I am regular visitor of the Cantabrian mountains and Picos de Europa. As a result, I have spent many summers searching for its wonderful wildlife. Here you can read my last wildlife trip report in the Cantabrian Mountains.
We usually run two types of wildlife tours. In June, we start leading natural history tours mainly consisting of orchids, butterflies, birds, etc. and during September, the itineraries are more focus on mammals: wildcat, Iberian wolf and brown bear.
Dates: June 25-July 1st
The group arrives on time to Santander airport and soon we are in the minibus heading to our accommodation in Boca de Húergamo. After 2 h 40 min journey, everyone is willing to stretch the legs before dinner. We walk around the surroundings of the hotel watching Serins, Black redstarts and two White storks in the nest. Mike finds a Hummingbird-hawk moth in a honeysuckle. After that, we stroll down to the river when Pau finds an adult Dipper feeding three grown-up chicks. On the way back, we take another path to see the beautiful Lilium martagon.
We set off at 9:00 driving South to the village of Crémenes. Soon we see the first orchids: Lizzard, Pyramidal and Woodcock orchids. Sadly, the Sawfly orchids are almost over. Black kites, Griffon vultures and Common buzzard patrol the sky and the nearby farms looking for some carcass. As the temperature warms up, we start finding the first butterflies: Clouded yellow and Berger’s clouded yellow, Spotted fritillary, Small tortoiseshell and a Heath fritillary which finds Edward’s T-shirt a good place to land.
Just few of us, manage to see an Iberian chiffchaff which keeps jumping from branch to branch. After that, we continue walking along a small stream watching a Beautiful damselfly and few more species of butterflies: Green-vein white, Adoni’s blue, Essex and Small skippers. Not far from there, we add two more species of orchids: Small-tongue orchid and Green-winged orchid, the last one almost over.
We get back to the vehicles and drive a short distance to a picnic area. As we are enjoying our salads and local cheese, Jenny gets her eyes in two birds which turn to be an Egyptian vulture and a Peregrine falcon. The grass in the picnic area hasn’t been cut yet and therefore, there are lots of gorgeous butterflies such as Iberian Marbled white, Dark-green and Cardinal fritillaries.
Once we have finished lunch, we drive for 20 minutes to our next location. Here the landscape is a bit more Mediterranean, and so are the birds! We enjoy great views of the colourful Bee-eaters and a Red-back shrike. Sadly, just Pau see a Short-toed eagle after it vanishes behind the hill. In addition, we all see a Melodious warbler singing on the top of a bush and an Iberian green woodpecker flying from tree to tree. Some new butterflies include Silver-studded, Long-tailed and Little blue, Large and Oberthür’s grizzled skipper.
Today we have a long drive (1 h 40 min) to Fuente Dé. Once we get there, Pau rushes to get the tickets so the waiting time is just 30 min. Meanwhile, we wander around watching a beautiful Firecrest and a Coal tit. In addition, there are large numbers of Painted lady which have been pushed to Europe as a result of the heat wave a few days ago.
Once we get out of the cable car, we soon find some alpine plants. For instance, Trumpet gentian and the Pyrenean toadflax. We continue walking and taking photos of “cheeky” Alpine chough and we are rewarded with the sight of a Lammergeier. That is fantastic! It is even possible to see the numbers in the wing tags as most of the birds in this area are part of a restocking programme. During the winter 2020, a pair of Lammergueiers have mate and laid an egg. This is the first breeding attempt in many decades. Let’s hope they succed!
We keep moving as we have more birds to see, but before we get to the spot, Pau sees a Southern Chamois resting among the boulders. Once we get to the “wall”, we wait for 30 min until two Snow finches show up. After that, we stop in another area to scan the walls, finding a Wallcreeper, that is great! It keeps hiding just showing for seconds.
While we wait to get better views of the Wallcreeper, Pau finds two approachable Alpine accentors. Finally, the Wallcreeper remains on view and all the group gets good sight of this stunning bird. The breeze carries the butterflies away and makes difficult to spot any of them, just finding a Common blue and a Common Brassy ringlet.
After some refreshments in the bar, we take the cable car back and set off to the hotel.
Our first stop today is to add an interesting bird to our list, the Citril finch. In the same spot, we add two more species of orchids: Heath spotted orchid and Dactylorhiza incarnata. After that, we continue driving along the beautiful Valdeón valley and stop near a stream. As we get off the vehicle, we get a nicely perched Yellowhammer and a Linnet. The meadows are packed with flowers such as the endemic Digitalis parviflora, the beautiful Linaria elegans, Trollius europaeus and the purple Jasione laevis just to name few. The hillsides are pink as the heath (Calluna vulgaris) is in full bloom. There are some interesting butterflies like the Scarce Swallowtail, Scarce copper and Turquoise blue.
We keep driving admiring the stunning views from Pandetrave pass, the towering Picos mountains are right in front of us. Our next stop is in Posada de Valedón, where we have coffee and take a stroll along the village. We watch a family of Marsh tits picking insects in the dung and not far from there a beautiful male Common redstart stands out. In a hillside we find a nice Flax (Linum narbonense).
After eating the picnic, we spend the rest of the afternoon wandering around the meadows and we add a new species of orchid, the Dark red Helleborine. There were also Man orchids but already in seedpods. The meadows are full of butterflies: Pearly and Chestnut heath, Iberian marbled white, Glanville fritillary and Short-tailed blue to name few. John and Pau find in different corners of the meadows two Owl flies (Ascalaphidae) which turn to be two different species.
Today, we head South to visit the valley where Pau lives. Our first stop is by the road to see a group of blooming Butterfly orchids and some Robust marsh orchids that were starting to come into flower.
We take a stroll along the river finding the path covered by Butterworts and Heath-spotted orchids. Soon we see the first species of butterflies: Ringlet, a Southern brown argus and a sunbathing Spanish purple hairstreak. Suddenly, a large butterfly catches our eyes, an Apollo butterfly! It lands on a Cephalaria allowing us fantastic views! On the way back to the minibus we add Chalk-hill blue and Spanish gatekeeper.
A short stop in the town of Crémenes reveals Common twayblade and Marsh helleborine. The surprise comes when we see a Black vulture, an uncommon species around here.
We set off to Lois where we have a coffee stop before visiting the “smoking house” and the cathedral. The smoking house is a remarkable building from a traditional and cultural point of view. Until the 90’s it was inhabited. The way locals used to isolate the straw roof and to warm the house was by burning wood inside the building and allowing the smoke to get out through the roof and walls. As there were no chimneys in the facilities, the houses used to have a thick layer of soot covering both, walls and roof. Living in the Cantabrian mountains used to be tough!
The cathedral is also worth visiting it. It is a pretty large cathedral considering the tiny size of the village. Moreover, this extraordinary building is a sign of a past when the rights of grazing and the cattle transhumance meant an important income for the villagers.
After lunch, we spend a couple of hours looking for butterflies in the meadows. Amanda’s blue, Champman’s ringlet and White admiral are added to the list. It is getting a bit too hot, so we decide to drive back to the hotel. On the way back, we make a short detour to see a roosting Tawny owl.
