TRAVELLING NATURALIST TRIP REPORT
20th - 25th February 2001
Tuesday 20th February transfer from Madrid to Finca Santa Marta, EX.
The three members safely arrived at Barajas airport where I met them and we rapidly got away in bright sunshine. Apart from a couple of Barn Swallows en route, a stop for a late snack lunch at the Hotel David produced the first of numerous White Storks and on a nearby pool, c.30 Shoveler. A Mistle Thrush and a Serin also provided a fine start.
The next site was a treat though, delayed only by Crested Larks and Linnets on the roadside and a Little Egret trying to hide in a small pond. As soon as we reached the Embalse de Arrocampo, strange wailing cries and grunts belied the presence of several Purple Swamp-hens and one or two hidden Water Rails. A pair of wings, flapping in the dense vegetation materialised into an immature Marsh Harrier, which obligingly came up and circled several times before disappearing off. Small birds were not to be outdone however and numerous Chiffchaffs and 'shouting' Cetti's Warblers flitted among the bulrushes and three Zitting Cisticolas 'zitted' together at one point. A fine spot of a 'black-and-white' bird led to the discovery of a flock of Spanish Sparrows, while a 'stripey' bird in front was a Reed Bunting - a new birds for our Extremadura trips!
Time was pressing on though, so we carried on down to Finca Santa Marta, noting a fine Red Kite low over the road en route and a flock of Azure-winged Magpies succeeded in delaying David and Angie's installation into their room!
An introduction by our host, Henri, was followed by a fine meal and we went to bed to the sound of a chorus of Natterjack Toads, despite the very chilly conditions! Even as we walked to our rooms, two Barn Swallows huddled on a nest caught our eye.
Wednesday 21st Zorita steppes, Emb. de Sierra Brava & Madrigalejo rice fields
An 'early' start was provided by a wander round the grounds of FSM. Here we had a chance to admire Serin, a fly-by Hawfinch, a couple of Hoopoes, a fly-by calling Green Woodpecker, a pair of Red Kites and calling Rock Sparrows. Not bad! Unfortunately, my first Brambling in Spain, which was apparently passing over but dropped into the orchards, simply vanished...
After breakfast, we headed south, and stopped on the Zorita steppes, ostensibly to look for bustards. However, it was rapidly obvious that there were lots of birds in the apparently barren landscape - Crested, Calandra and Sky Larks, Meadow and a Water Pipit, Golden and 'Green' Plovers and several Common Buzzards. A look up the road, and distant raptors included a Golden Eagle and three Marsh Harriers!
We moved on, but didn't get very far, a 'non-curlew' led to the discovery of a viewpoint over an arm of the Emb. de Sierra Brava which was full of ducks, including Shoveler, Common Teal, Eurasian Wigeon, but best of all, a flock of Red-crested Pochards! Another viewpoint over the reservoir, this time rather closer, also reaped reward, with several close Black-necked Grebes, including one in breeding plumage, and gaudy Great Crested Grebes were sprinkled liberally over the water. Although rather more mundane, Eurasian Coots and Lesser Black-backed Gulls added diversity, though the sight of a flock of Common Cranes on passage heralded the start of a heavy passage of the species, with another flock, then another, and then another... as if this weren't enough in itself, breaks allowed us to watch a flock of House Martins, with a Red Kite, two Common Buzzards and two Marsh Harriers spiralling up in front at various times to allow for comparisons.
Given the lack of bustards, but good number of raptors around, we detoured back to look at a section of steppe, only to find a group of 14 Griffon and one Black Vulture standing around, apparently waiting for a large sheepdog to move off before moving in to some source of food.
We were now late for lunch, so I looked for a quiet spot to stop. However, more Golden Plover, a hunting Peregrine, two small flocks of Red Avadavat, several Spanish Sparrows and two Common Cranes feeding under trees made it VERY late! However, the lunch spot was quiet apart from occasional bursts of sound from tree frogs and a few Marsh Harriers. We delayed the route back, stopping at various points in the rice fields to search the waders for unusual species, though several Little Owls calling from oaks in the hot weather provided entertainment, proving remarkably difficult to see.
As we reached the main road, it was immediately evident that there were a lot of Black-tailed Godwits in the area, this being one of the main concentrations on passage for the European subspecies. Despite the HOT conditions and bright sun, we were treated to muddy rice paddies full of birds, with some 4000+ godwits estimated! A couple of Ruffs were mixed in, while Common Snipe also fed quietly amongst the stubble. Several Iberian Pool Frogs diverted our attention, albeit briefly.
A drive down the tracks in the fields here yielded yet more surprises, with 5 Little Ringed Plovers in a rather bare field of special note.
We continued down to the Río Ruecas, finding two fine male Sardinian Warblers en route, though the second crossing over the river gave us views of the southern Spanish grey-backed race of Long-tailed Tit, several Grey Wagtails and Little Egrets on the river and 'shouting' Cetti's Warblers in the bankside willows. Out on the rice fields, a dozen fine Common Cranes gave beautiful views, but all was not over, and as we worked our way back across the rice fields, some more Red Avadavats caught my eye, though a small group of 7 small birds turned out to be some pristine Common Waxbills, which obligingly fed out in the open for all to see. Naturalised Indian and African species, side-by-side in this corner of Spain made an interesting sight.
We bounced our way back across more tracks back to the road, seeing a few more Ruff, Black-tailed Godwit and Peewits and headed 'home', finally reaching FSM at 7pm!
The assistant cook was away in Madrid, so we made our way up to Trujillo for an impressive meal at La Troya...
Thursday 22nd Belén Plain & Trujillo, then Sta. Marta de Magasca & Monroy
A 7:45 start and run up to the Belén Plain before breakfast. The thick ground-frost in the lower fields was witness to the clear overnight conditions again. Lots of Lapwing, Golden Plover and Skylarks were evident, with small numbers of Red Kite already drifting over the steppe. A strategic stop at a 'high' viewpoint over the steppes eventually revealed a flock of Little Bustards, a fine 60 in total, though only one or two males were showing traces of the black-and-white neck patterns. A series of pale dots on a distant slope were revealed by the 'scopes to be Great Bustards, though were too far away to cause much impression. The Little Bustards however took to flight, and transformed from earth-brown to flickering white...
