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Tour-leader and Guide : Michael Richardson
Trip report : Michael Richardson

 

Main-trip in Extremadura - Andalucia


Day 4 - April 8th
Travelling between Alcudia on the Mallorca Island and Trujillo in Extremadura, mainland Spain.

After an early breakfast the five of us had uneventful trip across the island to Palma airport and onwards to Madrid, here we met up with the two new members of the party Ginny and Al. We made our way out of Madrid and on to the A5 heading for Truillo. After we got out of the urban sprawl we stopped for a very good lunch, but by the time we came out of the restaurant the weather had taken a turn for the worst. We travelled on to the hotel in heavy rain, so most of the group grabbed a couple of hours sleep. The birds seen were mainly guide only records but they included Black Kite, Black-shouldered Kite, Spotless Starling, Crested Lark, Eurasian Magpie and White Stork. We found the hotel Palacio de Santa Marta and settled in to what I think most of the group thought was the best lodgings of the whole trip.

Weather: Cloudy start but dry in Mallorca, wet and windy on the mainland.

 

Day 5 - April 9th

Visited sites: Trujillo and Monfrague.

Woke to a very grey day and quite heavy rain, did not look promising! We all got aboard the mini bus and headed north towards Monfrague on the ex-208, on the way we stopped at the bridge over the Rio Tozo and as we stopped the engine the rain stopped and this is how it went on all that day. The first birds seen were a group of Griffon Vultures drifting low along the valley, joined by two Black Vultures. These birds or others drifted about for sometime. On the river several Little Egrets and a Grey Heron were fishing, Little Grebe and Moorhen were also added to the species seen. In the surrounding fields Corn Bunting, Zitting Cisticola were both calling, Red-rumped and Barn Swallows, Crag and House Martin were all seen hawking insects above the crops and the first party of Azure-winged Magpies moved along the river bank noisily.The woodland also produced Eurasian Jay, Hoopoe and a calling but very elusive Eurasian Wryneck. We then moved and made a quick roadside stop for several people to photograph Gum Cistus and several other wild flowers. 07-view-monfrague-castle Our next stop was in the car park just below Monfrague Castle and after a heart thumping climb up the steps we had the fantastic views from the castle top out over the Rio Tajo and surrounding Valleys and mountains. At this height the Griffon and Egyptian Vultures seen were flying at eye level and this kept the cameras clicking. We also saw Rock Bunting, Chaffinch, European Serin, Common Raven, Black Redstart and several Red-billed Choughs. On the Way down we got our only soaking of the day when we all bailed out to look at a pair of Eurasian Nuthatch nest building in one of the roadside oaks. Then on to Pena Falcon, masses of Vultures whirled about in the skies above us and Black Redstart, Winter Wren and Blue-rock Thrush were all noted around the parking area. Lunch was then taken at the View from Monfrague Castle.
We then moved along the Rio Tajo Valley stopping at a couple of view points. At the first we had good views of young Black Stork in the nest and on the way to the next Diana had a single Chukar on the roadside. At the second view point we searched but failed to find the resident Eagle Owls which were breeding at this site, but we did get cracking views of an Egyptian Vulture, many Griffon Vultures, Pallid, Common and Alpine Swifts, Woodchat and Southern Grey Shrikes. We then retraced our steps as far as El Rubio and then went to a site for Spanish Imperial Eagle and were rewarded with good but distant views of a pair swapping over at the nest and then the off duty bird spent some time at a perch drying off. Also at this site we picked up a Great Spotted Cuckoo, Hoopoe and Mistle Thrush. We then made our way back to Trujillo in heavy rain.

Weather: Cloudy with many showers.


Day 6 - April 10th
Visited sites:
Trujillo, Belen Plain and Monroy area.

The weather was not as kind today, it started to rain before dawn and continued for most of the day with just the odd dry spell. The first area visited was close by at Belen, we quickly started to find birds. Diana picked up 3+ Stone Curlews and then we found Red Kite and both Little Bustards (2 males and several females) and Great Bustards (8+ birds) and a male Montagu's Harrier. Other birds noted included Calandra Lark, Whinchat, Common Raven, Northern Wheatear and a beautiful male Black-eared Wheatear.08-great-spotted-cuckoo We then headed towards Caceres and in to the fields just to the north of the N 521 where we again started to pick up both species of Bustards in good numbers, several more Montagu's Harriers, but the two Sandgrouse species we were looking for did not show. We then drove around to the town of Monroy and had some lunch. Later we made our way east on a minor road through the oak woodlands seeing Common Cuckoo, Crested Lark, Spanish Sparrow and an Imm. Spanish Imperial Eagle which drifted over the road. Once back on the E 90 we headed south and then west back into the fields to give the Sandgrouse another go. We did not see them but had great views of a pair of Great Spotted Cuckoo, plus views of Black Kite, more Montagu's Harriers, Bustards and a colony of White Storks which again had the cameras at work. The weather then took a turn for the worse so we headed back to the hotel.

