EXTREMADURA by lifemate


          4a Plymouth Rd, Plympton, Plymouth, Devon, U.K- PL7 4JR

                                      Tel/Fax: 01752 342001
                                  e-mail: info@birdseekers.com
                               Website: http://www.birdseekers.co.uk
                                            ATOL 6156

                        EXTREMADURA – Apr - 2003
128 Bird Species recorded                                           Checklist starts on Page 6

Leaders Josele Saiz & Chris Townend

Day 1 Sunday 20th April
Following a smooth flight into Madrid airport we met with Linda where we awaited the delivery of our
minibus. Unfortunately, a phone call from our local leader Josele, informed us that the woman
delivering the vehicle had been involved in a traffic accident and we needed to make alternative
arrangements! Chris (leader) insisted everyone had a café con leche whilst he arranged the hire of
another vehicle. We were soon back to plan and heading south-west out of Madrid on the motorway to
our destination of the bird filled region of Extremadura. The journey was somewhat slow due to only a
single lane accessible to traffic travelling south but we soon found ourselves re-fuelled and ready to go
after a timely stop for some sandwiches as well as the first Serins of our trip. This was soon followed
by our first views of a Black-shouldered Kite as it flew to find shelter from the rain and the first Fan-
tailed Warbler “zitting” away happily from the roadside vegetation. By late afternoon we met with
Josele and the other members of the group and it began to rain quite heavily! We decided to head for
the cover of our nearby hotel in Serrejon. On route, the rain miraculously cleared and this led to a burst
of bird activity along the roadside. We were treated to fantastic views of Bee-eaters, Lesser Grey
Shrikes, Lesser Kestrels and Red and Black Kites all in perfect light. As we neared the hotel, a brief
but very close view of, a second Black-shouldered Kite was enjoyed by all, as it took flight from a
roadside telegraph pole. A brief pre-dinner jaunt produced good views of Azure-winged Magpies.
The evening meal allowed everyone to meet Josele and the rest of the group as we discussed the hi-
lights of the day. Everyone retired from the bar early in order to feel bright eyed and bushy tailed for
our first full day in Monfrague.

Day 2 Monday 21st April
We awoke to great weather and were eager to get out birding following our breakfast. As we neared
the edge of Monfrague’s park boundary the weather became misty. A brief stop by a river produced
good views of a singing Nightingale, a pair of Spanish Sparrows visiting their nest within a White
Stork nest and both Chris (leader) and Len had very brief views of a Lesser-spotted Woodpecker.
As we entered the park the weather cleared and we were soon witnessing the magic of Monfrague in
brilliant sunshine. A pair of Bonelli’s Eagles (a sub-dult and adult) gave fantastic views as they
performed roller coaster after roller coaster above the Tietar cliffs to the sounds of “oooos” and
“aahhs” of the group. It was as if the birds were performing especially for Colin’s birthday! The
excitement grew as Josele shouted “Imperial Eagle!” and an adult and sub-adult crossed the road
ahead of us clearly showing the white leading edge to the wing of the adult. New species arrived
thick and fast in the form of a fine singing male Rock Bunting, Egyptian Vultures, two Black Storks
on the nest and two young Eagle Owls blending into their surroundings on the crag with only their
bright orange eyes to give them away. A brief stop at the Mirador de la Bascula gave everyone the
opportunity to become accustomed with the differences between Griffon and Black Vultures with the
latter being visible on the nest. A lunch stop by the dam gave more views of the same two Bonelli’s
Eagles as if they were following Colin, more Griffon and Egyptian Vultures and a frustrating
Subalpine Warbler, hiding in the undergrowth. We continued into the heart of the park to the small
village of Villareal de San Carlos where we had a coffee break and an autograph stop as John
Muddemann (he of the birdwatching guide to Extremadura fame) signed Linda’s book! Following
our refreshment we visited a scrubland hillside down to a wooded river valley. This produced two
Alpine Swifts gliding overhead, our first good views of Thekla Lark as well as a fine male Sardinian
Warbler and two Short-toed Eagles. Early evening arrived all too quickly and we took a leisurely
drive back through the park stopping again at the Portilla del Tietar to find one of the adult Eagle
Owls had joined the two youngsters. This was soon to be followed by the pair of Bonelli’s Eagles
performing yet again, talon grappling and roller coasting directly above our heads. As we headed out
of the park Chris found a fine pale phase Booted Eagle as it glided just above the minibus searching
for prey and allowing us to clearly see the “landing light” spots. Other birds included Red Kite,
Woodchat Shrike and the birds that never loose their appeal, a group of Bee Eaters.