We moved on, looking for more bustards, though a 'suspicious-looking rock' turned out to be a stunning adult male Merlin perched on the ground, while the rising sun and increasing heat stirred some territorial Calandra Larks into action. However, no closer bustards so we turned back to relocate the Great Bustards we'd seen earlier, but nothing was visible at all! Despite looking hard we couldn't refind them, this process not being helped by four Black-bellied Sandgrouse which 'bubbled' as they flew over, but were moving away and against the light before we got onto them. Suddenly however, Brenda picked the bustards out - on the opposite side of the road, with the sun behind us and MUCH closer. 15 superb males strolled gently across the grassland, the whiskers on a few clearly drooping as they fed... Magnificent! All thoughts of breakfast were wiped away.
Our concentration was then loudly interrupted by a "keeuuw-luew" whistled from behind us, and in a dip below, three Stone-curlews stood just yards from the road! Turning the vehicle round to get closer, they flushed as we passed them, only to land on the opposite side, close, with the sun behind us, for us all to admire...
Now, the lack of morning tea was taking its toll, so we started back, but while turning in Trujillo I noticed some suspicious new fencing near the fish-ponds and decided to investigate as we were passing. Result - fish-ponds empty, grubbed-out and being filled with rubble - Disaster! However, I wanted a good look, and as some recompense and much to our delight, three Black-winged Stilts graced the little water that was left, and a Little Ringed Plover was on the far shore. I left, a little perturbed by the development, but also decided that as we were passing, we'd stop by the bull-ring. c. 20 Lesser Kestrels, mostly in pairs, were sunning themselves on the roof tiles, giving wonderful views, pale claws included!
We finally got back to FSM for a rather later than planned breakfast, but who minded!
This time we headed out onto more steppe but also wooded dehesa areas, heading first towards Sta. Marta de Magasca. A short stop immediately produced two noisy Great Spotted Cuckoos, though these did not remain perched for long, and good numbers of raptors kept us busy, including both of the large vultures and a distant Black Kite. Several medium-sized birds in rapid flight over the steppe led to thoughts of sandgrouse but were yet more Golden Plover, while down on a pond, how could we ignore two Mallard...?
A short distance ahead we searched again in vain for sandgrouse, but a few hundred metres down a track, two Black-bellied Sandgrouse flew up without warning from close-by and were all-too-soon lost. Two more flew towards us later, but remained too distant for good views...
We took lunch by the Río Magasca, where Stripe-necked Terrapins lined the banks and butterflies included various Cleopatras, Small Heaths and a Provençe Hairstreak. Several Hawfinches called from the thick olives growth on the opposite bank, though refused to show, while a small group of Crag Martins were far more obliging. Bigger birds including various individuals of Griffon and Black Vultures, while just after lunch, a medium-large raptor passing engaged in an aerial dog-fight with a Common Buzzard was an immature Bonelli's Eagle.
We moved on to the Río Salor, where a fine male Blue Rock Thrush was on the far slopes, and another, this time adult Bonelli's Eagle circled overhead, providing a fine view next to a soaring adult Egyptian Vulture! We had to celebrate this, so on to Monroy for a coffee in a bar, but not before an (the same?) adult Egyptian Vulture circled low over the town square...
The remainder of the afternoon was spent primarily looking for a few specialities. First, a short walk into dehesa, olive orchards and a few grain fields resulted in fine views of a superb pair of Black-shouldered Kites as they moved between the tree-tops. Several Woodlarks performed near where we left the car, while the numerous White Storks nesting on the pines were bravely resisting the noise and disturbance of the tree-felling along the roadside for future road-expansion. Another fly-by Hawfinch, a couple of Song Thrushes and bathing Serins all provided distraction, while the large and showy endemic Lusitanian Milk-vetch was flowering profusely along the bank.
The chance was too good to waste so we diverted towards a secret site for Spanish Imperial Eagle, pausing en route to admire masses of Hoop-petticoat Narcissus and the beautiful pale endemic Narcissus triandrus papyraceus also growing locally in abundance along the roadside. A last stop and after just a few moments, a superb pair of Spanish Imperial Eagles were perched high for all to admire...
Back at FSM, the assistant cook was still away, but a quick check revealed that we were all more than happy to visit La Troya again...
Friday 23rd Parque Natural de Monfragüe & Belén Plain
A later start in cloudy, drizzly and cool conditions, though en route to the park, a stop at the Río Almonte produced a surprising number of birds, including side-by-side Green and Common Sandpipers, Crested and Thekla Larks and a fine male Cirl Bunting. A very bright male Stonechat also provided interest.
Our first stop n the park was at the base of a cliff under some fine specimens of Southern Nettle Tree, with a short, but steep walk up to the castle. Several Griffon Vultures provided a fine sight a little above our heads, though numerous small birds, their presence belied by their songs and calls proved to be almost impossible to see in the dense bushes, dominated by Olive. However, Hawfinch, Common Chaffinch, European Robin, Common Blackbird, Song Thrush and Blackcap were all present and a female Blue Rock Thrush and Black Redstart were easier to spot on the bare rock-face above. Providing constant movement was a large group of Crag Martins which wheeled overhead.
Heavy drizzle cut out a visit to the top of the castle, but once down, it cleared again and views towards Peñafalcón revealed large numbers of Griffon Vultures on the rocks. Standing by the car, a short spell of sun had drawn out a large group of Griffons which were wheeling round with a few peeling-off and passing overhead, while a crisply marked Egyptian Vulture also spiralled up in the group. However, a quick check of a small bird on a wire revealed a sought-after and smart Rock Bunting, which was joined by a second for a few moments.
We moved on and parked at the Salto del Gitano, where we ate lunch to the spectacle of Griffons, two Egyptian Vultures and 2 Peregrines wheeling around. Passerines again tried to distract us and an elusive Short-toed Treecreeper almost showed itself, with a Chiffchaff doing a rather better job below us and a blue Blue Rock Thrush also showing-off. Rain stopped play, so on to the bar at Villareal de San Carlos for a coffee.
