Extremadura in spring

29 March - 4 April 2003

Tim Earl

Daily diary

Saturday 29 March

Seeing Purple Gallinule and Purple Heron together in the telescope at the same time was just one of the day’s highlights as we experienced the delights of our first day in Spain. Arriving for tapas at our rest-stop on the way to Extremadura had been a thrill when nesting White Stork was found from the car park, but the Embalse de Arrocampo took the experience up several notches.
Cetti’s Warbler greeted us on arrival with a powerful burst of song, more storks were nesting on pylons and in trees, Sedge and Reed Warbler were flitting around in the reed beds and a couple of Water Rail were imitating squealing pigs. A male Stonechat sat up on a fence to admire the Travelling Naturalists which had returned for another year... ‘spring must be here,’ it probably thought. We were able to see the distinctive long hind claws of a perched Meadow Pipit, despite the distance, and Corn Bunting was common.
The Purple Heron and Gallinules were delightful, particularly once the light rain stopped and the area was bathed in pale late-afternoon light. The sunshine also encouraged a couple of Zitting Cisticola to fight the invisible elastic, which anchors this species to the ground, and bob around calling ‘zip’ on the up-beats.
A Savi’s Warbler, reeling its song from the marsh, proved elusive but not so two Black-crowned Night-herons which posed with a Little Egret at the back of the reed beds. Black Kite was fairly common but proved to be the only raptor, and a Kingfisher zipped across the reservoir eluding many.
Several Mallards were seen in flight and a duck in the middle of the reservoir proved to be Gadwall when we turned the ‘scope on it. Eight Common Snipe dived down over the marsh and dropped into the reed beds.
Our visit ended with excellent views of Spanish Sparrow and a great feeling of anticipation for the trip ahead. We saw lots of House Martin nests on the way out through Almiraz, their occupants busy rebuilding for the summer ahead.
The trip from London had been punctual and uneventful. Five of us joined the three who had come by other routes to Madrid Airport and we soon weaving our way through the motorway network and onto the Extremadura Highway.
Barn Swallow, Crested Lark, Wood Pigeon and Collared Dove were common on the journey down and local knowledge on the part of your author allowed us to clock our first Black-winged Stilt at 120km an hour… most unsatisfactory.
The welcome by Henri Elink-Schurman at the Finca Santa Marta was warm and friendly as we joined other visitors for a reception prior to a delicious Spanish dinner. Iberian Pool Frogs sang to us as we retired to bed with hopes high for the morning.
Clocks were advanced an hour (effectively to double summer-time) which ruled out the possibility of a pre-breakfast walk in the mornings.

Sunday 30 March

The rain in Spain falls on the Belén Plain, at least early on the first morning. A weather front pushed through giving us an uncomfortable start but this was more than compensated for by the birding. Within minutes of our first stop we were watching no fewer than 21 Great Bustard in fields on the plain. Two big ‘plains masters’ were displaying to about 20 females on either side of a cattle fence and we watched in some awe as they appeared to turn themselves inside out achieving the amazing white pom-pom effect.
Progressing closer we stopped at a field overlooking the group and, after studying our quarry, watched Hoopoe, Crested Lark and Spanish Sparrows around farm buildings close by.
We were able to improve views of the Great Bustards by moving further down the road and flushed four Collared Pratincole in the process. In searching for those we encountered our first Green Sandpiper of the day. Highlight of the stop, however, was a pair of Little Bustard found in a field behind us.
The weather was too cool to hang around for long and we drove back to Trujillo for a warming coffee before exploring the plains further. Raptors were in short supply due to the weather but we had good views of a male Hen Harrier and several groups of Lesser Kestrel.
Gordon and your author had a short walk turning up a Cinereous (Black) Vulture and three Griffon Vulture before eating their lunch.
Calandra Lark featured heavily after lunch and we were all able to admire the several flocks found. Our drive back to the finca and afternoon tea produced good sightings of Montagu’s Harrier, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Azure-winged Magpie and distant views of a Bonelli’s Eagle.
We all agreed that it had been a super day.

Monday 31 March

A diversion on the road to Monfragüe Natural Park resulted in us re-visiting the Embalse de Arrocampo on our way to the northern entrance. It was a fortuitous move as we saw lots of Griffon Vulture and four Black Vulture soaring in kettles as they used the fast-developing thermals to make their way out of the park. A singing Savi’s Warbler was a little more cooperative and some of us had decent views.
Two snakes dashed in front of the bus in quick succession: the first a four-foot Montpellier, the second a Ladder Snake. We saw another swimming across a lake later in the day.
We entered the park after a comfort stop and were immediately enchanted by the profusion of birds. At one stop we heard the first Nightingale of the year, closely followed by a distant Common Cuckoo. At another, circling Griffon Vultures were joined by a Red Kite.
But it was our first cliff-stop, in time for lunch, which really had the adrenaline flowing. Ooohs and aaahs of delight as we watched a stunning male Blue Rock-thrush were interrupted when the leader pointed out a pair of Bonelli’s Eagle, displaying above the cliff. Another was to drift past close to us a few minutes later. Our only two Booted Eagle displayed briefly and a pair of Black Redstarts was seen distantly.
A male Serin sang and performed its display flight, a pair of Rock Bunting ticked and posed for us, Dartford Warbler sang in the scrub but showed itself only to three Belgian birders with whom we had swapped notes.
Griffons were swooping in to land on the cliff constantly, occasionally fighting and making their strange reptilian grunts. A pair of Egyptian Vulture mated brazenly on an outcrop, and a Peregrine Falcon flew past.
Heading deeper into the park we stopped to search for Crested Tit without success but were rewarded with brief views of Great Spotted Woodpecker and a calling Cuckoo.
Stops produced sightings of male Sub-alpine Warbler, and Alpine Swift among hundreds of House Martin nesting on a bridge.
The last stop in this beautiful park gave us stunning close views of Griffons flying past accompanied by three Black Stork, and more Blue Rock-thrush on the crags. Your author was trying to sort out two corvids when they gave their distinctive onomatopoeic ‘Chough’ calls.
After driving (legally) through bumpy road-works we were again diverted, this time onto a familiar road for your bus driver, to a set of three bridges where we stopped. The river was in spate washing out some of the waders we might have expected. Crag Martins were collecting nest-mud from a puddle giving good views and our last bird serenaded us: a Grasshopper Warbler which we were prevented from seeing by a barbed wire fence.
We returned to the finca by 6.45pm after what had proved to be a thrilling day.

