31st March- 6th April 2001

John Muddeman and Tim Earl

It is difficult to imagine a more perfect setting for birdwatchers to shrug off the winter blues and enjoy birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, flowers, butterflies and even fish, in such abundance. Besides the glorious setting, we stayed in the comfortable and charming Finca Santa Marta - a converted olive farm 10km from the pretty country town of Trujillo.


31 March

The trip started with a couple of stops along the road from Madrid to Trujillo, enabling us to see the first Barn Swallows and House Martins of the year. Corn Buntings are super abundant in central Spain but their calls can be confused with those of Serin, which are also common birds, and we spent a few moments sorting the two out. As we crossed into Extremadura a 'kettle' of raptors greeted us - it included the rare Black (Cinereous), Griffon and uncommon Egyptian Vultures.

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. It was a pair of Purple Herons which stole the show, however, as they performed a most elegant display-flight over the reed beds in which they breed. The heron family features prominently in this stop and Little Bittern, Little and Cattle Egrets, plus Grey Heron were all added to the list. Warblers were excellent here too with Zitting Cisticola (Fan-Tailed Warbler), Sedge, Cetti's and Savi's heard and observed well. Spanish Sparrows and Stonechats added to the variety of this 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. 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 Little and European Scops from the chorus of frogs and toads singing in nearby pools.

1 April

Steve picked up the calls of a Wryneck at day-break the following morning. This was followed by Green Sandpiper and Little Ringed Plover, seen by the group feeding in the corner of a field which was still flooded from the extensive winter rains, and adding to John's extensive bird list for the hotel grounds.

We stopped in Trujillo to study Pallid Swifts in perfect light on the way to our first morning on the steppes. A mini-masterclass was held as the finer points of identification were revealed by John.

The rolling steppes of Extremadura are one of Europe's rarest habitats and a major reason for coming to this beautiful part of Spain. Getting out onto the Belén Plain really stepped up the pace with our first shrikes, Southern Grey and Woodchat, plus a fly-past pair of Black-Bellied Sandgrouse within minutes. We spent the day in utter bliss exploring the plain and enjoying the new wildlife each stop brought. Raptors were well represented with Griffon, Black and Egyptian vultures in the air and feeding at various sites. A Golden Eagle put in an appearance along with a pale-phase Booted Eagle. Marsh and Montagu's Harriers were seen as were Buzzard and vast numbers of Black Kites.

But it was the prospect of bustards which took us to the plains and we were not disappointed with nine Great and six Little Bustards. The Greats are huge creatures which give off an air of supremacy. Little Bustards are also large, except when compared with Great Bustard, and are real characters. They were present in only small numbers this year and we were deprived of their somewhat vulgar 'pfffrt' calls.

One of the least common birds of prey in Europe is the Lesser Kestrel and we were delighted to see lots soaring and hovering over the grasslands. They breed in Trujillo and swarm out over the plains to hunt insects, beetles and small rodents. Calandra, Crested and Short-toed Larks vied with each other as they sang over the steppes, Zitting Cisticolas bobbed over cornfields and a group of Rock Sparrows ended the day's delights.

2 April

Trujillo was the venue for our second morning where, besides buying a few necessities such as batteries and postcards, 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 14 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, finding Viperine and Ladder Snakes under a log and a Spanish Psammodromus lizard. Butterflies were flitting around the flowers while a succession of birds, including Osprey, 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 Teal and Pochard for variety. Black-winged Stilts, Greenshanks and a Common Sandpiper flew the flag for the waders while a migrant Willow Warbler and a pair of Long-tailed Tits represented the small brown jobs.

After the walk we jumped back into the minibuses for another drive across the plains where we saw a flock of 29 Great Bustards including a huge 'plains master' which made a poor attempt at displaying to a group of females nearby.

3 April

Our route to Monfragüe Natural Park took us over the Rio Tozo further upstream the following morning and in a car park next to the stream we examined a pair of Crested Larks closely, trying to make them into Thekla Larks, without success. They suddenly flew up calling as a dog Red Fox ran down the path, its mate crossing the road to our left. They had been flushed by a warden in a Land Rover.

As we all exchanged comments about the lucky sighting, John picked up the song-flight of a Thekla Lark showing its grey underwings as it fluttered and sang above our heads. The Rio Almonte, some distance further along the bouncy road to the park, produced a few Crag Martins, Woodchat Shrikes and a Mistle Thrush.