In our last full day, we set toward Asturias. We visit a couple of lagoons hoping to find some Odonata and amphibians. Soon, we find a Four-spotted chaser, Common bluet, Ruddy darter and quite a lot of Western willow spreadwing. In terms of plants, we find a single Dactylorhiza insularis, the lovely Viola cornuta, Arctostaphylos uva-ursi, Valeriana montana and Yellow gentians which are starting to flower. A Booted Eagle and a Tree pipit in full song are seeing. Pau does well when he finds two different amphibians: Stripless tree frog and an Iberian frog. We also see some day flying moths like the Speckled footman and Isturgia flamula.
Our next stop is to have lunch. It is a beautiful sunny day, so we take a stroll and find a worn-out Camberwell beauty. In a nearby meadow, Pau shows us a boggy area where we see the scarce Dusky large blue, one of the rarest and more threatened butterflies in Spain. Other butterflies seen include Cleopatra, Meadow fritillary and Sooty copper among others.
As the departure is in the afternoon, Pau has planned a couple of stops on the way to the airport. The first one is South of Guardo in an open plateau. Our first birds of the day are Spotless starlings and a couple of Cirl buntings. In addition, Black-veined whites, Great banded graylings and Gatekeepers seems to be everywhere! Mick finds a pair of Whinchats perched. Pau spots a Tawny Pipit and later we see a Hopooe looking for grubs near a dung pile.
Our picnic and last stop are in the marshes of Santander. A fantastic restoration project and a nice area to walk around. Here we see some rafts where Common Terns are breeding and a large colony of Cattle egrets.
Whit no more time, we drive the short distance to the airport and say goodbye to the group, what a beautiful wildlife holiday!
Wildlife report to the Cantabrian Mountains. Pau Lucio
The strait of Gibraltar and the surroundings are a wonderful place to witness the bird migration. We organise birdwatching and birding tours to the Strait og Gibraltar every spring and autumn. Please find our last trip report below.
It is a beautiful morning in Málaga airport. Pau is waiting for the arriving of the group from Bristol airport.
After greetings, we set off towards the Strait of Gibraltar for birding in the most important migratory bottleneck in West Europe. As we are getting close to Tarifa, we see the Rock of Gibraltar on our side and the Djebel Musa on the African side. Our first stop is in route, in Palmones river mouth where a Lesser Crested Tern was spotted few days before. This vagrant is recorded every autumn in the region. It takes just few minutes to get this beautiful tern in the scope. It stands out in a mix group of Sandwich and Little Terns. Along the muddy shores, we see different waders: Dunlins, Sandernings, Redshanks and Kentish Plover. In addition, there are 4 different species of gulls, including Mediterranean Gulls, Audouin’s and Slender-billed Gulls. On the back of the main lagoon a group of Greater Flamingos rest along egrets and herons.
We continued our journey towards the accommodation to enjoy our first Spanish dinner.
We have a long day planned and indeed it is! We have an early breakfast at the hotel and set off to the West part of Doñana Natural Park. The first stop of the day is for Bald Ibis, which a sighting of 24 birds feeding along Jackdaw. It is great to see how well they are doing after the reintroduction!
After enjoying these weird-looking birds, we make a detour to see Stone Curlew in Barbate. We continue our journey stopping for the Little Swift, watching a colony of about 20 pairs. After that, we get to a pond to see White-headed Ducks where we have lunch. In the surroundings of the pond, we get an Iberian Green Woodpecker flying over the woods. The rest of the day is spent in Bonanza saltpans. We scan the reeds in detail and we get good views of Western Purple Swamp-hen, Squacco Heron and Little Bittern. Regarding waterfowl, we find swimming around Red-crested Pochard and a Marbled Teal among others species.
On the saltpans, we see three different species of terns: Gull-billed, Black and Caspian Tern. Furthermore, there are both species of Godwits, Little Stints, Turnstone and other waders.
Finally, we make a stop in the surroundings for Lesser-short toed Lark. As we wait for them to show up, we see flying over our first Osprey.
It has been a long day and we still have a bit of driving ahead. Thus, we set off to the hotel after a successful birding day in the Strait of Gibraltar.
In our third day of this exciting birding tour to the Strait of Gibraltar we start the day watching the migration from a viewpoint. During the morning we add Lesser Kestrel, numerous Sparrowhawks and Bee-eaters, which are one of the favorite birds. Then, suddenly the sky is covered by a flock of 120 Black Storks!!! What an amazing and unusual sighting!! As the wind speed up again, we set off to the forest west of Tarifa. Here, sheltered from the wind, there are numerous passerines waiting for the right conditions to migrate. A female Redstart moves from the busses to the Umbrella pines, and in the branches there are Garden Warblers and both flycatchers: Pied and Spotted. In a Pistacia bush there are different warblers feeding on berries which turn out to be Sardenian Warbler and Bonelli’s Warbler.
After lunch, we drive towards la Janda, to look for new species. White Storks, Glossy Ibises and Egrets feed on the farmland. We continue driving along the track to find Tree and Spanish sparrows, Yellow wagtail and over 30 Turtle doves. We are very pleased to see so many Turtle Doves together, sadly an unusual sighting nowadays. The day finishes with a stunning pair of Spanish Imperial Eagle perched on a Pilon.
After breakfast we drive for few minutes to our first watchpoint. Winds play an important role in the migration, so depending of the wind direction we will choose a location. Soon, we watch our first raptors of the day: Booted Eagles, Black Kites, Short-toed Eagles and Honey Buzzard. The wind makes them fly a bit higher but the number of raptors is just amazing! We enjoy watching the interaction between birds. Raptors are mobbed by a Peregrine Falcon which ends up diving after a group of feral pigeons. Other interesting raptors include Egyptian Vultures, Bonelli’s Eagle and a Montagu’s Harrier.
As the weather has improved today, we decide to take the boat trip hoping to add seabirds and whales. As we wait to jump on the boat, we get a group of Pallid Swifts flying around. Once we are few miles away from Tarifa, we get a single Storm Petrel. About half an hour later, we see a group of 6 Pilot whales swimming right besides us. A fantastic sight! Later, we see a group of Cory’s Shearwaters. We also see two species of dolphins: Common Dolphin and Bottlenose Dolphin
After lunch, we look for birds among the cork oak forest. Here we get Short-toed treecreeper, Crested Tit, Jay, Firecrest, Subalpine Warbler and other forest birds. On the way back we get two “extra” raptors, a fast flying Hobby and a Goshawk. Later we drive back to our accommodation.
Today is our last day of the tour and we make the most of the few hours left before heading to Malaga airport. We go back to la Janda and this time we do get Black-shoulder Kite and few more waders: Common Snipe, Wood and Green Sandpiper.
All in all, it has been a successful birding trip around the strait of Gibraltar with a great diversity of species, including good number of raptors. Thanks everyone for joining this trip. Should you have any question, please do not hesitate to contact us or visit our tour calendar.
Welcome to our wildlife report to Valencia, La Mancha, Madrid and Pyrenees. We planned this itinerary to cover most of the habitats found in mainland Spain in order to get a good diversity of birds. May 2018
At 8:45 sharp, Deidre, Karmela and Rod are picked up by Pau from their hotel in Valencia. They drive west through a busy traffic in Valencia, and about 1:10 h later arrive to Fuenterrobles, close to the border with La Mancha. After a short walk in the scrubland, Pau finds a Thekla Lark and a stunning male Black-eared Wheatear perched on a telephone wire. Pau ears a familiar call and after few minutes searching they get their reward, a beautiful Spectacled warbler. On a nearby field, Greater short toed larks delight the group with their full song in a beautiful morning.