Tuesday 1 April

We enjoyed gentle outings today, walking at the finca, visiting Trujillo and exploring the Rio Tozo Valley. That did not mean giving up wildlife, however. It was another full day for the Travelling Naturalists.
Gordon had seen Cirl Bunting before breakfast and another pair was seen by some as we walked the old road down from Finca Santa Marta before the day became too warm. Linnet, Chiffchaff and Spain’s duller race of Long-tailed Tit were also admired.
Cuckoos were noticeable, calling from the valley below, and a Blue Rock-thrush flew past along with a Hoopoe.
The bullring on the outskirts of Trujillo has long been used as a breeding site by a colony of Lesser Kestrel and we took advantage of them for a master-class in identification. Everyone graduated as experts with ease.
The flooded valley leading to a new municipal park produced the first Coot of the trip and a few Moorhen.
Our coffee break was superb with Lesser Kestrel, Pallid Swift, White Stork and Jackdaw common in Trujillo square. Vigilance added Griffon Vulture, Black Kite and Raven to the list before we set off up to the castle, taking pictures of the storks’ nests from above.
The Mirador at the top was a wonderful vantage point, as ever, with Great Spotted Cuckoo being mobbed by a Blackbird in a bush just below us. Watching the plains below enabled us to compare Black and Griffon Vulture from above, study Red-rumped Swallow and identify some of the landmarks we were getting to know.
Lunch was eaten on the banks of the Rio Tozo where we found calling Iberian Pool Frog, a dark-phase Booted Eagle and plenty of Black Kite. Walking down the valley was a superb experience punctuated with many stops to admire birds and flowers.
Fluting Wood Lark delighted us and allowed close views, Blackcap and Long-tailed Tit were found and a Green Sandpiper towered as it flew off, flushed by Gordon who was stalking Pond Terrapin. We all jumped when Yani called a Common Crane which we watched fly off. The bird was probably a late straggler from the population which winter in the region.
The lake lower down the valley was superb with Black-necked Stilt, Little Ringed Plover Greenshank and Redshank, all on a distant bank. One of the highlights was a roosting Spoonbill which occasionally showed us its spatulate beak.
Raptors had been largely represented by Black Kite until a hovering Short-toed Eagle was seen at some distance, but on the return walk we saw three Booted Eagle in quick succession.
The day’s birding ended in the latest minutes when one group member dashed into the finca’s car park on hearing a Scops Owl, getting glimpses of the bird flitting from almond to olive tree, when she realised that her only clothing was a flimsy nightie. The owl’s reaction to this ghostly Harry-Potterish apparition could only be guessed.

