A massive double-barrelled report from Dave and Gilly, the first part about their trip to Extremadura (which is why you've not seen anything from them), and the second about birding on their return.

30 March - 3 April, Extremadura : A brief summary
This is a tale of highs and lows! We left home early on the Wednesday and headed for Fuente Piedra. We only stopped briefly, hoping to spot the Lesser Flamingos amongst the 1,000s of their larger cousins, but alas no. In the hour we were there we saw 29 species so it was a reasonably successful break from the long journey. Once the other side of Caceres we began to birdwatch in earnest. Lots of Black Kites and 100s of 1,000s of Corn Buntings.

At the reservoir due east of Caceres we spotted our first Collared Pratincoles of the year. Further along the road ... now a posh motorway, but the old road is still in use, we veered off towards Santa Marta de Magasca. We knew the first kilometre was a good area for Great Bustards but we had never seen so many. I think with thanks to a passing Peregrine Falcon we saw two large flights totalling at least 75-100 birds. In the evening we went down onto the Belen Plain, east of where we were staying in Trujillo, and saw more Great Bustards and some displaying Little Bustards. There were good flocks of Spanish Sparrows. Getting back to our hostel I discovered to my horror that I'd forgotten to pack my cameras battery charger. What a wassock!!

The next day we visited the Monfrague Parque National. What a magic place. 100's of nesting Griffon Vultures, Black and Egyptian Vultures and Black Storks at the hermitage and gorge. We then moved on to the cliff face beyond the dam. Here we had very good views of a Spanish Imperial Eagle. We ascertained where the Eagle Owls' nest was, but there was no sign of any adult or the single chick.

We next headed for the Arrocampo Ornithological Park at Saucedilla. It's a large expanse of water and reedbeds with a nuclear power station at one end. Here we heard and saw Savi's and Cetti's Warblers but only heard Great Reed Warbler, but saw nesting Purple Swamphen.

The next day we were taken out by our friends, Steve and Karen Fletcher. Steve's a professional bird photographer. For 35 years I'd never been able to see a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker. Steve knew where there was some near his village. Within 10 minutes of getting there my bogey bird was no more. Close up views of a female with at least 5 others drumming around us. Above the trees across the valley from us were a pair of Short-toed Eagles and we could hear our first Nightingales of the year. A Woodlark was in a tree in front of us and a pair of Hawfinches was also seen. They then took us on a tour round. We saw both Pin-tailed and Black-bellied Sandgrouse, a nesting Bonelli's Eagle and a Merlin. Local knowledge is a wonderful thing.

On our last full day we again went to Monfrague. Again we saw the Spanish Imperial Eagle, but alas the Eagle Owls still eluded us. Near the dam we parked by a picnic area where Azure-winged Magpies were. A ryvita crunched up on one of the tables was enough to bring about 10 of them to feed. I had just about enough power in the camera to take a few photos. At the Arrocampo Reservoir we added a Great White Egret, a real bonus, a couple of Squacco Herons and a Hen Harrier.
Had a great time. 101 species but saddened by not being able to take too many pictures!

Wednesday 6th April 2011, Arboleas Birding Group - Almanzora Esturary & Vera
Five other members of the Arboleas Birding Group joined Gilly and I on a trip to the Almanzora Estuary. We started at the Desert Springs end of the rambla seeing numerous Black-winged Stilts around the shallow pools. Down at the old ford we saw Green and Common Sandpiper, Little Ringed Plover, Redshank, Zitting Cistacola and 4 Bee-eaters. Moving down to the beach a pair of Turnstones and Kentish Plovers were noted as were a couple of 1st year Audouin's Gulls. After a coffee in Villaricos Gilly, Helen and I headed down to the pools opposite the Vera Aquapark while the others had a job to do in Cuevas. They missed the birds of the day. We saw a Purple Heron together with Teal, Shoveler, Greater Flamingo (2), Shelduck and Pochard. Some large birds came flying towards us. Another 3 Purple Herons landed in the reedbeds.
34 species for the day. Disappointing, yes, but Gilly and I had been spoilt the week before!

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