SPAIN EXTREMADURA BIRDWATCHING TRIP REPORT 6th – 13th May 2019
Tour leader – Chris Mills Participants:- Annie Bird, Peter Chapman, Karen Hunt, Gerry Elliott, Francois Trudel, Jean Wardle & Paul Wilton
This tour was arranged on a Self-catering basis with a continental breakfast included. The group stayed in two beautiful white washed houses in the small mountain settlement of Cabezabellosa. The houses are lovely traditional examples, set in typical white walled and narrow streets.
Evening meals were not included in the cost of the tour, but were arranged each evening at the local bar & on average a 3 course meal of traditional Spanish dishes with a glass of wine/beer cost 15 euros per person. Packed lunches were also provided by the bar each day at a cost of 8 euros per day.
Easyjet flights from Gatwick to Madrid are reasonably cheap and 5 of the group arrived via Easyjet and joined myself on the same flight. Francois and Jean arrived via alternative flights and we met them at Madrid airport.
MONDAY 6TH MAY – MADRID, CALERA Y CHOZAS & CABEZABELLOSA
By late morning we had arrived in Madrid airport. We picked up our 9-seater minibus and were soon heading south-west. It was a sunny and warm dry day. Once we had left the city and started heading into the countryside there was plenty of birds to be seen from the minibus windows! Aerial views of Buzzard, Common Kestrel, Griffon Vulture, Black Kite, White Storks many on nests, Marsh Harrier, Red-rumped Swallow and Spotless Starling were all seen whilst travelling. A roadside stop for water and fuel also afforded good views of some commoner species, Corn Bunting, Spotless Starling, Spanish Sparrow, Serin, Marsh Harrier, Booted Eagle and Black Kite.
After lunch it was a short drive to an area of large arable fields. This area is interspersed with some remnant steppe habitat and just off the main road. We were soon enjoying views and the sounds of some good birds several Cattle Egret were feeding close by, Black Kite, White Storks, Spotless Starling, Corn Bunting, Crested Lark, White Wagtail and Zitting Cisticola were all numerous and lovely introductions. At least 3 Marsh Harrier were hunting the fields, but these were soon forgotten as a stunning young male Montagu’s Harrier flew low past us, then a small group of Bee-eater perched on the wires, the first oohs and ahhs of the trip!
In amongst the numerous Crested Lark, we also found our first Calandra Lark, then 2 Short-toed Lark showed well on the track in front of us. Next up was a nice smart Purple Heron, quickly followed by a Woodchat Shrike! A late migrant Whinchat was also a nice surprise.
Time was pressing so we headed back to the motorway and continued heading south west.We reached the turn off for our village and headed up the mountain, though we were soon stopping!! From the minibus windows it was just incredible to hear the number of Nightingale singing, from every 50m of vegetation!
As we reached the village 1-2 Black Redstarts were perching on the house roofs, though these were a regular feature each morning through the week! We also had nice close views of several Black Kite over the trees near the village, also Red Kite and Raven.
We settled into our accommodation and then had a nice evening meal at the local bar in Cabezabellosa.
TUESDAY 7th MAY CABEZABELLOSA & OLIVA PLASENCIA
We had breakfast at 7.45am. We briefly watched a smart male Black Redstart performing and singing from nearby rooftops. Plus had amazing point blank views of Pallid Swifts from the balcony. We then headed out, the weather was great sunny but not too hot for birding.
The beautiful wooded hillside of Cabezabellosa is excellent for some sort after birds. Almost immediately the beautiful song of Woodlark was ringing out, several males sang overhead. Nightingales were also vying for attention, as were Cuckoos though both far less showy! As we headed into the woodland we soon heard Lesser Spotted Woodpecker calling, and it wasn’t long before we had fine views of pair of Lesser Spotted Woodpecker showing very well. Also in the woodland were several Short-toed Treecreeper, plus eventually we had nice views of several Rock Sparrow. There was Chaffinch, Blue & Great Tit. numerous Blackcap, Nightingale andsome flight views of a male Golden oriole, and several Woodchat Shrike.
The nearby scrub gave us our first views of a showy Melodious Warbler. As we were heading out of the top area of trees a Hoopoe flew across, and eventually we all had nice scope views of it feeding on the ground. The
We then headed out of the woods and skirted into the scrub and rocks, this is like a Scottish machair habitat with low scrubby bushes. A super smart Black-eared Wheatear popped up in front of us, giving stunning scope views, a cracking male, with a lovely peach wash! Northern Wheatears were also in attendance and nice for comparison.
