Spain: Extremadura & Picos    -    4-16 April 2008 
 Birding trip report: sites (maps, photos)
 John van der Woude, Holland   www.jvanderw.nl

Sites visited:
1: the Moraña, steppe-like cultivated fields
2: Monfragüe campsite
3: Peña Falcon, vulture rock
4: Villareal de San Carlos, trails, and road to east
5: CC911 road, mixed habitats
6: dehesa near Serrejon
7: Almaraz reservoirs
8: Cáceres reservoir
9: birding road NE of Cáceres, steppe birds
10: Las Golondrinas area, half open area
11: Talavan reservoir & old bridge over Tajo
12: Malpartida de Cáceres area, cultiv. steppe
13: San Pedro hills, wooded, wide views
14: Villafáfila area, wetland and open area
15: Picos de Europa eastern part (Potes - Fuente Dé), mountains.
For most sites consult Where to watch birds in Spain by J.A. Montero, Lynx 2005. 
We also used Where to watch birds - Southern and Western Spain by E. Garcia and A. Patterson, Helm 2008.


We camped at Monfragüe, and because of the very good roads in the Extremadura we could operate from there all the time. Before arrival also spent one night in hotel at Medina del Campo for the Moraña, and on the way home three nights at Potes in the eastern Picos. In France we also spent two days in the Brenne.

This was April so the weather was variable but the birds were very active, with pleasant temperatures. Practically all the bird species had returned from their winter quarters, although not all in full numbers I think.

Some sites were more useful than others. Best birding sites were 1, 3, 4, 7,  9, 13, 15.



Monastery ruin with Lesser Kestrel colony, at Madrigal de las Altes Torres, a village in the Moraña, an area of extensive plains in the Castilla y León province in NW Spain. Some Hoopoes around here too, and Northern Wheatear, Spotless Starling, Rock Sparrow.

 
One of the pairs of Lesser Kestrel in the above colony.

 
Little Bustards and Montagu's Harrier were in this plain between Horcajo de las Torres and Cantalapiedra, part of the Moraña. The bustard just walked across the road. More at a distance also several Great Bustard, even a group of 20 (although much bigger groups do occur as well). Many Crested Lark.

 
Always Griffon Vultures in the air opposite the Peña Falcón rock in Monfragüe national park. Single Egyptian and Black Vultures also seen here.

 
The trail east of Villareal de San Carlos in Monfragüe national park. Woodland Shrike, Sardinian and Subalpine Warbler, very dark Long-tailed Tit (irbii?), Hawfinch.

 
Same trail.

 
Woodchat Shrike on same trail, right below the power lines.


The well-known vulture rock Portilla del Tiétar along road CC911 to the eastern section of the park, along the river Tiétar. Eagle Owl was visible (pointed out by other birders), as was Blue Rock Thrush. Black Stork nests nearby (about 200 m to the left). Just after the start of this road (it forks off just north of Villareal): Thekla Lark at poles in regeneration woodland, together with Spectacled and Dartford Warblers.


Along the continuation of the same road outside the national park. Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Melodious Warbler.


Reservoir near Almaraz (NE of Monfragüe national park), view from the entrance of the locked hide. Zitting Cisticola, Great Reed Warbler, Savi's Warbler, Cetti Warbler, Sand Martin, Purple Heron, Purple Swamphen. Little Bittern (close view at W side of main road), Sedge Warbler, egrets, Squacco Heron, Water Rail.

 
On the hill just south of Almaraz were several orchids plus this Orobanche.


In the dehesa NE of Monfragüe national park, near Serrejón. Many Azure-winged Magpie.

 
One of the best birding roads in the Extremadura, NE of Cáceres, the long road of numbers 3 and 4 of site 79 of Where to watch birds in Spain (Montero 2005, Lynx). At the eastern end of this road we had no less than ten Montagu's Harriers. Both other harriers along this road as well. Calandra Lark was numerous, plus one Greater Short-toed Lark. Quail, both Bustards, Red Kite, Whinchat, Pallid Swift, Southern Grey Shrike, Western Black-eared Wheatear. Best birds: Great Spotted Cuckoo in the small trees halfway this long road, and Spanish Imperial Eagle subadult plus two Tawny Pipits near the western end. Also 6 sandgrouse flying in the distance, probably Black-bellied.


Groups of Spanish Saprrow were also along this road.

The above-mentioned Great Spotted Cuckoo was playing seek-and-hide at just 3 m from the car.


Calandra Lark in the plains just east of Cáceres. This is from the track running around the difficult-to-find reservoir at the eastern side of Cáceres, where pratincoles were seen. Here we also had Little Owl and Stone-curlew.

The area indicated as number 10 on the above map produced our only Roller, a Tawny Pipit, and several Great Bustard. Good lunch at Torreorgaz in the restaurant with the Great Bustard painting on the outside, right along the main road and nearly opposite the small roads that enter one of the birding areas there (where we had the Tawny Pipit). This site is given in the Helm site guide, not in Montero's.
 
Azure-winged Magpie at our tent at the campsite just north of Monfragüe national park (along the EX-208), and a nice addition to our tent list, which stands at 137 species now. 
House Sparrow common, and a Scops Owl heard at night. Booted Eagle overhead.


View to the North from the Herreruela railway 'station' in the Sierra de San Pedro. Good for raptor watching. Several pairs of Black Vulture, an Egyptian Vulture, and a kettle of 130 vultures (probably all Griffon) in the distance. At other sites in the San Pedro area: Bonelli's Eagle close views along EX100 SE of Aliseda, Mistle Thrush, Wood Lark, Crested Tit (in broadleaved woodland as it does in Spain), Booted Eagle, Spanish Imperial Eagle, Short-toed Eagle and many Azure-winged Magpie.

On the way from the Extremadura to the Picos de Europa mountains in northern Spain we passed by the Villafáfila area but the weather was not good, hence we stayed only half an hour or so at the laguna, where we ticked some ducks, a pair of Gull-billed Tern and marvelled at the old dove-buildings possessed by Lesser Kestrel.

View from the upper cable car station at Fuente Dé, west of Potes in the Picos de Europa. Five Alpine Accentors were behind the building.


The area behind the cable car station of the previous photo. Besides Alpine Accentor also Water Pipit, Raven, Griffon Vulture. At the lower station (at Fuente Dé itself) Black Woodpecker and Peregrine.


Alpine Chough (Alpenkauw) at the same upper cable car station.


A walk uphill from Pembes village, which is halfway Potes and Fuente Dé produced a group of 45 Chough (Alpenkraai). Also Egyptian Vulture, Siskin, Rock Bunting.


View from our campsite (La Viorna) along the very quiet side road from Potes to the Monasterio de Santo Toribio. The campsite has many trees and we had 23 species there, like Green Woodpecker, Redstart, Cirl Bunting, Serin, Wryneck, and flying overhead Egyptian Vulture, Raven, Goshawk, Sparrowhawk. 
The wooded valley going to the right from the centre of the photo towards the mountains has some good forest above the village of Argüebanes, with Middle Spotted Woodpecker, Firecrest, and nice butterflies, like Camberwell Beauty (Nymphalis antiopa). Grey Wagtail and Dipper were along the small stream in the village itself. 


At the San Glorio pass (1600 m), SW of Potes. More Water Pipit, but not much else.