Weather: Rain

 

Day 7 - April 11th
Visited sites
: Trujillo to Sevilla.

An early start was made as we need to get to the hotel just west of Sevilla in time for an afternoon guided tour of the city. We again spent most of the journey on the Autovia so not a lot was seen, birds noted included Black Kite, White Stork, Montagu's Harrier, Great Spotted Cuckoo and Azure-winged Magpie. We sorted the rooms out and went and had some lunch before the hotel Andalucia Parks minibus took us into the city at 15:00 to meet the guide for our tour. 09-trujillo10-bullring1Unfortunately the cities main feria was on and the traffic was chaos, we missed the 16:00 tour but got on the next tour an hour later. We visited the outskirts of the city including the Monasterio Santa María de las Cuevas, Iglesia de San Gil and the remains of the city wall. Later we spent an hour on a boat heading west along the Rio Guadalquivir passing the Bullring and many of the bridges over the river.

Weather: Mainly dry and quite bright.

 

Day 8 - April 12th
Visited sites:
Donana Official Tour, Acebuche and La Rocia visitor centres and El Rocio Marsh.

11-donana-visitWe started the day with a swift drive down to the visitors centre at Acebuche where we were to start a very interesting and enjoyable tour of the restricted part of the park on board a large green 4x4. The first part of the trip took us along the beaches east of Matalascanas, several species of wader were added to the list including Eurasian Oystercatcher, Sanderling, Black-bellied Plover and Ruddy Turnstone. Peregrine was also seen distantly perched on a disused chimney in the dunes. We then made our way into the Stone or Umbrella Pine woodland, these areas also included large areas of open dune and grassland. Once in the woodland the driver stopped the vehicle and led us to probably one of the most exciting sightings, a number of Wild Boar and Fallow Deer in a large clearing in the Pines. Also in this area we saw Hoopoe, Winter Wren, Black Kite and heard Nightingale.After having a good look at the at every thing in the area we got back on the vehicle and headed off deeper in to the park seeing many more Wild Boar and several new species of bird including Booted and Short-toed Eagles, Eurasian Buzzard, Woodchat Shrike and Green Woodpecker. A second stop was made so that we could view the Greater Flamingo's on a large marsh area, also seen here were Great Egret, Black Winged Stilt and the first of many Collared Pratincoles. 12-wild-boarThe driver then returned to the beach where we added a group of 8 Whimbrel and a single Black / Common Scoter (guide only) and then on back to the visitors centre. We had some lunch and a look around the pine woods and the pools on the reserve, we added Short-toed Treecreeper, Squacco Heron, Eurasian Reed Warbler and Purple Swamp-hen to the day's list. Next we went and spent some time in El Rocio and on the marsh side walk, here we saw our first Whiskered Terns and Spoonbills of the tour plus Little Egret, Greater Flamingo, Sand Martin, Red-rumped Swallow and Cetti's Warbler. We then headed back to the hotel making a brief stop to photo fields of Purple Vipers Bugloss.

Weather: Mainly dry and quite bright.


Day 9 - April 13th
Visited sites:
Donana.