Wednesday 2 April

We headed off south this morning to visit Spain’s sixth largest expanse of fresh water at the Embalse de Sierra Brava. Surrounded by steppe farmland, the reservoir is one of the favourite sites for visiting birders to the area.
As we drove across the Sierra Zorita, a stop for a quick reconnaissance proved fortuitous. Two Common Cuckoo were perched on wires, one the usual grey phase, the other a brown female. As we admired the bird’s subtle markings a movement beneath her turned out to be a striking Black-eared Wheatear, soon joined by a Woodchat Shrike. And, as if those were not sufficient, a pair of Northern Wheatear popped up as a Crane flew past behind them, the latter sadly seen by only a few.
The plains in Spain are not static habitats – they are carefully managed with a crop rotation system which sees some fields ploughed each year. Such activity was in progress when we made a second stop to search the area. A Black-headed Gull flock following the tractor could have been expected, but three Gull-billed Tern were something of a surprise, although the habit is well known in this species.
Santa Brava Reservoir is huge and our first views across its waters seemed lacking in birds. A Common Sandpiper was found picking on the bank but our attention was distracted by a call for two Great Bustard feeding at some distance across the plain, close to a farmhouse. Chris found two more much closer on the side of the reservoir but as we watched seven more join them the group wandered out of sight.
The first of two Stone Curlew was seen by Yani and your leader found a couple of Red-legged Partridge hiding behind rocks.
We decided to stalk the bustards carefully as the birds were close, and we soon had slightly better views. Conscious that we should not disturb them we started to retreat when another, white-throated, Black-eared Wheatear popped up for us to contrast with the earlier dark throated bird. Suddenly, the air was full of the bubbling calls of European Bee-eater passing overhead as they migrated north. We enjoyed reasonable views of these lovely birds but wished some could be found on wires.
Returning to the lake we had great telescope-views of a Black-necked Grebe, one of the regulars in this enchanting spot. In addition, there was still time for a little butterfly-watching and plant identification.
Our rather late coffee stop gave us time to reflect on a super morning before setting off to search unsuccessfully for Black-shouldered Kite, always an elusive bird. We gave up and ate lunch in the lush fields close to Madrigajelo.
As ever in Extremadura, this was not to be an uninterrupted event. A huge male Great Bustard was found on fields a short distance away, although the usual and expected harem of females was not with him. Perhaps the bird had come across, like us, for a meal and a break from birdwatching. If so, he was successful but we were not as the bustard gave us a great thrill when later he flew past, solo. That prompted a few Black-bellied Sandgrouse to move around too and we could see easily why they are so called as one passed close over our heads.
A male Montagu’s Harrier had been quartering the fields for most of our lunch-break but he saved the swooping, mobbing courtship flight with a larger female until we were walking in an unsuccessful attempt to pin down a Quail calling distantly.
Our last stop of the day was at nearby rice fields where we found a once beautiful habitat and walk decimated by vast works to improve the area’s irrigation system. We considered ourselves lucky to find a small mixed flock of about 50 Common Waxbill and Red Avadavat. These were seen quite well before they dispersed and we followed them down to the Rio Ruecas, nearby. Here, a Sedge Warbler was singing accompanied by Cetti’s song, although this was their more usual shouts. They did inspire an early Great Reed Warbler to croak out a few bars but it became stubbornly silent and we set off back to the finca, Ceylon tea, cake and an early call-over.
Was it a mistake to hold it in the hazy sunshine on the patio? We were certainly interrupted. A pale-phased Booted Eagle passed close overhead giving super views. It was joined by four Griffons and soon followed by two flocks of Bee-eaters. Finding Common Swift missing from the day’s list, we turned our binoculars to the line of White Stork nests in the dead trees on the finca’s boundary and found six hawking above them.
A few Azure-winged Magpie and Short-toed Treecreeper were also present in the olive trees but your leader kept quiet about the Red-rumped Swallows overhead or we would never have finished.
The early call-over was to give us time for a pre-dinner drive in search of Little Owl. Naturally, none could be found and we had to make do with a brood of Stonechat, scads of Azure-winged Magpie, a Mistle Thrush and three Great Spotted Cuckoo.
It was, as we say, a great day.

Thursday 3 April

The Sierra Santa Marta de Magasca and the river at which we stop to have lunch are magical places and quite fitting for the last full day of the holiday. So they were today in bright sunshine with a cool breeze to keep temperatures at a habitable level.
Patience drew our attention to a pair of Stone Curlew which had flushed as the bus passed and Wood Lark was heard as we drove through beautiful Evergreen-oak-studded meadows.
Our first stop, on a sharp bend overlooking fields with snow-topped mountains in the distance, was wonderful as birds popped up almost constantly. The fields on either side of track in front of us held at least 50 Little Bustard which were displaying occasionally, calling and flying past us, their wings whistling. The males looked like Newcastle United supporters with their black and white ‘football scarves’.
A few Montagu’s Harrier drifted past and a single female Hen Harrier was quartering in front of us. The noisy rattling, cackling call of Great Spotted Cuckoo alerted us to a pair which were chased off by an agitated Magpie.
Three rather rude birders pulled up in front of us, set up their tripods and blocked our view to some extent. They left after a while and we followed them shortly.
The two groups ended standing on the road-side admiring a group of about 12 Montagu’s Harrier which had returned to breed in the area. The birders moved on in their search for Pin-tailed Sandgrouse while we retired to a nearby café. The friendly proprietor recognised your leader from a previous trip and loaned him a smoke-stained stuffed Pin-tailed Sandgrouse which we used for recognition practice.
After a short diversion we settled in a sheltered valley next to the Rio Magasca for an idyllic picnic lunch.
Among the birds seen were Kingfisher, Grey Wagtail, Crag Martin and Red-rumped Swallow. The usual selection of raptors passed by with Red Kite by far the most common for the first time in the trip.
We set off back to the Santa Marta de Magasca plain for a sandgrouse search. Doing this in the heat of the day is usually pointless but within seconds of leaving the bus we were watching eight Black-bellied Sandgrouse which flew in an landed only a couple of hundred metres away. It might as well have been a couple of hundred miles. With cryptic camouflage, they disappeared on landing, perhaps turning into stones.
Another much bigger group was attracted to the field, doing a spectacular fly-past before settling close to the first birds. As they landed we were able to pick out two Pin-tailed Sandgrouse among them, recognising them from the café’s ‘lucky bird’ (lucky… to get shot and stuffed? Ed). After much eye-straining the two birds were seen on the ground, just about adequately. Flighty, the sandgrouse took to the wing as we approached, at least allowing closer views of the group before taking off.
The day ended with a farewell reception given by Henri followed by sparkling wine and apple tart to celebrate the special occasion.

Friday 4 April

On reflection, we might have enjoyed the trip to Madrid Airport more had we not visited Monfragüe Natural Park. But on the face of it, with a 4.35pm flight home, spending the morning birding this wonderful area seemed a great idea.
And so it was, except that traffic around Madrid was extremely heavy and our arrival at the airport was a little late. British Airways had heard of the delays and we checked in with a friendly and sympathetic woman and caught our flight which left on time.
The park was wonderful.
Views from the castle included several looking down on passing Griffon and Egyptian Vultures, a Black Redstart was singing from the cliffs, and an Alpine Swift shot past the bus windscreen.
Oh yes, then there was the pair of Griffons with a chick, the Blue Rock-thrush which perched on a wire next to a male Black Redstart, scads of Red-rumped Swallow and Crag Martin, the Red-billed Choughs.
Let’s not forget three singing Dartford Warbler males which gave some of us good views on the way to the park. Nor our last views of Hoopoe, Azure-winged Magpie and Crested Lark.
The last hour in traffic was grim, but overall it was another great day on the Extremadura tour.

