TRAVELLING NATURALIST TRIP REPORT
27 September 3 October 2003
Santiago Villa Mendez
This was a trip almost of two parts. We arrived in the dry and heat which had characterised the whole of the summer, in fact with no rain since mid-May! It started to cool off and the rain came down at last. By the bucket-full! However, this also meant that despite having to work around it, and sometimes not being able to (!), it also brought migration to a grinding halt and we picked up a number of species very difficult to see at this time of the year in good conditions.
The trip was characterised by the very open and friendly nature of all present, making this such an enjoyable and friendly trip, and in particular the abundant humour, admittedly albeit often at Rays expense, though he dealt with it consummately! Wed also like to pass on our special thanks to Kathryn for her medical help.
We sincerely hope you had a great time, especially at such an attractive location which is Finca Santa Marta, despite the sometimes inclement weather and hope to see you again in the near future. Come back in spring!
Saturday 27th September
After usual delays with hire vehicles we were off in somewhat oppressive heat.
After drinks at the Hotel David, a quick look at a nearby pool revealed 3 Little Ringed Plovers, a Greenshank, a Green Sandpiper, a Lesser Black-backed Gull, Yellow and White Wagtails, Pied Flycatchers and several Stripe-necked Terrapins.
Our main stop was to be the Embalse de Arrocampo, though a Black-shouldered Kite was noted from the first bus before we got there, and several short stops were necessary along the access road before actually
reaching the reservoir for Stonechats, Whinchat, Northern Wheatears and Corn Buntings, plus fly-by Raven.
The reservoir was true to form with singing Cetti's Warblers and grunting Purple Swamp-hens (two of which were seen briefly), plus Marsh Harriers, a Cormorant tucked down into a White Stork's nest, and some fine dragonflies including a superb male black-banded species Brachythemis leucosticta and a
good number of the very rare Orthetrum trinacria.
We arrived late, but after welcome drinks and a fine meal, fell happily into our beds. Most of us that is, with Santi and I noting a huge hawk-moth settled by one of the lights, which turned out to be a superb Convolvulus Hawk-moth (which we kept in the fridge until the following morning!), and a superb Stripeless Tree Frog sitting on one of the lights peering upwards at an array of small insects!
Sunday 28th September
Out for an 8:15 pre-breakfast stroll round the orchards for those who'd set their alarms! Iberian Azure-winged Magpies (recently split as a different species), singing Woodlarks (including four together) and Red-rumped Swallows of most note, plus rattling Sardinian Warblers.
A late start and we turned off the main road onto a track to explore the steppes. Hoopoes, Whinchats, Stonechats, Northern Wheatears, fly-by Tawny Pipits, a circling Short-toed Eagle and a couple of Common Buzzards kept us busy!
Further stops revealed more, plus a superb juvenile Montagu's Harrier hunting the broom-covered steppe and our first, albeit distant, Griffon and Black Vultures.
A Thekla Lark from the first bus and Little Owl from the second showed how difficult it was to keep up with everything, with a high-flying Black Stork also noted by the second bus and only seen very distantly by the rest, though the abundant Crested Larks were seen and heard easily by all. A later Black Stork (possibly the same) was seen better by all however.
As we exited onto the road again, ostensibly to go to a site for lunch, a fine spot revealed two Little Bustards by the trackside, which gently wandered off into the grass, giving fine views. Further delay was the order of the day a flock of Calandra Larks dropped into a fallow field and needed some scoping to show them at their best.
After a quick drink, we stopped by the Río Almonte for lunch, where it was fortunately quiet except for croaking Iberian Pool Frogs, a whistling (probably young) Booted Eagle and various calling Thekla Larks, with John disturbing some Red-legged Partridges and Dinah spotting a Kingfisher on the river.
A further stop by the Río Almonte higher up produced a group of wheeling Crag Martins, more Griffons and a lovely blue Blue Rock Thrush, with Spotted and Pied Flycatchers and a pair of Cirl Buntings for variety.
Despite not much water, the river revealed masses of frogs and a couple of Viperine Snakes, one hunting under water for fish and frogs.
Our final stop was at Cabañas del Castillo. A short but steep walk up through the village revealed a path through the crags ahead to a stunning view out over the valley beyond. A superb adult male Black Redstart and a brief Rock Bunting were of most note, though as we left, two first-winter Rock Thrushes were a surprise find on the houses!
We came back late, but elated having to pause again on the steppe, first for a delightful Little Owl perched on a pile of stones by the roadside, and secondly for four huge male Great Bustards striding across the fields, which then took flight for us to admire their power and size. A quick look further on also revealed a Black Stork hunched on the edge of a distant reservoir among a group of Grey Herons.
To give the staff at the finca a break, we went for dinner in La Troya which consisted of a fine spread of local dishes.
Monday 29th September
A cool misty start at the finca, but we went N to Monfragüe where it was finer and almost dead still. The road en route there revealed the sad toll of a Red Fox and two Beech Martens killed by the traffic. Just to rub it in what new roads can do to local wildlife, the road was being prepared for further widening north of Torrejón el Rubio and up to the edge of the Parque Natural.