13-purple-vipers-buglossWe started the day on one of the parks northern trails, El Corredor Verde a dirt track that leaves the SE 667 and joins the road towards the J A Valverde visitors centre several Km's on. Our first stop was to admire a group of European Bee-eaters perched on wires crossing large orange groves (the smell from the blossom was fantastic). The second stop was by a large lake where we had good views of Great Crested Grebe, Cetti's and Eurasian Reed Warblers. Later we stopped by the shrine dedicated to the Virgin Mary and searched the bushes by the swollen and muddy river. Here we had good views of Nightingale, brief views of Wryneck and a cracking male Eurasian Penduline Tit which fed for a short while in some tall reeds. Moving on a short distance we made our next stop on a ridge which gave us views over the surrounding area hoping to see some raptor. We soon found Common Buzzard, Black Kite and Booted Eagle. Kent and Marcia then found the bird we had hoped for, a pair of distant but very welcome Black-winged Kites which quickly disappeared after mobbing a Black Kite. The rest of the drive along the Corredor was quiet until we got to the point where it joins the road. The junction was flooded so we made a short detour along yet another dirt track and picked up some more European Bee-eaters and several Collared Pratincoles.14-black-winged-kite We rejoined the road towards the visitor centre which soon turned into a track and then into a very rough track. Along here we saw good numbers of birds including Gull-billed and Whiskered Terns, Western Marsh Harrier, Short-toed Eagle, Greater and Lesser Short-toed Larks, Quail and the best of all a very tolerant Black-winged Kite which sat for most of the party to get some good shots. Eventually we reached the centre and had some lunch whilst watching Glossy Ibis, Greater Flamingo, Black-crowned Night Heron, Cattle and Little Egrets and Great Reed Warblers through the large window. After spending some time at the site we started the journey back to the hotel along a much better track with some good marsh areas to the one side. Birds seen on the way back included Griffon Vultures, Short-toed Eagle, Northern Wheatear, Gadwall, Eurasian Teal, Common Cuckoo and Common Raven.
Once back at the hotel we had our evening meal and the hotel minibus again took us into Sevilla City for the group to go to see the Tablao el Arenal flamenco show. We arrived at the drop off point a little early so we had a walk around the outside of the cathedral and made our way to the venue. The show was very good, not a show just put on for tourists. At about midnight we got taxis back to the hotel and prepared for the trip to Ronda the next morning.

Weather: Bright and sunny.

 

Day 10 - April 14th
Visited sites:
Donana to Ronda.

We started the day by going to a couple of places I had wanted to go yesterday but due to the flooding the access from the far side of the park was blocked. The first stop was at La Ventilla a small road side pool near Venta del Cruce. Birds were few but we did pick up Melodious Warbler singing from a near by bush and Al found the only Greylag Geese of the tour on a wet field on the opposite side of the road. We then moved to Canada de la Rianzuela a large lake surrounded by pine woodland. Here we saw White-headed Duck, Red-crested Pochard, Whiskered Tern, Audouin's Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Horned, Great Crested and Little Grebes, Black Kite, White Stork and Spoonbill. We then departed from Donana and headed for our meeting with Juan in Ronda. Before lunch we stopped briefly in a roadside lay-by where we found Woodcock Orchid. Our next stop was the Hotel Molino del Puente just north of Ronda, where we sorted the rooms and dropped off the luggage, at 15:30 we met Juan our guide for the afternoon. He was to give us a very interesting walking tour around the town, including the Bullring, and the older Moorish inspired part of the town. Whilst on the walk the bins were still out and Hawfinch, Lesser Kestrel and Red-billed Chough were all seen. The group then had an hour or so to wonder around the shops and get a few bits. We then made our way back to the hotel for the evening meal. Along the stream at the rear of the hotels garden we noted Cetti's Warbler, Nightingale, Blackcap and Red-rumped Swallow. In the evening Peg, Pieter and Peter joined the group for our meal.

Weather: Mainly dry with broken clouds.

 

Day 11 - April 15th
Visited sites:
Montejaque, Sierra Libar, Benoajan and Indiana.