They continue driving along the A3 for 1:30 h to a local bar to have lunch. Their next stop is in the lagoons of “La Mancha Húmeda”. By the road, there is a small pond packed with birds, including 40+ Black terns, numerous species of waders and a pair of the most wished Bearded tits. They drive along the track and find the colourful Bee-eaters and distant Lesser Kestrels.
Finally, the afternoon is spent in Alcázar enjoying close views of White-headed Ducks, Black-necked Grebes and Red-crested Pochards.
Dinner is in a local restaurant in Belmonte: Ajoarriero (cod and potato), Patatas bravas, Pisto manchego (ratatouille with egg) and a salad, all washed down with a good bottle of red wine.
After driving through gorgeous fields of poppies, they arrive to a private state where Rock sparrows thrive in the ruins of what were the facilities of a quarry. Soon after that, they bump into a small patch of Woodcock orchids. This well managed state is a wonderful place for birds. It just take them few minutes to find Subalpine and Melodious warblers, however these birds are no the main reason why Pau take the group here. After searching for few more minutes, they hit the jackpot!! A cracking Eagle Owl takes off from about 12-15 m from where the group is standing. Smiling faces after seen this wonderful raptor.
The rest of the day is spent in the National Park of Tablas de Daimiel and the surrounding area. From the blind they get fantastic views of a Penduline Tit as well as Cetti’s and Savi’s warblers. After a most wanted coffee, they take a stroll to get some of the targets. Soon, they are rewarded with great views of a pair of European rollers mating and Deidre finds a Purple heron carrying a snake in its bill. They keep postponing lunch as there is a lot going on! Rod enjoys watching a pair of Golden orioles chasing one another from tree to tree and Pau finally gets in its scope some Spanish sparrows.
After lunch, they take a stroll around the reeds finding Spoonbills, a Greenshank and a Common coot with chicks which are photographed by Karmela from many different angles. Finally, we stop in the souvenir shop before driving back to our 18th century Hotel.
After loading the car they set off to the near farmland. Before reaching the first stop of the day, Pau has to pull over so everyone can get excellent views of a Black vulture. From a nearby almond tree, a stunning Great spotted cuckoo can be seen! That’s a good start! They continue driving but Pau stops again as Deidre spots a Stone curlew followed by another one.
Later, Pau takes them to the magic track where everyone gets excellent views of a male Little bustard displaying. Pau says it is his best view ever! Good to see Little bustards, since there has been a huge decline of these magnificent birds in the last decades. They drive to the following village to locate the elusive Great bustards with no luck. Pau decides to move towards Madrid hoping to find them in another area and bingo! They find 5 stunning males feeding in the arable land. After pleasant views, they drive for 1:30 h to make a stop for coffee and facilities in a petrol station near Madrid.
The group continue the journey towards the north of Madrid and make a stop near Tres Cantos. While they have the picnics lunch there, a Spanish Imperial Eagles display in the air. Fantastic! The air is quite warm, so the butterflies are very active: Marbled White, Kidnapped Fritillary, and Yellow Clouded are seen among others butterflies.
Their final destination is in the steppes close to the hotel in Torrelaguna, where they get close views of a group of 15-20 male Great bustards and a distant male Montagu’s Harrier.
Today the group set off to the snow-capped mountains of the National Park of Guadarrrama. The first stop in the mountain pass is rewarded with a group of very confident Citril finches. Everyone enjoys this beautiful bird displaying. Later, after lunch, they visit the woods adding Garden warbler and the Iberian subspecies of Pied flycatcher. The sun is warming up and butterflies start to fly around: Orange tip, De Prunner’s ringlet, Brimstone and Marsh fritillary. Reptiles also seem more than happy with the weather, especially the half meter Ocellated lizard that Pau finds in a wall. Later we enjoy great views of Tree pipit displaying and raptors such as both kites and Black vultures.
The party leaves the park and head off to the oak forest near el Escorial. Sadly start raining as soon as they find a Cirl bunting. On the way back to the hotel, a flock of Iberian magpies fly right across in front of the car.
After dinner, Deidre and Pau try to locate some of the Red-necked nightjars that Pau saw the previous night. After the rain, the tracks are too muddy to drive with the car so they decide to go for a walk. The night is filled with the sound of Scops owls and Red-necked nightjars. On the walk back to the car, we bump into a Natterjack and a Midwife toad.
Pau suggests having breakfast today at 6:00 am. He would like to try a spot for Dupont’s lark on the way to the Pyrenees. Once they get to the spot, the weather is not the best for finding this elusive bird, with wind and showers in a cold morning. However, they do get other interesting birds like Common cuckoo, Montagu’s harrier and Rock thrush. On the way back to the motorway, Pau see a Iberian green woodpecker flying to a poplar tree so pulls over to allow everyone views of this woodpecker. At the same time, a Golden oriole pops up in the top of a tree.
After a welcome stop in a local bakery, they set off to Zaragoza for a stop near el Pilar to see Pallid swifts.
The group arrives to Valle de Hecho around 3:30 pm and decide to explore for a couple of hours the surroundings before going to the hotel. In a farm, they get fantastic views of 5 Egyptian vultures displaying and chasing one to another. Karmela keeps pressing the button of her camera. It is just amazing! Later, along the river, we get long views of a Dipper diving and Pau finds Green-winged and Marsh orchids. In a meadow close to the car, we find 3 gorgeous male Bullfinches and a pair of Red-backed shrikes.
After a long day, we all soon go to bed.
The morning is spent locally. After 30 minutes hike the party get to the cliffs where the Wallcreeper have been breeding during the last years. After waiting about 40 minutes, they get a glimpse of this stunning bird quite high up in the cliff. Suddenly, another one arrives and both fly off showing their distinctive red patch on their wings. The group decides to wait hoping to get another view and their patience pays off but not with a Wallcreeper but with a Lammergeier.
On route, Pau stops for a coffee in Hecho before visiting the next valley for lunch. In the near meadows everyone gets nice views of Rock bunting and Red kites. Few minutes later, Deidre spots a Griffon’s vulture perched in the ground just few meters from the road. They stop the car to watch the vultures circling around, there must be a carcass. They spend the rest of the day in Ansó, where the group get nice views of a Red Fox and a Crested Tit among other common birds.
Deidre and Karmela are woken up during the night by a loudly Tawny Owl, calling from a small patch of forest near the garden.
Today, the group sets off to Navarra to look for some alpine birds. On route, Deidre finds an Egyptian vulture perched on a telephone post. It is nice to see that this threatened bird still remains fairly common in the area. Once they get into the valley, they find Alpine chough and lots of Northern wheatears displaying in the meadows. The group carry on towards France enjoying wonderful views of the snowy mountains. The snow still remains in many areas which is quite unusual at this time of the year. Later, Deidre finds a Ring ouzel perched in a pine and Pau quickly focuses the telescope so everyone enjoy fantastic views of a male of the subspecies alpestris. Citril finches chirp and fly in small flocks in front of the vehicle.
