iBirdz The Gredos Mountains and Surrounds|
Day 8 (continued):
After checking out the villa on our arrival which included connecting up the gas bottles to the cooker and the boiler for hot water we drove to Candeleda and Arenas de San Pedro to the N502, then through Monbeltran to the Puerto del Pico (Pico Pass) at 1352 metres in the Gredos range. Here we had a walk on the east side of the pass in broom and cistus heath alongside a pine wood.
Rock Buntings were common here and other birds seen were Dartford Warbler and Golden Eagle but no Citril Finch which we were hoping for.
Back at the villa whilst sitting outside Scops Owl and Nightjar could be heard.
On our first proper day in the Gredos Mountains we left the villa on the C501 towards Poyales del Hoyo and turned north to Guisando on a narrow but newly surfaced road.
At Guisando we followed the tourist signs to Nogal del Barranco and ended up at a large roundabout with a sculptured Spanish Ibex in the middle of it. From here a good footpath leads up into the mountains towards the Victory Refuge.
The path starts off through Pine Forest where we saw a chocolate coloured Red Squirrel, more Rock Buntings, Serin, Jay, Crested Tit and Firecrest. Leaving the Pine woods we entered an area of rocky broom and cistus scrub alongside the river in the valley bottom. This area was good for, yes, more Rock Buntings, Black Redstart and Blue Rock Thrush. A dipper was also spotted winging its way along the river. Overhead were the occasional Griffon and Black Vulture plus a group of three Ravens and a single Chough.
After returning to the parking area we drove the road to El Hornillio stopping along the way at any likely looking spot in the pines. At one place we found an area rich with flowering
cistus that had attracted several butterflies including Purple Shot Copper, Cardinal, Red-underwing Skipper, Black-veined White and Scarce Swallowtail.
We spent an hour or so videoing the butterflies before continuing to the Puerto del Pico. Along the side of the road (N502) that winds up to the pass we spotted a couple of Ibex feeding at the roadside and duly stopped to video the animals. At the pass we walked the west side through pines and meadows. Here we found Chough, Melodious Warbler, Bonelli's Warbler and Woodlark plus a reasonable selection of flowers before returning to base.
This was to be another day in the mountains so we headed back to the Puerto del Pico, this time crossing the pass and turning left on the C500 to the Parador de Gredos, a site known for Citril Finch. On the way I spotted a Genet crossing the road. It didn't hang around to be captured on video unfortunately.
We spent a good hour at the Parador de Gredos in the hope of finding Citril Finch but with no luck. Other birds were present including Serin, Coal Tit, Firecrest and Black Redstart. We visited the Parador twice more later that day at about 5.30 and 7.30 in the evening and were rewarded with flight views of three Citril Finches at 5.30 although only brief views.
Continuing along the road to Barajas and on to the outskirts of Hoyes del Espino, we turned left at a sign for the Plataforma de Gredos. The road dips down into a wooded valley at the Puente del Duque and at the bridge over the river is a campsite on the right and a parking area to the left. After the parking area is a track into the woods along the river. Here we found Nuthatch, Green and Great Spotted Woodpecker, three or more Pied Flycatchers and several Bonelli's Warblers. The walk was very pleasant.|
Onwards and upwards as we continued up to the Plataforma. Along the road we heard and eventually saw at some distance two singing male Ortolan Buntings. Other birds on the roadside were Grey Wagtail, Linnet, Stonechat and hundreds of Whitethroats.
We stopped at a bridge over a small river at a site mentioned for Bluethroat but only Crag Martin and Grey Wagtail were found.
A little further up the road close to a sheep stockade we stopped to twitch a Rock Thrush pointed out by some German and British birders.
The bird was a nice male but some distance away. However, on stopping for lunch at a pull off further up the road we found a second male
Rock Thrush feeding in the grass at much closer range.
At this point an Ortolan Bunting perched on a rock quite close to the car to be caught on film.|
We finally ended up at the car park at the Plataforma where Rock Buntings enjoy the odd biscuit crumb and more Rock Thrush can be seen. We began to walk the path up to the Cirque de Gredos where a large group of Ibex were heading up the path in front of us. By this time the wind had become very strong making it impossible to hear anything or take any video. We met an english birder heading back down the mountain who pointed out a spot where Bluthroat were nesting in a small dip near to an old ski pull. Apparently he had first found the birds 10 years previous to this.
We walked the short distance to the area and found Water Pipit, Northern Wheatear, Spanish Yellow Wagtail and a beautiful singing male Bluthroat (unspotted form).
After taking some video of the birds we headed back to base birding the roadside along the way.
On the eleventh day of our visit to Spain we headed for a local spot close to our base, found on a minor road north of Candeleda, the Santuario de Nuestra Senora de Chilla. We parked at the Sanctuary and walked one of the many paths above it through Oak woodland and an area of rocky slopes covered with Bracken. The area was good for a few species of butterflies such as Small Copper, Spanish Gatekeeper, Marsh Fritillary and Clouded Yellow. We also found White legged Damselfly (Acutipennis) and more club-tailed Dragonflies of the species Gomphus pulchellus.
