TRAVELLING NATURALIST TRIP REPORT

Spain - Andalucia and Extremadura

11 - 22 April 2004


Leaders:
Tim Earl
John Muddeman

Guests' highlights:

White Storks nesting in various places on the first day.

Golden Eagle in the Parque Natural de los Alcornocales.

Finding a dead Dunlin carrying a Norwegian ring.

Watching Spanish Imperial Eagles on three days of the holiday.

Eye-ball views of raptors passing us in Monfragüe.

Peñafalcon in Monfragüe with its Griffons, Black Storks and Bonelli's Eagles.

Thousands of Collared Pratincoles 'which made terns look like lumbering whales'.

The walk around Huerta Grande interpretation centre on which we saw Sardinian and Bonelli's Warblers, Iberian Chiffchaff and Nightingale, among others.

The first evening at El Rocio lagoon with all that wildlife.

Great Bustards strutting across a skyline as we watched them (on several occasions) and also the birds in flight.

Montagu's Harriers dancing over the fields.

Black Vulture on the ground feeding with Ravens - a brilliant indication of the bird's size.

The Roman site at Baelio Claudia, which added variety to the itinerary.

Little Bitterns at the Embalse de Arrocampo.

The patience of leaders who never tired of telling us names of common birds (a US guest).

"Collared Pratincoles feeding in absolute silence over the lagoon in the morning, but bird of the trip was Azure-winged Magpie."

"All 32 lifers but particularly the Scops Owl which was the least likely to be seen."

"Climbing the dark steps of Monfragüe castle and reaching light at the top."

"The Great grey-capped timoted and Brown-bearded John (aka the leaders)"

"The Little Bustard which wandered into my 'scope's field of view and then behaved like the Famous Grouse in the whisky advert."

"Getting four lifers at the Alange dam."

"Sitting next to John Muddeman in the bus and hearing him say frequently: 'There goes an ooops,' and still getting 64 lifers."

11.4.2004 (29 species)

Great crested grebe

Northern gannet

Little egret

Cattle egret

White stork

Black kite

Eurasian griffon

Short-toed eagle

Lesser kestrel

Eurasian kestrel

Ring-necked pheasant

Eurasian coot

Eurasian oystercatcher

Collared pratincole

Rock dove (feral pigeon)

Common wood-pigeon

Eurasian collared-dove

Common swift

Pallid swift

European bee-eater

Crested lark

Barn swallow

House martin

Eurasian blackbird

Zitting cisticola

Great reed-warbler

Eurasian jackdaw

Spotless starling

House sparrow

12.4.3004 (41 species)

Mallard

Egyptian vulture

Montagu's harrier

Eurasian sparrowhawk

Eurasian buzzard

Golden eagle

Booted eagle

Common ringed plover

Kentish (Snowy) plover

Whimbrel

Common redshank

Common sandpiper

Curlew sandpiper

Dunlin

Yellow-legged gull

Sandwich tern

Firecrest

Winter wren

Blue rock-thrush

Cetti's warbler

Iberian chiffchaff

Western Bonelli's warbler

Blackcap

Sardinian warbler

Dartford warbler

European robin

Common nightingale

Common stonechat

Black-eared wheatear

Crested tit

Great tit

Blue tit

Short-toed treecreeper

Woodchat shrike

Common raven

Chaffinch

European goldfinch

Eurasian linnet

European serin

Cirl bunting

Corn bunting

13.4.2004 (21 species)

Cory's shearwater

Balearic shearwater

Greater flamingo

Peregrine falcon

Grey plover

Ruddy turnstone

Sanderling

Great skua

Audouin's gull

Lesser black-backed gull

Caspian tern

Razorbill

Atlantic puffin

Calandra lark

Greater short-toed lark

Eurasian crag-martin

Yellow wagtail

Tawny pipit

Willow warbler

Whinchat

European greenfinch

14.4.2004 (39 species)

Little grebe

Black-necked (Eared) grebe

Great cormorant

Grey heron

Squacco heron

Eurasian spoonbill

Greylag goose

Common shelduck

Gadwall

Northern shoveler

Red-crested pochard

Common pochard

White-headed duck

Red kite

Western marsh-harrier

Spanish eagle

Purple swamphen (gallinule)

Common moorhen

Black-winged stilt

Pied avocet

Little ringed plover

Common greenshank

Wood sandpiper

Ruff

Black-headed gull

Common tern

Whiskered tern

Black tern

Eurasian turtle-dove

Eurasian hoopoe

Sand martin

Red-rumped swallow

White wagtail

Sedge warbler

Eurasian reed-warbler

Melodious warbler

Garden warbler

Greater whitethroat

Azure-winged magpie

15.4.2004 (22 species)

Western reef egret

Purple heron

Black-crowned night-heron

Little bittern

Glossy ibis

Marbled duck (teal)

Red-legged partridge

Common quail

Little crake

Red-knobbed coot

Stone curlew (Eurasian thick-knee)

Northern lapwing

Common snipe

Green sandpiper

Little stint

Temminck's stint

Gull-billed tern

Lesser short-toed lark

Northern wheatear

Common magpie

Spanish sparrow

Eurasian tree sparrow

16.4.2004 (11 species)

Eurasian golden-plover

Black-tailed godwit

Spotted redshank

Common cuckoo

Alpine swift

Great spotted woodpecker

Green woodpecker

European pied flycatcher

Common redstart

Long-tailed tit

Eurasian golden oriole

17.4.2004 (9 species)

Black scoter

Bonelli's eagle

Eurasian curlew

Thekla lark

Mistle thrush

Black wheatear

Southern grey shrike

Common waxbill

Rock bunting

18.4.2004 (11 species)

Cinereous (Eurasian black) vulture

Eurasian hobby

Water rail

Great bustard

Little bustard

Black-bellied sandgrouse

Great spotted cuckoo

European roller

Wood lark

Grey wagtail

Red avadavat

19.4.2004 (8 species)

Black stork

European scops-owl

Subalpine warbler

Spectacled warbler

Black redstart

Red-billed chough

Rock petronia (sparrow)

Hawfinch

20.4.2004 (2 species)

Little owl

Common kingfisher

21.4.2004 (6 species)

Great egret

Common teal

Black-shouldered kite

Northern goshawk

Savi's warbler

22.4.2004 (1 species)

Red-necked nightjar

TOTAL SPECIES 200

DAILY DIARY

Sunday 11 April

The possibility of a lie-in was rejected by everyone, happily including our leader, and we met bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at Gatwick's North Terminal well before the allotted time. Nick got the trip list off to a good start with a bright male House sparrow which had avoided the security systems.

Our introduction to Seville saw us walking to the minibuses with Bee-eaters and Common swifts passing over… an auspicious start.

Various birds were seen on the way down to Zahara but at a speed of 100km per hour views were fleeting. Lots of White storks' nests were seen, many with chicks just visible. Some saw Collared pratincoles, Lesser kestrels and a Short-toed eagle, but the birding was a little unsatisfactory.

A stop at the Laguna de Medina gave us the opportunity to see Zitting cisticola (Fan-tailed warbler) at close quarters along with Eurasian griffon, lots of Eurasian coots, a lone Great-crested grebe and a few singing Great reed-warblers.

We arrived at the hotel just outside Zahara de los Atunas at 6.15pm well satisfied with the day's results.

The leaders spotted two female Orcas from a sea-view balcony just before dinner and made a note to look out for them the following day.

Monday 12 April

Golden eagle, Bee-eater, Firecrest and Iberian chiffchaff were the highlights of the day, although we all enjoyed great views of Morocco across the Straits of Gibraltar, and driving though cork-oak woodland in the Parque Natural de los Alcornocales.

Our first stop at the Mirador del Estracho (view over the Straits) produced a female Cirl bunting, Sardinian warbler and a migrating Sparrowhawk.

We had great views of Gibraltar dropping down to the Rio Palmones estuary where a number of waders, including Whimbrel, Ringed plover, Kentish (Snowy) plover, Redshank and Oystercatcher were seen with Dunlin, Common and Curlew sandpipers.

Lunch was eaten at the Huertha Grande interpretation centre after a walk through cool cork woods had produced several Iberian chiffchaffs, Crested tit, bucket-loads of Blackcaps, a few Firecrests and great views of a singing Nightingale.