We soon had two of the sought after species in view, at least 3 Thekla Lark typical of this habitat. The second species was a little more tricky eventually a male Spectacled Warbler gave views, but took a while to give itself up! Eventually we had perched views after several attempts! As it warmed up the overhead action got going with Raven, Griffon Vulture, Booted Eagle plus our first Black Vulture showed well, passing close by, a real treat was 2 Honey Buzzard, passing overhead with their lovely elastic wing-beats.
We then drove slowly down the mountain, accompanied by numerous singing Woodlark and Nightingale. We passed a small colony of Bee-eaters, which were just lovely to watch. Another stop lower down proved fruitful, with good flight views of a pair of Golden Oriole back and forth for an hour, with perched views through the scope eventually!
We finished the day by visiting a series of small rural pools set in the dehesa, there was a really nice selection of birds – Great White Egret, Spoonbill several White Storks attending their nests, complete with our first Spanish Sparrows nesting below inside the storks nests!Several Black Kite were overhead, as were Booted eagle, Griffon Vulture, several Buzzard plus a Short-toed Eagle, Red-rumped and Barn Swallow plus several beautiful groups of Bee-eaters. We then walked along the field and edge, there were 2 Iberian Grey Shrike, 2-3 Woodchat Shrike and several Cuckoo. A nice surprise was a Hobby – passing overhead.
WEDNESDAY 8TH MAY THE PLAINS HINOJAL TO SANTA MARTA DE MAGASCA
Today we headed to the steppe area to the south and were joined by my local guide and friend Ricardo Montero! The weather started grey and damp with a bit more of a breeze than we would have wanted. The beautiful fields here are rolling and full of flowers, with big vistas! We were almost immediately listening to the buzzy, mimicry-rich songs of many Calandra Lark. Plus Crested, Short-toed lark, Corn Bunting, Spanish and House Sparrows, flocks of Goldfinch and flashes of orange, black and white as Hoopoes flew past us.
We headed for one of the favoured areas but Bustards were hard to hear and we moved quickly on to another area. We suddenly heard the nasal, vibrating calls of Pin-tailed Sandgrouse, the first group banked around and then away, but the second group of 4 Pin-tailed sandgrouse proved to be much ore obliging with a really nice flyby, eventually after a while of tracking them we eventually located a group on the ground and we had reasonable scope views. We made a several stops to watch Montagu’s harriers, always a great pleasure to watch this wonderful raptor. Then almost subconsciously I realised I could again, hear the calls of Sandgrouse, just as I heard them a group of Black-bellied Sandgouse flew overhead and then out of view, this happened 2-3 times, but the final time they were nice and close and everyone got good views! There was probably 10+ Black-bellied Sandgouse in the area.
We drove back to the main track and started to explore areas further east, the sun tried to come out and the warmth encouraged quite a kettle of raptors into the air. We stopped for a nice swirl of vultures that had taken to the air. We were well rewarded, c30 Griffon Vulture, 5 Black Vulture including a very close perched bird, 3 Egyptian Vulture, Short-toed Eagle, 2 Red Kite, many Black Kite, several Booted eagle and an immature Spanish imperial Eagle! Plus a Black Stork flew over as well, wow, a fantastic selection of birds!
The weather then deteriorated and we stopped off for lunch and took cover whilst a shower swept by. It then cleared and the weather improved and we started exploring another area. Suddenly we located the distinctive call of a Little Bustard. After a few minutes of searching and listening we eventually found the Little Bustard initially with just head top views, then good clear views as it called and displayed!
We next made a stop at a river bridge and had a lovely collection of Swifts and Swallows. At least 10 Alpine Swift, were banking past us, these birds are the real masters of aerial supremacy! Also several Crag Martin and Red-rumped Swallow. A nice surprise here was a Black Wheatear perching on the crags below us.
We looked in a good area for Great Spotted Cuckoo, but didn’t see or hear them.
We moved on again and a Little Owl was perched up on the rocks, before we headed further west. After a lengthy slow drive we reached another suitable Bustard area, and almost with the first scan of the plains I picked up 2 Great Bustards, we got out to scope them and also realised that there were at least 2 Little Bustard calling as well!
We next headed towards a road with a colony of Roller and Lesser Kestrel, we were soon getting great views of Roller perched on top of the roadside wires, and we also saw several Lesser Kestrel.
A great day finished off with another fine meal and wine at the local bar.
THURSDAY 9TH MAY – MONFRAGUE NP
Today we journeyed the short distance to the world-famous, scenic and bird-rich Monfragüe National Park. We stopped off and from a roadside stop and a small pool hosted a pair of Black-winged Stilts and a Little Grebe.
