TRAVELLING NATURALIST TRIP REPORT
Andalucia and Extremadura
10 - 21 April 2005
- the Eagle Owl
- White Stork flocks coming in off the sea near tarifa
- displaying Great Bustards
- calling Little Bustards
- Cabañas del Castillo and the views
- now being able to see things with binoculars (first-time user)
- the evening visit to La Rocina
- the massed raptors near Monfragüe and at the feeding station
- El Rocío lagoon and its amazing diversity of species and number of birds
- the Raven attacking Black Vultures
Sunday 10 April
Arrival at Seville went smoothly and we were rapidly away from the airport (after noting a Griffon Vulture circling over the car park!) and soon on our way south in sunny conditions.
A few birds including Black Kites and even a Collared Pratincole were seen en route, though at a quick stop for a bite to eat and a drink, we only noted a pair of Crested Larks given very breezy conditions.
The roadworks to improve the road from Jerez to Los Barrios meant that the road passing the Laguna de Medina was horribly busy and noisy for the first time in years, but it didn't stop us visiting and seeing almost immediately a small group of White-headed Ducks in the near corner! Corn Bunting, Nightingale and a Great Reed Warbler serenaded in their respective ways, with the strikingly plumaged local race of Common Stonechats putting in a show. Action overhead was also impressive, with a stream of Black Kite and Griffon Vultures also including a couple of passing Montagu's Harriers!
Fatigue was beginning to creep into one or two early risers in the party, so we pushed on. As we passed Barbate however, a couple of white birds in the river meant we turned round to take a look. Greater Flamingos! In fact, some 15 were present, plus a few Audouin's, Lesser Black-backed and Yellow-legged Gulls, single Sandwich and Caspian Terns, a couple of Black-winged Stilt and two brief Common Redshank. A good job we stopped!
We settled into the hotel fine, with a long siesta to recover, and eased into our routine, watching a superb Atlantic sunset over dinner.
Monday 11 April
A cold pre-breakfast walk revealed very few birds, though a few Audouin's Gulls, a pair of Kentish Plover and several Sanderling were near the water's edge. The dunes had plenty of plants including clumps of yellow-flowered Lotus creticus and its rather rare parasite - Orobanche densiflora. A superb male Woodchat Shrike brightened up a fence where a Corn Bunting later sang.
It was much warmer when we reached the Playa de los Lances. Stonechats, Woodchats and Corn Buntings again caught our attention, though a couple of Short-toed Larks on the grassy dunes required observation. Roosting gulls were mainly Audouin's again, with three of them colour-ringed. A large flock of Sanderling flew in, one of them in summer plumage, and a Red Knot, a couple of Dunlin, three Grey and a few Greater Ringed Plover all added diversity. A further 8 Grey Plovers were roosting in the dunes where a 'pair' of Northern Wheatears were also present, while a few beetles, butterflies and flowers demanded scrutiny. Several Calandra Larks put in a noisy display in territorial disputes, and five Sky Larks were late migrants, feeding in the dunes.
The undoubted highlights though were three flocks of White Storks which we watched coming in off the sea, and two of which passed dead overhead. A few Black Kites also trailed in among them, while first one, then four more Sparrowhawks also came in and followed the shore of the beach north towards the hills. Visible migration at its very best. This of course excludes the dozens of noisy Bee-eaters passing over at eight, but none of which we saw!
We headed round for a quick look from the Mirador del Estrecho, where a superb view of Morocco was seen, though few birds apart from a fine male Sardinian Warbler and a singing Wren were noted.
Lunch was taken late at Huerta Grande (since the cafe was shut), but this proved ideal. We sat in the shade and watched raptors pass overhead, including lots of Griffon Vultures, a superb adult Egyptian Vulture and a couple of Booted Eagles. A later walk though the grounds included a brief Nightingale, singing Cetti's Warbler, a female Spanish Festoon, two displaying Firecrests, a calling Iberian Chiffchaff and Blackcaps in the woods. The fruiting elms were excellent too though, with feeding Siskins and Hawfinches, and both were finally seen well.
We finished with a stop at a viewpoint near Tarifa, and while passing raptors were very few, another Booted Eagle came close and both Lesser and Eurasian Kestrels were seen. Flowers included Barbary Nut, now out in the afternoon sun.
Even a quick drinks stop en route to the hotel produced Common and Pallid Swifts and remains of a Giant Peacock moth.
Tuesday 12 April
For those on the beach before breakfast, Sanderling, Kentish Plover, a Northern Wheatear and a Woodchat Shrike were all on offer.
The views from Tarifa harbour wall across to Morocco were excellent, but unfortunately this meant no sea birds! We finally managed 5 Gannets, but only two of them were not dots! A couple of Whimbrels, Audouin's Gulls and Sandwich Terns were also noted, but the whole birding scene was eclipsed by the rather incompetent attempts to drag a partly flooded zodiac out of the harbour using a vehicle recovery van...
Huerta Grande in contrast was heaving! Holly Blue butterfly, Egyptian Grasshopper, a fly-over Hawfinch and a superb foraging Crested Tit on a cork oak in front, and all over drinks, were finalised by a singing Nightingale in full view! The walk found a couple of singing Iberian Chiffchaffs, Willow Warblers, a brief Garden Warbler, singing Serins, Gold and Green- finches, plenty of feisty Firecrests, Wren and Blackcaps, plus a Scarce Swallowtail, 'common' Swallowtail and stunning Monarch butterflies. A sad find was a cat with a badly battered Grass Snake which I removed to hopefully safer cover after washing in the pool. Male Cleopatra and Brimstone butterflies were also watched too with the warm sun having coaxed them out.
We then took a track paralleling the Sierra de Ojén, where we stopped for a late lunch. A good spot in cork oak woodland, with nice views and a clearing behind proved a good choice. Two Bonelli's Warblers were singing in the trees and gave great views, while a loudly calling Great Spotted Woodpecker was very striking, showing an enormous and really deep red area on the belly extending forwards to in front of the legs and also having a little red patch on the breast... A N African bird? A Common Cuckoo called and flew over while we were there too and Booted Eagle and Egyptian Vulture were also seen circling high over with the numerous Griffons.
Further along the track produced a really fine Ocellated Lizard, then a stop for a stunning Moroccan Orange-tip showed a green Iberian Wall Lizard on a little wall opposite! As we continued, repeated stops were necessary for 5 male and 3 female Black-eared Wheatears, including of both the black and white throated forms.
Even the start of the drive 'back' was rapidly curtailed by the sight of several large eagles off to one side, and a total of about 10 Short-toed Eagles were feeding on something, possibly grasshoppers, in the pastures off to one side and gave wonderful repeated views, including on the ground. We stopped for our usual drinks and cakes at the roadside cafe to round off another excellent day.
I was unfortunately delayed for dinner by my masseuse (!), but the artichokes followed by paella were a very memorable dinner indeed.
Wednesday 13 April
A pre-breakfast trip to Cabo de Trafalgar (celebrations for the 200th anniversary of the battle will be held late this year) saw a beautiful start to the day. A pool on the beach held a few waders including Sanderling (one of which was colour-ringed), Greater Ringed and Kentish Plovers and a few Crested Larks sang from the dunes.
We positioned ourselves near the lighthouse at a strategic look-out to watch as much of the sea as possible, though birds, given the very calm and clear conditions were very scarce. Plenty of Yellow-legged, 3 or 4 Audouin's and one Lesser Black-backed Gull, lots of Sandwich Terns, a few (mostly rather distant) Gannets, three Cory's Shearwaters, and near the end, a very distant Puffin and Razorbill were slim pickings indeed. At least a Whimbrel on the shore was new for Wendy.
The rest of the morning was taken up with a visit to the Roman ruins of Baelo Claudia, with a pause en route for a close Marsh Harrier quartering some fields. This was with a breeze from the SW pushing migrants up the coast, and while contemplating the streets, forum, amphitheatre and fish-processing factory in the town, we also noted migrant Egyptian Vulture, Black Kites and Montagu's Harrier. Birds in the ruins themselves included Black-eared Wheatear, Sardinian Warblers, Stonechats and our first Thekla Larks.
