TRAVELLING NATURALIST TRIP REPORT

Extremadura

30 March - 5 April 2002


Leaders:
Tim Earl
John Muddeman

Daily diary

Saturday 30th March

The Little Crake watched picking around on a muddy bank at the Embalse de Arrocampo should have been the highlight of our first day. One of the first ever seen in Extremadura and a difficult bird to see anywhere, this was a seriously good find. In truth, however, most of us were so overcome by the richness of the birdlife it was difficult to get excited about the little chap.

Purple Herons vied with Purple Gallinules for our attention. A singing Savi's Warbler teetered on the top of a tall reed mace to ensure that we had good views of him. Black Kites soared overhead to give a comparison with more distant Red Kite and Buzzard, while Little Egrets, a Little Bittern and many Grey Herons added movement to the scene.

The Purple Herons were quite spectacular with 23 counted in the deep reed-bed colony. Purple Gallinule is a difficult bird to see in Europe but here we were able to watch them feeding chicks and could only speculate as to how many were around the huge lake.

After meeting at Gatwick and an uneventful flight, we arrived in Madrid full of hope and enthusiasm. Friendships were being made and John was there to meet us. It was a good start.

Birding at 120km per hour is not the most satisfactory pastime but as we headed down towards the Spanish steppes of Extremadura it produced two flying barn doors in the form of Black Vultures, several Corn Buntings, a few Swallows, shrikes and a lone Black-winged Stilt.

The tapas at our customary stop were a great indication that we had arrived in Spain, as was a chimney-top nest with White Stork in residence. The two Red-rumped Swallows were good to see too as was our first Hoopoe flitting off from the car park as we drew up.

But the stop for marsh birds had to be the highlight of the day, whichever of its residents was personal favourite. Kingfisher, Water Rail, Snipe, even the backs of spawning carp, were all familiar to us but seen in Spain's bright, late afternoon light, they were a delight. The holiday had started well.

No two rooms are the same at our hotel and a few minutes were spent exchanging details of their respective good points. Owner Henry Elink-Schurman gave us a brief summary of the Finca Santa Marta's history at a charming reception and after an excellent supper we put our clocks forward another hour onto double summer time and retired to bed.

Sunday 31 March

If the rain in Spain is not falling on the Belen Plain one can be sure of a good day's birding, and so it proved today. Our main quarry species were Great and Little Bustards with the added pressure of having with us Marta Elink-Schurman and her two daughters who had never seen either.

The Travelling Naturalist's leaders did not disappoint. We found a total of about 25 Great Bustards, including two splendid males which turned themselves inside out like vast pompoms as they displayed to nearby females, and six Little Bustards, some in flight, flashing their white wings as they circled the steppes.

One group of Great Bustards included eight large males, their grey heads and chestnut plumage showing up even at the long distance we were watching. It is rare to get close to these birds which need to be undisturbed as they go about their spring courtship activities.

Double summer time meant that it was pitch dark at 6am, our usual start time for pre-breakfast walks which were thus curtailed for this holiday. The 8.15 breakfast did mean that we were away soon after sunrise each morning, however.

The Belen Plain holds a great deal more than bustards and we were thrilled to see large numbers of Griffon and Black Vultures, several male and a single female Montagu's Harrier, and a stunning Short-toed Eagle which flew over the minibus as John was showing everyone a Southern Smooth Snake he had caught. Perhaps the eagle could see it and fancied a meal, we speculated.

Calandra Larks were in every field doing bat-like display flights and showing off the white trailing edges to their wings and black underwing markings. A couple of Greater Short-toed Larks sang their rather dull songs and Crested Larks sat on fence posts or by the side of the road.

A walk along 'Raptor Ridge' after our fine picnic lunches, each personally prepared to our precise requirements, was interesting for the Champagne orchids, several species of butterfly and a stunning Forester Moth. Judy found a couple of large caterpillars one of which was identified as a Grass Eggar.

A stop to investigate a distant pond proved largely fruitless although a Lesser Black-backed Gull and three Greenshanks were added to the list albeit from distant sightings. The stop was made worthwhile when Tim noticed the first three of about 15 Bee-eaters and John pointed out a Great Spotted Cuckoo which gave poor views. They were of little matter, however, as we saw another three together on the way back to the finca.

Sitting over a cuppa we pondered why Short-toed Treecreepers should always be at the back of trees and Spotless Starlings do a better imitation of Green Woodpecker than the real thing.

John led a late-afternoon walk through the finca's orchards to find more Champagne and Milky orchids and turned up calling Green Woodpecker - the real thing, not a Spotless Starling - Blackcap and several Azure-winged Magpies as well.

It had been another super day.

Monday 1 April

Was it an April fool's joke Tim played on the group as he led a pre-breakfast walk that set off in pitch darkness at 7.15am? Almost, but not quite.

We were next to a small olive-tree plantation as light moved across our bit of the world, in time to hear the dawn chorus and see the first birds start moving around. These included familiar species such as Swallow and Blackbird, Greenfinch and Goldfinch.

But our enterprise also resulted in the first snatches of a Nightingale song for the year plus great views of Cirl Bunting and Short-toed Treecreeper.

We set off south to avoid the Easter Monday crowds which would be visiting more popular sites. The Sierra Brava reservoir is only six years old but already holds a good population of many water birds including Black-necked and Great Crested Grebes, Gull-billed Tern, and at this time of year, the remnant populations of wintering wildfowl such as Shoveler, Gadwall and Mallard. Black-winged Stilt, Common Sandpiper and Little Ringed Plover, White Wagtail, finch flocks and a couple of Black-eared Wheatears were all seen around the sides. From the reservoir wall we found five Great Bustards while migrant Yellow Wagtails, Tree Pipit and Sand Martins passed overhead.

Exploring a track which had been closed to traffic and thus previous groups, we found a pond with 22 Red-crested Pochard, more Black-winged Stilts and Shovelers, before dropping down into the Madrigalejo rice fields.

To our utter amazement we came across a family group of two adult and a juvenile Common Crane only a few metres away from the road. We got excellent views and pictures until they walked off into the vast area of dried-up rice paddies.