Day 3 Tuesday 22nd April
After breakfast and a sore head for Steve, we ventured out to the wetland area of Almaraz marshes.
The morning began with yet more wonderful views of some Bee-Eaters in the superb morning light as
they sat on wires and on the ground beside their nest bank. A Purple Heron flew across the lake
before landing somewhat ungracefully in the reed bed as two Black-shouldered Kites hunted the
back of the lake in close proximity to the first of two Marsh Harriers. Two Great Spotted Cuckoos
glided past calling raucously as they left there dense tree cover and a stunning black morph
Montagu’s Harrier sailed over the arable fields before we headed to another part of the wetland. This
produced singing Savi’s Warbler, the prehistoric looking Purple Gallinules and three Gull-billed
Terns picked up by sharp-eyed Sue. Three Spoonbills were disturbed on the far side of the marsh
before Yellow-legged Gull, Black- headed Gull, Gadwall and Water Rail (heard) were added to the
day’s tally. Before moving on, Josele called us over the road to see a fine male Little Bittern lurking in
the reeds. It took some persuading that it wasn’t a plastic decoy! David found a second bird before we
headed off in the minibus to the Miravette river valley. Here we were greeted by a fine orange eyed
Short-toed Eagle sat on a roadside pylon and a scan of the nearby area produced a male Blue Rock
Thrush found by Kath and a number of Hoopoes calling frustrating Chris. A timely lunch stop by a
wooded lakeside looked excellent habitat for warblers and so it was proved as singing Melodius,
Bonelli’s and Subalpine Warblers gave good views with a little patience. More Booted Eagles and
our second Montagu’s Harrier of the day were visible in the skies giving the opportunity for the two
leaders to change a tyre!! Feeling refreshed and refuelled we headed on towards Jaraicejo where
Dartford Warbler and a fine performance of a number of male Spectacled Warblers in song flight.
Len discovered the first bird just before the birds began to perform, allowing their salmon pink breasts
and white spectacles to be fully appreciated. A brief coffee stop was followed by Josele’s school of
driving to the Castillo in the centre of Monfrague where a visiting car met an unfortunate end as it
became grounded in a gully and the rain came down! There was just time to see the young Eagle
Owls from the van and a number of very soggy looking Bee-eaters before arriving back at the hotel.
After dinner, the rain was clearing and Chris (leader) showed Josele the importance of having a
“positive mental attitude” and Josele taught Chris (leader) the second lesson in his school of driving.
Two Wild Boars crossed the track in front of the bus before disappearing into the undergrowth. A
brief stop produced a duet of Scops Owl impressions from Josele and Chris (leader) before the return
trip gave rise to a fantastic Red-necked Nightjar sat on the track in the mini bus headlights. A great
end to a wonderful day!

Day 4 Wednesday 23rd April
Today was to see our departure from Monfrague but before doing so, the local bulls and pigs posed
for photographs! As we headed south to the plains of Belen, the local police decided to check all was
in order in their usual American style. The plains were soon living up to their reputation as four
Great Bustards and at least eight Little Bustards were added to the list of specialities along with
Calandra Larks and at last good views of Hoopoe for Chris!! A Cattle Egret rookery and close views
of soaring Griffon, Black and Egyptian Vultures kept us all interested before visiting the historic
town of Trujillio. Here we enjoyed the typical Spanish landscape and buildings with nesting storks,
Red-rumped Swallows and groups of Lesser Kestrels before Len, Steve and Chris (leader) picked up
good light on a Pallid Swift. It was not long before we were heading south further still into the Sierra
Brava. Here we enjoyed distant views of a mixed Black-headed Gull and Gull-billed Tern colony
and a stunning male Black-eared Wheatear. As we continued on the quiet road passed the dam, the
habitat changed and we soon witnessed a fantastic display of talon grappling Montagu’s Harriers and
a pair of very obliging Black-shouldered Kites nesting in a nearby tree. The journey continued as we
passed by numerous Gull-billed Terns feeding in the ploughed fields very close to the road. A lone
Roller on wires gave tantalisingly brief views along a busy road and a strange noise from the minibus
soon stumped everyone, until the culprit was revealed to be Chris’s electric toothbrush!!! A brief pre-
dinner garage stop revealed Spain’s best-kept secret, white chocolate Oreos!! Early evening saw us
checking in to our new hotel in Benquerencia de la Serena which was to be our new base for the next
couple of days. Later that evening, we all enjoyed an evening meal to the unfortunate football score of
Man. Utd 4 – Real Madrid 3!!!!