We took a break at a local bar where oranges were specially brought in by moped for our juice and a melanistic male Montagu's Harrier passed over at speed!
A fairly late lunch was then taken from a spot in the Sierra de la Plata, with cracking views southwards towards Tarifa and the still clear Moroccan coast. This too had its interest in the form of nesting Griffon Vulture and Common Kestrels, and displaying Blue Rock Thrush. Not bad!
We transferred relatively late to El Rocío on the edge of Doñana, but at least with enough time for me to go out and take a preliminary look at what was around and also see the major rarity in the area, a Long-billed Dowitcher! Would it stay until tomorrow..?
Thursday 14 April
Our pre-breakfast walk was in a light cold breeze and slightly hazy conditions. It was cold! The birds were phenomenal however, with masses of Black-winged Stilts, Avocets, Common Redshank, Greater Ringed Plover and Greater Flamingos, plus marauding Black Kites to keep us more than busy from the start. Singing Cetti's, Great Reed and Sedge Warblers were also all seen, and a couple of smart White Wagtails were our first wagtails of any sort! In fact, another of the first birds was the Long-billed Dowitcher, feeding along the edge of cover with a Common Snipe! We returned to breakfast keen for hot coffees and chocolate though!
The rest of the morning was also spent just wandering up and down the front at El Rocío, watching the marsh and its teeming bird life. Flying Flamingos are always an extraordinary sight, and especially when they're adult with bright pink wing patches! A few Glossy Ibis fed among the hundreds of Eurasian Coot while a single Red-knobbed Coot fed at very close range for as long as we watched. Though genuinely rather uninspiring it was at least unringed and not a reintroduced bird! However, given that days later I discovered from photos that it only had one eye, perhaps this was part of the reason it was so approachable! Whiskered Terns flitted past occasionally, though the aerial masters were undoubtedly the 100+ Collared Pratincoles which periodically and noisily flew up from their resting islands when buzzed by the numerous passing raptors! Other waders included four Temminck's Stints which fed discretely on little grassy island well away from their Little cousins, a single Wood Sandpiper trying to hide among the Redshank and various Ruffs and Reeves in the wetter grass. Ducks included lots of Common Teal, but the find of the morning was by Helen who picked out a lovely pair of Marbled Ducks drifting quietly across the water as they slept. The whole scene was difficult to take in!
Back on the roof of the old SEO/BirdLife interpretation centre, we got into more waders, including Common Sandpipers, Little Ringed Plover and a Curlew Sandpiper for variety, while the Long-billed Dowitcher reappeared again in full view when frightened out of cover by a close Booted Eagle which flew in and sat almost overhead in a Eucalyptus!
Lunch was a little late and taken on seats in the shade near the Palacio del Acebrón, especially late since we paused several times en route to contemplate the stunning spectrum of colours presented by our first close Bee-eaters, to listen to a singing Iberian Chiffchaff and also to look at a Spiny-footed Lizard on the track! Lunch itself was fortunately quiet, except for serenading Nightingales, Short-toed Treecreeper and Serins!
We took a walk past the palace and round a lake through wet and dry woodland. The breeze was stiff and it was very sunny, with little bird activity. However, we noted a few things including a couple of Spanish Terrapins hauled out in the sun, an Iberian Blue-tailed Damselfly, Genet droppings (well. let's face it, mammals are notoriously difficult to see!), Blackcaps, Blue Tits, the peculiar spikes of Greater Broomrape and a singing Melodious Warbler.
After a decent siesta we returned, this time to the wet area at La Rocina, which was magic in the evening light. I took a spectacular nose-dive into the sand due to a loose plank in the board walk, but fortunately no lasting damage was done. A couple of Purple Swamp-hens and Purple Herons were out on the marsh where an unseen Savi's Warbler sang. Round the corner and through some trees where a couple of Long-tailed Tits flitted overhead, we stepped into an open area on the boardwalk over the wet marsh. It was alive! A Reed Warbler sang from a willow, but in the tussocks, several Squacco Herons and Glossy Ibis quietly mooched around and fed at close range. A fine Spoonbill, sporting its shaggy crest was excellent fun to watch, with an adult Night Heron in a bush just behind being found as a result! A Little Egret flew in and fed under some willows, a stunning Purple Heron flew in just moments later and also fed in the open, and the Squaccos flew back and forth almost continuously between different fishing spots. A dry buzzing sound revealed a fine Savi's Warbler, which inched up a stem and sang in full view in a path of reedmace, far outclassing another which had started to sing just a few yards away from us earlier before disappearing into the willows where only Wendy and I saw it running around mouse-like on the ground! Just to cap it off, a couple of Red-rumped Swallows then flitted across the clearing a couple of times among the House Martins and Barn Swallows, and we finally had to drag ourselves away.
Dinner was slightly later, but the sight of hundreds of Collared Pratincoles feeding just inches over the water like a huge group of swallows was a memorable sight.
Friday 15 April
No early morning, and we headed out towards Doñana's northern marshes. A quick stop over a stream revealed a Greenshank, two Green and two Common Sandpipers and a couple of Little Ringed Plovers, as well as three hoped-for Tree Sparrows!
The roadside wires were covered with Bee-eaters, presenting a gorgeous spectacle, with a few Corn Buntings and Woodchat Shrikes for variety. Roadside Greenfinch, Serin and Crested Larks were also noted, though the numbers of Bee-eaters in several flowery pastures was simply breathtaking.
A rough track revealed yet more Bee-eaters, a pair of Red-legged Partridge, a couple of Greater Short-toed Larks and two more Tree Sparrows. The main route into the marshes was past more rather 'samey' looking fields, but another quick scan revealed five lovely Pin-tailed Sandgrouse, trying hard to blend into the grass which thankfully for us wasn't quite high enough to hide them.
Much of the rest of the drive before lunch was characterised by huge, dead flat and largely barren fields, plus wet ditches on one or both sides of the road / track. These ditches were where the birds were, especially the dozens of Purple Swamp-hens we saw, plus a few Purple and plenty of Grey Herons, good numbers of adult Spoonbills and a few Little Egrets. The final stretch saw a few lorries kicking up large quantities of dust, but at least a large flock of Ruff off to one side in a big pool were notable.
We went for drinks at the José Antonio Valverde Interpretation Centre, and marvelled at the masses of birds out on the artificial lagoon in front. Flamingos and Coots formed the bulk, but good numbers of Glossy Ibis, Little Grebe and Purple Swamp-things were present and Paul saw a few Red-crested Pochard. A bit of waiting also saw us enjoying a delightful male Little Crake running and swimming right out in the open, while after lunch (taken outside in lovely conditions) we returned for another crake-watch, only to be rewarded with a very elusive Baillon's Crake, which was then briefly joined by another!
The long bumpy drive back was only punctuated by a couple of stops, but did allow us views of a couple of Lesser Short-toed Larks, a lovely colourful singing male Northern Wheatear (possibly of the Greenland race), a tricoloured male Marsh Harrier and two Short-toed Eagles amongst others!
Back in El Rocío, while I got forty (x10!) winks, most were out watching the masses of birds outside, getting to grips again with most of those seen before. Dinner saw the evening masses of Collared Pratincoles again, plus two 'Flamenco Rosado', the speciality dessert of the hotel!
Saturday 16 April
Out at 7:30 sharp for a pre-breakfast trip to La Rocina. In fact, it was so cold (6.5C!) that we spent over half an hour cruising along the road to the Palacio del Acebrón and back. There were no mammals as hoped, but a fine Southern Grey Shrike and a few Woodchats, lots of singing Nightingales and a couple Bee-eaters were seen. The return saw us pause at a wide fire break where a Hoopoe fed in the open sand for a considerable time and a singing male Quail was just out in the open on two occasions before scurrying back into deep cover before most of us could see it...