On arrival in the park we climbed by foot to the summit of the Castillo de Monfragüe where besides the stunning views across the whole area, a Black Redstart and a Blue Rock Thrush sang to us as we admired a Red-legged Partridge which posed on a rock for 15 minutes. Rock Bunting was also at the summit, singing from the ruins while the eagle-eyed among us were able to see the eye-colour of passing Griffon Vultures.

A few minutes down the road saw us again piling out of the buses at the incredible Peñafalcón look-out where we ate lunch surrounded by song birds and watching a vast colony of Griffon Vultures who shared the cliff opposite with Black Storks.

An attempt to find Eagle Owl failed - its nest site of last year had been taken over by a Griffon!

Our return to the hotel was late following the action-packed day but we were content with the results.

4 April

We pulled triumph from the jaws of disaster the following morning when John's bus blew its engine while he was in Trujillo trying to get a diesel leak fixed.

Tim took the group for a walk down the former main road past the hotel grounds into an area of olive groves. A fluting Wood Lark performed its display-flight overhead several times as if to say 'this is a Spanish greeting to compensate for your disrupted morning'. Its pals joined in and soon we had seen a flock of seven Bee-eaters hawking their prey from a nearby telephone wire, two Hawfinches, three Blue Rock Thrushes and a small flock of Crag Martins which had come down from the mist-shrouded hills nearby.

Shuttling the group to a reservoir half-an-hour away gave us the afternoon in another brilliant area. Black-necked Grebes vied with Black-eared Wheatears for the best 'oooh' exclamation from everyone while a flock of more than 200 Cattle Egrets which were following a plough added a touch more of the exotic. Rice fields nearby were the next stop on our eventful day. Smoke was drifting overhead as the dry stubble from last year's crop was burned.

As we were watching large flocks of Red Avadavats and Common Waxbills in the bramble hedges, the calls of birds caught our attention. Four Collared Pratincoles were swooping through the smoke above us as they hawked insects flushed by the fires. 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 textbooks and we were delighted to see such unusual behaviour.

Tim shuttled the group back to the hotel but recognised a spot on the rolling plain where we discovered four Great Bustards displaying in earnest. Like giant puffballs with legs they strutted around the fields watched by 14 females and immature males.

Adding to this theatrical event were Calandra Larks which provided the musical backdrop.

This was one of the great highlights of the trip as displaying bustards are never easy. The performance was still going as the second group passed through - albeit in the final stages - but they had the further reward of seven Little Bustards which flew past as we watched the bigger cousins.

5 April

John led a pre-breakfast walk up to pines above the Finca Santa Marta where a pair of Rock Sparrows was found close to the rust-coloured stripped trunks of Cork Oaks.

Our day's excursions started with a visit to Santa Marta de Magasca where we had great views of Great Spotted Cuckoos being mobbed by Magpies, which act as hosts to this Southern European speciality. The cuckoos have a call quite unlike their northern cousins - a harsh chatter. Nearby we watched a male Hoopoe feeding its mate - a choosy soul which had to be tempted with only the finest morsels.

The plains outside Santa Marta are cultivated - a feature which attracts and hides sandgrouse. We searched the ploughed fields for ages until two male and one female Black-bellied Sandgrouse were discovered. Getting all the 'scopes onto them and then making sure everyone had seen the birds proved almost as difficult. Another group of three were found giving slightly better views. John heard Pin-tailed Sandgrouse calling but we were unable to find them.

As usual, Extremadura presented us with compensation in the form of a field full of displaying Montagu's Harriers. 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.

Lunch was eaten above the Rio Magasca, a deep gorge used by raptors to gain height. The full range was seen again, identified quite easily with the experience of the last few days. Most of them, that is… an immature Bonelli's Eagle was a first for the trip, to be followed a few minutes later by an adult. Six Booted Eagles were seen - both pale and dark phases - together with a couple of Short-toed. This was turning into a raptor bonanza.

We turned our eyes downwards, however, when a Kingfisher was called on the bank of the river. Once admired most heads went heavenwards, except for Tim's - he picked up a Black Wheatear flitting across the river. It hid among rocks for some time but eventually condescended to show itself to the group.