On the way down the valley they spot a flock of 4 raptors which turn out to be 3 Red kites and a Booted eagle. Near the road, Pau locates a Water pipit with its distinctive pinkie chest. However, the big surprise comes when Pau finds a friendly Marmot which looks to us hidden in a pile of rocks.
Once they get to the hotel, Karmela, Deidre and Pau walk around the forest and meadows looking for other species. A Firecrest shows well in a nearby Scots pine and Short-toed treecreeper flies every minute to its nest located under a tile on the roof. The rest of the evening is spent drinking some of the local beer and chatting with a group of Swedish birders.
Today is the final day of this wildlife adventure around Spain. After passing through Siresa, Pau pulls over to one side as he hears two Wrynecks calling. Everyone see this nice bird. The group continue the long journey ahead, making a couple of quick stops for photographing Common buzzard, Melodious warbler and other common birds.
After a couple of stops for facilities and lunch, they get near Valencia where they spend few hours birding in the coastal wetland of Marjal del Moro. Audouin’s gulls, Little and Sandwich terns fly around while the group stays in one of the hides. While the group waits patiently to see some Little Bitterns, Pau and Deidre get a glimpse of a Purple swamp-hen walking along the shore. Rod also enjoys great views of a Great reed warbler perched up on the reeds. Before they leave the hide, a pair of Turtle doves land on a nearby tamarisk. The final surprise comes when Pau finds in the colony of Sandwich terns, an Elegant tern incubating its nest. Therefore, this pair will be the second breeding in Valencia region this season!
Finally, we drive to the hotel and say goodbye. Thanks to Deidre, Rod and Karmela for making this trip so enjoyable.
To download the complete check-list of the Wildlife trip report to Valencia, La Mancha, Madrid and the Pyrenees, please click here.
Recce trip-Wildlife trip report to the Canary Islands (Tenerife and Fuerteventura)
March 30th – April 5th 2018
It has been my second wildlife trip to the wonderful Canaries Islands, a great opportunity to visit other less-known places and to put together an itinerary we will run next year in late winter.
After a late flight from Valencia to Tenerife Sur Airport, Pau and Virginia head off with the rented car straight to the Rural Hotel in Güímar to rest and be ready for this new adventure!
At dawn, we are soon woken up by the songs and calls of the numerous birds that live in the hotel’s orchards. Among the avocados, Atlantic Canaries build their nests and the endemic Canary Islands chiffchaffs sing and flick their wings displaying. After a nice breakfast, we are off to the Canary pine forest near the Orotava to look for some endemic forest birds. Soon, we bump into a distinctive local form of Common Chaffinch F. c. tintillon. We continue walking for 10-15 minutes to get away from the crowds who are enjoying barbecues, a popular pastime in Easter. Near a stream, we find two Tenerife (African) Blue Tit C. t. teneriffae, a Tenerife Kinglet and a Common darter dragonfly.
Later we drive towards the impressive Teide. No wonder that this National Park gets 4 million visitors per year!!! It is an impressive volcanic landscape with different lava formations each few hundred meters. As we have the picnic, numerous Tenerife Lizards get closer and closer to us, hoping to be fed by tourists. We continue our journey towards the Parador to find there our first of many Berthelot’s pipits, and also the endemic subspecies of Common Buzzard B. b. insularum. From a viewpoint, we see another Macaronesia endemic, the Plain Swift.
Finally, our last visit of the day is in the pools of Erjos. We don’t see many birds, probably because there are dogs swimming in the pools. We just add Common coots and Barbary partridge, but some interesting and nice flowers make worth the stop: Argyranthemum frutescens, Bituminaria bituminosa, Mercurialis annuus, Canary Samphire (Astydamia latifolia), Aeonium canariense and Euphorbia aphylla. Regarding dragonflies, Blue emperor and Red-veined darter are seen.
During our pre-breakfast walk around the orchard, we find a beautiful Stripeless tree frog resting in a pond, a Broad scarlet dragonfly, a Canary Speckled Wood and a Turtle dove perched on the top of the stem of an Agave americana.
Our first stop of the day is for the endemic Blue chaffinch at Las Lajas. Soon, we get an approachable beautiful male. Then, we drive for 45 minutes to a well-known viewpoint for the endemic pigeons on the West coast. The downside of this place is the constant traffic along the TF-5 but it is a reliable place for Laurel Pigeon. After 15 minutes, we get a distant bird flying over the vegetation.
The next stop is a small patch of laurel forest where we find two distant Bolle’s pigeons and some interesting laurel forest plants: Echium giganteum, Silene gallica and Limonium fruticans.
Today’s final destination is Punta de Teno. Due to access restrictions, we have to take a bus to reach this rocky lava habitat known as ‘malpaís’. It is midday and temperature is quite high (25ºC) and this might be the reason why it is so quiet. Nevertheless, we manage to see in the scope a distant group of 50 or so Cory’s Shearwaters. Regarding plants, some remarkable species are Reichardia crystalina, Monanthes laxiflora and Euphorbia canariensis.
Our rural hotel is not serving dinner today due to some improvement works, so we head off to El Puertito to have some excellent Canary food: almogrote (goat cheese with red pepper), fish and papas with mojo picón. Around the harbour, we find Whimbrel, Grey Wagtail, and Turnstone.
Today is our last day in Tenerife as the plan is to take a flight to Fuerteventura during the evening.
After breakfast, we drive North to the Anaga area and as nearly always happen there, the laurel forest is cover by clouds. This is the wettest area in Tenerife, the trade winds (‘vientos alisios’) blow from the sea carrying moisture. Nevertheless, we walk along an interesting path covered by Azores Laurel, Canary Strawberry Tree, and Tree Heather, watching our first Canary Islands Robin. Later, we drive down towards the sunny coast for some more plants and birds. Along the path, we find a Sardinian Warbler as well as a nice variety of flowers and endemic plants: the stunning Canary Bell flower, Dragon-tree, Echium leucophaeum, Lavandula buchii, the beautiful Echium simplex, Limonium arborescent, Monanthes wildpretii and Lotus dumentorum.
After lunch, we set off to Los Rodeos, near the airport, to see some fine patches of Gladiolus italicus. Corn buntings sing from the fences and we try to locate unsuccessfully a Quail.
Around 7:20 pm we board to the plain and 50 minutes later we land in a completely different landscape in Fuerteventura. After getting our rental car, we head off to the Hotel.
Once we have breakfast, we visit a pool near La Antigua. This green area is a magnet for both resident and migrant birds. As soon as we arrive, we find Ruddy shelducks, the local race of Great grey shrike L. e. koenigi and a Little ringed plover. Among the grass, Pau finds a bird that turns out to be a Wryneck. Most of the sightings of this uncommon migrant are recorded in the Eastern islands (Lanzarote and Fuerteventura) which are closer to the African coast.
On the sky, we find a ‘Guirre’ local name for the endemic race of Egyptian vulture N. p. majorensis. There are around 65 breeding pairs in Fuerteventura and a total population of 300 birds. This amazing raptor is recovering from a near extinction in the 80’s. One of the main differences from their European cousins is that the Fuerteventura ones do not migrate during winter, thus they can be found all year around.
On the way back to the car, five Black-bellied Sandgrouses fly off scared by the presence of a Common Buzzard.