The boardwalk was chilly, but the same spot as two evenings before did not disappoint. Six Squacco, two Purple and one adult Night Heron, two or three Glossy Ibis, singing Savi's and Reed Warblers and calling Long-tailed Tits kept us occupied for some time. A couple of the numerous Tree Sparrows around the nest boxes showed briefly, while as we returned a huge female Peregrine cruised low over the trees and was visible for a few seconds.
The packed and bade our farewells to El Rocío, buying stamps and posting cards as we went. The journey north took us through vast areas of rolling dehesa and mountains, and over both the Rio Tinto and Rio Odiel, each of which was viciously coloured red, orange and yellow since they carry heavy loads of ore. A drinks stop was well appreciated, though at just 12.5C it was not especially warm, while it did at least get up to c.15C at our lunch spot near a dammed river.
This was lovely in the dehesa (holm oak wood-pasture), with singing Chaffinch, Corn Bunting, Woodchat Shrike and Thekla Lark to serenade us, and numerous Brown Argus and small white butterflies flitting around to entertain us. A few Black Kites and a single Booted Eagle just reminded us that raptors are never too far away...
The next stop was at the Alange dam, though not before I'd taken a large sadly dying Horseshoe Whip Snake out of the middle of the road where it had presumably, sadly, just been hit by another vehicle. A few Crag Martins flitted around and about, a male Blue Rock Thrush made several song flights across in front and posed well in view in addition, but the wind buffeted us strongly. We moved back across the road and looked down into the pool below the dam only to find an adult Spoonbill and a Great White Egret feeding there! The delay to go back to the van and get a scope was well rewarded later, since a fine male Rock Bunting flew in and landed underneath us for a few moments, and then several Alpine Swifts came zooming over the dam and wheeled round in front. After trying, and failing to get more lose views of these, we turned back towards the buses, and were suddenly away of an eagle cruising in the wind - an adult Bonelli's Eagle!
We completed the rest of the trip after passing White Stork alley', with dozens of nests on pylons and an abandoned building and a quick drive-by to see the Roman bridge and nearby egret colony at Mérida. A few brief glimpses of Iberian Azure-winged Magpies were also made en route, but the stiff NW wind at the finca made seeing things on our arrival rather difficult.
We settled in with a fine welcome by our host, Henri Elink-Schuurman, who gave a potted history of the Finca amongst other things.
Sunday 17 April
A chill, breezy and completely overcast start did not bode well. A pre-breakfast walk saw us take a circuit through the orchards and along one or two tracks, and we were soon contemplating the 'high-rise' storks nests complete with male Spanish Sparrows! A lemony male Serin perched for scopes for all, three black and a Griffon Vulture made use of the early wind to circle around nearby, a couple of male Woodlarks tried to out compete each other with their fluty songs and a few Iberian Azure-winged Magpies flitted through the orchards and vineyards.
We left after Sunday's later breakfast and went S towards where we could see a little sun and blue sky. The air was still chill though, but we soon forgot about this while scanning the seemingly empty vast grassy steppes. A few Black-bellied Sandgrouse rose up and sped over the horizon, but several enormous displaying male Great Bustards and one distant male Little Bustard formed a delightful sight. Corn Bunting, Calandra and Crested Lark song filled the air, and after noting a lone Lapwing (was it breeding?), we walked along the road to try and see a Black-bellied Sandgrouse which had flown in and landed just over a little ridge. This rose up, followed by two more, giving lovely views, though they circled and dropped below another ridge out of view... A few oil beetles, moths and black-and-red froghoppers caught our eyes in the grass on the way back to the van.
The Embalse de Sierra Brava is a large reservoir, created just 8 years ago but the third most important site for wintering wildfowl in Spain. Not that more than 7 coot were present, but both Great Crested and Black-necked Grebes were liberally scattered over its surface. The latter were just out of range for goods views though, so we made do with 2 passing Black Vultures, a displaying Little Ringed Plover, calling Collared Pratincoles and bee-eaters, and a Gull-billed Tern perched between 2 Black-winged Stilts and a Mallard! Another bay gave us a much closer Black-necked Grebe in its full breeding garb, its brilliant red eye glaring in the sunlight.
A drinks stop was followed by lunch down at the Rio Gargáligas, but only once we'd seen a Red Avadavat and singing Great Reed Warbler, and afterwards, a singing Nightingale.
We finished the afternoon with a drive near Vegas Altas. A Stonechat and Corn Buntings were the only birds for a while, but a number of Collared Pratincoles flew up from an arable field when a Montagu's Harrier passed. A Quail 'blipped' from a cornfield and a Zitting Cisticola 'zipped' off to one side. Things were again looking quiet until we suddenly found ourselves at point blank range to a pair of Rollers on a roadside fence just yards away! We pulled off to watch these as they moved slowly from post to post, dropping occasionally to pick some item of prey. Another flew in from one side, then flew round the first, only to be chased back by a fourth! And it landed with its mate, The fifth! The aerial antics of several nearby Montagu's Harriers were largely ignored as we delighted in the extraordinary colours of these Rollers.
Further driving brought us a huge field where a few Lesser Kestrels fed, and a couple of Great Bustard walked regally across. A fine end, despite a lovely adult male Marsh Harrier quartering a field as we left and a Common Cuckoo on roadside wires en route back.
Coffee, cakes and call-over rounded off the day nicely.
Monday 18 April
A 9:30 start, but as we headed N towards Trujillo, the light rain and freshening breeze did not bode well, so we changed plans and headed out onto the Belen plain. A Southern Grey Shrike was briefly noted by Paul, but the stop also revealed two Little Owls. Calandra Lark and Corn Bunting song filled the air, despite heavy drizzle, but finding birds was not so easy, especially given other groups of birdwatchers scattered along the road!
A couple of Great and Little Bustards were noted, but then an odd-looking raptor caught my eye. Between getting out and putting my scope up it simply vanished, only to flash across Ernie's telescope as a heavy squall set in. We got wet, but thinking the bird was still about, walked along, only to find it had vanished. For good! We moved up and down the road looking for it in vain, but more than content ourselves with the antics of a Great Bustard lek and several Little Bustards scattered about in the steppe, especially when on of the latter did a fly-past in full display, the neck inflated and wings whistling as it went.
We finally dragged ourselves away, only to come across a blackish bird feeding in a field close to the road: the immature Northern Bald Ibis which has been around Trujillo since January! Four other vehicles pulled up behind us and also watched it in bemusement as it stuffed itself with beetles, caterpillars and even snails, which were adeptly extricated from their shells! Another extraordinary bird.
We pushed on towards a late drinks stop, only to pause again when a smart Great Spotted Cuckoo sat on a fence in an adjacent field, allowing prolonged views. Drinks were finally taken before we headed off for lunch (seeing Mistle Thrush and Jay on the way). This was taken by a delightful old bridge, and the Rio Almonte also came up trumps with passing Griffon Vultures and three Black Storks, a flock of Bee-eaters and a White Wagtail of most note bird wise, but also a number of Red Signal Crayfish, Iberian Pool Frog and several small Viperine Snakes in the river.
Another river stop by a gorge revealed a couple of flighty Long-tailed Tits, calling Great Spotted Woodpecker, a couple of Grey Wagtails and three Spanish Terrapins of most note.
Our final destination was the hamlet of Cabañas del Castillo, aka Twin Peaks (for purely geographical and not other motives!). The wind was moving large numbers of Griffons Vultures around, while an Egyptian Vulture was rapidly seen off by one of a Raven pair nesting on a cliff. There seemed to be nothing on the cliffs though, so we walked past the church and came up trumps with a juvenile and brown Black Wheatear! One of the adults was also found shortly ahead, as were a couple of Peregrines, five Black Redstarts and a Blue Rock Thrush. The views were stunning too, and it was with reluctance that we pulled ourselves away...
The return was punctuated by a few stops on the Belen plain again, with a small flock of Tawny Pipits finally allowing two of them to be seen, and displaying Great and Little Bustards always good.
A Great Spotted Cuckoo calling loudly in flight as it passed was also picked up by Jean out on a stroll, only the second record of the species at the finca to my knowledge.
