Tuesday 29 May, sunny, light W-SW wind, 30C: On our final morning we took a stroll around the meadows close to Navarredonda and managed to get some close-up views of up to 12 adult and juvenile Citril Finch. In this area we also saw Griffon Vulture, Honey Buzzard, Black Kite, Red Kite, Booted Eagle, Raven, a flock of 20 Common Crossbill, Rock Bunting, Rock Sparrow and a Common Whitethroat that had us all confused for a while with it's unusual song variation. And that was it, time to pack up and start the 7hr drive home to Gaucin via Madrid Barajas airport - what a great week (11 life ticks for me - including some that I really should have had by now!).
Monday 28 May, sunny am, cloudy with heavy outbursts of rain and some thunder late afternoon, 27C: Today we visited the mountainous area known as the Plataforma de Gredos and we caught up with some superb birds. On the drive up to the parking area we spotted a singing male Red-backed Shrike and Ortolan Bunting and on the 'heathland' further up we logged a singing male Rock Thrush, two male Bluethroat, Water Pipit, several singing Ortolan Bunting, Rock Bunting, Skylark and Northern Wheatear as well as at least three vividly-plumaged Dunnock. Back down in the 'alpine meadows' we saw Honey Buzzard, Red Kite, Booted Eagle, Short-toed Eagle, Goshawk, Green Woodpecker, Woodlark, Yellow Wagtail, Dipper, Melodious Warbler, Bonelli's Warbler, Firecrest, Mistle Thrush, Crested Tit, Common Crossbill, Cirl Bunting, Common Whitethroat, Sublapine Warbler and fairly distant views of the so-far elusive Citril Finch! During the morning two of our group told us that they had gone for a post-evening meal walk along the road outside the hotel and that they had heard European Nightjar - this seemed unlikely as it's breeding distribution is reported as finishing much further North (replaced here by the Red-necked Nightjar). Most likely nocturnal frogs, we thought. We were, however, persuaded to join them for a walk this evening and we were pleasantly surprised to hear not one but at least 3 'churring' males two of which flew past no more than 10m from us! Just goes to show that the guide books are not always correct!
Sunday 27 May, Trujillo to Sierra de Gredos, partly cloudy, little or no wind, 27C: After five wonderful days at Finca Santa Marta we left Extremadura for the mountains of Sierra de Gredos, in the province of Castille-Leon. The journey included a stop at a bridge over a small river where we located a Dipper as well as Honey Buzzard, Red Kite, 5 Booted Eagle (all dark morph), Short-toed Eagle, 2x Hobby, Bonelli's Warbler and a female Pied Flycatcher (not seen by me). After checking into the Parador de Gredos hotel we drove a short distance to look around some meadows and mixed woodland; here we saw another Hobby, Green Woodpecker, Woodlark, Yellow Wagtail, Melodious Warbler, Bonelli's Warbler, Firecrest, Northern Wheatear, Long-tailed Tit, Azure-winged Magpie, Carrion Crow, Tree Sparrow, Golden Oriole, Rock Sparrow, Rock Bunting, Common Whitethroat and Garden Warbler. We also spotted a Song Thrush, unusual in this area during the breeding season.
Saturday 26 May, mostly sunny, light W wind, 26C: An early morning walk around Finca Santa Marta failed to produce the hoped- for Wryneck but we did see Golden Oriole, Woodlark and Short-toed Treecreeper. We then headed for the local nuclear power station, or to be more specific the reservoirs surrounding it that are used for coolant. Here we had a good tally of birds the highlights being Black Vulture, Red Kite, Short-toed Eagle, Marsh Harrier, Gull-billed Tern, Little Tern, Spoonbill, Purple Heron (at least 6), Great White Egret, Little Bittern, a pair of Tufted Duck (rare for Spain!), Gadwall, Black-winged Stilt, Common Sandpiper, Common Cuckoo, Southern Grey Shrike, Great Reed Warbler, Reed Warbler and Savi's Warbler. On the way back to Finca Santa Marta we checked out Belen Plain and were rewarded by superb views of Great-spotted Cuckoo (4 individuals present), and a close fly-past of 8 Great Bustard. In the evening we tried for the Red-necked Nightjar and Scops Owl in the cherry orchards but again drew a blank (just a distant Red-necked Nightjar calling).
