving N over the Río Almonte on 12th .

*Yellow-legged Gull: 4-5 2nd and 3rd calendar-years at the Emb. del Zújar on 13th.

Black-headed Gull: 50+ at the Emb. de Sierra Brava on 13th.

Gull-billed Tern: 4 (-6) rather distantly at the Emb. de Sierra Brava on 13th.

Pin-tailed Sandgrouse: Approx. 10 rather distantly in fields near Santa Marta de Magasca, plus later, 4 closer, N of there, on 12th.

Black-bellied Sandgrouse: 10+ in fields near Santa Marta de Magasca on 12th.

Rock Dove/Feral Pigeon: Noted daily, all were Feral Pigeons of some type, though several of wild-type bird were present in the flocks in Monfragüe.

Wood Pigeon: Noted mostly in just ones and twos on 4 days, with max. 10+ on 10th.

[Eurasian] Collared Dove: Noted widely, mostly in pairs, in small numbers on 4 days.

Great Spotted Cuckoo: After 2 fly-bys at the Emb. de Tozo on 9th, and one on the Belén Plain on 11th, at least 8, with most seen excellently on 12th near Santa Marta de Magasca, and 7 between Zorita and La Serena on 13th .

Common Cuckoo: One at FSM singing daily from 9th, plus other singles on 4 days, but at least 6 on 12th, including two moving along the Río Almonte and 3 feeding on steppe N of Santa Marta de Magasca.

European Scops Owl: Heard singing on 4 nights and one morning at FSM, with 2 on 12th.

Eagle Owl: A grey chick soliciting numerous 'Oh-la-la' calls from a French group at the Portillo del Tiétar, Monfragüe on 10th was rightly admired.

Little Owl: One on a wall on the Belén Plain on 11th, and another calling at FSM on 12th.

Alpine Swift: Min. 10 seen near the big bridge at Monfragüe, on 10th.

Common Swift: Seen in small numbers on five days at widely scattered sites.

Pallid Swift: Seen on 4 days, especially in and around Trujillo: max. 10 on 9th and 20+ on 11th .

Common Kingfisher: One at Río Magasca on 12th.

European Bee-eater: Just two or three on 9th, 11th and 12th, but a flock of 40+ S of Monfragüe on 10th, and various flocks totalling 40+ between Zorita and La Serena on 13th .

European Roller: One seen briefly and very distantly in flight S of Torrejón el Rubio on 10th .

[Eurasian] Hoopoe: Noted regularly each day, with 10+ on 11th to 13th, including around FSM, but throughout the dehesa in particular.

Great Spotted Woodpecker: One drumming FSM on 11th to 13th plus one more on 13th.

Green Woodpecker: One calling at FSM on morning of 10th.

Calandra Lark: Noted on 3 days in steppe areas: 20+ on Belén Plain on 11th , 20+ near Santa Marta de Magasca on 12th and 100+ between Zorita and La Serena on 13th.

[Greater] Short-toed Lark: 4+ on Belén Plain on 11th, and 8+ on La Serena on 13th.

Crested Lark: Seen daily in variable numbers; especially on steppe and along roadsides.

Thekla Lark: Noted on 3 days: good views of 2 in dehesa near Torrejón el Rubio on 10th and 4+ during day on Belén Plain and in dehesa on backroads to FSM on 11th .

Wood Lark: Noted on 5 days, with 6+ including birds at FSM and especially Emb. de Tozo on 9th, and a group of 5 from second bus on 13th.

*Sand Martin: Surprisingly high numbers, with 20+ at Emb. de Arrocampo on 8th, 40+ at Emb. de Tozo on 9th , and an estimated 200 at the Emb. de Sierra Brava on 13th.

Crag Martin: Seen on 3 days: 10+ at Monfragüe on 10th, 4+ at Río Magasca and Río Almonte on 12th, and one at Emb. del Zújar on 13th .

Barn Swallow: Noted daily in variable numbers, inc. plenty of nests at FSM and probably 50+ at Emb. de Tozo on 9th.

Red-rumped Swallow: Seen daily from 10th, when 10+ at Monfragüe, and 10+ during day on 12th, especially in river valleys near Santa Marta de Magasca.

[Common] House Martin: Noted daily, especially around Trujillo; nest-building watched in Zorita on 13th.

Yellow Wagtail: Only seen at Emb. de Tozo on 9th, when 17 feeding under dehesa oaks included males of the subspecies flava, iberiae and flavissima.

White Wagtail: 2-3 noted in small number at widely spread sites from 9th to 13th.

Tawny Pipit: At least 4 seen very well on the Belén Plain on 11th.

Meadow Pipit: One or two seen on 4 days; 2 by Trujillo fishpond on 9th.

*Tree Pipit: One fly-over, calling, near Santa Marta de Magasca on 12th.

*Water Pipit: Just one at the Trujillo fishpond on 9th.

Southern Grey Shrike: Noted regularly each full day, with 15+ in steppes and dehesa on 12th and 13th .

