Spain - Extremadura 2009

...with Cristian Jensen

May 1st - 8th

May 1st.

First I went to pick up Peter and Alison at the hotel where they had stayed for several days to explore Madrid and all the museums. The three of us then headed to the airport, and on our way there a group of three Monk Parakeets crossed the road just in front of us! Unfortunately Alison and Peter didn’t see them well enough to be sure what they'd seen, so we could not tick the species on our list. At the airport we had a drink and a chat while waiting for the other group members to arrive. The arrival of the other participants at Madrid Airport was without any problems, and we went on towards Extremadura. En route, we stopped at Oropesa to explore the surroundings of this beautiful town. We saw our first birds there, including Cattle Egret, Black Kite, Booted Eagle, and Corn Bunting. We had a tea/coffee at the Medieval Castle while watching nests and colonies of Lesser Kestrel, White Stork, Crag Martin, Jackdaw and Spotless Starling.

After the break we stopped at a small pond to look at some Black-winged Stilts, Little Ringed Plovers and a Zitting Cisticola flying and singing at the same time. We had good views of all these species, so we kept going towards our accommodation. At the hotel, the staff was waiting for us, and we got installed in our rooms. We still had some time left before dinner was served, so we left for a quick trip before dark to the National Park of Monfragüe. At the best spot of this National Park, 3km (2 minutes) driving from our hotel, we saw 2 chicks of Eagle Owl, a Spanish Imperial Eagle, Black Stork, and Griffon, Egyptian & Black Vulture. The Iberian Azure-winged Magpies were spotted thanks to their noisy calls, and as if this was not enough, two White-rumped Swifts flew out right in front of us! We had good looks at their white rumps, and we noted the different “jizz” and wing shape compared to the other swifts. I was jumping and dancing with happiness, as this was the first time this year I'd been able to show this species on a tour to Extremadura. It's a fairly rare species, and they arrive very late, so it is not an easy bird to get on early spring tours.

May 2nd.

Before breakfast we added Crested Lark, Wood Lark, Short-toed Treecreeper and Western Orphean Warbler to our list, all seen just in front of our hotel. After breakfast we went back to the National Park, and this time we saw many different raptors: Egyptian Vulture, Griffon Vulture, Black Vulture, Spanish Imperial Eagle, Booted Eagle, Short-toed Eagle, Black Kite, and Red Kite. The White-rumped Swifts were seen again, very briefly this time, and the Eagle Owl chicks where also spotted - this time we found them with the assistance of some very curious Blue Rock Thrushes. After this marvelous morning, we drove east towards some reservoirs where we kept birdwatching. Purple Heron, Little Egret, Gull-billed Tern, Black Tern, Great Spotted Cuckoo, Kingfisher, and all the Swallows and Martins were added to our list. Then Woodchat Shrike and Southern Grey Shrike, Savi’s and Great Reed Warblers, Cetti’s Warbler, Willow Warbler, Whinchat, Stonechat, Spanish Sparrow, Rock Sparrow and Rock Bunting were seen and delighted us all. One of the best moments was a female Little Bittern well perched in a reed stem; this was the favourite moment of the day for Alison, and the Spanish Imperial Eagles were the birds of the day for Kath, John and Bob.

We went back to our hotel where we had a shower before our dinner. After dinner, we drove out in search of Red-necked Nightjars. We had great views as one of them stayed on the ground for a long time. Sylvie took some great photos of the nightjar; in fact she got macros of its face, or even just the eye!

May 3rd.

We started the day with a walk through the dehesa forest in the Monfragüe National Park. Among the many birds we saw there, we were rewarded with great views of Golden Oriole. All of us really enjoyed the beauty of this bird, but for Peter seeing this species meant something very special. We drove around to different viewpoints of the park, and up to 10 Black Storks were seen flying, resting or incubating at their nests. Spanish Imperial Eagles performed their show for us too, and Subalpine Warbler was both heard and seen. Four Short-toed Eagles and two Peregrine Falcons, as well as all the Vultures, were seen and enjoyed. Red-legged Partridges ran along the road, and the secretive Nightingale was spotted inside a bush while singing. At the same time, a Nuthatch and a Short-toed Treecreper were seen well, and Crested Tit was found in a Pine Forest.

At the end of our day, we drove up to the Monfragüe Castle, and most of the group members decided to walk all the way up to the Moorish remains. Bob and I stayed behind and saw two White-rumped Swifts and two Hawfinches.

May 4th.

After breakfast we went to the southern region of the Monfragüe Nature Park. We drove past the reservoirs and we saw one of the most sought-after raptors of Extremadura, the Black-shouldered Kite. At the reservoirs we searched for water birds, and to our list we added Purple Swamphen and Squacco Heron. Then we visited different habitat types to see as many different Sylvia Warblers as possible. Blackcap, Subalpine, Orphean, Sardinian, Spectacled and Dartford Warblers were all recorded. Two “cracking” males of Black-eared Wheatear were also seen; one of each of the two morphs. Sylvie specially liked the Black-throated morph.

After a good day, we went back to the hotel. Some of us then went back to say hello to the Eagle Owl chicks, and we were rewarded by watching the little trouble makers as mummy came back to feed them. She brought a Hedgehog for them, and the chicks started playing and eating it. After the show we headed back to the hotel, and on our way I stopped the van as I heard a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker singing nearby. We all jumped out of the van, and a little later all of us had seen the bird very well.

May 5th.

Today we sadly had to say goodbye to Monfragüe. It was our transfer day, and we were going to the Serena Steppes - a vast region of grasslands where many thousand sheep graze accompanied by Bustards and Sandgrouse.

At one of the reservoirs we passed, we saw two Red-crested Pochards, a male and a female, among other water birds. Up to four Montagu’s Harriers were seen, as well as ten Great Bustards, one Little Bustard and eight Black-bellied Sandgrouse. Mega sightings just for our transfer day!

A short visit to Trujillo and its famous streets and buildings rewarded us with some Pallid Swifts circling just a few metres from our heads. Black-headed Gull, Avadavat, Tree Sparrow, and Little Owl were also new species for the day before arriving to our new hotel in la Serena.

May 6th.

We went to the Serena Steppes very early in the morning to see the Great Bustards. And we had some amazing sightings!!! Up to 38 males were counted, and some of the males were displaying in the immense fields as the sun was rising. Little Bustards were also seen singing in their "leks". Pin-tailed and Black-bellied Sandgrouse were seen very well, and both Stone Curlew and Collared Pratincole were seen at very close range.

We had our picnic and some resting time at the hotel after lunch to avoid the midday heat. After our break we visited a small mountain chain where we saw two Bonelli’s Eagles - soaring at first, and a little later eating something while perched on a rock. A Golden Eagle was seen in the distance as we were watching a Black Wheatear at close range. Red-rumped Swallows were seen going in and out of their nesting cavities, and we also found a nest of White Stork.

May 7th.

We had an early start to get better looks of both the Sandgrouse and Little Bustard. Calandra Lark, Greater Short-toed Lark, Red-billed Chough, Roller, Hoopoe, Great Spotted Cuckoo and many other birds were also seen. At lunch time we had our picnic at a river course, and later we had a break to avoid the worst heat of the day. In the afternoon we went to a river forest where we saw Penduline Tit and Melodious Warbler as new species.

May 8th.

Today we had an early start, as some of the participants had an early flight. We said our sad goodbyes, and the ones staying a while longer came with me to check out some areas close to the airport. We added Bonelli’s Warbler to the list here, and we also saw several other species before finally splitting up.

For details of the full species list or to request further information about the next time we will be offering this trip. Contact us at enquiries@birdwatchingbreaks.com.

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