My thanks to Gordon and Chris for their help with butterflies and Pauline for her enthusiasm with the plants. Most of all, however, to the whole group for making the trip so exciting. I hope to travel with you all again to another destination some time.

Annotated list of species


Podicipediformes Podicipedidae
1 Little grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis
Belén Plain, three on 30th; Monfragüe, two on 31st; Sierra Santa Marta de Magasca, one on 3rd.
2 Great crested grebe Podiceps cristatus
Embalse de Arrocampo, three on 29th; Belén Plain, three on 30th; Embalse de Sierra Brava, six on 2nd.
3 Black-necked (Eared) grebe Podiceps nigricollis
Embalse de Sierra Brava, two on 2nd.

CORMORANTS Pelecaniformes Phalacrocoracidae
4 Great cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo
Embalse de Arrocampo, two on 29th; Belén Plain, seven on 30th; Monfragüe, six on 31st; Madrigajelo, one on 2nd.

HERONS, EGRETS & BITTERNS Ciconiiformes Ardeidae
5 Grey heron Ardea cinerea
Embalse de Arrocampo, 10 on 29th; Belén Plain, two on 30th; Monfragüe, four on 31st;, one on 4th Madrigajelo, one on 2nd.
6 Purple heron Ardea purpurea
Embalse de Arrocampo, eight on 29th, two on 31st.
7 Little egret Egretta garzetta
Journey, several, colony outside Trujillo on 29th; a few daily.
8 Cattle egret Bubulcus ibis
Abundant daily.
9 Black-crowned night-heron Nycticorax nycticorax
Embalse de Arrocampo, two on 29th.

STORKS Ciconiiformes Ciconiidae
10 Black stork Ciconia nigra
Monfragüe, four on 31st.
11 White stork Ciconia ciconia
First nest: Hotel David on 29th, abundant daily.

SPOONBILLS Ciconiiformes Threskiornithidae
12 Eurasian spoonbill Platalea leucorodia
Tozo Valley, one on 1st.

SWANS, GEESE & DUCKS Anseriformes Anatidae
13 Greylag goose Anser anser
Tozo Valley, 20 flew in to the Embalse in ‘V’ formation on 1st.
14 Gadwall Anas strepera
Embalse de Arrocampo, one on 29th; Tozo Valley, 30 on 1st; Embalse de Sierra Brava, six on 2nd.
15 Common teal Anas crecca
Tozo Valley, three on 1st.
16 Mallard Anas platyrhynchos
A few daily.
17 Northern shoveler Anas clypeata
Tozo Valley, two on 1st; Embalse de Sierra Brava, six on 2nd.

HAWKS, EAGLES & KITES Falconiformes Accipitridae
18 Red kite Milvus milvus
Belén Plain, one on 30th; Monfragüe, two on 31st, three on 4th; Tozo Valley, three on 1st; Embalse de Sierra Brava, two on 2nd; Sierra Santa Marta de Magasca, lots on 3rd.
19 Black kite Milvus migrans
Common daily.
20 Egyptian vulture Neophron percnopterus
Belén Plain, two on 30th; Monfragüe, five on 31st, two on 4th.
21 Eurasian griffon Gyps fulvus
Belén Plain, three on 30th; Monfragüe, abundant on 31st and 4th, although just taking to the air when we were there; Trujillo and Tozo Valley, common on 1st; Embalse de Sierra Brava, one on 2nd; Finca Santa Marta, four on 2nd; Sierra Santa Marta de Magasca, common on 3rd.
22 Cinereous (Eurasian black) vulture Aegypius monachus
Belén Plain, one on 30th; Monfragüe, 10 on 31st three on 4th; Trujillo and Tozo Valley, five on 1st; Sierra Santa Marta de Magasca, four on 3rd.
23 Short-toed eagle Circaetus gallicus
Tozo Valley, one on 1st.
24 Western marsh-harrier Circus aeruginosus
Journey, one carrying prey on 29th; Embalse de Arrocampo, male on 31st; Trujillo, one on 1st; Madrigajelo, one on 2nd.
25 Northern harrier Circus cyaneus
Belén Plain, male on 30th; Sierra Santa Marta de Magasca, female on 3rd.
26 Montagu's harrier Circus pygargus
Belén Plain, male on 30th; Tozo Valley, one on 1st; Madrigajelo, two on 2nd; Sierra Santa Marta de Magasca, 15 on 3rd.
27 Eurasian buzzard Buteo buteo
Journey, two on 29th; Monfragüe, one on 31st, two on 4th; Tozo Valley, two on 1st; Madrigajelo, two on 2nd; Sierra Santa Marta de Magasca, six on 3rd.
28 Bonelli's eagle Hieraaetus fasciatus
Belén Plain, one on 30th; Monfragüe, five sightings on 31st.
29 Booted eagle Hieraaetus pennatus
Monfragüe, two on 31st; Tozo Valley, three on 1st; Finca Santa Marta, one pale-phased bird on 2nd; Rio de Magasca, one on 3rd.