Woodchat Shrike: Seen daily, with max. 15+ on 12th between Trujillo and the Río Almonte.

[Winter] Wren: Heard from 9th to 13th days at FSM.

Blue Rock Thrush: Noted on just 1 day with 3+ blue males at Monfragüe on 10th .

[Common] Blackbird: Noted daily in small numbers at FSM, Monfragüe, etc.

Song Thrush: 3 seen at Emb. de Tozo on 9th, 2 on 12th and one singing at FSM on 13th.

Mistle Thrush: Seen or heard in small numbers on 5 days, with 4 in dehesa on 10th and 5 on 11th.

[European] Robin: One singing and seen at Monfragüe on 10th.

*Common Nightingale: One singing at the Río Gargálicos on 13th.

*Common Restart: One rather confiding male by the Río Gargálicos on 13th.

Black Redstart: Two singing males at Monfragüe on 10th.

[Common] Stonechat: Seen daily, with several broods already fledged on steppes.

Northern Wheatear: Noted on steppes on 3 days: 6+ Belén Plain on 11th, 3+ near Santa Marta de Magasca on 12th, and 4 between Zorita and La Serena on 13th.

Black-eared Wheatear: Just one, but superb male on steppe near Emb. de Sierra Brava on 13th.

Zitting Cisticola [=Fan-tailed Warbler]: Heard and seen on 3 days: 2 at Emb. de Arrocampo on 8th, 1 on Belén Plain on 11th , and 2+ heard S of Zorita on 13th .

Cetti's Warbler: Noted on 2 days, with 3+ singing at Emb. de Arrocampo on 8th, and also at Río Gargálicos on 13th, where one was seen briefly.

Savi's Warbler: 2+ singing and one seen at Emb. de Arrocampo on 8th.

Sedge Warbler: One seen very briefly and heard singing at the Emb. de Arrocampo on 8th.

[Eurasian] Reed Warbler: One singing at the Emb. de Arrocampo on 8th and 2 singing plus one seen at the Río Gargálicos on 13th .

Great Reed Warbler: Two singing and one seen in flight at the Río Gargálicos on 13th.

Blackcap: Singles seen on 2 days at FSM, and 2 there on 12th and also a female at the Río Gargálicos on 13th.

Sardinian Warbler: Noted on 4 days, almost all at FSM, but only seen briefly.

Subalpine Warbler: A pair seen extremely well at Monfragüe on 10th, a male near Madroñera on 11th , and one singing Río Magasca on 12th .

Spectacled Warbler: Excellent views of a pair (including nest-building) of this very scarce and poorly known species in Extremadura, near Madroñera on 11th.

Dartford Warbler: At least 6, mostly singing males, of another very scarce species in the region, at the same site as the above.

Willow Warbler: Singles, mostly heard singing from 9th to 13th, with 2 on 10th.

[Western] Bonelli's Warbler: Migrants noted on 2 days: one watched at Emb. de Tozo on 9th, and two near Santa Marta de Magasca on 12th.

Long-tailed Tit: Small numbers of the grey-backed irbii Iberian subspecies, including around FSM, seen on 4 days, with at least 2 pairs on 12th.

Great Tit: Noted daily, especially around FSM.

Blue Tit: Noted daily; common and nesting at FSM.

Short-toed Treecreeper: Seen on 3 days, including 3+ on 9th, on the backroads to FSM.

*Wood/Eurasian Nuthatch: One near the Salto del Gitano, Monfragüe on 10th , and 2 on the backroads to FSM on 11th .

Eurasian Jay: 3 seen and or heard around Monfragüe on 10th and 5+ on the backroads to FSM on 11th.

Azure-winged Magpie: Seen daily, with often surprising numbers in the dehesa, and orchards around FSM.

[Black-billed] Magpie: Common and noted daily.

Red-billed Chough: A pair, one with a bill full of nest material at Monfragüe castle on 10th .

[Eurasian] Jackdaw: Seen on 5 days, with 50+, especially by the Emb. del Zújar on 13th .

Common Raven: Seen daily, with a max. 5+ on 11th on the Belén Plain and backroads to FSM, and 6+ on 13th between Zorita and La Serena.

Spotless Starling: Seen and heard well each day, especially at FSM.

Cirl Bunting: A male at the Río Magasca on 12th.

Rock Bunting: Only seen at Monfragüe, with 3+ on 10th, though seen very well.

Corn Bunting: Abundant and noted commonly each day, especially on 13th.

[Common] Chaffinch: Noted on 5 days; max. 5+ between Jaraicejo and Monfragüe on 10th .

European Serin: Noted widely, commonly, and daily, especially around FSM and in Trujillo.

[European] Greenfinch: Seen on 3 days, with one on 9th and 13th, and a total of 17+ on 12th near Santa Marta de Magasca and FSM.

[European] Goldfinch: Noted commonly each full day; good sized flocks frequent.

[Common] Linnet: Seen on 3 days, including 4+ at Monfragüe on 10th.