Our next stop is near Los Molinos. There, we find a confident group of Spanish sparrows carrying damselflies on the bill. We also get to see Greenshank, Common Sandpiper, Northern Wheatear, and our first Barbary Falcon. In addition, there were a couple of Lesser emperors mating, Blue-tailed damselflies, and several Atlantic Lizards. We decide to drive few kilometres to have the picnic and while Virginia enjoys great sea views, Pau plays hide-and-seek with a Spectacle warbler and a Barbary squirrel. This mammal was brought in 1965 from Sidi ifni (Morocco) and since then, they have multiplied causing conservation problems.
After lunch and coffee, we head North to our next stop. Our next new species is a group of three lovely Colour-creamed Courser and after a bit of search, Virginia spots a fantastic and globally threatened Houbara bustard, probably the most wanted and highly prized species in this area. A walk around the area proves to be a good decision as we got an excellent view of a perched Barbary Falcon and two Red-billed Tropicbirds, a species which is breeding in the islands since a few years ago.
Our last stop is in Vallebrón, where we get the endemic Fuerteventura stonechat. Later, we have a pleasant dinner with Toni and Julio, two good friends who are involved in the ‘Guirre’ conservation project.
Today is our last full day in these wonderful islands, so we start visiting the Salinas and adding Sandwich tern. In the nearby ‘barranco’ there are some plants adapted to salty soils such as Canary island Tamarisk, Atriplex semilunaris, Suaeda vera and also Asphodelus tenuifolius.
Following, we drive to Río Palmas where we see Epaulet skimmer dragonflies and Laughing dove, a recent coloniser on the island from continental Africa. Sadly, we find a death Barn Owl in the stream. However, the big surprise came later when Pau spotted two Ring Ouzels feeding on dates, a local rarity in the island.
We decide to drive to La Pájara for having lunch but before that, we make a quick stop in the viewpoint where we see a very tame Raven (C. c. tingitanus).
To finish the day, we visit a goat pen with a drinking trough which is a fantastic area for Trumpeter Finches. In just 1 hour we recorded above 50 birds drinking and feeding in the surroundings. There are very nice males with its bright orange-red bill, grey head and pink breast and rump. In the surroundings rocks, we also see a couple of Fuerteventura stonechats.
Our last day in the island is to finish packing and driving to the airport to take the plain to Madrid, where we will visit the ”dehesa” and the Guadarrama mountains for some specialities.
To download the full wildlife trip report to the Canary islands and check list, please click here.
I am meeting Dieter and Fiona in El Rocío. Our start of the birding trip Donana is along the promenade which overlooks the Marshes of El Rocío. The marshes are packed with birds after the abundant winter rain. Our first raptors on sight are Red Kites and Marsh Harriers. On the water there is a large number of Spoonbills, Greater Flamingos and wildfowl.
As we walk near the visitor centre, we get an amazing view of a Great spotted Cuckoo being chased by an angry Magpie. It is the first lifer for Dieter and Fiona. Once we get to La Rocina we see Short-toed Treecreeper, Serin, Iberian Grey Shrike, Hoopoe and Crested Lark among other common birds. On the river bank we find a mixed group of Little Egrets and Night Herons, which allow us to compare the age of these crepuscular birds. On the way back we bump into a group of 20 Azure-winged Magpies.
Finally, we spend the last hours of the day in the South part of El Rocío. In a Tamarix tree we find a mixed flock of House and Tree Sparrows which are joined later by Common Waxbills. After this, we head back to the hotel to enjoy a fantastic dinner.
A wonderful sunny morning is the prelude of a spectacular birding day. Pau drives towards Villamanrique to our first stop to see a flock of Spanish Sparrows feeding along a track. In a nearby pool we find a Common Sandpiper. Not far from there, we spend some time taking pictures of horses grassing on the flooded meadow! What a beautiful view!
We continue our birding trip Donana towards La Dehesa making three stops to see some crackers: Purple swam-hen, Black-winged Kite and Black Stork. Once we get to the lake we start looking out for ducks. Soon we find one Drake and two female Ferruginous Ducks, Red crested Pochards and a stunning White-headed Duck. Good birds are added fast! Surprisingly, we get three Swifts flying over! Very likely to be Pallid Swifts but difficult to be completely sure by the speed and height they fly about. In the back paddy fields, Golden Plovers, Lapwings and Black-tailed Godwits feed intensively.
It is getting late so we drive along the farmland stopping just 2 meters away from a Barn Owl, what a marvellous sight! As we drive, we witness numerous groups of Common Cranes already preparing for the migration and a beautiful male Dartford Warbler. Later, Pau pulls over in order to see a pair of far distant raptors approaching. They turn to be a sub-adult Golden Eagle and an odd pale looking Griffon Vulture. From the same spot, Pau scans the front marshes and finds a Caspian Tern.
After lunch and coffee, Dieter calls out as a Short-toed Eagle flies in front of us. An early one! Then, we move to other area hopping to add some new birds. We are lucky enough to find few of the small wintering population of Lesser Kestrel. Finally, on the way back to the hotel we see a nice flock of Calandra Larks and an Osprey flying with a fish on its talons. What a day!
Our final day is spent in Odiel marshes. In the surrounding of the visitor centre we get Dunlins, Redshanks, a Grey Plover, Ringed Plovers and Turnstones. We enter the hide and Pau points out a gorgeous Bluethroat which sadly hides very fast. Later, we continue driving towards the end of the road until we see on the right side of the bridge three Black-necked Grebes. Few minutes later we made another stop to compare two side by side Curlew and Whimbrel.
We park near the gate and take a stroll along the beach. On the other side there are two Razorbills and three Gannets. On the sand, large parties of Lesser black backed and Yellow Legged rest. Finally, we drive back to the visitor centre for having lunch and have a bit of shelter from the wind. On the way, we make two stops to see Ospreys, a Booted Eagle, a Bar-tailed Godwit and a Sandwich Tern. After finishing lunch, a noisy Caspian Tern greets us and we set off towards Seville.
Thanks to Fiona and Dieter for being great companions and for having such an interest about Spanish culture and wildlife.
Please find a selection of our wildlife trip reports in Spain.
Morocco-Atlas Mountains and Sahara NEW
Morocco-Atlas Mountains and Sahara
30 March – 5 April 2018 Wildlife trip to Tenerife and Fuerteventura
Picos de Europa
30 August – 6 September 2016 Spanish Carnivorous (Iberian Wolf, Wildcat and Brown Bear)
Local Tours (Alicante, Valencia and Albacete)
10-14 May 2018. 5-birding days in East Spain check list
15-19 November 2017 Birding in East Spain
January 2017 El Fondo, Santa Pola, Monnegre and Alicante mountains
17-18 November 2016 Genet and Steppes of Albacete
22 May 2016 Great Bustard tour-Steppes of Albacete
29 April-1 May 2016 Málaga and Granada
19 April Costa Blanca 2016-Alicante
July Costa Blanca 2015-Alicante
30 November 2015-Alicante
22 December 2015-Valencia
10 September 2014-Valencia
Extremadura and Coto Doñana check list 24 Feb – 3 Mar
22-30 April 2018 Extremadura and Coto Doñana check list
Granada and Tarifa
The Grand Tour
Sierra de Guara
Please find our trip report focus on butterflies in Picos de Europa mountains, one of the best places in Europe to enjoy wildlife.