FALCONS Falconiformes Falconidae
30 Lesser kestrel Falco naumanni
Belén Plain, 10 on 30th; Trujillo bullring, 30 on 1st; Madrigajelo rice fields, four on 2nd; Sierra Santa Marta de Magasca, four on 3rd.
31 Eurasian kestrel Falco tinnunculus
Journey, three on 29th; Belén Plain, three on 30th; Monfragüe, one on 31st; Tozo Valley, one on 1st; Madrigajelo, three on 2nd; Sierra Santa Marta de Magasca, three on 3rd.
32 Peregrine falcon Falco peregrinus
Monfragüe, one on 31st.

PHEASANTS & PARTRIDGES Galliformes Phasianidae
33 Red-legged partridge Alectoris rufa
Embalse de Sierra Brava, two on 2nd; Sierra Santa Marta de Magasca, six on 3rd.

CRANES Gruiformes Gruidae
34 Common crane Grus grus
Tozo Valley, one on 1st; Sierra Zorita, one on 3rd.

RAILS, GALLINULES & COOTS Gruiformes Rallidae
35 Water rail Rallus aquaticus
Embalse de Arrocampo, two squealing on 29th, one on 31st .
36 Purple swamphen (gallinule) Porphyrio porphyrio
Embalse de Arrocampo, eight on 29th and 31st.
37 Common moorhen Gallinula chloropus
Embalse de Arrocampo, two on 29th; Belén Plain, one on 30th; Tozo Valley, one on 1st; Madrigajelo rice fields, three on 2nd.
38 Eurasian coot Fulica atra
Trujillo municipal park, four on 1st; Embalse de Sierra Brava, six on 2nd.

BUSTARDS Gruiformes Otididae
39 Great bustard Otis tarda
Belén Plain, 30 on 30th; Embalse de Sierra Brava, nine on 2nd; Madrigajelo, one male on 2nd.
40 Little bustard Tetrax tetrax
Belén Plain, three on 30th; Embalse de Sierra Brava, one heard on 2nd; Sierra Santa Marta de Magasca, 50 on 3rd.

STILTS Charadriiformes Recurvirostridae
41 Black-winged stilt Himantopus himantopus
Journey, one on 29th; Tozo Valley, six on 1st.

THICK-KNEES Charadriiformes Burhinidae
42 Stone curlew (Eurasian thick-knee) Burhinus oedicnemus
Embalse de Sierra Brava, two in flight on 2nd; Sierra Santa Marta de Magasca, two in flight on 3rd.

PRATINCOLES Charadriiformes Glareolidae
43 Collared pratincole Glareola pratincola
Belén Plain, four on 30th; Sierra Santa Marta de Magasca, one on 3rd.
PLOVERS Charadriiformes Charadriidae
44 Little ringed plover Charadrius dubius
Tozo Valley, one on 1st.

SANDPIPERS Charadriiformes Scolopacidae

45 Common snipe Gallinago gallinago
Embalse de Arrocampo, eight on 29th, one on 31st.
46 Common redshank Tringa totanus
Tozo Valley, one on 1st.
47 Common greenshank Tringa nebularia
Tozo Valley, one on 1st.
48 Green sandpiper Tringa ochropus
Belén Plain, five on 30th; Tozo Valley, one on 1st.

GULLS Charadriiformes Laridae
49 Lesser black-backed gull Larus fuscus
Belén Plain, one on 30th.
50 Black-headed gull Larus ridibundus
Embalse de Sierra Brava, 20 on 2nd.

TERNS Charadriiformes Sternidae
51 Gull-billed tern Sterna nilotica
Embalse de Sierra Brava, 10 on 2nd.

SANDGROUSE Pterocliformes Pteroclidae
52 Pin-tailed sandgrouse Pterocles alchata
Sierra Santa Marta de Magasca, two with Black-bellied Sandgrouse on 3rd.
53 Black-bellied sandgrouse Pterocles orientalis
Madrigajelo, five on 2nd; Sierra Santa Marta de Magasca, 35 on 3rd.

PIGEONS & DOVES Columbiformes Columbidae
54 Rock dove Columba livia
Common daily.
55 Common wood-pigeon Columba palumbus
One or two daily.
56 Eurasian collared-dove Streptopelia decaocto
Common daily.

CUCKOOS Cuculiformes Cuculidae
57 Great spotted cuckoo Clamator glandarius
Trujillo Castle, one on 1st; near the Finca Santa Marta, three on 2nd; Sierra Santa Marta de Magasca, four on 3rd.
58 Common cuckoo Cuculus canorus
Monfragüe, three on 31st one on 4th; various sites, six on 1st; Sierra Zorita, two including one brown-phase female on 2nd; Sierra Santa Marta de Magasca, one on 3rd.

OWLS Strigiformes Strigidae
59 European scops-owl Otus scops
Finca Santa Marta, one on 29th.

SWIFTS Apodiformes Apodidae
60 Alpine swift Tachymarptis melba
Monfragüe, four on 31st, one on 4th.
61 Common swift Apus apus
Trujillo, several on 1st; Finca Santa Marta, six on 2nd and 3rd.
62 Pallid swift Apus pallidus
Trujillo, 30 on 1st.

KINGFISHERS Coraciiformes Alcedinidae
63 Common kingfisher Alcedo atthis
Embalse de Arrocampo, one on 29th; Rio de Magasca, two on 3rd.
BEE-EATERS Coraciiformes Meropidae
64 European bee-eater Merops apiaster
A total of 55 in four flocks on 2nd; a total of 28, including some perched on wires at Finca Santa Marta on 3rd.

HOOPOES Coraciiformes Upupidae
65 Eurasian hoopoe Upupa epops
A few most days, maximum 10 at Monfragüe on 31st.

