TRAVELLING NATURALIST TRIP REPORT
7 - 18 April 2001
John Muddeman , Tim Earl
One of the features of this trip turned out to be the wonderful views we had of great birds. Time was never on our side - we were rarely able to make the 6pm deadline set each day as our attention was taken frequently by stunning views of birds (well, that's our excuse - JM).
Saturday 7 April
The holiday started with a stop along the road from Madrid to Trujillo, enabling us to see the first Barn Swallows and nesting White Storks of the trip.
Our first major stop was at the Arrocampo Reservoir, one of the few places in Europe where Purple Gallinule can be seen. The resident birds played to the gallery, delighting us with their squabbles and squawks. The heron family features prominently here and Little and Cattle Egrets, plus Grey Heron were all added to the list. Warblers were excellent here too with Zitting Cisticola (Fan-tailed Warbler) Great Reed, and Cetti's Warblers heard and observed well.
Spanish Sparrows and Stonechats added to the variety of this fabulous introduction to birding in Extremadura. A fine male Marsh Harrier popped out of the reeds at the back of the marsh giving excellent views as it hunted over the area, and, as we left the reservoir, a pair of Purple Herons performed a most elegant display-flight over the reed beds in which they breed.
Our trip to Trujillo was uneventful until we got close to the hotel where a Stoat played 'chicken' on the road between the buses and other traffic. Happily, it won.
The entrance to our hotel, the Finca Santa Marta, is marked with dead trees in which White Storks nest. We were pleased to see them at the end of the long afternoon.
Tiredness soon went, however, as Azure-Winged Magpies, Red-rumped Swallows and Spotless Starlings were admired from the car park. Owls rounded off the day as we were able to pick out the calls of three European Scops Owls from the chorus of frogs and toads singing in nearby pools.
Sunday 8 April
Our first venture into the stunning countryside of Extremadura was down around a town called Vegas Altas where we hoped for a special bird of prey. While searching, we were able to study the finer identification points of Lesser Kestrels which breed in small numbers in the town.
Nearby rice fields were successfully searched for Red Avadavats and Common Waxbills in the bramble hedges and damp ditches. While watching these tiny finches the calls of birds caught our attention. 24 Collared Pratincoles were swooping around above us as they hawked insects flushed by fires lit to burn off the rice stubble. These waders are tern-like in flight and have a call similar to Hobby. They are enigmatic species and difficult to see. These had clearly read the text books and we were delighted to see such unusual behaviour.
Before the excitement could wear off, John chivvied us off down a bumpy track to where a our special quarry was waiting - a Black-shouldered Kite was preening while perched in a low tree. It was soon joined by a second bird and we were able to spent time admiring the pair.
While watching the kites we were also able to observe and listen to Eurasian Cuckoos - which sounded like the clocks back home to our US participants - Southern Grey Shrikes and more Azure-winged Magpies.
After a coffee stop we moved to the nearby Embalse de Sierra Brava, a vast reservoir, to eat our picnic lunches. Here Black-necked (Eared) Grebes vied with Black-eared Wheatears for the best 'oooh' exclamation from everyone. A small group of Gull-billed Terns flew close to us as we were watching the grebes while Black-headed and Lesser Black-backed Gulls were also seen. John was delighted to find his second and third Great White Egrets in Extremadura while Tim tried to be the hero of the day by rescuing a sheep which was tangled in a wire fence.
We went down to more rice fields at Madrigalejo after lunch to see bigger flocks of Avadavats and waxbills while listening to Nightingales and our first Quail.
But it was the prospect of bustards which took us to the steppes and on the way back we stopped at a spot on the rolling plain recognised by Tim where we discovered nine Great Bustards displaying in earnest. Like giant puffballs with legs they strutted around the fields watched by a total of 23 females and immature males. This was one of the great highlights of the trip, as displaying bustards are never easy and we were pleased to record such a spectacular display early in the trip. Adding to this theatrical event were Calandra Larks, which provided the musical backdrop.
Monday 9 April
Trujillo was the venue for our third morning where we watched the resident White Storks which nest on every building. Their stick-nests provide homes for House Sparrows and Jackdaws which are quite happy to raise their young in ground-floor apartments housed under the storks' families.
Trujillo's most exciting residents make up the huge colony of Lesser Kestrels which breed in the town's roof-tops. These delightful birds, so difficult to separate from Common Kestrel, are sometimes present in flocks of more than 50, swooping above the town. They nest under pan-tiles and display to their mates with no comprehension of the pleasure given to 16 pairs of binoculars pointing their way.
After a morning in the town we set off for a delightful spot on the River Tozo which runs down to a large lake. We ate our packed lunches with Griffon and Black Vultures overhead, Stonechats trying to convince us they sing like Dunnocks and a host of wild flowers around our feet.
The walk down to the lake took two hours, although it was just short of a kilometre in distance - a reflection of the super wildlife experience we enjoyed. John was on form turning us all into true travelling naturalists with explanations about the local butterflies, flowers, reptiles and insects. A Mole Cricket was found and we studied the results of convergent evolution in its paddle-like front legs.
Suddenly, while looking under a large sheet of metal for amphibians, a meter-long Montpelier Snake suddenly reared hissing among us. It was caught with the aid of a walking stick and examined with interest. The snake was away from home under the metal sheet when we disturbed it, preventing it from getting to safety in the process. The creature shot under the sheet in a flash when John released it.
A Viperine Snake was seen swimming later in the afternoon. Butterflies were flitting around the flowers while a succession of birds, including Red Kite, Short-toed Eagle, Hoopoe and Bee-eaters delighted us.
The lake is home to hundreds of ducks in winter and a few of these were still in residence - Mallard in the main but with a drake Pochard for variety. It had been joined with one of Europe's most beautiful ducks, a drake Garganey which showed its broad white eye-stripe and resplendent plumes clearly. Black-winged Stilts, Greenshanks and a Common Sandpiper flew the flag for the waders while singing Common Chiffchaff, Western Bonelli's Warbler and Willow Warbler represented the small brown/green jobs.