The birds were being logged before breakfast today, Western Olivaceous was singing from dense cover along the river bank, also seen were Cetti's and Sardinian Warblers, Blackcap and Grey Wagtail. After breakfast we headed towards Montejaque, just after we turned off the main A-473 by Cortijo las Piletas we saw our first large group of Griffon Vultures kettling (a term used by Diana which I had not heard before) on a ridge just north east of the main road. 15-griffon-vulturesMixed in the flock were a single Black Kite and a few Red-billed Choughs. We then moved on a couple of Kms and parked in the oak woodland and spent some time tracking down Long-tailed Tit, Firecrest, Bonelli's and Subalpine Warbler. The next stop was just before the road narrows and passes through a gorge, the main things seen here were the wild flowers, but we did add our first Black Wheatear of the trip and Blue-rock Thrush, Sardinian Warbler and several European Stonechats. A couple of species of Orchid were seen here including Somber and Yellow Bee and Man Orchid. Moroccan Orange-tip, Clouded Yellow, Small White and Cleopatra butterflies all put in brief appearances when the sun shone. Sierra Libar was our next area to visit but the wind did not make birding easy, at the water tank a few hundred yards along the track we hoped to see the resident Bonelli's Eagles which breed on near by cliffs, but they were not on show. We did see more Griffon Vultures, Eurasian Kestrel, Blue-rock Thrush and Serin. Further up the valley Rock Bunting, Linnet and Black Redstart were all seen on the fence posts. The next two species added to the trip list were both larks, a single Thekla and a pair of Wood were seen well on the road side. We then continued on up to the oak wood were we picked up Chaffinch, Mistle Thrush, Woodchat Shrike and a pair of Cirl Buntings. We made our way back along the track but the wind was so strong we did not see a lot and missed a couple of key species. We had Lunch at a river side hotel and then moved on to Indiana where we had instructions from Peter about the location of a Bonelli's Eagle nest site and as promised we got distant views of the male bird sat on the side of the nest. We also saw European Bee-eaters and Cetti's Warbler at the site. The group decided that the afternoon was to be spent in Ronda around the shops. After a couple of hours we all met at the pre-arranged spot and made our way back to the hotel. On the way we passed a small patch of Sword-leaved Helleborines growing on the road side.

Weather: Dry and bright but very windy.

 

Day 12 - April 16th
Visited sites:
Grazalema and Zahara.

The first stop was to look at a Bonelli's Eagle nest again but from a closer point but neither of the adult birds was in attendance. We quickly moved on and took the road to Grazalema, after a few Km's we stopped by a fenced area with piles of Cork Oak bark stacked ready to be taken to be processed. In the woods and fields near by we picked up Subalpine Warbler, European Bee-eater, Woodlark and a pair of Cirl Buntings. We also saw several different wild flowers here including Gun Cistus, Common Asphodel and Southern Knapweed. At the junction with the road to El Bosque we stopped and spent some time watching a pair of Eurasian Nuthatchs clean out old material from a nest hole, Peg got some very nice shots of the birds. 16-fellow-travellersAt the same site we also saw Champagne Orchid, a single spike which had survived the raging strimmers. Moving on we soon arrived in the vey nice white village of Grazalema where we stopped for a coffee break and for a visit to the information centre. A road side stop then produced Common Crossbill, Jay, Chough, Green Woodpecker and Bonelli's Warbler and on the plant front Lange's, Champagne and Southern Early Purple Orchids were all Photographed. Some of the group walked on up the road whilst others continued to sort out the Flowers. A little way on some of the group were watching a Large Psammodromus which was posing for the cameras very patiently. We all headed up to the main viewpoint at Puerto de las Palomas, we made a brief stop here. A little further on we had a walk along the road down hill towards Zahara, Great and Blue Tits, Crag Martin, Griffon Vultures were all seen. By this time stomachs were starting to rumble so we drove quickly to Zahara for Lunch. We then retraced our route more sedately back up to the view point stopping at several points along the way. We spent some time searching a road side bank for Italian Man Orchid, we eventually found three very nice spikes. A stop was then made to see the very rare Spanish Fir, we also had very good views of two pairs of Bonelli's. The day was moving on, so we made our way slowly back towards the hotel.

Weather: Mainly dry but breezy.

 

Day 13 - April 17th

Visited sites: Cuava del Pelajas, Campillos, El Torcal and Dorcal, Granada.

We woke to rain and made the journey out to Cuava del Pelajas via Ronda to drop Al in the town for some extra shopping. We arrived at the Caves at 10:00 but had to wait till half past to see if any body else arrived, they did not so we made our way underground. Issued with a couple of paraffin lamps we made our way along some slippery walkways through some very interesting chambers and on to the parts of the caves with the wall paintings. A lot of bats were flying around in the deeper parts of the caves, where they will have spent the winter hibernating. We made our way out of the cave and around the car park we noted Winter Wren, Black Wheatear, Blue-rock Thrush and Chough. After picking Al up in Ronda we started the journey to Granada. On the way we stopped by some fields that had been flooded over the winter. Many species of birds had quickly taken advantage of the site including about 200 Greater Flamingos, Avocet, Black-winged Stilt, Ruff, Northern Lapwing, Whiskered and Gull-billed Terns and Eurasian Coots. As we arrived a single male Little Bustard was seen flying away and during the time we were at the site several Montagu’s Harriers were seen. 17-el-torcal18-iberian-ibixThe afternoon was spent at El Torcal a limestone ridge with some very interesting rock formations. After a quick loo stop we moved out to the view point and had a look down at the Costa del Sol and Malaga. Out on the trail we soon had good views of Blue-rock Thrush, Western Orphean Warbler, Alpine Swift, Hoopoe, Black Redstart and Eurasian Jackdaw. Then the high light of the day a small group of Spanish Ibex, probably 3 or 4 animals, all females which gave us great views and photo opportunities. On the way back to the vehicle Kent, Marcia and myself had another two Ibex but this time they were young males. We then made our way to Durcal and to the Hotel Molino del Puente, same name as the last one but very different. It sat deep in a wooded river valley, a place which looked well worth investigation.

