Extremadura & Gredos Mountains, Spain

I finally got round to sorting out my photos from this trip at the end of May. It was a 7 day two centre trip to see the birds and wildlife of these areas of central Spain. The first five days we were based at a nice Hospederia located close to Monfrague National Park which is home to a large colony of vultures and other raptors as well as many other birds. 

First we were to explore the grasslands or semi-steppe areas for bustards and other creatures that liked this sort of habitat. We found Great Bustards on several occasions but they were often so distant that decent photos were impossible. However, just to give you an impression of what it's like here's a shot across the grassland. Spot the bustard.

And here's a heavily cropped shot - pretty rubbish but you can just about make it out.

Because many birds were rather far away some of my shots had to be heavily cropped degrading the image - so apologies for that.

If you think Corn Buntings are scarce in the UK you want to come to this part of Spain. They were absolutely everywhere which shows they can thrive in areas of low intensity agriculture. 

Crested and Thekla Larks were abundant too although I struggle to tell them apart. A couple of photos which I think are both Crested.

A Booted Eagle which passed over fairly high up

And a passing White Stork

In some parts of the steppe they've been putting up nest boxes on telephone/electricity poles to encourage Kestrels and Rollers. I didn't get any photos of Kestrels but Rollers were more obliging although a bit distant.

And this pair.

Here's photo of a tree. Why I hear you ask?

Cos there's a Spanish Imperial Eagle in it. We were to get better views elsewhere

A photographic first for me was get shots of this Zitting Cisticola (aka Fan-tailed Warbler) which has eluded me for years although I've seen plenty of them. Not great shots but better than nowt.

Crossing a small river we came across this Little-ringed Plover

And a European Pond Turtle

On an abandoned and dilapidated building there were a large number of Cattle Egrets roosting as well as nesting Storks. 

The Cattle Egrets were spooked by our arrival and most flew off but I got some shots as they started to return

And this one landing back on the roof doing its impression of the Angel of the North.

I'll do a few insects to conclude this section.

Red-striped Oil Beetle

Clouded Yellow Butterfly

Our guide referred to this as a Red Underwing Skipper but I thought it looked more like a Small Skipper. Opinions welcome.

Female Broad-bodied Chaser

Locust of some sort.

To be continued ..........

____________________________________________________________________

Regards,Tony

My Flickr Photostream 

  • Great report Tony, looking forward to the next set and pooping the location down in the "can i persuade the wife" list.

    ----------

    Cheers,

    Bob

    My Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/bobs_retired_now/

  • In reply to Bobs_Still_Retired:

    Thanks, Bob.

    And so to continue. The main attraction of the Monfrague National Park is the gorge of the River Tagus with its towering cliffs home to vultures, other raptors and many other bird species. 

    An outcrop of Griffon Vultures.

    And flying overhead

    A Black Kite which is the most numerous of the raptors and quite common everywhere.

    Monfrague is home to the largest breeding colony of Black Vultures in Europe, possibly the world. They are dark sinister looking birds with quite a ragged appearance compared with the Griffons.

    The Spanish Imperial Eagle has nested in the gorge for many years. It nests in trees where the gorge widens out but we couldn't see the nest. However here's a distant shot of what is probably the male.

    I think this is it flying although I slightly lost the plot of what I was photographing. I hope I'm right and it's not something else.

    Black Storks also nest in the gorge. This is not a very clear picture but you can just about make it out.

    Of equal interest to me was some of the smaller birds in the Gorge. Crag Martins were zooming all over the place. I haven't got Bob's skill to catch them in flight but this one stopped for a rest looking suspiciously over its shoulder at what I was up to.

    A lovely male Linnet posed briefly for me.

    A nice male Black Redstart

    And who would have thought it, a Short-toed Treecreeper popped into view.

    Not unexpected though was this lovely male Blue Rock Thrush collecting food for his partner or offspring.

    On the eastern side of the River Tagus is the Castillo de Monfrague perched high up on a small peak. It's quite a climb but worth it for the views alone.

    More specifically, it's one of the few places where you can see White-rumped Swift. Not that I could get photos as they were whizzing in and out of one of the towers where they nest. However being up so high gave eye level views of Griffon Vultures so a couple more pis of them.

    There's a picnic location within the park where Iberian Magpies (formerly known as Azure-winged Magpies) hang out hoping to share the lunch of visitors. Who were we to deny them. 

    We also explored the heath and scrub that surrounds the main gorge so I'll finish off this bit with a few bits and bobs from there.

    Dartford Warbler (I think)

    Queen of Spain Fritillary.

    A tatty looking Painted Lady

    Small Copper feeding on Lavender

    Female Orange-tip (I think)

    Small White

    To be further continued .......

    ____________________________________________________________________

    Regards,Tony

    My Flickr Photostream 

  • In reply to TeeJay:

    Great continuation to the trip report - wingspans to die for :).

    ----------

    Cheers,

    Bob

    My Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/bobs_retired_now/

  • In reply to Bobs_Still_Retired:

    Good stuff, TJ--thanks for posting!  Love the birds of prey especially, although the smaller birds are lovely, too.

    Kind regards, 

    Ann

  • In reply to Gardenbirder:

    Fantastic report and pics Tony and yet more Vultures for me. Looking forward to the next episode.

