Extremadura in Autumn

29th September to 5th October 2001

John Muddeman and Tim Earl

Autumn in Extremadura is a time of cooler days (not that we noticed many), rain falling on the plains (not that we saw much) and migrating birds. We settled into life at the Finca Santa Marta easily to spend days exploring the steppes and mountains, deep river valleys and lush reservoirs of the area.

It would be easy to expect everything to be parched and burnt brown, but the landscapes were dotted with beautiful autumn-flowering plants and valleys green after the first autumn rains, although some trees were losing leaves. Birds were prolific and largely easy to see well. The group was fun and members' varied interests made this one of the most enjoyable Spanish trips of the year.

Saturday 29th September

After an uneventful flight we met John, Tim and Judy who had travelled up from Andalucía. The first stop on our journey was at the Hotel David for a taste of tapas and a drink. We also had a taste of things to come with Stonechat, Willow Warbler and five super Red-rumped Swallows.

Our 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. Their smaller cousins, Moorhens, and Water Rails were also creeping around in the reeds allowing us to get good views. It was several Squacco Herons which stole the show, however, as they flew over the reedmace beds in which they have been confirmed as breeding. The heron family features prominently in this stop and Cattle Egrets, a Little Egret, plus several Grey Herons were all added to the list.

Several flocks of Jackdaws were swooping around the marsh. Magpies too were abundant with more than 100 roosting in the area - each a potential host to the Great Spotted Cuckoos which will parasitise them next spring. A Cormorant sat out our visit on a post and a male Marsh Harrier quartered the site looking for a bedtime snack. John pointed out two Peregrines to some of the group.

Two Green Sandpipers came in and out of the marsh and a Ruff put on a great show as it flew past several times looking for a suitable feeding spot. Cetti's Warblers were heard, and flocks of chipping Corn Buntings flew past on their way to roost, adding to the variety of our fabulous introduction to birding in Extremadura.

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. We were welcomed warmly by Henri and his staff who hosted an informal reception in the finca's rustic lounge.

Sunday 30th September

Many of us woke to the fluting song of a Wood Lark in the olive trees outside our rooms. John led a pre-breakfast walk on which the bird filled John's field of view through the telescope as it was watched singing. A Hawfinch was seen well in a cork oak, with other small groups flying over totalling 12.

Tim tried to alert people to two Grey Wagtails which dropped into a nearby water-course while Neil sorted out Red-rumped from Barn Swallows as the group waited to leave. Azure-winged Magpies and Blackbirds were flitting through the olive groves and down hedges as we left the finca.

We set off for the Embalse de Sierra Brava stopping to scan fields dotted in every direction with the flowers of Autumn Squill, Autumn Narcissus, Merendera and Autumn Snowdrop. Southern Grey Shrikes, Whinchats, a couple of Kestrels, one Red Kite and several singing Crested Larks held people's attentions while our great and glorious leaders scoured the adjacent steppe.

Suddenly a shout went up - four of the most sought-after birds had been located - Great Bustards were strutting slowly and regally across the plain. The group slowly materialised as other birds emerged from the tall grass until we had seven in view at once.

None was a 'plains master' - The Travelling Naturalist's nickname for big breeding males - but one or two juvenile males started spreading their wings as if attempting a display. The view was poor at a long distance so we drove to another observation site in the hope of better views but the group was not located again. We did find others much closer, however, and ended with a tally of 26 in the morning.

John found a group of eight Little Bustards and the set was complete.

It was while watching the Little Bustards that our first two Griffon Vultures flew over in great company - they were escorted by two Black Vultures. These are extremely rare birds but have a stronghold in Extremadura. Hardly had they gone when Tim found a Short-toed Eagle close overhead and discussion about its favoured food, snakes, was entered into.

Not for long. John found three terns migrating past. 'These have to be unusual,' he said. They were. As the birds got closer we could see they were Black Terns, a scarce migrant here. A fourth was found feeding over the lake a few minutes later with Black-necked Grebe added to the list. We finally retired to a café for coffee before our packed lunches.

On emerging from the gloomy interior to drink our refreshments a succession of birds vied for the group's attention. A Spanish Sparrow sat in a willow long enough for most to see it but a Hoopoe was even kinder, perching on a post for a protracted period.

John shouted when he spotted three White Storks drifting overhead. This caused great excitement and some back-slapping when he shouted again - a further 41 were going over. On approaching our minibuses, Tim found a Waxbill perched well in a burnt shrub and followed it with our first Tree Sparrow.

Lunch was delayed for the leaders while they changed a wheel on one of the minibuses but not before finding a Black-shouldered Kite. The group got together and while the leaders were occupied, found 40 Griffons and a Black Vulture feeding at a carcase, several Buzzards, the Black-shouldered Kite again and an Iberian Pool Frog under a fruiting fig tree.

We visited one of the many areas of rice fields nearby where there were huge flocks of Spanish Sparrows feeding. We had super views of Red Avadavat, two Whitethroats, several more Tree Sparrows and a female Marsh Harrier found by Julia.

Our exciting outing ended on a sad note: we found two dead birds, a Red-necked Nightjar and a Bluethroat, on a recently surfaced track across the fields. Spirits do not remain low for long in Extremadura, however. As we sat for a glass of wine to celebrate the day's successes a Great-spotted Woodpecker flew to a tree behind us while singing Wood Larks finished the day as it had started.

