It had been a couple years since Keith and I last met up and it was great to carry on as if I never left ;-)
Anyway We flew in to Madrid on the Saturday afternoon and collected the hire car and made our way North via the ring road, we should be going South ooops to Torrejon El Rubio, a perfect place to stop for birders and all..(click the link) The good thing was we had our only Monk Parakeet so it wasn't all bad. The journey had us excitedly ticking Black Kites, Red Rumped Swallows and White Storks.
We past Arracampo and had our first and I think only Black Shouldered Kite of the trip, what a start.
It was pretty much dark when we reached our accommodation and whilst meeting our host Jose a bright green meteorite shot across the sky.
So here we are Torrejon El Rubio heading for Aldea del Obispo to Santa Marta de Magasca and through the Caceres Plains. This was a very very bird filled day with just too much to mention but of coarse the highlights on the drive around the dirt tracks were the Little and Great Bustards, the Pintail and Black Bellied Sand Grouse too.
As always the larks and buntings were great here and being the first day we just loved going through them all. Crested Larks, Theklas, Calandras, Short toed and the very common Corn Bunting.
Unfortunately I had my camera on the wrong settings so the pics are all blue.We have never been to Extremadura at the end of April so it was nice to see bird numbers of all species very high, this gave us much better opportunity's to see the birds closer up including Red Rumped Swallows, Woodchat Shrikes and Spanish Sparrows.
The areas around the Plains are just superb.
Vultures were now much in Evidence including this superb Black Vulture.
We had our best views of Montagus Harriers here wounderful birds along with the Tawny Pipits and Quail. Bee Eaters our only Great Spotted Cuckoo are always a top bird for me as are the Rollers.
We Moved on through Monroy back through Torrejon into Monfrague National Park, the valleys on the way are awesome and filled with birds. Crag Martins showing down to feet under the bridges.
The Wildflowers were superb. Not sure of first flower but second is a Blue Flag Iris type (I think)
Back in Monfrague and up the mountains past Pene Falcon Crag due to a coach party being there to Tetar Campeonato where the Vultures were superb.
We found our first Black Stork nest too.
We headed back past Castillo De la Monfrague so had a lovely walk up to the top visiting the Castillo and watching breeding Chough. Booted Eagles Vultures and Rock Bunting showed very well here and a nice selection of Butterflies including Swallowtail.
Almost Forgot the Spanish Imperial Eagle was back on a nest we found a few years back.
What a great end to the day.
This was a magnificent day around the Rice fields at Madregalejo past Las Villuercas a brilliant mountain vantage point and back through the lush areas of Cabañas Del Castillo
The birds were just as amazing starting at the rice fields, Hoopoes and the Wonderful Collared Pratincole, along with a couple of Kentish, Ringed and Little Ringed Plovers. Bee eaters were in good numbers.
Along with the these were the Melodious Warblers, Red Avadavat and the Waxbills.
Carrying on through the rice fields it was obvious the fields were not going to hold water so it was a little disappointing to find no real waders. A Group of 25 Gull Billed Terns were a nice surprise though.
Tree Sparrows were extremely numerous to our surprise.
Moving on past the small valleys and woodlands where we spotted and heard good birds such as Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Azure Magpies, Dartford Warblers, Garden Warblers, Cettis Warbler, Sardinians, Woodchat Shrike and a nice young Grey Wagtail.
We headed up the mountain of Las Villuercas and it was incredible, a Steep mountain full of birds, more Dartfords, Rock Buntings and right at the top Black Redstarts Blue Rock Thrush and 10 Chough. The chough were breeding in the tower buildings.
The area was spectacular with an amazing mountain road.
We moved onto Berzocana a really nice little village with spectacular views scenery, birds and butterflies, Blue Rock Thrush and Black Redstarts breeding in the village, Butterflies such as Spanish Festoon everywhere..
Continuing further up the mountains to Cabanas Del Castillio where we had a walk to the top, birds such as Peregrine and White Rumped Swift were seen, as well as the Pallid and Common Swifts.
Butterflies were awesome as were the variety of plants.
We had a nice supply of Butterflies, Swallowtail, Painted Lady, Marble White, Cleopatra, Brimstone, Large Tortoise, Wood White and few others.
Again the views were out of this world.
We were a few miles from home now so the run home had us back by dark, another full on but great day.
Today it was a trip up the Gredos Mountains and a change of accommodation for the night, the superb Hostal Almanzor, (click link) a birders paradise with its own hide but back to that later.
Firstly we had to get there it was quite a drive and as ever we were continually stopping at places such as Pene Falcon Crag.
Its an awesome place early in the mornings. We stopped at the large bridge near Tietar for the Alpine Swifts, the Black Kites were fishing when we arrived, it was awesome to watch.
Moving on we made tracks upto the Gredos Mountains making a small detour off a small mountain road where we had ticked Black Eared Wheatear a few years before and wonderfully we ticked it in the exact same place again. Woodlark in the same location was nice and my best ever views of Golden Oriole in flight were had here.
We kept on stopping briefly on the way up the mountain and we had our first amazing lifer, there hard to come by these days and I was surprised to get any as I thought these birds were really tricky but Keith spotted a very nice but a bit distant Rufous Rock Thrush it was very exciting if not distant.
We moved along another side road and picked up birds such as another Black eared Wheatear, the paler version this time and quiet a few Spanish Yellow Wagtails and Spectacled Warblers.
We eventually reached the carpark of the Gredos Mountains and thought we would need to walk for our next target species here. Again I thought our next species would he difficult but no, Ortoland Bunting feeding in the carpark!!!