After the walk we jumped back into the minibuses for another drive across the plains where we saw more Great Bustards, including a huge 'plains master' which made a poor attempt at displaying to a group of females nearby. The first Little Bustards of the trip were also found - a total of 18. Great Bustards are huge creatures which give off an air of supremacy. Little Bustards are also big, except when compared with their larger cousins, and real characters. They were present in only small numbers this year and we were deprived of their somewhat vulgar 'pfffrt' calls most of the time.
A pair of cryptic Stone Curlews was pointed out to the group to everyone's delight. Mary Lee found another pair a few minutes later and a third couple was found at another stop.
A Great Spotted Cuckoo found its flight across the plain halted by a fence which it spent five minutes exploring before setting off behind us. It was joined by a second bird which began courtship feeding behaviour as we watched with great delight. Rock Sparrows and Water Pipits ended the day's list.
Tuesday 10 April
Our route to Monfragüe National Park the next day took us over the Rio Almonte which produced a few Crag Martins, Woodchat Shrikes and a small colony of Spanish Sparrows. As the day was warming we watched Griffons taking to the first thermals of the day while a Short-toed Eagle loafed on an electricity pylon.
On arrival in the park we stopped at the incredible Peñafalcón look-out to eat lunch surrounded by Black Redstarts, a Blue Rock Thrush a Rock Bunting while watching a vast colony of Griffon Vultures which shared the cliff opposite with nesting Black Storks.
An attempt to find Eagle Owl failed - its nest site of last year had been taken over by a Griffon - but we did not waste our time which was spent searching the skies for passing raptors. Several Booted Eagles, Black Vultures and Sparrowhawks were seen and, as we finally climbed into the minibuses we were rewarded by wonderful views of a superb adult Spanish Imperial Eagle.
Our return to the hotel went via a site where we found three Crested Tits, plus a few Short-toed Treecreepers.
Wednesday 11 April
The next day's excursion started with a visit to Santa Marta de Magasca where we had great views of Great Spotted Cuckoos being mobbed by (Black-billed) Magpies which act as hosts to this southern European speciality. The cuckoos have a call quite unlike their northern cousins - a harsh chatter.
Calandra Larks displayed overhead and we had further views of about eight Little Bustards some of which were calling.
The plains outside Santa Marta are cultivated - a feature which attracts and hides sandgrouse. We searched the ploughed fields for ages until four Black-bellied Sandgrouse were seen by John flying at some distance.
We decided to walk along a rough track in the direction the birds had gone and were rewarded about 45 minutes later when a group of nine flew past close to us in wonderful light allowing examination of their superb features with ease. Black-bellied Sandgrouse are usually found feeding in fields and are watched at a great distance, their cryptic marking always making them difficult to see. These were easy and we had splendid views.
John started turning stones - one of his favourite occupations - but with little hope of success. The week before we had found a shepherd swinging a harmless Ladder Snake he had killed - the area is searched regularly by local farm workers.
Almost the first stone had two white Scorpions, one quite large - which were examined but not picked up.
Another flat stone revealed a 25cm Ocellated Lizard which decided to hide under a shady palm - John's. Its clever capture was the subject of some laughter and congratulation, although the lizard did not concur. A baby - the adults are the biggest European lizard - it was released unharmed after pictures had been taken.
As usual, Extremadura presented us with a bonus in the form of a field full of displaying Montagu's Harriers on the way back. What a spectacle - the males swooped and soared above the females, sometimes passing food to them, their underwings flashing the lines of spots which separate the species from other grey harriers. Some rested on posts close to the track and we had excellent views from the minibuses.
This outing was planned to be a half-day so that people could rest before the next day's long journey south and our picnics were back at the Finca Santa Marta. It was 2.30pm by the time we left the harrier field, determined to get back soon.
Two Rollers recently arrived from Africa were to be the only ones of the trip and despite a search participants in the second bus had only poor views.
By now we were really late - a feature of many excursions on this trip - so we set off for the hotel with steely determination - until Tim found 35 Griffons, several Black and an Egyptian Vulture feeding on a dead sheep.
We finally had lunch at 4.30pm.
Thursday 12 April
It was sad to leave the Finca Santa Marta with its happy and pleasant staff, do-it-yourself picnics and quaint old buildings but new experiences and birds were waiting in Andalucia and we set off with great expectations.
The journey down took a while but was along a most scenic route with a stop for a typical Spanish lunch in another converted olive-oil barn.
We arrived at El Rocio as planned at 4.30pm which gave people time to unpack and explore around the hotel. The town is quite amazing, with no tarmac roads. This is to accommodate an annual festival in which one million people and 200,000 horses come to El Rocio. To reach the hotel we had to drive through deep sand drifts in a scene which was reminiscent of Wild West movies.
The hotel backs onto one of the finest birding sites in Spain, a large shallow lake which makes up a small section of the Coto de Doñana. Most people got Greater Flamingo, Black-winged Stilt, Whiskered Tern, Collared Pratincole, Spanish Imperial Eagle and Red-crested Pochard on their bed lists before we ever raised a pair of binoculars.
A short pre-dinner walk took us out to an interpretation centre where we watched a host of waders such as Dunlin, Ringed and Kentish (Snowy) Plovers, Little Stint, stunning views of two Marsh Sandpipers, Spotted Redshank, Curlew Sandpiper and Greenshank.
Sheila found a magnificent Garganey which we admired through telescopes while listening to its 'comb-grating' calls.
Beautiful Coto de Doñana horses wandered around the marsh. Black and Gull-billed Terns went past, some fishing successfully in front of us - a Gull-billed Tern dropped and caught a crayfish several times until it was held in a satisfactory position and the bird flew off to feed.
John found a migrant Garden Warbler in a tree better known for its resident Little Owls and we all drifted into a revery as favourite birds were admired. All of which made us late for dinner - yet again.
Friday 13 April
The following day was quiet as we caught up on our rest with a walk along the lake-shore in the morning and a visit to the nearby Palacio del Acebron in the afternoon. 'Quiet' by Travelling Naturalist terms in the Coto de Doñana means a short bird list of more than 95 species that evening.
A promenade marks the junction of the lake and the town and this made for excellent strolling conditions, especially as a number of Subalpine Warblers were using the trees and shrubs as transport cafes, by taking a break from their migrations for the day.