A track through the Parque Natural de los Alcornocales would have been spine-jarring but for frequent stops to watch Stonechats and Sardinian warblers, a male Cirl bunting, and lots of Booted eagles.

John's minibus did a four-wheel skid as he stopped to catch a small Grass-snake while Tim's passengers gained the benefit of being tail-end Charlie with views of Golden eagle and Dartford warblers.

The day ended with a fruitless search for Orcas and shearwaters from the hotel beach although a few Gannets and Sandwich terns were seen.

Tuesday 13 April

An early morning trip with no breakfast or even coffee sounds terrible, but Cory's and Balearic shearwaters, Great skua, Atlantic puffin and several Razorbills made our 7.30am start worthwhile. The destination was Cape Trafalgar where a short sea-watch produced the goodies.

We also saw a pair of Peregrines, one of which was carrying a kill, a Sanderling, several Gannets plus migrating Common swifts and Yellow wagtails. As we left a Caspian tern passed close by but then headed into the sun giving poor views.

A late breakfast was followed by a trip to the Playa de los Lances beach in search of migrants. What a haul we had - Black kites coming in off the sea with a few Booted and Short-toed eagles, Yellow wagtails, Tawny pipits and Greater short-toed larks feeding hard plus a Collared pratincole on the ground giving good views.

Waders were represented by Grey (Black-bellied) plovers, (Ruddy) turnstones, Sanderlings, Dunlin and Curlew sandpipers plus Kentish and Ringed plovers.

On our arrival several people had worried about a foal which seemed to be lying dead next to its mother. Within a few minutes both stood up, revealing that the foal had just been born - the umbilical cord was still hanging from the mare. Perhaps Egyptian vultures know about parturition because one was soon quartering over the field as if waiting for a meal but giving us superb views.

It was a shock to realise that the time was 12.45pm and we had to go. James pointed out four Calandra larks as we made our way back to the buses where a Whinchat gave reasonable views to some.

After a coffee and tapas stop on which John found Tiger and Giant peacock moths, we had a late lunch overlooking the former Roman fish-paste factory at Baelio Claudia. Visiting the site we enjoyed seeing by-now familiar birds among the ruins - Stonechats, Sardinian warblers, Crested (but no Thekla) larks, Woodchat shrike and Black-eared wheatears.

I

t would have been an uneventful visit but for a call by James as a flock of 27 Greater flamingos shot past on the strong winds.

After an enjoyable stroll in the footsteps of the Romans (we speculated that the fish-paste factory may have gone bust when mushroom pizzas were invented) we climbed the hill behind on a fruitless search for rare swifts. Instead we enjoyed distant views of nesting Griffon, crazy Crag martins and a beautiful Blue rock-thrush atop a pinnacle… surely not the pinnacle of today's successes. (Cut the chronic jokes… Ed!)

The sea was too rough for spotting Orcas but we resolved to get up early for a pre-breakfast dune walk in hope the following morning.

Wednesday 14 April

Travel days are rarely much cop… unless you are in southern Spain with the Travelling Naturalist. White-headed duck and a lagoon full of goodies in the Coto de Doñana were the highlights of the day.

After saying (and kissing) goodbye to the staff in our Zahara hotel we stopped just 8km away to scan the estuary at Barbate. Several Caspian terns were seen well, along with Black-winged stilts, our first (and only) Common tern, Greenshank and eight Black terns.

A long drive was broken with a visit to two delightful lakes at Laguna Salada. The first was tiny, reed-covered and hotching with birds. Pochard, Gadwall, Red-crested pochard and Shoveler were top ducks, with Little and Black-necked (Eared) grebes vying for attention with Purple gallinule (Swamphen) and our first Common moorhen. A stunning Squacco heron put in an appearance sometimes hiding, at others showing well, while the first Sand martins (Bank swallows) of the trip were also seen.

But this is just a list. The real scene was enchanting with birds popping into view, calling and flying around the pool; Montagu's harrier was quartering the fields behind the pool, Red-crested pochard drakes were chasing their ducks around and Purple gallinules… well, they were just blogging around the marsh.

We tried to drive to the second lake but were thwarted by a dreadful track from which the local wardens were trying to extradite a four-wheel-drive Mitsubishi vehicle - we walked down to the lake where, happily, about 15 White-headed ducks put in an appearance. They were joined by Black terns, Black-necked grebes and a few Collared pratincoles. The warbler family was represented by singing Cetti's, Reed, Sedge, Willow, Garden and Melodious, all stars of an avian opera. (Sedge have read the field guides and, learning that they are warblers, sing with the panache of Pavarotti but the voice of a frog.)

After a salami sandwich we dragged ourselves away for a journey which took us through the shipping centre of Seville and down to the idiosyncratic El Rocio where, after a drive through sand-streets, past horses' hitching posts as in Western film sets, we arrived at our hotel.

As your author and John checked us in, the group wandered down to the lagoon where a wealth of birds were waiting… Spoonbills, Flamingos, Black-winged stilts, Avocets, waders, ducks and Whiskered terns were abundant, along with Collared pratincoles, Marsh harriers and Black kites. But the prize was Spanish imperial eagle seen twice (or was it a pair?) above woodland at the back of the lagoon.

Thursday 15 April

The day started well for James who saw about 600 Collared pratincoles hawking insects over the lagoon at first light. This figure was to rise later to an amazing 4,000 birds.

A cloudy dawn with the threat of rain and a poor weather forecast should have spelled doom and gloom for the day. But thanks to John's local knowledge we set off for the marshes of the Coto de Doñana in good heart and a plan to go straight to an interpretation centre before the unmade roads became impassable.

After a short stop to listen as a Hoopoe sang from a pylon and Bee-eaters firstly gathered on power lines or dead trees and then take off to further their migrations, we drove across Doñana for the Jose Antonio Interpretation Centre. Actually, we were all chuckling as we left after Philip senior had called the Bee-eaters Beefeaters. He was perhaps confused after seeing a Raven at the same stop.

Planning to do something and the execution are often different but we managed to make only a few stops - one to watch Stone curlews with Spanish sparrows, Greater and Lesser short-toed larks, another after flushing and watching a pair of Marbled ducks with Gull-billed terns, Short-toed eagle and Red-rumped swallows - before reaching the centre as it was beginning to rain in earnest.

That gave us the opportunity to look through the centre's vast windows at nesting Purple herons, Glossy ibis, Cattle and Little egrets in comfort. The support cast was made up of Red-crested pochards, Greater flamingos, Purple gallinules and a couple of Little bitterns.

Your author found the first of two male Little crakes which caused some debate in the centre about their identity (John and I were correct) a nesting Western reef egret was pointed out to the group and a number of Black-crowned night-herons were seen.

Another rarity was former UK Chancellor Ken Clark, well known for his interest in birds, who was directed to the spot were we found the Marbled ducks.

After lunch we jumped into the buses and slowly returned to El Rocio seeing four Red-knobbed coots, Northern lapwing, Common snipe and several Temminck's stints on the way. A stop at the Arroyo de la Palmosa, which feeds the lagoon at El Rocio, added Tree sparrow and Magpie to our ever-burgeoning list.

Collared pratincoles were still numerous over the lagoon on our return to the hotel.

Friday 16 April

The Collared pratincoles were back at daybreak too as we met to gaze across the lagoon at El Rocio, shivering slightly in the brisk, cool, westerly wind. Not that we were complaining about the weather - the Straits of Gibraltar, where we had been birding two days earlier, were battened down against a terrible storm, according to the TV news.

We watched many of the familiar birds of the lagoon, joined by Little stint, Alpine swift (brought in by the bad weather) and Garden warbler.

Breakfast was followed by a trip to El Acebuche natural park. Here we strolled along the boardwalks listening to Golden orioles, one of which a few people saw, Serins and Nightingales. A female Redstart was seen by some but a calling Green woodpecker remained elusive.

A good picnic lunch was eaten at the Palacio del Acebron where a Cuckoo kept us company, but joined the ranks of birds yet to be seen. A stunning Pied flycatcher was most obliging, however, and the pair of Blue tits nesting in an ornamental street light were a gift.

We walked the beautiful nature trail after lunch getting great views of Crested tits, a Reed-warbler and Short-toed treecreepers. Cetti's warblers and a Great spotted woodpecker were heard but could not be located, although an Iberian chiffchaff and several Long-tailed tits were more obliging.