Every butterfly lover knows how fantastic are Picos de Europa mountains for butterflies. The easiness to reach high altitudes and the variety of flower-filled meadows, deciduous woodlands and deep limestone gorges makes Picos the perfect place for a wildlife trip focus on butterflies.
Usually we organize two trips for year, (please have a look to our tour calendar) one in late June focus on butterflies, orchids, birds and alpine flowers and a second trip in late August-beginning of September when we spend more time in search of carnivours (Wildcat, Iberian Wolf and Cantabrian Bear). Nevertheless, we spend one day looking for Alpine birds and in the midday break there is always time to take a stroll for butterflies.
We plan to spend more time in Picos during summer, so please contact us for a day out or for any information you need.
While I wait to my four guests in Santander airport, I get the confirmation that my licence to capture butterflies (research proposes) has been renewed. That is great news!
We make a stop for lunch before reaching the impressive gorge of el Desfiladero de la Hermida. Then continue our journey to the hotel in Boca seeing on the way Black and Red Kites, White Storks, Kestrels and Common Buzzard. After check-in we have a nice walk behind the hotel where we found Provençal, Knapweed and Heath Fritillary, Chestnut and Pearly heath, Large and Small white and plants such as Linaria triornithophora. Regarding birds, Bonelli’s Warbler, Raven, Rock Sparrow and Red-rumped Swallow are spotted for all, and Large Psammodromus is seeing as we walk back trough the town.
Dinner and red wine is served at 20:00. While we eat with appetite, we chat about the itinerary we plan to do the following days.
Our first stop is in a pool where soon we find Broad bellied chaser, Western willow spreadwing, Common bluetail damselfly, Large red damselfly and Common bluet. We also find Natherjack tadpoles, lots of tiny Common toads and an Alpine newt. Regarding butterflies, there are good numbers of Yellow Clouded, Common Blue, Knapweed and a Pearl-bordered Fritillary found by Hilary. Cuckoo, Quails, Tree Pipits and Skylarks sing from the nearby fields.
We drive for 10 minutes to reach a picnic area where we have our lunch. On the sky we are marvelled by a a Honey buzzard displaying. After coffee and facilities we walk the path in Ventaniella finding Swallowtail, Brown Argus, a fast flying Brimstone, Wood white and Meadow brown. Later a beautiful Purple-edged copper shows up and Math decides to chase it. The story ends when with Math falling in a ditch! Nothing serious, just trousers covers by mud, no photo of him allowed though!
The weather is changing and stars to drizzle, so we decide to go back to the hotel.
The weather looks miserable, still drizzling and thick fog. Anyway, we can’t do anything, so we carry on with the plan. As we drive towards Fuente Dé we see a Woodchat Shrike and a female Red-backed Shrike 200 meters away. Once we get there, the rain stops but the fog remains. That is a pity as we are going to miss the breathtaking views from the cable car. While we wait for it to take us, we see an Egyptian vulture flying low opposite us and a big flock of Common Swifts.
The astonishing 800m vertical ascent was enjoyed by the group. Once we are up in the mountains, Alpine Choughs fly and pick leftovers from the path left by tourist and Alpine accentors sing as if we were in a sunny summer day! Jim spots the only butterfly of the day a Red Underwing Skipper and Pau finds a party of Snow finches passing fast to our side. Water Pipits sing as it ‘parachuted’ past. Gorgeous alpine plants such as Trumpet Gentians, Leafless-stemmed Globularia, Arenaria purpurascens and Erinus alpinus are seeing for everyone. Northern wheatear and Black Redstar sing from the crags.
Seeing that the weather is not going to improve, we return to the van after lunch and go for sightseeing to Potes.
The sky is clear and the forecast expect 28 ºC, so it seems is going to be a great day for butterflies!!
First we stop in a stream where we find a good variety of butterflies: the endemic Chapman’s ringlet is seeing very well for everyone as it drinks from a muddy pool. Pau finds a cracking Damon Turquoise in a thistle. Adoni’s blue, Orange tip, Green hairstreak, Black-veined White, Mazarine Blue and Grizzled Skippers are seen in few minutes, what a display! Hilary finds an strange insect that turns to be a Owl-flie (Ascalaphidae). In the same path we also find interesting flowers: Digitalis parviflora, the endemic Erygnium bourgatii, Heath Spotted and Early marsh Orchids. In addition, Garden warblers and Black caps keep singing all morning and Pau spots an Iberian wall lizard sunbathing on a bush.
A few km following the road is located the view point of Pandetrave where we have a quick stop to witness the massive massif Central right in front of us. A quick look through the scope reveals a pair of Chamois and Griffon vultures in one far high hillside. In the meadows behind us there are numerous Small heath and Knapweed Fritillary, and at least 2 males Rock buntings.
Our next stop is for having lunch in Caín. Then, we follow the path of the Río Cares seeing large numbers of Cleopatra, Small Cooper and Iberian Grizzled Skipper along the path. Large Wall Brown, Wall brown, Speckled Wood, Painted Lady and a pair of Queen of Spain Fritillary feed on the abundant flowers. On the way back to the minibuses John does very well finding a Dipper bouncing in the river. White and Grey wagtails are also seen.
Today I am ready at 6:30. Yesterday while we had dinner, I was told by a local farmer that a Wildcat was seeing in the next town. I am not very optimistic as July is not the best month for Wildcat, but anyway I am trying as Hilary loves this animals and she is happy to join me. We get to the spot at the break of the day, not much happen the first half and hour but then a stunning male Wildcat crosses the field heading to the forest! Fantastic, but a bit far to get a sharp picture in a poor light conditions, though. After that, we join the rest for breakfast and everyone notices that we are in high spirits.
The first stop is in a mountain pass where soon Pau spots a chirping Citril finch. The Cattle has eaten most of flowers so the diversity of butterflies is lower than we expected. However, we locate good numbers of Purpled-edged and Stooty Cooper, Silver-washed Fritillary, Black-veined White, Brown Argus, Short-tailed Blue and other common species.
We continue towards Piedraluengas stopping in a local bar for lunch and facilities. In Piedrasluengas, we can see a flock of 5 Red-Billed Chough and butterflies such as Chapman’s ringlet, De Prunner’s ringlet, Heath Washed Fritillary, Small heath, Glanville Fritillary, Provençal Fritillary, Red admiral, Spotted Fritillary and Meadow Fritillary. A good variety to finish the day!
Today is going to be our last full day in Picos. Temperatures of 30ºC are expected, so we all agree to spend the evening chilling out in the bar and having a cold bath in the river, no for me!!. So, first stop in the morning is a river located near Riaño. Math is amazed by the abundant and variety of Marled butterflies: Marbled White, Spanish and Iberian Marbled Whites. Along the river we find an inm. Black-tailed Skimmer and few Common blue damselfly. Common Chiffchaff and Firecrest sing from the deciduous forest. Butterflies include Chapman’s ringlet, Adoni’s blue, Turquoise blue, Idas blue, Mallow Skipper and Chequered Skipper are relatively common in the beautiful meadows of daisy wheel.
Later, we have our lunch in the hotel terrace and spend the evening at our leisure.