Greylag, Pintail, Shoveler, Black-tailed Godwit, Wood Sandpiper, Redshank, Pied Avocets and Ruff were all seen well and at the end of the walk we found singing Sedge and Reed Warblers, again resting for the day. Sightings of Collared Pratincole were common because a colony of about 60 birds breeds in one of the lake's sedge-beds, and a flock of more than 20 Spoonbills flew over.
The Palacio del Acebron has shady gardens which we enjoyed and so too did a range of great birds. A calling Wryneck was expertly pinned down by John giving us all wonderful views, Marie found a Hawfinch while some people saw Cirl Bunting and Azure-winged Magpie. A female and two male Pied Flycatchers flitted among the pines.
Our way out of this part of the reserve was interrupted on the off-chance of seeing a bird which was breeding in a scruffy stick-nest. The adults were not visible but a fluffy Tawny Owl owlet was a great addition. Several of the group had excellent views of Savi's Warbler, singing in a reed-bed.
Saturday 14 April
The Coto de Doñana is a massive reserve of about 250 sq km made up of an integral National Park and surrounding Natural Parks, over much of which all people are forbidden access. Our second day in the area was started in a long and dusty drive down to the Cerrado Garrido Field Study Centre around which we spent much of the day.
The trip down was broken by several productive stops, the first of which produced views of our first Whitethroat and Tawny Pipit. A frustrating sighting was had by John who saw four birds drop down into cultivated fields some distance away. However, as we drove down, Mike's sharp eyes spotted the birds standing on a sandy patch just 30m away from the two minibuses. We were thus all able to enjoy the most spectacular views of Pin-tailed Sandgrouse. Indeed, they were so good that most people rated these as the best birds of the whole holiday. It was little wonder that these stunners and the Black-bellied Sandgrouse seen earlier were to feature in a song written by the group at the end of the holiday.
Our first Yellow Wagtails - the local blue-headed race M.f. iberiae and western European M.f. flavissima - and migrant Whinchats of the trip were seen on the way down to the centre. John's bus flushed an extremely rare Red-throated Pipit (4th record for the Doñana area! - JM) which was seen by Mary Lee only despite a thorough search on the way back to El Rocio.
Glossy Ibis breed in the reed beds around the centre and were flying to and fro as we arrived. Singing Great Reed Warblers vied with the Ibises for our attentions - and a fabulous Squacco Heron won. It was a gorgeous bird, the colour of chocolate ice-cream, in full breeding plumage with striking head plumes which were fluttering in the light breeze.
A few Purple Swamphens breed close to the centre - birds we had not seen since our first day - but it was the spectacular sight of feeding Greater Flamingos, Avocets, Red-crested Pochards, Gadwall, and a range of warblers which kept us occupied.
Travelling Naturalists live up to their name and we were soon on a short trip down the road to attempt to find two species: Red-knobbed Coot gave few problems, although only two were seen, but Marbled Teal, another speciality of the area eluded us. The Red-knobbed Coots were not easy to differentiate from their smooth-headed cousins and probably went down as the dullest tick of the trip.
Green Sandpipers, which had been common in Extremadura before this trip started, were added to the list with three seen roosting on a mud bank with Ruff and Black Terns. We continued to add birds to the amazing list for this tour with a flock of charming Little Gulls in with a few Black-headed Gulls and two super male Common Redstarts which posed on a fence with a male Pied Flycatcher and a Woodchat Shrike. A Fallow Deer stag was difficult to identify from the bit of head and two budding antlers visible above the low scrub, but he eventually decided to move away and we had good confirming views.
Our trip back was broken with a few stops for birds including one on the Arroyo de la Palmosa just outside El Rocio where we found seven Temminck's Stints feeding with Dunlin and Ringed Plovers on a sandbar.
Local people often give us interested glances as the two minibuses, stuffed with happy naturalists, pass by. It was certainly the case when Tim's vehicle sailed majestically into a particularly deep patch of sand in the middle of El Rocio and stuck. It was all hands to the pushing - several local folk used to the problem joined our group - and the vehicle was quickly retrieved, although it took a lot longer for the game of tease the driver to end.
Sunday 15 April
Sunday morning found us eating hard-boiled Easter eggs as we visited the nearby El Acebuche Nature Centre before breakfast.
We searched unsuccessfully for Dartford Warbler but were rewarded with a Tree Sparrow, two Tree Pipits and a fly-past Peregrine Falcon. Cetti's, Savi's and Reed warblers were singing in the reed-beds but the real entertainment was provided by a fight between two male Peacocks which live at the centre.
We set off after a late breakfast on the long drive down to Zahara de los Atunes - our last stop on this memorable holiday. We made a stop at Laguna de Medina for lunch where a weird mottled Marsh Harrier flew past as it hunted the lake-shore reed-beds. A migrant Bonelli's Warbler was seen by some of the group and the lunch was eaten with Nightingales providing the musical accompaniment. he lake was full following heavy winter rains but the hoped-for White-headed Ducks were absent.
We changed the plan and made a detour around the town of Jerez (home of Spain's Sherry industry) to a small pond called Laguna Salobra. Once again John's encyclopaedic knowledge of the best birding sites paid off and we were rewarded with 23 White-headed Ducks, a few Greater Flamingos and a small colony of Little Egrets.
The journey down to Zahara was uneventful but some of the group were able to add Griffon Vulture, Short-toed Eagle and Zitting Cisticola to their bedroom lists after checking into the hotel.
Monday 16 April
A pre-breakfast walk through the sand dunes separating the hotel from the beach produced a few migrants - Northern Wheatears, Woodchat Shrike, and Hoopoe.
Our destination for the day was the Tarifa area, the most southerly part of Spain where the distance to Morocco and continental Africa is just 14km. We stopped at the Playa de los Lances overlooking the Straits of Gibraltar where a flock of roosting gulls had Audouin's and Yellow-legged Gulls plus Sandwich and Common Terns. These were disturbed a few times as the occasional bird of prey passed over.
In a gully flooded by the sea were feeding Dunlins, Sanderlings and a lone Grey (Black-bellied) Plover.
Out at sea more terns were fishing only to have their activities interrupted by an Arctic Skua (Parasitic Jaeger) which, with wings flashing their white panels, chased a Sandwich Tern until the unfortunate bird was forced to yield its last meal to the benefit of the dark hunter.