An impromptu walk around part of the El Rocio lagoon was led by John late in the afternoon. A Peregrine caused the most excitement when it flushed hundreds of birds including a Black-tailed godwit, one Spotted redshank and 15 Black-winged stilts. About 12 Red deer and 20 Fallow deer were at the back of the lagoon.

Saturday 17 April

Strong westerly winds tempted us to plan a final sea-watch before leaving the coast and our pre-breakfast trip was to Matalascañas just 15km down the road from El Rocio. But in the morning the wind had gone and our ever-optimistic hopes were dashed, just a little.

The sun was just rising as we arrived and a stream of Pallid swifts, became even more brownish in the early morning light.

Positioning ourselves at the top of a cliff overlooking a sandy beach we started our vigil with an immediate shout as four (Pied) Avocets passed us and then settled below us on the beach. A line of about 10 Common (Black) scoter flew past towards Gibraltar - another two were seen soon after - and several Eurasian curlew went in the other direction. A few Dunlin, Gannets and Sandwich terns made up the rather disappointing list.

This was our biggest travel day and after meeting Henri Elink-Schurman who had driven down with Marius to collect our luggage and take it to Extremadura, we set off with a final picture stop in El Rocio.

The journey was uneventful but the route John selected took us through some of the most beautiful scenery in Spain.

We were not bird-less, however. Our picnic stop was on the banks of a reservoir, just inside Extremadura, where Thekla larks were singing, Mistle thrush was seen for the first time and Cirl bunting was recorded again.

Beccy wandered off and watched a Woodchat shrike catch, kill and butcher a Spanish wall lizard, spearing it on a thorn before dismembering and eating the unfortunate creature. Shrikes are often called Butcher birds and this one certainly demonstrated the reason.

With another 250km to go, we set off again and a couple of hours later broke the journey at Alange where we studied a craggy rock formation which overlooked a large dam.

Alpine swifts were studied from the dam wall as they swooped around and below us in the company of Crag martins and Jackdaws. A stunning male Blue rock thrush and a pair of tiny Common waxbills were found among the crags moments before a star bird turned up - a male Black wheatear, joined a few minutes later by its mate.

We were still trying to sort those when the first of two Bonelli's eagles appeared above us looking like huge Honey-buzzards. The show was not over yet, however, and a male Rock bunting added another oooh-aaah moment.

As the Travelling Naturalist brochure says so many times, it was with reluctance we dragged ourselves away from this super spot and headed off for adventures new… a colony of White storks nesting in the ruins of two buildings just 10km down the road. John's knowledge of this huge Spanish state was much appreciated.

Soon afterwards we were chasing Azure-winged magpies up the drive of the Finca Santa Marta where we were reunited with Henri in a charming pre-dinner reception. Comparisons of our various rooms were made over a delicious dinner and we turned in tired but happy.

Sunday 18 April

Leaden skies and a strong, cold north-easterly did nothing to dampen our spirits as we met at 8am for a pre-breakfast walk. Hike more like… the attraction of champagne, tongued and Spanish milky orchids tempted us high up the hill where we were distracted by a Golden oriole and Wood larks, arriving for breakfast at 9.45am.

The main trip of the day took us southwards to the Zorita steppes where a number of Great bustard 'Plains masters' were strutting their stuff appearing like white pompoms as they displayed to shy-looking females.

Two Great spotted cuckoos were seen on the way down along with a few Southern grey shrikes and a stunning European roller. About six male Little bustards were also seen, looking like Newcastle United supporters with black and white scarves around their necks. The first of more than 50 Black-bellied sandgrouse flew past distantly while numbers of Calandra larks were singing and fluttering by.

There was little to be seen on the Embalse Sierra Brava and after a short coffee break we headed off for the Vegas Altas area where a drive through fields produced more sightings of Black-bellied sandgrouse and a few more Great bustards. Lunch was eaten overlooking a field full of broom plants which seemed to attract more Rollers, Cattle egrets and the occasional passing raptor.

The wind continued and made searching for Waxbills and Red avadavats quite difficult, although a few were seen. The wind shifted suddenly and within a few minutes the temperature had risen several degrees. The change brought an immediate result in the form of two passing Eurasian hobbies which might have been interested in the Red-rumped swallows, House and one Sand martin which were feeding along the Rio Ruecas.

A loafing Cinereous (Eurasian black) vulture greeted our return to the finca at the end of what had been an excellent day despite the poor weather.

Monday 19 April

Monfragüe … the very name sends a shiver through Travelling Naturalists visiting the natural park, and today was no exception. We saw no fewer than five species of eagle, three of vultures and a host of other goodies including Black stork, Rock sparrow, Spectacled and Subalpine warblers.

The drive to the park was broken with a stop which resulted in great views of an immature male Spectacled warbler, a cracking male Woodchat shrike which was imitating a host of other bird calls and songs, and two Common cuckoos which flew past.

A secret site (the balcony of an hotel on the edge of the park) gave us a second Spanish imperial eagle for the day, while our arrival was marked by scores of Griffon and four Black vultures in the air together.

We walked up to Castillo de Monfragüe spotting Red-billed chough, Rock sparrow and Rock bunting on the way. Once at the summit we watched birds at eye-level, below us and soaring above the castle. These included Egyptian vultures, Short-toed snake-eagles, Black kites and a Golden eagle.

Lunch was taken at Peñafalcon where a breathtaking display was staged by a host of performers. A pair of Bonelli's eagles was mobbed by Ravens; Black redstarts, Rock buntings and Blue rock thrushes sang all around us while Black storks dropped into their nests occasionally. A Booted was the fifth of the day's eagle species.

Going deeper into the park we found a male Subalpine warbler showing fairly well, and a vast House martin colony which stretched the length of a 300m bridge. A Red fox was found by Michael and a school of spawning Barbel was watched from high above the reservoir which runs through the park.

We finally dragged ourselves away and back to a well-deserved cuppa at the evening call-over. Beccy saw Red-legged partridge in the finca's orchard before dinner.

Tuesday 20 April

We went out onto the plains of Spain in an unsuccessful search for Pin-tailed sandgrouse but were rewarded with another super day which had us drooling over courting Montagu's harriers, displaying Little bustards, several Black vultures, Red kites, Short-toed snake-eagle and an immature Spanish imperial eagle.

We set off with high hopes to a road which cuts across the Santa de Magascar plains, stopping to watch displaying Little bustards, a Great spotted cuckoo, the first of many Calandra larks and a flock of Cattle egrets many of which were standing on sheep.

Many other birders were out so we moved on to the leaders' favourite spot for Pin-tailed sandgrouse but failed to find one, despite a thorough search. Montagu's harriers were quartering the fields, several of the males displaying to admiring females. (We were admiring them too but the displays were not intended for us.)

A short coffee-stop was followed by lunch sitting beside the beautiful Rio Magascar where a Common sandpiper was recorded along with three Kingfishers. A Black vulture was soaring overhead as we left allowing super comparison views with a Griffon.

We moved on to plains near Cáceres in search of the elusive sandgrouse. The chase was aborted after a fine afternoon watching an immature Spanish imperial eagle, Black-eared wheatears, and a flock of Ravens feeding with Jackdaws and a vast Black vulture, from the remains of a sheep's carcass.

Wednesday 21 April

We set off on what was expected to be a day of consolidation - getting to know birds, already seen, a little better - but ended with a respectable list and five new species for the trip.

Our first call was at the Embalse de Arrocampo, about 50km down the motorway towards Madrid. Here a host of goodies waited for us… under an artificial mist rising from water warmed by the nearby power station.

As the mist cleared, Cetti's warblers were hanging on to the tops of reed-mace in a most uncharacteristic manner, Savi's warblers were reeling out their songs with customary panache while Purple gallinules picked their way around the marsh as if they had just arrived from Africa.

Mary pointed out two beautiful male Little bitterns, one of which was doing the splits as he held on to a couple of reeds, later joined by their mates. Purple and Grey herons were nesting in the area (the former deep in reed-beds) and a Spoonbill flew over, reminding John that they are also nesting in the area.