A late coffee in the town (where the castle is up for sale at 300m pesetas - a snip) was followed by a last birding site to look for the elusive and beautiful Black-shouldered Kite - with success. Brian found one sitting on a bush in the distance, eating something at first and then preening. A Quail called from a nearby field to be joined by the distinctive call of Little Bustard, to the mirth of most.

Almost at the point of leaving a young immature Golden Eagle drifted over giving us spectacular views to the delight of the whole group… except the leaders. We were in a quandary. Having seen four of the five eagles possible should we return to the Finca or try for the last - Spanish Imperial? The latter choice was made - getting the big five in one day is difficult. And so it proved too. There were no birds on a secret nest site visited on the way back.

Ironically, Spanish Imperial Eagle was one of the birds we saw the following morning as we drove through Monfragüe Natural Park on our way back to Madrid Airport. We had seen the big five in a 24-hour period, but not on the same day. In what had become a tradition for this trip we continued adding new species of birds to the list with a superb flock of 32 Alpine Swifts low over a bridge in the park.

Soon we were forced into the pre-Easter traffic around Madrid, but it seemed not to matter. Everyone went quiet as the birds of Extremadura slipped behind us and we were all left dipping into happy memories.

Tim Earl & John Muddeman



Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis A few almost daily

Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus Common on most lakes and reservoirs

Black-necked (Eared) Grebe Podiceps nigricollis Embalse de Sierra Brava (10+ 4th)


Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo Small numbers in various places

Herons, Egrets & Bitterns

Grey Heron Ardea cinerea Embalse de Arrocampo (10+) small numbers daily

Purple Heron Ardea purpurea Embalse de Arrocampo (20+)

Little Egret Egretta garzetta Embalse de Arrocampo (1)

Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis Various (max 200+ Madrigalejo rice fields 4th)

Little Bittern Ixobrychus minutus Embalse de Arrocampo (1)



Black Stork Ciconia nigra Monfragüe (max three pairs 3rd)

White Stork Ciconia ciconia Abundant


Swans, Geese & Ducks

Gadwall Anas strepera Embalse de Arrocampo (3) Embalse del Tozo (20+ on 2nd)

Green-winged Teal Anas crecca Embalse del Tozo (six on 2nd)

Mallard Anas platyrhynchos A few daily

Common Pochard Aythya ferina Embalse del Tozo (one on 2nd)



Osprey Pandion haliaetus Embalse del Tozo (one on 2nd)


Hawks, Eagles & Kites

Black-shouldered Kite Elanus caeruleus Near Monroy (one on 5th)

Red Kite Milvus milvus Several daily

Black Kite Milvus migrans Abundant

Egyptian Vulture Neophron percnopterus Singles most days, Monfragüe (10+ on 3rd)

Eurasian Griffon Vulture Gyps fulvus Abundant

Cinereous (Black) Vulture Aegypius monachus Several daily

Short-toed Eagle Circaetus gallicus One or two most days, Monfragüe (six on 3rd)

Western Marsh-Harrier Circus aeruginosus Embalse de Arrocampo (pair) Belén Plain (one on 1st)

Northern Harrier Circus cyaneus Belén Plain (male on 2nd)

Montagu's Harrier Circus pygargus Singles every day, Santa Marta de Magasca (22 on 5th)

Eurasian Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus Monfragüe (two on 2nd)

Eurasian Buzzard Buteo buteo Several daily

Spanish Eagle Aquila adalberti Monfragüe (4th-year bird on 3rd, adult on 5th)

Golden Eagle Aquila chrysaetos Belén Plain (singles 1st and 2nd), near Monroy (immature on 5th)

Bonelli's Eagle Hieraaetus fasciatus Rio Almonte (two adults and immature on 5th)

Booted Eagle Hieraaetus pennatus Pale and dark phase birds seen daily, max six on 5th


Falcons & Caracaras

Lesser Kestrel Falco naumanni Abundant Trujillo and Belén Plain

Eurasian Kestrel Falco tinnunculus A few daily

Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus Monfragüe (two males and female on 3rd)


Pheasants & Partridges

Red-legged Partridge Alectoris rufa Common in suitable habitat.