Tuesday 19 April - new Pope day!
The day dawned chilly and breezy, with thick low cloud. However, it looked like it would clear so we went to Monfragüe as planned. We didn't even reach the Arroyo de la Vid when some circling vultures low off to one side seemed to good to miss, and indeed, we stepped out to the awesome spectacle of up to a hundred Griffon, Black (a few) and Egyptian Vultures (just 1!), several Black and a couple of Red Kites and even a curious Black Stork circling around, on and off overhead for almost half an hour!! A fabulous spectacle. A singing bird off to one side lead us into a short walk along the road, where some lorries and fast drivers made things 'interesting'. However, a loudly singing Western Orphean Warbler kept us looking hard, though it was only very briefly seen perched before flying off to other holm oaks. A couple of smart Woodchat Shrikes were good to look at while waiting as was a pale phase Booted Eagle overhead!
A singing Rock Bunting below Monfragüe castle refused to show until it flew off, but after leaving the van under the shade of two fine Southern Nettle Trees, we climbed up to gain views from the top. The stiff breeze actually meant that there were very few raptors passing, but the magnificent panorama was enough in itself. A loudly calling Chough as we left was god recompense though.
Peña Falcon is always impressive and now that there's a safe walkway alongside the road, it's even better! We peered across the very dry reservoir from a small promontory, only to immediately find a passing Black Stork. This flew in and landed close to another on its nest, both giving fine views. A third bird was busy bringing in material to another nest high on the cliffs, but I wondered if its too late to breed this year. Griffons tended their half-size chicks, Black Kites passed back and forth below us and a superb male Rock Bunting sang almost continuously below us from a holm oak, despite only being visible on a couple of occasions! We left as a pair of Short-toed Eagles were planing and hovering over the slopes opposite.
A quick unplanned stop at a possible Eagle Owl site gave no luck on that front, but a couple of raptors on the other side were a Black Kite casing an adult Bonelli's Eagle! We celebrated with drinks at a bar (where I chatted to yet another colleague in the business) before moving on to lunch under trees at La Tajadilla. A couple of Ortolan Buntings flew up from the roadside as we went, though sadly only on showed all too briefly in small pine before they disappeared for good. Lunch didn't stop us contemplating Black Kite, Egyptian and Griffon Vulture nests, or Iberian Azure-winged Magpies feeding on bread thrown out by some snoozing workmen though! A Common Sandpiper way down in the valley bottom in a rapidly drying pool was a slightly incongruous find.
We moved on the Portilla del Tiétar, where Spanish Imperial Eagles are breeding this year in full view for the first time, and noted how the female constantly peered around despite being snuggled well down in the eyrie. We also set to the somewhat thankless task of scouring the vast rock faces for Eagle Owls, since they had bred here this year, but sadly were already mobile and off the nest. After about an hour, and despite finding a pair of Subalpine Warblers nest-building just feet in front, no luck on the owl until a group of French walkers strolled up and put their scopes directly on one! Fortunately, despite not being completely sure of what they were looking at, after some time and deliberation, I asked what/where it was and we had lovely views of the breast and head of one high up the cliffs. A gorgeous bird.
The drive back is normally fairly uninteresting, but a vixen Red Fox suddenly strolled into view. Rather lean and with a bad front paw, we stopped and waited for her to approach, which she duly did. So much so in fact that I was able to get out to get some scraps and feed her at just a couple of feet range! A fascinating sight of a wild animal, though this individual has been scrounging from visitors here for a couple of years now.
We returned to coffee, cakes and call-over, then toasted the new Pope with white wine over dinner (which was a wonderfully humorous affair, possibly due of the effects of the white wine??!).
Wednesday 20 April
Our last full day, and difficult to keep up the standards, especially when the breeze was continuing from the NW (not at all good for migration). However, it was a good day for trying to catch up with a few missing species.
Trujillo bull ring may not conjure up thoughts of a pleasant time, but at least the Lesser Kestrels and Spotless Starlings which breed with relative abundance in the roof like it! They kept us entertained for a while as we studied their plumage as they warmed up in the chill morning air.
Further north near Jaraicejo, we entered an area of low scrub, and despite a rising breeze, a few small birds kept us busy, especially as they moved around so much! A few Griffon and Black Vultures passed over as we arrived, and a couple of sparring Calandra Larks did a once-round past the vans. Thekla Larks were singing loudly, and single Southern Grey and Woodchat Shrikes also sat out proudly for us to admire, albeit a fraction distantly. All this was a delaying tactic though, until a little song alerted us to a tiny butterfly like bird in display flight: a Spectacled Warbler! All too quickly it disappeared though, but given persistence, we all enjoyed views of not just one, but two males and a female of this diminutive Whitethroat. Not only this, but as we tracked one down, so a fine male Dartford Warbler in full song sat in view, then repeated the show for those who missed it first time round!
The Arrocampo reservoir was getting warm by the time we arrived, though this didnt stop a number of Purple and a Grey Heron or two from passing in flight. We searched the reedmace edges for our main quarry, without success, though heard singing Sedge and Cettis Warblers in the process, while in a nearby muddy opening, two Little Egret, a pair of Black-winged Stilts, a pair of Gadwall and grunting Purple Swamp-hens were noted. Several smart male Spanish Sparrows shreeped from under a White stork nest way overhead on a pylon arm. Another arm of the reservoir produced a line of Spanish Terrapins, some of them really large, soaking up the sun, a remarkably scruffy Marsh Harrier which was surprisingly good at flying given how few wing feathers it had (!), plus several strutting Swamp-hens. A very brief fly-by from a male Little Bittern was little reward, though a fine Squacco Heron, crouching quietly in the reeds was a good find, as was a winter-plumaged Great White Egret which strolled out of nowhere into full view, before finally taking flight. Calling Water Rail and Penduline Tit were the closest we got to these species in the whole trip though, the latter being one of the latest spring Extremadura records ever!
Time was now pushing on, so we took a short drive down a side road to look for Black-shouldered Kite, without success, though did see a few shrikes and a beautiful Purple Heron which flew out of a small trackside ditch, so we retreated for our daily pre-lunch drink in a local bar.
Lunch was taken on the roadside near the impressive Valdecañas dam. A few raptors overhead included both big vultures, while Robins sang from the stream valley below us and plenty of butterflies flitted around in the warm sun, including an impressive Large Tortoiseshell, male Cleopatras, Moroccan and common Orange-tips, Holly and Black-eyed Blues and Nettle Tree Butterfly. A few orchids had survived the onslaught of Wild Boar digging on a nearby bank and included the full local range of Sawfly and Yellow Bee Orchids, Ophrys incubacea and Naked Man Orchid complete with extra appendage!!
We returned via an area overlooking a raptor feeding site. Although I at first said it looked like there was nothing present, I was rapidly proven wrong. We watched in awe as wave after wave of Griffon and Black Vultures came along the ridge behind us to take a look at what was available for lunch! Those on the ground were squabbling violently over scraps, with an entourage of Black and Red kites, Egyptian Vultures, White Storks and Common Ravens dashing in where possible to snatch the odd titbit! A few Ravens flew off to the ridge, one then delighting us for c. 20 minutes as it called vigorously, displayed repeatedly, flew in to hassle a perched Griffon for a couple of minutes, and then changed tactics and over and over again attacked passing Black Vultures, first landing on their backs in flight to grab at their feathers, then chasing them in remarkable aerial combat until off its patch. An astonishing sight. This all came to a sudden end when this and two other Ravens suddenly changed attention to a passing Golden Eagle, which they chased, albeit carefully, until out of sight round the corner!