We went to a nearby site which had produced Black-shouldered kites on previous visits. As John told his passengers what the quarry bird was and that they could be difficult to find, one flew across in front of the buses. We all leaped out and had lovely views of the bird hovering and then pouncing on prey which it carried back to its nest, which was out of our line of sight.

After a celebratory cup of coffee we drove up into the hills to a secret, hidden valley - so secret and hidden that your author could not find it until John returned to guide us up. By this time, his passengers had seen a displaying Goshawk and a Spanish imperial eagle while listening to calling Golden orioles. We soon caught up with the latter two species but the Goshawk never returned.

Compensation (as ever) came in the form of a pair of nesting Red-billed choughs, which occasionally chased off a resident Kestrel, Grey wagtails and a host of fluts (butterflies) - the first real numbers we had seen on the trip. Flowers were also exciting with spider and naked-man orchids.

The walk down our favourite valley - part of the Rio Tozo - is always popular and we enjoyed a picnic lunch at its start. A duck Gadwall rose from our feet leaving a nest with seven eggs, an unusual breeding record for Extremadura.

As always, we were not to be disappointed with the walk. Otter spraints (droppings) were found, unlike a singing Melodious warbler which could not be located. Wood larks fluted our steps, past a gaudy butterfly orchid, down to the reservoir at the end of the walk where we found a pair of Common teal, lots of Gadwall, Black-winged stilts and Little egrets. Beccy found one with a yellow bill - our only Great egret of the trip.

The walk back was uneventful and we returned to the finca for a late cuppa, call over and period of DIY birding around the farm.

Thursday 22 April

An early start was suddenly halted when John picked up the call of a Red-necked nightjar while opening his minibus in the car park. The bird was a fair distance away but the characteristic 'clopping' was heard by most of us.

We arrived at the Santa de Magascar plains just as the sun was rising on a beautiful morning. A front had gone through during the night and the plains of Spain were stunning in the cold morning air.

Montagu's harriers were sitting on posts soaking up some early warmth and the 11 or more Great bustards moving around the fields looked distinctly damp. A Little bustard was calling as we entered a track across the plains but there was no sign of our quarry - pin-tailed sandgrouse. Their cousins - 32 Black-bellied sandgrouse - flew across the track after a couple of tractors started working the ploughed fields for the day, but of the Pin-tailed there was no sign.

It really was of little matter. The morning was super, though cold, and many for the species we had come to know well turned out to bid us farewell. Hoopoes flitted around in courtship, Calandra larks settled on the track in front of us, and even the Monties started 'ghosting' over the fields again.

A brief stop at our favourite corner allowed super views of Great-spotted cuckoos, the distinctive calls of Little bustard were heard, although those in view looked too cold for courtship, and Black kites were already quartering the steppe.

A late breakfast was followed by a trip into Trujillo to give shoppers a chance of scoring in the weekly market and the rest of us an opportunity to watch nesting White storks, buzzing Pallid swifts, screaming around the castle ramparts, and Lesser kestrels which were displaying over their colonial nest sites.

After a picnic lunch, made and eaten at the finca, we drove down to Madrid where the group split up at the airport with the majority returning to Gatwick on schedule.

All were agreed that it had been a superb wildlife experience and great holiday.

Annotated list of species

BIRDS

GREBES Podicipediformes Podicipedidae

1 Little grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis

Laguna Salada and Coto de Doñana on 14th; Coto de Doñana marshes, lots on 15th; several at El Acebuche natural park; two at the Finca Santa Marta.

2 Great crested grebe Podiceps cristatus

Laguna de Medina (1); Coto de Doñana marshes, several on 15th; one on the Embalse de Sierra Barva 18th; several Embalse de Arrocampo and Rio Tozo, 21st.

3 Black-necked (Eared) grebe Podiceps nigricollis

Laguna Salada on 14th; Coto de Doñana marshes, two on 15th.

SHEARWATERS & PETRELS Procellariiformes Procellariidae

4 Cory's shearwater Calonectris diomedea

Two on the Cape Trafalgar seawatch.

5 Balearic shearwater Puffinus mauretanicus

Three on the Cape Trafalgar seawatch.

GANNETS & BOOBIES Pelecaniformes Sulidae

6 Northern gannet Morus bassanus

Lots off Zahara and Cape Trafalgar; a few on the seawatch from Matalascañas 17th.

CORMORANTS Pelecaniformes Phalacrocoracidae

7 Great cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo

Singles at Barbate estuary and Coto de Doñana on 14th; Coto de Doñana marshes, three on 15th; one at the lagoon at El Rocio 16th; two at the Embalse de Arrocampo on 21st.

HERONS, EGRETS & BITTERNS Ciconiiformes Ardeidae

8 Grey heron Ardea cinerea

Laguna Salada and Coto de Doñana, 10 on 14th; Coto de Doñana common daily; a few daily in Extremadura.

9 Purple heron Ardea purpurea

Coto de Doñana marshes, lots on 15th.

10 Great egret Ardea alba

Rio Tozo reservoir, one 21st.

11 Little egret Egretta garzetta

A couple in the Salinas neasr Barbate; Coto de Doñana, 2 on 14th; mixed colony on the Coto de Doñana marshes, on 15th.

12 Western reef egret Egretta gularis

One in a mixed colony of egrets at the Coto de Doñana interpretation centre.

13 Squacco heron Ardeola ralloides

Laguna Salada, one on 14th; Coto de Doñana marshes, 20 on 15th.

14 Cattle egret Bubulcus ibis

Common daily.

15 Black-crowned night-heron Nycticorax nycticorax

Coto de Doñana marshes, 30 on 15th; 25 at El Acebuche natural park 16th.

16 Little bittern Ixobrychus minutus

Coto de Doñana marshes, two on 15th; male at the Rio Gargaligas 18th; two pairs Embalse de Arrocampo 21st.

STORKS Ciconiiformes Ciconiidae

17 Black stork Ciconia nigra

Six Monfragüe natural park 19th; two near Embalse de Arrocampo 21st.

18 White stork Ciconia ciconia

Common daily; nests on the way down to Zahara and on the Finca Santa Marta contained chicks.

IBIS & SPOONBILLS Ciconiiformes Threskiornithidae

19 Glossy ibis Plegadis falcinellus

Coto de Doñana marshes, 50 pairs on 15th.

20 Eurasian spoonbill Platalea leucorodia

Coto de Doñana 150+ on 14th; fewer on 15th; still less on 16th; one flew over us at the Embalse de Arrocampo on 21st.

FLAMINGOS Phoenicopteriformes Phoenicopteridae

21 Greater flamingo Phoenicopterus ruber

A flock of 27 passing the Roman fish-paste factory at Baelio Claudia; Coto de Doñana 100 on 14th; hundreds on 15th but fewer in raised water level on 16th.

SWANS, GEESE & DUCKS Anseriformes Anatidae

22 Greylag goose Anser anser

Coto de Doñana, two on 14th; and another two on 15th; three on 16th.

23 Common shelduck Tadorna tadorna

Coto de Doñana, three on 14th.

24 Gadwall Anas strepera

Laguna Salada four, and Coto de Doñana six on 14th; Coto de Doñana marshes, lots on 15th and 16th; three at a pool on the Santa Marta de Magasca plains 20th; 30 on the Rio Tozo walk on 21st., including duck incubating seven eggs.

25 Common teal Anas crecca

Rio Tozo reservoir, pair 21st.

26 Mallard Anas platyrhynchos

One or two daily in Andalucia, a few more in the Coto de Doñana on 14th; Coto de Doñana marshes, lots on 15th and 16th; a few daily in Extremadura.

27 Northern shoveler Anas clypeata

Ten Coto de Doñana on 14th; scores on 15th; fewer 16th.

28 Marbled duck (teal) Marmaronetta angustirostris

Coto de Doñana marshes, two on 15th.

29 Red-crested pochard Netta rufina

About 10 in the Laguna Salada and 10 in the Coto de Doñana on 14th; Coto de Doñana marshes, scores on 15th; a few at El Acebuche natural park 16th.

30 Common pochard Aythya ferina

About 5 at the Laguna Salada and 15 in the Coto de Doñana on 14th; Coto de Doñana marshes, lots on 15th, fewer on 16th.

31 Black scoter Melanitta nigra

Twelve on the seawatch from Matalascañas 17th.