Common Quail Coturnix coturnix Heard on 1st, 4th and 5th


Rails, Gallinules & Coots

Water Rail Rallus aquaticus Embalse de Arrocampo (4)

Purple Swamphen Porphyrio porphyrio Embalse de Arrocampo (10+)

Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus A few on larger ponds

Eurasian Coot Fulica atra Embalse del Tozo (two on 2nd) Embalse Sierra Brava (eight on 4th)



Great Bustard Otis tarda Maximum 29 Belén Plain

Little Bustard Tetrax tetrax A few daily Belén Plain



Avocets & Stilts

Black-Winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus Embalse del Tozo (20+ 2nd)



Eurasian Thick-knee (Stone-curlew) Burhinus oedicnemus Pair Belén Plain 1st + 2nd


Pratincoles & Coursers

Collared Pratincole Glareola pratincola Madrigalejo rice fields (four on 4th)


Plovers & Lapwings

Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius Finca Santa Marta (two 1st) Trujillo (eight 2nd)



Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago Embalse de Arrocampo (5)

Common Greenshank Tringa nebularia Embalse del Tozo (two 2nd)

Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus Singles on most ponds Belén Plain

Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos Singles Trujillo and Embalse del Tozo on 2nd



Lesser Black-Backed Gull Larus fuscus Embalse Sierra Brava (four on 4th)

Black-headed Gull Larus ridibundus Embalse del Tozo (one 2nd)



Black-bellied Sandgrouse Pterocles orientalis Belén Plain (two on 2nd) Santa Marta de Magasca (six on 5th)

Pigeons & Doves

Rock Dove Columba livia Common in towns

Common Wood-Pigeon Columba palumbus Various (10+)

Eurasian Collared-Dove Streptopelia decaocto Finca Santa Marta (up to five daily)



Great Spotted Cuckoo Clamator glandarius Belén Plain (two on 2nd) Santa Marta de Magasca (five on 5th)

Common Cuckoo Cuculus canorus Several daily from the 4th


Typical Owls

European Scops-Owl Otus scops Finca Santa Marta, heard daily (nightly!)

Little Owl Athene noctua Finca Santa Marta, seen daily



Alpine Swift Tachymarptis melba Monfragüe NP (32 on 6th)

Pallid Swift Apus pallidus Trujillo (colony of about 60)



Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis Singles Embalse de Arrocampo (31st) and Rio Almonte (2nd)


European Bee-eater Merops apiaster Parties of up to 10 birds seen daily



Eurasian Hoopoe Upupa epops Up to five seen daily



Eurasian Wryneck Jynx torquilla Finca Santa Marta (one heard on 1st by Steve)

Great Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos major Finca Santa Matra bird head drumming daily, seen occasionally

Green Woodpecker Picus viridis Madrid (one on 31st)



Calandra Lark Melanocorypha calandra Common on the plains (max 20+ Belén Plain 1st)

Greater Short-toed Lark Calandrella brachydactyla Belén Plain (two on 1st) Zorita Plain (two on 4th) Rio Almonte (one on 5th)

Crested Lark Galerida cristata Abundant

Thekla Lark Galerida theklae Rio Tozo (one on 3rd)

Wood Lark Lullula arborea Finca Santa Marta (two singing over the orchards daily); singles elsewhere



Bank Swallow Riparia riparia Aldeacentenara Madroñera (one on 1st) Embalse Sierra Brava (three on 5th)

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


Wagtails & Pipits

White Wagtail Motacilla alba Common, up to six daily

Meadow Pipit Anthus pratensis A few seen most day (max four Zorita Plain on 4th)

Water Pipit Anthus spinoletta Belén Plain (three on 2nd)



Winter Wren Troglodytes troglodytes Finca Santa Marta (one in the woodpile daily); a few elsewhere.