A little further along the road we stopped again and soon had pretty good views of Azure-winged magpies.
We then headed on into the main park, the first stop produced reasonable scope views of 2 Bonelli’s eagles, a male watched perched in the trees before flying out of view. The nearby puddle also gave us real close views of Crag martin and Red-rumped Swallow. There was a great constant flow of birds – Black Kites were numerous, plenty of Griffons & several Black Vultures, then Booted Eagle. We had frustrating views of Subalpine and Sardinian Warblers, both proving to be more vocal than visible, though both perched briefly in view for the sharp-eyed! Nearby a Turtle Dove was purring quietly in the sunshine, but it was also tucked away and couldn’t be seen. A singing Woodlark was much easier to see above our heads.
We then headed for a short walk into a wooded valley, we had brief poor views of a Dartford Warbler and no sign of any Orphean warblers.
We headed for lunch at Salto del Gitano. This spectacular rocky outcrop is home to raptors in profusion, great views of 100’s of Vultures. Griffon, Black and Egyptian Vulture, Booted Eagle, and numerous Black Kite. A Peregrine also circled the rock stack, we also had great views of Black Storks, including one sat on a nest on the rock face.
Also notable here was a several thousand House Martin, plus Crag Martin, good views of Red-rumped Swallow, plus a superb male Blue Rock Thrush, great views of Rock Bunting, Cirl Bunting, Serin and several Black Redstart.
We then headed over to the east side of the park. We stopped off in a wooded area and after a few minutes we got reasonable views of a Crested Tit.
We then moved on to another rock stack and Vulture colony watched many more Griffon and several Black Vultures. We didn’t have to wait too long before a stunning adult Spanish Imperial Eagle appeared, he flew in and then majestically sat on the top of cliff face!
FRIDAY 10TH MAY – ARROYOCAMPO RESERVE AND SURROUNDING AREAS
Today we headed over to Arroyocampo a wetland site, with surrounding dehesa.
We were very fortunate on arrival as the now scarce Black-winged Kite was hovering near the roundabout just as we left the main highway!
The next star attraction greeted us at the start of the main reserve, a pair of Little Bittern, thesewere backwards and forwards from a nest site. Several Purple Heron were also in evidence, as well as Great Egret and Little Grebe. There were several Great Reed Warblers singing, plus at least 2 Savi’s warblers, the former were located fairly easily, the Savi’s warblers required a more effort, though I eventually located one sat in the top of some distant bushes.
Nearby a small pool gave us nice views of a Squacco Heron, plus a Kingfisher flashed by. A Water Rail called nearby whilst a Cetti’s Warbler, rather unusually showed very well. An Iberian grey Shrike was on the hedge and there was lots of Cattle Egrets and Spotless Starlings feeding around the cattle.
Sand martins, Red-rumped Swallows gave nice views at head height and Marsh Harriers plus Purple Herons were constantly passing by.
Out on the open water, we were pleased to find 2 Ferruginous Duck, plus Moorhen, Coot, Little egret and Tufted Duck were all new species for the trip. A noisy Purple Swamphen that had been hiding decided to eventually show rather well, seeing off another one!
Out over the open water several Gull-billed Terns also gave us good flight views, just before a Black-crowned Night heron flew over our heads, whilst on the ground, Crested larks and a Zitting Cisticola also gave us improved views!
After a nice picnic lunch at the centre, we headed off to the nearby church where we had several Lesser Kestrels including a smart adult male.
We then headed on to another area, we headed up the hillside and were really chuffed to see 3 Eagle Owl chicks!
We then headed back and had our evening meal before setting back out into the forest at twilight – we were in luck, no sooner had we arrived than a Red-necked Nightjar was calling, eventually passing right over our heads! At least 3 Red-necked Nightjars were calling and I briefly managed to watch one sat calling from the top of a tree. A couple more stops on the way out produced 2-3 constantly calling Scops Owls, but none of them were tempted by my best impressions!
SATURDAY 11TH MAY – BEJAR, SIERRA DE BEJAR & CANDELARIO
Today we headed up into the mountain areas to the North of the accommodation.
We stopped off in Bejer en-route and had a lovely walk around the local park, a green area with a beautiful stream running through. Here we had views of a Black-bellied Dipper, a Grey Wagtail was heard calling, and several commoner species were also noted. There was also a Green Woodpecker calling, Blackcaps, Short-toed treecreeper and Black redstart were also seen in the park.