32 White-headed duck Oxyura leucocephala

About 15 Laguna Salada on 14th.

HAWKS, EAGLES & KITES Falconiformes Accipitridae

33 Black-shouldered kite Elanus caeruleus

One near Embalse de Arrocampo 21st.

34 Red kite Milvus milvus

Two at the Coto de Donana on 14th; Coto de Doñana marshes, one on 15th; one at the Finca Santa Marta, one on the Zorita steppes 18th; two Monfragüe natural park 19th; five Santa Marta de Magasca 20th; four on 21st.

35 Black kite Milvus migrans

A few from the buses 11th; 40 coming ashore at the Playa de los Lances; common daily in the Coto de Doñana and Extremadura.

36 Egyptian vulture Neophron percnopterus

One in the Parque Natural de los Alcornocales 12th; one quartering over the Playa de los Lances; 10 Monfragüe natural park 19th; three at or near the Embalse de Arrocampo 21st.

37 Eurasian griffon Gyps fulvus

Common almost daily - exceptions being the Coto de Doñana marshes - nine at the lagoon at El Rocio 16th; scores breeding Monfragüe natural park 19th.

38 Eurasian black vulture Aegypius monachus

One at the Finca Santa Marta 18th, four on 21st; eight Monfragüe natural park 19th; eight Santa Marta de Magasca 20th, including one feeding with Ravens at a dead sheep; four near the Embalse de Arrocampo 21st.

39 Short-toed eagle Circaetus gallicus

From the buses (1 on 11th); several coming ashore at the Playa de los Lances; Coto de Doñana marshes, one on 15th; eight Monfragüe natural park 19th; four Santa Marta de Magasca 20th; two on 21st.

40 Western marsh-harrier Circus aeruginosus

A pair at the Coto de Doñana on 14th; Coto de Doñana marshes, 10 on 15th; a couple at El Acebuche natural park 16th; three on 18th Extremadura; male at the Embalse de Arrocampo 21st.

41 Montagu's harrier Circus pygargus

Two in off the sea, Zahara 12th; one behind the hotel in Zahara; Coto de Doñana marshes, five on 15th; common daily Extremadura, with 30 at Santa Marta de Magasca 20th.

42 Eurasian sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus

Three on 11th.

43 Northern goshawk Accipiter gentilis

Presa de Valdecanas, one displaying on 21st.

44 Eurasian buzzard Buteo buteo

One in the Parque Natural de los Alcornocales 12th; four in El Acebuche natural park on 16th; one or two daily in Extremadura.

45 Spanish imperial eagle Aquila adalberti

A pair over woods behind the lagoon at the Coto de Doñana on 14th; two Monfragüe natural park 19th; an immature Santa Marta de Magasca 20th; Presa de Valdecanas, one, possibly a pair, 21st.

46 Golden eagle Aquila chrysaetos

One in the Parque Natural de los Alcornocales12th; one Monfragüe natural park 19th.

47 Bonelli's eagle Hieraaetus fasciatus

Two Alange 17th; two Monfragüe natural park mobbed by Ravens 19th.

48 Booted eagle Hieraaetus pennatus

Ten on 12th and 13th, Andalucia; a few daily in the Coto de Doñana marshes and Extremadura.

FALCONS & CARACARAS Falconiformes Falconidae

49 Lesser kestrel Falco naumanni

A few from the buses on the 11th; one at the Playa de los Lances 13th; six near Vegas Altas and a few over Trochillo 18th and 19th; about 15 at the bullring, Trojillo, and lots on the Santa Marta de Magasca plains 20th; a few on 21st.

50 Eurasian kestrel Falco tinnunculus

One or two most days.

51 Eurasian hobby Falco subbuteo

Two over the Vegas Altas rice fields 18th.

52 Peregrine falcon Falco peregrinus

Two at Cape Trafalgar; one at the lagoon at El Rocio 16th.

PHEASANTS & PARTRIDGES Galliformes Phasianidae

53 Red-legged partridge Alectoris rufa

Two on 15th, four on 18th; one heard Monfragüe natural park 19th; about eight Santa Marta de Magasca 20th.

54 Common quail Coturnix coturnix

Coto de Doñana marshes, several heard on 15th, Coto de Donana, and near Vegas Altas on 18th; hear on the Santa Marta de Magasca plains 20th.

55 Ring-necked pheasant Phasianus colchicus

Benalupo, one on 11th.

RAILS, GALLINULES & COOTS Gruiformes Rallidae

56 Water rail Rallus aquaticus

One heard squealing Rio Gargargaligas on 18th, another at the Embalse de Arrocampo 21st.

57 Little crake Porzana parva

Coto de Doñana marshes, two males on 15th.

58 Purple swamphen (gallinule) Porphyrio porphyrio

Laguna de Salada 10 on 14th; Coto de Doñana marshes, lots on 15th; eight at the Embalse de Arrocampo 21st.

59 Common moorhen Gallinula chloropus

Several at the Laguna Salada and a few in the Coto de Doñana on 14th with lots on 15th and 16th; Extremadura on 18th.

60 Red-knobbed coot Fulica cristata

Coto de Doñana marshes, four on 15th.

61 Eurasian coot Fulica atra

Laguna de Medina (100 or more); Laguna Salada. 25 on 14th; Coto de Doñana marshes, bucket-loads on 15th, fewer on 16th.

BUSTARDS Gruiformes Otididae

62 Great bustard Otis tarda

A total of 22 on 18th, Zorita steppes; 15 Santa Marta de Magasca 20th.

63 Little bustard Tetrax tetrax

Six on the Zorita steppes 18th; eight males displaying Santa Marta de Magasca 20th.

OYSTERCATCHERS Charadriiformes Haematopodidae

64 Eurasian oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus

Four on the Palmones estuary on 12th.

AVOCETS & STILTS Charadriiformes Recurvirostridae

65 Black-winged stilt Himantopus himantopus

Barbate, 20, Laguna Salada 50, and Coto de Doñana 30 on 14th; Coto de Doñana marshes, many on 15th; more than 1,000 on flooded fields behind the lagoon at El Rocio 16th.

66 Pied avocet Recurvirostra avosetta

Coto de Doñana 40 on 14th; Coto de Doñana marshes, 20 on 15th, 25 on 16th; four on the seawatch from Matalascañas 17th.

THICK-KNEES Charadriiformes Burhinidae

67 Stone curlew Burhinus oedicnemus

(Eurasian thick-knee) Coto de Doñana marshes, two on 15th.

PRATINCOLES & COURSERS Charadriiformes Glareolidae

68 Collared pratincole Glareola pratincola

Several from John's bus on the 11th; one over the Palmones estuary on 12th; one settled in front of us at the Playa de los Lances; hundreds at the Coto de Doñana on 14th; 600 over the lagoon at El ocio on 15th, similar number on 16th; three over the rice fields 18th.

LAPWINGS & PLOVERS Charadriiformes Charadriidae

69 Northern lapwing Vanellus vanellus

Coto de Doñana marshes, five on 15th.

70 Eurasian golden-plover Pluvialis apricaria

One at the lagoon at El Rocio 16th.

71 Grey plover Pluvialis squatarola

Six at the Playa de los Lances; three at the lagoon at El Rocio 16th.

72 Common ringed plover Charadrius hiaticula

Ten on the Palmones estuary on 12th; four at the Playa de los Lances; Coto de Doñana marshes, two on 15th.

73 Little ringed plover Charadrius dubius

Three at the Coto de Doñana on 14th; one Santa Marta de Magasca 20th.

74 Kentish (Snowy) plover Charadrius alexandrinus

Four on the Palmones estuary on 12th; 15 at the the Playa de los Lances.

SANDPIPERS Charadriiformes Scolopacidae

75 Common snipe Gallinago gallinago

Coto de Doñana marshes, three on 15th.

76 Black-tailed godwit Limosa limosa

One flushed by a Peregrine at the lagoon at El Rocio 16th.

77 Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus

Four on the Palmones estuary on 12th.

78 Eurasian curlew Numenius arquata

Six on the seawatch from Matalascañas 17th.

79 Spotted redshank Tringa erythropus

One flushed by Peregrine at the lagoon at El Rocio 16th.