It was getting late and we set off for a rest and coffee in a local bar before lunch. We arrived at 1.30pm having been held up with super sightings of Southern Grey Shrike, which Robin could not see properly from his side of the bus so he drew our attention to a hovering Black-shouldered Kite instead. John turned his bus around and his party were able to watch the kite, only to have their attention drawn to four Collared Pratincoles passing overhead. Tim's group got onto those and had excellent views as they passed his bus. Before he could set off after John and a much needed coffee, Judy discovered a Common Tree Frog which needed a good dose of admiration and a few pictures to be taken before it would allow us to drive on. Judy offered to kiss the frog and turn it into a prince but it said that the way things were at the moment with royal princes it would rather stay as a tree frog.

Coffee was followed immediately by a picnic lunch in cultivated fields which held two Great and seven Little Bustards, at least 17 Black-bellied Sandgrouse, an almost black melanistic male Montagu's Harrier and a Common Quail calling 'wet-your-lips, wet-your-lips'.

We dropped down to the Rio Gargaligas where a Reed-warbler was reeling out its song in competition with another Nightingale and several Cetti's Warblers. Two Bee-eaters perched obligingly on a wire as were turned the buses around and returned to admire them on the way to our last stop which was to see Saw-fly Orchids. It also resulted in great views of a few Common Waxbills and scores of Red Avadavats. A Mistle Thrush which crossed the road as we drove back to the finca brought the total number of species for the day to 94.

Tuesday 2 April

A morning in Trujillo, or any town, might be considered something like time wasted by serious birders. Not so. Trujillo is the breeding site of many special Extremadura species and even sitting in the square with a coffee one can study the differences between Pallid and Common Swifts, Lesser and Eurasian Kestrels, or the calls of Goldfinches and Serins.

And after the coffee and almond biscuits a walk up to the castle emplacements gives intimate views down into White Storks' nests, Jackdaws stealing nesting materials, or eye-ball contact with Black Kites drifting past the battlements.

That's how we spent this morning - watching wonderful birds with the splendid backdrop of ancient castles, churches and buildings with pan-tiled roofs. Red Kites and Griffon Vultures drifted overhead, parties of swifts screamed through the square while we shopped for postcards, terracotta mugs, dried figs, sheets of stamps (unsuccessfully) and gallons of olive oil.

After a picnic lunch back at the finca, we set off to explore the Tozo River valley and the reservoir it feeds. Nobody knows why but this is a major route for loafing birds of prey. Black Kites were abundant but they kept company with some of Extremadura's finest - an immature Golden Eagle which was mobbed by a Buzzard, a white bodied adult Bonelli's Eagle, several Booted Eagles, Short-toed Eagle and hosts of Griffon Vultures. White Storks joined the drifters all of which were probably unaware of the migrating Bee-eaters which passed beneath them.

In the Holm Oaks were Chaffinches, the first we had seen in numbers, a singing Willow Warbler, several Wood Larks and a Song Thrush. The reservoir held expected species such as Black-winged Stilts, Greenshanks, Little and Great-crested Grebes, Mallard, Gadwall and Shoveler ducks, Cattle and Little Egrets plus a real surprise - our fourth Common Crane of the trip.

John found two extremely angry Montpelier Snakes which reared and hissed at us when we lifted a sheet of metal while under another three scared Wood Mice watched us as we looked at them, thankful that the snakes had not chosen their refuge. A Kingfisher flashed up and down the river accompanied by a Green Sandpiper.

But two species found in water stole the show completely this afternoon - eight Spoonbills were feeding in the shallows of the reservoir while higher up the river an Otter popped up opposite Frances as she sat waiting for views of the Kingfisher. The Otter's presence was noticeable with droppings, sleeping hollows and holts - the entrances to its dens - clearly visible on the banks.

Butterflies abounded and the spring flowers formed a perfect backdrop to this wildlife extravaganza. Our near-perfect day was completed by (late) afternoon tea and lemon cake followed by yet another super meal accompanied by copious amounts of local wine and completed by liqueurs.

Wednesday 3 April

Monfragüe Natural Park - what a name to conjure with÷ and what birds too. We left the visit until after the Easter weekend holidays but even on Wednesday the park was busy. It was cool too with a cold wind offsetting the warm sunshine.

Who cared? Even before reaching the park we had stopped to enjoy the melodic songs of Wood Lark with Dartford Warbler providing a scratchy contrast. The main reason, however, was to start our quest for the rarest raptor in Europe, Spanish Imperial Eagle, but without success.

After a coffee, we entered the park proper and headed for the castle which marks one end of the great Monfragüe ridge. John's bus had the bonus of a Spanish Telecoms Nuthatch which flitted onto one of their poles in time for everyone to get good views.

Tim volunteered to take the more energetic members of the group up to the top of Monfragüe Castle but as we were getting ready a succession of birds went past delaying our departure. These included Griffon and our first Egyptian Vultures, two Black Storks, a Peregrine and a pair of Black Redstarts, also the first we had seen, Common Buzzards, Blue Rock Thrush, Crag Martins, Swallows and fly-past Hawfinches.

The climb to the top of the ruined castle was worth the effort for not only did we see the finest view in Extremadura but lots of good birds were also recorded. A pair of Red-billed Choughs which nest in the ruins of the castle popped up to see us while far below two Booted Eagles did a display flight before disappearing into trees. Masses of Griffons, a few Egyptian Vultures, a Peregrine, Booted and Golden Eagles all flew past. Rock Buntings were heard but could not be found.

Our normal picnic spot at Peña Falcón was too busy so we drove on to the main bridge, on the other side of which we spread out in another picnic spot and ate lunch. It was constantly interrupted. Booted and Short-toed Eagles came past as did several Black Storks. Griffons were found nesting on the cliffs behind and a superb Egyptian Vulture drifted past the nest site giving us splendid views. Tim found a male Subalpine Warbler singing out its song and flashing its white moustachial-streaks while John picked up a couple of Alpine Swifts for a few to see high above us.