Our planned walk along a river was definitely now off, given little time, so instead we headed back across the Belén plain, ostensibly to take a last look at a few of the steppe birds. With hunting Lesser Kestrels, a few lekking male Great Bustards, a couple of calling Little Bustards (yes, we finally ALL heard them, much to the amusement of some
) and singing Corn Buntings and Calandra Larks, making a fine end to our trip. Or almost
Thursday 21 April
A pre-breakfast walk for a few of us saw a Booted Eagle pulling a twig off a tree to take to its nest and a fine pair of Woodlarks feeding quietly on the ground in front. Of most note was the search for a few orchids of more acid soils than those seen on Wednesday, and in a rough and wild olive orchard, among the French Lavender and Spanish Broom bushes, a mass of Champagne and a few Spanish Milky Orchids were the worthy result.
The rest of the morning was spent in Trujillo, enjoying the old architecture of the centre, plus the amazing bird life, including Pallid and Common Swifts, White Storks and singing Serins, while a veritable flotilla of raptors passed over, seemingly as an ¡Adios! to the group: a few Black Vultures, a small party of Griffon Vultures, numerous Lesser Kestrels, a fine Short-toed Eagle, and Black and a Red Kite! Truly impressive.
After lunch in the hot sun at the finca we journeyed back with a rest stop, reaching the airport for plenty of check-in and farewells time.
The order followed in this list is that of Dr James F. Clements: Birds of the World A Checklist
Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis Plenty El Rocío and area on 14th; 30+ José Antonio Valverde interpretation centre on 15th; 10+ La Rocina on 16th.
Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus 30+ Embalse de Sierra Brava on 17th; 2 Embalse de Arrocampo on 20th.
Black-necked (Eared) Grebe Podiceps nigricollis 18+ Embalse de Sierra Brava on 17th.
Cory's Shearwater Calonectris diomedea Just 3 past Cape Trafalgar on 13th.
Northern Gannet Morus bassanus 5 past Tarifa on 12th; 7-8 past Cape Trafalgar on 13th.
Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 1 Barbate estuary on 10th; 1 past Cape Trafalgar on 13th
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea A few almost daily, abundant on 15th.
Purple Heron Ardea purpurea One e.r. on 12th; 3 La Rocina on 14th and 2-3 there on 16th; 6+ various sites on 14th; 7-8 Embalse de Arrocampo on 20th.
Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis Noted daily Andalucía except on 14th; abundant daily in Extremadura.
Great White Egret Egretta alba Singles Alange on 16th and Embalse de Arrocampo on 20th.
Little Egret Egretta garzetta A few noted daily except on 18th, 19th and 21st; common on 14th and 16th.
Squacco Heron Ardeola ralloides 8+ La Rocina and area on 14th; 2 José Antonio Valverde interpretation centre on 15th; 6+ La Rocina on 16th; 1 Embalse de Arrocampo on 20th.
Black-crowned Night-heron Nycticorax nycticorax 2 adults La Rocina on 14th and an adult and an imm there on 16th.
Little Bittern Ixobrychus minutus Just 1 male Embalse de Arrocampo on 20th.
Greater Flamingo Phoenicopterus ruber About 15 Barbate estuary on 10th and 13th; 50+ El Rocío on 13th, 100s 1000+ El Rocío from 14th 16th.
Black Stork Ciconia nigra 3 over the Río Almonte on 18th; 2 e.r. and 3 Peñafalcón, Monfragüe on 19th.
White Stork Ciconia ciconia Common and widespread daily; 250 in off sea over Playa de los Lances on 11th a treat!
Northern Bald Ibis Geronticus eremita An immature on the Belén plain on 18th.
Glossy Ibis Plegadis falcinellus 10 50 daily in the El Rocío, José Antonio Valverde interpretation centre and La Rocina areas of Doñana from 14th 16th.
Eurasian Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia 4 Barbate estuary on 13th; 40+ El Rocío and area on 14th; 30+ José Antonio Valverde interpretation centre on 15th; 5 La Rocina and 1 ad. Alange on 16th.
White-headed Duck Oxyura leucocephala 9 Laguna de Medina on 10th.
Greylag Goose Anser anser c. 20 El Rocío on 14th and 29 there on 15th: 2 singles others sites on 15th.
Gadwall Anas strepera 3 Laguna de Medina on 10th; 3-5 El Rocio lagoon on 14th; 10+ José Antonio Valverde interpretation centre on 15th; a pair Embalse de Arrocampo on 20th.
Common Teal Anas crecca Plenty El Rocío on 14th; a few El Rocío and José Antonio Valverde interpretation centre on 15th.
Mallard Anas platyrhynchos Common, widespread and seen daily except on 10th.
Northern Shoveler Anas clypeata 30+ El Rocio lagoon on 14th; a few both El Rocío and José Antonio Valverde interpretation centre on 15th.
Marbled Duck Marmaronetta angustirostris A pair El Rocio lagoon on 14th were a treat.
Red-crested Pochard Netta rufina Just 3 males José Antonio Valverde interpretation centre on 15th.
Common Pochard Aythya ferina 4-5 El Rocio lagoon on 13th, 10+ there on 14th and 4+ there on 15th; a few José Antonio Valverde interpretation centre on 15th.
Black Kite Milvus migrans Common and widespread daily; max. 80+ on 11th, plenty on 15th and 16th and 20+ on 19th and 30+ on 20th.
Red Kite Milvus milvus One El Rocío on 14th; 3 e.r. on 18th, then daily in Extremadura, max. 12+ on 20th.
Black (Cinereous) Vulture Aegypius monachus Only in Extremadura: 3 Finca Santa Marta and 2 Embalse de Sierra Brava on 17th; 10+ on 19th; 30+ on 20th; 3+ Trujillo and 1 e.r. on 21st.
Eurasian Griffon Vulture Gyps fulvus Common and widespread in mountains. Seen daily except on 14th and 15th; max. 100+ on 19th and 20th.
Egyptian Vulture Neophron percnopterus Singles Huerta Grande interpretation centre on 11th, Ojén track on 12th, Baelo Claudia on 13th, Zorita steppes on 17th, and Belén plain and Cabañas del Castillo on 18th; 5-6 Monfragüe on 19th and 12+ at various sites on 20th.
Short-toed Eagle Circaetus gallicus 1 Cazalla on 11th; 10+ S on 12th; 1 Baelo Claudia on 13th; 3 e.r. on 15th; 5 Monfragüe and 2 e.r. on 19th; 1 Valdecañas dam and 2 Deleitosa on 20th; 1 Trujillo on 21st.
Montagu's Harrier Circus pygargus Widespread in small number. 1 3 seen daily, except for none on 12th, 14th, 16th and 19th, and max. 5-6 Vegas Altas on 17th.
Eurasian Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus Singles Zahara de los Atunes and Sierra de la Plata on 13th; 3 José Antonio Valverde and 1 El Rocío on 15th; 1 male Vegas Altas on 17th; 1 Embalse de Arrocampo on 20th.
Eurasian Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus 5 Playa de los Lances on 11th and 1 Ojén track on 12th.
Common (Eurasian) Buzzard Buteo buteo After 1 on 12th, daily in small number from 14th.
Long-legged Buzzard Buteo rufinus cirtensis 1 Belén plain on 18th; a vagrant.
Spanish Imperial Eagle Aquila adalberti A superb pair Monfragüe on 19th.
Golden Eagle Aquila chrysaetos An adult Deleitosa on 20th.
Bonelli's Eagle Hieraaetus fasciatus Single adults Alange on 16th and Monfragüe on 19th.
Booted Eagle Hieraaetus pennatus Widespread in small numbers and noted on 8 days; max. 6+ on 12th and 5 on 14th.
Lesser Kestrel Falco naumanni Not uncommon and seen on 8 days; common in and around Trujillo.
Common (Eurasian) Kestrel Falco tinnunculus A few daily except on 12th and 19th.
Peregrine Falco peregrinus A female La Rocina on 16th; 3 Cabañas del Castillo on 18th.
Red-legged Partridge Alectoris rufa One e.r. on 13th; 2 e.r. on 15th, 2 Finca Santa Marta and 1 Vegas Altas on 17th; 2 Monfragüe on 19th.
Common Quail Coturnix coturnix A singing male La Rocina on 16th; 2-3h Vegas Altas on 18th.
Water Rail Rallus aquaticus One heard Embalse de Arrocampo on 20th.