80 Common redshank Tringa totanus

Four on the Palmones estuary on 12th; four at Barbate, 20 at the Coto de Doñana on 14th; Coto de Doñana marshes, a few on 15th; 25 at the lagoon at El Rocio 16th.

81 Common greenshank Tringa nebularia

Coto de Doñana marshes, three on 15th; one at the lagoon at El Rocio 16th; three at the Tozo reservoir on 21st.

82 Green sandpiper Tringa ochropus

Coto de Doñana marshes, three on 15th.

83 Wood sandpiper Tringa glareola

Ten at the El Rocio lagoon on 14th; Coto de Doñana marshes, 20 on 15th.

84 Common sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos

Four on the Palmones estuary on 12th; Coto de Doñana marshes, a few on 15th; one Rio Magasca 20th; One aty the Tozo reservoir 21st.

85 Ruddy turnstone Arenaria interpres

Five at the Playa de los Lances.

86 Sanderling Calidris alba

At least 50 at the Playa de los Lances; similar numbers on the seawatch from Matalascañas 17th.

87 Little stint Calidris minuta

Coto de Doñana marshes, one on 15th; one at the lagoon at El Rocio 16th.

88 Temminck's stint Calidris temminckii

Coto de Doñana marshes, four on 15th.

89 Curlew sandpiper Calidris ferruginea

Two on the Palmones estuary on 12th; four at the Playa de los Lances 13th; Coto de Doñana marshes, one on 15th.

90 Dunlin Calidris alpina

Four on the Palmones estuary on 12th; two alive at the Playa de los Lances, one found dead bearing a Norwegian ring; three at the lagoon at El Rocio 16th; three on the seawatch from Matalascañas 17th.

91 Ruff Philomachus pugnax

Seven at the Coto de Doñana on 14th, nine on the marshes 15th.

JAEGERS & SKUAS Charadriiformes Stercorariidae

92 Great skua Catharacta skua

One on the Cape Trafalgar seawatch.

GULLS Charadriiformes Laridae

93 Audouin's gull Larus audouinii

a total of 70 on 13th.

94 Yellow-legged gull Larus cachinnans

Common daily on the coast.

95 Lesser black-backed gull Larus fuscus

Eight in various sites on 13th; Coto de Doñana marshes, several on 15th; 30 on the seawatch from Matalascañas 17th; 20 Monfragüe natural park 19th.

96 Black-headed gull Larus ridibundus

Four between the Laguna Salada and Coto de Doñana on 14th; 10 at the lagoon at El Rocio 16th.

TERNS Charadriiformes Sternidae

97 Gull-billed tern Sterna nilotica

Coto de Doñana marshes, four on 15th.

98 Caspian tern Sterna caspia

One at Cape Trafalgar on 13th.

99 Sandwich tern Sterna sandvicensis

Copmmon daily on the coast; a few on the seawatch from Matalascañas 17th.

100 Common tern Sterna hirundo

One at Barbate estuary on 14th.

101 Whiskered tern Chlidonias hybridus

Several at Coto de Doñana on 14th; Coto de Doñana marshes, four on 15th; 30 at the lagoon at El Rocio 16th.

102 Black tern Chlidonias niger

About 10 Laguna Salada on 14th; Coto de Doñana marshes, six on 15th; one at the lagoon at El Rocio 16th.

AUKS, MURRES & PUFFINS Charadriiformes Alcidae

103 Razorbill Alca torda

Three on the Cape Trafalgar seawatch.

104 Atlantic puffin Fratercula arctica

One on the Cape Trafalgar seawatch.

SANDGROUSE Pterocliformes Pteroclidae

105 Black-bellied sandgrouse Pterocles orientalis

More than 50 on the Vegas Altas fields on 18th; four Santa Marta de Magasca 20th.

PIGEONS & DOVES Columbiformes Columbidae

106 Rock dove (feral pigeon) Columba livia

Common daily in villages and towns.

107 Common wood-pigeon Columba palumbus

Common daily in Andalucia, the Coto de Doñana and Extremadura.

108 Eurasian turtle-dove Streptopelia turtur

Hotel Antonio, one on 14th; Finca Santa Marta three on 20th.

109 Eurasian collared-dove Streptopelia decaocto

Common daily.

CUCKOOS & COUCALS Cuculiformes Cuculidae

110 Great spotted cuckoo Clamator glandarius

Two on the Zorita steppes 18th; one Santa Marta de Magasca 20th.

111 Common cuckoo Cuculus canorus

One heard at the Palacio del Acebron 16th; one heard at the Finca Santa Marta 18th; two seen, one heard Monfragüe natural park 19th; one heard Rio Magasca 20th; one seen 21st.

OWLS Strigiformes Strigidae

112 European scops-owl Otus scops

One heard Finca Santa Marta 19th; one seen in the finca car park by torchlight 20th; one heard midday at the Presa de Valdecanas, 21st.

113 Little owl Athene noctua

One seen Santa Marta de Magasca, one heard Finca Santa Marta 20th.

NIGHTJARS Caprimulgiformes Caprimulgidae

114 Red-necked nightjar Caprimulgus ruficollis

One heard by some at the Finca Santa Marta as we set off on our ast pre-breakfast trip 22nd.

SWIFTS Apodiformes Apodidae

115 Alpine swift Tachymarptis melba

One at the lagoon at El Rocio 16th; six Monfragüe natural park 19th.

116 Common swift Apus apus

Common daily; passage on 11th; 12th and 13th.

117 Pallid swift Apus pallidus

A few on 11th; lots on 12th and 13th; several over at El Acebuche natural park 16th; a small flock over Matalascañas 17th; colony and three seen at night Trojillo 18th; a few daily Extremadura.

KINGFISHERS Coraciiformes Alcedinidae

118 Common kingfisher Alcedo atthis

Three Rio Magasca 20th; one at the Embalse de Arrocampo 21st.

BEE-EATERS Coraciiformes Meropidae

119 European bee-eater Merops apiaster

A small flock (15) overhead at Saville airport; five in the Parque Natural de los Alcornocales12th; four migrating in off the sea at the Playa de los Lances; Coto de Doñana marshes, 50 or more migrating on 15th; a handful at the Vegas Altas fields 18th; eight on 20th.

ROLLERS Coraciiformes Coraciidae

120 European roller Coracias garrulus

One Zorita steppes, four Vegas Altas fields 18th; two Santa Marta de Magasca 20th; one on the way to the Embalse de Arrocampo 21st.

HOOPOES Coraciiformes Upupidae

121 Eurasian hoopoe Upupa epops

One near Dos Hermanas on 14th; Coto de Doñana marshes, two on 15th; one at El Acebuche natural park 16th; Extremadura, several 18th; 15 on 20th, including two feeding chicks.

WOODPECKERS Piciformes Picidae

122 Great spotted woodpecker Dendrocopos major

One heard at the Palacio del Acebron 16th; one heard Monfragüe natural park 19th.

123 Green woodpecker Picus viridis

One heard at El Acebuche natural park 16th; one heard at the Finca Santa Marta.

LARKS Passeriformes Alaudidae

124 Calandra lark Melanocorypha calandra

Four at the Playa de los Lances; Coto de Doñana marshes, six on 15th; Zorita steppes, several on 18th; lots on the Santa Marta de Magasca plains 20th.

125 Greater short-toed lark Calandrella brachydactyla

Six at the Playa de los Lances; Coto de Doñana marshes, at least six on 15th; two Santa Marta de Magasca 20th.

126 Lesser short-toed lark Calandrella rufescens

Coto de Doñana marshes, at least six on 15th.

127 Crested lark Galerida cristata

Common daily on roadsides.

128 Thekla lark Galerida theklae

A pair at the lunch stop on 17th; four Santa Marta de Magasca 20th.

129 Wood lark Lullula arborea

Five at the Finca Santa Marta 18th; one heard singing Monfragüe natural park 19th; heard Santa Marta de Magasca 20th.

SWALLOWS Passeriformes Hirundinidae

130 Sand martin Riparia riparia

A few at Laguna Salada and Coto de Doñana on 14th; Coto de Doñana marshes, 30 on 15th; 10 at El Acebuche natural park 16th; one over the Rio Ruecas 18th.

131 Eurasian crag-martin Hirundo rupestris

Three on crags above Baelio Claudia; 25 at Alange 17th; scores Monfragüe natural park 19th.

