Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Trujillo, Monfrague and the Belen Plain, Extremadura.

A day in the hills and woodlands of the Monfrage Park.
Donana and Extremadura tour Day five.

We got up and headed out of Trujillo going north but not before starting the list in the main square with Common Swift (Vencejo Común / Apus apus), White Stork (Ciguena Blanca / Ciconia ciconia), Spotless Starling (Estornino Negro / Sturnus unicolor), House Sparrow (Gorrión Común / Passer domesticus), Feral Pigeon (Paloma Bravía / Columba livia), Lesser Kestrel (Cernicola Primilla / Falco naumanni), Jackdaw (Grajilla / Corvus monedula), Collared Dove (Tórtola Turca / Streptopelia decaocto) and Barn Swallow (Golondrina Común / Hirundo rustica).
Just out of the town we made a stop to look at the first Iberian / Southern Grey Shrike (Alcaudón Real Meridional / Lanius meridionalis) of the trip and also picked up Corn Bunting (Triguero / Emberiza calandra), Common Stonechat (Tarabilla Común / Saxicola torquata), Red-rumped Swallow (Golondrina Dáurica / Hirudo daurica), Mallard (Anade Azulón / Anas platyrhynchos), European Bee-eater (Abejaruco Común / Merops apiaster), Common Magpie (Urraca / Pica pica) and Thekla Lark (Cogujada Montesina / Galerida theklae). We also had a very smart Lineria species and a Catapillar which is unidentified at the moment but working on it.
We again continued on and made a stop at the bridge over the Rio Tozo and checked to pools rocks and banks for new species and we did quite well adding Common Cuckoo (Cuco Común / Cuculus canorus), Woodchat Shrike (Alcaudón Común / Lanius senator), Zitting Cisticola (Buitrón / Cisticola juncidis), Iberian / Azure-winged Magpie (Rabilargo / Cyanopica cyanus), Blackbird (Mirlo Común / Turdus merula), Great (Carbonera Común / Parus major), Blue (Herrerillo Común / Parus caeruleus) and Long-tailed Tits (Mito / Aegithalos caudatus), Hoopoe (Abubilla / Upupa epops), House Martin (Avión Común / Delichon urbica), Goldfinch (Jilguero / Carduelis carduelis), Common Chaffinch (Pinzón Vulgar / Fringilla coelebs), Black Kite (Milano Negro / Milvus migrans), Cetti's (Ruisenor Bastardo / Cettia cetti) and Reed Warbler (Carricero Común / Acrocephalus scrpaceus) and Spanish Sparrow (Gorrión Moruno / Passer hispaniolensis) as well as White Wagtail (Lavandera Blanca / Montacilla alba) and Kingfisher (Martin Pescador / Alcedo atthis) which were new for the trip. In the same area we could hear quite a lot of Perez's Frogs (Rana Común / Pelophylax perezi) calling from amongst the Water Crowsfoot in the main stream. 
We moved a short way along the road and stopped again at the bridge over the Rio Almonte and saw Crag Martin (Avión Roquero / Ptyonoprogne rupestris), Common Sandpiper (Andarrios Chico / Actitis hypoleucos), Greenfinch (Verderón Común / Carduelis chloris) and heard several Nightingales (Ruisenor Común / Luscinia megarhynchos) before moving on to the crags of Pena Falcon. We parked and scanned the cliffs from the walkway and had nice views of a good number of Griffon Vultures (Bultre Leonado / Gyps fulvus), a calling pair of Peregrine Falcons (Halcón Peregrino / Falco peregrinus), Black Redstart (Colirrojo Tizón / Phoenicurus ochruros), Blue-rock Thrush (Roquero Solitario / Monticola solitarius), Black Stork (Ciguena Negra / Ciconia nigra) which was sat on a nest down close to the water, a very distant European Black Vulture (Buitre Negro / Aegypius monachus) which was also sat on a nest near a Griffons, Wren (Chochin / Troglodytes troglodytes), Grey Heron (Garza Real / Ardea cinerea) and a nice Rock Bunting (Escribano Montesino / Emberiza cia) which sang from a close tree. On the rocks there were quite a few clumps of Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea), lots of French Lavender (Lavandula stoechas), Great Mullein (Verbascum giganteum) and what looked like Branched Asphodel (Asphodelus ramosus).