The walk up to the castle through the scrub revealed calling Long-tailed Tit and Hawfinch, but a superb Firecrest was 'pished' out into full view, with Sardinian Warbler and Great Tit as brief accompaniment.
The Griffon Vultures were simply superb from the top, though a pair of Golden Eagles perched on a tree above Peña Falcón were a major find. A call by Mary of a black and white bird revealed a spanking male Black Wheatear on the rocks below, more than making up for the one wed 'missed' the day before, though almost immediately, the discovery of a rapidly approaching White-rumped Swift meant all attention was turned to this instead! Not only did we watch the species repeatedly for the next 30 minutes or so, but we saw up to four of these together, plus a number of raptors.
Back down at the Salto del Gitano car park looking across to Peña Falcón, we sat or stood and just watched in awe as numerous Griffons wheeled over the opposite peak or sailed over and past, sometimes even below us, a few pairs parallel-flying in their extraordinary display. A brief calling Nuthatch and an even briefer Rock Bunting perched by the car park were noted by just a few. However, even more remarkable was the discovery by Santi of a White-rumped Swift nest in a Red-rumped Swallow nest almost at the top of the opposite peak, a couple of fluffy white feathers stuck to the nest entrance confirming its occupation!
We took a relaxed lunch at the Fuente del Frances, where a couple of stunning Two-tailed Pashas which powered around the picnic site a few times were the main feature apart from some dreadfully pesky wasps, though a Hawfinch which flew in and then perched quietly above us for some time was a major bonus!
We rounded-off a drinks break with a 'perfect' Thekla Lark (except for its over-size crest!), then continued on to pine woodland where after European Robins, a Short-toed Treecreeper, a brief Great Spotted Woodpecker (here in pines - typical in Spain) and a hind and calf Red Deer, a superb Crested Tit was the first of two, and finally seen by all. The sunnier conditions had also enticed out more butterflies in the shape of lots of Spanish Brown Argus and a couple of superb Bath Whites.
Our final stop was the Portilla del Tiétar, where an impressive purple dragonfly Trithemis annulata and a large potter wasp collecting dust and adding saliva to make into a ball before taking off to a nest were interesting non-bird sightings. Steve came up trumps again with a distant pair of Bonelli's Eagles, though John tried to get some credibility back with a fine adult male Subalpine Warbler watched by a few skulking in the scrub. There was plenty of activity here though, with a fly-over Blue Rock thrush, a tree full of sinensis Great Cormorants, a fishing Kingfisher and a few more Red Deer on the opposite bank.
Our route back was also enlivened when Steve spotted an adult Woodchat Shrike (exceptionally late) on a tree, though as we tried to return, it unfortunately disappeared, leaving us to watch several Red Deer instead.
Tuesday 30th September
A very dull cloudy start with a few spots of rain. In fact, just after we started heading towards Trujillo it started raining in earnest, and as we refuelled, we changed our plans for the day (and successfully as it turned out!).
We continued N and went back to the Embalse de Arrocampo via some torrential downpours, but with promisingly large gaps between rain showers. We walked down a short track to an area which had recently been fenced off, noting a surprising number of dragonflies rising up in the warmth, despite the thick cloud, and a brief flying Little Bittern and a couple of tail-flicking Purple Swamp-hens were noted before the rain set in and we ran for the buses!
A break was soon in the offing though, so we took a nearby diversion over another narrow arm of the reservoir and through arable fields and a patch of dehesa. Whinchats, Stonechats, Corn Buntings, a Chiffchaff sp. and several Southern Grey Shrikes were the first and most notable birds, though Santi soon picked out the almost ghostly form of a superb Black-shouldered Kite in a Holm Oak, and we watched this at leisure, despite a little rain. Even when this disappeared we content ourselves with a few distant Red Kites and a small flock of rather dowdy, but distinctive Spanish Sparrows on a fence. Interesting to note (like Stonechats, Wheatears and Bramblings amongst others) how they acquire the smart summer plumage through wear of these feathers which have broad tips of a pale colour when new.
A large pool nearby held a few Little Egrets in a dead tree, while another small one opposite, almost dry, hosted a Kingfisher and a Green Sandpiper, with a Common Magpie clinging to a dead bulrush stem a peculiar sight.
We returned for another attempt at the first spot, noting a Marsh Harrier, Red Kite, very brief Little Bittern and Snipe on the way. Lots of dragonflies got up again as we passed through the grass, with a small group of Willow Warblers and a Zitting Cisticola in addition, though we only just had time to scope a few Gadwall and a Little Grebe before the rain set in again and we adjourned for a well-earned drink in the nearby village.
Lunch was taken with more drinks in a bar near the finca, and though the rain was now much more persistent, we found a smart male Redstart and a couple of Garden Warblers alongside a flock of Great and Blue Tits in adjacent gardens as we left.
The rest of the afternoon was largely taken relaxing, but while Santi and Kathryn took Ray to A&E to check out a nasty-looking bite on Ray's ankle - it never was clear
Rain was still falling lightly when we retired to bed
Wednesday 1st October
Whilst Ray went off again to A&E for a follow-up check (his lady doctors deciding he was improving ), the rest of us went for a wander round some of the fincas 30+ hectares of vineyards, olive and fruit tree orchards. It was remarkably quiet however, though with the first Grey Wagtail and Woodlarks for most, plus a few Pied Flycatchers, the usual Iberian Azure-winged Magpies and as a bonus for having gone to the top of the hill and back, a small group of Alpine Swifts passing over at low altitude as well-earned compensation.