132 Barn swallow Hirundo rustica

Common daily; passage observed on 11th.

133 Red-rumped swallow Hirundo daurica

Six at Laguna Salada on 14th; Coto de Doñana marshes, 10 on 15th; two at El Acebuche natural park 16th; several at the Finca Santa Marta.

134 House martin Delichon urbica

Common daily, huge colonies in some villages, particularly the police station in El Rocio and bridge in Monfragüe natural park where there were hundreds of nests.

WAGTAILS & PIPITS Passeriformes Motacillidae

135 White wagtail Motacilla alba

Ten at Coto de Doñana on 14th; one at the lagoon at El Rocio 16th; a few daily Extremadura.

136 Yellow wagtail Motacilla flava

Rio Palmones estuary, 5 on 12th; Playa de los Lances (10); Coto de Doñana marshes, abundant on 15th; one at the lagoon at El Rocio 16th.

137 Grey wagtail Motacilla cinerea

Rio Ruecas, one on 18th; pair at the Presa de Valdecanas 21st.

138 Tawny pipit Anthus campestris

Three at the Playa de los Lances 13th; two on the Santa Marta de Magasca plains 20th; one on 21st.

KINGLETS Passeriformes Regulidae

139 Firecrest Regulus ignicapillus

Six in the Huertha Grande on 12th.

WRENS Passeriformes Troglodytidae

140 Winter wren Troglodytes troglodytes

Three singing in the Huertha Grande on 12th; two at the Finca Santa Marta; two Monfragüe natural park 19th.

THRUSHES Passeriformes Turdidae

141 Blue rock-thrush Monticola solitarius

One in the Parque Natural de los Alcornocales 12th; one above the Roman fish-factory on 13th; one at Alange 17th; five Monfragüe natural park 19th.

142 Eurasian blackbird Turdus merula

A few daily in Andalucia; fairly common in Extremadura.

143 Song thrush Turdus philomelos

Finca Santa Marta, one 20th.

144 Mistle thrush Turdus viscivorus

Five in various sites, Extremadura 17th; singles Finca Santa Marta and Monfragüe natural park 19th.

CISTICOLAS & ALLIES Passeriformes Cisticolidae

145 Zitting cisticola Cisticola juncidis

Common daily in fields at practically every stop.

OLD WORLD WARBLERS Passeriformes Sylviidae

146 Cetti's warbler Cettia cetti

Two singing in the Huertha Grande on 12th; several singing at the Palacio del Acebron 16th; common most days Extremadura; several showing well at the Embalse de Arrocampo 21st.

147 Savi's warbler Locustella luscinioides

Five singing at the Embalse de Arrocampo 21st.

148 Sedge warbler Acrocephalus schoenobaenus

One singing at Laguna Salada on 14th, another on the Coto de Doñana marshes, 15th.

149 Eurasian reed-warbler Acrocephalus scirpaceus

One singing at Laguna Salada on 14th; Coto de Doñana marshes, several on 15th; one seen well at the Palacio del Acebron 16th; one at the Rio Ruecas 18th.

150 Great reed-warbler Acrocephalus arundinaceus

One singing at Laguna de Medina on 11th; Coto de Doñana marshes, lots seen and heard on 15th; one or two in most suitable habitat, Extremadura.

151 Melodious warbler Hippolais polyglotta

One singing at Laguna Salada on 14th, another on the Coto de Doñana marshes, 15th.

152 Willow warbler Phylloscopus trochilus

One at Baelio Claudia on 13th; Coto de Doñana marshes, two on 15th.

153 Iberian chiffchaff Phylloscopus ibirica

Six singing in the Huertha Grande on 12th.

154 Western Bonelli's warbler Phylloscopus bonelli

One in the Parque Natural de los Alcornocales 12th.

155 Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla

A few daily.

156 Garden warbler Sylvia borin

One seen at Laguna Salada on 14th; one at the lagoon at El Rocio 16th.

157 Greater whitethroat Sylvia communis

One in the dunes at Zahara on 14th.

158 Subalpine warbler Sylvia cantillans

Male Monfragüe natural park 19th.

159 Sardinian warbler Sylvia melanocephala

A few daily.

160 Spectacled warbler Sylvia conspicillata

Male Monfragüe natural park 19th.

161 Dartford warbler Sylvia undata

Two in the Parque Natural de los Alcornocales on 12th.

OLD WORLD FLYCATCHERS Passeriformes Muscicapidae

162 European pied flycatcher Ficedula hypoleuca

Male at the Palacio del Acebron 16th.

163 European robin Erithacus rubecula

Three singing in the Huertha Grande on 12th.

164 Common nightingale Luscinia megarhynchos

Heard daily; seen in the Huertha Grande on 12th and Monfragüe natural park 19th.

165 Black redstart Phoenicurus ochruros

Pair Monfragüe natural park 19th.

166 Common redstart Phoenicurus phoenicurus

Female at El Acebuche natural park 16th.

167 Whinchat Saxicola rubetra

One at the Playa de los Lances another on the Coto de Doñana marshes.

168 Common stonechat Saxicola torquata

Common daily on the coast, a few each day inland.

169 Black wheatear Oenanthe leucura

Pair at Alange 17th and Monfragüe natural park 19th.

170 Northern wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe

171 Black-eared wheatear Oenanthe hispanica

Three in the Parque Natural de los Alcornocales on 12th; a pair at the Roman site 13th; three Santa Marta de Magasca 20th; one 22nd.

LONG-TAILED TITS Passeriformes Aegithalidae

172 Long-tailed tit Aegithalos caudatus

Several at the Palacio del Acebron 16th; two at the Finca Santa Marta; four Monfragüe natural park 19th.

TITMICE Passeriformes Paridae

173 Crested tit Lophophanes cristatus

One in the Huertha Grande on 12th; two pairs at the Palacio del Acebron 16th; one Monfragüe natural park 19th.

174 Great tit Parus major

One or two in the Huertha Grande on 12th; a few at the Palacio del Acebron 16th; a few daily Extremadura.

175 Blue tit Cyanistes caeruleus

One or two in the Huertha Grande on 12th; a pair nesting in an ornamental street light at the Palacio del Acebron 16th; a few daily Extremadura.

CREEPERS Passeriformes Certhiidae

176 Short-toed treecreeper Certhia brachydactyla

Several heard in the Huertha Grande on 12th; several at the Palacio del Acebron 16th; lots in the orchards around the Finca Santa Marta.

ORIOLES Passeriformes Oriolidae

177 Eurasian golden oriole Oriolus oriolus

Two heard, one seen briefly at El Acebuche natural park 16th; one seen at the Finca Santa Marta 18th, heard 19th and 20th; up to five seen at the Presa de Valdecanas 21st.

SHRIKES Passeriformes Laniidae

178 Southern grey shrike Lanius meridionalis

Common daily Extremadura.

179 Woodchat shrike Lanius senator

Four on 12th; ditto 13th; Coto de Doñana marshes, lots on 15th; 10 on 16th; one feeding from a 'stored' lizard 17th; common daily Extremadura.

JAYS & CROWS Passeriformes Corvidae

180 Azure-winged magpie Cyanopica cyana

Coto de Doñana, one on 14th, 15 on 15th; abundant at El Acebuche natural park 16th; common daily Extremadura.

181 Common magpie Pica pica

Three on 15th; several at El Acebuche natural park 16th; common daily Extremadura.

182 Red-billed chough Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax

Pair nesting in the Monfragüe natural park castle 19th; a pair at the Presa de Valdecanas 21st were seeing off a Kestrel at times.

183 Eurasian jackdaw Corvus monedula

Several from the buses on 11th; two at the lagoon at El Rocio 16th; several at Alange 17th; a few daily Extremadura.

184 Common raven Corvus corax

Common almost daily.

OLD WORLD SPARROWS Passeriformes Passeridae

186 House sparrow Passer domesticus

One Gatwick after check-in; common daily in towns and villages. Some nesting in the base of White stork nests.

187 Spanish sparrow Passer hispaniolensis

Coto de Doñana marshes, six on 15th; a few in the rice fields 18th; some nesting in the White storks nests at the Finca Santa Marta.

188 Eurasian tree sparrow Passer montanus

Coto de Doñana marshes, one on 15th; pair nesting in old woodpecker hole at the Palacio del Acebron 16th.