With time moving on, we continued onwards, stopping for a Dartford Warbler which had flown beside us, though another Rock Bunting, a fine male Sardinian Warbler, a Red-legged Partridge perched high in a woodpile of Eucalyptus, and a Dunnock kept us busy. Looking across to the cliffs below the dam, a gargoyle-like Griffon Vulture with its wings open to dry was an impressive sight, while a Kingfisher on rocks by the river below was a tricky bird to locate.
Another 'quick' stop for Crested Tits only produces them calling, though several fly-over Hawfinches and at least 3 Firecrests in pine salvaged the situation, with an all-too-brief fly-over Red-rumped Swallow tantalisingly close.
On to the final stop at the Portilla del Tiétar. Here various people were peering up towards the ridge-top where a large squarish shape with two 'ears' visible to the naked eye caused me to smile and comment this was obviously a lucky group... Hmm, one of the 'ears' suddenly drooped and a quick check with the binoculars revealed the true situation - two vultures facing opposite ways, their heads and necks forming the 'ears'... Well, it happens to us all! However, and much to our delight was the discovery that they were all watching a pair of Spanish Imperial Eagles perched on top of a large rock on the skyline!! To complete the vulture trio, 2 fine Black Vultures perched off to the side of the rocks, their dark plumage giving them a slightly sinister appearance, while three Eurasian Jays, carrying acorns, flew past overhead.
We continued out of the park and back via a long detour, but on significantly better roads, eventually detouring back across the Belén Plain which revealed more ever-present Corn Buntings, a couple of Little Grebes, a pair of Stone-curlews, and, of course, Mallard...
Another late return to FSM, but a late dinner too, so no problem!
Saturday 24th FSM, La Serena & Belén Plain
A pre-breakfast ramble at the Finca for all except the leader who'd assumed that the thick fog would put people off... Dunnock, Corn Bunting, Blackcap, Azure-winged Magpies and other typical birds started off the day well though.
We headed down towards La Serena, though a quick check at the rice fields revealed that just 2 Black-tailed Godwit remained, though a small flock of Red Avadavats vied for attention. The drive down was punctuated by rain and a few short stops for birds, including a fine colony of White Storks on Acedera church, a few Common Cranes in dehesa and a gorgeous male Hen Harrier over wheat fields. We finally reached the immense steppes of La Serena, where small flocks of larks, pipits and finches were everywhere, though Calandra and Crested Larks sought for most attention and two male Little Bustards flew up from close to the road in display-flight. After some searching, a group of a dozen male Great Bustards highlighted their capacity as 'dead-ground specialists', gently walking out of sight in just a few minutes... Down one of the many tracks, we walked to the constant sound of multiple Calandra Larks, with up to 4 in display flights overhead at a time, drowning out almost all other sounds! The short, but lush grass provided too much cover, and a small group of Pin-tailed Sandgrouse which had been off to one side only gave brief views as they rose, calling, and disappeared off towards the horizon at high speed giving 'undertail coverts views'... However, we persisted, and just before we were about to leave, a group of 19 Great Bustards was spotted, with another 1 + 2 nearby, then a pair of Stone-curlews flew past, then a Merlin raced over. Back at the vehicle, a tractor passing over the steppe flushed a group of 92 Little Bustards, with their flashing white wings making them easy to follow, only to drop into a nearby field but promptly disappeared in the little vegetation present!
Entry onto another track was delayed by a multiple fly-round by a Great Spotted Cuckoo, while 4 Black-bellied Sandgrouse rose up off a ploughed field, raising hopes, though promptly dropped behind a ridge out of sight. An amazing series of storks nests on ornamental willows and Eucalyptus near a farm were a remarkable sight, but we were unable to stop due to the unpleasant attentions of a gang of farm dogs, but fortunately, when just out of range, more Black-bellied Sandgrouse were found, with a large flock flying across, and landing, this time within easy sight.
A cold breeze was blowing, so we took a late lunch by the dam of the Emb. de La Serena, Spain's largest reservoir before heading back via the rice fields towards FSM. Detouring onto tracks past Vegas Altas, our main quarry, a small group of Common Cranes was readily found, though two distant Black-shouldered Kites and various 'yo-yo'-ing Zitting Cisticolas provided plenty of interest. We also finally got good views of Water Pipit in the fields. Another search of the rice fields near Madrigalejo revealed almost no waders and very few birds in general, though the comment that there was an odd small bird on one of the banks led to the discovery of a superb male white-spotted Bluethroat! To say that it was difficult to pick out in the shade of rough scrub is something of an understatement, but we all had good, even if rather brief views before it was frightened-off by two Moorhens. Although a breeder in the nearby high mountains this was probably a migrant, though some birds are now wintering in EX, and given their shy retiring nature, there is a chronic lack of knowledge of their true status.
Our final stop was another quick look at the Emb. de Sierra Brava, where a group of Tufted Duck, a breeding plumaged Black-necked Grebe and various gulls proved of interest.
Back at the Finca, Little Owl whistling was tried successfully by Angie, much to her delight, though exactly what the conversation was all about is presumably only known to the owl!
Well, the final day, but still time to see a little before we left...
The pre-breakfast walk was in fine and sunny conditions and gave particularly good views of the pair of Red Kites present, as well as flight views of a couple of Redwings. Song was very evident, with Blackcap, Great Tit, Woodlark and Short-toed Treecreeper noted, though as we'd seen at other times, the birds were rather flighty and kept their distance.
David over breakfast noted that it seemed unthinkable that at about 9 p.m. he'd be opening the door and picking up the mail.. I sincerely hope that given what we were to see, this was less traumatic than it sounded!
We left in a leisurely manner and headed up past Trujillo, turning off the NV to reach the oldest (Roman) of the three parallel bridges over the Río Almonte. Although quiet, two Cirl Buntings were seen on the walk down and a Common Sandpiper and three Little Ringed Plovers were on the gravelly shores.