Friday 25 May, mostly sunny, light W wind, 32C: Today we visited the wonderful Monfrague national park north of Trujillo and were treated to some superb birds. Starting at the Castillo we quickly picked up one of our target birds, White-rumped Swift which is one of the rarest birds in Spain; also seen were Black Vulture, Egyptian Vulture and Griffon Vulture (at one point, all three in one view), Black Kite, Raven, Black Stork, Great Cormorant, Blue Rock Thrush, Black Redstart, Crag Martin, Red-rumped Swallow and Hawfinch. Moving on to Salto del Gitano (Gypsy's Leap), we saw more Black Vulture and Egyptian Vulture before getting great views of a sub-adult Golden Eagle - worth the trip just for that. In this area we also logged Peregrine, Alpine Swift, Black Wheatear and Rock Bunting. During the, very hot, afternoon we looked for Eagle Owl on the cliff face at Portillo de Tiata but none showed; we did, however, see a Spanish Imperial Eagle on it's nest and later, in the oak woods there were Woodchat Shrike, Turtle Dove, Hoopoe, Coal Tit, Short-toed Treecreeper, Spanish Sparrow and, best of all, an Orphean Warbler singing and showing well at the top of a tree. We considered going in search of Great-spotted Cuckoo but with no let up in the heat opted for ice-creams and a return to Finca Santa Marta. What a great day!
Thursday 24 May, sunny, hot, still air, 33C: Today we headed for the rice fields to the south of Trujillo. On the way there we stopped at a bridge over a stream and saw Pallid Swift, Melodious Warbler, Nightingale and Tree Sparrow then at a large reservoir, the Presa Sierra Brava, where we saw Common Buzzard, Lesser Kestrel, Little Owl, Purple Heron, Black-winged Stilt, Shoveler, Great Reed Warbler, Marsh Harrier and Black Kite (Great-spotted Cuckoo was seen by some as it flew across the van, but not by me!). At the rice fields we soon started logging some good birds including Marsh Harrier, Roller, Golden Oriole, Little Bittern, Azure-winged Magpie, Collared Pratincole, Little-ringed Plover, Dunlin, Little Stint (the latter two species unusual this late in the year) and several superb Avadavat, an introduced Asian Weaverbird, including at least one male in summer plumage. We stopped for lunch at a bridge over the river and added more Great Reed Warbler, Reed Warbler, another Little Bittern and Red-rumped Swallow before seeing one of our target species, the Common Waxbill, several of which were flying in and out of the reed beds. At this point we opted to drive back to Finca Santa Marta as the heat was getting a bit much for most of the group!
Wednesday 23 June, sunny, hot, no wind, 32C: Early morning visit to Belen plain where we saw both Great Bustard and Little Bustard; also Booted Eagle, Stone Curlew (inc. chick), Little Owl. Later at Talavan reservoir highlights were Great Reed Warbler, Collared Pratincole, Great-crested and Little Grebe, Gadwall and Black-winged Stilt. At Monroy we added Black Vulture and more Great Bustard before a cattle drove flushed them off! Caceres Plains gave us Montagu's Harrier, Lesser Kestrel, Roller, Hoopoe, Calandra Lark, Tawny Pipit, Mistle Thrush, Spanish Sparrow, Turtle Dove and Southern Grey Shrike. At a bridge over Rio Almonte there were Raven, Jackdaw, Alpine Swift, Crag Martin and Black Wheatear. A great day's birding with a total of 83 species.
Tuesday 22 May, sunny, 26C: A 5.30hrs start to drive to Malaga airport to catch a flight to Madrid...all went smoothly. At Madrid picked up a Mercedes 'minibus' along with 6 passengers who are on a Wingspan birding tour of Extremadura. On our 250km drive to Trujillo we stopped off at Jaraicejo heath and logged Spectacled Warbler, Subalpine Warbler and Dartford Warbler as well as Black Stork, Bee-eater, Crested and Thekla Lark and many Black Kite. At a coffee stop we saw a passing Black Vulture! Further on we stopped at Rio Almonte and saw Kingfisher, Hoopoe, Turtle Dove, Blue Rock Thrush and Red-rumped Swallow. At Finca Santa Marta, where we are staying, there were Azure-winged Magpie in the grounds and Red-necked Nightjar were heard in the evening. Our species count for the afternoon was 59.