Suddenly, in the distance John noticed a flock of dots appearing against the sky. They gradually became bigger as the birds drifted our way on the easterly breeze. Soon we were counting Black Kites - hundreds of them had left Morocco an hour or so earlier and were arriving in Europe.
Some of the parties went to our right, others to the left, while still more drifted straight overhead. Having passed silently, the birds started soaring in the first thermals they could find and 'kettles' started to form behind us.
In two hours we (Mike, to be precise! - JM) counted 1,175 Black Kites, more than 500 White Storks, two Black Storks and four Sparrowhawks come ashore. We were witnessing one of the most exciting big-bird migrations to be found the Old World.
Gradually the avian activity died down but we added a new species to the mammal list when a primate walked along the beach and stripped in front of us.. a real Naked Ape, Homo sapiens.
After a coffee stop we had lunch on the outer wall of Tarifa's harbour in the hope of seeing more birds come in. A few were seen and we also had distant views of Northern Gannet, Cory's and Balearic Shearwaters, plus a lone Atlantic Puffin heading out of the Straits to its breeding colony in northern Europe. Ruddy Turnstones were also feeding on the harbour wall.
After our break we drove up into the hills in the direction taken by many of the kites earlier in the day to the famous Cazalla viewpoint where the autumn migration is monitored by ornithologists annually. The large birds had gone but a 20-minute vigil produced three Hobbies, one showing the red 'trousers' of a fully adult male.
A short drive over a pass brought us stunning views of the Rock of Gibraltar and a few minutes later we stopped at the Huerta Grande Interpretation Centre. Here we walked in cool woods and were finally able to see our first Firecrests breeding in a conifer. An Iberian Chiffchaff was singing its distinctive song and three Short-toed Eagles passed over along with more Black Kites and White Storks while Nightingales and Blackcaps jumped up to reveal themselves as they sang.
This was yet another highlight day on the fantastic tour of southern Spain in spring and we returned to the hotel delighted with the memories. Unknown to the leaders a plot was being hatched and while we relaxed imagining our clients preparing for dinner, secret meetings were taking place.
Tuesday 17 April
On our penultimate morning a pre-breakfast outing on the hotel's beach revealed some evidence of migration during the night as a Turtle Dove flew past and a Hoopoe gave a good imitation of not knowing where it was, fluttering around the reed-beds looking for somewhere to land and feed.
A sea-watch was carried out with little hope as the wind had dropped, but we were not to be disappointed. Two Great Skuas were seen along with another Arctic. Small flocks of Avocets were migrating past and a group of about 30 Black-winged Stilts were found resting on the shoreline.
A distant jogger disturbed two large waders which turned out to be Curlew when examined through a telescope and more Sanderling were running away from the incoming waves like clockwork soldiers. All through this day we saw small numbers of Little Terns along the surf-line and in local estuaries.
Our morning was to be spent visiting antiquities but, true to form, birds got in the way and we watched the feeding habits of Griffon Vultures as they gathered around the corpse of a - Unicorn? Well, the unfortunate beast did have only one twisted horn.
We dropped birding for a while to tour the remains of one of the best Roman towns in western Europe at Claudia Baelo. However, we were the Travelling Naturalists and the birding refused to drop us.
As we wandered in awe among the vast Roman town with its streets of buildings and antiquities, Thekla Larks, which look so much like the more common Crested Lark, sang and flashed their grey underwings at us in display flights. From the same lookout post used by legions of Roman soldiers we watched Little Terns and Gannets in the bay, while a Melodious Warbler sang its far from tuneful song from bushes whose ancestors had taken root in the ancient gardens.
We returned to the hotel (early for once) so that people could pack and rest ready for the final drive to Seville Airport the following morning. However, at 6pm we set off for Cabo de Trafalgar where a vast lighthouse on the point promised further good seawatching.
Excellent views of Gannets were had by all - we were able to study plumages from the all-black first summer birds to adults with their bright yellow heads that were leaving to breed on colonies off Brittany and the Channel Islands (where Tim was due to show them to more clients the following week). As we left the Cape a party of Whimbrels flew past.
In the estuary at Barbate on the way back we watched Little and Caspian Terns, Redshanks, Dunlin, Ringed Plover, a Greenshank and Avocets while Pallid Swifts nesting in the town swooped down to watch us.
Each evening we had enjoyed reviewing the day's activities with a call-over of species seen. This evening was completely different and quite outstanding as the group sang a song of appreciation - the first time this has happened for either John or Tim! Organised and led by Ginnie, helped by Marie, and to the tune of The Happy Wanderer, it outlined the highlights of the week both in birds and adventures.
Wednesday 18 April
It is always sad when a holiday comes to an end and ours was particularly so as there was no time for birding before getting up to Seville Airport, a three-hour journey away.
Nevertheless, the trip did have surprises the first of which was was a Little Owl sitting on a wire to see us off.
It was followed by several Collared Pratincoles and, towards Seville, rice fields with scores of Little and Cattle Egrets. Luckiest of all was a Great Reed-warbler that risked its life with a dash across the road just in front of John's windscreen.
The UK and US parties separated at Seville Airport having swapped snail-mail and e-mail addresses.
Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis A few almost daily
Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus Embalse de Sierra Brava (10+ 8th) Embalse del Tozo (six pairs 9th) Doñana marshes (1 on 14th) Laguna de Medina (2+ on 15th)
Black-necked (Eared) Grebe Podiceps nigricollis Embalse de Sierra Brava (10+ 8th) Embalse del Tozo (2 on 9th) Doñana marshes (3+ on 14th) Laguna de Medina (12 on 15th)
Cory's Shearwater Calonectris diomedea 1 off Tarifa on 16th
Balearic Shearwater Puffinus (yelkouan) mauretanicus 5 off Tarifa on 16th
Northern Gannet Morus bassanus 10+ off Tarifa and Playa de los Lances on 16th and 20+ off Zahara and Cabo Trafalgar on 17th
Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo Singles at Embalse de Arrocampo on 7th and Monfragüe on
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea Small numbers almost daily. Max. 10+ Coto de Doñana 13th and 14th
Purple Heron Ardea purpurea Embalse de Arrocampo (10+ on 7th) small nos. Coto de Doñana 13th and 15th with 30+ on 14th
Great White Egret Ardea alba Sierra Brava reservoir (2 on 8th) Centro Garrido Int. Centre (2+ on 14th)
Little Egret Egretta garzetta Seen on 7 days with max 25+ on 14th in Coto de Doñana
Squacco Heron Ardeola ralloides Centro Garrido Int. Centre (3+ on 14th) and at El Acebuche Int. Centre 1 on 15th)
Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis Daily (max 50+ on 9th and 200+ en route &
Black Stork Ciconia nigra Vegas Altas (1 on 8th) Monfragüe NP (8+ on 10th) Sta. Marta de Magasca (2 on 11th) Playa de los Lances (2) and Huerta Grande (4) on 16th
White Stork Ciconia ciconia Abundant. Seen daily with 100+ in EX from 8th - 10th and 160+ off the sea in the Strait of Gibraltar on 16th
Glossy Ibis Plegadis falcinellus Cerrado Garrido Int. Centre (100+ on 14th)
Eurasian Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia El Rocio (20+ on 13th) and migrants past Zahara (10 on 17th)
Greater Flamingo Phoenicopterus ruber Daily in Coto de Doñana area (max 1,000+ on 14th).
Greylag Goose Anser anser El Rocio (11 on 12th and 6+ on 13th)
Gadwall Anas strepera On 2 days each in EX and AN (max 10+ Embalse del Tozo on 9th)
Mallard Anas platyrhynchos A few daily
Northern Pintail Anas acuta A male at El Rocio on 13th
Garganey Anas querquedula Embalse del Tozo (one on 9th) Coto de Doñana (five on 12th, four on 13th and six on 14th)
Northern Shoveler Anas clypeata El Rocio (2 on 12th, 10+ on 13th) Laguna Salobra (3+ on 15th)
Red-crested Pochard Netta rufina Daily El Rocio and Coto de Doñana 12th - 15th (max 25+ on 14th)
Common Pochard Aythya ferina Embalse del Tozo (one on 9th) four days Coto de Doñana (max. 20+ on 15th)
White-headed Duck Oxyura leucocephala Laguna Salobra (23 on 15th)
Osprey Pandion haliaetus Zahara de los Atunes (1 on 16th)
Black-shouldered Kite Elanus caeruleus En route to Finca S.M. (2 on 7th) Vegas Altas (2 on 8th) Coto de Doñana (1 on 14th)
Red Kite Milvus milvus Seen 7th - 9th, 11th and 13th (max 6+ in EX on 9th and 11th)
Black Kite Milvus migrans Abundant: 50+ several days and 1,175+ off the sea at Strait of Gibraltar on 16th
Egyptian Vulture Neophron percnopterus Singles in EX on 7th and 8th, one Claudia Baelo on 17th, three Sta. Marta de Magasca on 11th , 10+ Monfragüe NP on 10th
Eurasian Griffon Vulture Gyps fulvus Abundant, almost daily from 8th to 17th (max 200+ Monfragüe on 10th and 30+ Coto de Doñana on 14th)
Black (Cinereous) Vulture Aegypius monachus Daily from 8th to 12th (max 15+ Sta. Marta de Magasca on 11th)
Short-toed Eagle Circaetus gallicus Embalse de Arrocampo (1 on 8th) Monfragüe NP (three on 10th) Huerta Grande (three on 16th) Claudia Baelo Roman town (four on 17th)
Western Marsh-harrier Circus aeruginosus Singles at Embalse de Arrocampo (7th) Vegas Altas (8th) Sta. Marta de Magasca (11th) en route (17th) 3+ Laguna de Medina (15th) and 10+ Coto de Doñana (14th)
Hen (Northern) Harrier Circus cyaneus Embalse de Arrocampo (1m on 8th)
Montagu's Harrier Circus pygargus Small nos. almost daily 8th to 17th, max 14 pairs Sta. Marta de Magasca on 11th and eight migrants off the sea at Strait of Gibraltar 16th
Eurasian Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus Monfragüe NP (two on 10th) Playa de los Lances (four) and Huerta Grande (two) - all migrants on 16th
Eurasian Buzzard Buteo buteo Small numbers almost daily from 7th to 14th
Spanish Imperial Eagle Aquila adalberti Monfragüe (one adult on 10th) El Rocio (one adult on 12th and 13th).
Booted Eagle Hieraaetus pennatus Pale and dark phase birds seen on eight days. Max six on 10th and 16th
Lesser Kestrel Falco naumanni Seen daily except on 16th. Abundant Trujillo and Belén Plain where 150+ on 9th
Eurasian Kestrel Falco tinnunculus A few seen daily except on 8th
Eurasian Hobby Falco subbuteo Cazalla viewpoint (four migrants on 16th)
Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus El Acebron Nature Centre (one on 15th) Claudia Baelo (two on 17th)
Red-legged Partridge Alectoris rufa Pairs seen at various sites on four days, plus 6+ Sta. Marta de Magasca on 11th.
Common Quail Coturnix coturnix Singles heard on four days in Extremadura and Andalucia
RAILS, GALLINULES &
Water Rail Rallus aquaticus Embalse de Arrocampo (one heard on 7th) El Acebuche (one on 15th)
Purple Swamphen Porphyrio porphyrio Embalse de Arrocampo (10+ on 7th) Coto de Doñana (two on 14th) El Acebuche (three or more on 15th)
Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus Seen on seven days
Red-knobbed Coot Fulica cristata Cerrado Garrido Interpretation Centre (two on 14th)
Eurasian Coot Fulica atra Embalse de Arrocampo (one on 7th) common Coto de Doñana (max 100+ on 14th)
Great Bustard Otis tarda Vegas Altas (12) and Zorita steppes (15+) on 8th, Belén Plain (eight on 9th) Sta. Marta de Magasca (three on 10th)
Little Bustard Tetrax tetrax Belén Plain (15 on 9th) Sta. Marta de Magasca (14+ on 10th)
Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus Seen on nine days - abundant in Coto de Doñana with 1,000+ on 14th
Pied Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta El Rocio (12th to 14th max 150+) Zahara de los Atunes (25+) and Barbate (15) on 17th
Stone-curlew Burhinus oedicnemus Belén Plain (three pairs on 9th) Sta. Marta de Magasca (1 pr on 10th).