We ended the day's birding at the far end of the park where an Eagle Owl nests but could find neither adult nor chick in our search of the cliffs. Ironically, we learned that an adult was seen an hour after we left late that afternoon. All was not lost, however, as the nesting Griffon Vultures which share the site with the owls and a pair of Black Storks, gave an impressive display of landing technique÷ and we were on the approach flight path. Coming in at speed, some lowered their landing gear (which also act as air-brakes) high above us, then to plunge down almost into the water of the reservoir before pulling up the cliff and dropping motionless onto their nest ledge.

A few people were able to see a singing Rock Bunting in the 'scope before the bird dashed off, hotly followed by those who were put off birding by a shower and retreated to the mini-buses. A patient wait by some observers was finally rewarded when a female Spanish Imperial Eagle was spotted over the crags behind us, the white leading edges to its wings flashing in the sunlight. After good but distant views, she was joined by a male which took over the late afternoon cabaret.

We wended our way homewards with an attempt at spotting Crested Tit in heavy pine woodland. Our luck held up and a pair nesting in an old woodpecker hole gave us a terrific show as the female quivered her wings and begged the male for food before dashing into the nest site.

Thursday 4 April

The minibuses were covered in ice after a sharp air frost followed a night of heavy dew. The air was cold and a bitter wind blew for most of the day, despite clear sunny skies.

We stopped in Trujillo for a master-class on Lesser Kestrel identification and then searched what used to be super tench ponds on the outskirts of town. Some ponds have been used for land-fill while others are being turned into an ornamental lake and children's playground. A few Black-winged Stilts and Little Ringed Plovers, a Coot and two Meadow Pipits were the only residents left.

That sadness was put behind us as we searched the Santa Marta de Magasca plains for birds. Little Bustards were abundant and we were able to see and hear several males, some close to us. A few Great Bustards were also found. Wherever we looked Montagu's Harriers were evident but none more so than those we found displaying over a series of cornfields in which they were nesting. The only distraction from the beautiful aerial ballet they were performing for us was from the occasional party of Black-bellied and Pin-tailed Sandgrouse which were flying around the area. After comparing the species in flight, we were able to study two of the latter in a field despite a slight heat-shimmer. On leaving the fields we discovered a couple of Lapwings and a Golden-plover in its non-breeding, grey plumage.

It was an amazing revelation to discover that the morning was gone and out coffee stop would be at 1.15pm. As we drove to the nearest village our progress was again impeded by birds with several Red-legged Partridges and a Little Owl for entertainment.

Lunch followed the coffee almost immediately as we spread out down a section of the Santa Marta de Magasca River. A couple of juvenile Golden Eagles livened up our sandwiches, once again lovingly prepared to our individual requirements, and great views of two Hawfinches feeding in a wild olive tree were obtained before we left.

We returned to the Finca Santa Marta via another route across the plain but were unable to find the Stone Curlews which nest in the area. A Peregrine, Black Vulture, seen close overhead, and many Calandra Larks were our compensation.

After late-afternoon tea we dispersed to start packing before meeting for the daily call-over and a surprise champagne reception, followed by a final celebration dinner at a restaurant in Trujillo.

Friday 5 April

As our flights from Madrid were scheduled for late-afternoon we decided to return to the city via Monfragüe Natural Park and the Embalse Arrocampo where our birding had begun. Travel days are never much fun÷ who wants to go home? But when you throw in a Spanish Imperial Eagle sitting on a rock close by, it makes the ending far better. We were so close to the bird that a satellite-tracking antenna on its back was plainly visible.

We reached the park via the 'three bridges' section of the Rio Almonte where singing Nightingale and Blue Rock Thrush provided the love serenade for a pair of Mistle Thrushes.

Our coffee stop was followed by a pair of Common Cuckoos flying in formation over the buses and on entering the park, the Peña Falcón observation sites turned up all sorts of goodies such as Black Redstart, Black Stork's nest with an egg, hundreds of Griffons, a fly-over Peregrine and a big moment for Alan - a male Rock Bunting, his 20th new species of the trip.

Moving on to another cliff face our patience was rewarded when a pair of Spanish Imperial Eagles appeared over the ridge we were studying. Almost immediately they had something of a tiff. One drifted off while the other started squawking loudly - strange call between a Raven's bark and Griffon's growl. The bird drifted backwards and forwards for a few minutes before settling on a rock to show us its white epaulets and off-white head.

We drove on to the Embalse de Arrocampo for a late lunch in the company of many birds we had seen on the way out, before the journey back to Madrid and our waiting aircraft.

Annotated lists of species

BIRDS

The order follows James Clements' 'A List of the Birds of the World'.

GREBES Podicipediformes Podicipedidae

Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis

A few en-route 30th, 1st and 4th; Belen Plain (one on 31st); Embalse de Tozo (nine on 2nd)

Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus

Embalse de Arrocampo (one on 30th); Belen Plain (10 on 31st); Embalse Sierra Brava (100+ on 1st); Embalse de Tozo (12 on 2nd)

Black-necked (Eared) Grebe Podiceps nigricollis

Embalse Sierra Brava (20 on 1st)

CORMORANTS Pelecaniformes Phalacrocoracidae

Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo

Embalse de Arrocampo (one on 30th); Belen Plain (one on 31st); Embalse Sierra Brava (20 on 1st); Embalse de Tozo (three on 2nd); Monfragüe Natural Park (20+ on 3rd and 5th)

HERONS, EGRETS & BITTERNS Ciconiiformes Ardeidae

Grey Heron Ardea cinerea

Embalse de Arrocampo (10 on 30th and 5th; Belen Plain (one on 31st); Embalse Sierra Brava (six on 1st); Embalse de Tozo (three on 2nd); Monfragüe Natural Park (three on 3rd); Santa Marta de Magasca plain (three on 4th)

Purple Heron Ardea purpurea

Embalse de Arrocampo (23 on 30th and a few on the 5th)

Little Egret Egretta garzetta

Embalse de Arrocampo (six on 30th, one on 5th); Embalse Sierra Brava (20 on 1st); a few elsewhere daily

Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis

Abundant daily

Little Bittern Ixobrychus minutus

Embalse de Arrocampo (one on 30th, two males on 5th)

STORKS Ciconiiformes Ciconiidae

Black Stork Ciconia nigra

Monfragüe Natural Park (eight on 3rd, four on 5th, one on an egg); Santa Marta de Magasca River (two on 4th)

White Stork Ciconia ciconia

Abundant daily

SPOONBILL Ciconiiformes Threskiornithidae

Eurasian Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia

Embalse de Tozo (eight on 2nd)

SWANS, GEESE & DUCKS Anseriformes Anatidae

Common Shelduck Tadorna tadorna

Embalse Sierra Brava (one on 1st)

Gadwall Anas strepera

Embalse Sierra Brava (two on 1st); Embalse de Tozo (10+ on 2nd)

Mallard Anas platyrhynchos

A few daily

Northern Shoveler Anas clypeata

Embalse Sierra Brava (25 on 1st); Embalse de Tozo (15+ on 2nd)

Red-crested Pochard Aythya rufina

Pond near Embalse Sierra Brava (22 on 1st)

HAWKS, EAGLES & KITES Falconiformes Accipitridae

Black-shouldered Kite Elanus caeruleus

Madrigalejo rice fields (one on 1st)

Red Kite Milvus milvus

Up to 10 daily, maximum numbers 3rd and 4th

Black Kite Milvus migrans

Common daily

Egyptian Vulture Neophron percnopterus

Monfragüe Natural Park (seven on 3rd, four on 5th)

Eurasian Griffon Gyps fulvus

Belen Plain (scores on 31st); Finca Santa Marta (two on 1st); Monfragüe Natural Park (scores on 3rd); Santa Marta de Magasca plain (20+ on 4th)

Cinereous (Black) Vulture Aegypius monachus

En-route (two on 30th); Belen Plain (20 on 31st); Embalse de Tozo (two on 2nd); Finca Santa Marta (one on 2nd); Monfragüe Natural Park (two on 3rd, and on 5th); Santa Marta de Magasca plain (eight on 4th)

Short-toed Eagle Circaetus gallicus

Embalse de Arrocampo (one on 30th); Belen Plain (three on 31st); Embalse de Tozo (one on 2nd); Monfragüe Natural Park (five on 3rd, one on 5th); Santa Marta de Magasca plain (one on 4th)

Western Marsh-harrier Circus aeruginosus

Embalse de Arrocampo (one on 30th, and on 5th)

Montagu's Harrier Circus pygargus

En-route (one on 30th); Belen Plain (six on 31st); Madrigalejo rice fields (six, including one melanistic type on 1st); Santa Marta de Magasca plain (colony of about 40 on 4th)

Eurasian Buzzard Buteo buteo

Five or six daily

Spanish Eagle Aquila adalberti

Monfragüe Natural Park (a pair on 3rd, and again on 5th - including one perched for some time giving excellent views)

Golden Eagle Aquila chrysaetos

Embalse de Tozo (one immature on 2nd); Santa Marta de Magasca River (two on 4th)

Bonelli's Eagle Hieraaetus fasciatus

Embalse de Tozo (one on 2nd)

Booted Eagle Hieraaetus pennatus

Embalse de Arrocampo (one on 30th); Embalse de Tozo (four on 2nd); Monfragüe Natural Park (eight on 3rd)

FALCONS Falconiformes Falconidae

Lesser Kestrel Falco naumanni

Trujillo common daily, maximum 150+ on 4th; Belen Plain (20+ on 31st); Madrigalejo rice fields (four on 1st)

Eurasian Kestrel Falco tinnunculus

En-route (five on 30th) Madrigalejo rice fields (four on 1st); Monfragüe Natural Park (three on 3rd); Santa Marta de Magasca plain (three on 4th)

Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus

Monfragüe Natural Park (two on 3rd, one on 5th); Santa Marta de Magasca plain (one on 4th)

PARTRIDGES & PHEASANTS Galliformes Phasianidae

Red-legged Partridge Alectoris rufa

Belen Plain (one on 31st); Santa Marta de Magasca plain (10+ on 4th), several en-route on 5th

Common Quail Coturnix coturnix

Madrigalejo rice fields (one calling on 1st)

CRANE Gruiformes Gruidae

Common Crane Grus grus

Madrigalejo rice fields (three on 1st); Embalse de Tozo (one on 2nd)

RAILS, GALLINULES & COOTS Gruiformes Rallidae

Water Rail Rallus aquaticus

Embalse de Arrocampo (one heard on 30th and 5th)

Little Crake Porzana parva

Embalse de Arrocampo (male on 30th was one of the first ever seen in Extremadura)

Purple Gallinule Porphyrio porphyrio

Embalse de Arrocampo (16 + three chicks on 30th, five on 5th)

Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus

Embalse de Arrocampo (four on 30th); Madrigalejo rice fields (four on 1st); Embalse de Tozo (four on 2nd)

Eurasian Coot Fulica atra

Embalse de Arrocampo (six on 30th); Madrigalejo rice fields (four on 1st); Trujillo playground development (one on 4th)

BUSTARDS Gruiformes Otididae

Great Bustard Otis tarda

Belen Plain (25 on 31st); Madrigalejo rice fields (nine, including two in flight, on 1st); Santa Marta de Magasca plain (seven on 4th)

Little Bustard Tetrax tetrax

Belen Plain (six on 31st); Madrigalejo rice fields (seven in flight, one calling, on 1st); Santa Marta de Magasca plain (25+ on 4th)

STILT Charadriiformes Recurvirostridae

Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus

Embalse de Arrocampo (two on 30th); Embalse Sierra Brava (20 on 1st); Embalse de Tozo (20+ on 2nd); Trujillo and Santa Marta de Magasca plain (10 on 4th)

PRATINCOLE Charadriiformes Glareolidae

Collared Pratincole Glareola pratincola

Madrigalejo rice fields (four on 1st)

LAPWING & PLOVERS Charadriiformes Charadriidae

Northern Lapwing Vanellus vanellus

Santa Marta de Magasca plain (two on 4th)