Monday 1st October

The light at Finca Santa Marta is beautiful as day breaks and we enjoyed a delightful pre-breakfast walk. Hoopoes calling as we set off soon revealed themselves on electricity wires before enjoying a game of catch-me-if-you-can, crests erect. Azure-winged Magpies were shrieking as they flitted through the olive groves, Blackbirds became caught up in the excitement and flew around overhead, while above them on a White Storks' nest tree a serine Kestrel sat like a judge presiding over a court full of unruly teenagers.

A weaver's nest the size of a rugby ball, hanging from an empty stork's platform, brown with age, but still showing the delicate craftsmanship of the builder, turned out to be that of a House Sparrow. Julia noticed a male Great Spotted Woodpecker clinging to a wooden telephone pole and Mike followed her lead by picking out the head of its mate peeping from a nest hole higher up. The bird did a weird, mechanical, display swaying from side to side while the female looked down at him adoringly (or so it seemed to us).

Pied Flycatchers were evident throughout the day with the first two or three showing during our walk.

After breakfast we set off for Monfragüe Natural Park with a stop at a Roman bridge across the Río Almonte. Here we saw Spotted and Pied Flycatchers, Rock Sparrows, Crested and Thekla Larks, our first Robins, House and Crag Martins, Blue Rock Thrush, Corn and Rock Buntings.

The café at Torrejón el Rubio was packed and we milled outside until deciding that the effort of getting a coffee would not be worth the pleasure. 'There's an eagle with white leading edges to its wings,' Neil said, sending the rest of us scurrying for telescopes. Sure enough, the bird was confirmed as a Spanish Imperial Eagle. We all had good views before it drifted off.

Lunch was taken below the Castillo de Monfragüe where more Crag Martins were swooping under passing Griffon Vultures.

Tim followed the calls of a Short-toed Treecreeper which revealed itself to most of us before obeying Earl's Law for Creepers and Woodpeckers by spending 90 percent of its time around the back of trees.

A second Spanish Imperial Eagle went sailing past, a Firecrest, several Robins and Pied Flycatchers were seen in the trees before frustration set in - a White-rumped Swift was seen by Tim but nobody else could find the bird. This is an African species only recently established in Europe and exclusively in south-west Spain. We were fortunate in that the bird put in a second much longer appearance while we were at the castle on the summit.

Crag Martins were sunbathing on a roof giving super views of their tail-spots as they slowed down to land. Neil struck gold again when he was on the castle roof. He saw two eagles soaring in a thermal before heading off down towards us. They were identified as rare Golden Eagles and a communal sigh of delight went around the group.

As we came down the castle steps a snake dropped off a cliff about 20 yards in front of us and lay momentarily stunned on a step. It was a difficult-to-see Horseshoe Whipsnake, the first John had ever seen. Many Griffons breed in the park, none closer to the road than those at Peñafalcon. Here we were able to watch the birds come swooping in from great heights, feet down ready to land.

They judged the approach perfectly, each time pulling out of the dive to land gracefully on their ledges. There was nothing graceful about the greeting from young birds, which could be heard begging for food.

Our last stop was again at the Río Almonte where Iberian Pool Frogs stopped sunbathing on rocks to plop into pools left behind when their river dried up. Judy saw several more hiding under an ornament as she swam in the hotel pool later. Tim again failed to get anyone onto the Grey Wagtails which flew over the hotel, but John was able to point out the calls of a neighbourly Green Woodpecker.

A Moorish Gecko was making life comfortable for us by eating insects from its perch on the dining room wall.

Tuesday 2nd October

Light played a part in today's proceedings, especially during the morning as we crossed the Belén Plain - one of the great areas of steppe in Europe. It was seeped in a beautiful aura which, combined with pure silence, gave the area a therapeutically restful quality.

Making frequent stops to search for birds we again saw Great and Little Bustards - the former including two pairs flying powerfully over the grasslands, and a male of the latter within 20m of the buses. It revealed its sex in flight when the wings made a distinctive whistling noise characteristic of males.

Raptors were represented by a succession of Red Kites, Griffon Vultures, Kestrels and four Black Vultures. A beautiful male Hen Harrier delighted us all but turned up as we were also watching Black-bellied Sandgrouse flying towards us. An impressively large flock of Calandra Larks had a few Skylarks and a single Greater Short-toed Lark among them.

Pools visited by John and Tim in the spring had largely dried out but a few still held water including one which had a Little Ringed Plover, three Green Sandpipers and several White Wagtails at its edge. Whinchats were abundant, sitting on the many fence wires with Crested Larks, Stonechats, Corn Buntings and our first Tawny Pipits. A few Hoopoes were also seen.

We ate our lunch at a river bridge in the Sierras de las Villuercas and were thrilled to see Grey Wagtails, three Dippers, Kingfishers, Pied Flycatchers, Willow Warblers, and a party of Long-tailed Tits.