189 Rock petronia (sparrow) Petronia petronia

One or two Monfragüe natural park 19th.

WAXBILLS & ALLIES Passeriformes Estrildidae

190 Common waxbill Estrilda astrild

Two on the crags (surprisingly) at Alange 17th; four at the rice fields 18th; four at the Finca Santa Marta 20th.

191 Red avadavat Amandava amandava

A few at the rice fields 18th.

FINCHES Passeriformes Fringillidae

192 Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs

Common daily.

193 European greenfinch Carduelis chloris

Three outside Baelio Claudia on 13th; Coto de Doñana marshes, a few on 15th; a few daily in Extremadura.

194 European goldfinch Carduelis carduelis

Common daily.

195 Eurasian linnet Carduelis cannabina

A few daily.

196 European serin Serinus serinus

Common daily.

197 Hawfinch Coccothraustes coccothraustes

One fly-past on the way to Monfragüe natural park, 19th.

TRUE BUNTINGS Passeriformes Emberizidae

198 Cirl bunting Emberiza cirlus

Female Mirador del Estrecho, male in the Parque Natural de los Alcornocales on 12th; pair at the lunch stop 17th; male on the Santa Marta de Magasca plains, another singing at the Finca Santa Marta, 20th.

199 Rock bunting Emberiza cia

Male at Alange 17th; four males Monfragüe natural park 19th.

200 Corn bunting Emberiza calandra

Common daily.

MAMMALS

MICE, RATS & VOLES Rodentia Muridae

1 Brown rat Rattus norvegicus

One dead in the road Coto de Doñana marshes, 15th.

MONGOOSES Carnivora Herpestidae

2 Egyptian mongoose Herpestes ichneumon

One road kill Seville to Zahara 11th.

DOGS & FOXES Carnivora Canidae

3 Red fox Vulpes vulpes

One Monfragüe natural park 19th; one road kill near the Finca Santa Marta 19th.

OTTERS Carnivora Mustelidae

4 European otter Lutra lutra

Spraints and crushed crayfish seen in the Rio Tozo valley 21st.

VESPER BATS Chiroptera Vespertilionidae

5 Western barbastelle Barbastella barbastellus

One detected Finca Santa Marta 20th

DEER Artiodactyla Cervidae

6 Red deer Cervus elaphus

About 20 behind the lagoon at El Rocio.

7 Fallow deer Dama dama

Three behind the lagoon at El Rocio.

AMPHIBIANS & REPTILES: A hapless Sharp-ribbed Salamander (Pleurodeles waltl) was downed by a Squacco Heron in the Doñana marshes on 15th; a Stripeless Tree Frog (Hyla meridionalis) was guarding egg-masses out of the water at Huerta Grande on 12th; a couple of Common Tree Frog (Hyla arborea) were heard calling along the Río Ruecas on 18th; Iberian Pool Frog (Rana perezi) was frequent in the rivers and pools, with its 'laughing' heard on at least 5 days in various places. There were a good number of reptiles: one-three Moorish Geckos (Tarentola mauretanica) were at FSM nightly from 18th; 2 Large Psammodromus (Psammodromus algirus) were at El Acebrón on 16th, 2 were seen at lunch on 17th and one was at the Presa de Valdecañas on 21st; two Iberian Wall Lizards (Podarcis hispanica) were at Baelo Claudia on 13th and singles were seen El Rocío on 16th and Presa de Valdecañas on 21st; single Ocellated Lizard (Lacerta lepida) were at Baelo Claudia on 13th and Monfragüe on 19th; a Three-toed Skink (Chalcides chalcides) was in the Presa de Valdecañas area on 21st; the sun-bathing terrapins at the Río Magasca and Embalse del Tozo were Spanish Terrapins (Mauremys leprosa); a Red-eared Slider (Pseudemys scripta) was at Acebuche on 16th; a Montpellier Snake (Malpolon monspessulanus) slid past Kate at Laguna Salada on 14th; a small Grass Snake (Natrix natrix) was a surprise find on the track behind the Mirador del Estrecho on 12th.

FISH: Common Carp (Cyprinus carpio) were in the Emb. de Arrocampo on 21st; 40+ Barbel sp. (Barbus sp.) were in the river at Monfragüe on 19th; Mosquito Fish (Gambusia affinis) were common in the Emb. del Tozo on 21st. Sea 'fish': A Grey Mullet sp (Mugil sp.) was in the Río Palmones on 12th, while as we watched some fishermen pulling in their nets off Zahara de los Atunes on 14th, we saw a number of small rays and large cuttlefish (OK, so they're not fish!) being hauled in.

BUTTERFLIES:

Large White: One - several on 5 days.

Small White: Only definitely seen on 14th and 21st.

Western Dappled White: Just 2+ on 14th and on 15th.

Wood White: Well picked-up, and 2+ Presa de Valdecañas area on 21st.

Orange-tip: Several Huerta Grande on 12th and plenty Presa de Valdecañas area on 21st.

Moroccan Orange-tip: Several along the Mirador track on 12th, one at lunch on 13th and 4 - 5 Presa de Valdecañas area on 21st.

Clouded Yellow: Ones and two at a couple of sits on 13th, 16th and 17th.

Cleopatra: Single females on 16th and 20th.

Lang's Short-tailed Blue: Just two El Acebrón on 16th.

Holly Blue: One near the Valdecañas dam on 16th.

Green-underside Blue: Two - three near the Presa de Valdecañas on 21st.

[Spanish] Brown Argus: 6+ near the Presa de Valdecañas on 21st.

Common Blue: Just two near the Emb. del Tozo on 21st.

Large Tortoiseshell: One near the Presa de Valdecañas on 21st.

Red Admiral: One - two seen on 4 days at various sites.

Painted Lady: Just one Playa de los Lances on 13th and 2 Laguna Salada on 14th.

Queen of Spain Fritillary: One beauty near the Presa de Valdecañas on 21st.

Spanish Marbled White: One beauty near the Presa de Valdecañas on 21st.

Small Heath: Just 2 on 20th but lots on 21st.

[Southern] Speckled Wood: 1 - 3 noted at various sites on 4 days, and 10+ Huerta Grande on 12th.

OTHER TAXA: included no less than 8 stunning Giant Peacock Moths (Saturnia pyri) at our drinks stop on 13th, a dead Hummingbird Hawk-moth (Macroglossum stellatarum) at FSM on 19th, two Cream-spot Tiger moths (Arctia villica) also at our drinks stop on 13th, a single Udea ferrugalis in the Madrigalejo rice fields on 18th, and several Yellow Belles (Semiaspilates ochrearia) near the Presa de Valdecañas on 21st. Odonata included the 2 huge Lesser Emperor Dragonfly (Anax parthenope) at Laguna Salada on 14th, the black-and-yellow Club-tailed Dragonflies (Gomphus cf. simillimus) on the Llanos de Cáceres on 20th and Emb. del Tozo on 21st, Red-veined Darters (Sympetrum fonscolombei) at Laguna Salada on 14th and the Emb. del Tozo on 21st, an Emerald Damselfly sp (Lestes sp.) at lunch on 17th and numerous Iberian Blue-tailed Damselflies (Ischnura graellsii) at Laguna Salada on 14th, lunch on 17th and the Emb. de Arrocampo on 21st. Other insects included the red-and-black Frog-hoppers (Cercopis sp.) on 20th and 21st, Field Crickets (Gryllus campestris) heard singing at plenty of sites on 20th and 21st, a few huge Egyptian Grasshoppers (Anacridium aegyptium) on 12th, 13th and 16th, Violet Carpenter Bees (Xylocopa violacea) at Huerta Grande and on 16th, numerous Dung Beetles (Scarabaeus semipunctatus) on the Playa de los Lances on 13th, a Rhinoceros Beetle (Copris lunaris) at FSM on 20th, a few Oil Beetles (Meloe sp.) on 13th and 14th. Other invertebrates included several examples of the large, nasty-looking centipede (Scolopendra cingulatus) on 15th, 20th and 21st, a few Red Signal Crayfish (Procambarus clarkii) on 21st and no less than 8 ticks (probably Ixodes sp.) near Vegas Altas on 18th.


© The Travelling Naturalist 2004