The air rang with the sound of Nightingales with other common woodland birds seen being Pied Flycatcher, Great Spotted Woodpecker and Short-toed Treecreeper. We eventually left the woods after meeting up with an old lady, a heard of goats and two extremely large dogs.|
We headed back to the villa, then south to the Embalse de Rosarita which has a sandy shoreline and is surrounded by scrubby hillside. Not much was found over the reservoir except for a black Kite and a couple of Booted Eagles. However, in the scrub at the dam end of the reservoir we found Subalpine Warbler, Serin and Cirl Bunting.
We continued along the CM5102 through open dehesa and agricultural land to the lovely old town of Oropesa. We then followed the CM4100 south over the Tajo at Puente de Arzobispo and shortly after turned left on the CM4104 to Azutan where we crossed the dam of the embalse. The words "nowt there" sprang to mind as it did at most of the embalses.
We continued to Belvis de la Jara turning left on the N502 to Allcandete de la Jara then left on the CM4180 to the inlet end of the Emblase de Azutan. Along the road we had a good sized flock of Cattle Egret practising the ancient art of sheep riding before reaching the embalse. Fortunately this was not a "nowt there" situation. The roadside flora was interesting with a good selection of flowers to be found and several interesting bird species included Montagues Harrier, Purple Heron, Night Heron, Cettis Warbler, Great Reed Warbler and Melodious Warbler. I also spotted a Northern Shoveler out on the reservoir at some distance but it was the only one on the trip.|
Our next port of call was the area of Cholera y Chozas mentioned in Muddeman.
This was supposed to be a good area of steppe to the north and west of the CM4101.
However, as is becoming the case with many areas of steppe in this region of Spain, it had been turned over to arable land and was a complete waste of time. The only birds to be found were a single Little Bustard, a few Bee Eaters, Crested Lark and the very common Corn Bunting.
These birds were mostly in a shallow valley either side of the track mentioned in Muddeman, squeezed between the now arable fields. Unless you are a great fan of Corn Buntings I would suggest that you give the area a miss and stick with some of the more productive sites or those of more interest in the mountains. We returned to base from possibly the least productive day of the trip so far.
A second trip up to the Plataforma was the order of the day. We stopped at the same sites as our first day up to the Plataforma. Similar birds were seen at the Parador except this time we walked in the pine wood below the garden of the Parador where we heard Wryneck and saw Pied Flycatcher plus similar species to the first visit. No Citril Finch this time though.
We visited the Puente del Duque twice once in the morning and then again in the afternoon. The morning walk was interrupted as rain stopped play but the evening walk was brilliant for raptors producing several Booted Eagles a pair of displaying Short-toed Eagles, a Spanish Imperial Eagle that plummeted out of the sky as it stooped at an unknown object and two Hobbies as they passed quickly overhead. A little further up the road produced close views of a Red Kite as it posed for the camera as did a pair of battling Woodlarks at the side of the road.
It continued to rain off and on as we headed up to the Plataforma so we decided not to walk but drove west to Navacepeda de Tormes then shortly after turned north on the AV932 through la Herguijuela to the Puerto de la Pena Negra at 1909 metres. |
We stopped at the highest point in the drizzle aftre my dad had driven up to the pass. His only go on the wrong side of the road as I was propper cream crackered.
The habitat was alpine meadow and held several yellow wagtails and a few larks but bot much else. The most spectacular site was the far side of the pass which was completely engulfed in cloud.
We decided to bite the bullet and walk as far as possible up the Plataforma track to the Cirque de Gredos in the vain attempt on my part to see Alpine Accentor. As luck would have it the rain stopped as we arrived back at the car park and we headed off up the mountain. The path crossed some alpine meadow and mostly wound its way through broom scrub. The meadows were a good spot for Skylark, Spanish Yellow Wagtail, Water Pipit and loads of Northern Wheatear. However the best sightings of the walk were three groups of Ibex. The first was a bunch of young inquisitive males who nosed there way to within several feet of us then ran off after grunting when they got too close. The second group contained an old male with a good set of horns, sitting in the grass. The third group contained a selection of all ages with males and females as they ran high up onto some rocks after being chased by a couple of husky type dogs owned by some old bloke with a donkey who looked and smelled like the old man of the mountains.
Views from the top
The broom scrub contained more Dunnocks than you're likely to see in 100 back gardens back home but these were unfortunately the only accentors we could find. We did however, get excellent views and some video footage a couple of male Bluethroat singing at the side of the path. Other birds included a small flock of Chough, Black Redsart, the odd passing Vulture and a Peregrine Falcon.
We did eventually make it to the view point over the Cirque de Gredos which was worth the walk as it is pretty spectacular scenery up there. So ended another day in the mountains.
We decided to travel away from the mountains as the day had started off raining and there was a lot of cloud over the mountains. We travelled past the Embalse de Rosarita along the C501 and eventually turned right down a canal service road (signed as no entry) along the Tietar valley as far as Tietar del Candillo. The area is all irrigated agricultural land which in some places beside the river was pleasant but the birding was fairly dull to say the least with only very common birds to be seen.