Two vast crags marked the narrow gorge through which the river flowed. These were swarming with Crag and House Martins and a lone Alpine Swift. A few Griffons drifted overhead. Tim led a walk up the gorge to get better views of the Dippers with some success - three were eventually seen. While searching, his walkie-talkie crackled into life as John passed on the news that an adult Bonelli's Eagle was overhead. The system worked, and we all had great views.

Moving on along the Sierras we stopped frequently to admire the magnificent views and excellent birds. A party of Nuthatches was tormenting a Great Spotted Woodpecker and several Short-toed Treecreepers in one stand of recently stripped Cork Oaks while a group of three Jays gave their presence away with characteristic shrieks.

We ended our drive along the Sierras at a viewpoint from which we could imagine seeing the other end of the world. We certainly became aware of Dartford Warblers which were churring away in the undergrowth. John's squeaking imitations of an injured iguana attracted the birds which showed well as they investigated the strange noise.

Much later, sitting outside on the finca's patio, we added a Little Owl to the day's list as we drank a coffee or beer. It was a most satisfying end to another great day.

Wednesday 3rd October

The resident Woodlarks were still singing when we did an early morning walk behind the finca. Hawfinches passed over and a Sparrowhawk went through the orchard while the sky was still red from the early morning sunrise.

One of the Santa Marta dogs, a huge beast whose skin seemed to be several sizes too large, accompanied us with one of its chums which proceeded to dig at every Mole hill found.

A return to the Arrocampo Reservoir produced little extra to our list, except a rare dragonfly 'scoped for us by John, though an Osprey and a Black Kite were seen at the back of the reservoir - both firsts for the trip. The Purple Gallinules were making their extraordinary squeaks, croaks and chattering calls but had to face stiff competition from the sucking slurps of Common Carp.

We searched hard for a Cetti's Warbler which was singing close to us, but without success. Two Marsh Harriers, hunted the reed beds while several Avadavats, some bright-red males, flew overhead. Neil spotted 10 Stock Doves which are rather rare birds for Extremadura.

A brief visit to the Presa de Valdecañas produced more Hawfinches and Sardinian Warblers, Crag and House Martins but no sign of the Black Wheatears we were looking for. One of the leaders' favourite spots is the Embalse del Tozo, a river valley with a super reservoir at the end. We always have lunch sitting by the river, followed by a leisurely walk to the reservoir. The area is a magnet for birds of prey and before the buses had even been parked we were watching two Bonelli's Eagles and a Spanish Imperial Eagle drift overhead.

A Kingfisher and several Waxbills accompanied us during lunch which was shared with hosts of Mosquito fish that ate the scraps of bread we threw to them. Our walk down to the reservoir was made pleasant by the river's cooling influence and many olive and oak trees under which we strolled.

Birds were in evidence from the start. Pied Flycatchers ticked at us from the trees, a group of Mallards took off from the river, and three Green Sandpipers warned the rest of the world that we were around. Looking like huge House Martins they called loudly before settling a little further in front of us.

Two Little Owls called to each other, perhaps disturbed by us which was certainly the case with a Jay which flew away as we approached.

John and Tim lifted an iron sheet lying under a tree and discovered a juvenile Ladder Snake which tried to act like a viper, striking out as John attempted to capture it. The creature was released after pictures had been taken.

The reservoir was little more than the original river having dried out over the summer. It was teeming with birds, however, and we were soon gazing through 'scopes to identify no less than 20 Greenshanks, a fantastic number, Spotted and Common Redshanks, Little Ringed Plovers and Snipe, Common Sandpipers and several Lapwings. A flock of Little Grebes tucked in among the larger Shovelers, Teal and Gadwall.

We returned to the finca to exchange memories of yet another great day.

Thursday 4th October

If any day was going to be difficult this was it. We were trying to fill in the gaps on our list, each occupied by an extremely difficult species.

Just short of Cáceres we turned off onto a side road which crossed the plain - Llanos de Cáceres. Our quarry was views of sandgrouse, Black Wheatear and Lesser Kestrel. On stopping to investigate dove-like birds in the air some distance away, we were rewarded with our first four Black-bellied Sandgrouse of the day flying past. These were followed by distant views of a large flock of Pin-tailed Sandgrouse. John noted where they settled and we set off in search.

After considerable difficulty, Tim noticed a party of 10 feeding a great distance away. As we watched them another group flew past but the views were still poor. We took an even smaller lane in poor repair and were rewarded immediately by four Black-bellied Sandgrouse flying almost between the buses. More were found on the ground but the best views of both species were had when the birds were in the air. How we managed to drive down the road, avoiding potholes, and still look for birds is a mystery, but find them the great and glorious leaders did.

Lots of migrant Whinchats lined the road sitting on fence-wires as if waiting for the buses to drop into the holes. Perhaps they were preparing themselves for the sight of people coping with bad road surfaces - a common phenomenon in their African winter quarters. The many resident Stonechats did not seem to mind their upland cousins' presence. Nor too did several Dartford Warblers found in the pale Broom bushes which abound in the area. A Zitting Cisticola (Fan-tailed Warbler) waited in a dried grass clump while everyone had a good look at it. Crag Martins were roosting under the bridges in the area.