Given that we needed to keep moving on steadily, we passed Jaraicejo, where House Martins and Barn Swallows flickered round the eaves, but our passage through the dehesa was interrupted on two occasions - first to look for Rock Sparrow, which we only heard 'shrieking' in the trees, but secondly by the sight of 2 Egyptian, 2 Black and several Griffon Vultures, though as we moved off, a big spiral of birds was present ahead, with more and more streaming across in front - over 200 Griffon Vultures in total, with birds seemingly everywhere we looked! My comment that Monfragüe would be empty was not quite true, but it was more than evident that this was a day for searching for carrion, with near-perfect 'hunting' conditions - crystal clear skies, rising thermals and a light breeze.
Peñafalcón was graced by a few vultures and two Peregrines scything round the peak, but a big surprise was a red bill and long red legs 'joined' in the middle by a Black Stork!!! Two of these glorious birds stood on a pinnacle opposite, but were almost impossible to pick out against the shadows. A small group of children were simply amazed when invited to look through the 'scope at the two green and purple-glossed adults. While admiring these birds, two Red-billed Choughs, so poorly seen a few days before flew over, calling loudly before dropping down almost to the water level right in front in full sunlight. Very, very nice...
We pushed on through the reserve to spend all the time possible at the Portilla del Tiétar, though a whole series of cars and observers before this alerted us to the presence of something of interest. We stopped to watch another Black Stork, this time on a nest, while a quick question to a young Spanish couple revealed that we'd just missed an Otter! We stopped to scan the Portilla, though there were many fewer birds than before, partly due to the weather, but also probably due to a group of young, noisy Spanish students who'd climbed up the slopes behind us and were 'talking' loudly... more Griffons, and fly-over Black Vulture and a singing Blue Rock Thrush were the most notable species, but as I went back to the minibus to put the scope away, Brenda noticed ripples in the water and got David and Angie onto an Otter...! A minute later when I arrived, it was long-gone, but an excellent and well-earned sighting.
I put down my foot a bit to get some mileage under our belts, though several Red Kites punctuated the skies and a flock of c. 25 Common Cranes made a lovely sight against a backdrop of snow-capped mountains. Just past Navalmoral de la Mata, a couple of glances at a soaring bird confirmed my suspicions, and we pulled over briefly for brief, but more-than-adequate views of a fine Short-toed Eagle. Last ditch stuff!
Nearing Oropesa, I also saw that we were in good time, and we pulled off to search the back roads for half-an-hour to search for Black-shouldered Kite. The first came over in level flight before circling by the bus, though was difficult to pick out against the bright sky. As we neared the main again, I stopped for a picnic lunch stop, though just as we got back into the minibus, a hovering bird off to one side caught my eye and another Black-shouldered Kite was nicely visible! We watched it as it worked its way round until in front the town and as we approached the main road again, it was hovering at eye-level just 15 yards from the bus beside the slip-road... Even without binoculars the yellow legs were clearly visible!
OK, so surely it was over now! No, not quite, and a few km ahead, another Black-shouldered Kite, this time carrying a fine twig in its bill flew across the road in front!!!
The remainder of the drive was remarkably quiet, especially traffic-wise in Madrid and we arrived with plenty of time to have a coffee and polish-off the checklists, adding several new species to the final tally.
A converted farmhouse and buildings, but specifically designed to maintain their rustic character, Finca Santa Marta proved again to be a wonderful base for us to stay. The staff were attentive, led by the owner, Henri Elink, the food excellent, and the rooms comfortable. Birds abounded in the grounds and during the week, most people had excellent views there of Azure-winged Magpies amongst others. I would like to thank you all for making this such an enjoyable and interesting trip, especially David for noting that that it was very much a second choice since the dates just happened to be right! I look forward to seeing you again soon, and for pointing out the Mallards each day...
This is the combined list for the whole group. H = heard only; Emb. = Embalse (reservoir); FSM = Finca Santa Marta; R. = Río (river).
Little Grebe (T. ruficollis) : Seen on 5 days, with ones and twos on roadside ponds in widely scattered locations, but 10+ on the Emb. de Sierra Brava on 24th.
Great Crested Grebe (P. cristatus) : Noted on 4 days, with maxima at the Emb. de Sierra Brava of 6+ on 21st, and 20+ in total on the Embalses del Zújar, de Orellana & de Sierra Brava on 24th.
Black-necked [Eared] Grebe (P. nigricollis): Only seen at the Emb. de Sierra Brava, where 5+ on 21st and 1 on 24th.
[Great] Cormorant (P. carbo sinensis) : Seen daily, though never in large numbers, with a maximum of 15+ in Monfragüe N.P. on 25th. Plenty of adults of the strikingly white-headed and -thighed subspecies sinensis seen, though probably all were of this race.
Grey Heron (A. cinerea) : Small to moderate numbers daily, with odd birds scattered widely on the numerous pools and streams present after a wet winter. 6+ seen on both 21st and 23rd.
Cattle Egret (B. ibis) : Interestingly, only relatively small numbers noted daily except on 22nd. Large numbers however seen going to roost in the Emb. de Sierra Brava area on the evening of 24th.
Little Egret (E. garzetta) : Seen on 3 days: 2+ at the Emb. de Arrocampo on 20th, 6+ in the Madrigalejos rice fields on 21st, and 10+ in rice fields on 24th, especially near Vegas Altas.
Black Stork (C. nigra) : A last-day surprise, with three superb adults in Monfragüe N.P. on 25th.
White Stork (C. ciconia): Very common and seen daily with many nests on trees and buildings, most notably at FSM and the little church at Acedera.
Greylag Goose (A. anser): Just 7, rather distantly over rice fields N of Acedera on 24th.
[Eurasian] Wigeon (A. penelope) : Only seen, and distantly, at the Emb. de Sierra Brava, where 40+ on 21st and 20+ on 24th.
Gadwall (A. strepera) : Just 3 distant birds at the Emb. de Sierra Brava on 24th.
[Common] Teal (A. crecca) : 30+ at the Emb. de Sierra Brava on 21st.
Mallard (A. platyrhynchos) : A standing joke, with pairs seen very widely and daily even over apparently unsuitable steppe habitat...
[Northern] Shoveler (A. clypeata) : Remarkably large numbers included 30 at the pond by the Hotel David on 20th, 100+ at the Emb. de Sierra Brava on 21st and 24th and a single male on a pond near Sta. Marta de Magasca on 22nd.
