Sunday, April 13, 2008

Anser Birding Extremedura 8-12 April 2008 trip report

Anser Birding Extremedura 8-12 April 2008

Little Bustard near Campo Lugar all images MJM

Great Bustard near Campo Lugar

Great Spotted Cuckoo at the Embalse de Guadiloba

Blue Rock Thrush, Penafalcon, Monfrague NP

Black Stork, Tietar Cliffs, Monfrague NP

Summary; Nearly all the expected species were seen, the weather at times was challenging and certainly made it difficult at times. It also aided us with some species. Species like Red and Black Kite, Cattle Egret, Nightingale, White Stork, Spanish Sparrow, Spotless Starling, Hoopoe, Woodchat, Crag Martin, Red-rumped Swallow, Rock Bunting, Black Redstart, Blue-rock Thrush, Azure-winged Magpie, Southern Grey Shrike were seen almost continually and in good numbers. We stayed at Jaraicejo with our friends Marisa, Petra and Luis at the Hotel Montefragoso and were looked after very well as usual.

8 April 2008 A travel day but en-route to Extremedura from Madrid as we drove into rain a Little Bustard flew over the road and a few other species were noted.

9 April 2008 A look at the weather conditions at breakfast convinced us to head South for some steppe/wetland birding. We had a quick look along a nearby ridge where the Griffon Vultures were heading out for the day. On the steppe near Campo Lugar the usual where shall I look next scenario was in place. 2 pairs of Montagu's Harrier, 3 calling Quail, 2 pairs of Lesser Kestel, Zitting Cisticola, Corn Buntings, Crested Larks, Hoopoes, Southern Grey Shrikes and a variety of other species were seen very well. Further up the road the Calandra Larks, Great and Little Bustards, Stone Curlews and Short-toed Lark were seen. The views were very good as there was no heat haze. A coffee stop nearby at Madrigalejo and we were soon watching c30 Red Avadavat, Curlew Sandpiper, Little Stint, Little-ringed, Kentish and Ringed Plovers, Common Sandpiper with 2 Pochard and 2 Teal on a reservoir. A Spoonbill rested in a field with the storks before flying off. Other waders in the fields included Green Sandpiper and Black-winged Stilt. Marsh Harrier was also present.

Heading further south again to the La Serena area we saw a Short-toed Eagle and c12 Bee Eater near the Emblase de Zujar. It was very windy here and the highlights were Great Bustards and Collared Pratincoles. Returning via the same route to our hotel we stopped near Campo Lugar again for me great views but the highlight was a S.G Shrike impaling a large millipede on the barbed wire fence before moving it to the thorns.

10 April 2008 A route from Jaraicejo to Hinojos-Talavan-Caceres-Embalse de Guadlioba and back to base was productive as we dodged torrential showers. Again Little and Great Bustards were seen well, 6 Pin-tailed Sandgrouse flew over with two Little Bustard. The sandgrouse relieved themselves and by amazing co-incedence managed a direct hit on Dave Paynters hat. A stop at the Arroyo de la Vid gave us a pair of Black-bellied Sandgrouse over and some Thekla Lark views. Many of the pools for sheep drinking had pairs of Black-winged Stilt and Little-ringed Plover, perhaps grounded by the weather.

At the Embalse de Guadiloba the surprise find was the first record of Light-bellied (or any) Brent Goose for the interior of Spain (away from the coast) and even then it is a very rare bird in Iberia. More typical fare were 3 first-summer and two adult Great Spotted Cuckoo, 4 Collared Pratincoles, Pallid Swifts, Great Bustards, a Tawny Pipit and first summer Mediterranean Gull.

We were fortunate to find an Imperial Eagle nest complete with adults feeding a chick and the male succesfully hunting, it was a real treat to watch the tender way these predators look after their young and we caused no disturbance to them. The site is witheld for the welfare of the birds.

11 April 2008 Into the Monfrague NP for great views of Imperial, Booted, Short-toed and a Golden Eagle (the group, not me!) Griffon, Black (Monk) and Egyptian Vutures, Red-rumped Swallows, Black Stork on the nest, Otter and Fallow Deer, singing Woodlark, B.R Thrush, B Redstart, Rock Bunting and Hoopoes. At Tietar Cliffs a couple more Black Storks and raptors showed well in this sun-trapped part of the park. Nightingale, Sardinian and Subalpine Warbler sang.The Eagle Owls did not show for us during the afternoon but were present. We studied a group of Azure-winged Magpie in a sunny Cork Oak wood nearby before heading back through the park stopping off for Thekla and Black-eared Wheatears en-route. Back at Penafalcon the vultures were returning, 100+ were soaring overhead and our target bird arrived in style with stupendous dives, a pair of Bonelli's Eagles put on quite a show. A feamle Cirl Bunting showed on the roadside fence and a stop gave us lovely views of Woodchat Shrikes. Heading back into a sunny Jaraicejo we heard Bee Eaters and were seeing Booted Eagles and plenty of Black Kite.

12 April 2008 Leaving the hotel in the morning we were trying a wetland site at Embalse de Azutan. A Black-winged Kite hovered over an orchard next to the main road en-route and at the reservoir Marsh Harrier, 12 Nightingale, a showy Subalpine Warbler and 6 stunning Bee Eaters were seen. The afternoon (after large lunch at a hotel) was spent in the Sierra de Gredos. Exploring one or two sites gave us rather stunning views of the area. A Cirl Bunting sang from a TV aerial at the hotel/restaurant and more familiar species such as Great Spotted Woodpecker, Blackcap and Dunnock were seen. Red Kites and Booted Eagles were seen regularly but we ran out of time. A Red Squirrel and hearing sharpei Green Woodpecker finshed up our birding for the trip before heading to Madrid and home.

Thank you to everyone that came with me to this lovely part of Spain.