Little Crake Porzana parva A superb male José Antonio Valverde interpretation centre on 15th.
Baillons Crake Porzana pusilla A fabulous pair José Antonio Valverde interpretation centre on 15th.
Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus Seen daily in good number from 14th 17th, plus several Embalse de Arrocampo on 20th.
Purple Swamphen (Gallinule) Porphyrio porphyrio 3 La Rocina on 13th; 100+ José Antonio Valverde and area on 14th; 1-2 La Rocina on 15th; 2-3 Embalse de Arrocampo on 20th.
Eurasian Coot Fulica atra Seen daily from 13th 18th and at Embalse de Arrocampo on 20th.
Red-knobbed Coot Fulica cristata One El Rocío on 14th.
Little Bustard Tetrax tetrax 1 Zorita steppes and 2 Vegas Altas on 17th; 10 Belén plain on 18th and 1 there on 20th.
Great Bustard Otis tarda 15 Zorita steppes and 4 Vegas Altas on 17th; 12 15 Belén plain on 18th and 2 males there on 20th.
Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus 3-4 Barbate estuary on 10th; daily from 13th 20th in variable number.
Pied Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta 5 El Rocío on 13th, then 80+ daily there until 15th.
European Stone-curlew Buhrinus oedicnemus Just 1 on Belén plain on 20th.
Collared Pratincole Glareola pratincola 1 e.r. on 10th; 3 e.r. on 13th; 150 El Rocío on 14th; 40+ e.r. and 100+ El Rocío on 15th; 15-20 Vegas Altas on 17th.
(Northern) Lapwing Pluvialis apricaria 1 Playa de los Lances on 11th; 1 Zorita steppes on 17th.
Grey Plover Pluvialis squatarola 11 Playa de los Lances on 11th.
(Greater) Ringed Plover Charadrius hiaticula 2 3 Playa de los Lances on 11th; 6 Cape Trafalgar on 13th; 40+ El Rocio lagoon on 4th; 5 6 El Rocío on 15th.
Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius 2 El Rocio lagoon on 14th; 2 José Antonio Valverde interpretation centre on 15th; 1 Embalse de Sierra Brava on 17th; 1 Embalse de Arrocampo on 20th.
Kentish (Snowy) Plover Charadrius alexandrinus At Hotel Antonio, six on 10th, a pair on 11th and 2 on 12th; 2 3 Cabo de Trafalgar on 13th.
Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa 50 60 El Rocío on 14th and 15th; 400 José Antonio Valverde interpretation centre on 15th; 50+ La Rocina on 16th.
Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus 2 Ta on 12th; 1 Cabo de Trafalgar on 13th.
Common Redshank Numenius arquata 1 Barbate estuary on 10th; plenty El Rocío on 14th and 15th.
Common Greenshank Tringa nebularia 2 e.r. on 15th; 1 e.r. on 17th.
Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus 2 e.r. on 15th; 1 e.r. on 17th.
Wood Sandpiper Tringa glareola 1 El Rocío on 14th; 1 José Antonio Valverde interpretation centre on 15th.
Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos Noted El Rocío in small number from 13th 15th; 2 e.r. on 15th; 1 Embalse de Sierra Brava on 17th; 2 singles in Monfragüe on 19th.
Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago One El Rocío on 14th and 15th.
Long-billed Dowitcher Limnodromus scolopaceus A fine bird of this vagrant species moulting into summer plumage El Rocío on 14th and 15th.
Red Knot Calidris canutus 1 Playa de los Lances on 11th.
Sanderling Calidris alba 100+ Zahara de los Atunes and Playa de los Lances on 11th; 11 Zahara de los Atunes on 12th; 20+ Cabo de Trafalgar on 13th.
Little Stint Calidris minuta 60+ El Rocio lagoon on 14th.
Temmincks Stint Calidris temminckii 4 El Rocio lagoon on 14th.
Dunlin Calidris alpina 4 5 Playa de los Lances on 11th; 6+ El Rocio lagoon on 14th.
Curlew Sandpiper Calidris ferruginea 2+ El Rocio lagoon on 14th.
Ruff Philomachus pugnax 20+ El Rocio lagoon on 14th; 100+ José Antonio Valverde interpretation centre on 15th.
Audouin's Gull Larus audouinii Common on beaches in the Tarifa area: 1 Barbate estuary on 10th; 5 Zahara de los Atunes and 29 Playa de los Lances on 11th; 4 Ta on 12th; few Cabo de Trafalgar and 7 Baelo Claudia on 13th.
Yellow-legged Gull Larus cachinnans Common daily in Strait area from 10th 13th.
Lesser black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 1 Barbate estuary on 10th; 3 4 Playa de los Lances on 11th; 1 1st-winter Cabo de Trafalgar on 13th.
Whiskered Tern Chlidonias hybridus 6 20 El Rocío daily from 13th 16th; 30+ La Rocina 14th; 10+ José Antonio Valverde interpretation centre on 15th.
Gull-billed Tern Sterna nilotica 2 El Rocío on 14th; 3 Embalse de Sierra Brava on 17th.
Caspian Tern Sterna caspia 1 Barbate estuary on 10th.
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis Beaches and sea in the Tarifa area, 1 - 4 daily 10th 12th; lots Cabo de Trafalgar on 13th.
Razorbill Alca torda 1 way out to sea off Cabo de Trafalgar on 13th.
(Atlantic) Puffin Fratercula arctica 1 way out to sea off Cabo de Trafalgar on 13th.
Pin-tailed Sandgrouse Pterocles alchata 5 e.r. in Doñana area on 15th.
Black-bellied Sandgrouse Pterocles orientalis 9 Zorita steppes and 2 Vegas Altas on 17th.
Rock Dove (Feral Pigeon) Columba livia Common, widespread and seen daily except on 14th.
(Common) Wood Pigeon Columba palumbus Just 1 or 2 heard and or seen at various sites from 12th 14th and on 17th; lots around Madrid on 21st.
Eurasian Collared-dove Streptopelia decaocto Common, widespread and seen daily except on 15th.
Great Spotted Cuckoo Clamator glandarius Singles Belén plain on 18th and 20th; 1 Finca Santa Marta on 19th.
Common (Eurasian) Cuckoo Cuculus canorus 1 Ojén track on 12th; 1 heard El Rocío on 14th; 1 3 heard and / or seen daily in EX from 17th 21st.
European Scops Owl Otus scops Only heard at Finca Santa Marta on 16th and 17th.
Eagle Owl Bubo bubo A fine bird Monfragüe on 19th.
Tawny Owl Strix aluco Only 1 heard El Rocío on 14th.
Little Owl Athene noctua One Cazalla on 11th; heard Finca Santa Marta on 17th; 3 Belén plain on 18th.
Alpine Swift Apus melba 10+ Alange on 16th; 1 Cabañas del Castillo on 18th; c. 15 e.r. on 19th.
Common Swift Apus apus Common, widespread and seen daily except on 13th and 19th.
Pallid Swift Apus pallidus C. 10 various sites on 11th; a few Zahara de los Atunes on 12th; 1 Palacio del Acebrón on 14th; plenty in Trujillo on 21st.
Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis 1 La Rocina on 14th; 1 Embalse de Arrocampo on 20th.
European Bee-eater Merops apiaster Common to seen daily in variable number, except on 10th and 13th; max. 100+ e.r. on 15th, and plenty on 17th and 18th.
European Roller Coracias garrulus 5 Vegas Altas area and 1 e.r. on 17th.
(Eurasian) Hoopoe Upupa epops 1 3 daily from 14th 17th and on 20th; 6+ on 18th and several Finca Santa Marta on 21st.
Great Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos major Singles Huerta Grande interpretation centre and along the Ojén track on 12th; heard Río Almonte on 18th; heard Monfragüe castle on 19th.
Calandra Lark Melanocorypha calandra 6+ Playa de los Lances on 11th; 1 seen and others heard various sites on 17th; 20+ Belén plain on 18th; lots Belén plain on 20th.