WOODPECKERS Piciformes Picidae
66 Great spotted woodpecker Dendrocopos major
Monfragüe, one on 31st; Finca Santa Marta, one drumming on 2nd.

LARKS Passeriformes Alaudidae
67 Calandra lark Melanocorypha calandra
Belén Plain, 50 on 30th; Embalse de Sierra Brava, two on 2nd; Sierra Santa Marta de Magasca, six on 3rd.
68 Crested lark Galerida cristata
Common daily.
69 Wood lark Lullula arborea
Tozo Valley, three on 1st; Sierra Santa Marta de Magasca, two on 3rd.

SWALLOWS & MARTINS Passeriformes Hirundinidae
70 Eurasian crag-martin Hirundo rupestris
Monfragüe, common on 31st and 4th; on the way to the Tozo Valley, 10 on 1st; Rio de Magasca, 20 on 3rd.
71 Barn swallow Hirundo rustica
Common daily.
72 Red-rumped swallow Hirundo daurica
Finca Santa Marta, three on 30th; Monfragüe, 10 on 31st and 4th; Trujillo, two on 1st; Rio de Magasca, six on 3rd.
73 House martin Delichon urbica
Common to abundant daily.

WAGTAILS & PIPITS Passeriformes Motacillidae
74 White wagtail Motacilla alba
Belén Plain, one on 30th; Monfragüe, two on 31st; Tozo Valley, two on 1st; Embalse de Sierra Brava, two on 2nd; Rio de Magasca, one on 3rd.
75 Grey wagtail Motacilla cinerea
Monfragüe, two on 31st; Rio de Magasca, two on 3rd.
76 Meadow pipit Anthus pratensis
Embalse de Arrocampo, two on 29th; Belén Plain, 50 on 30th; Tozo Valley, two on 1st; Embalse de Sierra Brava, one on 2nd; Sierra Santa Marta de Magasca, 15 on 3rd.

WRENS Passeriformes Troglodytidae
77 Winter wren Troglodytes troglodytes
Finca Santa Marta, two daily, a few elsewhere.

THRUSHES Passeriformes Turdidae
78 Blue rock-thrush Monticola solitarius
Monfragüe, four on 31st, one on 4th; Finca Santa Marta, one on 1st.
79 Eurasian blackbird Turdus merula
A few daily.
80 Mistle thrush Turdus viscivorus
Monfragüe, two on 31st, one on 4th; near Finca Santa Marta, one on 2nd.

CISTICOLAS Passeriformes Cisticolidae
81 Zitting cisticola Cisticola juncidis
A few daily.

OLD WORLD WARBLERS Passeriformes Sylviidae
82 Cetti's warbler Cettia cetti
Embalse de Arrocampo, four on 29th; Monfragüe, four on 31st; six on 2nd.
83 Grasshopper warbler Locustella naevia
Monfragüe, one singing on 31st.
84 Savi's warbler Locustella luscinioides
Embalse de Arrocampo, two singing on 29th and 31st.
85 Sedge warbler Acrocephalus schoenobaenus
Embalse de Arrocampo, two on 29th and 31st;
86 Eurasian reed-warbler Acrocephalus scirpaceus
Embalse de Arrocampo, two on 29th.
87 Common chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybeta
Finca Santa Marta, one on 1st; Monfragüe, one on 4th.
88 Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla
Finca Santa Marta, three on 30th; Monfragüe, two on 31st; Tozo Valley, two on 1st.
89 Subalpine warbler Sylvia cantillans
Monfragüe, male on 31st.
90 Sardinian warbler Sylvia melanocephala
Finca Santa Marta, one male on 30th and 3rd; Monfragüe, two on 31st, one on 4th; Madrigajelo rice fields, female on 2nd.
91 Dartford warbler Sylvia undata
Monfragüe, one on 31st, three males singing on 4th.

OLD WORLD FLYCATCHERS Passeriformes Muscicapidae
92 European robin Erithacus rubecula
Monfragüe, one on 31st.
93 Common nightingale Luscinia megarhynchos
Monfragüe, one singing on 31st.
94 Black redstart Phoenicurus ochruros
Monfragüe, pair on 31st, male on 4th.
95 Common stonechat Saxicola torquata
Common to abundany daily.
96 Northern wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe
Sierra Zorita, three on 2nd.
97 Black-eared wheatear Oenanthe hispanica
Sierra Zorita and Embalse de Sierra Brava, one dark-throated, two white-throated forms on 2nd; Sierra Santa Marta de Magasca, two on 3rd.

LONG-TAILED TITS Passeriformes Aegithalidae
98 Long-tailed tit Aegithalos caudatus
Finca Santa Marta, three on 30th; Monfragüe, two on 31st and two on 4th; Finca Santa Marta and Tozo Valley, two each on 1st; Rio de Magasca, two on 3rd.

TITS Passeriformes Paridae
99 Great tit Parus major
A few daily.
100 Blue tit Cyanistes caeruleus
One or two daily.

Passeriformes Certhiidae
101 Short-toed treecreeper Certhia brachydactyla
Finca Santa Marta, one or two daily; Monfragüe, two on 31st.

SHRIKES Passeriformes Laniidae
102 Southern grey shrike Lanius meridionalis
Embalse de Arrocampo, one on 29th; Belén Plain, eight on 30th; Monfragüe, eight on 31st; Tozo Valley, two on 1st; two on 2nd; Sierra Santa Marta de Magasca, three on 3rd.
103 Woodchat shrike Lanius senator
Monfragüe, six on 31st; Tozo Valley, two on 1st; Sierra Zorita, two on 2nd; Sierra Zorita, two on 2nd.