Blue Rock Thrush Monticola solitarius Monfragüe (five pairs on 3rd) Finca Santa Marta (three on 4th)

Eurasian Blackbird Turdus merula Common, a few daily

Mistle Thrush Turdus viscivorus Singles most days (max three on 1st)



Zitting Cisticola (Fan-tailed Warbler) Cisticola juncidis Abundant


Old World Warblers

Cetti's Warbler Cettia cetti Embalse de Arrocampo (four on 31st) Madrigalejo rice fields (six on 4th)

Savi's Warbler Locustella luscinioides Embalse de Arrocampo (two on 31st)

Sedge Warbler Acrocephalus schoenobaenus Embalse de Arrocampo (one on 31st)

Willow Warbler Phylloscopus trochilus Singles heard and seen on 2nd, 4th and 6th

Iberian Chiffchaff Phylloscopus brehmii Monfragüe Castle (one on 3rd)

Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla A few most days including a pair at Finca Santa Marta

Sardinian Warbler Sylvia melanocephala Common, a few males heard or seen daily

Dartford Warbler Sylvia undata Aldeacentenara Madroñera (six displaying males 1st) Monfragüe (one on 3rd)


Old World Chats

European Robin Erithacus rubecula Monfragüe (one heard on 3rd)

Common Nightingale Luscinia megarhynchos Madrigalejo rice fields (two on 4th) Monfragüe (one on 6th)

Black Redstart Phoenicurus ochruros Monfragüe (three pairs on 3rd)

Common Stonechat Saxicola torquata Abundant

Black Wheatear Oenanthe leucura Rio Almonte (one on 5th)

Northern Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe A few seen daily on the plains including Greenland race O. o. leucorrhoa on 1st

Black-Eared Wheatear Oenanthe hispanica Embalse Sierra Brava three males (two white-throated, one black-throated form) and one female on 4th

Long-tailed Tits

Long-tailed Tit Aegithalos caudatus Common, pairs seen daily



Great Tit Parus major Common

Blue Tit Cyanistes caeruleus Common



Eurasian Nuthatch Sitta europaea Aldeacentenara Madroñera (two on 1st)



Short-toed Treecreeper Certhia brachydactyla Common, seen and heard daily



Southern Grey Shrike Lanius meridionalis Common, up to 10 seen daily

Woodchat Shrike Lanius senator Common, up to six seen daily


Crows & Jays

Azure-winged Magpie Cyanopica cyana Common, up to 50 seen daily

(Black-billed) Magpie Pica pica Common, up to 20 seen daily

Red-billed Chough Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax Monfragüe (Pair on 3rd)

Eurasian Jackdaw Corvus monedula Common, especially in Trujillo

Common Raven Corvus corax Common, up to 10 seen daily



Spotless Starling Sturnus unicolor Abundant


Old World Sparrows

House Sparrow Passer domesticus Abundant

Spanish Sparrow Passer hispaniolensis Common, flocks of up to 30 seen daily

Rock Petronia (Sparrow) Petronia petronia Finca Santa Marta (a pair in the orchard daily) Belén Plain (three on 2nd)


Waxbills & Allies

Common Waxbill Estrilda astrild Madrigalejo rice fields (35+ on 4th)

Red Avadavat Amandava amandava Madrigalejo rice fields (100+ on 4th)



Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs Common

European Greenfinch Carduelis chloris A few seen including a flock of 12 on 4th

European Goldfinch Carduelis carduelis Abundant

Eurasian Linnet Carduelis cannabina Common, up to 10+ seen daily

European Serin Serinus serinus Abundant



Cirl Bunting Emberiza cirlus Finca Santa Marta (a pair nesting in the garden) a few elsewhere

Rock Bunting Emberiza cia Monfragüe (three pairs on 3rd)

Reed Bunting Emberiza schoeniclus Embalse de Arrocampo (three on 31st)

Corn Bunting Emberiza calandra Abundant

MAMMALS: Western Hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus) - odd ones dead on roads on 31st March and 2nd April; medium-sized bat sp. - several bats were seen around the lights at FSM and also in Trujillo, but none could be identified with certainty; Common Mole (Talpa europea) presence noted due to 'hills' near Monroy on 5th April; Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes) - two by the río Tozo and one crossed the road in front of the first bus in Monfragüe N.P. on 3rd April; Red Deer (Cervus elaphus) - 3 in Monfragüe on 6th; 'Iberian' Hare (Lepus sp. *) - 1+ seen from the vehicles en rout to EX on 31st March, and 2 by the Emb. del Tozo on 2nd; Wood Mouse (Apodemus sylvaticus) - one under a metal sheets near the Emb. del Tozo on 2nd; Rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) - 3+ from the vehicles en route to EX on 31st March, one on the Belén Plain on 1st April and 6+ in the Sta. Marta de Magasca area on 5th.