Sunday 20 May, frequent heavy rain showers, fresh W-NW wind, 13C: The highlights of a morning walk around a windy, and occasionally wet, La Umbria were 3 singing Bonelli's Warbler, a Common Cuckoo and a Firecrest. Also spotted was a Fire Salmander (photo taken on Janys' mobile) that had been lured out by the rain.
Saturday 19 May, cloudy with intermittent light rain in the morning, clearer in the afternoon, fresh N-W wind, 19C: Still some late Black Kite passing through with 4 over Gaucin village at 1200hrs. I've been looking out for Red-necked Nightjar on the southern edge of the village but so far none to be seen.
Thursday 17 May, light SE wind, mostly cloudy, 23C: A morning walk below the Sierra Crestellina (from Casares) produced an adult Egyptian Vulture, Griffon Vulture, Booted Eagle (pale and dark morph), Short-toed Eagle, Common Kestrel, Raven, Crag Martin, Nightingale, Blackcap, Sardinian Warbler, and Firecrest. The Egyptian Vulture, along with other recent sightings in the area, supports the belief that there may be a pair breeding on Crestellina once again.
Wednesday 16 May, mostly cloudy, light SE wind, 24C: A morning walk to the Ermita de San Juan de Dios below Gaucin produced a singing Cuckoo, a few Honey Buzzard, Nightingale and a Zitting Cisticola in the meadow just below Finca Alboran - the closest I've seen one to the village. At 1400rs a group of 36 Black Kite passed W-E over the village some of which were in a pretty ragged state with several feathers missing, particularly from their tails. I haven't heard or seen any Red-necked Nightjar yet this year so maybe they, too, are late arriving.
Tuesday 15 May, sunny, light S-SE wind, 30C: Another very hot day for the time of year and just when we thought it was all over, the Honey Buzzards, and some Black Kites, are back! Watching from Gaucin from 1415-1500hrs, 160 Honey Buzzard, 30 Black Kite, a couple of Common Buzzard and 3 Booted Eagle moved over the village, mostly starting from due south then either following the Genal valley or passing just to the east of Sierra del Hacho. Passage appeared to continue most of the afternoon with 30 Honey Buzzard and 10 Black Kite between 1815hrs and 1900hrs with the last Honey Buzzard drifting through at 1955hrs. Interestingly, a couple of the later Honey Buzzard dropped down into trees just below the village, presumably the thermals had finished and they were about to roost there.
Monday 14 May, mostly sunny, very light E-NE wind, hot: Well, summer seems to have arrived early, 30C yesterday and so far 32C today. Walking through the cork oak woods in the Las Palas valley on the north side of Gaucin this morning there were plenty of birds singing including one Common Chiffchaff and one Iberian Chiffchaff, one Bonelli's Warbler, about 10 Blackcap and 6 Chaffinch as well as several Robin. Other than that there has just been the occasional Short-toed or Booted Eagle drifting around the south of the village, plus good numbers of Common Swift, Pallid Swift and House Martin.
Thursday 10 May, light-fresh E wind, sunny, 27C: A morning walk near Salitre had a low bird count but did see several Griffon Vulture, Booted Eagle, Short-toed Eagle, Woodchat Shrike, Thekla Lark, Woodlark, Stonechat, Corn Bunting, Blackcap, Sardinian Warbler and both Common Whitethroat and Nightingale were heard. Nice scenery, though, see photo.
Wednesday 09 May, sunny, light W wind, 24C: A late afternoon look at the west slope of El Hacho wasn't all that productive....a Short-toed Eagle (see photo), Booted Eagle, several Griffon Vulture, Blue Rock Thrush, 8 Stonechat, Bonelli's Warbler, Nightingale singing in the valley and Sardinian Warbler (see photo).