After a coffee break we drove to the Río Almonte where a search for Black Wheatear was successful in several ways. Judy found four birds which we had heard singing and to our delight they immediately started displaying. One male flew over the river and performed an aerial dance with its tail spread. The others started flitting around, chattering as a territorial dispute broke out. It was completed when one pair flew off leaving the resident birds victorious. This was birding at its very best and as we congratulated each other on the experience and Judy for finding them, she came out with an admission.

'That was the bird I saw yesterday at the Valdecañas Dam,' she said. 'I did not realise what it was until today.'

On our return to the hotel we stopped at a viewpoint to take pictures of Trujillo. Travelling Naturalists never just take photos, however, and while the cameras were clicking Neil found a dark-phase Booted Eagle and John discovered a large female Ocellated Lizard under a stone and, even more unusual, an ant carrying off a male 'Ladybird Spider' - a rare invertebrate he had never seen before.

We returned to the finca for an early cup of tea before getting ready for a celebratory dinner in Trujillo.

Walking the old castle ramparts we marvelled at several huge bats which came out from their daytime roosts.

Friday 5th October

There was to be no trip report for today as the plan was to drive straight to Madrid Airport. But, as ever, Nature was to take a hand as two Buzzards were watched mobbing a juvenile Spanish Imperial Eagle on the way. The drama took place about 90 km south-west of Madrid and might have involved a bird hatched in the city's El Pardo park this summer.

It was identified by the Griffon-like appearance and plumage, and the fact that it was holding its wings in a shallow V, like a Marsh Harrier. The wings of juvenile Imperial Eagles are shorter and more rounded than adult birds and are held in that formation to gain extra lift. Adult have a flat-winged appearance.

John explained this via the wireless communication machines and was also able to note a Booted Eagle soon after. The group split up at Madrid Airport after a rewarding time as Travelling Naturalists in Extremadura.


GREBES Podicipediformes Podicipedidae

Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis Arrocampo Reservoir (5+ on 29th); Embalse de Sierra Brava (1 on 30th); Embalse del Tozo (9 on 3rd); Llanos de Cáceres (3 on 4th)

Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus Arrocampo Reservoir (2+ on 29th); Embalse de Sierra Brava (10+ on 30th)

Black-necked (Eared) Grebe Podiceps nigricollis Embalse de Sierra Brava (10+ on 30th)

CORMORANTS Pelecaniformes Phalacrocoracidae

Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo Arrocampo Reservoir (1 on 29th, 25 on 3rd); Embalse de Sierra Brava (20+ on 30th); Río Almonte (1 on 4th)

HERONS, and EGRETS Ciconiiformes Ardeidae

Grey Heron Ardea cinerea Arrocampo Reservoir (15+ on 29th); Embalse del Tozo (15 on 3rd); Llanos de Cáceres (1 on 4th)

Little Egret Egretta garzetta Arrocampo Reservoir (1 on 29th); Embalse de Sierra Brava (10 on 30th); Embalse del Tozo (2 on 3rd)

Squacco Heron Ardeola ralloides Arrocampo Reservoir (3 on 29th)

Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis Extremadura: common daily

Little Bittern Ixobrychus minutus Arrocampo Reservoir (1 heard on 29th)

STORKS Ciconiiformes Ciconiidae

Black Stork Ciconia nigra Vegas Altas (2 on 30th)

White Stork Ciconia ciconia Madrigalejo (50+ on 30th)

DUCKS Anseriformes Anatidae

Gadwall Anas strepera Arrocampo Reservoir (2 on 29th); Embalse del Tozo (9 on 3rd); Llanos de Cáceres (2 on 4th)

Common Teal Anas crecca Arrocampo Reservoir (2 on 29th); Embalse del Tozo (8 on 3rd)

Mallard Anas platyrhynchos Arrocampo Reservoir (2 on 29th); Embalse de Sierra Brava (hundreds on 30th); Embalse del Tozo (6 on 3rd); Llanos de Cáceres (41 on 4th)

Northern Shoveler Anas clypeata Embalse del Tozo (16 on 3rd)

OSPREY Falconiformes Pandionidae

Osprey Pandion haliaetus Arrocampo Reservoir (1 on 3rd)

HAWKS, EAGLES and KITES Falconiformes Accipitridae

Black-shouldered Kite Elanus caeruleus Vegas Altas (1 on 30th)

Red Kite Milvus milvus Extremadura (1 on 29th; 2 on 30th); Monfragüe Natural Park (6 on 1st); Belén Plain (21 on 2nd)

Black Kite Milvus migrans Arrocampo Reservoir (1 on 3rd)

Eurasian Griffon Vulture Gyps fulvus Extremadura: abundant

Cinereous (Eurasian Black) Vulture Aegypius monachus Zorita Steppes (3 on 30th); Monfragüe Natural Park (25 on 1st); Belén Plain (4 on 2nd); Llanos de Cáceres (15 on 4th)

Short-toed Eagle Circaetus gallicus Zorita Steppes (3 on 30th); Belén Plain (1 on 2nd); Finca Santa Marta (1 on 3rd)

Western Marsh-harrier Circus aeruginosus Arrocampo Reservoir (male on 29th and 3rd); Madrigalejo rice fields (female type on 30th)

Northern (Hen) Harrier Circus cyaneus Belén Plain (male on 2nd); Llanos de Cáceres (female type on 4th)

Eurasian Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus Finca Santa Marta (1 on 3rd)