Greater Short-toed Lark Calandrella brachydactyla 4+ Playa de los Lances on 11th; 50+ Doñana marshes on 15th; 1 Zorita steppes on 17th.
Lesser Short-toed Lark Calandrella brachydactyla 4 Doñana marshes on 15th.
Crested Lark Galerida cristata Common, widespread and seen daily.
Thekla Lark Galerida theklae 2 Baelo Claudia Roman ruins on 13th; 2 Monfragüe on 19th; several Jaraicejo on 20th.
Wood Lark Lullula arborea 2 Finca Santa Marta on 17th and 21st.
(Eurasian) Sky Lark Alauda arvensis 5 Playa de los Lances on 11th.
European Sand Martin Riparia riparia Several El Rocío on 14th; 1 José Antonio Valverde interpretation centre on 15th.
Eurasian Crag Martin Hirundo rupestris 10+ Alange on 16th; 6+ Río Almonte and 6+ Cabañas del Castillo on 18th; lots Monfragüe on 19th; lots Valdecañas dam on 20th.
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica Common, widespread and seen daily.
Red-rumped Swallow Hirundo daurica After 1 La Rocina on 14th, several to plenty daily until 21st.
House Martin Delichon urbica Several e.r. on 10th, then daily in good number from 13th.
Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava 5 Baelo Claudia on 13th; 1 El Rocío on 14th; 8+ various sites on 15th.
White Wagtail Motacilla alba Ones and twos seen on just 4 days.
Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea 2 Río Almonte on 18th; 2 e.r. on 19th.
Tawny Pipit Anthus campestris 7 - 8 Belén plain on 18th.
Meadow Pipit Anthus pratensis 3 Playa de los Lances on 11th; 1 Ojén track on 12th; 1 Belén plain on 18th.
Southern Grey Shrike Lanius meridionalis 2 La Rocina on 16th; 2 Zorita steppes on 17th; 2 Belén plain on 18th; 3+ various sites on 20th.
Woodchat Shrike Lanius senator Common, widespread and seen daily in variable number from 11th.
(Winter) Wren Troglodytes troglodytes Heard Mirador del Estrecho and Huerta Grande interpretation centre on 11th; 1 Huerta Grande interpretation centre on 12th; 1 2 heard and / or seen Finca Santa Marta on 17th, 18th and 20th; 1 Monfragüe on 19th.
Blue Rock-thrush Monticola solitarius A male Sierra de la Plata on 13th; 2 males Alange on 16th; singles Río Almonte and Cabañas del Castillo on 18th; 3 Monfragüe on 19th.
Common (Eurasian) Blackbird Turdus merula Common, widespread and a few seen daily from 11th.
Mistle Thrush Turdus viscivorus 1 Ojén track on 12th; 2 e.r. and 1 Finca Santa Marta on 18th.
European Robin Erithacus rubecula 2 Huerta Grande interpretation centre on 11th and 1-2 there on 12th; heard Valdecañas dam on 20th.
Common Nightingale Luscinia megarhynchos Common in most places heard singing every day except 15th and singles seen on 11th, 12th, 14th, 16th, 17th and 19th.
Black Redstart Phoenicurus ochrurus Just 3 males and 2 females Cabañas del Castillo on 18th.
Common Stonechat Saxicola torquata Quite common and widespread and seen on 8 days.
Black Wheatear Oenanthe leucura Two Cabañas del Castillo on 18th.
Northern Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe 1 3 at various sites on 6 days.
Black-eared Wheatear Oenanthe hispanica 8+ Ojén track on 12th; 1 male Baelo Claudia ruins on 13th; 1 José Antonio Valverde on 15th; 2 Monfragüe on 19th.
Zitting Cisticola Cisticola juncidis 1 Playa de los Lances on 11th; 2 Baelo Claudia on 13th; 1 heard Vegas Altas on 17th; 2+ heard Embalse de Arrocampo on 20th.
Cetti's Warbler Cettia cetti Heard at various sites from 10th 12th; 5+ seen El Rocío and La Rocina on 14th; 1 El Rocío on 15th; heard on 17th and 20th.
Savi's Warbler Locustella luscinioides 2 seen and 4 more heard La Rocina on 14th; 1 La Rocina on 16th; heard Embalse de Arrocampo on 20th.
Sedge Warbler Acrocephalus schoenobaenus 1 seen and others heard El Rocío on 14th; heard Embalse de Arrocampo on 20th.
(Eurasian) Reed Warbler Acrocephalus scirpaceus 1 seen and several heard El Rocío and La Rocina on 14th; 2 La Rocina on 16th; heard Embalse de Arrocampo and 20th.
Great Reed Warbler Acrocephalus arundinaceus Heard Laguna de Medina on 10th; 2 El Rocío and heard La Rocina on 14th; 1 José Antonio Valverde interpretation centre on 15th; 1 seen and 2+ heard RG on 17th.
Melodious Warbler Hippolais polyglotta Only heard at La Rocina on 14th.
Willow Warbler Phylloscopus trochilus 1 heard Zahara de los Atunes on 11th; 2 Huerta Grande interpretation centre on 12th.
Iberian Chiffchaff Phylloscopus brehmii 1 Huerta Grande interpretation centre on 11th and 2 - 3 there on 12th; 1 La Rocina on 14th.
Western Bonelli's Warbler Phylloscopus bonelli 2+ along the Ojén track on 12th.
Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla 5+ Huerta Grande interpretation centre on 11th and 12th; several Palacio del Acebrón on 14th.
Garden Warbler Sylvia borin 1 Huerta Grande interpretation centre on 12th.
Orphean Warbler Sylvia hortensis 1 e.r. on 19th.
Sardinian Warbler Sylvia melanocephala Just 1 2 daily from 10th 14th, and 1 La Rocina on 16th.
Subalpine Warbler Sylvia cantillans Just a pair in Monfragüe on 19th.
Spectacled Warbler Sylvia conspicillata A pair plus a male near Jaraicejo on 20th.
Dartford Warbler Sylvia undata After one dead at Palacio del Acebrón on 14th, a male near Jaraicejo on 20th was welcome.
Firecrest Regulus ignicapillus Several at Huerta Grande interpretation centre on 11th and 12th.
Long-tailed Tit Aegithalus caudatus 2 3 La Rocina on 14th and 16th; 2 Río Almonte on 18th; 1 2 Monfragüe on 19th; heard Valdecañas dam on 20th.
(Eurasian) Penduline Tit Remiz pendulinus 1 or 2 heard at Embalse de Arrocampo on 20th.
Crested Tit Parus cristatus Heard at Huerta Grande interpretation centre on 11th and 2 seen there on 12th.
Great Tit Parus major Relatively scarce and noted on just 6 days.
Blue Tit Parus caeruleus Fairly common and recorded on 8 days.
Eurasian Nuthatch Sitta europaea Only heard along the Ojén track on 12th.
Short-toed Treecreeper Certhia brachydactyla Recorded on six days, but only seen Finca Santa Marta (1 on 17th), and Cabañas del Castillo (1) and Río Almonte (2) on 18th.
Eurasian Jay Garrulus glandarius Just 3 Río Almonte on 18th.
Iberian Azure-winged Magpie Cyanopica cooki Common in EX and seen daily in numbers from 16th.
Black-billed Magpie Pica pica Common in EX and seen daily in numbers from 16th.
Red-billed Chough Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax 2 Ta on 12th; 1 Río Almonte on 18th; 1 Monfragüe castle on 19th.
Eurasian (Western) Jackdaw Corvus monedula Noted on 7 days in various places.
Common Raven Corvus corax Common and widespread and recorded on 9 days.
Spotless Starling Sturnus unicolor Abundant and seen daily.
Corn Bunting Emberiza calandra Abundant and seen daily.
Rock Bunting Emberiza cia 1 male Alange on 16th; 2 Monfragüe on 19th.
Ortolan Bunting Emberiza hortulana 2 migrants Monfragüe on 19th.
Common Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs Common, widespread and seen on 7 days.
European Serin Serinus serinus Widespread, common and noted on 9 days.