Red-crested Pochard (N. rufina) : My first while leading a group to the area, of this extremely local species in Extremadura - a group (mostly males) of c. 35 on the Emb. de Sierra Brava on 21st.
Tufted Duck (A. fuligula) : A big surprise, and my first for the winter (!) were 10 males at the Emb. de Sierra Brava on 24th.
Black-winged Kite (E. caeruleus) : An excellent tally, though easier in winter than the rest of the year: a single hovering near the road just after Oropesa on 20th, a pair near Monroy on 22nd, two rather distantly near Vegas Altas on 24th and three individuals in the Oropesa area on 25th.
Black Kite (M. migrans) : Just one, rather distantly but watched for a good while near Sta. Marta de Magasca on 22nd.
Red Kite (M. milvus) : Noted daily in small to moderate numbers each day, with a maximum of 10+ at various sites on 21st near Madrigalejos and a beautiful pair perched at FSM on 25th.
Egyptian Vulture (N. percnopterus) : Adults noted on 3 days: 1 over the R. Almonte near Monroy on 22nd, with probably the same bird minutes later over the town square, 2 pairs at Monfragüe N.P. no 23rd and two over dehesa near Jaraicejo on 25th.
Eurasian Black / Monk Vulture (A. monachus) : Noted in small numbers on 4 days, with a superb view of one overhead near Sta. Marta de Magasca on 22nd and 10+ in total that day, and two fine birds perched at Monfragüe on 23rd.
[Eurasian] Griffon Vulture (G. fulvus) : Also seen on 4 days, though in rather larger number! Groups were seen on the ground near the Emb. de Sierra Brava on 21st and near Sta. Marta de Magasca on 22nd, while superb views of groups were noted at Monfragüe N.P. on 23rd (c.100), while well over 200 over the dehesas W of Jaraicejo on 25th was extraordinary.
Short-toed Eagle (C. gallicus) : An early bird, circling close to the NV a little E of Navalmoral de la Mata was a welcome addition on 25th.
Hen Harrier (C. cyaneus) : The first, a male disappearing behind the minibus near the Emb. de Sierra Brava on 21st was disappointing, but more than compensated for by a female near Sta. Marta de Magasca on 22nd, plus a superb male near Acedera and a female over La Serena on 24th.
[Eurasian] Marsh Harrier (C. aeruginosus) : Unusually high numbers, though only seen on 3 days: 1 juvenile at the Emb. de Arrocampo on 20th was typical, but at least 6 birds (10+ sightings) including two adult males in the Emb. de Sierra Brava / Madrigalejos rice fields area on 21st was very unusual, suggesting passage, with singles near Vegas Altas and near Madrigalejos on 24th more typical.
Eurasian Sparrowhawk (A. nisus) : Just the back end of one disappearing over the trees at FSM early morning on 25th!
Common Buzzard (B. buteo) : Moderate - large numbers seen daily, especially on posts in river valleys or over the dehesa.
Spanish Imperial Eagle (A. adalberti) : A distant pair of adults perched near a nest near Monfragüe N.P. on 22nd and a closer pair, the female with a radio-transmitter, in Monfragüe N.P. on 23rd.
Golden Eagle (A. chrysaetos) : A single, distant and all-too-brief immature over the Zorita steppes on 21st, fortunately bettered by another immature circling over Peñafalcón, Monfragüe N.P. on 23rd.
Bonelli's Eagle (H. fasciatus) : Remarkable! A juvenile over the R. Magasca near Sta. Marta de Magasca and a fine adult over the R. Almonte c. 30 minutes later on 22nd, and a juvenile briefly over the Salto del Gitano viewpoint, Monfragüe N.P. on 23rd. We're normally lucky to see one in a week!
Lesser Kestrel (F. naumanni) : Back in numbers early this year, and simply unbeatable views of c. 10 'pairs' perched on the roof of the bull-ring at Trujillo on 22nd, with c. 50 in total around Trujillo that day. Several also seen at various sites on La Serena on 24th and seen from the minibus at the bull-ring on 25th.
Common Kestrel (F. tinnunculus) : Noted in ones and twos almost daily.
Merlin (F. columbarius) : Records from our trips show this to be regular in the steppe areas. A simply gorgeous adult male perched on the ground on the Belén Plain on 22nd and one, probably a female, hunting over La Serena on 24th.
Peregrine Falcon (F. peregrinus): One, probably a young male, hunting over the Madrigalejos rice fields on 21st, and a pair around Peñafalcón, Monfragüe on 23rd and 25th.
Red-legged Partridge (A. rufa) : 2 beside the road on 20th, two seperate pairs also beside the road near Sta. Marta de Magasca on 22nd and two near the castle and another perched up and close in a mass of felled Eucalyptus in Monfragüe on 23rd.
Common Crane (G. grus) : Seen on 4 days: an impressive sight were 1000+ on active migration in flocks of 30 - c. 300, plus two (!) watched well on the ground in the Emb. de Sierra Brava / Madrigalejos rice fields area on 21st, while two distant flocks were seen migrating over the area N of Sta. Marta de Magasca on 22nd. Finally, c. 40 in total were seen in flight and on the ground in the Vegas Altas / Acedera area on 24th, and c. 25 were seen in flight over the R. Tiétar W of Majadas on 25th.
[Common] Quail (C. coturnix) : One, 'wetting its lips' in the rice fields N of Madrigalejos on 21st.
Water Rail (R. aquaticus) : Heard on 2 days: 2+ birds 'sharming' at the Emb. de Arrocampo on 20th, and 1 heard in the rice fields near Madrigalejos on 21st.
Common Moorhen (G. chloropus) : Small numbers seen on 4 days, especially in rice field areas: plenty on 21st near Madrigalejos and several, including two which were not well received there on 24th.
Purple Gallinule [Swamp-hen] (P. porphyrio) : c. 10 in total seen and heard at the Emb. de Arrocampo on 20th.
Common Coot (F. atra) : Apart from 2 at the Emb. de Arrocampo on 20th only seen at the Emb. de Sierra Brava where 100+ on 21st and 24th.
