Cambs Birders in Extremadura, Spain: May 1998

After several months of planning, the time had arrived. We flew from Gatwick at 0730 and landed at Malaga at 1050. Once through the airport we picked up our hire cars and headed North on the N831 towards our first site. The weather was hot and sunny and we soon had changed into shorts and T-shirts.

Laguna de fuiente de pedre DAY 1


Crested Lark20+

Black-winged Stilt20+

Alpine Swift8

Gull-billed Tern19

Whiskered Tern2

Black Tern10+

Wood Sandpiper3

Kentish Plover13

Greater Flamingo1000+

Yellow-legged Gull1

Common Sandpiper1

Curlew sandpiper1

Calandra Lark2

Fan-tailed Warbler20+


Black-necked Grebe1

‘Spanish’ Wagtail 20+ of subsp M. f. iberiae


 The ubiquitous Crested Lark


Woodchat Shrike2


PURPLE GALLINULE4+ of these weird birds seen at incredibly close range. The large bill looks comical and it is hard to take them seriously! My first lifer of the trip

Black Kite40+

Booted Eagle1 adult pale-morph overhead


El Rocio, Donana


AZURE-WINGED MAGPIE2 seen from car on the edge of some farmland. A real crippler!

Black Kite1

Cattle Egret40+

Little Egret1


Greater Flamingo5

Night Heron1 adult

White Stork4


This evening we stayed at Pension Cristina in El Rocio, which was to be our base for 3 nights and we were served real Paella! 









El Rocio - 0800-0930DAY 2


Black-winged Stilt130

Cattle Egret32

Whiskered Tern10


SPOTLESS STARLING1? - Another tick in the bag!


Collared Pratincole6

Black Kite2

Black-tailed Godwit1

Red-crested Pochard2

Yellow-legged Gull8

Greater Flamingo16

White Stork6


Acebuche, Donana


Booted Eagle1 adult pale-morph overhead

Red-rumped Swallow1

Purple Heron1

Azure-winged Magpie10+


SOUTHERN GREY SHRIKE1 watched mobbing a Black Kite

Night Heron1

Red-crested Pochard3

Savi’s Warbler1

Red Kite1

Black Kite11

White Stork7


Short-toed Eagle2 watched hovering over pastureland. Fantastic!

Ferruginous Duck1

Great Reed Warbler10+

Golden Oriole3?’s


Serin20+ - a common sight and sound


GRIFFON VULTURE4 soaring over visitor centre. Huge birds, very impressive indeed.

Melodious Warbler1

Booted Eagle3 pale morphs noted


La Rocina, Donana


Whiskered Tern1

Purple Gallinule4


Little Bittern3

Black Kite12

Fan-tailed Warbler20+

Night Heron1

Great Reed Warbler1

Dartford Warbler2.1 (3)


Western Olivaceous Warbler2

Squacco Heron3


Cetti’s Warbler3

Booted Eagle3

Great White Egret1

Sardinian Warbler7

Golden Oriole1? gave great views



Acebuche, Donana


Azure-winged Magpie5+


Short-toed Treecreeper1

Quail1 calling at dusk

Stone Curlew 1 flew over calling

RED-NECKED NIGHTJAR4+ seen & heard. Larger than Nightjar with the distinctive “Kutok, kutok. Kutok” call echoing into the calm night. A real target species in the bag.



El Rocio DAY 3


Black-winged Stilt3


Cattle Egret1

Collared Pratincole1

Short-toed Lark1



Sardinian Warbler3

Black Kite50+

PALLID SWIFT1 overhead with Common Swifts. The pale plumage, blunt primaries and different flight action all noted. The bird remained overhead for 5 minutes before drifting off.


Southern Grey Shrike3


Cerrado Garrido, Donana


Collared Pratincole60+

Cattle Egret100+

Spanish Sparrow1? in a White Stork’s nest

Booted Eagle1

Short-toed Eagle9

Red Kite1

Purple Heron16

Purple Gallinule2

Kentish Plover2

Greater Flamingo00’s


LESSER SHORT-TOED LARKAt least 5 noted feeding on a sandy track near the main reserve centre. Small size, short stubby bill, gorget of streaks on upper breast and long primary projection all noted. Yet another target species seen!