We spent a while here watching the raptors before driving up to the car park below the steps up to the Castillo nearby, Pam set up her painting kit in a nice spot at the far end of the car park and John did some birding in the same area whilst the rest of us went up the steps to the castillo and spent some time watching the Vultures from there. From the top we had great views of Griffon, Black and a more distant Egyptian Vulture (Alimoche Común / Neophron percnopterus), Blue Rock Thrush, House and Crag Martins, Red-rumped Swallow, Black Kite and a male Cirl Bunting (Escribano Soteno / Emberiza cirlus) plus a couple of Wall Brown (Lasiommata megera) butterflies.
We were all surpriised to find a guy on the top selling icecreams and as her had mad so much effort to get it up there it would have been rude not to support his enterprise so wit did and I took two down the steps at high speed as they were melting fast for John and Pam down at the van. With the Icecreams safly delivered the group started to walk down the hill whilst I stayed with Pam so that she could put the finishing touches to a super painting of the Thistle plants that grew at the side of the track, once all was completed we picked the others up on the way down and went on around to the lng bridge over the Rio Tajo and parked on the far side.
From the bridge we watched the hundreds of House Martins as the whizzed around their nests on the underside of the bridge and picked up the first Alpine Swifts (Vencejo Real / Apus melba) of the trip in amongst them.
Our next stop was for lunch at a cafe just up the road and whilst we had a drink and a sandwich we watched a pair of Barn Swallows building their nest in the corner of the seating area on a light fitting. As we walked back to the van we also added a single Red Kite (Milano Real / Milvus milvus) to the list as it circled away with several Blacks. Down the road a short distance we had great views of at least 5 Egyptian Vultures before reaching the furthest of the view points where we spent quite a while trying to get decent views of the Spanish Imperial Eagles (Aguila Imperial Ibérica / Aguila adalberti) at this spot but on this occation we only managed head and partial body views as the bird was obsured by lots of branches. The only other new species for the day list was a Short-toed Eagle (Culebrera Europeo / Circaetus gallicus) which drifted over, we stayed at the spot for quite a while but the decided that we would head back to Trujillo and go out on to the Belen Plain nearby. We went through the village of Belen and out on to the vast area of grassland on its eastern side and scanned the fields. We soon located a fine male Great Bustard (Avutarda Común / Otis tarda) which was strutting his stuff on a slope across the valley from us but not long after we got on to it a couple of 4x4 vehicles came along a track close to the bird and it flushed a long with two more birds which had been just out of sight to us in a small dip. We had nice flight views and later found the birds again on our way back to the hotel, in the smae area we had lots of Calandra Larks (Calandria / Melanocorypha calandra), Raven (Cuervo / Corvus corax) and we heard several Common Quail (Codorniz Común / Coturnix coturnix) and a single Little Bustard (Sisón Común / Tetrax tetrax) before returning to Trujillo and having our evening meal and hitting the pit after another enjoyable day.

Photographs from the top: Griffon Vulture (Bultre Leonado / Gyps fulvus), Rock Bunting (Escribano Montesino / Emberiza cia), European Black Vulture (Buitre Negro / Aegypius monachus), Catapillar species, Lineria species, 2x the gang birding at Pena Falcon, Pam enjoying the quiet and her paints, Pam enjoying an Icecream, the finished Thistle artwork, the view from the Castillo at Monfrage, Judy and Mike at the top of the tower, Common Chaffinch (Pinzón Vulgar / Fringilla coelebs), the group at the far view point waiting for better views of the Spanish Imperial and a Barn Swallow (Golondrina Común / Hirundo rustica) after arranging a lump of mud in the nest.




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