Little Bustard (T. tetrax) : Only seen on 2 days, but a fine flock of 60 on the Belén Plain early on 22nd on the ground and in flight, and 2 + 2 + 92 + 3 on La Serena on 24th, the large flock disturbed by a tractor and easily watched in flight but simply disappearing on landing.
Great Bustard (O. tarda) : A superb group of 15 males, whiskers and all, on the Belén Plain early on 22nd and a total of 32 (mostly males) in two main groups on La Serena on 24th.
Black-winged Stilt (H. himantopus) : Surprisingly, already present at the sad remains of the Trujillo fishponds, which seem destined to disappear imminently. 3 giving fine views there early on 22nd.
Stone-curlew (B. oedicnemus): 3 gave wonderful views on the Belén Plain early on 22nd, a pair elsewhere on the plain on the following evening and two different pairs on La Serena on 24th.
[European] Golden Plover (P. apricaria) : Excellent numbers seen on almost all steppe areas after the first on the Zorita steppe on 21st: 500-1000 on 21st, 50+ on the Belén Plain on 22nd, 50+ La Serena on 24th and several small flocks over the steppes towards Oropesa on 25th.
[Northern] Lapwing (V. vanellus) : Huge numbers in almost all steppe and rice field areas. My comment that I'd seen more on the first day than all winter was 'bettered' David's comment that he'd seen more that day than in the last 20 years!!!
Little Ringed Plover (C. dubius) : Early migrants or some wintering birds?: 5 at the Madrigalejos rice fields on 21st, 1 t the Trujillo (ex-) fish ponds on 22nd and three on the R. Almoste near Jaraicejo on 25th.
Black-tailed Godwit (L. limosa) : An amazing 4000+ in the Madrigalejos rice fields on 21st, but just 2 there on 24th! All were of the mainland European ssp. limosa.
Green Sandpiper (T. ochropus) : One, feeding in the R. Almonte N of Trujillo on 23rd was the only one, but gave excellent views.
Common Sandpiper (A. hypoleuca) : Singles on the R. Almonte N of Trujillo on 23rd and also on the R. Almonte near Jaraicejo on 25th, and one on a pond on La Serena on 24th.
[Common] Snipe (G. gallinago) : 1 in the Emb. de Arrocampo on 20th, 4 in the Madrigalejos rice fields on 21st and 1 in rice fields near Vegas Altas on 24th.
Ruff (P. pugnax) : At least 8 in the Madrigalejos rice fields on 21st.
Lesser Black-backed Gull (L. fuscus) : 50+ on both 21st and 24th, mainly in the Emb. de Sierra Brava / Madrigalejos rice fields area, but also La Serena and Vegas Altas areas on the latter date. Most adults were the paler graellsii race.
Black-headed Gull (L. ridibundus) : Large numbers in the Emb. de Sierra Brava / Madrigalejos rice fields area 21st and 24th and other scattered groups following the plough on other dates and at other sites.
Pin-tailed Sandgrouse (P. alchata) : Just one group of 7, seen briefly in flight as they disappeared towards the horizon on La Serena on 24th, was rather disapointing.
Black-bellied Sandgrouse (P. orientalis) : After poor flight views of 4 at the Belén Plain and two pairs near Sta. Marta de Magasca on 22nd, at least 25 in total including a group of 17 on the ground at La Serena on 24th was a relief.
Rock Dove/Feral Pigeon (C. livia) : Noted daily in variable number, all were Feral Pigeons of some type.
Stock Dove (C. oenas) : During the middle of lunch I pointed out a group of 12 passing S over the Madrigalejos rice fields on 21st, a surprisingly scarce bird in the area.
Wood Pigeon (C. palumbus) : Noted on just two days, with 2+ near Sta. Marta de Magasca on 22nd, and a flock of c. 100 moving NW over Monfragüe N.P. on 25th.
[Eurasian] Collared Dove (S. decaocto) : Very common, especially considering that it was unusual to find just 4 years ago! Birds seen daily, including at FSM, and small numbers in many small towns and villages.
Great Spotted Cuckoo (C. glandarius) : Seen on two days: 4, including two seen extremely well near Sta. Marta de Magasca on 22nd, and one also watched at close range on La Serena on 24th.
Little Owl (A. noctua) : 3+ calling and one seen in a holm oak 'grove' near Madrigalejos on 21st, and one calling at FSM on 24th.
Common Kingfisher (A. atthis): 2 calling on the R. Magasca near Sta. Marta de Magasca on 22nd, 1 + fish (!) in Monfragüe N.P. on 22nd and 2 at the Emb. de Orellana dam and 2 over the R. Ruecas near Madrigalejos on 24th.
[Eurasian] Hoopoe (U. epops) : Seen daily from 21st, though in small number at first, in generally increasing number later, with up to 3 singing at FSM early morning on 25th.
Great Spotted Woodpecker (D. major) : Singles drumming FSM on 23rd and 25th and one 'pikking' in Monfragüe N.P. on 23rd.
Green Woodpecker (P. viridis) : SIngles 'yaffling' at FSM on 21st and 23rd.
Calandra Lark (M. calandra) : Noted on 4 days, with large numbers on almost all the steppes visited, and amazing amounts of song at La Serena, though also seen on the Zorita steppes, the Belén Plain and near Santa Marta de Magasca.
Crested Lark (G. cristata) : Seen daily in variable numbers, especially on roadsides and in steppe areas.
Thekla Lark (G. theklae) : 2+ amongst the 'crested' larks by the R. Almonte N of Trujillo on 23rd, and interestingly, 1 on La Serena and a pair by the Emb. de La Serena dam on 24th.
Wood Lark (L. arborea) : Notably few: 4 near Monroy, including one singing on 22nd, and singles heard at Monfragüe N.P. on 23rd and at FSM on 25th.
[Eurasian] Sky Lark (A. arvensis) : Lots of wintering birds in the steppe areas: 100+ on the Zorita steppes on 21st, and plenty on the Belén Plain on 22nd and 23rd and on La Serena on 24th.
[Eurasian] Crag Martin (H. rupestris) : 5 around the bridge over the R. Magasca near Santa Marta de Magasca on 22nd, 50+ in Monfragüe on 23rd and 25th, and small numbers round each of the reservoir dams on 24th.
