Mary’s Blog – Extremadura

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We were on a short Autumn visit to Extremadura, initially staying overnight at Hotel Cortijo de Daimiel, a very nice, Spanish run hotel close to the Tablas de Daimiel, and recommended if anyone wants a few days exploring the nearby lagoons.

It is true that Autumn is not the best time to visit Extremadura for the birds but we enjoy the scenery and the whole experience of travelling in Spain so we are not totally focused on the birds.

Thursday 10th October – From Daimiel we headed towards our apartment in Torrejon el Rubio, initially travelling along the scenic road from Ciudad Real to Trujillo. Many common birds were seen on route, including Magpie, Crested Lark, Grey Heron, Collared Dove, Woodpigeon, Jay and very soon our first Azure Winged Magpie, the first of many during this trip.

A short stop by the Embalse Garcia de Sola found us looking at a group of Griffon Vultures some perched on the cliffs with others flying above. A Sardinian Warbler was calling from somewhere in the trees and a Blue Tit was seen in some bushes below the viewpoint.

We continued our journey turning right towards Zorita and Trujillo. Along this road John spotted some White Storks in a field to our left and we stopped to have a look. There must have been up to 100 of the birds here, a place where we had also seen this species during our last visit here in October 2016. On that visit we had also seen Cranes on the other side of the road, but not this time sadly.

Continuing towards Trujillo we saw numerous Southern Grey Shrikes perched on the wires along with the odd Corn Bunting. A few raptors showed as well, namely Kestrel, Buzzard and more GriffonVultures. As we approached Trujillo we saw three Red Kites flying near the road. We stopped in Trujillo for a nice lunch and for shopping before heading to our apartment in Torrejon el Rubio.

Friday 11th October – Today we headed into Monfrague National Park where we drove up to the castle, seeing little of note before stopping at the Salto de Gitano viewpoint. The usual Griffon Vultures were in the air and on the cliffs and a couple of Blue Rock Thrush were seen on the rocks below the viewpoint. Several Azure Winged Magpies were also flying around below us with other small birds, such as, Great Tit, Chaffinch, Blackbird and Sardinian Warbler.

We continued around the park and a Jay flew across in front of us. At the village of Villareal de San Carlos there were House Martins and the usual House Sparrows. After our coffee stop we continued towards the dam where a nice Stag was standing in the middle of the road and a couple of Hinds were feeding nearby. At La Higuerela viewpoint a Great White Egret and a Cormorant were seen at the edge of the water. A bit further along the road we saw a Little Egret flying and another Great White Egret with a Grey Heron on another patch of water. At the Tietar hide we saw more Griffon Vultures and a possible Black Vulture in the air. Lots of small birds were in the trees below the road, including Chiffchaff, Black Redstart, Chaffinch and Robin.

We returned to La Tajadilla picnic area to eat our lunch, hoping to see the usual Azure Winged Magpies which hang around there, but not today. Another two deer were seen next to the picnic area, a Stag and a Hind.

Saturday 12th October – Today we took our usual drive around the lanes to Monroy, Santa Marta and back via Trujillo and Torrecillas de las Tiesa. On our journey we saw plenty of Magpies, Azure Winged Magpies, Collared Doves, Crested Larks, Spotless Starlings and a few Blackbird, Blue Tit and Stonechat. Sadly no Cranes or Spanish Sparrows which we had seen in this area before.

A stop by the Almonte River found the river to be almost dry with just a few pools remaining on each side of the bridge. It was a surprise, therefore, to see a Dipper before it flew away down the river and a Kingfisher as it flew by, landed briefly then flew off. A few Crag Martins were flying around near the bridge as usual and we also saw House Sparrows, Robin, a Grey Heron and a White Wagtail.

Continuing on towards Santa Marta we crossed over the moors seeing several Wheatear and many larks, including Crested, possibly Thekla and a few Calandra Larks. We saw our first Hoopoe of the trip here along with more Griffon Vultures, Southern Grey Shrike and Corn Bunting. A big Stag was disturbed by us and bolted off across the moors.