CROWS & JAYS Passeriformes Corvidae
104 Azure-winged magpie Cyanopica cyana
Finca Santa Marta, several daily; Belén Plain, 10 on 30th; Monfragüe, 10 on 31st; three on 4th; Sierra Santa Marta de Magasca, 15 on 3rd.
105 Common magpie Pica pica
Common daily.
106 Red-billed chough Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax
Monfragüe, two on 31st and 4th.
107 Eurasian jackdaw Corvus monedula
Trujillo, flock of 50 on 29th, hundreds on 1st; Belén Plain, three on 30th; Sierra Santa Marta de Magasca, 30 on 3rd.
108 Common raven Corvus corax
Belén Plain, eight on 30th; Monfragüe, four on 31st; Trujillo and Tozo Valley, eight on 1st; Madrigajelo rice fields, six on 2nd; Sierra Santa Marta de Magasca, six on 3rd.

STARLINGS Passeriformes Sturnidae
109 Spotless starling Sturnus unicolor
Common daily.

OLD WORLD SPARROWS Passeriformes Passeridae
110 House sparrow Passer domesticus
Common daily.
111 Spanish sparrow Passer hispaniolensis
Embalse de Arrocampo, five on 29th; Belén Plain, common on 30th; Monfragüe, 20 on 31st; Trujillo, five on 1st; Madrigajelo rice fields, 20 on 2nd; Sierra Santa Marta de Magasca, common on 3rd.

WAXBILLS Passeriformes Estrildidae
112 Common waxbill Estrilda astrild
Madrigajelo rice fields, 45 on 2nd.
113 Red avadavat Amandava amandava
Madrigajelo rice fields, five on 2nd.

FINCHES Passeriformes Fringillidae
114 Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs
Monfragüe, two heard singing on 31st, two seen on 4th; Tozo Valley, several singing on 1st; Sierra Zorita, one on 2nd.
115 European greenfinch Carduelis chloris
Monfragüe, two on 31st; Madrigajelo, two on 2nd.
116 European goldfinch Carduelis carduelis
Common daily.
117 Eurasian linnet Carduelis cannabina
Monfragüe, six on 31st; Finca Santa Marta, three on 1st; Madrigajelo rice fields, three on 2nd.
118 European serin Serinus serinus
Finca Santa Marta, one bathing in a puddle on 30th, common daily.

TRUE BUNTINGS Passeriformes Emberizidae
119 Cirl bunting Emberiza cirlus
Finca Santa Marta, two pairs on 1st.
120 Rock bunting Emberiza cia
Monfragüe, two pairs on 31st.
121 Corn bunting Emberiza calandra
Common to abundant daily.


RABBITS and HARES Lagomorpha Leporidae
1 European rabbit Oryctolagus cuniculus
Finca Santa Marta, one on 29th.
2 European hare Lepus europaeus
Embalse de Sierra Brava, two on 2nd.

OTTERS, WEASELS and BADGERS Carnivora Mustelidae
3 European otter Lutra lutra
Tozo Valley, remains of crayfish eaten by otter on 1st.

HEDGEHOGS Lipotyphla Erinaceidae
4 Western European hedgehog Erinaceus europaeus
Motorway, one dead in the road outside Trujillo on 3rd.

MOLES Lipotyphla Talpidae
5 European mole Talpa europaea
Tozo Valley, many mole-hills on 1st.

APES Primates Hominidae
6 Human Homo sapiens
Plentiful daily.


Swallowtail (Papilio machaon):
One at Monfragüe on 31st, seven in the Tozo valley on 1st, two at the Embalse de Sierra Brava on 2nd.
Spanish Festoon (Zerynthia rumina): One at the Rio Magasca on 3rd.
Large White (Pieris brassicae): Several daily from 31st to 3rd.
Small White (Artogeia rapae): Several at Sierra Zorita on 2nd.
Clouded Yellow (Colias croceus): A few daily from 31st to 4th.
Brimstone (Goneptryx rhamni): Two males, two females in Monfragüe on 31st.
Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta): Two in Trujillo on 1st, and two at the Rio Magasca on 3rd.
Painted Lady (Cynthia cardui): Eight in various sites on 1st, six likewise on 3rd.
Small Heath (Coenonympha pamphilus): Several in Monfragüe on 31st, in various sites on 1st, and six on Sierra Santa Marta de Magasca on 3rd.
Wall Brown (Lasiommata megera): Two by the Embalse Tozo on 1st.
Giant Peacock Moth (Saturnia pyri): Two at the finca during the week. Sadly one of these huge moths was found dead. The other was on the main house wall as we left on 4th.


Iberian Blue-tailed Damselfly (Ischnura graellsii):
Two at the Rio Tozo on 1st.
Bee-fly (Bombylius sp.): Several at a few sites during the week.
Violet Carpenter Bee (Xylocopa violacea): One looking for nest holes in the finca woodpile on 1st.
Dung Beetle (Geotrupidae sp.): Several on the Magasca track on 3rd.
Oil Beetle (Meloe sp.): Scores on the Magasca track on 3rd.
'Big, nasty' Centipede (Scolopendra cingulatus): A few during the week.
Red Signal Crayfish (Procambarus clarkii): Several eaten by otter in the Rio Tozo on 1st, one in the Madrigalejo rice fields on 2nd.