Griffon Vulture6

Gull-billed Tern2

Whiskered Tern7

Booted Eagle1

Glossy Ibis8

Great Reed Warbler3

Red-crested Pochard8

Night Heron9

MARBLED TEALExcellent views of a pair feeding in a shallow pool.

Black-tailed Godwit30+

Spotted Redshank2 in full summer plumage

Squacco Heron1

Grey Plover1

Stone Curlew1

Marsh Harrier2


Calandra Lark2

Bee-eater20+ hunting at eye-level from fence. Fantastic!

Cattle Egret00’s if not 000’s – some flocks of 80+ birds at dusk



Bee-eaters are always spectacular even when you are seeing 100+ some days

El RocioDAY 4


We left this region and headed North towards Extremedura. We stopped for breakfast en route at a village called Las Pajanosus. We reached Extremedura at 1030 and continued to head north.





Extremedura Region


Black Kite50+


Common Buzzard2


Woodchat Shrike7

Southern Grey Shrike3

Stone Curlew1

Montagu’s Harrier1? , 1?, 2?

Crested Lark00’s

Sardinian Warbler1?

Cattle Egret00’s

Fan-tailed Warbler10+

Griffon Vulture2


White Stork1


Valdeherros, Extremedura 1445-1515


BLACK-SHOULDERED KITE2 juvs perched on dead roadside trees and giving fantastic scope views at 100 yards range. Small, elegant, long-winged with longish tail, pale grey upperparts, black carpal patches, white underparts with darker greyish mantle showing pale fringes to scapulars, very obvious black facial mask. What a fabulous bird!


Black Kite4

Red Kite2


Woodchat Shrike3


Ruanes, nr Trujillo, Extremedura


Roller1 adult watched on roadside wires. Fantastic views!



Rollers are always fantastic to watch

Trujillo, Extremedura


LESSER KESTRELAs we arrived at Hotel Victoria, hundreds of Lesser Kestrels were flying over the Plaza Campillo, what a wonderful sight! The ?’s whitish below with small dark underpart spotting, long pale grey tail with broad black subterminal band – one obvious feature is the projecting central tail feathers, though I’ve yet to see one on the deck. Trujillo is home to the largest Lesser Kestrel colony in Europe.


Belen, nr Trujillo


GREAT BUSTARDAt least 5 ? & 9 ? were seen. Mostly distant on the vast rolling plains but good views were possible through a scope.  ? rich brown barred upperparts, grey head and neck, white throat and thick white ‘whiskers’. Broad reddish-brown lower breast band also noted. They appeared very stately as they strutted around.


Little Bustard10+? all giving their strange ‘raspberry’ call

Calandra Lark5+

Little Owl2

Stone Curlew3

Montagu’s Harrier2 ? 


Hotel Victoria, Trujillo (0600)DAY 5


Lesser Kestrel20+



Santa Marta de la Gasca


Little Bustard8 ?

Great Bustard1


Montagu’s Harrier2



Southern Grey Shrike4

Tawny Pipit1

Thekla Lark2

Black Kite18

BLACK-BELLIED SANDGROUSE2 flew low over the road in front of where we were standing! Obviously bulkier than dove sp with very rapid flight on long pointed wings, white underwing most conspicuous and low ‘bubbling’ call noted. Upperparts orangey-buff, contrasting with black belly and flight feathers. Narrow pointed tail also noted.


Black-shouldered Kite1 adult perched on telegraph pole.

Quail1+ calling





Crag Martin10+ including this very confiding young juvenile


Cirl Bunting1

Red-rumped Swallow1

Griffon Vulture3

Black Vulture3


BLACK WHEATEAR? watched feeding young on a rock face. A large and handsome glossy black wheatear with gleaming white tail and contrasting black T.


Black-eared Wheatear1? of the black-throated form perched on a rock giving great views. Our first of the trip, and a plumage that I was keen to see.