Wed noted from the hill that the lowlands to the south were largely fine and rain-free, our destination for the day. Our first stop was in the now damp scorched landscape of the Zorita steppes, where virtually nothing green was present. However, after a bit of searching and a couple of Tawny Pipits, Ravens and multiple Crested Larks, a small group of male Great Bustards was found feeding on the steppe, and while watching these, a couple of Marsh Harriers, Red Kites and Common Buzzards were noted and two Little Bustards, one a male with a trace of the black-and-white neck pattern so distinctive in spring were also admired. As we got a little closer, so a couple of Ravens were noted mobbing and being played with by a raptor. Though at first sight it seemed to be a Kestrel, it was of course a young male Peregrine. An adult female suddenly also appeared and although seemed to be play-fighting with it for several minutes, talons were out on one of two occasions and the male suddenly sped off at high speed, having got the message.
We made our way a short distance to the Embalse de Sierra Brava, where the water was liberally dotted with Great Crested Grebes and a few small flocks of Coots kept near the shores. However, amongst their larger cousins, a good number of Black-necked Grebes, here at what is apparently their only regular site in Extremadura were also present, giving us good, if somewhat distant views. Black-headed and Lesser Back-backed Gulls were also moving around, though the sight of a few marsh terns dipping over the water at distance lead us to drive round to another bay, and despite poor views over mounds of dumped soil, we found no less than seven Black and a fine juvenile Whiskered Tern, both unusual species here.
The clouds were looming again and time was moving on and stomachs growling, so we dropped down to a group of nearby rice paddies for lunch. Those in the front bus had good views of a fine male Red Avadavat, though as a heavy shower rolled in, a number of Common Tree Frogs started calling from the bushes and one even perched out on a rush stem for a lucky few to admire just as the rain got too heavy to remain outside. Fortunately, most of us had had a good look at some smart White Storks feeding in an already harvested rice paddy, though only those by the windows saw the huge flock of martins and swallows pass over as the rain fell.
We held out for as long as possible, but as it fell ever more heavily, so we headed south for a drinks break. Again, patience is a virtue, and eventually, it started to clear up, so we went on south again, this time onto some tracks through seemingly uninteresting arable land. Nothing could be further from the truth however, with a couple of Great Bustards soon being found, and as we got out to watch, found a group of Little Bustards in flight which came in to land in a stubble field some way ahead. We moved on to see these, only to see more and more Great Bustards, and another small group of Littles in flight, stopping to watch these, and the numerous dragonflies in a the rough track sides for some time. Searching for the first Little Bustards, we found a couple of others closer, though after finally tearing ourselves away had to stop again when a Stone-curlew flew past, only to land where two others were feeding, and then a flock of seven also came past! A fantastic area.
Our last main stop was on an old road bridge over the Río Gargáligas, where the thick and tall reedmace didnt bode well. However, almost immediately, a male Red Avadavat popper up and flew nervously around, only to land for a few seconds before going off again. This happened time and time again, a female also joining in at one point, the extraordinary colour of the male meaning that other goodies, such as a couple of Reed Warblers, a brief fly-by Great Reed Warbler, a fly-by Black-shouldered Kite and singing Cettis Warbler went largely unheeded!
The rain finally won again though, and despite trying to check the Vegas Altas area, where large numbers of White Storks and plenty of Little Egrets dotted the harvested paddies, we had to beat a retreat, arriving back at the finca for welcome teas and coffees.
Thursday 2nd October
Wed left the last day to try for the last couple of special birds of the area, and a search of the Cáceres plains. However, waking up to torrential driving rain boded very badly! Frank and Dorothys alarm had not gone off, so to give them time, we all had a long relaxed breakfast, meeting afterwards to go through the map to all the sites wed visited. This was ideal, and as we left at 10:30, so the skies started to clear and as we left Trujillo, so we hit a rain-free gap.
The steppes near Sta. Marta de Magasca can be productive, and just a few minutes after stopping, we picked up the shuffling forms of four Black-bellied Sandgrouse feeding in the grass on a nearby ridge, with the imposing sight of two Great Bustards topping another. An Iberian Hare sped off as wed arrived, but a few distant raptors, more Great Bustards and Crested Larks and a Hoopoe kept us busy.
To keep the upper hand, we transferred W again, though as we were driving, a large dark shape passed overhead. A quick shout over the walkie-talkies and we stopped to try and find the Spanish Imperial Eagle which had drifted past. Our luck was in though, as a third-calendar year bird was drifting over the adjacent dehesa, then came past at low speed and drifted back and forth for about 5 minutes! Remarkably good views of an unusual bird. The first decent sun for a couple for days was enticing the raptors out, with a mixed group of Griffon and Black Vultures circling up in front, providing a perfect comparison, while suddenly, a large dark eagle passed over at very close range. A Golden! We couldnt believe our luck, but when a short-toed Eagle then also drifted over and a couple of Booted were also watched from the same spot, we knew that Extremadura was weaving that special kind of magic it has! All this too, to the beautiful fluting song of a singing Woodlark.
