iBirdz      The Duraton Gorge
Day 15 (continued)

Sepulveda We next headed back to the N110 east for two junctions and turned left on the CL601 for about 6 km before turning right on the C603 to Turegano. After around 10 km we headed right along the SG231 and then onto the SG232 to Sepulveda.

There are excellent views of the town from a stopping point along this road. After confirming that we had rooms at the Hostal de Sepulveda just outside of the town we headed back to the roundabout of the SG232 through a tunnel which passes under the town and headed up the minor road to Villar de Sobrepena. There are some good views over the Duraton Gorge from this road and on stopping at one point we had great views of Egyptian and Griffon Vultures over the gorge.

Thekla Lark Along the track to the Ermita
The Duraton Gorge

After about 3 km we turned right to the village of Villaseca where we turned left just before the church onto the rough track that takes you to the Ermita de San Frutos.
The track runs through arable farm land to a dip through a dry stream bed then uphill to rocky dwarf srub followed by more farmland before reaching the Ermita.
The entire length of the track turned up some interesting birds but on the first day here we drove initially to the Ermita and watched the Vultures over the gorge which gave spectacular views. Along the track were plenty of larks, in fact all of the species we had seen elsewhere on the trip. Skylark, Calandra Lark and Crested Lark were found mainly on the arable land whilst Thekla Lark and Short-toed Lark were numerous in the rocky scrub. Woodlark were mainly around the Ermita itself. It was beginning to get dark and we had neither seen or heard Dupont's Lark at this point.
I think this was mainly due to the heavy traffic of speedy cars from Madrid hacking up and down the track. Once the traffic had abaited we heard the unmistakeable but weird song of Dupont's Lark at some points very close to the road.

We had been given advice that staying in the car was the best approach but we had no luck even though we could virtually pinpoint where the nearest bird was. Eventually I noticed a slight movement in the middle of a clump of Asphodels which I can only assume was Dupont's as this was the best view we had that evening. As the light fell I decided to leave the car and get close to the bird. Of course the bird managed to vacate the area without being seen and I arrived at an empty clump of Asphodels. Oh well there was always tomorrow.
We headed back to the Hostal for a less than average meal, apart from the price and went to bed.

Day 16

Dupont's Lark Another day on the trail of Dupont's Lark. We left Sepulveda on the SG241 towards Uruenas and after about 5 km turned left to Castrillo de Sepulveda. In Castrillo we turned left again to Villaseca where we again headed up the track to the Ermita de San Frutos. Our plan was to sit in the car close to where we had heard the larks the night before but we had been beaten to the spot by a group of Danish birders who unfortunately left their vehicle and walked the roadside and a little way into the scrub.
At least two birds could be heard but there was no chance of a sighting with so many people out and about. Eventually the Danes left and we settled into our spot. A Dupont's Lark began singing followed by at least two more but from a distance away.
After waiting for a while the song of one bird came closer and eventually the bird flew up into the air treating us to a short display flight. After more waiting the song was so loud the bird must have been close but as usual it was difficult to find. However, we had our secret weapon. My mum, expert Dupont's Lark spotter as tried and tested in Morocco earlier in the year. She found the bird which eventually perched up on a rock giving great views. We watched this bird for probably a couple of hours until around 11 o clock. It appears that the birds will sing and show well quite late into the morning if the area is quiet.
In the Duraton Gorge In the afternoon we drove through Villar de Sobrepena to the river Duraton in the gorge. The gorge is populated with Poplar and Willow riverine woodland and riverside meadows.
We stopped in a parking place close to the bridge over the river for a quick snack. I had to pay a visit for a call of nature down by the river. This was a stroke of luck as I found three species of orchid in the meadow; Yellow Bee Orchid, Early Spider Orchid and Sword-leaved Helleborine. These were found along with a great profusion of other common flowers.
A walk alongthe river in both directions revealed many common birds, more flowers and Adonis and Common Blue Butterflies.
The main path along the river is only passable for a few hundred yards upstream as it is a conservation area. This is probably as there are breeding Griffon and Egyptian Vultures in the crags fairly low down along the river. Chough and Raven were also seen in the area.

Sword-leaved Helleborine       Early Spider Orchid       Yellow Bee Orchid

We headed back to the Ermita track in the evening for more decent views of Dupont's Lark plus all of the other Lark species evident in the area. In the evening the area was excellent for good views of low flying vultures heading back to roost in the gorge. On returning along the track we heard a pair of Stone Curlews as the light became dimmer but could not get a sighting of them.

Panoptes Blue Day 17

Our last morning of the holiday was again spent along the track to the Ermita where once again Dupont's Lark were present and singing. By now I was more interested in getting some video footage of the other larks and species in the area. We had become a bit Blasť to the star bird of the area. Along the track we found a Roe Deer along the dry stream bed and a big Wild Boar was seen running across the scrub in the area we found best for Dupont's Lark.
We had a walk down to the Ermita for a look at the vultures nesting in the gorge and found a small flock of Rock Sparrows and a couple of Black Redstarts around the Ermitage.
Along the track were singing Woodlark and a single Cirl Bunting. The flowers around the Ermita were interesting and in the nearby scrub were many Panoptes Blue Butterflies, a small pretty metallic blue butterfly.


The Ermita de San Frutos and The Duraton Gorge

After listening to our last bit of Dupont's song we headed back to the Hostal to collect our luggage and some home made cheese and cured ham sandwiches for the journey before heading for Madrid and home.

Puerto de Navafria We took the SGP2322 south to La Matilla and Pedraza de la Sierra through Juniper scrub where we spotted common birds such as Woodchat Shrike. We found some large stands of Green-winged Orchid just after leaving the hilltop town of Pedraza.
Next we headed south along the N110 turning right and then left towards Navafria and the Puerto de Navafria. We parked at the top of the pass at 1778 metres on the SG612, for lunch and watched Citril Finch and Pied Flycatcher around the car park. We had a short walk in the pines but found it to be a bit nippy weather wise so we continued our journey over the pass along the M637 (previously the SG612), stopping briefly for views of a flock of Crossbills and a Short-toed Treecreeper in the pines and lower down we stopped in a Pyrennean oak woodland that contained Bonelli's Warblers in good numbers singing all over the woods. We eventually reached the M604 near Lozoya and continued to the E5 south to Madrid.
The flight was delayed for about two hours as the french air traffic control were on strike (nothing new there) so we eventually arrived back in Luton after a noisy flight (Spanish like to talk alot) in the early hours of the morning. Luton to Nottingham was quick and easy as there was little traffic on the road so we got home at about 3 in the morning. I dropped my parents off and went home to sleep and dream about Dupont's Larks and Eagle Owls.

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