iBirdz    Extremadura

Day 1:

Embalse de Arrocampo We left Barajas airport in Madrid at around midday and followed the M40 and then the E90 towards Portugal. After getting used to the Spanish roadsigns and having a couple of near misses the journey was fairly easy with no wrong turns.
At junction 193 of the E90 we turned off towards Almeraz. Just before entering the town we turned right twice following signs to Saucedilla and Casatejada. Following the road we reached the inlet end of the Embalse (reservoir) de Arrocampo. We later found that this was by far the most bird rich of all emblases visited.
This end of the embalse consisted of a decent sized reed bed, a shallow marshy area with numerous muddy pools, all of which was surrounded by farmland.
The road passed over a small causeway over the embalse and a large parking area can be found to the left of the road. This vist and another later on in the holiday when it rained in the mountains produced some good birds including Black and Griffon Vultures, Black Kite,Spanish Imperial Eagle, Little Bittern, Night Heron, Squacco Heron, Purple Swamp Hen, Red-crested Pochard, Cetti's Warbler, Great Reed Warbler and Savi's Warbler plus many others.
We returned to the E90 and continued south to junction 253 (all junctions are named after the kilometre markers of the road) at Trujillo where we turned off onto the EX208 to Zorita. On reaching Zorita we followed the EX102 to Logrosan where we were to stay for the next week.
After a little difficulty mainly due to a lack of Spanish, we found El Olivo up a side street in the town.
Externally from the street the establishment looked like a small stone terraced house. However, on arriving round to the rear in the car through the remote controlled gates we were pleasantly surprised to see a small fruit orchard, a pigeon coop, chicken run and a small pig sty containing a wild boar. The views over the town were also extremely pleasant.

El Olivo          The dining room          A single room

The owner, Isabel was very welcoming and after realising it was a fiesta day and nowhere would be open for food she produced a little Spanish meal of cured ham and sausages with bread and pigs trotters in olive oil and garlic, washed down with a choice of wine or beer. Anything would have tasted good as we were starving after the journey from Nottingham to Logrosan with only a few sandwiches to eat.
That evening we drove a circuit into the Villuercas mountain range close to Logrosan. We drove east to Canamero then north via the Puerto de Berzocana to Navezuelas. We returned to Berzocana village and back to Logrosan.
The route passed through several habitats such as Cistus and Lavender Heath, Pine woodlands, Sweet Chestnut groves and pasture land. All were rich with common birds such as Woodchat Shrike, Subalpine Warbler, Melodious Warbler and Woodlark.
We returned to El Olivo for another sampling of the wine and beer before retiring to bed in anticipation of the next day.

Day 2:

The Belen Plains On this scorching hot day we decided to visit the Belen Plains and spend the whole day there. We headed back towards Trujillo along the EX102 and EX208. At Trujillo we headed north on the E90 for two junctions and left at junction 240, heading east towards Torreciallas de la Tiesa. After passing through the village of Aldeacentenera we turned right at a set of crossroads onto the plains. We spent the entire day along this road.
Birds were abundant with Crested Lark, Bee Eater, Woodchat Shrike and Hoopoe in good numbers, plenty of Calandra Larks, with Short-toed Lark and Thekla Lark in smaller numbers.
Plenty of raptors circled the plains including, Black Kite, Red Kite and over 100 Griffon Vultures arriving at a carcass with around 5 Black Vultures. Also present were Short-toed Eagle, Marsh Harrier, Montagues Harrier, Buzzard, Golden Eagle, Booted Eagle, Lesser Kestrel and Kestrel. To our surprise a Long-legged Buzzard was pointed out to us after about two miles up the road, by a couple of Spanish birders who had heard about it on the internet.
They also mentioned that another mile or so up the road was a Bald Ibis close to a small pond and Stream where a group of White Storks were nesting.
After scoping the Long-legged Buzzard, the third record for Spain, we headed to the pond where we had reasonable views of the Bald Ibis, second record for Spain, along with Cattle and Little Egrets. A pair of Great Spotted Cuckoos were also resident in the area.
After chatting with yet more Spanish birders who passed on some useful information about Eagle Owl and a Spanish Imperial Eagle nest at Monfrague we left the area by the pool and headed off up the road.
Great Bustard Stopping by the roadside checking out Spanish Marbled White Butterfly, a pair of male Great Bustards flew across the fields to land on the brow of a hill. My first Great Bustard. Towards the end of the plains road we caught up with a feeding group of around 20 more of these birds and heard a Little Bustard, which would not show itself. We eventually ended up back with the Bald Ibis later in the day after walking one of the tracks that leads off at right angles from the main road. Whilst watching a Crested Lark attempting to sing with a beakfull of food we heard the unmistakeable raspberry call of a Little Bustard which we eventually picked out at some distance on the skyline. We watched the bird for a while until it was eventually scared into the long grass by a heard of sheep.
We headed back to El Olivo picking up several Azure-winged Magpies and Spotless Starlinds along the way, both of which are common birds in the area.