*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: Natterjack Toad (Bufo calamita) one under rocks in Monfragüe N.P. on 3rd and one at FSM on 4th; Western Spadefoot Toad (Pelobates cultripes) - numerous enormous tadpoles seen in a stream on the Belén Plain on 1st April belonged to this species; Iberian Pool Frog (Rana perezi) was frequent in the rivers and pools, with its 'laughing' heard in various places; European Tree Frog (Hyla arborea) - 4-5 were heard calling, with just one seen briefly in the Madrigalejo rice fields on 4th; a Sharp-ribbed Salmander (Pleurodeles waltl) was under a rock on the Belén Plain on 1st April; 3+ Marbled Newts (Triturus marmoratus) were under rocks on the Belén Plain on 1st April and another was under a piece of wood near Aldeacentenara on the same day. 1-2 Moorish Geckos (Tarentola mauretanica) were at FSM on 31st March and 1st April; almost nightly; Spanish Psammodromus (Psammodromus hispanicus) lizards were common on the Belén Plain on 1st and 2nd April; small numbers of Large Psammodromus (Psammodromus algirus) were seen at Monfragüe N.P. on 3rd, Madrigalejo rice fields on 4th and by the río Almonte on 5th; the strange Amphisbaenian or Worm-snake (Blanus cinereus) was a treat to see near the Emb. del Tozo on 2nd April, with 2 for good measure!; the numerous terrapins seen on the Belén Plain, Emb. del Tozo, Madrigalejos rice fields and ríos Ruecas, Tozo & Almonte were Stripe-necked Terrapins (Mauremys caspica); the cold and thus very confiding brown Ladder Snake (Elaphe scalaris) near the Emb. del Tozo on 2nd, with a rather larger dead one shown to us by a shepherd near Santa Marta de Magasca on 5th; a small Viperine Snake (Natrix maura) near the Emb. del Tozo on 2nd, with a rather larger one seen swimming across the río Almonte on 5th.


FISH: Common Carp (Cyprinus carpio) were making sucking sounds at the Emb. de Arrocampo on the first evening; a Stickleback (??? sp.) was in the stream on the Belén Plain on 1st April; a Brown Trout (Salmo trutta) was in the río Magasca on 5th April.



Swallowtail: 1 on the Belén Plain on 1st and 1 near Monroy on 5th.

Spanish Festoon: 8+ on the Belén Plain on 1st, 2 by the río Tozo on 2nd and 1 in Monfragüe N.P. on 3rd.

Large White: 1 on the Belén Plain on 1st.

Western Dappled White: The commonest white, seen on 4+ days.

Clouded Yellow: 2 males seen near Monroy on 5th.

Cleopatra: A male by the río Almonte 5th.

Provençe Hairstreak: 3+ seen on the Belén Plain on 1st.

Small Copper: 1 on the Belén Plain on 1st.

Brown Argus: Two beautiful specimens of the subspecies cramera by the río Tozo on 2nd.

Red Admiral: Ones or twos on 4 days in various locations.

Painted Lady: Two singles: by the río Tozo and on the Belén Plain on 2nd.

Small Heath: Moderate numbers of the large spp. lillus at various sites on 4 days.

Southern Speckled Wood: 5+ in Monfragüe on 3rd and 1 by the río Almonte on 5th.

Wall Brown: Small numbers seen at several sites on 3+ days.



included the huge and beautiful Giant Peacock Moth (Saturnia pyri) at FSM on 31st March, a few Iberian Blue-tailed Damselflies (Ischnura graelsii) at the Emb. de Arrocampo on 31st March and on the Belén Plain on 1st April, an Egyptian Grasshopper/Locust (Anacridium aegyptium) in the Madrigalejo rice fields on 4th, a few Oil Beetles (Meloe sp.) on the Belén Plain on 1st and near Santa Marta de Magasca on 5th, the red and black Ground or Fire Bugs (Lygaeus sp.) by the río Magasca on 5th, the remarkable Mole Cricket (Gryllotalpa gryllotalpa) by the río Tozo on 1st, and the small Horned Preying Mantis (Empusa pennata) on the Belén Plain on 1st. Other invertebrates included the often large, potentially dangerous and unpleasant-looking Centipede (Scolopendra cingulata) at a few sites and a few Red Signal Crayfish in the Madrigalejos rice fields on 4th and in the río Almonte on 5th April.