European Greenfinch Carduelis chloris Ones and twos seen and or heard on just 5 days.
European Goldfinch Carduelis carduelis Abundant, widespread and seen daily.
Eurasian Linnet Carduelis cannabina Frequent, widespread and seen on 7 days in small number.
Hawfinch Coccothraustes coccothraustes 4 - 5 Huerta Grande interpretation centre on 11th, and 1 seen and others heard there on 12th.
Red Avadavat Amandava amandava Common in the rice fields areas on 17th.
House Sparrow Passer domesticus Abundant daily.
Spanish Sparrow Passer hispaniolensis 10+ Finca Santa Marta on 17th; several Embalse de Arrocampo on 20th.
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus 5 e.r. on 15th; several La Rocina on 16th; 1 Vegas Altas on 17th.
Red Fox Vulpes vulpes 1 e.r. and 1 in Monfragüe on 17th; 1 FSM on 19th.
Red / Fallow Deer Cervus elaphus / Dama dama 2 El Rocío on 14th.
Fallow Deer Dama dama 15 El Rocío on 14th.
Iberian Hare Lepus granatensis 1 e.r. on 11th; 1 Belén plain on 18th.
European Rabbit Oryctolagus cuniculus 1 to a few daily from 10th 13th.
AMPHIBIANS & REPTILES
Common Toad Bufo bufo 2 Huerta Grande on 11th.
Southern Painted Frog Discoglossus jeanneae 2 Huerta Grande on 11th.
Stripeless Tree Frog Hyla meridionalis 1 Finca Santa Marta on 19th.
Common Tree Frog Hyla arborea Heard Palacio del Acebrón on 14th; heard Río Gargáligas on 17th.
Iberian Water (Spanish Pond) Frog Rana perezi Only noted at a few sites on 18th.
Moorish Gecko Tarentola mauretanica 1 4 noted at various sites on 7 days.
Large Psammodromus Psammodromus algirus 1 Huerta Grande on 12th; several Palacio del Acebrón on 14th; 2 Río Almonte on 18th.
Spanish Psammodromus Psammodromus hispanicus 1 Valdecañas dam on 20th.
Spiny-footed Lizard Acanthodactylus erthrurus 1 Palacio del Acebrón on 14th.
Iberian Wall Lizard Podarcis hispanica 1 Huerta Grande on 11th; 1 Ojén track on 12th; 2 El Rocío on 14th.
Ocellated Lizard Lacerta lepida 1 Ojén track on 12th; 1 Baelo Claudia on 13th.
Spanish Terrapin Mauremys leprosa 2 Palacio del Acebrón on 14th; 3 Río Almonte on 18th; 20+ Embalse de Arrocampo on 20th.
Horseshoe Whip Snake Coluber hippocrepis 1 Alange on 16th.
Montpellier Snake Malpolon monspessulanus 1 Río Gargáligas on 17th.
Grass Snake Natrix natrix 1 Huerta Grande on 12th.
Viperine Snake Natrix maura 3 Río Almonte on 18th.
Mosquito Fish Gambusia affinis 20+ Palacio del Acebrón on 14th; lots Río Almonte on 18th.
Grey Mullet Mugil sp. 10 Tarifa on 12th.
Swallowtail Papilio machaon 1 Huerta Grande on 12th.
Scarce Swallowtail Iphiclides podalirius 1 Huerta Grande on 12th.
Spanish Festoon Zerynthia rumina Singles Playa de los Lances and Huerta Grande on 11th; 1 Huerta Grande and several Ojén track on 12th; singles Jaraicejo and Vadecañas dam on 20th.
Large White Pieris brassicae Singles Huerta Grande on 11th and 12th.
Small White Artogeia rapae Just one Baelo Claudia on 13th.
Western Bath / Western Dappled Whites Pontia daplidice / Euchloe simplonia Plenty on both 15th and 16th at various sites not identified to species level.
Western Dappled White Euchloe simplonia The comonest white and noted on 5 days.
Green-striped White Euchloe belemia 1 Baelo Claudia on 13th.
Orange-tip Anthocharis cardamines 1 Valdecañas dam on 20th.
Morrocan Orange-tip Anthocharis belia 1 Ojén track on 12th; 1 Valdecañas dam on 20th.
Clouded Yellow Colias crocea Scarce and only noted on 4 days.
Brimstone Gonepteryx rhamni 1 Huerta Grande on 11th; 1 Ojén track on 12th; 2 Palacio del Acebrón on 14th.
Cleopatra Gonepteryx cleopatra 1 Huerta Grande on 11th; several Huerta Grande and Ojén track on 12th; 1 Valdecañas dam on 20th.
Wood White Leptidea sinapis 1 Valdecañas dam on 20th.
Small Copper Lycaena phlaeas 2 Vegas Altas on 17th; 1 Jaraicejo on 20th.
Holly Blue Celastrina argiolus 2 Huerta Grande on 12th; 2 Valdecañas dam on 20th.
(Spanish) Brown Argus Aricia agestis Not uncommon in EX and seen on 4 days from 16th.
Black-eyed Blue Glaucopsyche melanops 1 Valdecañas dam on 20th.
Common Blue Polyommatus icarus 1 Huerta Grande on 12th; 1 José Antonio Valverde centre on 15th.
Nettle-tree Butterfly Libythea celtis 1 Valdecañas dam on 20th.
Monarch Danaus plexippus 1 Huerta Grande on 12th.
Large Tortoiseshell Nymphalis polychloros 1 Huerta Grande on 12th; 1 Valdecañas dam on 20th.
Small Heath Coenonympha pamphilus A few in EX on 3 days.
Speckled Wood Pararge aegeria 2 Huerta Grande on 12th.
Wall Brown Lasiommata megera 2 Ojén track on 12th; 2 Palacio del Acebrón on 13th.
Straw Belle Aspitates gilvaria 3 Zorita steppes on 17th.
Amephana aurita 1 Zahara de los Atunes on 10th.
Orthetrum trinacria A male Embalse de Arrocampo on 20th.
Southern Damselfly Coenagrion mercuriale 1 Valdecañas dam on 20th.
Iberian Blue-tailed Damselfly Ischnura graelsii 1 Palacio del Acebrón on 14th; 1 Río Almonte on 18th; 2 Embalse de Arrocampo on 20th.
Field Cricket Gryllus campestris Heard on 3 days in AN and EX.
Egyptian Grasshopper Anacridium aegyptiacum A few daily down near Tarifa from 11th 14th.
Violet Carpenter Bee Xylocopa violacea Plenty Huerta Grande on 11th and 12th; 4 5 on 14th.
Black-and-red Froghopper Cercopis vulnerata 6 Zorita steppes on 17th.
7-spot Ladybird Cocinella 7-punctata 1 Cabañas del Castillo on 18th.
Rhinoceros Beetle Copris lunaris 2 e.r. on 11th; 2 e.r. on 12th.
Oil Beetle Meloe sp. 3 Zorita steppes and 3 Vegas Altas on 17th.
We also noted a mottley bunch of insects and bugs unidentified to specific level, including :
A white arrow -bottomed bug, a fire bug, a red-bottomed fly, green-eyed cleg, and a stripey-eyed horsefly.
Other taxa noted were 3 4 Red Signal Crayfish Procambarus clarkii in the Río Almonte on 18th, and a Spanish Tarantula Lycosa narbonensis at Zahara de los Atunes on 11th and 12th.
I sincerely hope that you all had a marvellous time and thoroughly enjoyed the wealth of birds and sites we visited. Thank you for putting up with my at times quirky sense of humour and for some, the low roofs of the finca!!! I hope you had good respective journeys home (even to N Unst!) and look forward to seeing you again in the future (even if only for a chat at the Bird Fair!). Finally, I realise that this report has been severely delayed and my sincere apologies for this. Mara, our daughter arrived a fraction earlier than hoped (!) on 4th May and since then with our new flat still a disaster, things have been a little difficult to get on top of
My very best wishes,
© The Travelling Naturalist 2005