Eurasian Golden-plover Pluvialis apricaria

Santa Marta de Magasca plain (two on 4th); one en-route on 5th

Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius

Embalse Sierra Brava (one on 1st); Monfragüe Natural Park (one on 3rd, three on 5th); Trujillo playground development (four on 4th)

SANDPIPERS Charadriiformes Scolopacidae

Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago

Embalse de Arrocampo (four on 30th, one on 5th)

Common Greenshank Tringa nebularia

Belen Plain (three on 31st); Embalse Sierra Brava (12 on 1st); Embalse de Tozo (six on 2nd)

Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus

Madrigalejo rice fields (two on 1st); Embalse de Tozo (two on 2nd)

Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos

Embalse Sierra Brava (five on 1st); Embalse de Tozo one on 2nd)

GULLS Charadriiformes Laridae

Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus

Belen Plain (one on 31st); Embalse Sierra Brava (10+ on 1st)

Black-headed Gull Larus ridibundus

Embalse Sierra Brava (12 on 1st); Embalse de Tozo (three on 2nd); Embalse de Arrocampo (one on 5th)

TERNS Charadriiformes Sternidae

Gull-billed Tern Sterna nilotica

Embalse Sierra Brava (13 on 1st)

SANDGROUSE Pterocliformes Pteroclidae

Pin-tailed Sandgrouse Pterocles alchata

Santa Marta de Magasca plain (20 on 4th)

Black-bellied Sandgrouse Pterocles orientalis

Madrigalejo rice fields (17 on 1st); Santa Marta de Magasca plain (20 on 4th)

PIGEONS & DOVES Columbiformes Columbidae

Rock Dove Columba livia

Common in towns daily

Common Wood-pigeon Columba palumbus

En-route (10+ on 30th); Monfragüe Natural Park (three on 3rd); a few elsewhere

Eurasian Collared-dove Streptopelia decaocto

Finca Santa Marta (one daily); a few elsewhere daily

CUCKOOS Cuculiformes Cuculidae

Great Spotted Cuckoo Clamator glandarius

Belen Plain (four on 31st); Madrigalejo rice fields (one on 1st); Santa Marta de Magasca plain (6+ on 4th)

Common Cuckoo Cuculus canorus

Birds heard calling 31st, 1st, 3rd and 4th, two seen en-route on 5th

OWLS Strigiformes Strigidae

European Scops-owl Otus scops

Finca Santa Marta (one calling nightly failed to keep anyone awake)

Little Owl Athene noctua

Finca Santa Marta (one calling on 31st); Embalse Sierra Brava (one on 1st); Santa Marta de Magasca plain (one on 4th) and one on the road to Trujillo on 4th

SWIFTS Apodiformes Apodidae

Alpine Swift Tachymarptis melba

Finca Santa Marta (one on 30th); Monfragüe Natural Park (two on 3rd)

Common Swift Apus apus

Belen Plain (two on 31st); Madrigalejo rice fields (six on 1st); Trujillo (one on 2nd)

Pallid Swift Apus pallidus

Trujillo (150+ on 31st, 2nd, and 5th)

KINGFISHER Coraciiformes Alcedinidae

Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis

One or two almost daily

BEE-EATER Coraciiformes Meropidae

European Bee-eater Merops apiaster

Belen Plain (15 on 31st); Madrigalejo rice fields (two perched on wires on the 1st); Embalse de Tozo (12 on 2nd); Santa Marta de Magasca plain (one heard on 4th); Rio Almonte (one heard on 5th)

HOOPOE Coraciiformes Upupidae

Eurasian Hoopoe Upupa epops

Finca Santa Marta, and elsewhere, common daily

WOODPECKERS Piciformes Picidae

Great Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos major

Finca Santa Marta (one drumming 31st); one seen from the bus on 5th

Green Woodpecker Picus viridis

Finca Santa Marta, one almost daily

LARKS Passeriformes Alaudidae

Calandra Lark Melanocorypha calandra

Belen Plain (30+ on 31st); Santa Marta de Magasca plain (many on 4th)

Greater Short-toed Lark Calandrella brachydactyla

Belen Plain (two singing on 31st); Santa Marta de Magasca plain (two on 4th)

Crested Lark Galerida cristata

Embalse de Arrocampo (1 on 30th); Belen Plain (20+ on 31st); Santa Marta de Magasca plain (many on 4th)

Thekla Lark Galerida theklae

Embalse Sierra Brava (pair on 1st)

Wood Lark Lullula arborea

Finca Santa Marta (one singing high overhead on 31st); Embalse de Tozo (one seen, several heard on 2nd); Monfragüe Natural Park (several seen and singing on 3rd, two on 5th); Santa Marta de Magasca River (one on 4th)

SWALLOWS Passeriformes Hirundinidae

Sand Martin (Bank Swallow) Riparia riparia

Embalse Sierra Brava (30+ on 1st); Monfragüe Natural Park (three on 3rd)

Eurasian Crag-martin Hirundo rupestris

Finca Santa Marta (two on 31st); Embalse de Tozo (two on 2nd); Monfragüe Natural Park (eight on 3rd); Rio Santa Marta de Magasca (10 on 4th); Rio Almonte (10 on 5th)

Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica

Common daily

Red-rumped Swallow Hirundo daurica

Hotel David (two on 30th); Finca Santa Marta (one or two daily); Madrigalejo rice fields (10+ on 1st); Monfragüe Natural Park (10+ on 3rd); Santa Marta de Magasca plain (10+ on 4th); Embalse de Arrocampo (two on 5th)

House Martin Delichon urbica

Abundant in villages

WAGTAILS & PIPITS Passeriformes Motacillidae

White Wagtail Motacilla alba

Embalse de Arrocampo (1 on 30th); Finca Santa Marta (two on pre-breakfast walk 1st), Embalse Sierra Brava (three on 1st); Embalse de Tozo (two on 2nd); Monfragüe Natural Park (two on 3rd, two on 5th)

Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava

Embalse Sierra Brava (20+ on 1st)

Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea

Finca Santa Marta (one on 2nd); Monfragüe Natural Park (two on 3rd, one on 5th)

Tree Pipit Anthus trivialis

Embalse Sierra Brava (one fly-over on 1st)

Meadow Pipit Anthus pratensis

Embalse de Arrocampo (one on 30th); Belen Plain (10+ 31st); Madrigalejo rice fields (six on 1st)

WREN Passeriformes Troglodytidae

Winter Wren Troglodytes troglodytes

Finca Santa Marta a pair singing and seen daily

THRUSHES Passeriformes Turdidae

Blue Rock-thrush Monticola solitarius

Finca Santa Marta (male on a roof 31st and 1st); Monfragüe Natural Park (one male on 3rd, two males and a female on 5th)

Eurasian Blackbird Turdus merula

Finca Santa Marta (one on 30th) elsewhere common daily

Song Thrush Turdus philomelos

Embalse de Tozo (two on 2nd)

Redwing Turdus iliacus

Belen Plain (one on 31st was particularly late leaving)

Mistle Thrush Turdus viscivorus

En-route (one on 1st); Monfragüe Natural Park (one on 3rd)

CISTICOLA Passeriformes Cisticolidae

Zitting Cisticola Cisticola juncidis

Embalse de Arrocampo (1 on 30th); Belen Plain (two on 31st); Madrigalejo rice fields (20+ on 1st); Santa Marta de Magasca plain (several on 4th)

OLD WORLD WARBLERS Passeriformes Sylviidae

Cetti's Warbler Cettia cetti

Embalse de Arrocampo (two on 30th, four singing on 5th); Belen Plain (one on 31st); Madrigalejo rice fields and Rio Gargaligas (four on 1st); Monfragüe Natural Park (two on 3rd); Santa Marta de Magasca plain (one on 4th)

Savi's Warbler Locustella luscinioides

Embalse de Arrocampo (two on 30th and 5th)

Eurasian Reed-warbler Acrocephalus scirpaceus

River Gargaligas (one singing and seen on 1st)

Willow Warbler Phylloscopus trochilus

Embalse de Tozo (one on 2nd)

Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla

Finca Santa Marta and elsewhere, common daily

Subalpine Warbler Sylvia cantillans

Monfragüe Natural Park (male on 3rd)

Sardinian Warbler Sylvia melanocephala

A few at Finca Santa Marta and elsewhere daily

Dartford Warbler Sylvia undata

Monfragüe Natural Park (one male on 3rd)

OLD WORLD FLYCATCHERS Passeriformes Muscicapidae

Common Nightingale Luscinia megarhynchos

Finca Santa Marta (one singing on pre-breakfast walk 1st); River Gargaligas (one on 1st); Rio Almonte (one singing on 5th)

Black Redstart Phoenicurus ochruros

Monfragüe Natural Park (a pair on 3rd, three on 5th)

European Robin Erithacus rubecula

Monfragüe Natural Park (two singing on 4th)

Common Stonechat Saxicola torquata

Embalse de Arrocampo (male on 30th); Belen Plain (eight on 31st); Madrigalejo rice fields (many on 1st); Embalse de Tozo (a few on 2nd); Santa Marta de Magasca plain (six on 4th)

Northern Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe

Belen Plain (four on 31st); Madrigalejo rice fields (two on 1st); Santa Marta de Magasca plain (two on 4th)

Black-eared Wheatear Oenanthe hispanica

Belen Plain (pair on 31st); Embalse Sierra Brava (five on 1st)

LONG-TAILED TIT Passeriformes Aegithalidae

Long-tailed Tit Aegithalos caudatus

Finca Santa Marta (one on 1st); Monfragüe Natural Park (six on 3rd and two on 5th); Santa Marta de Magasca River (three on 4th)

TITS Passeriformes Paridae

Crested Tit Lophophanes cristatus

Monfragüe Natural Park (pair nesting in an old wood-peckers' hole on 3rd)

Great Tit Parus major

A few daily

Blue Tit Cyanistes caeruleus

A few daily

NUTHATCHES Passeriformes Sittidae

Eurasian Nuthatch Sitta europaea

Monfragüe Natural Park (one on 3rd)

CREEPER Passeriformes Certhiidae

Short-toed Treecreeper Certhia brachydactyla

Finca Santa Marta (several pairs daily); Embalse de Tozo (one on 2nd)

SHRIKES Passeriformes Laniidae

Southern Grey Shrike Lanius meridionalis

Embalse de Arrocampo (two on 30th); Belen Plain (four on 31st); Madrigalejo rice fields (four on 1st); Santa Marta de Magasca plain (6+ on 4th)

Woodchat Shrike Lanius senator

Belen Plain (female on 31st); Madrigalejo rice fields (two pairs on 1st); Monfragüe Natural Park (eight on 3rd); Santa Marta de Magasca plain (4+ on 4th); one or two en-route on 5th

CORVIDS Passeriformes Corvidae

Azure-winged Magpie Cyanopica cyana

Finca Santa Marta (small flock daily); common elsewhere daily

Black-billed Magpie Pica pica

Abundant daily

Red-billed Chough Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax

Monfragüe Natural Park (two on 3rd)

Eurasian Jackdaw Corvus monedula

Trujillo (several on 31st, 150+ on 2nd); Madrigalejo rice fields (five on 1st); Embalse de Tozo (nine on 2nd); Monfragüe Natural Park (30+ on 3rd); Santa Marta de Magasca plain (30+ on 4th); one or two en-route on 5th

Common Raven Corvus corax

Belen Plain (six on 31st); Madrigalejo rice fields (eight on 1st); Embalse de Tozo (eight on 2nd); Santa Marta de Magasca plain (25+ on 4th); one or two en-route on 5th

STARLINGS Passeriformes Sturnidae

Spotless Starling Sturnus unicolor

The common starling of Extremadura, seen daily, sometimes imitating birds such as Green Woodpecker, Bee-eater and Canary (cage birds near the starlings' nests)

