Thursday, 5 May 2016

Belen Plain, Santa Marta de Magasca area, Extremadura.

Bustards, Sandgrouse and Eagles.
Donana and Extremadura tour Day Six.

We again met out on the steps above the main square in Trujillo and whilst we were waiting for the group to assemble we picked up the expected Common Swift (Vencejo Común / Apus apus), White Stork (Ciguena Blanca / Ciconia ciconia), Spotless Starling (Estornino Negro / Sturnus unicolor), Barn Swallows (Golondrina Común / Hirundo rustica), House Sparrows (Gorrión Común / Passer domesticus), Jackdaw (Grajilla / Corvus monedula) and Feral Pigeons (Paloma Bravía / Columba livia).
Our first stop was out on the Belen Plain, on the way we had Corn Bunting (Triguero / Emberiza calandra), Iberian / Azure-winged Magpie (Rabilargo / Cyanopica cyanus), Woodchat Shrike (Alcaudón Común / Lanius senator) and Common Magpie (Urraca / Pica pica) and once there we quickly located the first of the days Great Bustards (Avutarda Común / Otis tarda) as well as loads of Calandra (Calandria / Melanocorypha calandra) and Crested Larks (Cogujada / Galerida cristata), more feeding White Storks,  a calling Hoopoe (Abubilla / Upupa epops), a Grey Heron (Garza Real / Ardea cinerea) which flapped across in the distance, European Bee-eater (Abejaruco Común / Merops apiaster) and a grounded Griffon Vulture (Bultre Leonado / Gyps fulvus) which was sat on a rock a couple of hundred meters away. We continued on down the road and parked again, this time we were in a slight dip but we scanned the area again and found a good number of Cattle Egrets (Garcilla Bueyera / Bubulcus ibis), Raven (Cuervo / Corvus corax), Common Buzzard (Busardo Ratonero / Buteo buteo), Black Kite (Milano Negro / Milvus migrans), Red-rumped Swallow (Golondrina Dáurica / Hirudo daurica), Mallard (Anade Azulón / Anas platyrhynchos), Iberian / Southern Grey Shrike (Alcaudón Real Meridional / Lanius meridionalis), a fly through Black-winged Stilt (Ciguenela Común / Himantopus himantopus) and then two nice new species for the trip, first a brief view of a flying Little Bustard (Sisón Común / Tetrax tetrax) and then a Great Spotted Cuckoo (Crialo Europeo / Clamator gladarius) which was sat on a fence post on the far side of the fields in front of us, later we saw this and another bird in flight.
We retraced our way back along the road and stopped at another spot on the way back where we had good prolonged views of a calling male Little Bustard and a couple more Great Bustards but they were along way off over the fields. 
We continued on out on to the fields to the west of Trujillo and as soon as we came of the main road and out on to the quiter roads and tracks we satrted to find some intersting species including a small flock of 6 Black-bellied Sandgrouse (Ganga Ortega / Pterocles orientalis) which landed just out of sight in the next field to where we were. In the same area we had several Lesser Kestrels (Cernicola Primilla / Falco naumanni), Rollers (Carraca / Coracias garrulus) and a fine male Montagu's Harrier (Aguilucho Cenizo / Circus pygargus) which flapped low over the same area. 
We moved on along the next road and spent quite a while searching for Great Bustards but could not find any on the ground and only managed a brief flight view, we did however see and hear Calandra and Crested Larks, Gadwall (Anade Friso / Anas strepera), European Black (Buitre Negro / Aegypius monachus) and Griffon Vultures (Bultre Leonado / Gyps fulvus) which due to the cloudy weather were quite low, Common Quail (Codorniz Común / Coturnix coturnix), Zitting Cisticola (Buitrón / Cisticola juncidis) and then a very smart immature Golden Eagle (Águila Real / Aquila chrysaetos) which was sat on a large concrete post a long way off but did a nice flyby and cam quite a bit closer and flushed a Little Bustard as it came. We continued on along the track then spotted a largish group of Black Kites and a single Red Kite (Milano Real / Milvus milvus) low over a stubble field harrasing a much larger raptor which turned out to be an immature Spanish Imperial Eagle (Aguila Imperial Ibérica / Aguila adalberti) which flew off low but quickly to get out of their way. We continued on around the track to where we thought the Eagle had dropped but found no sign of it. We turned around and made our way back to the motorway and then along one junction west to a bar for lunch. 
Later we went back to the same track we had just left to check the roadside hide that we had seen earlier but was swamped by a coach load of birder at the time. We arrived and scanne the surrounding fields and picked up two more Great Bustards, Rollers, and on a pool down in a nearby dip Gadwall and Little Grebe (Zampullín Común / Tachybaptus ruficollis). 
The weather had taken a turn for the worst so we headed back towards Trujillo but as things improved we took a side road and checked the oak woodlands and fields along its length until we reached a village where we turned around, along this stretch of road we had the largest female Goshawk (Azor Común / Accipitor gentillis) I have ever seen sat on a post, then in a tree and in flight, as well as Rock Sparrow (Gorrión Chillón / Petronia petronia), Iberian / Southern Grey Shrike, Serin (Verdecillo / Serinus serinus), Common Chaffinch (Pinzón Vulgar / Fringilla coelebs), Sardinian Warbler (Curruca Cabecinegra / Sylvia melanocephala), yet another Great Bustard, Common Kestrel (Cernicalo Vulgar / Falco tinnunculus) and a couple of Iberian Brown Hares (Lepus europaeus / capensis). As we drove back we took a drive along a track we had spotted on the way out which turned out to be one of the best choises we were to make during the trip.
We stopped on a low ridge which gave us nice views all around and had the best views so far of a Great Bustard, a soaring Short-toed Eagle (Culebrera Europeo / Circaetus gallicus) and then the birds of the day, Judy picked up a couple of Sandgrouse in flight which we all thought would be more Black-bellied but then they turned and showed us bright white underparts confirming them to be the much more difficult to find Pin-tailed Sandgrouse (Ganga Ibérica / Pterocles alchata) and if this was not good enough another four soon followed and landed in the same area but in to grass that was just too deep for us to see them. A couple of minutes later we had a large eagñe species flying away from us which looked too dark to be Golden again but we could not be sure what it was until  a few minutes later when it flew back towards us and landed in a large Ecalyptus tree and showed well giving us a chance to see all the white markings on the shoulders and in the wings telling us 
it was infact an adult Spanish Imperial. It later flew off away from us and was joined by a second adult bird which landed in a distant bush but soon moved on again. This was a fantastic way to finish the day.
Photographs from the top: Rollers (Carraca / Coracias garrulus), Lesser Kestrel (Cernicola Primilla / Falco naumanni), some of the group looking for Great Bustards, Hoopoe (Abubilla / Upupa epops), Calandra Lark (Calandria / Melanocorypha calandra), Iberian Brown Hare (Lepus europaeus / capensis), a soggy looking Iberian / Southern Grey Shrike (Alcaudón Real Meridional / Lanius meridionalis), Clover species probably part of a fodder crop, Another of Pams lovely paintings, this one is of Purple Bugloss (Echium plantagineum) and Me trying to get up after photographing the Clover and probably loosing my mobile phone at the same time!!!

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