Day 3:

Another hot day and a fairly long drive. We decided to take the Trujillo to Monroy road described in Muddeman. We headed out of Trujillo north along the EX208 for approximately 6 Km and turned left to Monroy. The road passed initially through rocky lavender heath where Thekla Larks were singing and then to a small area of farmland. Here we found a large colony of Spanish Sparrows and a Black Vulture sat in a field close to the road.

Hoopoe          Corn Bunting          Crested Lark

Heading further up the road we passed through steppe valleys and rocky dehesa. In the Valleys we saw Little Bustards flying around and feeding plus common birds such as Red-legged Partridge and Hoopoe. We drove up a right turn mentioned in Muddeman and parked at a sharp right hand bend up the road. In a nearby field was a single Great Bustard and along the road were several Great Spotted Cuckoos and a Black-shouldered Kite, our only one of the trip.
The Phantom Raspberry Blower We headed back to the main road, where at the junction whilst listening to a Zitting Cisticola we heard the phantom Raspberry blower again, this time much closer. The bird was feeding and intermittantly displaying in a grassy field quite close to the road, giving excellent views. Continuing along the road we picked up Calandra Lark and several more Litlle Bustard.
The road eventually crossed the Almonte river twice. The first crossing was at a shallow gorge around 3 km south of Monroy. A colony of Crag Martins were busy nest building under the bridge whilst a White Wagtail sang from the top of it.
We passed through Monroy having been unsuccessful in finding lunch there. Everyone was apparently clearing up after the previous days fiesta. Heading north along the EX390 we eventually turned off to Torrejon El Rubio where we had lunch at the restaurant de Monfrague albeit a tad on the expensive side.
Returning to the EX390 we hit the EX373 and headed to Talavan.
Just before the village we turned left at a crossroads to the Embalse de Talavan. This was a pleasant spot not unlike a small version of the inlet at the Embalse de Arrocampo. There was even a hide at the edge of the reedbed.
The area was great for flowers, and birds seen included a singing Great Reed Warbler, Cettis Warbler and Little Grebe.

River Almonte Heading south along the EX390 towards Caceres we again crossed the Almonte river at a steep rocky gorge with two bridges, new and old. Alpine Swifts wheeled around the new bridge and a walk west along the south side of the river turned up Blue Rock Thrush, Subalpine Warbler, a club-tailed dragonfly, Gomphus pulchellus and a long tailed lizard, a Large Psammodromas.
We continued to Caceres heading round the ring road to the N521 towards Trujillo. A short distance along the N521 we turned off to the Embalse de Guadiloba. This turned out to be a recreational site with very few birds and was not worth the visit.
Leaving quickly back to the N521 we continued a further 8 Km or so before turning towards Santa Marta de Magasca (SMDM). Crossing the steppes here were good views of Griffon, Black and Egyptian Vulture both in flight and on the ground.

Azure-winged Magpie The birds were attending a carcass of some sort which was hidden in a dip. Close to the dip was a photographic hide hidden under a tree. Presumably the carrion had been put out to attract the birds.
Further along the road several Montagues Harriers and a Hen Harrier were watched and videod over an arable field before we reached a small area of dehesa woodland that contained Great Spotted Cuckoo, Azure-winged Magpie and close by a Roller sat on a fence post.
Leaving the dehesa the road ran through some more steppe on the left and some pasture to the right. In the pasture we found a group of Pin-tailed Sandgrouse very close to the road. Probably too close because as soon as we stopped the car they quickly flew off.
Apparently the steppe area to the left of the road is quite good according to Muddeman but we did not explore the area due to a lack of time so we returned to El Olivo via the N 521 and Trujillo.

Day 4:

This was an exciting day as it was our first trip to The Parc National de Monfrague. We drove through Trujillo taking the EX208 to Torrejon el Rubio. From here follow the signs to Monfrague. The road winds down into a steep gorge and parking close to a bridge at the bottom of the gorge allows you to walk the Arroyo de la Vid.