OLD WORLD SPARROWS Passeriformes Passeridae

House Sparrow Passer domesticus

Common daily

Spanish Sparrow Passer hispaniolensis

Embalse de Arrocampo (five on 30th); Belen Plain (six on 31st); Madrigalejo rice fields (10+ on 1st); Embalse de Tozo (two on 2nd); Monfragüe Natural Park (70+ on 3rd); Santa Marta de Magasca plain (big flocks of 200+ on 4th)

WAXBILLS & ALLIES Passeriformes Estrildidae

Common Waxbill Estrilda astrild

River Gargaligas (three on 1st); Madrigalejo rice fields (five on 1st)

Red Avadavat Amandava amandava

Madrigalejo rice fields (50+ on 1st)

FINCHES Passeriformes Fringillidae

Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs

Finca Santa Marta (one on 1st); Embalse del Tozo (10+ on 2nd); Monfragüe Natural Park (10+ on 3rd); Santa Marta de Magasca plain (two on 4th)

European Greenfinch Carduelis chloris

En-route (one on 30th); Finca Santa Marta (four on 1st); Monfragüe Natural Park (two on 3rd); Santa Marta de Magasca plain (two on 4th)

European Goldfinch Carduelis carduelis

Common daily

Eurasian Linnet Carduelis cannabina

Belen Plain (six on 31st); Madrigalejo rice fields (10+ on 1st), a few elsewhere daily

European Serin Serinus serinus

Common daily; Monfragüe Natural Park (50+ on 3rd)

Hawfinch Coccothraustes coccothraustes

Monfragüe Natural Park (three on 3rd, two on 5th); Santa Marta de Magasca plain (six on 4th)

BUNTINGS Passeriformes Emberizidae

Cirl Bunting Emberiza cirlus

Finca Santa Marta (two on 1st and 2nd)

Rock Bunting Emberiza cia

Monfragüe Natural Park (two males on 3rd, three on 5th)

Corn Bunting Emberiza calandra

Abundant daily

MAMMALS

RABBITS

European Rabbit Oryctolagus cuniculus

Three seen en-route on 30th and Rio Magascar (three on 4th)

MICE Rodentia Muridae

Long-tailed Field (Wood) Mouse Apodemus sylvaticus

Three under a tin sheet by the río Tozo on 2nd and one, probably this species seen by Barbara along the Trujillo - Monroy road on 4th.

OTTERS Carnivora Mustelidae

European Otter Lutra lutra

Spraints by the río Gargáligas on 1st were somewhat outdone by an adult in the río Tozo briefly seen by Francis on 2nd.

HEDGEHOGS Lipotyphla Erinaceidae

Western European Hedgehog Erinaceus europaeus

One dead on the road in the Madrigalejo rice fields on 1st and several dead en route on 5th.

MOLES Lipotyphla Talpidae

European Mole Talpa europaea

Hills and holes in various sites, especially by the río Tozo on 2nd.

DEER Artiodactyla Cervidae

Red Deer Cervus elaphus

A young male in Monfragüe on 3rd.

BUTTERFLIES

Swallowtail (Papilio machaon): One at Vegas Altas on 1st and one along the Trujillo-Monroy road on 4th.

Spanish Festoon (Zerynthia rumina): Three+ on the Belén plain on 31st, 1 in the Madrigalejo rice fields on 1st, 6+ along the río Tozo on 2nd, and 1 in Monfragüe on 3rd.

Large White (Pieris brassicae): Several daily from 31st to 2nd, e.g. at Belén plain, Emb. de Sierra Brava, Trujillo, and río Tozo.

Small White (Artogeia rapae): Several at various sites on 1st and 4th.

Western Dappled White (Euchloe simplonia): Three+ on the Belén plain on 1st were the only ones positively identified.

Green-striped White (Euchloe belemia): Two+ on the Belén plain on 1st were also the only ones positively identified.

Clouded Yellow (Colias croceus): A few daily from 30th to 4th, e.g. at Belén Plain, Vegas Altas, río Tozo, Monfragüe.

Small Copper (Lycaena phlaeas): Singles in the Madrigalejo rice fields on 1st and by the río Tozo on 2nd.

Brown Argus (Aricia agestis): Singles by the Emb. de Arrocampo on 30th, on the Belén plain on 31st and by the río Tozo on 2nd.

Common Blue (Polyommatus icarus): 10+ by the río Magasca on 4th.

Nettle-tree Butterfly (Libythea celtis): One on the Belén plain on 31st.

Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta): Singles on the Belén plain on 31st and in the Madrigalejo rice fields on 1st, 2 at Trujillo and 1+ by the río Tozo on 2nd and 2+ in Monfragüe on 3rd.

Painted Lady (Cynthia cardui): Two by the río Tozo on 2nd, 1 in Monfragüe on 3rd and 1 en route on 4th.

Small Heath (Coenonympha pamphilus): Several on the Belén plain on 31st, masses by the río Tozo on 2nd, several in Monfragüe on 3rd and lots in various sites on 4th.

Southern Speckled Wood (Pararge aegeria): Singles by the río Gargáligas on 1st and in Monfragüe on 3rd; this form is sometimes treated as a separate species.

Wall Brown (Lasiommata megera): One by the Emb. de Arrocampo on 30th.

OTHER INVERTEBRATES

Iberian Blue-tailed Damselfly (Ischnura graellsii): 5+ by the Emb. de Arrocampo on 30th,.

Field Cricket (Gryllus campestris): A few trilling at both Vegas Altas on 1st and by the río Tozo on 2nd.

Fire Bug (Lygaeus sp.): A few at odd sites, including by the río Tozo on 2nd.

Forester moth (Adscita sp.): One spectacular individual on the Belén plain on 31st.

Pine Processionary Moth (Thaumetopaea processionea): Several caterpillar tents on pines in Monfragüe on 3rd.

?Grass Eggar (Lasiocampa trifolii): A caterpillar, probably of this species on the Belén plain on 31st.

Hummingbird Hawk-moth (Macroglossum stellatarum): One came into the meeting room at the finca during a squall on 2nd and was nearly eaten by the resident gecko...