Once we are down in the coast the weather worsened. We head for the Dunes of Liencres to spend few hours before taking the plane. There we find numerous Sea Spurge with what seems Spurge Hawkmoth caterpillars. A young Cuckoo flies from the forest, Linnets feed on seeds and Crested Lark move up and down. On the shore there were Lesser Black-backed and Yellow legged Gull.
Finally, we get to the airport and say goodbyes.
We hope that this report about butterflies in Picos de Europa will bring back memories of a rewarding and enjoyable trip in NW Spain.
In this article, we hope to give you some ideas about where to watch bustards in Spain. The country holds the largest density of bustards in Europe. Both Great and Little can be found in different areas, being La Mancha (Ciudad Real, Cuenca and Albacete provinces) and Extremadura the best places. However, bustards are suffering a huge decline, specially Little Bustards. Farming practises and intensification seems to be the main factor.
Apart from the popular steppes of Extremadura or Villafáfila, there are other superb birding places unknown by most. For instance, the steppes of Albacete and La Mancha in East Spain offer a great opportunity to watch Great and Little Bustards. Futhermore, other specialities such as sandgrouses, larks and Rollers can be found in the steppes. Finally, the temporary pools are packed with Black-necked Grebes, Greater Flamingos, Red Crested Pochars, White headed-ducks and many more.
Please find the short trip report below:
I am spending three days with Hervé watching birds and looking for mammals (Genet). Today we are going to pick Linda and Mike from a camp site in Oliva and we are heading to the steppes of Albacete.
After half and hour drive and a quick coffee we are watching our first birds: Corn bunting, Rock sparrow, Hoopoe and Crested lark. Pau drives straight to the breeding ground of the elusive Little bustard. The wheat is high, so it is going to be a bit of a challenge to see them. As we walk, a cracking Roller flies over us! Marsh harriers soar in the fields behind us and a solitary Great bustard remains in a green patch in the middle of ploughed field. After that, Pau hears a Little bustard so we move along the track, and finally, Hervé spots a silhouette who turns to be a gorgeous male of Little Bustard, well done!
We drive up to visit different pools finding: Black-winged Stilts, Red-crested Pochards, Whiskered, Gull-billed, Black tern and other common birds. Linda particularly enjoys a pair of Black-necked Grebe. It’s 1:20 pm. and our bellies are asking for lunch. After having some tapas and coffee in Pétrola we visit the largest lagoon where the Greater Flamingos breed. There, we also add a Black kite, Yellow Wagtail, Kentish Plovers, Ringed Plover, Collared Pratincole and a superb Great Reed Warbler singing from the reeds. Birds are very close allowing nice views. Later we undo the way following tracks and we get a Little Owl, Calandra Larks, Great Bustards and a Northern Wheatear.
Finally, we stop in one last area to add a White-headed Duck and a Lizard Orchid! Please, do not hesitate to contact us for a tailor-made trip to find this sadly scarce birds. You can also visit our tour calendar for schedule trips.
Welcome to our spring trip report “Wildlife tour Málaga and Granada”, from April 29th to May 1st. A wonderful combination of birds and orchids! Would you like to know more about orchids tours in Spain?
I got the enquire from Sam to organize a wildlife tour Málaga for him and his family. They are very keen on orchids, wildflowers and general wildlife. So, after picking them from the airport we set off to Villanuva del Rosario where we have a nice walk seeing our first orchids: Yellow-bee orchid (Ophrys lutea) and the first group of Spanish Ibex.
Just in the other side of the road, in a small pine forest we find a large group of Sawfly orchid (Ophrys tenthredinifera). The shade of the pines provides enough moisture to make them grow with great strength. We carry on along the track and find a Mirror orchid (Ophrys speculum) and Pau spots a flock of 8 Red-billed Chough. In the pines there are Bonelli’s Warbler, Willow Warbler, Short-toed Treecreeper, Coal Tit and Crested Tit chirping and moving around. Then, on the way to the picnic area, we find some Fan-flipped Orchid (Anacampis collina) and Early purple orchid (Androrchis mascula) which sadly were passed. While we have lunch, we enjoy good views of Melodious Warbler, Griffon Vultures and Rock Bunting.
After that, we continue driving up hill seeing Spotless Starling, Iberian Magpie and a cracking Bonelli’s Eagle!!! Wonderful! Pau makes a last stop on the way dawn hill when he shows us a very interesting orchid; Small Woodcock Orchid (Ophrys picta). Ann is happy to see this beautiful and rare orchid. After this, we drive for 45 minutes to our hotel in Huétor-Tajar.
During the morning we visit the farmland around Huétor Tajar adding some birds: Yellow Wagtail, Common Sandpiper, Little Owl, Great Spotted Cuckoo, Bee-eaters and Sardenian Warbler among other common birds.
Before noon, we leave to the mountains of Loja where we take a stroll to see some interesting wildlife. We find soon a Pyramidal orchid (Anacamptis pyramidalis) and other beautiful flowers such as Mediterranean Catchfly (Silene colorata), Star of Bethlehem (Ornithogalum umbellatum), Andalusian Storksbill (Erodium recoderi), Southern Daisy (Bellis cordifolia), Southern Knapweed (Centaurea pullata ssp pullata), Tassel Hyacinth (Muscari comosum) and Andalusian Storksbill (Erodium recoderi). Birds are also great, with Crag martins, 2 gorgeous Black wheatear, Stonchat, Woodchat Shrike and a stunning Golden Eagle soaring. What a stroll! Regarding butterflies, Moroccan orange tip, Speckled Wood and Adoni’s blue are also seeing. After having picnic, we continue driving and seeing some birds: Teckla Lark, Spectacled Warbler, Blue-Rock Thrush and Rock Thrush very well spotted by John.
Today we spend the morning in the lagoon of Fuente de Piedra. Pau takes us straight to a colony of Spanish Sparrows and then drives us around the farmland where we find Cattle Egrets, Linnets, Lesser Kestrels, Corn Buntings and a wonderful Montagu’s Harrier. We add some waterfowl and waders in the pools near the visitor centre: Common Pochard, White-headed Duck, Black winged Stilt, Ringed and Little ringed Plover, Collared Pratincole and Curlew Sandpiper.
It is a good think that the lagoon has water again, last January was completely dry. Pau shows us two smaller Flamingos among a flock of Greater Flamingos which turn out to be Lesser Flamingos. They are distant but there is a clear difference in colouration. We stop in different hides seeing Little Stilt, Dunlin, Green and Wood Sandpiper, Gadwall, Marsh Harriers and three more butterflies: Scarce Swallowtail, Swallowtail and Bath White. On the drive back to the town, Sam got a Roller perched on a wire and Pau spots a large raptor which turns to be a Short-toed Eagle. Excellent!
Time the drive the guests to Antequera where they will spend some days with friends. Thanks again for such a great wildlife tour Málaga!!!
Should you have any question, please do not hesitate to contact us.
Welcome to our Extremadura wildlife trip report on March 13th-17th. We will be back next season to this wonderful Spanish region!
In this occasion, I have been invited by the Valencian Government to the Extremadura birdfair (FIO 2016) to promote wildlife tourism in my region “Comunitat Valenciana”. Once the fair finished on Sunday 13th, I drove to Madrid to pick up Beatrice, Tom, Matthew and Susan from Barajas’ airport.