Penafalcon We didn't walk the Arroyo on this particular visit but continued past the Castillo to the Penafalcon, a large rock on the far side of the river Tajo. Good viewing can be obtained from the parking area and footpath along the side of the road.
The rock housed plenty of Griffon Vultures sunning themselves in the early morning sunshine. We also saw Egyptian Vulture at the rock plus Blue Rock Thrush, Serin, Rock Bunting and Black Redstart.
An unusual call could be heard from the less impressive rock on our side of the road. Eventually we found the culprit which was Silhouetted high up on the corner of a crag. Still not sure of its identitiy but having an idea we listened to my dads tape of Black Wheatear. Sure enough the mystery bird turned out to be our only view, although not good, of Black Wheatear.
Leaving Penafalcon we headed towards the visitor center at Villa Real narrowly missing a Red Deer that launched itself across the road in front of the car. The visitor center wasn't open when we arrived so we continued along the road taking a right turn towards the dam and the Portilla de Tietar.
We stopped briefly along the roadside and at the Mirador de Tajadilla for nesting Egyptian Vulture and at la Bascula for Azure-winged Magpie. Other birds along the roadside were Subalpine Warbler, Woodchat Shrike and Black-eared Wheatear.

Portilla de Tietar We eventually arrived at the Portilla de Tietar, a large craggy rock face on the far side of the river Tietar. We spent several hours at this spot watching flyover Black Storks, Griffon Vultures, Egyptian Vultures and Booted Eagle. After some searching and a little help we found the Spanish Imperial Eagles nest in the trees to the right of the rocks. Scope views of a parent bird on the nest were pretty good and another adult was seen flying over the area.
We also managed to find the bird I had most wanted to see at Monfrague. An Eagle Owl chick was spotted clambering around the rock face at around midday. We watched the youngster for quite a while before heading back towards the Castillo picking up a map of the area from the now open visitor center on the way.
At the Castillo there are several parking spots but if the weather is hot I would advise driving to the highest parking area as it can be an uncomfortable walk in the heat. Birds found here were Rock Bunting, Rock Sparrow and Chough with Orphean Warbler singing from the roadside trees. Views from the Castillo are quite spectacular along the river Tajo and Vultures and other birds of prey, mainly Black Kites and Booted Eagles can be looked down upon from the castle ramparts.


Views from the Castle Ramparts

Eagle Owl After a while we left the Castillo stopping for an ice cream at the bottom of the steps and headed back to the Portilla de Tietar our favourite spot that day. We stopped briefly in the pine woods near the dam picking up Golden Oriole and Great Spotted Woodpecker on the way.
On reaching the Portilla at around 6 or 7 o clock someone had already found an adult Eagle Owl snoozing high up on the rocks, which, gave excellent views through our scopes. However, a German bloke had a massive scope and looking through this the bird more or less filled the field of view. I managed to snap a couple of pictures down his scope. Two chicks were also visible at around this time. So it is possible to see Eagle Owls without having to wait until the light has almost faded as some trip reports suggest. However, after watching the adult bird for a good 2 or 3 hours it only moved about six feet from its original position until it eventually flew off down the river as the light was disappearing. Just before this momentous occasion Red-necked Nightjars had begun to call but that night we didn't manage to see any, even with plenty of searching up and down the roads closeby. Wearily we headed back to El Olivo for a well deserved snack and some sleep.

Day 5:

Valley in the Villuercas Range In the morning we stayed local and drove up into the hills of the Villuercas range for the second time. We ventured a little further than on our previous visit heading to Molino where we found a lovely walk along a small river which, may have been the upper reaches of the Almonte. The walk is obvious as there is an information sign and parking area just after a bridge and the walk begins at the side of the bridge.
Birds seen here included Black Redstart, Grey Wagtail, Melodious Warbler and Sardinian Warbler but the walk itself was interesting for other animals such as European Pond Terrapin and Marsh Frog. Insects including butterflies such as Small Heath, Speckled Wood and Spanish Festoon were abundant and excellent views of a couple of Broad Bodied Libellula dragonflies were obtained.

Small Heath   Broad-bodied Libellula   Spanish Festoon

Rio Tamuja near Botija In the afternoon we ventured further afield with a drive to Zorita (EX102) then to Herguijuela (EX208), watch out for the speed humps here, where we turned west to Ibahernando, Ruanes and Botija. We stopped at a bridge near Botija overlooking the river Tamuja which was great for common birds and several Rock Sparrows were seen around some ruined huts north of the bridge.
Our next port of call was the Embalse de Salor reached via the EX206 to Toreorgaz then south along a minor road. The inlet end of the reservoir was fairly dry with plenty of open mud on which were Dunlin, Little Ringed and Ringed Plover, Temminck's Stint and fishing in the Embalse were one or two Little Terns.
Continuing to Val de Salor we went south on the N630 towards Merida for about 1 km. We stopped on the west side of the road at the old delapidated bridge described in Muddeman which has recently been renovated. We crossed the dry river ford and headed into the South Caceres Steppe. On the steppe the road forks. We took the right fork which ended up at a crossing over the railway line. The track was pretty bumpy but many common steppe birds were seen plus quite a few Ravens which seemed odd to me.
After carefully crossing the railway line we drove for perhaps half a mile and stopped for a scan around. Not only did we find a Little Bustard but a large flock of 46 Great Bustard feeding on the steppe. One young male bird even attempted to display which was quite amusing as we watched it prance about. The female birds were not impressed. After watching the birds for 30 minutes or so we headed back for sustainance and sleep, plus a couple of beers of course.