Weather: wet start but dry during the day but heavy rain later.

 

Day 14 - April 18th

Visited sites: Huetor Tajar and Sierra Loja.

19-fellow-travellersThe rain was driving down when I arrived at the hotel and all the party decided that they would sit tight and see what the weather was going to do. Later the worst of the rain had passed so we headed west towards Huetor Tajar and Sierra Loja. The first area visited was amongst the Poplar plantations at Villanueva de Mesia, here we saw Common Sandpiper, Cetti’s Warbler and Pied Flycatcher. We then moved to the low agricultural land to the north of Huetor Tajar, Zitting Cisticola, Spanish Yellow Wagtail, Crested Lark, European Stonechat and Woodchat Shrike were all seen. Along the banks of the Rio Montefrio we saw a small colony of Tree Sparrows nesting in some metal tube posts. 20-wind-turbinesWe then made our way to my house which was a convenient comfort stop and then on towards Loja for lunch, on the way we picked up Turtle Dove, Collared Dove, Hoopoe, Mistle Thrush and Common Kestrel. The first bird seen after lunch was a Griffon Vulture flying over the town, a good record for the area. We then made our way up on the Sierra Loja but the wind was blowing very strongly and birding was always going to be a struggle, we did see Alpine, Common and Pallid Swifts, Little Owl, Thekla Lark, Yellow Wagtail, Red-legged Partridge, European Robin, Crag Martin, Black and Black-eared Wheatears, Black Redstart and Red-billed Chough amongst others. On our way down the mountain we stopped at a small disused quarry where a pair of European Eagle Owls were nesting on a cliff face. The pair had two young in the nest cave but neither of the adults or young were on show today. We did get good views of Common Cuckoo and found Wild Tulip, Yellow Violet, Common Star of Bethlehem and Pink Mediterranean Catchfly growing between the rocks. Watching the Common Cuckoo, (PA). Late in the afternoon we decided to call it a day and headed back to the hotel admitting defeat to the wind and rain.

Weather: Very wet start, brighter later but very very windy.


Day 15 - April 19th

Visited sites: Birding at the hotel, the Alhambra guided visit and Granada City.

Before going into Granada, in the hotel car park we saw Bonelli's Warbler, Nightingale, Great Tit,Blackcap, Long-tailed Tit, Eurasian Sparrowhawk and Grey Wagtail. We then walked along the river bank until Wind Turbines, Sierra Loja, (PA). It started to rain again, We did add European Robin, Winter Wren, Chaffinch, Spotless Starling and a single Red Squirrel. At about 10:30 we set off for the Alhambra and met our guide near the entrance, the next three hours pasted very quickly as we were shown around the Palaces, Summer House and Gardens by a very informative Alfonso Ríos Carnicero. Just as we had finished the tour and had started to make our way down the steep hill into the city the rain started again. Kent and Marcia had eaten in a restaurant near the Cathedral on a past visit and said, quite rightly, that the food and wine was good. We all had a very good meal and then split up and did a bit of sight seeing around the city centre. At 18:00 I collected everybody at a prearrange spot and after a very busy day we headed back to the hotel.

Weather: Frequent Showers.

 

Day 16 - April 20th
Visited sites:
Granada to Madrid.

We set off at 08:00 and drove directly to Madrid, little wildlife was noted as the whole journey was on Autovia's. The only thing we all commented on was the amount of water in all the rivers after the recent rains. Early afternoon and every one was at their hotels and deciding which gallery or museum to go and visit.

Weather: Mainly dry.

 

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