Adult ? BLACK EARED WHEATEAR Oenanthe hipanica


Torrejon el Rubio



SPANISH IMPERIAL EAGLE1 adult watched perched on a pylon about 200 yards from the roadside. A huge bird with the characteristic blackish-brown plumage shown by many members of this family, also the golden head and whitish scapular patches which separate this species from Imperial Eagle were clearly seen. I managed to get a couple of reasonable pictures of this grossly endangered species. Probably the rarest bird I’ve seen!



Booted Eagle1

Griffon Vulture2

Northern Wheatear1


Spanish Festoon Butterfly2


Monfrague National Park


As we entered this huge National Park we were amazed at the striking rock formations. The sheer rock faces on which the Griffon Vultures nested are an incredible sight!


Penafalcon Rock, Monfrague NP


Griffon Vulture30+ mostly on nests

Short-toed Eagle1 perched

Black Redstart1


Blue Rock Thrush1

Red-rumped Swallow20+

Egyptian Vulture1 adult overhead was anew bird for Jill

Crag Martin20+

Sardinian Warbler1

Alpine Swift3 watched at close range from the bridge


Mirrador Portilla, Tietar Cliffs


Griffon Vulture40+

Black Stork3

Egyptian Vulture1

Blue Rock Thrush1

Black Vulture8


Subalpine Warbler2+

ROCK BUNTINGA pair was watched as they fed young. They kept flying to the opposite side of the gorge only to return to a crevice 30 yards in front of us. Very smart birds indeed with unmarked orange underparts, brownish upperparts, 2 prominent wing bars, pale grey head with paler supercilium and broad blackish head stripes. Long-tailed appearance very distinctive. Superb!


BONELLI’S EAGLEA pair watched soaring overhead with a group of 10+ Griffons. A large eagle with pale underparts contrasting with the blackish carpal bar and outer primaries. Inner primaries and secondaries paler than outers. Long square cut tail with broad dark terminal band. In flight gave the impression of a huge Honey Buzzard.




Alpine Swift3

Booted Eagle1 pale-morph






EAGLE OWL2 well-grown young perched out on an exposed ledge. Bobbing constantly and calling frequently – a loud hiss. Although still quite downy these birds were seen to fly a short distance when the nearby adult started calling. At 2140 the adult flew right over our heads across the gorge and vanished into the gloom. 5 minutes later a Red-necked Nightjar flew over our heads in the same direction. This was a really incredible day with no less than 6 new birds for me.


Santa Marta de la Gasca 0700-0930DAY 6


Great Bustard2 imm ? giving very good views.

Montagu’s Harrier7

Little Bustard20+ excellent views



Black-bellied Sandgrouse12


Black-shouldered Kite1

Stone Curlew2

Azure-winged Magpie30+

Black Kite10


E90 ? Northbound


Black Vulture2

Griffon Vulture7

Woodchat Shrike8

Southern Grey Shrike1 found dead by the roadside.


Jaraciejo 1145-1215


ROCK SPARROWAt least 4 were located feeding around some rocks and perching in nearby Cork Oaks. Easily located by their twanging ‘weeeeew’ call. A largish sparrow, with prominent head stripes, streaked flanks and short tail.


Azure-winged Magpie20+


Woodchatpair feeding young


Castillio de Monfrague, Monfrague NP



Jill, Alan, Arthur & Mr P at the Castillio


Today we walked up to the top of the Castillio to el monastero. About a 2-hour walk, it was extremely hard work in the hot sun. When you get to the top you are at 513M and you could see for miles. The best part of being at the top was that at times you were at eye-level with the Griffon Vultures as they glided past.


Griffon Vulture100+


Woodchat Shrike6

Azure-winged Magpie20+

Black Vulture2


Crag Martin50+

Red-rumped Swallow40+ including many sunning themselves on a roof

Booted Eagle1

Black Redstart1

Black Stork1? on nest with 4 chicks, less than one week old.

Rock Bunting1

Blue Rock Thrush1



Red-rumped Swallow at the Castillio

Rio almonte


Pallid Swift7

Black Stork1 adult feeding in stream

White Wagtail1

Red-rumped Swallow1

Little Owl1


TrujilloDAY 7


This morning we left our excellent hotel and it’s Lesser Kestrels and headed south for the last part of our trip.