Common Buzzard Buteo buteo Arrocampo Reservoir (1 on 29th); Monfragüe Natural Park (2 on 1st); Belén Plain (4 on 2nd); a few elsewhere

Spanish Imperial Eagle Aquila adalberti Monfragüe Natural Park (2 on 1st); Embalse del Tozo (1 on 3rd); juvenile being mobbed by Buzzards 90km SW of Madrid on 5th

Golden Eagle Aquila chrysaetos Monfragüe Natural Park (2 on 1st)

Bonelli's Eagle Hieraaetus fasciatus Sierras de las Villuercas (1 on 2nd); Embalse del Tozo (2 on 3rd); Río Almonte (1 on 4th)

Booted Eagle Hieraaetus Pennatus Trujillo Castle (1 dark phase on 4th)

FALCONS Falconiformes Falconidae

Eurasian Kestrel Falco tinnunculus Common: a few daily

Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus Arrocampo Reservoir (2 on 29th)

PHEASANTS Galliformes Phasianidae

Red-legged Partridge Alectoris rufa Arrocampo Reservoir (5 on 29th); quite common daily


and COOTS Gruiformes Rallidae

Water Rail Rallus aquaticus Arrocampo Reservoir (3 on 29th)

Purple Swamphen (Gallinule) Porphyrio porphyrio Arrocampo Reservoir (3+ on 29th, 2 on 3rd)

Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus Arrocampo Reservoir (4 on 29th and 3rd)

Eurasian Coot Fulica atra Arrocampo Reservoir (30+ on 29th and 3rd); Embalse de Sierra Brava (30+ on 30th)

BUSTARDS Gruiformes Otididae

Great Bustard Otis tarda Zorita Steppes (26 on 30th); Belén Plain (14 on 2nd); Llanos de Cáceres (3 on 4th)

Little Bustard Tetrax tetrax Zorita Steppes (8 on 30th); Belén Plain (1 on 2nd)

LAPWINGS and PLOVERS Charadriiformes Charadriidae

Northern Lapwing Vanellus vanellus Arrocampo Reservoir (2 on 29th); Zorita Steppes (2 on 30th); Belén Plain (18 on 2nd); Embalse del Tozo (3 on 3rd); Llanos de Cáceres (10 on 4th)

Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius Belén Plain (1 on 2nd); Embalse del Tozo (2 on 3rd)

SANDPIPERS Charadriiformes Scolopacidae

Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago Arrocampo Reservoir (1 on 3rd); Embalse del Tozo (2 on 3rd)

Spotted Redshank Tringa erythropus Embalse del Tozo (1 on 3rd)

Common Redshank Tringa totanus Embalse del Tozo (1 on 3rd)

Common Greenshank Tringa nebularia Embalse del Tozo (18 on 3rd)

Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus Arrocampo Reservoir (2 on 29th); Río Almonte (1 on 1st); Belén Plain (3 on 2nd); Embalse del Tozo (6 on 3rd); Llanos de Cáceres (1 on 4th)

Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos Arrocampo Reservoir (2 on 3rd); Embalse del Tozo (2 on 3rd); Río Almonte (1 on 4th)

Ruff Philomachus pugnax Arrocampo Reservoir (1 on 29th)

GULLS Charadriiformes Laridae

Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus Embalse de Sierra Brava (5 on 30th)

Black-headed Gull Larus ridibundus Embalse de Sierra Brava (25+ on 30th); Finca Santa Marta (6 on 2nd); Embalse del Tozo (6 on 3rd)

TERNS Charadriiformes Sternidae

Black Tern Chlidonias niger Embalse de Sierra Brava (4 on 30th)

SANDGROUSE Pterocliformes Pteroclidae

Pin-tailed Sandgrouse Pterocles alchata Llanos de Cáceres (40+ on 4th)

Black-bellied Sandgrouse Pterocles orientalis Belén Plain (6 on 2nd); Llanos de Cáceres (10+ on 4th)

PIGEONS and DOVES Columbiformes Columbidae

Rock Dove Columba livia Daily: abundant in towns

Stock Pigeon (Dove) Columba oenas Arrocampo Reservoir (10 on 3rd)

Common Wood-pigeon Columba palumbus Daily: fairly common

Eurasian Collared-dove Streptopelia decaocto Daily: common

OWLS Strigiformes Strigidae

Little Owl Athene noctua Embalse de Sierra Brava area (2 on 30th); Embalse del Tozo (2 calling on 3rd)

SWIFTS Apodiformes Apodidae

Alpine Swift Tachymarptis melba Sierras de las Villuercas (1 on 2nd)

White-rumped Swift Apus caffer Monfragüe Natural Park (1 on 1st)

KINGFISHERS Coraciiformes Alcedinidae

Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis Madrigalejo rice fields (1 on 30th); Sierras de las Villuercas (4 on 2nd); Embalse del Tozo (2 on 3rd); Río Almonte (1 on 4th)

HOOPOES Coraciiformes Upupidae

Eurasian Hoopoe Upupa epops Daily: common

WOODPECKERS Piciformes Picidae

Great Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos major Finca Santa Marta (1 on 30th, 2 at telephone-pole nest hole on 1st); Sierras de las Villuercas (1 on 2nd)