We therefore, decided to try the Embalse de Arrocampo again so headed south through Rosalejo to Navalmoral to join the E90 where we went south to junction 193 and the embalse following the same route as previously.
The embalse is actually next to a nuclear power station and the water must be slightly heated as steam was rising from it in the cold drizzle of the day. Birding here was again pretty good with birds such as Purple Swamp Hen, Night Heron and Little Bittern and flyover Squacco Heron and Gull-billed Tern. We also found a several dragonflies of the species Brachythemis leucosticta which according to the literature are found in North Africa or at most in the most southerly regions of Spain. Perhaps they have moved north due to global warming or the warm waters next to the power station have allowed them to breed there. The dragonflies were settling on the ground and vibrating there wings to warm themselves up in the cool conditions. After spending some time at the embalse and chatting with a fellow Nottinghamshire birder we again hit the E90 as far as junction 207 where we left for the old NV road into the rocky escarpment of Casas de Miravette with its dehesa filled bottom. Here we watched common scrub and woodland birds including Thekla Lark and Sardinian Warbler quite often in the rain.
We passed over the Puerto de Miravette crossing the E90 at junction 219 on the EX386 to Deleitosa then north to Val de Canas de Tajo. On this road we crossed a small river with a walled garden close by mentioned in a trip report for Black Wheatear. We walked up and down the road scouring the gardens for Black Wheaear but did not see any. I am fairly certain I heard a Black Wheatear singing from the rocky hillside above the road so they may be breeding in the area. In the river valley were plenty of Golden Orioles, Crag Martins and Red-rumped Swallows whilst a little further along the road we found a Hawfinch. It was getting late and as the weather was not brilliant we decided to get back for a reasonably early night.
The clouds were again shrouding the mountains but we decided to risk it and headed up the southern slopes of the mountains through Guisando to Nogal del Barranco. We stopped off at Guisando to check out the visitor centre there. Even though the doors were open we were asked to leave as it was a fiesta day and everywhere was to be closed as usual. What a back to front way of going about things. At home on bank holidays etc you would expect places like this to be open for business with lots of people visiting the countryside. We did have good views of Great Spotted Woodpecker and a Nuthatch feeding young close to the small bullring in the town. Driving up the road towards Nogal del Barranco we met up with our only Goshawk of the trip flying in the opposite direction down the road.
My intention was to walk up as high into the mountains as possible to again catch up with Alpine Accentor. Along the way were many of the mountain species previously seen here including Blue Rock Thrush, Black Redstart, Rock Bunting and Raven. I left my parents some way down the track close to a family of three Ibex close to the track and headed up quickly crossing the river towards the Victory Refuge. I climbed fairly high but didn't quite make the refuge as it began to rain heavily. Fortunately I managed to get some brief views of a single Alpine Accentor before I was forced to head back down the mountain to get back to the villa to dry off.
Nogal del Barranco
We dried off and when the rain abated we drove the short distance to the Embalse de Rosarita where we watched Cirl Bunting and Subalpine Warbler. Scanning over the reservoir we noticed some gulls landing on an island in the middle. These were a single Lesser Black Backed Gull and several Yellow-legged Gulls. We also noted a few Cormorants out on the reservoir and on careful scanning of the far banks observed a large colony breeding in the trees there. Numbers were well into the hundreds. The far side of the reservoir appeared to be much better for birds but it was not possible to reach this side by road, probably accounting for why the birds were over that way. We waited around the reservoir in likely looking habitat for Red-necked Nightjar which is supposed to be there according to Muddeman. We saw Buzzard, plenty of Corn Buntings, Sardinian Warbler, Woodchat Shrike and Azure-winged Magpie but no Nightjars so we drove the short distance back to the villa for the night.
Ibex at Nogal del Barranco
We drove from the villa and Candeleda via the Puerto de Navacerrada to Sepulveda north of Madrid. Leaving Candeleda we headed for the Puerto de Pico and continued along the N502 to Avila and the N110 towards Segovia.
From here we turned right on the CL601 via Ildefonso La Granja to the Puerto de Navacerrada at 1860 metres.
On reaching the top of the pass, continue along the main road for a few metres until you reach a car park on the right below a cafe. Park here and check the trees around the car park and down the track at the far end of the parking area. We found Citril Finch almost as soon as we left the car, mainly singing in the trees close to the first sharp left hand bend of the track at the end of the car park. There were probably three pairs and the female of one of these was collecting nesting material for a nest site lower down the track towards some houses.|
There were plenty of birds in the area including Black Redstart, Pied Flycatcher, Coal Tit, Raven and Griffon Vulture, even though the area was packed with tourists from Madrid.
It may be advisable to get there earlier in the morning than we did but this can be difficult if it is only a stopping point between two sets of accommodation.
We left the Puerto de Navacerrada and headed for our last scheduled stop of the trip at Sepulveda to find the elusive Dupont's Lark.