         Lesser Kestrel – Trujillo Bull Ring
Day 5 Thursday 24th April
After breakfast Graham was the lucky observer of a Rock Thrush passing through on migration
before the group split up and took a stroll into the town. It was not long until Chris (leader) located a
pair of Black Wheatears nesting on the crag above the village, this was soon followed by Rock
Bunting and a brief fly through Great Spotted Cuckoo. As we wandered through the surrounding
area, we added Alpine Swift, Red-rumped Swallow and a Crag Martin well hidden in the nest under
an alcove of the crag. By mid morning we found ourselves in a great area of steppe habitat where we
were entertained by Chough, Little Owl, Stone-curlew, black-eared wheatear and bee-eaters. A pair
of Booted Eagles whistled to each other overhead and we all had distant flight views of a group of
Pin-tailed Sandgrouse. Sue found an immature male Pied Flycatcher as it tried to escape the heat of
the day in a lone tree.Another stop a few kilometres further down the road gave rise to a timely lunch
stop, in the now very warm heat of the day. However, despite the heat, we still managed to get some
good views of Great Bustards strutting about the plains and a soaring black and white stork together.
After lunch, half the group went for a “siesta” while the other half took a leisurely trip further into the
plains. The heat of the day kept bird activity to a minimum but a number of talon grappling
Montagu’s Harriers made it all worthwhile. We re-grouped during the late afternoon in the hope of
more bird activity and we were not to be disappointed! Yvonne picked up eight Great Bustards
flying over the road ahead of us that landed nearby. It wasn’t long until we had relocated them only
to find at least thirty birds in the area!! As we scanned the surrounding plains, it soon became
apparent just what a fantastic pocket of birdlife we had stumbled across. The next hour or so, was for
many, the most memorable part of the trip. The Great Bustards turned themselves into “white balls”,
Collared Pratincoles hawked for insects low overhead, Short-toed and Calandra larks displayed in
the adjacent fields as male Little Bustards stood motionless giving their distinct raspberry notes.
Stone-curlews slowly crept around in the foreground and a fine male Montagu’s Harrier effortlessly
sailed past as if to remind us just what a great place Extremadura really is!

Day 6 Friday 25th April
After an early breakfast we made our way to the plains where we were immediately greeted by a male
Little Bustard giving its jumping display. As we scanned the nearby area we found other male birds
showing particularly well and another bird flew overhead allowing us to hear the whistling of the
wings. We were aware of calling sandgrouse in the area but could not see any until sharp-eyed
Yvonne located a number of birds shuffling around in the fields in the distance. As we approached
nearer, the rich colours of chestnut on the breast and spangled golden/green upperparts could clearly
be seen. An accompanying cast of Black-eared Wheatear, Little Owl and a fine perched Black Kite
all added to a great morning’s birding. We headed for the same area as the previous day in search of
more Great Bustards and it was not long until a group of four birds were located close to the road
before they took flight. As we continued along the road, more Collared Pratincoles were seen and a
group of nine Black-bellied Sandgrouse flew rather frustratingly away from us allowing only their
stockier appearance to be noted in contrast to the pin-tailed. It was soon lunchtime as we followed a
track deep into the plains. A timely lunch stop gave us the opportunity to witness the very special
and spectacular display of the Montagu’s Harrier. It was as if the birds had put on a special
lunchtime display as they dived and talon grappled overhead! After lunch we followed another track
into the wilderness where the hi-lights were 8+ Little Owls, Black-eared Wheatear, Whinchat,
Oscillated Lizards sunbathing, a Tawny Pipit (seen by Josele’s bus only), a couple of very elusive
singing Orphean Warblers and a majestic immature Golden Eagle soaring in the heat of the
afternoon. By now, the heat of the day was too much and a well-earned break for Tapas was taken!
The day was finished off with a pre-dinner walk into the hills near the hotel where we were met with
a burst of activity and a concert of noise as the birds became more active again. A Blue Rock Thrush
giving a display flight, Rock Bunting singing, Woodlark singing, Serins singing and dancing like
Frank Sinatra, Sardinian Warblers, Black-eared Wheatears and Alpine Swift. Lamb for dinner,