Day 6:

We decided to visit the steppes of la Serena plus a few stop off points on the way back on our sixth day. From Zorita we headed south on the EX335 to the N430 where we drove west towards Merida for about 2 km and then south again from Acedera to Orellana la Vieja where we crossed the dam of the Embalse de Orellana. The reservoir was pretty devoid of bird life and not worth a stop. Keeping left we headed to the dam of the Emalse del Zujar which again was dead. We turned left on the EX103 for around 4 km crossing an arm of the embalse then turned right towards Cabeza del Buey. This is the main road across la Serena.


Views Across La Serena

We birded the main road and several rough tracks off to the east of the main road described in Muddeman including the old Civil War track which leads eventually to Cabeza del Buey avoiding the main road. This track is signposted as no entry Fincas only but as suggested in Muddeman we ignored the sign and used the road.
Before reaching any of the side roads we found a group of approximately 20 Collared Pratincoles at a farm pond just before the road is joined by another from the right. The tracks in the north of the area were found to be by far the best for sandgrouse as this seemed to be the only place where there was any standing water. Several small flocks of both species were seen in flight but none on the ground. The sandgrouse were the main event for us but many other steppe birds including good numbers of raptors were seen in the area and several Little Owls could be found standing on small outcrops of rocks.
After eating at Cabeza del Buey we headed back north across the steppe and forked left at the end of the road stopping at the inlet of the Embalse del Zujar where melodious Warblers and a Spectacled Warbler were singing from the broom scrub.

Embalse de Zujar                Rice Fields at Gargaligas

We returned to the N430 turning right to Gargaligas along a minor road which loops round back to the N430. This is a lowland wooded valley along the Rio Gargaligas with agricultural land and rice fields.
Stopping at the first bridge parking where the road turns sharp right we found a small flock of Waxbills along with Serin, various warblers and many singing Nightingales plus a flock of about 20 Tree Sparrows. On the rice fields nearby were small numbers of waders including Dunlin, Redshank, Common Sandpiper and Greenshank.
Further west along the N430 we turned towards Zubaran stopping at another bridge over the Gargaligas. Amongst the commoner birds were around 6 Reed Warblers and small flocks of Red Avadavat coming into the reeds to roost or flying up and down the river.
On the way back to Zorita we drove another private track to the Embalse de Sierra Brava which is used as a gull roost. Numbers of Black-headed Gulls and Gull-billed terns could be seen coming to roost from the rice fields. A pair of Black-tailed Godwits were seen along the shore of the reservoir.
After another good days birding we headed home for an obligatory beer and a good nights sleep.

Day 7:

A second trip to Monfrague was the order of the day visiting the places we stopped at on our first trip there plus a walk along the south shore of the Tajo at Fuente de Frances which produced blinding views of an Egyptian Vulture and a walk along the Arroyo de la Vid. The latter was good for common birds including nesting Bee Eater and Kingfisher.


Fuente de Frances

A walk up to the Castillo produced good views of Rock Sparrow and at the top I had views down over a Bonelli's Eagle as it drifted down the Tajo. La Bascula produced some great views and video oportunity of Azure-winged Magpies as two parties with juveniles fed around the car park. Again Egyptian Vulture were found at the Mirador de Tajadilla and a Black Stork was seen preening on the far side of the river.

Logrosan The final stopping place was at the Portilla de Tietar, mainly to look for Red-necked Nightjar. One or two were heard in the area and eventually as darkness fell I managed to get a sighting of one flying over some scrubby ground on the far side of the river. We travelled back to El Olivo in the dark and after recording the daily log sitting outside with a beer I glimpsed a Barn Owl as it passed overhead.

Day 8:

We left El Olivo and Logrosan for the last time bidding goodbye to Isabel and headed to Trujillo for a look around the old town. A walk around the town produced two interesting species. Firstly hoards of screaming Pallid Swifts were dashing around the main square and circling above the town were around 20 or more Lesser Kestrels. After checking out the castle and having a decent meal at one of the restaurants in the main square we left the town driving north on the E90 to Oropesa at junction 148.
We headed north on the CM5150 through dehesa woodland stopping at the Embalse de Navalcan. The only bird of interest here was a Black Stork in a nearby field.

We continued to Candeleda and the villa at La Lagunilla on the C501 in the foothills of the Gredos Mountains.

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