After months of planning and anticipation, the day arrived, and thirteen members of the Club, in four cars, set out to meet at Toledo on the first leg of a six day trip to Extremadura and all points west. It was a lovely day, and traffic was light, despite the fact that Madrid was on holiday, so we made good time to ‘Don Quijote’ country. As we neared our first stop, three Black Kites gave us notice of what was to come, and they were soon joined by a Buzzard and a Raven, squabbling over a roadkill. Dave’s sharp eyes spotted a couple of Golden Orioles crossing an open space as we made our way to an old favourite of mine, the lagoon at Pedro Muñoz. Here nice little hides have been provided, and we were able to see the once-rare White-headed Ducks at close quarters, as well as breeding pairs of Red-crested Pochard, whilst the tamarisk bushes which line the lagoon were home to several migrant Pied Flycatchers.
We had a bite to eat at a roadside bar, then headed towards my somewhat unwise rendezvous at the Mirador del Valle, overlooking the beautiful city of Toledo. Unwise because the traffic around the famous tourist attraction, on a festive day, was horrendous, and we succeeded in getting comprehensively lost before we eventually arrived, to some derision – the leader isn’t supposed to get lost! Looking down on the river (Tajo) we saw Grey Heron and Night Heron, before we took to the road again towards our overnight destination, the village of Cazalegas, near Talavera de la Reina. We booked in at the eponymous Hotel Cazalegas, which proved welcoming, then, after some geographical difficulty found the reservoir, where we walked along a tree-lined shore, chatting to a family of Russians who were fishing. (illegally).
In the bushes we soon found Great Reed, Reed and Melodious Warblers, together with Stonechat, and even some obligingly visible Nightingales. A Honey Buzzard flew along the reservoir, and later a Purple Heron followed suit. Blackcap and Bee Eaters called nearby in this idyllic spot, and Great Crested Grebe floated serenely on the still waters. Tree Sparrows were identified by some of our party as we walked along.
Back in the village, White Storks were bill-clapping on several roofs. It had been a long day, and we now looked forward to the morning, and our entry into Extremadura. To be continued ……