We then found a couple more Rufous Rock Thrush's but much better views this time and wow what a stunning bird. Keiths find of the trip so far.
The Rock Buntings In the carpark were as tame as the Ortoland Bunting and gave nice photographic opportunity's. So I took em :-)
We hunted for Water Pipit but it wasn't until we were making our way back down the Gredos that we
found a boring old winter plumaged bird, bit dull and drab but a trip tick all the same. Another Rufous Rock thrush again and a Blue Rock Thrush too.
The Iberian ibex were on show on the way down too, amazing looking wild Goats with huge horns, plenty of young ones too.
We arrived at the wonderful Almanzor Hostel a little earlier than planned to check in and nip out again but not before using there amazing hide. It was a shame about the glass but the birds were so close it didn't have too much of an affect. A Rock Bunting was incredibly close as was a Jay.
We nipped out looking for Citril Finch our 3rd Lifer of the trip, we managed a couple of fly over birds but they weren't easy tonight so thought we would try early next morning. The rivers were lovely and a few more trip ticks, Bonellis Warbler, Pied Flycatcher and Dipper.
We wanted to get back to enjoy the birds around the hotel. Birds such as Crossbill, Black Redstart, Crested Tit, Firecrest and Bonellis Warbler. Also to enjoy the scenery before it turned dark.
It was now dark so after we had something to eat we continued birding, yes it didn't stop because it was dark, with a beer in hand sat on the balcony we were listening to the amazing sounds of the owls, Scops, Long eared and Tawny topping up the now ever increasing list of great species. Now it was off for a good night sleep.
So we had a little bit of a lie in this morning and was back out on the Citril Finch hunt but this time we had better views although they were well hidden in the trees at least 4 birds were present. I never did get the pictures I wanted. something to go back for.
The Red Squirrels were well worth the visit however, seemed much darker than our Squirrels.
Whilst wandering the woods a Pied Flycatcher showed nicely and a another Black Redstart in the area. On the route back a very nice Goshawk gave us excellent views.
We returned to the Hostel to enjoy the grounds again Hoopoe and Rock Sparrows were in the neighbours gardens the sparrow being a trip tick and one we thought we wouldnt get and certainly not as easy as it was. A Common Whitethroat was singing its head off as were the Crossbills, Firecrests and Crested Tits that were breeding onsite.
We headed back to the top of the Gredos as we got wind of Bluethroats on the top. So we parked up and went for a walk Spotting a pair of Rufous Rock Thrush's and eventually distant views of a very mobile Bluethroat. The young Ibex were on show too.
Back down the mountain another chance for the Ortoland Buntings.
Time to head back towards Torrejon El Rubio taking in more sites on the way back. Nice to see more n more Bee eaters.
Plant species included this Angel's Tears, narcissus
We managed our way to Arracampo where we were feeling much more relaxed now as we had virtually ran out of species to see, so nice to chill and spend a little time here.
Spoonbills and lots of Night Herons flew over, the Gull Billed Terns were nice, a couple of Great White Egret and few trip ticks such as Tufted Duck, Red Crested Pochard, Coot and Bearded Tit.
Another distant Black Shouldered Kite.
The Mediterranean Linseed plant was common here.
Day 5We were running out of days now but wow what a week it had been, we now felt we had done all we had come for so time to explore a new area. and mainly for Butterflies A brand new Reservoir, the Alcollarin Reservoir This held a few more ticks which we didn't expect, Egyptian Goose, Ruddy Shelduck, Shelducks and Black Necked Grebes.
The track around the edge was brilliant for butterflies and close up views of Bee eaters.
The plants were unusual.
The Butterflies were stunning with many lifers
On the way back the Black Winged Stilt were nice n close.
Ruddy Shelduck was an odd one.
A few more odd n sods with Red Striped Oil Beetle Larvae and a couple of Groppers
Sardinian Warblers showed nicely as did a Theckla lark, White Stork and Woodchat Shrike.
After we had filled our boots with this fantastic place we headed back to the rice fields at Madregalejo but it was so quiet today. Hare, Bluethroat, Great Reed Warbler and Savis were the only notable species really.
We finished the day by having a drive up to Berzocana again, wonderful scenery along some very narrow roads.
We could still take it easy today, so we picked a couple of our Favourite spots. The Carceres Plains was top of the list as was the Monfrague National Park.We started the morning with a nice Hobby and Short Toed Eagle.
Lesser Kestrels were top of the agenda as were the cracking Rollers, Little Owls seemed everywhere. We even saw all the Bustards and Sandgrouse again. We saw a few Montagu's Harriers again and 7 Hawfinch was a trip tick.
The Vultures were showing too.
Lastly we finished by the river at Villareal de San Carlos where Barbel or some type of large fish were running the streams and it was alive with Iberian Wall lizards and butterflies such as the Queen of Spain Fritillary and Speckled Wood..
Now this was our very last day but luckily our flights weren't till the afternoon so that gave us a chance to visit Arracampo one last time before heading back to the airport via the puerto de san vicente and alia caves, where we were hoping for Little Swift but pretty much our one of a few species we dipped during the week. The other was the Penduline Tit at Arrocampo.Anyway Back at Arracampo Little Bitterns, Purple Herons and Black Kites showed well. A few more ticks too which surprised us, A Ferruginous Duck, Lapwing and a Squacco Heron.
So after this we headed to the airport via the Alia Cave and back to Madrid Airport and home....
So now we have to plan another.....Till the next one.
This had been an incredible trip again picking up an amazing 176 Bird Species and 19 Butterfly Species.
Birds list here.