Green Woodpecker Picus viridis Finca Santa Marta (1 heard on 1st); Embalse del Tozo (1 heard on 3rd)

LARKS Passeriformes Alaudidae

Calandra Lark Melanocorypha calandra Embalse de Sierra Brava area (25+ on 30th); Belén Plain (150 on 2nd); Llanos de Cáceres (30+ on 4th)

(Greater) Short-toed Lark Calandrella brachydactyla Belén Plain (1 on 2nd)

Crested Lark Galerida cristata Daily: common

Thekla Lark Galerida theklae Monfragüe Natural Park (6 on 1st); Río Almonte (2 on 4th)

Wood Lark Lullula arborea Finca Santa Marta: singing daily; Río Almonte (1 singing on 1st); Belén Plain (5 on 2nd); elsewhere common singing

Sky Lark Alauda arvensis Belén Plain (10+ on 2nd)

SWALLOWS Passeriformes Hirundinidae

Sand Martin (Bank Swallow) Riparia riparia Daily: a few

Eurasian Crag-martin Hirundo rupestris Monfragüe Natural Park (1 on 1st); Sierras de las Villuercas (80+ on 2nd); Río Almonte and Llanos de Cáceres (a few on 4th)

Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica Finca Santa Marta (a few on 29th) otherwise noticeable by their absence

Red-rumped Swallow Hirundo daurica Hotel David (5 on 29th); Finca Santa Marta: a few daily

House Martin Delichon urbica Daily: abundant; Río Almonte (hundreds picking grit from the bridge on 1st)

WAGTAILS and PIPITS Passeriformes Motacillidae

White Wagtail Motacilla alba Madrigalejo rice fields (1 on 30th); Río Almonte (4 on 1st); Monfragüe Natural Park (6 on 1st); Sierras de las Villuercas (6 on 2nd)

Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava Daily: common

Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea Finca Santa Marta (2 seen by Tim daily until 2nd when the group saw them); Sierras de las Villuercas (3 on 2nd); Río Almonte (1 on 4th)

Tawny Pipit Anthus campestris Belén Plain (6+ on 2nd); Llanos de Cáceres (1 on 4th)

KINGLETS Passeriformes Regulidae

Firecrest Regulus ignicapillus Daily: uncommon

DIPPERS Passeriformes Cinclidae

(White-throated) Dipper Cinclus cinclus Sierras de las Villuercas (3 on 2nd)

WRENS Passeriformes Troglodytidae

Winter Wren Troglodytes troglodytes Finca Santa Marta: daily

THRUSHES Passeriformes Turdidae

Blue Rock-thrush Monticola solitarius Río Almonte (1 on 1st); Monfragüe Natural Park (2 on 1st); Sierras de las Villuercas (2 on 2nd)

Eurasian Blackbird Turdus merula Finca Santa Marta: several daily, a few elsewhere

Mistle Thrush Turdus viscivorus Finca Santa Marta (1 on 1st); Monfragüe Natural Park (1 on 1st); Belén Plain (3 on 2nd)

CISTICOLAS and ALLIES Passeriformes Cisticolidae

Zitting Cisticola (Fan-tailed Warbler) Cisticola juncidis Extremadura: a few on 30th, 4 on 3rd; Llanos de Cáceres (1 on 4th)

OLD WORLD WARBLERS Passeriformes Sylviidae

Cetti's Warbler Cettia cetti Arrocampo Reservoir (2 heard on 29th and 3rd); River Ruecas (several heard on 30th)

Willow Warbler Phylloscopus trochilus Daily: quite common

Iberian Chiffchaff Phylloscopus ibericus Finca Santa Marta (1 on 30th and 3rd)

Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla Llanos de Cáceres and Río Almonte (2 on 4th)

CommonWhitethroat Sylvia communis Madrigalejo rice fields (2 on 30th); Belén Plain (1 on 2nd); Embalse del Tozo (1 on 3rd)

Sardinian Warbler Sylvia melanocephala Extremadura: common in scrub

Dartford Warbler Sylvia undata Sierras de las Villuercas (3 on 2nd); Llanos de Cáceres (5 on 4th)

OLD WORLD FLYCATCHERS Passeriformes Muscicapidae

Spotted Flycatcher Muscicapa striata Río Almonte (1 on 1st); Monfragüe Natural Park (1 on 1st); Belén Plain (1 on 2nd)

European Pied Flycatcher Ficedula hypoleuca Daily: quite common

European Robin Erithacus rubecula Monfragüe Natural Park (3 on 1st); Sierras de las Villuercas (6 on 2nd)

Black Redstart Phoenicurus ochruros Monfragüe Natural Park (1 on 1st)

Whinchat Saxicola rubetra Madrigalejo rice fields (6 on 30th); Belén Plain (30 on 2nd); Llanos de Cáceres (30 on 4th)

Common Stonechat Saxicola torquata Hotel David (2 on 29th); common daily

Black Wheatear Oenanthe leucura Río Almonte, Cáceres (four in territorial dispute on 4th)

Northern Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe Daily: a few; Belén Plain (30+ on 2nd)