We make a comfort stop along the motorway to grab some lunch. Here, we get our first views of Black and Red Kites, Common Buzzard, Barn Swallows, White Storks and Cattle Egret. Once we finish we continue until we stop at the wetlands of Arrocampo where we get a pair of Purple swamp-hens with a youngster, Zitting Cisticola, two Spoonbills, Little Egret and a Great White Heron. In addition, from the reed beds we do see Savi’s Warbler and a Little Bittern flying fast away from us.
In the nearby fields, Lesser Kestrels hover and Pau finds a Purple Heron hiding in the reeds. After that, we move to the other part of the reserve and get an Iberian Grey Shrike perch on a pylon. Griffon vultures soar close to us. Meanwhile, Susan finds a Scarce Swallowtail, Small Cooper and Red admiral butterflies.
Our next stop is just minutes away from Arrocampo. It is a new orchid reserve and what a place! The ground is covered by Naked man orchids and Champagne orchids, Pau finds three gorgeous Giant orchids (uncommon species in this area) followed by Woodcock orchids. Later, as we explore another plot of land, Beatrice finds Sawfly orchids with “resupination or flower inversion”. Six different species in just a small plot of land! Are you interested in orchids? We strongly recommend the following article about orchids tours in Spain.
Finally, we drive back to our Hotel in Trujillo.
Today we head off to Monfragüe, one of the top raptor watching places in Europe. Our first stop is in Salto del Gitano, a huge cliff that overlooks the Tajo River. Griffon Vultures are all over the place as well as few Black Vultures. Crag martins are up and down and Cormorants fish down in the river. Pau hears a Rock Bunting that is located later by Matthew and a Black Stork carrying some nest material. In addition, a beautiful Blue Rock Thrush sings from a rock on the cliff beside us.
After that, we drive few kilometres and before reaching the next stop a Red deer crosses the road in front of us. No far from there, Pau pulls over at the River Tajo where we see hundreds of House Martin making their nests. Among there, we spot a Red-rumped Swallow and a far distant Alpine Swift. During a short walk, we find a Hawfinch and a Sardinian Warbler.
We stop at Villareal de San Carlos to use facilities and have a coffee. Pau also arranges dinner for that evening as we will try to locate the Eagle Owl at dusk. On the sky, a different silhouette catches our eye; it is a Short-toed Eagle! On the nearby fields, Linnets, Serin and Corn Bunting feed on seeds. After that, we carry on along the river until the next stop where we have lunch. This is a good spot for Bonelli’s Eagle so we have lunch there. Pau gets an Egyptian Vulture being chased by a smaller raptor that turns out to be an inm. Bonelli’s Eagle, suddenly an adult Bonelli’s and two more Egyptian Vultures turn out from nowhere!!! Great stuff!
We drop down along the river to Portilla del Tietar. There, among the bushes an early Subalpine Warbler is found by Pau and seeing by everyone despite being playing hide and seek. A pair of Raven nests in the cliffs and a Nuthatch climbs up in a near oak tree. We walk back along the road waiting to see the “Queen” and not only we get views of Spanish Imperial Eagle but also a scarce bird in the area: a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker. Superb!
After that, we go to Villareal de San Carlos to have dinner and wait until gets dark to try to spot the Eagle Owl. There is a rumour that the pair of Portilla del Tietar has moved to another area so we try another spot. We hear the bird but we are unable to see it. On the way back to the hotel, we visit a small poll where we get nice views of Stripeless Tree Frog. However, a Wild board in the middle of the road gets our full attention.
Once the breakfast is done, we stop in Trujillo to see the Lesser Kestrel colony. Then we move to Los Llanos seeing large numbers of Spanish Sparrows and Red-rumped Swallows nesting. Corn Bunting, Calandra Lark and Crested Lark are everywhere. As we drive, two big raptors get closer and closer, they are Spanish Imperial Eagles! Very quickly, we get off the car and enjoy for few minutes cracking views of these superb birds.
In the middle of a field there are 5 vultures resting on the ground (3 Griffon and 2 Black). In the opposite field, a Hen Harrier and Marsh Harrier fly towards us. Besides, Red and Black Kites are all over the place and a Thekla Lark is spotted by Susan. We stop for a picnic in Magasca and get some common birds, Greenfinches, Goldfinches, Tree Sparrows and Common Chiffchaff. It is getting hot and reptiles are active as well as Large White butterflies. Pau finds a Large Psammodromus and a Spanish Terrapin sunbathing. There are also Iberian Water frogs croaking.
Our next stop is in Belen where we get a beautiful Great Spotted Cuckoo flying in front of the car. That is a good start! In a nearby field there are a group of 10 Great Bustards! Not far from them, there is a flock of 25 Golden Plovers. A pair of Egyptian Vultures and a pale morph Booted Eagle are also seen.
Today, we have dinner in the old town of Trujillo where we locate a Scoops Owl and hear a Little Owl.
Our first stop is in a “dehesa” close to Sierra Brava. Sadly, the first thing we find in the track is a death Ladder Snake. Lots of Hoopoes are feeding on the grass and on the wire we find a Woodchat Shrike. On the water, there are several gulls (Black-headed and Lesser Black backed) and 2 Greater Flamingos. Through the scope we can locate Pintails and Wigeons.
We take a diversion to look for some steppes birds, the road is quite busy so we press on and take a track where we find a solitary Great Bustard and a Stone Curlew. In a bush inside the road ditch, Pau finds a male Dartford Warbler. As we drive back to the main road a flock of 20 Great Bustards fly over us. What a moment for Susan, her favourite bird!
Our next stop is to re-fuel the car and have some coffee. Pau spots a flock of Common Swifts feeding in a channel that goes around the town. At least 2 of them are Pallid Swifts! Then, we move to the paddy fields which are quite dry, but along the edges we find a group of Red avadavats. There are Common and Green Sandpiper, Black-winged Stilts and Yellow Wagtail in a small pool. On the grass there is a small party of Spotless Starlings.
A little further down, Tom sees a flock of birds landing. We pull over the car and get good views of Black-bellied Sandgrouses. Good! We follow the track and in another paddy field there is a Crane with two Storks! Hopefully, the Crane can make its trip back north!
We get some information about a new reserve development, so we head off to get some more staff. There we find a pair of Egyptian Goose with two youngsters, a Night Heron, Greenshank, Showelers, Gadwalls and Little-ringed Plovers. As we turn around, we get some close views of Iberian hare.
Today, is our last day in Extremadura so we decide to stop on Arrocampo for one last target; Black-winged Kite. We are lucky to find it in a pylon before reaching the reserve! Once we get in, we see a Reed Warbler in the reeds and Crested Larks displaying. Tom finds our last bird, a solitary Garganey mixed in a flock of Gadwalls.
It is always a difficult thing to choose the highlight of the trip, but here we go.
Beatrice: The “Queen”. The pair of Spanish Imperial Eagles flying so close. Superb views! Flowery meadows.
Tom: Cracking views of Bonelli’s Eagle chasing/playing with the Egyptian Vultures.
Matthew: Spotted Cuckoo and Spanish Imperial Eagle.
Susan: The big flock of Great Bustards and the Spotless Tree Frog.
Pau would like to thank you all and look forward to sharing further adventures in the future. He also hopes you find this Extremadura Wildlife trip report useful.
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