Collared Pratincole Glareola pratincola Vegas Altas (12 on 8th) El Rocio+ (daily 12th - 17th, max 100+ on 13th)
Northern Lapwing Vanellus vanellus Three near El Acebuche on 15th
Black-bellied (Grey) Plover Pluvialis squatarola One on Playa de los Lances on 16th
(Common) Ringed Plover Charadrius hiaticula Coto de Doñana (seen 3 days, max 50+ on 14th) Playa de los Lances (3+ on 16th) Barbate (20 on 17th)
Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius Río Almonte (three on 10th) El Rocio (one on 12th) Arroyo de la Palmosa (10+ on 14th)
Kentish (Snowy) Plover Charadrius alexandrinus Daily 12th to 17th except 15th. Max 20+ Zahara de los Atunes and Playa de los Lances on 16th
Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago Embalse de Arrocampo (two on 7th) El Rocio (two on 12th) Coto de Doñana (one on 14th) El Acebuche (one on 15th)
Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa El Rocio 12th to 15th, max 200+ on 13th
Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus Cabo de Trafalgar (23 on 17th)
Eurasian Curlew Numenius arquata Zahara de los Atunes (two on 16th)
Spotted Redshank Tringa erythropus El Rocio (two on 12th, three on 13th)
Common Redshank Tringa totanus Coto de Doñana (12th to 14th, max 25+) Playa de los Lances (one on 16th) Barbate (40 on 17th)
Marsh Sandpiper Tringa stagnatilis El Rocio (12th to 14th, max 3+ 12th)
Common Greenshank Tringa nebularia Embalse del Tozo (two on 9th) El Rocio (12th to 14th, max 42 13th) Barbate (three on 17th).
Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus Cerrado Garrido Interpretation Centre (three on 14th)
Wood Sandpiper Tringa glareola Cerrado Garrido Interpretation Centre (nine on 14th)
Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos Embalse de Sierra Brava (two on 8th) Embalse del Tozo (two on 9th) El Rocio (two on 12th, six on 13th) Coto de Doñana (10+ on 14th)
Ruddy Turnstone Arenaria interpres Single Playa de los Lances and seven Tarifa on 16th
Sanderling Calidris alba Zahara and Playa de los Lances (50+ on 16th) Zahara and Barbate (100+ on 17th)
Little Stint Calidris minuta El Rocio (100+ on 12th, 400+ on 13th six or more on 14th)
Temminck's Stint Calidris temminckii Arroyo de la Palmosa (seven 14th)
Curlew Sandpiper Calidris ferruginea El Rocio (15 on 12th, two on 13th)
Dunlin Calidris alpina El Rocio (12th to 14th, max 500+) Playa de los Lances (20+ on 16th) Barbate (150+ on 17th)
Ruff Philomachus pugnax Coto de Doñana (12th to 14th, max 100+ on 13th)
Arctic Skua (Parasitic Jaeger) Stercorarius parasiticusPlaya de los Lances (one on 16th) Zahara de los Atunes (one on 17th)
Great Skua Catharacta skua Two Zahara and single Cabo de Trafalgar on 17th
Audouin's Gull Larus audouinii Playa de los Lances (40+ on 16th)
Yellow-legged Gull Larus (cach.) michahellis Daily on beaches from 13th to 17th, max 100+ on 17th
Lesser black-backed Gull Larus fuscus Embalse de Sierra Brava (five 8th) Zahara and Barbate daily 12th to 17th, max 50+ 17th
Black-headed Gull Larus ridibundus Embalse de Sierra Brava (10+
Little Gull Larus minutus Cerrado Garrido Interpretation Centre (six on 14th)
Gull-billed Tern Sterna nilotica Embalse Sierra Brava (six on 8th)
Caspian Tern Sterna caspia El Rocio (three on 13th) Playa de los Lances (two on 16th) two Zahara, singles Cabo de Trafalgar and Barbate on 17th
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis Playa de los Lances (30+ on 16th) Zahara, Cabo de
Common Tern Sterna hirundo Playa de los Lances (one on 16th.
Little Tern Sterna albifrons Claudia Baelo, Zahara, Barbate (10+ on 17th)
Whiskered Tern Chlidonias hybridus Daily Coto de Doñana 12th to 15th, max 200+ on 14th
Black Tern Chlidonias niger El Rocio (six on 12th, three on 13th) Coto de Doñana (30+ on 14th)
Razorbill Alca torda Zahara de los Atunes (five on 17th)
Atlantic Puffin Fratercula arctica 1 off Tarifa on 16th
Pin-tailed Sandgrouse Pterocles alchata Coto de Doñana (eight on 14th)
Black-bellied Sandgrouse Pterocles orientalis Vegas Altas (four on 8th) Santa Marta de Magasca (nine on 11th)
Rock Dove Columba livia Daily in variable numbers
Common Wood-pigeon Columba palumbus En route to Finca Santa Marta (two on 7th) Embalse del Tozo (two 9th) Coto de Doñana (two on 14th)
European Turtle-dove Streptopelia turtur Various sites near Strait of Gibraltar (six on 17th)
Eurasian Collared-dove Streptopelia decaocto Daily in small numbers
Great Spotted Cuckoo Clamator glandarius Belén Plain (4+ on 9th) Santa Marta de Magasca (one on 11th).