LONG-TAILED TITS Passeriformes Aegithalidae

Long-tailed Tit Aegithalos caudatus Monfragüe Natural Park (5 on 1st); Sierras de las Villuercas (4 on 2nd); Finca Santa Marta (5 on 4th)

CHICKADEES and TITS Passeriformes Paridae

Great Tit Parus major Finca Santa Marta and elsewhere daily

Blue Tit Cyanistes caeruleus Finca Santa Marta and elsewhere daily; Belén Plain (1 on 2nd)

NUTHATCHES Passeriformes Sittidae

Eurasian Nuthatch Sitta europaea Sierras de las Villuercas (6 on 2nd)

CREEPERS Passeriformes Certhiidae

Short-toed Treecreeper Certhia brachydactyla Monfragüe Natural Park (3 on 1st); Sierras de las Villuercas (3 on 2nd)

SHRIKES Passeriformes Laniidae

Southern Grey Shrike Lanius meridionalis Common daily

CROWS and JAYS Passeriformes Corvidae

Eurasian Jay Garrulus glandarius Sierras de las Villuercas (3+ on 2nd); Embalse del Tozo (1 on 3rd)

Azure-winged Magpie Cyanopica cyana Abundant daily

Black-billed Magpie Pica pica Arrocampo Reservoir (100+ on 29th); outskirts of towns: common

Eurasian Jackdaw Corvus monedula Arrocampo Reservoir (50+ on 29th); common daily

Common Raven Corvus corax Zorita Steppes (20+ on 30th); common daily

STARLINGS Passeriformes Sturnidae

Spotless Starling Sturnus unicolor Extremadura: abundant

OLD WORLD SPARROWS Passeriformes Passeridae

House Sparrow Passer domesticus Extremadura: abundant

Spanish Sparrow Passer hispaniolensis Madrigalejo rice fields (hundreds on 30th); Belén Plain (3 on 2nd)

Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus Madrigalejo rice fields (9 on 30th)

Rock Sparrow (Petronia) Petronia petronia Río Almonte (42 on 1st); Embalse del Tozo (6 on 3rd); Llanos de Cáceres (3 on 4th)

WAXBILLS and ALLIES Passeriformes Estrildidae

Common Waxbill Estrilda astrild Madrigalejo rice fields (6 on 30th); Embalse del Tozo (7 on 3rd); Finca Santa Marta (3 on 4th)

Red Avadavat Amandava amandava Madrigalejo rice fields (10 on 30th); Arrocampo Reservoir (3 males on 3rd)

FINCHES Passeriformes Fringillidae

Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs Monfragüe Natural Park (1 on 1st); Sierras de las Villuercas (6 on 2nd); elsewhere a few

European Greenfinch Carduelis chloris Finca Santa Marta (6 on 2nd)

European Goldfinch Carduelis carduelis Extremadura: abundant

Eurasian Linnet Carduelis cannabina Finca Santa Marta (8 on 30th); Belén Plain (6 on 2nd); Llanos de Cáceres (10+ on 4th)

European Serin Serinus serinus Finca Santa Marta (4 on 30th); Sierras de las Villuercas (4 on 2nd); Río Almonte (1 on 4th)

Hawfinch Coccothraustes coccothraustes Finca Santa Marta (10+ on 30th) and daily

BUNTINGS Passeriformes Emberizidae

Cirl Bunting Emberiza cirlus Finca Santa Marta (1 on 4th)

Rock Bunting Emberiza cia Monfragüe Natural Park (3 on 1st); Sierras de las Villuercas (1 on 2nd)

Corn Bunting Emberiza calandra Arrocampo Reservoir (30+ on 29th); common daily

FSM = Finca Santa Marta; MRF = Madrigalejo Rice Fields


Common Mole Talpa europea Hills noted at FSM on 3rd.

Red Fox Vulpes vulpes One dead on road en route on 1st, and scats seen on 3rd.

Wild Cat Felis sylvestris A young dead individual on the Cáceres road a little outside Trujillo on 4th.

Red Deer Cervus elaphus At least three on the edge of Monfragüe Natural Park on 1st.

Bat spp. Chiroptera c. 15 individuals of a very large species were watched leaving the Trujillo castle walls at dusk on 4th; although no free part of the tail could be seen, they were probably European Free-tailed Bats Tadarida teniotis, which is definitely present in the town, though were perhaps Greater Noctule Nyctalus lasiopterus (though rare and usually a tree-roosting species) or even Greater Mouse-eared Bat Myotis myotis (though this is slightly smaller). We also saw various medium- and small- sized species, though none could be identified.


European Tree Frog Hyla arborea 4 beautiful individuals in a small Ricinus bush and two other singles in the MRF on 30th.

Iberian Pool Frog Rana perezi Small to moderate numbers recorded in wetland areas on 30th, 1st, 3rd and 4th.

Common Toad Bufo bufo One at FSM on 1st.

Moorish Gecko Tarentola mauretanica A single at FSM from 1st - 4th and one by the Presa de Valdecañas on 4th.

Large Psammodromus Psammodromus algirus A couple of individuals in Monfragüe Natural Park on 1st.

Spanish Psammodromus Psammodromus hispanicus One lovely individual caught en route to the Embalse del Tozo on 3rd.

Iberian Wall Lizard Podarcis hispanica 2 on walls in Trujillo on 4th.

