Spain 2015.

Phil Bristow, Mike Powell, Rich Andrews and I flew to Madrid from Bristol on the evening of March 5th and stayed the night in a hotel outside the Spanish capital. We were up at dawn and saw our first Serins as we loaded the car. Spotless starlings, Black kites, Corn buntings and several nesting White storks were seen en route to the Embalse de arrocampo, a large lake near a nuclear power station.  At the lakeside, numerous Cetti's warblers were singing and a fall of at least 50 Chiffchaffs saw many feeding on the ground. A few Sardinian warblers were singing and Zitting cisticola's were displaying over the reeds. Mike alerted us to a pair of small birds that had alighted on some taller reeds and we were surprised to find that they were Common waxbills, a bird I had never seen before but are not truly wild, being from an escaped cagebird population. As the sun rose, warming the frost from the grass, raptors started looming overhead. Black and Red kites, Marsh harriers and both Griffon and Black vultures. A flock of 40 Common cranes flew north and a Purple swamphen gave close but obscured views in the reeds. A few butterflies were on the wing, such as Small heath and Western dappled whites and an early Lesser emperor dragonfly was warming up on some brambles.
                                         Common cranes
                                         Black vulture
                                          Lesser emperor.
                                          We then visited a known Orchid site and found good examples of Milky and Naked man orchid. Above us were 100+ Griffon vulture, 20 Black vulture and another northbound flock of Common cranes. Our first Iberian azure winged magpies of the trip were feeding under the Cork oaks and 3 Black storks flew by. More butterflies were about including Clouded yellow, Mallow skipper, Wall brown and Small copper. Mike pointed out some Spanish catchfly in flower, a rare plant in Britain.
                                         Naked man orchid
                                          Black stork

                                         We then made our way to Trujillo, our base for the rest of the trip. Stopping at a pool on the outskirts, a flock of 120 Common crane flew overhead "honking" , a pair of Red rumped swallow hawked insects over the pool and a Large tortoiseshell butterfly was a new species for me. After booking into our hostel we headed out to Belen plain in search of Bustards. 4 Little bustard were seen a bit too distant for decent photos in the heat haze and 14 Great bustard were seen. Crested and Calandra larks were singing and displaying and 3 Spoonbill were on a small pool. Our first Iberian grey shrike of the trip was here and 2 Little owl and a Great white egret showed well.

                                          Calandra lark
                                         Crested lark.

                                         Outside our digs thousands of Spotless starlings were flying randomly around the rooftops in an obviously different way of the pre-roost flocking of our Common starlings back home. Pallid swift and Lesser kestrels were also seen from the roof and a Black redstart was singing away.
                      The morning of the 7th found us at Magasca in  frosty dawn light. A flock of 10 Black bellied sandgrouse contained one Pin tailed sandgrouse and amongst the morning cacophony of singing Corn buntings, Calandra and Crested larks we found 18 displaying Great bustards. On the way out we saw an Imm male Hen harrier, a flock of 200+ Spanish sparrows and a Black kite preening on a post.

                                           Great bustards
                                            Black kite.

                                         We then drove to Monfrague, a huge river gorge with 1000's of breeding Vultures. An imm Spanish imperial eagle as we arrived was the only one of the trip. We walked up to the Penafalcon viewpoint and I was disappointed to see the old church on top had been refurbished, so no holes in the walls for the Rock sparrows that I saw there on my last visit. Hawfinches were flying around the trees below us and Rock buntings and Blue rock thrushes were singing. Bonelli's and Short toed eagles were seen amongst the many Vultures and on the way down we saw Short toed treecreeper, Hummingbird hawkmoth and Nettle tree butterfly.

                                          Monfrague from Penafalcon
                                           Blue rock thrush
                                          Griffon vultures nest building
                                          Spanish imperial eagle
                                          Rock bunting.

                                          Nettle tree butterfly.

                                          We made our way back to Trujillo to see the Lesser kestrel colony on the bullring roof and got amazing views in the afternoon light. A few more Pallid swift were seen and from the car on the way to Magasca, a Great spotted cuckoo flew by. A freshly dead cow at Magasca had attracted 2 Griffon and a Black vulture, all of which were too full to take of, so they ran off instead! very Jungle book! The day ended with 32 Great bustard, 30+ Black bellied sandgrouse and 2 Marsh harrier.
                                           Lesser kestrel
                                            Trujillo bullring
                                           A full Black vulture
                                               Trujillo square.

                                          Dawn on the 8th found us at Montanchez castle, a known wintering site for Alpine accentor. 3 Accentors duly obliged but kept in the shadows, out of the rising sun, making decent photos difficult. Eventually we got quite close to them and good views and shots were had. Hoopoes and Black redstarts were singing, House martins and Pallid swifts  were overhead and several Hummingbird hawkmoths were nectaring in the sun.

                                          Alpine accentor
                                          View from Montanchez castle.

                          On to the Embalse de alange and stunning views of Alpine Swifts and Crag martins were had from the dam. The birds were flying in just feet below us. A pair of Bonelli's eagle flew over and a walk around the crags gave us a lovely displaying Black wheatear. Also there were singing Thekla larks and Blue rock thrushes. New butterflies for the trip were Cleopatra and African grass blue.

                                           Alpine swift
                                           Black wheatear
                                           Thekla lark

                        A stop at the lake at Sierra brava gave us a Black necked and Great crested grebes and a flock of Shoveler and Swallowtail butterflies were by the dam. Cattle egrets, Red legged partridge, Hen harrier and 5 Great bustards were in nearby fields and 25 Garganey were found on a roadside pool.
                        Back at Trujillo, we had to have another stop at the bullring. The Lesser kestrels were busy fighting over nesting holes and a Zitting cisticola landed right by me in the evening light.

                                           Lesser kestrel
                                           Zitting cisticola
                                           Spanish fox.

                  The 9th saw us at Magasca for another frosty dawn. An Iberian grey shrike showed well and we saw 3 different flocks of Great bustard. Also there were 12 Black bellied sandgrouse and 22 Pin tailed sandgrouse. A village shop stop gave me the chance to photograph a pair of White storks displaying on their nest and a female Hen harrier flew by.

                                            Iberian grey shrike
                                            Spotless starlings
White storks
Pin tailed sandgrouse.
On the way to the Gredos mountains, a stop at Jaraejo gave us plenty of Dartford warbler, a few Woodlark and a very brief Spectacled warbler. From the car a long line of lamp posts had boxes fitted for Lesser kestrels, a few LK were using them, along with Jackdaws, Spotless starlings and a Little owl. At the summit of Gredos 4 Citril finch were spotted by Mike but I only saw them flying up into the trees. Better views were had of Crested tit and Golden eagle though. A family of Spanish ibex were grazing as we drove back and on the road to the airport 2 Great spotted cuckoo and 5 Black winged stilt finished off a great spring trip.
                                            Great bustards
Spanish Ibex, Gredos.



Darren Coombs said...

Lovely write-up and some great shots Sid. Sounds like you had a great trip!

Lee G R Evans said...

Excellent report and images. Can you kindly email me the details for Magasca and the Alpine Acc wintering site. Many thanks, Lee Evans -