Lesser Kestrel100+

Pallid Swift10+

White Stork3

Great Bustard3 flew over town towards Belen




Black-eared Wheatear2


Calandra Lark3

Spanish Sparrow1

Montagu’s Harrier6

Common Buzzard3

Griffon Vulture3

Red Kite2

Cattle Egret80+


Northern Wheatearpr




Black Tern5

Melodious Warbler2

Great Reed Warbler1

Black-winged Stilt2

Cetti’s Warbler1

Griffon Vulture2


Casa del tejar



Common Buzzard2

Golden Oriole2

Golden EagleFantastic views of a 2CY close overhead

Southern Grey Shrike4


Cattle Egret30+




Black Kite1

Black-eared Wheatear1? 2 ?

Red-rumped Swallow2


La Serena


Black Kite20+

Willow Warbler2

Grasshopper Warbler1

White Stork100+

Little Bustard25+

Calandra Lark30+

Black-bellied Sandgrouse17 including some watched on ground

PIN-TAILED SANDGROUSE38+ seen in flight and distantly on the ground. Pale belly easily seen, orange breast bands noted, as were black primaries, and pointed tail. Fantastic views of a real crippler!


Montagu’s Harrier1? black morph – stunning!

Great Bustard1?

Black-eared Wheatearpr 


CasteuraDAY 8




Woodchat Shrike3


Fan-tailed Warbler2

Black Kite1








Crested Lark4+


Laguna del Rincon


Great Reed Warbler6+

Black-winged Stilt6

Little Stint2

Little Ringed Plover1

Black Tern3

Black-necked Grebe2pr

Montagu’s Harrier1

WHITE-HEADED DUCK1 Adult ? showing well at 150 yards range. The rich rufous upperparts, white head, black ‘skull’ cap and swollen pale blue bill noted.





Melodious Warbler2

Fan-tailed Warbler10+


Quail5+ calling


Laguna Dulce


Whiskered Tern8

Gull-billed Tern18+

Black-necked Grebe40+

White-headed Duck4 pairs displaying

Montagu’s Harrier1


Stone Curlew1

Red-crested Pochard2 pr

Great Reed Warbler2

CRESTED COOTHow does Richard do it? There must have been at least 500 Coot on the lake and after 10 minutes he calmly announced that he was watching one! Bill slightly duller than Coot and the reddish ‘knobs’ on the forehead are surprisingly easy to pick out at range. Brilliant!


We drove from Laguna Dulce to Ronda, arriving at 2100 and stayed the night at the Pension San Francisco. Remember all the mad motorcyclists with no helmets?


RondaDAY 9



A morning spent around the scenic gorge produced a few good birds.



Blue Rock Thrush1

Crag Martin4

Alpine Swift4 gave fantastic views at close range

Lesser Kestrel6


Willow Warbler1

Grey Wagtail1


Spotless Starling2







After lunch we drove out of the town to explore the mountainous gorges and valleys alongside the back roads and some breathtaking scenery.


Honey Buzzard5

Egyptian Vulture1

Griffon Vulture13

Rock Bunting1

Woodchat Shrike1

Tawny Pipit1

Spectacled Warbler1

Black-eared Wheatear1



Sardinian Warbler4

Booted Eagle2 pale-morphs

IBERIAN CHIFFCHAFF1 heard calling in the valley below us, but it remained unseen. The faster song was very distinctive, it cannot be long before there is a substantiated claim from Britain of this recently split species.


Tarifa Harbour



Common Tern1

Yellow-legged Gull20+


Honey Buzzard2 in off the sea





Black-winged Stilt1

Griffon Vulture2

Montagu’s Harrier1


Kentish Plover1

Cattle Egret20+


Ronda ? MalagaDAY 10


We left our accommodation and headed back to the airport. A few birds were seen en route.



Crested Lark2


Fan-tailed Warbler2


We arrived at Malaga airport at 1130 ready for our return flight to Gatwick. We recorded 168 species of which 21 were new for me. A thoroughly successful and most enjoyable trip.


Sample from Cambs Birders in Extremadura, Spain: May 1998