We moved on again, turning off onto a huge expanse of open gently undulating steppe, the vast sheets of dead yellow grass and straw now almost incongruously wet. Flocks of Corn Buntings and Calandra Larks punctuated the fields, but we searched for some time in vain for Sandgrouse. At one stop though, with a stunning view N, a couple of Red Kites were swooping over a field below us where Santi suddenly shouted as a Spanish Imperial Eagle flew off N. Most got some kind of views, though it wasnt until c. 10 minutes later that calls of another dark bird on the ground lead to the discovery of another adult Spanish Imperial Eagle, though frustratingly it took off just seconds later, and also disappeared N. Wow!
Given a stiff chill wind, we drove and watched from the vehicle, noting large numbers of Corn Buntings, Whinchats, Northern Wheatears and a few Red Kites, a pair of Short-toed Eagles, a Booted Eagle and Stonechats as we went. Most remarkable was the Red-veined Darter dragonfly activity, the insects almost confined to the shelter provided by small banks, bushes and the minibuses! Over lunch, the discovery of a scorpion under rocks lead to a quick photo session, Martin again taking some excellent snaps, with a large Stripe-necked Terrapin crossing the road in the middle of a huge steppe area also requiring a good look. No more birds of special note were seen though, so we headed to a bar overlooking the Embalse del Guadiloba for a well-earned drink. In amongst the large numbers of gulls, an adult Yellow-legged was present, while a fly-by calling Linnet was the only one of the trip! Stonechat, Pied Flycatcher and White Wagtail all added to the fun though!
We returned slightly earlier to relax and mull over the days events over teas and coffees again.
Friday 3rd October
The transfer day is usually a bit of a disappointment, but as we left the finca, so a Rock Sparrow sat on a wire for the second bus and a Dunnock shot across the bow of the first for Martin to admire.
We returned to an area near Sta. Marta de Magasca, where it was dry, but with a light breeze sufficient to stifle any calls :-( However, we persevered, and noted a couple of passing Rock Sparrows, and a few Great Bustards and Red Kites.
No sandgrouse though, so we turned to start heading back, only to stop for a possible Rock Sparrow but found three Red-legged Partridge, a Common Restart, a Whinchat and a Wheatear, all in just a few minutes! As we watched, so a pair of Black-bellied Sandgrouse flew in and landed beside a livestock pool for a few seconds before heading off again, giving us our closest views yet!
We headed back to the airport via stops for drinks and fuel, arriving perfectly on time for the flight back.
Extremadura species lists
This is the combined list for the whole group. R. = río (river), Emb. = Embalse (reservoir); Emb. del Guadiloba = Embalse de Cáceres.
Little Grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis): One at the Emb. De Arrocampo on 30th and eight Emb. de Sierra Brava on 1st.
Great Crested Grebe (Podiceps cristatus): 100+ on the Emb. de Sierra Brava on 1st and two Emb. del Guadiloba on 2nd.
Black-necked [Eared] Grebe (Podiceps nigricollis): At least 25 on the Emb. de Sierra Brava on 1st.
[Great] Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo sinensis): Seen daily except on 3rd and in good number: e.g. 40+ Monfragüe on 29th and c. 500 Emb. de Arrocampo on 30th.
Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea): Common, widespread and seen daily in small to moderate number; max. 6+ Emb de Arrocampo on 27th and 30th.
Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis): Only relatively small numbers noted daily (except on 28th).
Little Egret (Egretta garzetta): Seen on 4 days: 2+ Emb. de Arrocampo on 27th and 5+ there on 30th, c. 10 in the Vegas Altas rice fields on 1st and 2 Emb. del Guadiloba on 2nd.
Little Bittern (Ixobrychus minutus): 2 very briefly at the Emb. de Arrocampo on 30th.
Black Stork (Ciconia nigra): One or two individuals over the Belén Plain on 28th and one over the Llanos de Cáceres on 2nd.
White Stork (Ciconia ciconia): Only in rice fields on 1st: 40+ near Madrigalejo and 150+ Vegas Altas.
Gadwall (Anas strepera): Two Emb. de Arrocampo on 27th and 4 there on 30th.
Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos): Small numbers on a few pools and lakes, e.g. Emb. de Arrocampo on 27th and 30th, Emb. del Guadiloba on 2nd, but 1000s at the Emb. de Sierra Brava on 1st.
[Northern] Shoveler (Anas clypeata): Three at the Emb. de Arrocampo on 27th and 30th.
Black-winged Kite (Elanus caeruleus) : One briefly from the first bus en route near Almaraz on 27th, and singles Emb. de Arrocampo on 30th and Vegas Altas on 1st.
Red Kite (Milvus milvus): Small numbers daily from 28th, except 20+ on 2nd.
Eurasian Black / Monk Vulture (Aegypius monachus): c. 6 over the Belén Plain on 28th, 15+ Monfragüe on 29th, 6+ at various sites on 2nd and several en route on 2nd.
