This is a birdwatching trip report La Mancha and Serrania de Cuenca from May 29th to June 4th. We arrive to our hotel in the evening of the 29th after a birding trip in the Pyrenees, please find the trip report here.
After having breakfast in our hotel in Villalba de la Sierra, Lee and I have a quick look to the poplar trees behind the hotel and find a beautiful male of Golden Oriole. Next, we set off for the first stop in La Serranía de Cuenca where we watch Alpine and Common Swift, Blue Rock Thrush and Black Redstart. Later, we walk around Uña lagoon seeing Great Reed Warbler, Iberian Green and Great spotted Woodpeckers, Nuthatch, Griffon Vulture, Booted Eagle, Short-toed Treecreeper, Marsh Harrier and Bonelli’s Warbler.
Our next stop is in the Spring of Cuervo River. As we walk along the path we find 4 different species of orchids (Narrow-leaved Helleborine “Cephalanthera longifolia”, Red Helleborine “Cephalanthera rubra”, Green-winged Orchid “Anacamptis morio” and Common Spotted Orchid “Dactylorhiza fuchsii“). It is really worth to visit the area for the beauty of the waterfalls and the interesting limestone formations. Keep in mind that during weekends the Cuervo River can be crowded, so better to visit in a week day.
Regarding birds, during the walk we watch a Booted Eagle taking off from a black pine, Firecrests feeding their fledged chicks, a Jay eating a tasty worm, and an Iberian Chiffchaff. After that, we walk near Vega de Codorno seeing Melodious Warbler, Yellowhammer, Black-eared and Northern Wheatear, Nightingale and Rock Sparrow. As I follow a Hobby with the binoculars, other raptors join; for few minutes there are 5 raptors in the sky! (2 Hobbies, an Egyptian Vulture, a Common Buzzard and a Booted Eagle) What a great place for raptors! We have been listening two different Cuckoos and Lee who is from U.S.A., is very keen to see this European specie. We creep along the meadow to watch the shy Cuckoo fly off. Close where it is, we see a Fallow deer.
We start the day walking along the Júcar River to see a 19th century watermill and some birds such as Iberian Green Woodpecker, Cetti’s Warbler, Nuthatch and Wrens. During the morning we visit the fields around the hotel, seeing Bee-eaters, Black-eared Wheatear, Crested Lark, Woodlark, Rock Sparrow, Orphean Warbler, Crested Tit, Hoopoe, Red Kite, Woodchat Shrike and an Iberian Hare. Then we visit and Las Majadas where we find badger scat, a Melodious Warbler, Crossbills and Yellow Ophrys Orchid “Ophrys lutea” and butterflies such as Adoni’s Blue, Moroccan Orange Tip, Black Veined, Cleopatra, etc.
After having lunch, we visit Beteta to find Bonelli’s Warbler, Short-toed Eagle, Booted Eagle and Griffon’s in their nest looking after their chicks. Nice view! Along the path we also find a Narrow-leaved Helleborine and “Pinguicola mundi”, an interesting endemic Butterwort.
Today we head off to the lagoons of La Mancha. In route we have good views of Montagu’s Harriers. The first stop is in Manjavacas lagoon where we find Fan-tailed Warbler, Marsh Harrier, Shelducks, Gull-billed and Whiskered Terns, Kentish and Ringed Plover, Black-winged Stilt, a Common Redshank and a Little Stint in full summer plumage. Lesser Kestrels hunt in the nearby fields and a Little Owl peer at us from the wall of an abandoned hut. Later, we visit the Lagoons of Pedro Muñoz and find Lapwing, Gadwall, Spotted Starlings, Greater Flamingos and other species seen previously. About noon, we are in the lagoons of Alcázar de San Juan. There, Lee makes the most of two pairs of White Storks and chicks in their nest. We also see juveniles and adults of White-headed Ducks, Black-necked Grebes, Red-crested Pochard, Mediterranean Gull, Black-tailed Godwits, Savi’s Warbler, Bearded Tit, Common Redshank and Wood Sandpiper. In the last lagoon, we find a Black Kite and few pairs of Lesser Kestrel which breed in the area thanks to the construction of a “primillar” (buildings which imitate the countryside houses to allow them to breed there). After that, we drive to our Hotel in Belmonte.
Today we visit the Tablas de Daimiel National Park. A quick stop in the entrance reveals a pair of Penduline Tits, which are really abundant this year in the park. In the same place, we watch about 8 pairs of White Storks in their nest, Great Crested Grebes, Cattle and Little Egret, Purple and Night Herons. Later, during a short walk in the reeds we observe Great and Reed Warblers, Nightingales, Marsh Harriers, Little and Black necked Grebe, Savi’s Warbler, Common Pochards, Squacco Heron, Little Bitterns and Spoonbills in their breeding colony in a group of tamarisk trees. Later, after lunch, we drive around the nearby farmland seeing a beautiful pair of Rollers, Lesser Kestrels, Hoopoe, Crested and Calandra Larks. With already 30ºC, we decide to drive back to the hotel.
At 7:30 p.m. we meet at the bar of the Hotel to have some refreshments with our local contact. He is going to show us a bird which I know Lee is very keen to see. Thirty minutes later, we stand in the opposite cliff of an abandoned quarry watching a chick of an Eagle Owl, what a beautiful view! Besides, Bee-eaters delight us with is beauty. They breed just few meters away from the Eagle Owl. My congratulations to the owners of so well manage hunting ground! We encourage landowners to protect raptors as a tourism resource.
Few minutes after setting off to the South of the province, a large bird fly above us, I say: It’s a Great Bustard; Lee reply:“You are kidding”. No, I am not. There it is, a solitary Great Bustard.
One hour later we are in the Dehesa of Munera where we see Sardinian, Dartford and Spectacled Warbler. That’s fantastic, two new species for Lee. As we drive through the countryside, we find Thekla Lark, more Spectacled Warbler, Booted Eagle, Black and Red Kite, Iberian Grey Shrike, Hoopoe, Spotless Starling, Corn Buntings and Woodlark. After that, we go to the Lagunas de Ruidera Natural Park. In this beautiful spot we watch Purple Heron, Crested Tit, Blue Rock Thrush, Great Crested Grebe, Azure-winged Magpie, Ocellated Lizards and a wide variety of butterflies: Small Tortoiseshell, Red Admiral, Western Dappled White, etc.
Again, the temperature is over 30ºC, so we go to the Hotel to rest after 14 following day birding around Spain.
I strongly recommend visiting La Mancha and Serranía de Cuenca. Both are superb areas for birding and are unfairly overlooked as a birding destination. I hope you find useful this birdwatching trip report La Mancha.
Have a nice day