Tuesday 08 May, light W-SW wind, sunny am, overcast pm, 21C: Lots of Honey Buzzard movement today, counts as follows: 1115-1130hrs: 235 1150-1205hrs: 194, also 6 Black Kite 1400-1430hrs: 137, also 7 Black Kite and 1 adult Egyptian Vulture 1810-1825hrs: 80 Most were 'kettling' on thermals south of Gaucin village before moving north along the Genal valley or, in some cases, taking a more westerly course passing to the east of El Hacho.
Sunday 06 May, light-fresh W-NW wind, mostly sunny, 19C: After Saturday's endless rain and top temperature of 11C today was much improved! The highlights of a morning walk behind the Sierra del Hacho were several Griffon Vulture, a pair of Common Kestrel, 3 Booted Eagle, 4 singing Bonelli's Warbler and a singing Woodlark. There were some wild Peony in flower and the reward of a great view from above Gaucin and an olive grove flower meadow (see photos)
Friday 04 May, mostly cloudy, little or no wind, 14C: 1830-1900hrs, whilst collecting firewood (still necessary in May!) alongside the Rio Genal below Gaucin there were 35 Bee-eater swooping around the avocado trees, also several Griffon Vulture, 2 Turtle Dove, a Spotted Flycatcher and a Short-toed Eagle. The pair of Grey Wagtail are still around Calle Convento and were in the small callejon behind our house yesterday evening.
Thursday 03 May, mostly cloudy, fresh W-SW wind, intermittent rain showers, 14C: Not much to report other than a pair of Grey Wagtail strolling boldly along Calle Convento yesterday afternoon (didn't see them in the village at all last year) and a Common Buzzard above El Camino de Avedin at 1130hrs this morning.
Wednesday 02 May, mostly sunny, light S-SW wind, 17C: Torreguadiaro lagoon and Guadiaro estuary, 1200-1330hrs - the lagoon was fairly quiet with a few Mallard, Little Grebe, a couple of Purple Swamp Hen (see photo) but good sightings in Purple Heron (see one well camouflaged in photo!) and 3 Black-winged Stilt (see photo), there was a Little Owl on the ruined tower, some Monk Parakeets and a Crested Lark. The estuary was even quieter, perhaps there was disruption over the holiday long-weekend, with just 2 more Black-winged Stilt and a singing Reed Warbler amongst the Moorhen, Coot and Mallard. 1630-1730 popped over to the west slope of El Hacho which, other than plenty of Stonechat, was very quiet though 80 Honey Buzzard and 20 Bee-eater did pass overhead.
Tuesday 01 May, light W-NW wind, partly cloudy, showers pm, 15C: A better morning and the passage of Honey Buzzard was well under way with 190 passing over Gaucin from 1100-1115hrs, also 68 Bee-eater. Janys and I paid a visit to Barco Morena near San Pablo de Buciete from 1300-1430hrs and we saw 50+ Black Kite, with half-a dozen hanging around (see photo of some on pylon), also 2 Short-toed Eagle (see photo of one on pylon), several Booted Eagle, Griffon Vulture, 2 Lesser Kestrel, Raven, White Stork, Cattle Egret, Bee-eater, Woodchat Shrike (see photo), Red-rumped Swallow, Corn Bunting, 2 Tawny Pipit, Stonechat, Spotted Flycatcher, 4 Melodious Warbler, Nightingale, a very nondescript Common Whitethroat (see bedraggled individual in photo), Zitting Cisticola and Sardinian Warbler. The clouds were pretty dark and threatening the whole time we were there but luckily the rain held off until just as we left.
Monday 30 April, Gaucin, fresh W wind: Can someone please put the Jet Stream back where it's supposed to be? Three days of frequent heavy showers and unseasonally cold temperatures, a high of just 7C on Sunday, means no birding. There's even snow on the nearer Rif mountains in Morocco that are often snow-free all winter. The clouds did finally break this evening and immediately the reward was 5 Black Stork flying north over the village. Here's hoping for 'better' weather tomorrow...we know we need the rain but it should have come during the rainy season!