Day 7 Saturday 26th April
It was Saturday morning and time to say farewell to Josele, Steve, Graham, Trevor, Yvonne, Sue and
Kath. We waved goodbye (on a roundabout!!) in the town of San Benito and Chris’s (leader) bus
continued toward the Cornalvo Naturalle Park. The hi-lights here included 8+ Waxbills busily flying
back and forth, Montagu’s Harrier, Southern Grey and Woodchat Shrikes, Garden Warbler, Spotted
Flycatcher, Short-toed Treecreeper, Azure-winged Magpie and calling Quail. A lunch stop at the
dam produced a roller coasting Booted Eagle, Black and Griffon Vultures, Sardinian Warbler, Serin,
Mallard and Great Crested Grebe. Bird activity was clearly quiet with the heat of the day but a
group of seven newly fledged Swallows caused some amusement as the parents busily visited with
food. We soon found ourselves in the historic town of Merida where we checked in to our
accommodation and had a stroll around the city. Here we found good views of Pallid Swifts as they
flew underneath the bridge, Cattle Egrets, Cetti’s Warblers, Lesser Kestrels and the obligatory White
Stork nesting in the town square! A well-earned break for olives and beers was had in a nearby bar
before returning to the nearby Cornalvo Park. Once in the park, Nightingales and Corn Buntings
were very apparent by song. More Waxbills and a very friendly couple provided us with
strawberries!! We returned to the hotel where we all enjoyed a meal and some reminiscing over the
last week.

Day 8 Sunday 27th
Sadly, it was time to return to Madrid airport. An early start meant the beginning of the journey was
in darkness but Colin kept Chris (leader) awake as he chatted away at the front of the bus. It wasn’t
long before dawn broke and the skies were clear and sunny again. A brief petrol stop produced a
singing Hoopoe and a Night Heron (seen only by Chris! - leader). We arrived at Madrid airport
where we waved goodbye to Linda who caught an earlier flight. We then made a detour into the
Sierra Guarderema where our final memories were to be of a female Montagu’s Harrier being
mobbed by a crow and a fine Black Vulture soaring effortlessly overhead before we too had to return
to the airport. A smooth flight soon saw us back to Heathrow where reality kicked in but the
memories of the trip kept us all smiling, particularly as David could sum up the trip in two words,

Sadly, within a few weeks of arriving home, David’s father Colin passed away. David has since
told me that both he and his Dad greatly enjoyed the birds and the company during the trip very
much indeed and it will obviously always be regarded as a special holiday.

We send our thoughts to David and his family.