Ocellated Lizard Lacerta lepida A good sized female found under a rock near Trujillo on 4th.

Stripe-necked Terrapin Mauremys caspica 10+ in ponds on the Belén Plain on 2nd, a couple in the Embalse de Arrocampo and at least 10 in the Río Tozo on 3rd and 1 in a pool on the the Llanos de Cáceres on 4th.

Ladder Snake Elaphe scalaris A banded juvenile near the Río Tozo on 3rd.

Horseshoe Whip Snake Coluber hippocrepis One briefly on the steps down from the Castilo de Monfragüe on 1st.


Swallowtail Papilio machaon One on 3rd and at least 5 on 4th.

Large White Pieris brassicae Noted with certainty only on 30th.

Small White Artogeia rapae Recorded in small numbers on 30th, and 2nd - 4th, though some were actually perhaps the following species.

Bath White Pontia daplidice A few noted only on 1st (though see above).

Clouded Yellow Colias croceus Recorded in small numbers on 30th, and 2nd - 4th.

Cleopatra Gonepteryx cleopatra One or two on 1st.

Small Copper Lycaena phlaeas Small numbers from 1st - 4th.

Holly Blue Celastrina argiolus One or two noted on 30th.

Brown Argus Aricia agestis Noted daily from 30th - 3rd.

Common Blue Polyommatus icarus Only seen on 2nd.

Lang's Short-tailed Blue Leptotes pirithous A few S of Monfragüe N.P. on 1st.

Two-tailed Pasha Charaxes jasius One or two briefly in the Monfragüe N.P. area on 1st.

Red Admiral Vanessa atalanta A couple seen on 30th.

Painted Lady Cynthia cardui At least one noted on 2nd.

Cardinal Fritillary Argynnis pandora One on 30th, several on 1st and at least 3 on 4th.

Tree Grayling Neohipparchia statilinus A couple in the cork oak groves in the Sierras de Villuercas on 2nd.

Small Heath Coenonympha pamphilus Ones and twos on 1st and 3rd.

Meadow Brown Maniola jurtina Seen daily in moderate number from 30th - 4th.

Speckled Wood Pararge aegeria A couple in the Sierras de Villuercas on 2nd. (Not split as Southern S. W., as John had I/Ded it, but 'still' Speckled Wood in Tolman 2001).

Wall Brown Lasiommata megera Daily in small number from 1st - 4th.


Hummingbird Hawkmoth Macroglossum stellatarum A single at FSM on 1st.

Tiger Moth sp. Cymbalophora pudica Singles noted on 3rd and 4th.


Iberian Blue-tailed Damselfly Ischnura graellsii A few by the Embalse de Arrocampo on 3rd.

Beautiful Demoiselle Calopteryx virgo A fine, very late male in the Sierras de Villuercas on 2nd.

Emperor Dragonfly Anax imperator A female laying eggs in a small aqueduct near Vegas Altas on 30th and several along the Río Tozo on 3rd.

Orthetrum trinacria The blackish dragonfly 'scoped at the Embalse de Arrocampo on 3rd.

blue Chaser sp. Orthetrum sp. A single male, either O. chrysostigma, O. nitidinerve or perhaps O. brunneum in a small aqueduct near Vegas Altas on 30th.

Scarlet Darter Crocothemis erythraea Several males in a small aqueduct near Vegas Altas on 30th.

Red-veined Darter Sympetrum fonscolombei One by the Embalse de Arrocampo on 3rd.

Yellow-winged Darter Sympetrum flaveolum A couple by a small aqueduct near Vegas Altas on 30th.

Ruddy Darter Sympetrum sanguineum A male noted by Eunice near Vegas Altas on 30th.


Egyptian Grasshopper Anacridium aegyptium Three at FSM on 30th.

Field Cricket Gryllus campestris 2+ at FSM on 30th.

Red-winged Grasshopper Sp. unknown Regular in hot, sunny sites from 1st - 3rd.

Blue-winged Grasshopper Sp/p. unknown Regular in rocky, hot, sunny sites from 1st - 3rd.

Leaf Beetle sp. Spp. unknown Beautiful singles at FSM on 1st and 2nd.


Red Signal Crayfish Procambarus clarkii Remains by pools in Río Almonte, Río Tozo, etc.

'Ladybird Spider' Eresus niger The dead body of a stunning small black, white and red spider wrestled from an ant (!) near Trujillo on 4th, proved to be of this species, with several trap-doors of females found under our feet as we looked at the remains!


A few species are of particular note: on the steppes, the myriad white nodding bells of Autumn Snowflake Leucojum autumnalis, patches of the small white autumn-flowering daffodil Narcissus serotinus, the patches of pinkish Merendera Merendera montana and the tiny purplish spikes of Autumn Squill Scilla autumnalis, were of most note. Other species seen included both Holm Ooak Quercus rotundifolia and Cork Oak Quercus suber, the two fine examples of Southern Nettle Tree Celtis australis at Monfragüe, a few remaining flowers of the striking Yellow Star-thistle Scolymus maculatus, Chicory Chicorium intybus, and a few late spikes of Asphodel, either Asphodelus aestivus and/or A. ramosus.

© The Travelling Naturalist 2001