Common Cuckoo Cuculus canorus A few most days, max four on 9th
European Scops-owl Otus scops Up to three heard nightly at Finca Santa Marta
Tawny Owl Strix aluco La Rocina (chick in nest on 13th)
Little Owl Athene noctua El Rocio (1 h on 12th, one on 13th) Playa de los Lances (one on 16th)
Alpine Swift Tachymarptis melba Monfragüe NP (32 on 10th)
Common Swift Apus apus Daily in small numbers, max 50+ Strait of Gibraltar on 16th
Pallid Swift Apus pallidus Trujillo (50+ on 9th and seen on 11th) Playa de los Lances (10+ on 16th) Barbate (30+ on 17th)
Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis Singles Embalse de Arrocampo on 7th and Embalse del Tozo on 9th
European Bee-eater Merops apiaster Almost daily from 8th, parties up to 10 birds regular; max 100+ on 14th
European Roller Coracias garrulus Sta. Marta de Magasca (two on 11th)
Eurasian Hoopoe Upupa epops Almost daily, max 10+ on 8th
Eurasian Wryneck Jynx torquilla La Rocina (singing male seen on 13th)
Great Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos major Finca Santa Marta (one or two from 8th to 10th) Monfragüe NP (two on 10th) La Rocina (1 h on 13th) Huerta Grande (one on 16th)
Calandra Lark Melanocorypha calandra Common on the plains (max 20+ Belén Plain 11th) and in the Coto de Doñana (20+ on 14th)
(Greater) Short-toed lark Calandrella brachydactyla Coto de Doñana (6+ on 14th) Playa de los Lances (10+ on 16th)
Lesser Short-toed Lark Calandrella rufescens Coto de Doñana (16 on 14th)
Crested Lark Galerida cristata Abundant
Thekla Lark Galerida theklae Vegas Altas (2 on 8th) Rio Almonte (2 on 10th) Claudia Baelo Roman town (5 on 17th)
Wood Lark Lullula arborea Finca Santa Marta (two singing over the orchards daily) single Embalse de Sierra Brava 8th and three on the Belén Plain 9th
Sand Martin (Bank Swallow) Riparia riparia Embalse de Arrocampo (six on 7th) Coto de Doñana (30+ on 14th)
Eurasian Crag-martin Hirundo rupestris Abundant Monfragüe and other high places
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica Abundant
Red-rumped Swallow Hirundo daurica Common, up to 30 most days.
House Martin Delichon urbica Most villages have big colonies but 250+ pairs at the bridge in Monfragüe NP
White Wagtail Motacilla alba Common, up to five daily
Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava Singles heard on 11th and 13th, Coto de Doñana (30+ on 14th)
Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea Monfragüe NP (two on 10th) single on 11th
Tawny Pipit Anthus campestris Singles Coto de Doñana (14th) and Playa de los Lances (16th)
Tree Pipit Anthus trivialis
Meadow Pipit Anthus pratensis Single Embalse de Sierra Brava 8th, two at Madrigalejo rice fields 11th
Red-throated Pipit Anthus cervinus One in the Coto de Doñana 14th
Firecrest Regulus ignicapillus Huerta Grande Interpretation centre (two on 16th)
Winter Wren Troglodytes troglodytes Finca Santa Marta (one in the woodpile daily) a few elsewhere in Extremadura.
Blue Rock-thrush Monticola solitarius Monfragüe NP (four on 10th) one outside Zahara on 15th
Eurasian Blackbird Turdus merula Common, a few daily
Song Thrush Turdus philomelos Singles Embalse de Tozo (9th) and Coto de Doñana (14th)
Mistle Thrush Turdus viscivorus Single Sta. Marta de Magasca on 11th
Zitting Cisticola (Fan-tailed Warbler) Cisticola juncidis Abundant
OLD WORLD WARBLERS
Cetti's Warbler Cettia cetti Embalse de Arrocampo (two on 7th) Madrigalejo rice fields (six on 8th)
Savi's Warbler Locustella luscinioides La Rocina (two on 13th)
Sedge Warbler Acrocephalus schoenobaenus La Rocina (two on 13th) Coto de Doñana (three on 14th)
Eurasian Reed-warbler Acrocephalus scirpaceus La Rocina (one on 13th)
Great Reed-warbler Acrocephalus arundinaceus Embalse de Arrocampo (one on 7th) Madrigalejo rice fields (one on 8th) Coto de Doñana (one on 14th)
Melodious Warbler Hippolais polyglotta Claudia Baelo Roman town (two on 17th)
Willow Warbler Phylloscopus trochilus Singles heard and seen on 9th and 10th, La Rocina (six on 13th) Coto de Doñana (three on 14th)
Common Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybeta Embalse de Tozo (one on 9th)
Iberian Chiffchaff Phylloscopus brehmii La Rocina (two on 13th) Huerta Grande Interpretation Centre (two on 16th)
Western Bonelli's Warbler Phylloscopus bonelli Embalse de Tozo (two on 9th) Laguna de Medna (one on 15th)
Sardinian Warbler Sylvia melanocephala A few most days including a pair at Finca Santa Marta
Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla Finca Santa Marta (pair nesting by the pond) one or two most days in Andalucia
Garden Warbler Sylvia borin El Rocio and La Rocina (more than 10 on the 13th) Coto de Doñana (four on 14th)
Spectacled Warbler Sylvia conspicillata Coto de Doñana (three on 14th)
Subalpine Warbler Sylvia cantillans Monfragüe NP (one on 10th) El Rocio (six on 13th)
European Pied Flycatcher Ficedula hypoleuca La Rocina (2m 1f on 13th) Coto de Doñana (1m on 14th)
European Robin Erithacus rubecula
Common Nightingale Luscinia megarhynchos Madrigalejo rice fields (two on 4th) Monfragüe (0ne on 6th)
Black Redstart Phoenicurus ochruros Monfragüe (three pairs on 3rd)
Common Redstart Phoenicurus phoenicurus Huerta Grande Interpretation Centre (two on 16th)
Whinchat Saxicola rubetra Coto de Doñana (four on 14th)
Common Stonechat Saxicola torquata Abundant
Northern Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe A few seen most days
Black-eared Wheatear Oenanthe hispanica Embalse Sierra Brava (3m - two white-throated, one black-throated form - and 1f on 8th) Coto de Doñana (two on 14th) Cabo Trafalgar (one on 17th)