[Eurasian] Griffon Vulture (Gyps fulvus): Seen on 5 days, with max. 40+ on 28th, 150+ Monfragüe on 29th and 30+ on 2nd.
Short-toed Eagle (Circaetus gallicus): One Emb. de Arrocampo on 27th, two on the Belén Plain on 28th and one Cáceres Road and 2 Llanos de Cáceres on 2nd.
Montagus Harrier (Circus pygargus): A fine juvenile hunting through broom-like scrub on the Belén Plain on 28th.
[Eurasian] Marsh Harrier (Circus aeruginosus): Two at the Emb. de Arrocampo on 27th and 30th and 6+ various sites (including over Finca Santa Marta) on 1st.
Eurasian Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus): Singles Finca Santa Marta and Cabañas del Castillo on 28th and one Portilla del Tiétar, Monfragüe on 29th.
Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo): Small - moderate numbers seen daily, except on 30th.
Spanish Imperial Eagle (Aquila adalberti): A brief adult and a 3rd calendar-year bird on the Cáceres Road and later an adult pair on the Llanos de Cáceres on 2nd.
Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos): A pair perched above Peña Falcón, Monfragüe on 29th, and an adult or near-adult briefly but very close along the Cáceres Road on 2nd.
Bonelli's Eagle (Hieraaetus fasciatus): A pair seen from the Portilla del Tiétar, Monfragüe on 29th.
Booted Eagle (Hieraaetus pennatus): Three over the R. Almonte at lunch on 28th and two over the Cáceres Road and one two Llanos de Cáceres on 2nd.
Common Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus): Seen daily in small number at various sites except on 30th.
Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus): A male and a female over the Zorita Steppes on 1st.
Red-legged Partridge (Alectoris rufa): Two Belén Plain and 4 R. Almonte on 28th, one Finca Santa Marta on 30th, and two there on 1st and three+ Santa Marta de Magasca on 3rd.
Water Rail (Rallus aquaticus): Only briefly heard calling at the Emb. de Arrocampo on 30th.
Common Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus): Small numbers included one at the Emb. de Arrocampo on 27th and two there on 30th, and one in the rice fields on 1st.
Purple Gallinule [Swamp-hen] (Porphyrio porphyrio): Two+ at the Emb. de Arrocampo on 27th and 3 there on 30th.
Common Coot (Fulica atra): One+ at the Emb. de Arrocampo on 27th and 3+ there on 30th., lots at the Emb. de Sierra Brava on 1st and 25+ Emb. del Guadiloba on 2nd.
Little Bustard (Tetrax tetrax): Two on the Belén Plain on 28th and 2 on the Zorita Steppes and a total of 39 near Vegas Altas on 1st.
Great Bustard (Otis tarda): Four+ males Belén Plain on 28th, 10 Zorita Steppes and 36 Vegas Altas on 1st, 5 Santa Marta de Magasca and 3+4 Llanos de Cáceres on 2nd and 8+ Santa Marta de Magasca on 3rd.
Stone-curlew (Burhinus oedicnemus): A total of 10 near Vegas Altas on 1st.
[Northern] Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus): Ubiquitous, though still only in moderate number, and seen daily.
Little Ringed Plover (Charadrius dubius): Three by the pool near the Hotel David on 27th.
Greenshank (Tringa nebularia): One by the pool near the Hotel David on 27th.
Green Sandpiper (Tringa ochropus): Singles by the pool near the Hotel David on 27th and Emb. de Arrocampo on 30th, with two by the Hotel David on 3rd.
Common Sandpiper (Actitis hypoleuca): Two at the Emb. de Sierra Brava on 1st.
[Common] Snipe (Gallinago gallinago): One at the Emb. de Arrocampo on 27th and 2 there on 30th, with four in flight at Vegas Altas on 1st.
Yellow-legged Gull (Larus (cachinnans) michahellis): A single adult on the Emb. del Guadiloba on 2nd.
Lesser Black-backed Gull (Larus fuscus): An adult at the pool near the Hotel David on 27th, 1 Emb. de Sierra Brava and c. 30 Vegas Altas on 1st and lots at the Emb. del Guadiloba on 2nd.
Black-headed Gull (Larus ridibundus): Noted daily from 29th 2nd, with 27 in Monfragüe on first date and lots Emb. del Guadiloba on last.
Black Tern (Chlidonias niger): Seven juveniles and moulting adults at the Emb. de Sierra Brava on 1st.
Whiskered Tern (Chlidonias hybridus): A juvenile at the Emb. de Sierra Brava on 1st.
Black-bellied Sandgrouse (Pterocles orientalis): Four Santa Marta de Magasca and 13 Llanos de Cáceres on 2nd and 3 Santa Marta de Magasca on 3rd.
Rock Dove/Feral Pigeon (Columba livia): Noted daily in variable number, all were Feral Pigeons of some type.
[Common] Wood Pigeon (Columba palumbus): Small numbers noted on 27th, 28th, 30th, 1st and 3rd at various sites.
[Eurasian] Collared Dove (Streptopelia decaocto): Fairly common and widespread, and seen on 5 days at a few sites, all the more remarkable considering that it was unusual to find just 5 years ago!