Many thanks for a great tour from Chris and Josele

Checklist starts on next page -
      SPECIES                    Scientific Name               No of days Highest daily count
                                                               out of 7 C = Common
                                                               recorded   H = Heard only
                                                                          N/C = No Count
1.    Little Grebe               Tachybaptus ruficollis        3           N/C
2.    Great Crested Grebe        Podiceps cristatus            4           N/C
3.    Little Bittern             Ixobrychus minutus            1           2
4.    Cattle Egret               Bubulcus ibis                 5           60+
5.    Little Egret               Egretta garzetta              5           5+
6.    Grey Heron                 Ardea cinerea                 5           N/C
7.    Purple Heron               Ardea purpurea                1           1
8.    White Stork                Ciconia ciconia               6           N/C
9.    Black Stork                Ciconia nigra                 3           5
10.   Spoonbill                  Platalea leucorodia           1           3
11.   Mallard                    Anas platyrhynchos            5           N/C
12.   Gadwall                    Anas strepera                 1           N/C
13.   Eurasian Griffon-vulture   Gyps fulvus                   6           N/C
14.   Eurasian Black Vulture     Aegypius monachus             5           N/C
15.   Egyptian Vulture           Neophron percnopterus         4           N/C
16.   Golden Eagle               Aquila chrysaetos             2           2
17.   Spanish Imperial Eagle     Aquila adalberti [heliaca]    1           2
18.   Short-toed Eagle           Circaetus gallicus gallicus   4           6
19.   Booted Eagle               Hieraaetus pennatus           3           3
20.   Bonelli's Eagle            Hieraaetus fasciatus          1           3
21.   Red Kite                   Milvus milvus                 5           N/C
22.   Black Kite                 Milvus migrans migrans        6           N/C
23.   Western Marsh-harrier      Circus aeruginosus            3           4
24.   Black-winged Kite          Elanus caeruleus              3           2
25.   Montagu's Harrier          Circus pygargus               4           15+
26.   Common Buzzard             Buteo buteo                   6           N/C
27.   Northern Goshawk           Accipiter gentilis            1           1
28.   Common Kestrel             Falco tinnunculus             6           4+
29.   Lesser Kestrel             Falco naumanni                4           12+
30.   Red-legged Partridge       Alectoris rufa                1           ?
31.   Common Quail               Coturnix coturnix             3           H
32.   Water Rail                 Rallus aquaticus              1           1
33.   Common Moorhen             Gallinula chloropus           3           N/C
34.   Eurasian Coot              Fulica atra                   2           30+
35.   Purple Swamp-Hen           Porphyrio porphyrio           1           1?
36.   Great Bustard              Otis tarda                    2           4+
37.   Little Bustard             Tetrax tetrax                 1           8+
38.   Black-winged Stilt         Himantopus himantopus         3           2
39.   Stone-curlew               Burhinus oedicnemus           1           8+
40.   Collared Pratincole        Glareola pratincola           1           10+
41.   Common Sandpiper           Tringa hypoleucos             2           2
42.   Black-headed Gull          Larus ridibundus              2           N/C
43.   Lesser Black-backed Gull    Larus fuscus                2   1
44.   Gull-billed Tern            Sterna nilotica             2   3+
45.   Black-bellied Sandgrouse    Pterocles orientalis        1   9
46.   Pin-tailed Sandgrouse       Pterocles alchata           1   30+
47.   Feral Pigeon                Columbia livia (domest)     2   N/C
48.   Wood Pigeon                 Columba palumbus            5   N/C
49.   Collared Dove               Streptopelia decaocto       5   6+
50.   Common Cuckoo               Cuculus canorus             3   N/C
51.   Great Spotted Cuckoo        Clamator glandarius         2   2
52.   Eurasian Eagle-owl          Bubo bubo                   2   1 ad – 2 juv
53.   Little Owl                  Athene noctua               1   3 Josele’s van only
54.   Eurasian Scops-owl          Otus scops                  1   H
55.   Red-necked Nightjar         Caprimulgus ruficollis      1   1
56.   Common Swift                Apus apus                   5   N/C
57.   Pallid Swift                Apus pallidus               3   N/C
58.   Alpine Swift                Tachymarptis melba          4   2
59.   Eurasian Hoopoe             Upupa epops                 5   N/C
60.   Common Kingfisher           Alcedo atthis               1   1
61.   European Bee-eater          Merops apiaster             5   15+
62.   European Roller             Coracias garrulus           1   1
63.   Green Woodpecker            Picus viridis               3   N/C
64.   Lesser Spotted Woodpecker   Dendrocopos minor           1   1
65.   Eurasian Skylark            Alauda arvensis             2   N/C
66.   Crested Lark                Galerida cristata           6   4+
67.   Thekla Lark                 Galerida theklae            2   2
68.   Wood Lark                   Lullula arborea             4   N/C