We then headed back up to the higher mountain area. We started off with nice views of a Bonelli’s Warbler, this was nice, but these were numerous as we climbed higher up! As we climbed up the steep road towards the Sierra de Bejar mountain, we stopped and took a walk. We had several Whitethroat and Skylark singing. Then fine views of 2 male Ortolan Bunting, sat singing from a rocky perch.
Also 2 Rock Bunting showed, as well as a little higher up a Tawny Pipit.
The main target species in the high areas is the beautiful form of Bluethroat – ‘azuricollis’ (‘Gredos Bluethroat’). After a few minutes of searching a male Bluethroat was located and we had reasonable scope views
As we climbed higher to the parking area a second Bluethroat came into view.
We then lunched at the top of the mountain, with brilliant surrounding views of the valleys below. This was all rounded off brilliantly with 3 stunning male Rufous-tailed Rock Thrushes and a juvenile appearing on the fence-line. They gave us lovely scope views to the huge backdrop of mountain scenery. In and around the parking area there was also Northern Wheatear, Tawny Pipit, Grey wagtail and Water Pipit.
It was a beautiful day and we had lunch, watching Booted Eagle, Sparrowhawk and a Peregrine all soaring overhead.
We then headed down into the beautiful wooded valleys below the mountains in the Candelario valley, a real highlight was a superb Iberian Pied Flycatcher, also seen were several Iberian Grey Shrike, Jay, Nuthatch and Short-toed Treecreeper.
A really top day with great birds, great weather & fantastic scenery. Finished off with an excellent meat and fish paella, wine and beers at the local bar.
SUNDAY 12TH MAY – MONFRAGUE NP
Today we decided to head back into Monfrague NP, we arrived early as the park would get busier later as it was the weekend. We walked the track behind the centre and were immediately greeted by a singing Western Orphean Warbler, it took a while to track it down but eventually two birds were seen, with one of the Birds showing well.
There was also a nice showy Woodchat Shrike in this area, as well as Short-toed treecreeper.
We then headed back to the main track where we were soon listening to a close Nightingale, this bird eventually popped right out into view giving really nice close views. Nearby 3-4 Sardinian Warblers also gave a nice show popping right out on to the top of the bushes, easily surpassing our previous best views. Also along this track Corn Bunting, Black Redstart, Blackcap and Crested lark. It was now mid moring and getting hot, so we headed back used the centres facilities and then headed to the bridge area.
From the bridge, we had a single Hawfinch in flight, but mainly concentrated on birds overhead, there was thousands of House martins, and amongst these were Red-rumped Swallows, Crag Martins plus several Alpine Swifts. Also regular repeat views of Black Vulture, alongside the numerous Griffon Vultures.
We next headed for lunch at the famous Salto del Gitano and again enjoyed the hundreds of Vultures, Griffon, Black and Egyptian several coming in low and providing a great chance for photography. We also had great views of a close Black Stork circling close to the road. We did well for passerines as well with Subalpine Warbler, Blue Rock thrush, Rock Bunting, Cirl Bunting and Serin all giving great views.
We went back to the accommodation and enjoyed a late afternoon cup of tea before packing bags and having a nice final evening meal, ready for an early start back to Madrid in the morning.
MONDAY 13TH MAY
We left the accommodation early at 5am and arrived at Madrid airport time to board our flight back to the UK. We all said our farewells after a great trip.
An excellent tour with a total of 142 bird species recorded
If you are interested in joining us in Extremadura then the next tour is scheduled for May 2021 please contact us for details.
mobile 07876 357677
Extremadura Systematic Bird List May 2019
|11||Great (White) Egret|
|29||European Honey Buzzard|
|30||Spanish Imperial Eagle|
|52||Rock Dove / Feral Pigeon|
|53||(Common) Wood Pigeon|
|54||(Eurasian) Collared Dove|
|55||(European) Turtle Dove|
|57||(Eurasian) Eagle Owl|
|58||(Eurasian) Scops Owl|
|69||(European) Green Woodpecker|
|70||Lesser Spotted Woodpecker|
|71||(Eurasian) Golden Oriole|
|72||Iberian Grey Shrike|
|79||(European) Blue Tit|
|83||(Greater) Short-toed Lark|
|88||(Common) Sand Martin|
|89||(Eurasian) Crag Martin|
|94||Western Bonelli’s Warbler|
|96||Western Orphean Warbler|
|104||(European) Reed Warbler|
|105||Great Reed Warbler|
|107||Iberian Pied Flycatcher|
|119||Blue Rock Thrush|
|120||Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush|