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Birding tour to Extremadura May 1 -8

Birding Tour in Extremadura 1 – 8 May 2010

Group members: Thomas, John, Carol, Helen, Malcolm, Mike, Stephanie, Maurice, Hans Peter, Panicos, Clairie

Guides: Cristian Jensen and Jaume Soler

Photos from this tour can be seen here

Day 1- Transfer Day

First day of the trip, we met all our group members in Madrid airport, as they were arriving progressively. Before reaching Extremadura, it was a nice chance to birding en route, visiting Vaciamadrid marshland Little Ringed Plover, Black-winged Stilt and other birds. After that we took our straight way to Extremadura with good views of different species from the car. Some raptors, such as Booted Eagle, Black Kite, Red Kite, Peregrine, Marsh Harrier and others where only a few flashes of what was coming.

Around 7 p.m. we arrived at our hotel in Monfragüe where we would spend four nights. After dinner we already had the first contacts with nocturnal birds inhabiting the area. Several Nightingales were singing around the Hotel and a Red-necked Nightjar delighted us with its song, but we couldn’t spot it, no yet.

Day 2- Monfragüe National Park

Part of the group joined on a nice early morning walk. In scarcely 300 meters of walking, we had our first contact with the dehesa, with the first rays of sun on our face and hearing a very active Quail singing. Soon, a Thekla Lark appeared up on the tobacco dryer building. Then, more species such as Rock Sparrow, Woodchat Shrike, Sardinian Warbler and Orphean Warbler showed us quick flash views.

After Breakfast we walked from the hotel through the dehesa. Soon we started to see Bee-eaters with their bright colours. Previous flashes of Orphean Warbler and Rock Sparrow turned into very nice views of both species calling and showing around us. A Common Nuthatch appeared creeping on a holm oak, while Thomas could compare the reddish colour of the spanish morph with the one in Scandinavia. A familiar group of Azure-winged Magpie was feeding on the grass and flying around while we could see Black Vulture and Black Stork and Booted Eagle (pale and dark morph).

We arrived in a nice balcony and watched the colony of Griffon Vultures. Around the stone walls it was possible to see some Egyptian Vultures, Black Kites, Black Storks, Rock Bunting and Blue Rock Thrush. Among the numerous Red-rumped swallows that nest on the rock wall suddenly a White-rumped Swift appeared flying around its nesting area.

We continued our day by car, stopping for a lunch break in front of a very nice Black Stork nest. After that we could see a pair of Subalpine Warblers, Turtle Dove, Crested Tit and visited Monfragüe’s Castle where we enjoyed a Bonelli’s Eagle perched on a rock. Gorgeous landscapes, views of Griffon Vultures from above and a Short-toed Eagle did the rest to complement a lovely afternoon.

Day 3 - East of Monfragüe National Park

Today we started trying for Eagle Owl on a rock wall in the National Park, when a Spanish Imperial Eagle appeared flying above the hill, which was certainly the first view of this wonderful and very scarce raptor.

Afterwards we drove to the east of Monfragüe. On the way we could observe a better figure of the dehesa, with its landscape complemented with flowered lands where Spanish Black Pig and Fighting Bulls are grown.

From the car we could have nice views of Bee-eaters perched on the telephone wires, while watching Common Buzzards, Booted Eagles, Black Kites and other raptors. In the afternoon we visited Almaraz marshland where we had chances to see Purple Heron, Reed Warbler, Great Reed Warbler, Cetti’s Warbler, Savi’s Warbler, Zitting Cisticola, and other birds. It was surprising to observe a Grey Plover in a so inland area, and the impressive amount of White Stork Nests on the wall of the dam.

Day 4 – South Monfragüe

We started the morning with a flash view of Black-shouldered Kite and Great Spotted Cuckoo. Afterwards we drove up on a hill from where it was possible to see kilometres and kilometres of landscape around us.

We visited a bush-land where we had good and close views of Dartford’s Warbler and Spectacled Warbler. At midday the sunny weather brought us close to a river, where a melodious warbler was singing in front of us.

In the afternoon we took our way back to the hotel, while stopping for photos and enjoying the landscape. We could enjoy a very nice view of an Eagle Owl, resting on a rock wall. At the same time, a pair of Spanish Imperial Eagle delighted us flying quite close and mixed up with Black Vultures and Griffons. A Black Stork came back to its nest and a Golden Eagle observed us flying in a recognition flight over its territory.

Day 5 – Transfer to La Serena

Today we did a progressive transfer to La Serena. After a while driving to the south we visited Belen Plains, having chances to see our firsts Little Bustards and Great Bustards. A little owl was perched on a fence, and a very nice pair of Great-Spotted Cuckoos delighted us displaying just 10 meters from the car! Mike had very good chances to take photos of them, and immortalize which was certainly one of the most impressive moments of the trip.

We visited Trujillo and its colony of Lesser Kestrel and Pallid Swift, where some members of the group could see their paler brownish colour compared to the Common Swift.

Having lunch beside a nice pond around Trujillo we could observe a couple of Coots nesting and the chorus of many dozens Spanish Green Frog singing at daylight.

We took our way down to the south stopping in Sierra Brava where we could spot a small group of Red Avadavat. Hiding in the reed bed they are sometimes hard to see. But with a bit of patience we could have nice views of them, telling their red-rumped colour and white spots.

Once we got to our Hotel in La Serena it was time to take a good rest. It was a long day travelling, and two thrilling days of Steppe land birds where waiting for us!

Day 6 – La Serena

When running after birds, it is sometimes necessary to be adapted to their timetable. For that reason we got up early and visited an impressive steppe area willing to see one of the most spectacular scenes in this landscape: the display of Great Bustard. And it happened. The light was perfect, just the first rays of sun rising in the sky line. A large group of Great Bustard males were on our scopes and some of them displaying. That right morning we had also the opportunity to observe Pin-tailed Sandgrouse, some of them flying, landed, and even one male displaying! Some other very nice species delighted us during the morning, such as Black-bellied Sandgrouse, many Montagu’s Harriers, and even one dark morph, many Little owls, and everything always accompanied by the song of Calandra Larks.

We continued birding as the day was coming warmer, and visited a nesting area of Collared Pratincole. Some other birds were appearing before midday, such as Black-eared Wheatear, Tawny Pipit and others. Some members of the group could see a copulation of Montagu’s Harrier from the car!

We had lunch in a picnic area beside a hermitage, where is possible to see a very big colony of Spanish Sparrow and House Sparrow together. Thomas could have nice views of them and tell the differences between both species, and even finding a hybrid!

On the way to the hotel we stopped in Benquerenza Castle, where we found Black Wheatear, and could enjoy good views of Rock Bunting, many raptors, and a colony of Alpine Swift.

Day 7 – La Serena

Today we visited another part of the Serena steppes, a bit later than yesterday, as we already had seen the display of Great Bustard. One of the first views of the day was a very nice Little Bustard male singing quite close from the car.

After a having a coffee we had the opportunity to buy some local Spanish ham that is produced in one of the tows surrounding La Serena.

Afterwards we visited a gorgeous place close to the river, where is possible to see a large colony, composed by hundreds of Bee-eaters and Sand Martins pairs breeding.

While having dinner, John found a Red-necked Nightjar that flushed behind a group of bushes, beside the river. It is quite tough to find these birds in the ground as their camouflage is fantastic. But after a while we could see it in the ground two different times, from a very close position and take many photos of it.

Day 8 – Way back home

Very early in the morning we left the Hotel towards Madrid Airport. The day would be short, but still John had the opportunity to see the Bonelli’s warbler, a nice small bird that inhabits Mediterranean woodlands in spring and summer, and one of the lifers he had expected from this trip!


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