69.   Greater Short-toed Lark     Calandrella brachydactyla   1   N/C
70.   Calandra Lark               Melanocorypha calandra      3   N/C
71.   Eurasian Crag-martin        Hirundo rupestris           3   N/C
72.   Barn Swallow                Hirundo rustica             6   C
73.   Red-rumped Swallow          Hirundo daurica             5   N/C
74.   House Martin                Delichon urbica             6   C
75.   White Wagtail               Motacilla alba              5   2+
76.   Grey Wagtail                Motacilla cinerea           1   2
77.   Winter Wren                 Troglodytes troglodytes     3   N/C
78.   Common Nightingale          Luscinia megarhynchos       5   N/C
79.   Northern Wheatear           Oenanthe oenanthe           2   2+
80.   Black-eared Wheatear        Oenanthe hispanica          2   1
81.   Whinchat                    Saxicola rubetra            1   2
82.   Common Stonechat            Saxicola torquata           5   N/C
83.   Blue Rock-thrush            Monticola solitarius        3   1
84.   Rufous-tailed Rock-thrush   Monticola saxatilis         1   1 Josele’s van only
85.   Eurasian Blackbird          Turdus merula               6   N/C
86.   Savi’s Warbler              Locustella lusciniodes      1   1
87.   Great Reed Warbler          Acrocephalus arundinaceus   1   H
88.   Cetti's Warbler             Cettia cetti                4   N/C
89.   Zitting Cisticola           Cisticola juncidis          5   3+
90.   Melodious Warbler           Hippolais polyglotta        2   1
 91.    Olivaceous Warbler          Hippolais pallida               1   1
 92.    Blackcap                    Sylvia atricapilla              2   1
 93.    Garden Warbler              Sylvia borin                    1   1
 94.    Orphean Warbler             Sylvia hortensis                1   1
 95.    Spectacled Warbler          Sylvia conspicillata            1   1
 96.    Sardinian Warbler           Sylvia melanocephala            4   N/C
 97.    Subalpine Warbler           Sylvia cantillans               2   1
 98.    Dartford Warbler            Sylvia undata                   1   1
 99.    Willow Warbler              Phylloscopus trochilus          1   1
 100.   Western Bonelli's Warbler   Phylloscopus bonelli bonelli    1   1
 101.   Spotted Flycatcher          Muscicapa striata               1   1
 102.   Pied Flycatcher             Ficedula hypoleuca              1   1
 103.   Long-tailed Tit             Aegithalos caudatus             2   N/C
 104.   Great Tit                   Parus major major               4   N/C
 105.   Blue Tit                    Parus caeruleus                 4   N/C
 106.   Eurasian Nuthatch           Sitta europaea                  1   1
 107.   Short-toed Treecreeper      Certhia brachydactyla           3   2+
 108.   Golden Oriole               Oriolus oriolus                 1   H
 109.   Southern Grey Shrike        Lanius excubitor meridionalis   4   7+
 110.   Woodchat Shrike             Lanius senator                  6   5+
 111.   Eurasian Jay                Garrulus glandarius             2   2
 112.   Azure-winged Magpie         Cyanopica cyana                 6   N/C
 113.   Black-billed Magpie         Pica pica                       6   N/C
 114.   Red-billed Chough           Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax         2   N/C
 115.   Eurasian Jackdaw            Corvus monedula                 6   N/C
 116.   Carrion Crow                Corvus corone corone            3   N/C
 117.   Common Raven                Corvus corax                    2   2
 118.   Common Starling             Sturnus vulgaris                1   2?
 119.   Spotless Starling           Sturnus unicolor                5   N/C
 120.   House Sparrow               Passer domesticus               6   C
 121.   Spanish Sparrow             Passerispaniolensis             3   N/C
 122.   Chaffinch                   Fringilla coelebs               5   N/C
 123.   European Serin              Serinus serinus                 6   N/C
 124.   European Greenfinch         Carduelis chloris               2   N/C
 125.   European Goldfinch          Carduelis carduelis carduelis   5   N/C
 126.   Eurasian Linnet             Carduelis cannabina             3   N/C
 127.   Rock Bunting                Emberiza cia                    2   2
 128.   Corn Bunting                Miliaria calandra               6   N/C


 Eurasian Wild Boar                 Sus scrofa                      1   2
 Iberian Hare                       Lepus granatensis               2   ?
 European Rabbit                    Oryctolagus cuniculus           1   ?
 Oscillated Lizard                  Lacerta lepida                  1   3
           Please note that our checklists do not include species seen by leaders only.
              We also do not include single observer sightings or very poor views.
              We do not count heard only or subspecies, although they are noted.
                  This we believe gives us a very honest accurate group total.

With this in mind we welcome you to compare our lists with other companies, check out our high
          standards and above all our prices which offer the very best value for money.

                 Check out our gallery for photos from this and other tours

                                     Phone: 01752 342001
                                 e-mail: info@birdseekers.com
                                        ATOL No. 6156

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