Monday, 8 September 2014

Monfrague area, Extremadura.

A day of Raptor´s right to the end !!!

Stephanie, Ken and I headed North from Trujillo towards the Monfrague Natural Park where our first stop was at Pena Falcon, the well known rock face below the Castle of Monfrague. Stright away we were seeing go numbers of Griffon (Bultre Leonado / Gyps fulvus), a few Black / Cinereous Vultures (Buitre Negro / Aegypius monachus) along with a single Egyptian (Alimoche Común / Neophron percnopterus) which was sat on the rocks above the road. In the same area we had good views of Peregrine Falcon (Halcón Peregrino / Falco peregrinus), Blue-rock Thrush (Roquero Solitario / Monticola solitarius), Black Redstart (Colirrojo Tizón / Phoenicurus ochruros), Crag Martin (Avión Roquero / Ptyonoprogne rupestris), Barn (Golondrina Común / Hirundo rustica) and Red-rumped Swallows (Golondrina Dáurica / Hirudo daurica), heard Wren (Chochin / Troglodytes troglodytes) and watched a fine stag Red Deer (Cervus elaphus) bellowing from the crag just to the right of Pena Falcon.
Once the sun had got up a bit we made our way up to the parking spot just below the castle and walked the steep steps up to the top and spent some time the watching the distant Vultures, White-rumped Swifts (Vencejo Cafre / Apus caffer) and in tre surrounding trees Short-toed Treecreeper (Agateador Común / Certhia brachydactyla), Cirl Bunting (Escribano Soteno / Emberiza cirlus),Woodpigeon (Paloma Torcaz / Columba palumbus), Common Chaffinch (Pinzón Vulgar / Fringilla coelebs), Azure-winged Magpie (Rabilargo / Cyanopica cyanus) and Blackbird (Mirlo Común / Turdus merula).
 We decided to move on and have a look at the furthest watch point along the valley for the main target of the day Spanish Imperial Eagle (Aguila Imperial Ibérica / Aguila adalberti) and let things here warm up and return later.
On our way round to the site we stopped on the roadside where we watched a pair of Golden Orioles (Oropéndola / Oriolus oriolus) chasing each other around some small pine trees and near the dam which the road crosses and watched a pair of Egyptian Vultures, Short-toed Eagle (Culebrera Europeo / Circaetus gallicus) and a Grey Wagtail (Lavandera Cascadena / Motacilla cinerea) before continuing on and parking near the watch point.
As expected there were lots of Griffon and Black Vultures in the air as well as a good number of Crag Martins and a singleton White-rumped Swift. Up on the roadside amongst the scrub we had several Sardinian (Curruca Cabecinegra / Sylvia melanocephala) and Subalpine Warblers (Curruca Carrasquena / Sylvia cantillans), Blackcap (Curruca Capirotada / Sylvia atricailla), Black Redstart, Rock Bunting (Escribano Montesino / Emberiza cia), Spotless Starling (Estornino Negro / Sturnus unicolor) and a flyover Black Stork (Ciguena Negra / Ciconia nigra) but no Eagles. We headed back along the road to the castle and walked back up to the top again but did not see anything new but got some close views of the Griffon Vultures. 
We then headed to the small visitor centre area on the way back to the watch point where we had some lunch before spending another couple of hours not seeing the Eagles at the watch point. The only new thing added was a couple of flyby Two-tailed Pasha (Charaxes jasius) and several perched Red-veined Darters (Sympetrum fonscolombii). 
We moved on via an icecream stop to embalse de Arrocampo-Almaraz but by this time it was quite warmand we only made a brief stop but heard a couple of Purple Swamp-hens (Calamon Común / Porphyrio porphyrio) and saw Little Grebe (Zampullín Común / Tachybaptus ruficollis), Great Cormorant (Cormorán Grande / Phalacrocroax carbo), Grey Heron (Garza Real / Ardea cinerea), Long Skimmer (Orthetrum trinacria) and Scarlet Darter (Crocothemis erythraea). 
We decided to head towards the hotel on the outskirts of Madrid, so we jumped onto the motorway and started the drive. After a while I caught something in the corn of my eye which made me swing off the motorway at the junction we were almost past and on to the service road heading back in the direction we had come from. Just a few hundred meters back and a large raptor came up from behind some low trees on the opposite side of the motorway but it turned out to be just a Booted Eagle (Aguililla Calzada / Hieraaetus pennatus) but I was sure this was not what I had seen so we continued to watch the area and a few seconds later two cracking Spanish Imperial Eagles came into view and showed well for us, a full adult bird and a bird which was probably another adult but with only a very small amout of white in the wings and head. Both birds climbed and drifted off as did the Booted but I was still slightly confused and guessed that there must have been a third imperial eagle at the spot as the bird I first saw and caused the abrupt exit of the motorway at 110KMPH was clearly an immature bird which we did not see but we were very happy with the two adult birds.
We continued our journey and added three Black-winged Kites (Elanio Común / Elanus caeruleus) to the list on the road side pylons which gave us a raptor count of 20 for the trip.
We arrived at the hotel which was right on the side of the motorway and had a very nice evening Menu del dia before a surprising quiet nights sleep.

Photographs from the top: Stephanie and Ken at Pena Falcon, Blue-rock Thrush (Roquero Solitario / Monticola solitarius), White-rumped Swift (Vencejo Cafre / Apus caffer), Griffon Vultures (Bultre Leonado / Gyps fulvus) and Red Deer (Cervus elaphus), The Castle, View from the Castle and 2x Griffon Vultures.

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