Extremadura six day trip – Part Three – Malcolm Palmer

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After the second night of our trip to Extremadura, we awoke, once again to a pleasant morning, and enjoyed a tasty homemade breakfast at the Hotel Carvajal, in Torrejón el Rubio, before setting off west towards Cáceres. Near Monroy, where lots of White Storks nest in high pines, we stopped to walk the track, which has often proved successful for Black-shouldered Kite. Not today! Quail called annoyingly from various points (they hardly ever show) and we also had Greater Short-toed Lark there. The wildflowers were an impressive display. Back on wheels, we continued westwards, seeing our first Rollers on wires, where many nestboxes have been provided, but where there was no chance of stopping, on a road which resembled Brand’s Hatch. With relief, we turned off onto a suitably rough road, which leads off at right angles.

We soon stopped for our first Great Bustard, an impressive male, stalking his territory in typical fashion. Calandra Larks were everywhere, as were Corn Buntings, and Black Kites frequently stooped on unseen prey. When we paused to look southwards from a sturdily-built hide, most were inside watching a distant Great Bustard, but Stephan was looking the other way, and he and one or two others saw a Black-bellied Sandgrouse. A short way further on, a beautiful, graceful male Montagu’s Harrier put in an appearance, and a ruined building gave us our first view of Lesser Kestrels.

When we again halted to admire more Rollers near a crossroads, a Tawny Pipit was a new bird for the trip. At some point around there, various members had a Whinchat, but the number of nestboxes which were clearly home to Rollers was a heartening sight. We lunched – very pleasantly – at Santa Marta de Magasca, then carried on until the Monroy road wound down into a river valley. Several raptors flew over – mainly Black Kites – but the big attraction was the group of Spanish Sparrows in bushes near the water’s edge. With Azure-winged Magpies continually crossing in front of us, we made our way back to our hotel, to find the bar preparing for an ‘invasion’ for the Champions’ League semi final. The result added to my after-dinner glow, and we spent our final night at the Carvajal. Next morning, we awoke to greyish skies, with a threat of rain in the wind, but we set out, undaunted, for Trujillo. To be continued ……