Little Owl (Athene noctua): Two singles on the Belén Plain on 28th and one at the Emb. de Sierra Brava on 1st.
Alpine Swift (Apus melba): Four low over Finca Santa Marta on 1st.
Common Swift (Apus apus): One over the Madrigalejo rice fields on 1st.
White-rumped Swift (Apus caffer): A minimum of four (together!) over the Castillo de Monfragüe on 1st, plus the first nest ever found in Monfragüe (despite 10+ years of records).
Common Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis): Two+ Emb. de Arrocampo on 27th, one R. Almonte on 28th, 2+ Monfragüe on 29th, 2+ Emb. de Arrocampo on 30th and 5 at various sites on 1st.
[Eurasian] Hoopoe (Upupa epops): Seen and sometimes also heard daily from 28th, max. 10 on 28th and 6+ on 2nd.
Great Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos major): One Finca Santa Marta on 28th, one seen and 3+ heard at Monfragüe on 29th, 2 Finca Santa Marta on 30th and one there on 2nd.
Green Woodpecker (Picus viridis): One heard from the Castillo de Monfragüe on 29th and one seen Finca Santa Marta on 30th.
Calandra Lark (Melanocorypha calandra): 150+ Belén Plain on 28th, 30+ Zorita Steppes on 1st, 100+ Llanos de Cáceres on 2nd and 40+ Santa Marta de Magasca on 3rd.
Crested Lark (Galerida cristata): Seen and heard daily and widely in variable number, especially on roadsides and in steppe areas.
Thekla Lark (Galerida theklae): One on the Belén Plain and 6+ R. Almonte on 28th and 1+ Monfragüe on 29th.
Wood Lark (Lullula arborea): Five+ Finca Santa Marta and one Cabañas del Castillo on 28th, four Finca Santa Marta on 1st and heard Cáceres Road on 2nd.
Sand Martin (Riparia riparia): 4 at the Emb. de Arrocampo on 30th.
Eurasian Crag Martin (Hirundo rupestris): Seen near and at Cabañas del Castillo on 28th and in Monfragüe on 29th.
Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica): Five+ Emb. de Arrocampo on 27th, one Vegas Altas on 1st, one Emb. del Guadiloba on 2nd and two Santa Marta de Magasca on 3rd.
Red-rumped Swallow (Hirundo daurica): Seen daily and widely, especially at Finca Santa Marta; max. 12 on 30th and 20+ Finca Santa Marta on 2nd.
Common House Martin (Delichon urbica): Seen daily and widely, especially at Finca Santa Marta, with max. numbers (sometimes 100s on passage) from 29th 2nd.
Yellow Wagtail (Motacilla flava): Two+ by the pool near the Hotel David and 20+ moving over the Emb. de Arrocampo on 27th, one Emb. de Arrocampo on 30th and two Zorita Steppes and 2+ at various sites on 1st.
White Wagtail (Motacilla alba alba): One by the Hotel David on 27th, singles en route and one R. Almonte on 28th, one Emb. de Sierra Brava on 1st and two at Emb. del Guadiloba on 2nd.
Grey Wagtail (Motacilla cinerea): Singles at the Finca Santa Marta on 30th and 1st.
Tawny Pipit (Anthus campestris): Five+ Belén Plain on 29th, two Zorita Steppes on 1st and one Santa Marta de Magasca on 2nd.
Southern Grey Shrike (Lanius meridionalis): Common and widespread; widely scattered birds daily, with c. 10 on 28th and 10+ at various sites on 1st.
Woodchat Shrike (Lanius senator): An adult seen by Steve in Monfragüe on 29th.
[Winter] Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes): One at Finca Santa Marta on 29th and 30th.
Dunnock (Prunella modularis): One seen in flight by Martin as we left Finca Santa Marta on 3rd.
Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush (Monticola saxatilis): Two juveniles on rooftops in Cabañas del Castillo on 28th.
Blue Rock Thrush (Monticola solitarius): Four+ between the R. Almonte and Cabañas del Castillo on 28th and two Portilla del Tiétar, Monfragüe on 29th.
Common [Eurasian] Blackbird (Turdus merula): Seen daily in small number from 27th to 2nd.
Mistle Thrush (Turdus viscivorus): Two Cabañas del Castillo and two en route on 28th, c.15 Monfragüe on 29th, two Finca Santa Marta on 1st, two near Trujillo on 2nd and 3rd.
European Robin (Erithacus rubecula): Two + one R. Almonte on 28th, 6 at various sites on 29th, several at Finca Santa Marta on 30th and one Finca Santa Marta on 2nd.
Black Redstart (Phoenicurus ochruros): Two Cabañas del Castillo on 28th and one seen and another heard Monfragüe on 29th.
Common Redstart (Phoenicurus phoenicurus): Singles by the Hotel David on 27th, two Finca Santa Marta on 28th, single males there on 30th and 1st, two there on 2nd and a male Santa Marta de Magasca on 3rd.
Whinchat (Saxicola rubetra): Notably common passage migrant, and seen daily except on 29th, with 25+ at various sites on 28th.
Common Stonechat (Saxicola torquata): Fairly common and widespread in small moderate number at numerous sites.