    Kind regards

    Jenny

  • In reply to nairnred:

    Such a wonderful thread and commentary Tony so thanks for making the effort to organise it all and upload,  really enjoyed all the photos, there are so many fabulous birds, butterflies, bugs that I can't choose a favourite with so many to choose from;  the raptors are magnificent and at least you saw them in the wild unlike me who cheated  lol     Crested Lark,  Black Redstart, Roller, linnet .... wow !   must be a thrill to see such a huge selection in the natural wild.   Well done and thanks again;  going back through for another look :)

    _________________________________________________________________________

    Regards, Hazel 

    "Each kindness shown to birds or men is sure to flutter back again" 

  • In reply to HAZY:

    Great thread Tony,I would love to be able to get back. On our last trip to mainland Spain we stayed in the area North of Alicante in Crevillente at a small guest house called Finca Bonellis.The hills in the area looked like the scenery in spaghetti westerns.We could lay in the pool looking up at breeding Bonellis Eagles and Alpine Swifts. Probably one of our best birding trips abroad,more raptors than you can shake a stick at,thought I'd died and gone to heaven.Not wanting to take over Tony's thread but if anyone is dithering about going to Spain for a birding trip give it a go,wine food sun and fantastic birds.

    Pete

    Birding is for everyone no matter how good or bad we are at it,enjoy it while you can

  • In reply to HAZY:

    Thanks for sharing your holiday snaps with us TJ. It is nice to see what other countering have to offer. Very nice, looking forward to the continued update.

    Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

  • In reply to Catlady:

    Thanks very much for all you comments so far - final part coming up. Pete, I absolutely endorse what you say about Spain. I've been there many times and love the country and the wildlife not to mention the food and wine. I fear this may be my last trip there as age is taking its toll - but you never know.

    ____________________________________________________________________

    Regards,Tony

    My Flickr Photostream 

  • In reply to Bobs_Still_Retired:

    Cheers Bob. I'll see if I can round this off before I get too tired.

    Perhaps one of the disappointments of the trip was our visit to Trujillo the nearest small town. Lesser Kestrels nest in the roof of the bullring but on our visit there was no sign of them. It was a rather cool and unsettled day so they were probably out hunting for insects further afield. Never mind we had a nice ice cream in the attractive central square and watched the swifts and swallows whizzing around and the storks on the church tower. 

    Trujillo is the birthplace of Francisco Pizarro, one of the Conquistadors who led an expedition which led to the downfall of the Incas in Peru. A statue of him is prominent in the central square

    That's the end of the culture bit which I don't reall do so let's get back to the wildlife

    We explored the area south of Trujillo where we visited a small lake. Nothing too exciting but there were some water birds.

    A Great Egret looking rather glum

    And having a bit of a preen

    A solitary Redshank

    A few Black-winged Stilts

    A couple of flyovers

    Poor picture of a Spoonbill

    And a not much better shot of a Purple Heron. We'd seen plenty of them but never close enough for a photo.

    Of more interest (to me) were some damsel/dragonflies

    An Orange Featherleg

    I think this is an Iberian Bluetail but if anyone thinks I'm wrong please tell me

    And especially this one which I was told was a teneral male  Banded Groundling. It's primarily an African species which has started to colonise parts of Europe.

    I doubt that I would have ever been able to ID it myself because being young it hadn't developed the characteristic bands across the wings.

    Did you know that the produce rice in Extremadura? However unlikely it seems they do and the paddyfields can be a good place for seeing birds. They have irrigation canals which can be used to flood the fields when they are ready to plant the rice.

    Here we found a flock of Greater Flamingos feeding

    And a photographic first for me, Gull-billed Terns. Although I've seen them before I've never been close enough to get any pics.

    Before we left Extremadura to head for the Gredos Mountains we did a little bit of local birding. I can't remember exactly where we saw this stuff - it all becomes a bit of a blur after a while. 

    This I think is a Sub-alpine Warbler. We'd seen and heard them quite often but they were rather elusive and shy. This is the only photo I got.

    This little Serin, however, proved to be more obliging. I think I showed one of these on the May best pics thread.

    The Gredos Mountains are situated north of Extremadura just in Castile y Leon and west of Madrid. We stayed two nights in a Parador allegedly the first to be opened in Spain. It was old but very comfortable with good food.

    Totally different habitat to Extremadura with pine forests and mountains streams. We had an American on the trip who wanted to see a Dipper but despite perfect habitat we failed to find one. Although we did locate Goldcrests, Firecrests and Crested Tits I couldn't get any photos as they were always hidden away inthe canopy. The only woodland bird I got was this rather poor photo of a Pied Flycatcher. This made up for my abortive trip to Nagshead in the Forest Of Dean

    Now, especially for Hazy, some proper Cyrils. Yes, cuddly Red Squirrels looking very endearing and eating pine cones rather than devastating your stock of peanuts and everything else.

    Our last full day was spent visiting the La Platforma de Gredos. This involved a longish hike up a fairly rough and at times steep path to an area not far short of the snow line. I was glad I took my hiking pole as a spring chicken I am not.

    I didn't have a wide angle lens with me but here's a couple of shots from my zoom lens (not ideal) to give you an idea of the terrain

    Our primary objective was to see the Bluethroat which nests up there. We did but only through a scope, so sorry no photos. Nice views of Ibex though.

    Whilst up on the plateau we found a female Schreiber's Green Lizard.

    One of our group who had diverted to take a comfort break found a male which is even more colourful.

    Descending from the plateau this charming Rock Bunting didn't seem to mind having his photo taken

    And I managed to snap a Bonelli's Warbler although it was a bit shyer.

    And an even more elusive Ortolan Bunting

    Finally, this butterfly which our guide said was a Moroccan Orange-tip. I thought it was more likely to be a Provence Orange-tip which has been separated from the Moroccan as a different species. How you tell the difference between them if they overlap I don't know.

     

    We seemed to pack quite a lot in during just a week so no wonder I was tired on returning home. Thanks for staying with me and sharing my week

    If anyone spots any mistakes in my ID's please let me know.

    ____________________________________________________________________

    Regards,Tony

    My Flickr Photostream