Barn Swallow (H. rustica) : Noted daily, and in increasing number, with migrants passing over at several sites, though not seen until c. 100 km from Madrid.
Red-rumped Swallow (H. daurica) : Just one, briefly and high over Monfragüe N.P. on 23rd.
[Common] House Martin (D. urbica) : Noted daily from 21st, with especially good numbers in Trujillo on 22nd, the Emb. de Orellana dam on 24th, and over Jaraicejo on 25th.
White Wagtail (M. alba) : Noted daily in god numbers, with many dozens in rice fields, especially near Vegas Altas on 24th. All were ssp. alba.
Grey Wagtail (M. cinerea) : At least 5 in the Madrigalejos rice fields / Emb. de Sierra Brava area on 21st.
Meadow Pipit (A. pratensis) : Seen daily in variable number on all the steppe areas and most rice fields.
Water Pipit (A. spinoletta) : One moulting to summer plumage on the Zorita steppes on 21st was tricky, though 3+ in the Vegas Altas rice fields on 24th were more easily identified.
Southern Grey Shrike (L. meridionalis) : Widely scattered birds on 4 days, with a maximum of 10+ on 24th, especially in the Vegas Altas area on 24th.
[Winter] Wren (T. troglodytes) : One heard and sometimes seen at FSM daily from 22nd, with one also in the Madrigalejos rice fields on 21st.
Hedge Accentor [Dunnock] (P. modularis) : Singles at Monfrgüe N.P. on 23rd and at FSM early on 24th.
Blue Rock Thrush (M. solitarius) : Noted on 3 days: a male by the R. Almonte S of Monroy on 22nd, a male and a female at Monfragüe N.P. on 23rd and two males there on 25th.
[Common] Blackbird (T. merula) : Noted daily in small numbers at FSM, Monfragüe, rice fields, etc.
Song Thrush (T. philomelos) : Noted daily from 22nd, especially around FSM, in small - moderate number.
Redwing (T. iliacus) : At least 3 flighty birds in ochards at FSM on 25th.
Mistle Thrush (T. viscivorus) : Noted on 4 days: one near the Hotel David on 20th, one near Torrejón el Rubio on 22nd, one singing by the Emb. de Orellana dam on 24th and 3 N of Monfragüe on 25th.
Bluethroat (L. svecica) : A superb white-spotted male working its way along the edge of a rice field near Madrigalejos on 24th was fine reward for persistence, though flushed by two Moorhens and not to be seen again. This was probably ssp. svecica, though cyanecula cannot be ruled out.
[European] Robin (E. rubecula) : Seen in small numbers on 3 days at widely spread sites.
Black Redstart (P. ochruros) : Noted in ones or twos at various sites on 4 days, including males by the R. Almonte and in Monfragüe and by the Emb de Sierra Brava on 21st.
[Common] Stonechat (S. torquata) : Seen in small numbers in numerous locations daily.
Fan-tailed Warbler [Zitting Cisticola] (C. juncidis) : Three heard and seen 'zitting' at the Emb. de Arrocampo on 20th, several in the Madrigalejos rice fields on 21st and Vegas Altas on 24th.
Cetti's Warbler (C. cetti) : Birds heard on 4 days: 4+ at the Emb. de Arrocampo on 20th, several in the Madrigalejos rice fields on 21st, one singing at Monfragüe N.P. on 23rd and at the R. Ruecas on 24th.
Common Chiffchaff (P. collybita) : Noted widely in small numbers on all days except 22nd.
Blackcap (S. atricapilla) : Noted daily in moderate-high number at many sites, but especially FSM and Monfragüe N.P. on 23rd.
Sardinian Warbler (S. melanocephala) : Noted on 4 days: at the Madrigalejos rice fields 2 on 21st and one on 24th, a fine male at Monfragüe N.P. on 23rd and one at FSM early on 25th.
Firecrest (R. ignicapillus) : At least 4 high in pines in Monfragüe on 23rd, though they made up for the non-Crested Tit!
Long-tailed Tit (A. caudatus) : 3 grey-backed birds by the Madrigalejos rice fields on 21st, several in pines at Monfragüe N.P. on 23rd and 1 calling by the R. Almonte near Jaraicejo on 25th.
Crested Tit (P. cristatus) : 2 calling in pines at Monfragüe on 23rd.
Great Tit (P. major) : A few heard and seen on 5 days at various sites.
Blue Tit (P. caeruleus) : Only seen in very small number on three days: at Monfragüe N.P. on 23rd and at FSM on 24th and 25th.
Short-toed Treecreeper (C. brachydactyla) : Just 2+ singing at Monfragüe N.P. on 23rd and at FSM on 25th.
Eurasian Jay (G. glandarius) : 3 at Monfragüe N.P. on 23rd.
Azure-winged Magpie (C. cyanus) : Seen daily, mostly the resident group at FSM, but also along many roads in amost all dehesa areas.
[Black-billed] Magpie (P. pica) : Noted daily in small - moderate number.
[Red-billed] Chough (P. pyrrhocorax) : After extremely brief views of the Monfragüe castle pair on 23rd, excellent views of them on 25th were warmly welcomed.
[Western] Jackdaw (C. monedula) : Noted daily in small number from 21st - 24th.
[Common] Raven (C. corax) : Seen on 5 days, with pairs seen widely, especially on steppe habitats, with maxima of 6+ on 22nd and 3+ pairs on 24th.
Spotless Starling (S. unicolor) : Seen well each day, especially at FSM, and with flocks present in most steppe and dehesa areas.
Cirl Bunting (E. cirlus) : 2 fine males by the R. Almonte N of Trujillo on 23rd and 2 also by the R. Almonte near Jaraicejo on 25th.
Rock Bunting (E. cia) : Only seen at Monfragüe N.P. with 3 on 23rd.
[Common] Reed Bunting (E. schoeniclus) : One, probably a first-winter female feeding in bulrushes at the Emb. de Arrocampo on 20th.
Corn Bunting (M. calandra) : Common and widespread and seen and heard daily from 21st.