Moorish Gecko (Tarentola mauretanica):
One in the finca refectory most evenings and one in PG’s bedroom on 31st.
Spanish Psammodromus (Psammodromus hispanicus): One on steps in Trujillo on 31st.
European Pond Terrapin: Fifteen in the Rio Tozo on 1st, six in the Rio Magasca on 3rd.
Stripe-necked Terrapin (Mauremys leprosa): 2+ in the Emb. de Arrocampo on 29th, 10+ in the Río and Embalse del Tozo on 1st.
Montpellier Snake (Malpolon monspessulanum): One ran(?) across the road in front of the bus on 31st.
Ladder Snake (Elaphe scalaris): One ran across the road in front of the bus and another swimming in a river in Monfragüe Natural Park on 31st.
Iberian Pool Frog (Rana perezi): Many calling at the Finca Santa Marta nightly. One in the Rio Tozo on the 1st.


Common Carp (Cyprinus carpio):
Lots spawning in the Embalse de Arrocampo on 29th.
Brown Trout (Salmo trutta): Many in the Rio Magasca on 3rd.


This (perhaps surprisingly long) list has been drawn up after some post-trip work using Blamey & Grey-Wilson's Mediterranean Wild Flowers and the 'Flora y vegetación de Extremadura'. [Nos. on the right refer to Grey-Wilson & Blamey, Mediterranean Wild Flowers]. Thanks To Pauline Grimshaw who put in a great deal of work to identify many of the species recorded.

Pinaceae: Pinus pinea Stone / Umbrella Pine (3)

Quercus rotundifolia Evergreen Oak (26)
Quercus suber Cork Oak (27)
Quercus pyrenaica Pyrenean Oak (c. 31)

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)
Spergularia purpurea Purple Spurrey (148)
Silene colorata Catchfly sp. (180)

Ranunculaceae: Ranunculus sp. Water Crowfoot sp.

Fumariaceae: Fumaria capreolata Ramping Fumitory (prob. this sp.)(303)

Crassulaceae: Umbilicus rupestris Navelwort (396)

Rosaceae: Rosa canina Common Dogrose (c. 404)

Leguminosae: Cercis siliquastrum Judas Tree (430)
Cytisus multiflorus White Broom (c. 456)
Lygos sphaerocarpa Lygos (common broom-like plant)(478)
Spartium junceum Spanish Broom (481)
Adenocarpus argyrophyllus Spanish Adenocarpus (482)
Lupinus luteus Yellow Lupin (483)
Lupinus angustifolius Narrow-leaved Lupin (486)
Astragalus lusitanicus 'Iberian' Milk-vetch (504)
Trifolium fragiferum Strawberry Clover (652)
Trifolium stellatum Starry Clover (662)
Anthyllis tetraphylla Bladder vetch (691)
Onobrychis humilis Milk-vetch sp. (c. 717)

Oxalidaceae: Oxalis pes-caprae Bermuda Buttercup (735)

Geraniaceae: Geranium molle Dove's-foot Crane's-bill (741)
Erodium botrys Storksbill sp. (758)

Rutaceae: Ruta chalepensis Fringed Rue (827)

Thymelaeaceae: Daphne gnidium Mediterranean Daphne (936)

Cistaceae: Cistus albidus Grey-leaved Cistus (big pink fls) (961)
Cistus salviifolius Sage-leaved Cistus (small white) (965)
Cistus monspeliensis Narow-leaved Cistus (966)
Cistus ladanifer Gum Cistus (big white fls) (971)
Tuberaria guttata Spotted Rockrose (small yellow) (985)
Xolantha ?tuberaria Rockrose sp. (purple-red & yellow)(c. 985)

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

Umbelliferae: Smyrnium olusatrum Alexanders (1087)
Scandix pecten-veneris Shepherd's Needle (1097)
Ferula communis Giant Fennel (1141)
Daucus carota Wild Carrot (1168)

Arbutus unedo Strawberry Tree (1176)
Erica arborea Tree Heath (1178)

Plumbaginaceae: Armeria sp. Thrift sp.

Oleaceae: Phillyrea angustifolia (1245)
Olea europaea Olive (1248)

Rubiaceae: Sherardia arvensis Field Madder*

Boraginaceae: Echium plantagineum Purple Viper's Bugloss (1383)
Omphalodes linifolia Annual Omphalodes (1399)

Labiatae: Rosmarinus officinalis Rosemary (1526)
Lavandula stoechas French Lavender (1528)

Solanaceae: Hyosciamus albus White Henbane (1555)

Scrophularicaea: Scrophularia canina Figwort sp. (1589)
Verbascum sinuatum Wavy Mullein (1601)
Linaria amethystea 'Amethyst' Toadflax (c. 1614)
Linaria spartea yellow-flowered Toadflax (c. 1614)
Parentucellia latifolia Bartsia sp. (1652)

Bellis annua Annual Daisy (1791)
Santolina rosmarinifolia Lavender Cotton sp. (1856)
Calendula arvensis Field Marigold (1908)
Galactites tomentosum Galactites (1971)
Silybum marianum Milk Thistle (1982)
Cirsium eriophorum Woolly Thistle (1986)

Asphodelus fistulosus Hollow-leaved Asphodel (2087)
Asphodelus aestivus Common Asphodel (2089)
Ornithogalum ?narbonense Star-of-Bethlehem sp. (2171)
Hyacinthoides hispanica Spanish Bluebell
Muscari comosum Tassel Hyacinth (2201)
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 (=conica) (Spanish) Milky Orchid (2408)
Ophrys tenthredinifera Sawfly Orchid (2442)
Serapias lingua Tongue Orchid (2451)

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

Tim Earl
Principal Leader

© The Travelling Naturalist 2003