Bee-fly (Bombylius sp.): Several at a few sites during the week.

Paper wasp sp. (?Polistes sp.): Two nests on posts above the Madrigalejo rice fields on 1st.

Violet Carpenter Bee (Xylocopa violacea): One looking for nest holes in posts in the Madrigalejo rice fields on 1st.

Dung Beetle (Geotrupidae sp.): One outside the posh hotel at Torrejón el Rubio on 5th.

Rhinoceros Beetle (Copris lunaris): A few at Finca Santa Marta on a few nights and one outside the posh hotel at Torrejón el Rubio on 5th.

Ladybird sp. (Coccinelidae sp.): Noted at different sites on 1st and 2+ by the río Tozo on 2nd.

Oil Beetle (Meloe sp.): Two on the Belén plain on 31st and by the río Tozo on 2nd.

Churchyard Beetle (?Bleps sp.): One under a log at Finca Santa Marta on 31st.

'Jewel Beetle' (?Chrysomelidae sp.): One, green with reddish stripes was a choice find by Judy on 3rd.

'Big, nasty' Centipede (Scolopendra cingulatus): Three on the Belén plain on 31st and 2 by the río Tozo on 2nd.

Red Signal Crayfish (Procambarus clarkii): One in the Madrigalejo rice fields on 1st.

HERPTILES

Moorish Gecko (Tarentola mauretanica): One in the meeting room of the finca on 2nd and two there on 3rd.

Large Psammodromus (Psammodromus algirus): 3+ on the Belén plain on 31st, 2+ in the Madrigalejo rice fields on 1st, 1 in Trujillo on 2nd and 3+ by the río Magasca on 3rd.

Spanish Psammodromus (Psammodromus hispanicus): Plenty on the Belén plain on 31st.

Schreiber's Green Lizard (Lacerta schreiberi): One seen in Trujillo on 2nd.

Stripe-necked Terrapin (Mauremys leprosa): 2+ in the Emb. de Arrocampo on 30th, 40+ in the río and Emb. del Tozo on 2nd and 3+ in the río Magasca and one en route on 3rd.

Southern Smooth Snake (Coronilla girondicus): One on the Belén plain on 31st.

Montpellier Snake (Malpolon monspessulanum): Two impressive individuals under a tin sheet by the río Tozo on 2nd.

Marbled Newt (Triturus marmoratus): 1 beauty by a track on the Belén plain on 31st.

Common Tree Frog (Hyla arborea): 1 in the Madrigalejo rice fields on 1st.

Iberian Pool Frog (Rana perezi): 4+ along the río Tozo on 2nd.

FISH

Common Carp (Cyprinus carpio): Lots, apparently spawning in the Emb. de Arrocampo on 30th and in the reservoirs in Monfragüe on 5th.

Barbel sp. (Barbus sp.): One large individual seen by Judy in the río Almonte on 3rd.

Mosquito fish (Gambusia affinis): Plenty in a culvert on the Madrigalejo rice fields on 1st and in the río Tozo on 2nd.

SELECTED PLANTS:

[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 Papery Paronychia (prob. this sp.) (136)

Spergularia purpurea Purple Spurrey (148)

?Silene colorata (180)

Ranunculaceae: Ranunculus sp. Water Crowfoot sp.

Ranunculus sp. Buttercup sp.

Papaveraceae: Papaver rhoeas Common Poppy (283)

Fumariaceae: Fumaria capreolata Ramping Fumitory (303)

Crassulaceae: Umbilicus rupestris Navelwort (396)

Leguminosae: Cercis siliquastrum Judas Tree (430)

Cytisus multiflorus White Broom

Cytisus scoparius Broom (456)

Genista hirsuta greenweed sp. (466)

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

Adenocarpus argyrophyllus Spanish Adenocarpus (482)

Lupinus luteus Yellow Lupin (483)

Lupinus angustifolius Narrow-leaved Lupin (c. 484)

Astragalus lusitanicus 'Iberian' Milk-vetch (504)

Scorpiurus vermiculatus "Sheep's-tongue" (685)

Onobrychis humilis Milk-vetch sp. (c. 710)

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)

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: Smyrnium olusatrum Alexanders (1087)

Ferula communis Giant Fennel (1141)

Ericaceae: Arbutus unedo Strawberry Tree (1176)

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

Oleaceae: Olea europaea Olive (1248)

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

Borago officinalis Borage (1395)

Omphalodes linifolia Annual Omphalodes (1399)

Anchusa undulata Undulate Anchusa (1406)

Labiatae: Rosmarinus officinalis Rosemary (1526)

Lavandula stoechas French Lavender (1528)

Solanaceae: Hyosciamus albus White Henbane (1555)

Scrophularicaea: Misopates orontium Lesser Snapdragon (1611)

Linaria amethystea 'Amethyst' Toadflax (c. 1614)

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

Orobanchaceae: Orobanche rapum-genistae Greater Broomrape (1670)

Compositae: Bellis annua Annual Daisy (1791)

Calendula arvensis Field Marigold (1908)

Galactites tomentosa Galactites (1971)

Silybum marianum Milk Thistle (1982)

Liliaceae: Asphodelus fistulosus Hollow-leaved Asphodel (2087)

Asphodelus aestivus Common Asphodel (2089)

Fritillaria lusitanica 'Iberian Fritillary' (2152)

Ornithogalum narbonense Spiked Star-of-Bethlehem (2166)

Ornithogalum umbellatum Star-of-Bethlehem (2166)

Hyacinthoides hispanica Spanish Bluebell

Narcissus bulbocodium Hoop-petticoat Narcissus (2281)

Iridaceae: Gynandriris sisyrinchium Barbary Nut Iris (2305)

Orchidaceae: Orchis champagneuxii Champagne Orchid (2405)

Orchis lactea Milky Orchid (2408)

Ophrys tenthredinifera Sawfly Orchid (2442)

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

This list has been drawn up primarily using Blamey & Grey-Wilson's Med. Wild Flowers and the 'Flora y vegetación de Extremadura', thus names 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.


© The Travelling Naturalist 2002