Hawfinch: Noted on just one day, with 2 typically elusive birds seen at Monfragüe on 10th .

Red Avadavat: Two single fly-by's at Río Gargálicos on 13th .

*Common Waxbill: Three cracking individuals at the Río Gargálicos on 13th.

House Sparrow: Noted every day and common.

Spanish Sparrow: Seen on 4 days: 10 at Emb. de Tozo on 9th, 3+ at Belén Plain on 11th, 40+ along road to Santa Marta de Magasca on 12th and nesting birds near NV, and large numbers heard, and a big distant flock seen between Zorita and La Serena on 13th.

Rock Sparrow: Several heard, and one seen on road to Monfragüe on 10th .


Spanish Festoon: Just one seen on backroad to FSM on 11th.

Small White: One or two probables seen on 2 days.

Western Dappled White: Singles seen on 11th and 13th.

Clouded Yellow: 3+ seen on 11th.

Pale Clouded Yellow: 1 caught by JLM on 13th.

Red Admiral: 2 seen on 2 days.

Painted Lady: One on 10th and 2 on 13th.

Marbled White sp.: One on 12th not identified to species-level.

Small Heath: One on 9th and 4+ on 11th.

Wall Brown: One on 11th.

Small Copper: 2 on 11th.

Common Blue: One on 11th.

Cinnabar Moth: One at FSM on 11th.

Silver-Y: Odd ones on sunnier days.

NB. These were notably poor this year due to generally wet, cool conditions.


[Nos. on the right refer to Grey-Wilson & Blamey, Mediterranean Wild Flowers]

Pinaceae: Pinus pinea Stone / Umbrella Pine (3)

Ephedraceae: Ephedra fragilis Joint Pine (20)

Fagaceae: Quercus rotundifolia Evergreen Oak (26)

Quercus suber Cork Oak (27)

Caryophyllaceae: Spergularia purpurea Purple Sand-spurrey (148)

Silene colorata (180)

Ranunculaceae: Ranunculus sp. Water Crowfoot sp.

Fumariaceae: Fumaria capreolata Ramping Fumitory (303)

Leguminosae: Cercis siliquastrum Judas Tree (430)

Cytisus multiflorus White Broom

Lupinus hispanicus 'Iberian' Lupin (c. 484)

Cistaceae: Cistus albidus Grey-leaved Cistus (961)

Cistus salvifolius Sage-leaved Cistus (965)

Cistus monspeliensis Narrow-leaved Cistus (966)

Cistus ladanifer Gum Cistus (971)

Tuberaria guttata Spotted Rockrose (985)

Boraginaceae: Echium plantagineum Purple Viper's Bugloss (1383)

Anchusa undulata Undulate Anchusa (1406)

Labiatae: Rosmarinus officinalis Rosemary (1526)

Lavandula stoechas French Lavender (1528)

Solanaceae: Hyosciamus albus White Henbane (1555)

Scrophularicaea: Parunticellia latifolia Bartsia sp. (1652)

Compositae: Silybum marianum Milk Thistle (1982)

Liliaceae: Asphodelus fistulosus Hollow-leaved Asphodel (2087)

Asphodelus aestivus Common Asphodel (2089)

Ornithogalum umbellatum Star-of-Bethlehem (2171)

Muscari comosum Tasselled Hyacinth (2201)

Allium roseum Rosy Garlic (2224)

Narcissus jonquilla Common Jonquil (2279)

Narcissus bulbocodium Hoop-petticoat Narcissus (2281)

Iridaceae: Gynandriris sisyrinchium Barbary Nut Iris (2305)

Orchidaceae: Orchis champagneuxii Champagne Orchid (2405)

Orchis conica (=lactea) 'Iberian' Milky Orchid (c. 2408)

Ophrys tenthredinifera Sawfly Orchid (2442)

This (perhaps surprisingly long) list has been drawn up using the 'Flora y vegetación de Extremadura' and a number of species seen by just one or two people.


Western Hedgehog: Singles dead on road on 2 days.

'Iberian' Hare: 2 noted on 12th. The hares here are thought to belong to the African species Lepus capensis, though may just be a race of the European Brown Hare Lepus europaeus.

Rabbit: Noted on 12th.

Mole: 'Hills' noted on 9th.

Brown Rat: Two at Río Gargálicos on 13th.

REPTILES & AMPHIBIANS: Up to three Moorish Gecko (Tarentola mauretanica) at FSM almost nightly, Iberian Wall Lizard (Podarcis hispanica) at the Emb. del Zújar on 13th, where two swimming Viperine Snakes (Natrix maura) were well watched. Stripe-necked Terrapin (Mauremys caspica) was represented by just one at the Trujillo fishpond on 9th . Iberian Pool Frogs (Rana perezi) were heard at a couple of sites, while Natterjack Toads (Bufo calamita) were calling near FSM on several nights.

OTHER TAXA: included Field Cricket (Gryllus campestris), a ground-hopper (Acrididae), numerous 'Fire Bugs' and pollen beetles.

© The Travelling Naturalist 2000