Black Wheatear (Oenanthe leucura): A male in Monfragüe seen from the Castillo on 29th.
Northern Wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe): Noted daily and widely in moderate number, max. 30+ on 28th and 40+ on 2nd.
Fan-tailed Warbler [Zitting Cisticola] (Cisticola juncidis): Two at the Emb. de Arrocampo on 30th, 3+ Vegas Altas on 1st and one on Finca Santa Marta on 2nd.
Cetti's Warbler (Cettia cetti): Birds were heard daily from 27th to 1st at various sites, with just one seen in flight at the Emb. de Arrocampo on 27th.
European Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus scirpaceus): At least two in the R. Gargáligas, Vegas Altas on 1st.
Great Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus arundinaceus): One seen briefly in flight over the R. Gargáligas, Vegas Altas on 1st.
Willow Warbler (Phylloscopus trochilus): Singles at Emb. de Arrocampo on 7th, Belén Plain on 28th, Monfragüe on 29th, Finca Santa Marta on 30th, and 9 Emb. de Arrocampo on 30th, several at various sites on 1st and 2 Emb. del Guadiloba on 2nd.
Common / Iberian Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita / ibericus): One at the Emb. de Arrocampo on 30th.
Subalpine Warbler (Sylvia cantillans): A superb adult male in scrub at the Portilla del Tiétar, Monfragüe on 29th.
Sardinian Warbler (Sylvia melanocephala): Several daily from 28th to 2nd at various sites.
Garden Warbler (Sylvia borin): Three at the Pago de San Clemente and one at Finca Santa Marta on 30th.
Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla): One Finca Santa Marta on 28th, a pair Monfragüe on 29th and 5+ Finca Santa Marta and area on 30th.
Firecrest (Regulus ignicapillus): One seen well and others heard at Monfragüe on 29th.
Spotted Flycatcher (Muscicapa striata): Two by the R. Almonte on 28th and two at Finca Santa Marta on 2nd.
European Pied Flycatcher (Ficedula hypoleuca): A common migrant, with a few daily, including 7+ R. Almonte on 28th and 5+ in total on 29th, and a few daily at Finca Santa Marta.
Long-tailed Tit (Aegithalos caudatus): c. 6 in Monfragüe on 29th.
Crested Tit (Parus cristatus): Two in pines at Monfragüe on 29th.
Great Tit (Parus major): A few heard and / or seen daily at various sites.
Blue Tit (Parus caeruleus): A few heard and / or seen daily at various sites except on 27th.
Eurasian Nuthatch (Sitta europaea): One calling loudly and seen briefly at Monfragüe on 29th.
Short-toed Treecreeper (Certhia brachydactyla): Heard at Finca Santa Marta and Cabañas del Castillo on 28th, two Monfragüe on 29th and one Finca Santa Marta on 30th.
Eurasian Jay (Garrulus glandarius): Two+ R. Almonte on 28th and one at the Castillo and 3+ at the Portilla del Tiétar, Monfragüe on 29th.
Iberian Azure-winged Magpie (Cyanopica cooki): An abundant resident and seen daily from 28th.
Black-billed Magpie (Pica pica): Common and seen daily in small - moderate number.
Eurasian [Western] Jackdaw (Corvus monedula): Common and widespread, noted daily except on 1st, generally in small number.
Carrion Crow (Corvus corone): Two hassling a Red Kite near Sierra de Fuentes on 2nd.
Common Raven (Corvus corax): One three at various sites on 27th, 28th, 1st and 3rd, with 25+ at various on 2nd.
Eurasian Starling (Sturnus vulgaris): One noted by Martin and John on steppe in the Llanos de Cáceres on 2nd.
Spotless Starling (Sturnus unicolor): Abundant and widespread; seen daily.
Corn Bunting (Miliaria calandra): Common and widespread and seen and heard on 6 days, max. 50+ Emb. de Arrocampo on 30th and on 2nd.
Rock Bunting (Emberiza cia): One Cabañas del Castillo on 28th and one Peña Falcón, Monfragüe on 29th.
Cirl Bunting (Emberiza cirlus): A pair by the R. Almonte on 28th and a male below the Castillo de Monfragüe on 29th.
Common Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs): Small numbers on 28th 30th and heard along the Cáceres Road on 2nd.
European Greenfinch (Carduelis chloris): Only heard at Monfragüe on 29th.
European Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis): Several R. Almonte on 28th and plenty on 1st.
Common Linnet (Carduelis cannabina): Just one fly-by at the Emb. del Guadiloba on 2nd.
Hawfinch (Coccothraustes coccothraustes): At Finca Santa Marta, 2 on 28th, 2+ on 30th and heard there on 1st, with one Fuente del Frances, Monfragüe on 29th.
Common Waxbill (Estrilda astrild): Three Vegas Altas on 1st.
Red Avadavat (Amandava amandava): Heard Emb. de Arrocampo on 30th and c.10 Madrigalejo rice fields and Vegas Altas on 1st.
House Sparrow (Passer domesticus): Noted every day and generally common, even well away from occupied buildings.