[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: Ulmus minor Elm sp. (c. 38)

Celtis australis Southern Nettle Tree (39)


Aristolochiaceae: Aristolochia paucinervis Birthwort sp. (c. 64)


Caryophyllaceae: Paronychia argentea Paronychia (prob. this sp.) (136)

Silene colorata (180)


Ranunculaceae: Ranunculus sp. Water Crowfoot sp.

Ranunculus sp. Buttercup sp.


Fumariaceae: Fumaria capreolata Ramping Fumitory (303)


Crassulaceae: Umbilicus rupestris Navelwort (396)

?Umbilicus gaditanus Navelwort sp. (c. 396)


Rosaceae: Rosa canina Common Dogrose (c.404)


Leguminosae: Cercis siliquastrum Judas Tree (430)

Cytisus multiflorus White Broom

Cytisus scoparius Broom (456)

Lygos sphaerocarpa Lygos (common broom-like plant) (478)

Adenocarpus argyrophyllus Spanish Adenocarpus (482)

Lupinus luteus Yellow Lupin (483)

Lupinus ?hispanicus Iberian Lupin (prob. this sp.) (c. 484)

Astragalus lusitanicus 'Iberian' Milk-vetch (504)


Oxalidaceae: Oxalis pes-caprae Bermuda Buttercup (735)


Geraniaceae: Geranium molle Dove's-foot Crane's-bill (741)

Erodium botrys Storksbill sp. (758)


Violaceae: Viola kitaibeliana Dwarf Pansy (931)


Thymelaeaceae: Daphne gnidium (936)


Cistaceae: Cistus albidus Grey-leaved Cistus (big pink fls) (961)

Cistus salviifolius Sage-leaved Cistus (small white) (965)

Cistus ladanifer Gum Cistus (big white fls) (971)

Tuberaria guttata Spotted Rockrose (small yellow) (985)


Cactaceae: Opuntia maxima (=ficus-indica) Prickly Pear (1040)


Umbelliferae: Scandix pecten-veneris Shepherd's Needles (1097)

Ferula communis Giant Fennel (1141)


Ericaceae: Arbutus unedo Strawberry Tree (1176)

Erica arborea Tree Heath (pink fls in EX) (1178)


Oleaceae: Phillyrea angustifolia (1245)

Olea europaea Olive (1248)


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

Borago officinalis Borage (1395)

Myosotis discolor ssp. dubia Changing Forget-me-not


Labiatae: Rosmarinus officinalis Rosemary (1526)

Lavandula stoechas French Lavender (1528)


Solanaceae: Hyosciamus albus White Henbane (1555)


Scrophularicaea: Linaria amethystea 'Amethyst' Toadflax (c. 1614)

Linaria spartea a yellow-fl. Toadflax (c. 1614)


Compositae: Bellis annua Annual Daisy (1791)

Calendula arvensis Field Marigold (1908)

Silybum marianum Milk Thistle (1982)


Liliaceae: Asphodelus aestivus Common Asphodel (2089)

Ornithogalum ?narbonense Star-of-Bethlehem sp. (2171)

Hyacinthoides hispanica Spanish Bluebell

Dipcadi serotinum Brown Bluebell (2178)

Narcissus jonquilla Common Jonquil (not rupicola) (2279)

Narcissus bulbocodium Hoop-petticoat Narcissus (2281)


Iridaceae: Gynandriris sisyrinchium Barbary Nut Iris (2305)


Orchidaceae: Orchis papilionacea grandiflora Pink Butterfly Orchid (2401)

Orchis champagneuxii Champagne Orchid (2405)

Orchis lactea Milky Orchid (2408)

Ophrys tenthredinifera Sawfly Orchid (2442)

Serpias lingua Tongue Orchid (2451)


Gramineae: Lamarckia aurea Golden Dog's-tail (2459)


This (perhaps surprisingly long) list has been drawn up after some post-trip work using Blamey & Grey-Wilson's Med. Wild Flowers, the 'Flora y vegetacion 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', thus putting names to a number of things we didn't get to species level in the field, and a number of species seen by just one or two people. Apologies if I've omitted anything obvious except for the various flowering thistles which could be one/some of dozens.


John Muddeman

© The Travelling Naturalist 2001