[Common] Chaffinch (F. coelebs) : Noted daily from 21st, with small numbers at various sites, but especially in the orchards at FSM.
Brambling (F. montifringilla) : One calling and passing over in flight, dropped into the orchards at FSM, though could not be relocated. John only, sadly...
[European] Serin (S. serinus) : After the first 2 at the Hotel David on 20th, seen daily, in generally small number at various sites, but with an attractive flock of 30+ (mostly males) near Vegas Altas on 24th.
[European] Greenfinch (C. chloris) : Seen on just 3 days: 1 near the Emb. de Arrocampo on 20th, 1 in the Madrigalejos rice fields on 21st and 2 on La serena on 24th.
[European] Goldfinch (C. carduelis) : Noted on 4 days, and common on the steppes, but after 100+ on the Zorita steppes on 21st under-recorded.
[Common] Linnet (C. cannabina) : Noted only on 4 days, with small flocks at various sites, especially the Zorita steppes and Belén Plain.
Hawfinch (C. coccothaustes) : Noted on 4 days, though none were seen perched... Single fly-bys at FSM on 21st and 25th, 2+ heard and 1 seen in flight by the R. Magasca near Sta. Marta de Magasca on 22nd, and a total of 10+ at Monfragüe N.P. on 23rd, including a fine flock of 6 overhead in flight.
Common Waxbill (E. astrild) : A lovely flock of 7 on a rice field bank near Madrigalejos on 21st.
Red Avadavat (A. amandava) : In the MAdrigalejos rice fields a total of 50+ on 21st and 8 on 24th, though no 'flying strawberries' amongst them.
House Sparrow (P. domesticus) : Noted every day and generally common,even well awy from occupied buildings.
Spanish Sparrow (P. hispaniolensis) : Seen on 4 days, 30+ near the Emb. de Arrocampo on 20th, 25+ near Madrigalejos on 21st, plenty on the Belén Plain on 22nd and plenty on the 24th, especially in the Vegas Altas area.
Rock Sparrow (P. petronia) : Heard near Monfragüe on 22nd and near Jaraicejo on 25th.
Western Hedgehog: One dead on road nr Sta. Marta de Magasca on 22nd.
Otter: One of the sightings of the trip, which I didn't see... One with a fish in Monfragüe N.P. on 25th.
Badger: One dead beside road (K24.8 of EX 108) on 25th.
Red Fox: Two on the Belén Plain early on 22nd.
Rabbit: Noted nr Sta. Marta de Magasca on 22nd and one on 23rd.
REPTILES & AMPHIBIANS: Moorish Gecko (Tarentola mauretanica) at FSM on several nights, inc. 2 in the dining room; numerous Stripe-necked Terrapins (Mauremys caspica) in the R. Magasca and a pond near the R. Almonte on 22nd. Natterjack Toads (Bufo calamita) kept up a constant chorus nightly during the evenings at FSM; Iberian Pool Frog (Rana perezi) was seen at the Madrigalejos rice fields on 21st and heard at other sites; Striped Tree Frog (Hyla arborea) was heard calling on the steppes during lunch near the Emb. de Sierra Brava and in the Madrigalejos rice fields on 21st; another toad, sp., possibly Spadefoot Toad was also heard calling on a couple of nights at FSM.
Western Dappled White (Euchloe simplonia) : Seen in numbers on 22nd.
Green-striped White (Euchloe belemia) : Seen in quantity on 21st and 22nd.
Clouded Yellow (Colis croceus) : One male by the R. Almonte near Monroy on 22nd.
Brimstone (Gonepteryx rhamni) : A possible female (or next sp.?) near Madrigalejos on 21st.
Cleopatra (Gonepteryx cleopatra) : Plentiful by the R. Magasca on 22nd and odd ones seen after this.
Provençe Hairstreak (Tomares ballus) : A fine specimen by the bridge over the R. Magasca on 22nd.
Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta) : Just one along the canal by the Madrigalejos rice fields on 21st.
Small Heath (Coenonympha pamphilus) : One by the bridge over the R. Magasca on 22nd.
OTHER TAXA: included Hummingbird Hawk-moth (Macroglossum stellatarum) at FSM and in the bar at Monfragüe N.P.!
[Nos. on the right refer to Grey-Wilson & Blamey, Mediterranean Wild Flowers]
Pinaceae: Pinus pinea Stone / Umbrella Pine (3)
Fagaceae: Quercus rotundifolia Evergreen Oak (26)
Quercus suber Cork Oak (27)
Ulmaceae: Celtis australis Southern Nettle Tree (39)
Caryophyllaceae: Spergularia purpurea Purple Sand-spurrey (148)
Silene colorata (180)
Ranunculaceae: Ranunculus sp. Water Crowfoot sp.
Fumariaceae: Fumaria capreolata Ramping Fumitory (303)
Cruciferae: Raphanus raphanistrum Wild Radish (369)
Rosaceae: Rosa canina Dog Rose
Leguminosae: Cytisus multiflorus White Broom
Astragalus lusitanicus 'Iberian' Milk-vetch (504)
Cistaceae: Cistus ladanifer Gum Cistus (971)
Ericaceae: Erica arborea Tree Heath (most of the white ones) (1178)
?Erica lusitanica Portuguese Heath (some of the white ones?) (1179)
Erica australis Spanish Heath (the big pink one) (1181)
Labiatae: Rosmarinus officinalis Rosemary (1526)
Lavandula stoechas French Lavender (1528)
Scrophulariaceae: Linaria amethystea 'Amethyst Toadflax'
Compositae: Chamaemelum nobile Chamomile (1884)
Liliaceae: Hyacinthoides hispanica Spanish Bluebell
Narcissus triandrus ssp. pallidulus the pale daffodil sp.
Narcissus bulbocodium Hoop-petticoat Narcissus (2281)
Iridaceae: Romulea ramiflora Sand Crocus sp. (2316)
Romulea columnae Sand Crocus (2320)
This list has been drawn up after some post-trip homework using both Blamey & Grey-Wilson's Mediterranean Wild Flowers and the 'Flora y vegetación de Extremadura' thus names to the odd thing we didn't get to species level in the field.