We passed through Trujillo and stopped on the small road to Torrecillas de la Tiesa to eat our picnic. There were plenty of Wheatear and Crested Larks around along with Stonechats, a few Lapwings, some Griffon Vultures and a Red Kite. After lunch we headed back to Torrejon el Rubio seeing plenty of Azure Winged Magpies in the Dehesa on the way.

Sunday 13th October – This morning we drove towards Talavan seeing Buzzard, Red Kite and both types of Magpie on the way. We visited the nearby reservoir which had some water at one end but was otherwise dry. A short walk to view the water found us a few Stonechat and a Whinchat. On and by the water we saw a few Black winged Stilts, Shovelers, a Grey Heron and two Spoonbill, which was a nice find. As we walked back to the hide a group of Griffon Vultures flew over an adjacent field. We sat in the hide looking at the dry reed bed and seeing a few small birds, including Sardinian Warbler, Dartford Warbler, a Whitethroat and a star bird for me a Common Waxbill! I noticed a bird with a red bill and couldn’t think what it was until I checked in a book later and realised that this species is sometimes seen in the area. Sadly John missed it but he did spot two Long tailed Tits as they flew across the read bed.

We continued our drive round seeing several Southern Grey Shrike, Crested Lark and Wheatear. A few flocks of small birds were seen but not identified, one of which landed by a small pool to drink. I took a few photos which revealed at least one of them to have a yellow spot under the chin, making it a Rock Sparrow. From here we headed back to our apartment for lunch.

After lunch we went back into Monfrague stopping first at the Salto de Gitano viewpoint. A good move as in the trees below us we both managed to get a good view of a superb Hawfinch! Crag Martins were flying around and visiting what appeared to be young birds resting on the cliffs and the Griffons were there as usual. We continued around the park stopping at La Tajadilla and walking to the dam. John spotted a Pied Flycatcher here, presumably on migration, and two Grey Wagtails were by the dam. Other small birds in evidence were Great Tit, Blue Tit, Robin, Chiffchaff and Blackbird, and a Great White Egret flew across the water. The picnic area was busy with families out for the day so the birds were scarce. Two hinds were seen on the hill over the road and the stag was siting on his own under the cliffs opposite. As we drove back to Torrejon two Jays flew across the road by the castle car park.

We left Torrejon the next day to travel to our overnight stay near Albacete. The following day we had a quick drive over the tracks by Petrola where we added Greater Flamingo, Pochard and Red legged Partridge to our list but no Great Bustards this time. The first time we have been to this area and not seen them, although we didn’t spend long in the area as we had a flight to catch in Alicante.

It have been an enjoyable trip for us, not so many species for the ‘serious birder’ but for us some good birds especially Hawfinch and Waxbill, and we certainly had a good range of species and a few new birds for my year list.

Species list – Cormorant, Great White Egret, Little Egret, Spoonbill, Grey Heron, White Stork, Greater Flamingo, Mallaard, Shoveler, Pochard, Griffon Vulture, Black Vulture, Red Kite, Marsh Harrier, Buzzard, Kestrel, Red legged Partridge, Black winged Stilt, Lapwing, Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Kingfisher, Hoopoe, Crested Lark, Thekla Lark?, Calandra Lark, Crag Martin, Swallow, House Martin, Grey Wagtail, White Wagtail, Dipper, Robin, Black Redstart, Whinchat, Stonechat, Wheatear, Blue Rock Thrush, Blackbird, Chiffchaff, Whitethorat, Sardinian Warbler, Dartford Warbler, Pied Flycatcher, Blue Tit, Long tailed Tit, Great Tit, Southern Grey Shrike, Spotless Starling, Jay, Magpie, Azure winged Magpie, Crow, House Sparrow, Rock Sparrow, Hawfinch, Chaffinch, Corn Bunting, Common Waxbill.