Long-tailed Tit Aegithalos caudatus Maximum six at La Rocina on 13th, a few elsewhere
Crested Tit Lophophanes cristatus Monfragüe NP (three on 10th) La Rocina (three on 13th) El Acebrun (three on 15th) Huerta Grande Interpretation Centre (one on 16th)
Great Tit Parus major Common
Blue Tit Cyanistes caeruleus Common
Short-toed Treecreeper Certhia brachydactyla Common, seen and heard daily
Southern Grey Shrike Lanius meridionalis Common, up to 10 seen daily but only in Extremadura
Woodchat Shrike Lanius senator Common, up to 10 seen daily
Eurasian Jay Garrulus glandarius Monfragüe NP (one on 10th)
Azure-winged Magpie Cyanopica cyana Common, up to 30 seen daily. None in the Zahara area
Black-billed Magpie Pica pica Common, up to 20 seen daily in Extremadura
Eurasian Jackdaw Corvus monedula Common, especially in Trujillo, but only in Extremadura
Common Raven Corvus corax Common, up to four seen daily in Extremadura
Spotless Starling Sturnus unicolor Abundant
OLD WORLD SPARROWS
House Sparrow Passer domesticus Abundant
Spanish Sparrow Passer hispaniolensis Common, flocks of up to 15 seen daily in Extremadura
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus Two seen at: Embalse de Sierra Brava (8th) La Rocina (13th) El Acebrun Nature Centre (15th)
Rock Petronia (Sparrow) Petronia petronia Belén Plain (two on 9th)
Common Waxbill Estrilda astrild Vegas Altas (six on 8th)
Red Avadavat Amandava amandava Vegas Altas (50+ on 8th)
Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs Fairly common
European Greenfinch Carduelis chloris Only a few - max three Claudia Baelo Roman town on 17th
European Goldfinch Carduelis carduelis Abundant
Eurasian Linnet Carduelis cannabina Fairly common
European Serin Serinus serinus Abundant
Hawfinch Coccothraustes coccothraustes One at La Rocina on 13th
Cirl Bunting Emberiza cirlus Finca Santa Marta (a pair nesting in the garden) a few elsewhere
Rock Bunting Emberiza cia Monfragüe NP (two pairs on 10th)
Corn Bunting Emberiza calandra Abundant
Western Hedgehog (Erinaceus
europaeus) - odd ones dead on roads on 10th &
*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 - a rather nice one though!
AMPHIBIANS & REPTILES
Common Toad (Bufo
bufo) one tiny one near the Embalse del Tozo on 9th
Barbel sp. (Barbus
sp.) 2 were at Monfragüe on 10th and 3 were at Sta. Marta de Magasca on 11th
Swallowtail: Singles seen daily in EX from 8th - 11th and 1 at the Cazalla viewpoint near Tarifa on 16th.
Spanish Festoon: 20+ by the Río Tozo on 9th and 2 in Monfragüe N.P. on 10th.
Large White: 2 in Trujillo on 9th, lots around El Rocio on 13th and 1+ at Huerta Grande on 16th.
Western Dappled White: 10+ by the Río Tozo on 9th.
Green-striped White: 1 Vegas Altas on 8th and 2 near Sta. Marta de Magasca on 11th.
Clouded Yellow: 1 male by the Emb. de Sierra Brava on 8th and 3+ at various sites by the Strait of Gibraltar on 16th.
Cleopatra: 1 - 3 seen in four days in both EX and AN.
Small Copper: Just 1 at El Rocio on 13th.
Brown Argus: Two beautiful specimens of the subspecies cramera near Sta. Marta de Magasca on 11th.
Nettle-tree Butterfly: Two in Monfragüe N.P. on 10th.
Red Admiral: Ones or
twos on 6 days in various locations (EX &
Painted Lady: Ones or
twos on 4 days in various locations (EX &
Spanish Gatekeeper: 5+ at La Rocina on 13th.
Small Heath: Good to moderate numbers of the large spp. lillus at the Emb. del Tozo, Monfragüe and near Sta. Marta de Magasca on 9th - 11th.
Southern Speckled Wood: 2 in Trujillo on 9 th and 2+ at Huerta Grande on 16th.
Monarch: A rather worn individual at Huerta Grande on 16th.
Insectsincluded a couple of Club-tailed Dragonflies (Gomphus simillimus) at different sites in EX, single Egyptian Grasshoppers (Anacridium aegyptium) at Trujillo on 9th, at Sta. Marta de Magasca on 11th and lots at La Rocina on 13th, the remarkable Mole Cricket (Gryllotalpa gryllotalpa) by the Río Tozo on 9th, trilling Field Crickets (Gryllus campestris) by the Río Tozo on 9th and in Trujillo on 10th, the small Stick Insect (Phylliidae) at Huerta Grande on 16th, Termites (Reticulitermes lucifugus) under a stone by the Río Tozo on 9th, a few red-and-black Ground or Fire Bugs (Lygaeus sp.) at FSM, Ant-lion (Myrmelionidae) larval pits in sand at the El Acebuche centre, Doñana on 15th, the Scorpion Fly (Panorpa sp.) at Trujillo on 9th, striped Mullein Moth (Cucullia verbasci) caterpillar in the Madrigalejos rice fields on 8th, the lovely, multicoloured Cream-spot Tiger moth (Arctia villica) by a bar on the Strait of Gibraltar on 16th, one or two Violet Carpenter Bees (Xylocopa violacea) on 4 days, Scarab Beetles (Scarabaeus sp.) at El Rocio on 13th, a couple of amazing metallic wood-boring beetles (Buprestidae: ?Chalcophora mariana) at La Rocina, a few Oil Beetles (Meloe sp.) on 4 days in both EX and AN. (Ordered and named using Chinery's 'Collins Pocket Guide: Insects of Britain and Western Europe').
Other invertebrates included the often large, potentially dangerous and unpleasant-looking Centipede (Scolopendra cingulata) near the Emb. del Tozo on 9th and near Sta. Marta de Magasca on 11th, and the two impressive, but not so potentially nasty Scorpions (Buthus occitanus) near Sta. Marta de Magasca on 11th.
The following is only an approximate list of the plants seen.
[Nos. on the right refer to Grey-Wilson & Blamey, Mediterranean Wild Flowers]
Geraniaceae Erodium botrys Storksbill sp.(758)
This list has been drawn up using Blamey & Grey-Wilson's Med. Wild Flowers, the 'Flora y vegetación de Extremadura', Polunin & Smythies' 'Guía de campo de las flores de España, Portugal y sudoeste de Francia' and Durán & Rodriguez's 'Guía de arboles y arbustos de Extremadura'.