Dave & Gilly in Extremadura

Dave and Gilly have been beating up Extremadura orntihologically and here is Dave's chronicle. I have had to cut one or two photos because of the length. The climb up to the hermitage is a real killer, Dave. Mary Carmen and I did it years ago.
Gilly and I left Arboleas at 5am and headed for our first stop at Fuente de Piedra to check out any Lesser Flamingos there. Unfortunately there was fog on site. We could hardly see anything across the Information Centre car park let alone over the water so with no further ado we headed to Sevilla and then north towards Merida and into Extremadura. Before reaching the border we had Stone Curlew and a magnificent male Hen Harrier. Our "holiday" list started as we crossed into Extremadura. We had 20 species before we stopped at the Embalse de Guadiloba, just east of Caceres. These included White Stork, Azure--winged Magpies, Southern Grey Shrike, Raven and numerous Black Kites. It being a Sunday there were quite a few anglers, but it didn't seem to deter the hundreds of Corn Buntings perched on the barbed wire fencing next to the track.
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Above us there were Griffon Vultures and a continual flow of Black Kites passing by. Gilly then spotted a group of Great Bustards over to the right . There were 32, mostly males, some displaying (see later photo) Also seen were Stonechat, Woodchat Shrike, Crested Lark and
Meadow Pipit. "Water" birds included Yellow-legged and Black-headed Gulls, Green and Common Sandpipers,Great Crested Grebes, Little Egret and Gadwall.

     We then moved a few kilometres east and turned towards Santa Marta de Magasca. The village is at the apex of a triangle that takes you back to the main Caceres to Trujillo main road and the newish motorway. Immediately to the left as you leave the main road is a power line with nest boxes on each telegraph pole intended for Rollers. No Rollers, but there were many Lesser Kestrels.Inline images 4

 One box was occupied by Spanish Sparrows. Inline images 5
Male Northern Wheatear! What an obliging cracker! Inline images 6We carried on towards the village, stopping at various telegraph poles where Black Kites were perched to get a photo, but they were very skittish and flew off. Adding a Common Buzzard we headed to Trujillo where we booked in to the Hostal Julio. After a well deserved siesta we had an evening visit to the Belen Plain, a few kilometres further 

east. Lots more Corn Buntings (of course) and Calandra Larks. Also seen were feeding White Storks, Cattle Egrets and Little Owls. We saw more Great Bustards but the star of the show was this Little Bustard. Such a delight for it to be showing so well. Inline images 7

Well satisfied we returned to Trujillo, walking up to historic main square where we had a coffee with 17 Lesser Kestrels gliding over us with many Common and Pallid Swifts.

     We were up early the next morning to have breakfast before we headed to Monfrague (pronounced Mon-frag-way) National Park stopping off at various bridges over lush meadows and fast flowing riversInline images 8

The sun was just coming over the surrounding hills and there was a light mist over the water. We could hear Cetti's Warblers and Common Cuckoos. A Cormorant flew over and Little Ringed Plovers were on the waters edge. Gilly also spotted a Grey Wagtail and captured this photo of a male Blackbird. Always thought the beak was yellow. Never noticed the eye ring before!Inline images 9

We then drove up to the parking area on the way up to the hermitage.Inline images 10
The trek up to the top is not for the faint-hearted but well worth it! On the way up we saw a male Blue Rock Thrush. He followed us all the way to the top eventually singing away from the top of the mobile phone mast.  Inline images 11 
The view from the top is magnificent. We were a bit early to see the Griffon Vultures gliding past at eye level or below you. We did have good views of Blue Tit and Rock Bunting.Inline images 13
Over towards the Penafalcon cliff face we could see a few Black Vultures amongst the hundreds of Griffons. The star of the show awaited us at the bottom car park. As we drove passed it I thought I heard a woodpecker. We could see some birders looking into a tree, so we obviously stopped. There, giving extraordinary views, was a Nuthatch. A cracker of a bird! Inline images 14

We drove round to park opposite Peñafalcon. Here is a normal view of it showing Griffon Vultures effortlessly circling it. Inline images 15