Spanish Sparrow (Passer hispaniolensis): 30+ Emb. de Arrocampo on 30th and lots in the Madrigalejo and Vegas Altas rice fields on 1st.
Rock Sparrow (Petronia petronia): One under the Castillo de Monfragüe on 29th and one Finca Santa Marta and 3+ Santa Marta de Magasca on 3rd.
Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes): A dead animal on the road N of Trujillo on 29th.
Common (Small-spotted) Genet (Genetta genetta): One dead animal, probably this species, on the road near Trujillo on 29th.
Stone / Beech Marten (Martes foina): Two dead animals on the road N of Trujillo on 29th.
Red Deer (Cervus elaphus): 10+ in Monfragüe on 29th.
Iberian Hare (Lepus granatensis): One briefly at Santa Marta de Magasca on 2nd.
European Rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus): Two near Trujillo and one Santa Marta de Magasca 2nd.
Small bat sp./spp. (Chiroptera): At Finca Santa Marta, one from 28th 30th.
Mouse sp. (Mus / Apodemus sp.): One at Finca Santa Marta on 29th.
AMPHIBIANS AND REPTILES
Sharp-ribbed Salamander (Pleurodeles waltl): One dead on a road in the Llanos de Cáceres on 2nd.
Iberian Pool Frog (Rana perezi): Seen and heard at the R. Almonte on 28th.
Common Tree Frog (Hyla arborea): Several heard and one seen superbly in the Madrigalejo rice fields on 1st.
Stripeless Tree Frog (Hyla meridionalis): Two heard Finca Santa Marta on 29th and one again there on 30th.
Common Toad (Bufo bufo): One at Finca Santa Marta on 1st.
Moorish Gecko (Tarentola mauretanica): 3 at Finca Santa Marta on 28th and 29th and one there on 30th.
Large Psammodromus (Psammodromus algirus): One by the R. Almonte on 28th.
Stripe-necked Terrapin (Mauremys caspica): Three+ in the pool by the Hotel David on 27th and one trying to cross the road in the middle of the Llanos de Cáceres on 2nd!
Viperine Snake (Natrix maura): Two in the R. Almonte on 28th.
Small White (Artogeia rapae): Noted on 29th.
Western Bath White (Pontia daplidice): Seen on 28th, 29th and 2nd.
Clouded Yellow (Colias croceus): Seen on 28th and 29th.
Spanish Brown Argus (Aricia agestis cramera): Seen on 28th and lots Monfragüe on 29th.
Common Blue (Polyommatus icarus): Seen on 28th and a few Monfragüe on 29th.
Two-tailed Pasha (Charaxes jasius): Three by the lunch spot in Monfragüe on 29th were a treat.
Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta): One Monfragüe on 29th.
Painted Lady (Cynthia cardui): Probably the commonest widespread species, though only seen on 28th, 1st and 2nd.
Cardinal (Pandoriana pandora): Several on the Belén Plain on 28th.
Great Banded Grayling (Kanetisa circe): One Cabañas del Castillo on 28th.
Grayling (Hipparchia semele): One seen by Martin Cabañas del Castillo on 28th.
Meadow Brown (Maniola jurtina): Singles on 24th and 25th, and several on 26th.
The Vestal (Rhodometra sacraria): Singles Monfragüe on 29th and Emb. de Arrocampo on 30th.
Convolvulus Hawk-moth (Agrius convolvuli): One at Finca Santa Marta on 28th, held-over until the 29th!
Hummingbird Hawk-moth (Macroglossum stellatarum): Singles at Cabañas del Castillo on 28th, Finca Santa Marta on 1st and both Llanos de Cáceres and Emb. del Guadiloba on 2nd.
Tiger moth sp. (Cymbalophora pudica): Four+ Finca Santa Marta on 30th and one Madrigalejo on 1st.
Migrant Hawker (Aeshna mixta): Several at Monfragüe on 29th.
Orthetrum trinacria: 6+ Emb. de Arrocampo on 27th and lots there on 30th.
Band-winged dragonfly sp. (Brachythemis leucosticta): A superb male at Emb. de Arrocampo on 27th.
Scarlet Dragonfly (Crocothemis erythraea): A female in the Zorita Steppes on 1st.
Red-veined Darter (Sympetrum fonscolombei): The commonest small dragonfly: a male Castillo de Monfragüe on 29th, plenty in the Zorita Steppes and Madrigalejo rice fields on 1st and lots in the Llanos de Cáceres on 2nd.
Trithemis annulata: A male and a female at Monfragüe on 29th.
Iberian Blue-tailed Damselfly (Ischnura graellsii): Several at Emb. de Arrocampo on 27th.
Blue-winged Grasshopper (?Oedipoda caerulescens) Several by the R. Almonte on 28th.
Preying Mantis (Mantis religiosa): One Finca Santa Marta on 1st and egg-cases seen on 2nd.
Potter wasp sp. (Eumenidae sp.): One at Monfragüe on 29th.
Red Signal Crayfish (Procambarus clarkii): Lots, including on the roads after rains in the Madrigalejo rice fields and Vegas Altas area on 1st.
Scorpion sp. (Buthus occitanus): One in Llanos de Cáceres on 2nd.
© The Travelling Naturalist 2003