I don't normally promote products but I have to praise our new Canon Powershot SX50. The picture below was from the same location taken of Griffons on the peak, 4-500 metres away.Inline images 16

Inline images 17Closer still was a Griffon's nest with a chick. Also seen round the cliff face was a Peregrine Falcon, Egyptian Vultures and a nesting pair of Black Storks.Inline images 18

Moving on we drove a large bridge where hundreds of House Martins were nesting underneath together with a few Alpine Swifts. After lunch at the Information Centre we headed over the dam to another cliff face. Spot the bird.......it's very large but here's a closer view......Inline images 20
Yes, an Eagle Owl with a bundle of fluffy chick below it's head. We also saw a Short-toed Eagle here and had good views of a Wren and a not very flattering pose for a Long-tailed Tit.Inline images 21
Making our way back we stopped at a small picnic area with tables under some pines. On a previous visit some years ago we'd put crumpled Ryvita biscuits on the table and had got visitors. Today we tried our luck with the remains of Gilly's tuna baguette. Sure enough, from nowhere twenty or so of them arrived! Azure-winged Magpies, taking only seconds to clear the table!

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We headed back to Trujillo for a break before going for an evenings search for Sandgrouse. We drove back to where we'd seen the Lesser Kestrels & Spanish Sparrows using the nest boxes and took a track off that road going back towards Caceres where we'd had success before.

We saw our first Rollers of the year, a Short-toed Lark, Montagu's Harrier and a Merlin struggling to fly carrying a Corn Bunting! Eventually I spotted two distant Pin-tailed Sandgrouse flying past.Inline images 25

     Up early again today, stopping for breakfast on our way to the Arrocampo nature reserve. It's a large lake supplying water to cool the Nuclear Power Station. (Armed guards unhappy if you point a large lens in their direction......been there, done that!) As there was low lying mist over the main body of water we headed through the village of Saucedilla, passed the information centre to some smaller lakes (near hide 5 for info) I spotted some Woodpigeons over the far side of the lake, but there was something else grey coloured with them. Got the scope on it - a Black-shouldered Kite. Also had Black-tailed Godwit, Marsh Harriers and a passing Egyptian Vulture. We returned to the information centre where, above a water gully, numerous Sand Martins were resting up.Inline images 27

We walked towards the hide close by, Gilly spotting a Purple Swamphen. We both heard and saw Savi's and Cetti's Warblers. Once we'd settled down in the hide we scanned the reeds. There were at least 10 Purple Herons.Inline images 29

Something was nesting in the roof above us. Yes, I know it's "only" a male House Sparrow, but I had to get the photo in!
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The other highlights from this hide were Little Bittern, Ferruginous Duck and Gull-billed Terns. We also passed the landmark 100 species with a Little Grebe! We headed back to the main body of water which was now clear of mist. We added Reed Warbler and I got a photo of a flying Purple Swamphen.
     We cut through from the motorway to come in to Monfrague from the north, stopping first at the Eagle Owl cliff face with parent and chick showing well!  Inline images 32

We were then blessed with a good view of an adult Spanish Imperial Eagle flying above the rock face showing the white leading edges of its wings brilliantly. We added Sparrowhawk and Honey Buzzard on the way back to Trujillo. We walked up to the castle above the main square so we were eye level with the nesting Inline images 33

     We headed south to a village called Robdillo de Trujillo the next morning where we'd been shown Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers some years previously. Didn't see them but did manage 7 Hawfinch, Cirl Bunting and Sardinian Warbler. From there we went to the castle above Montanchez, where in winter Alpine Accentor (my bogey bird) can be seen. Here we added Black Redstart, Linnet and had good views of Goldfinch.

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 We started to make our way back towards Trujillo. Suddenly Gilly shouted "Stop!" She grabbed the camera and took this picture of a Common Cuckoo.Inline images 37

We had a siesta at the hostel before heading back on to the Belen plain. As promised here is a picture of a displaying male Great Bustard.......whatever turns you on! The females must see something I can't!Inline images 38

     Here endeth the lesson! We eventually got 110 species. The weather was kind to us as well.
I hope the photos all appear where they're supposed to!

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