Birding trip report Spain 8-16 March 2015 (And˙jar and Extremadura)
John van der Woude  -  www.jvanderw.nl
This was a short private spring birding trip with only And˙jar as a new area for us. This area is famous for Iberian Lynx. We had not really expected to see it, but we saw it (and well!) on the first day. Even without the lynx the And˙jar area is a lovely birding area, and actually we saw several species there that we did not see further on the trip. Also, Spanish Imperial Eagle was more common in the And˙jar area than anywere else on this and previous trips.
We found the lynx because two partridges gave such heavy alarm calls around a small roadside bush that we thought only a big cat could be the cause. Indeed a little later the lynx went uphill from there. And believe me, it is big!
We flew in at Madrid and rented a car at Sixt (we like Sixt for their service and for the clarity of their web site - no hidden costs). We drove to the And˙jar area and stayed there for three nights, at the highly recommended Villa Matilde (www.villamatilde.org). After this, we birded the Serena for two days, and again we think this is the very best steppe area in Spain. After that we paid short visits to a number of sites further west (see map below), including MonfragŘe NP.
We had brilliant weather all the time. We understood that March often has spells with good weather. We were surprised also to see how many summer birds already had arrived or were arriving.
The logistics in Spain are easy. An often affordable rental car rate, many hotels to choose from (often found via booking.com), quick set meals around 2 p.m., relatively late sunrise and sunset, good roads, car navigation, OSM maps, birding info, etc.
This report consists mainly of maps and a species list. Some photos of the scenery are added when useful. At the bottom a list of eBird logs is given. See also our earlier Spain trip reports at www.jvanderw.nl.

Overview of the trip
1. Organos cliffs
2. Hills and valleys of And˙jar area (Lynx and many birds)
3. City of Cˇrdoba (Mezquita Catedral)
4. Serena steppe plateau
5. Dam + cliff of Alange
6. Badajoz (nice old centre)
7. Wooded San Pedro hills
8. Cßceres steppe hills + Monroy gorge
9. MonfragŘe NP
10. Toledo

Madrid - how to get from airport to E5/A4, the road to And˙jar and Cordoba:
1. Rental car park - turn onto M14 south.
2. Continue straight across onto M40 here.
3. Leave M40 and take E5/A4 south here. (After a while there is a more or less parallel toll road R4 for about 40 km, but we did not take it as we didn't understand why it was there and we saw hardly any traffic on it.)

Organos cliffs
1. Leave E5/A4 here.
2. Keep the road above the river.
3. Several parking possibilities for cliff viewing (Black Vulture).
4. Join E5/A4 again not far from here.

And˙jar area
1. Take the A-6177 here (shortcuts from E5 further east not advised).
2. Important split for the JH-5002 but easily overlooked: shortly after the Los Pinos restaurant. At 38.128720, -3.967063.
3. Villa Matilde B&B: highly recommended, also for local and up-to-date info about the lynx, www.villamatilde.org. A great location and very quiet, with good breakfast and evening meals.
4. Split at white buildings where the JH-5002 continues northwest as a dirt road. This dirt road can be driven with a normal car but drive slowly, also for chances of seeing a lynx.
L. The area where we saw the Iberian Lynx. Take plenty of time for the area between 4 and 5. Bring food & drinks.
5. end of JH-5002 at the dam.
6. Continuation of A-6177, with possibilities of Lynx.
7. Quiet (except weekends) dirt road along river to dam; with possibilities of Lynx.
8. Virgen de la Cabeza, small town on hill top with cafÚ.
9. For several km north of Cabeza still good habitat.

Villa Matilde, our base for the And˙jar area (www.villamatilde.org).

And˙jar scenery. Rolling hills with dehesa. The And˙jar area is the best area in Spain for trying to see Iberian Lynx, and I think also the best area in Spain to see Spanish Imperial Eagle.

At 7 on And˙jar map above.

Cordoba - how to squeeze in a visit to the must-see Mezquita:
1. Leave E5 here (compare this map to a larger road map).
2. Park here somewhere (is free).
3. Walk across the old bridge (pedestrians only; good cafÚ just before the bridge right; some birds below and left of bridge).
4. Entrance of the Mezquita (8 euros; or free between 8.30 and 9.20 a.m. only, but it is worth your 8 euros).

The Mezquita in Cordoba.

The Serena steppe-like undulating plains.
1. Cabeza del Buey, the main town with a few hotels and restaurants.
2. Isolated hotel-restaurant at the Ermita Nuestra Se˝ora de Belen. We stayed here one night (and the next in Orellana).
3. Start of the straight unnamed asfalted road through good habitat for over 10 km.
4. Take the dirt road east here at 38.827353, -5.351536: our best birding road.
5. Start of another long dirt road (to 6); opposite the narrow asfalted road leading west.
6. Somewhere here we turned towards 7; good habitat for most of this 5-6-7 dirt road, esp. around 38.81416,-5.42951
7. End/start of dirt road, presumably (!) at 38.813511, -5.494358
Please use a tracking app on your smartphone for the road 5-6-7, in case you have to go back all the way.
8. Park here at 38.69464,-5.48661 and scan the cliffs east of town for Black Wheatear (scope needed).

The vast, steppe-like Serena plateau with a distant group of Great Bustard.

One of the group of the photo above.

Alange area.
1. From the east you will probably have driven the rather uninspiring EX-105. Bypass Alange to drive west.
P. Large parking lot for viewing to 2 and 3.
2. Cliffs with raptors and vultures.
3. Huge dam with Alpine Swift etc.

The dam (3) at Alange and the mountain cliffs (2) behind it.

Sierra de San Pedro
1. Quiet road from Alburquerque. Varied half open habitat good for several stops.
2. Train 'station' of Herreruela: a great viewpoint for raptors, vultures and storks above the plains north. Be careful with the bumpy railway crossing (keep your engine running), it is unguarded but there are still trains.
3. Aliseda town. Restaurants (including a nice and busy one at petrol station).
4. Small chapel at end of short (200 m) dirt road. Great raptor views across the hills south from chapel platform.
5. Nice and quiet road through mediterranean-like habitat with several small cliffs.

View from the Herreruela train station.

Cßceres steppe
1. Main road from the Sierra de San Pedro. Best to follow the ring road north around Cßceres from here (direction Trujillo).
2. Exit for Sta. Marta de Magasca.
3. Start of long and quiet road through the steppe-like habitat to 4 and 5. First kilometers asfalted.
4. Take enough time for the central part, good birding.
5. End of long road from 4.

Monroy dehesa and gorge.
1. Our hotel La Bodega del Herrador. The owner led us to point 3.
2. Gate for entering the communal dehesa (open forest). Apparently, you are allowed to drive through.
3. Park the car here for viewing the gorge.
4. Good viewpoints for the gorge, with Black Stork etc.
5. Quiet and now asfalted alternative road towards MonfragŘe NP (at the very end turn north). Nice habitat all the way.

Gorge near Monroy (at 3-4 above).

MonfragŘe national park
1. Torrejon, the only town nearby. Nice cafÚ/restaurant at south end of town (along main road).
2. Interesting habitat in small canyon.
3. The famous Pe˝a Falcon rock cliff. Ample parking facilities. Vultures, Black Stork.
4. Turn onto smaller road through NP here, at 39.855514, -6.026838.
5. Cliff with Egyptian Vulture etc. just before dam.
6. The second-famous cliff, with many vultures, Spanish Imperial Eagle.
7. Nice varied dehesa and wetter habitats when driving out of the NP.

The well-known Pe˝a Falcon at 3 on map above.

A few hints for Toledo, the famous old city as a last stop before Madrid.
1. Grand hotel Cigarral el Bosque for a surprisingly moderate rate, with great view from room onto the city. Easy (and free) parking, which can be a problem at hotels in the city.
2. Old pedestrian bridge for entering the old city.
3. View of the cathedral.
4. The Alcazar.
5. Lively old part with very narrow streets.
(3, 4 and 5 are just examples of what can be seen here.)

View of Toledo from the hotel.
Species list
trav = while travelling
And = And˙jar area
Ser = Serena
SP = Sierra de San Pedro
Cac = Caceres plains
Mon = MonfragŘe
(no location for some common species)
        
             Little Grebe                 SP             Dodaars
                Cormorant       And  Ser                 Aalscholver
              Night Heron trav                           Kwak -  Badajoz city
             Cattle Egret trav                           Koereiger
        Great White Egret trav                           Grote Zilverreiger
               Grey Heron       And            Cac       Blauwe Reiger
              Black Stork                 SP        Mon  Zwarte Ooievaar -  e.g. in canyon Monroy
              White Stork            Ser       Cac       Ooievaar
                Mute Swan trav                           Knobbelzwaan
                  Mallard       And  Ser                 Wilde Eend
                 Shoveler                      Cac       Slobeend
        Black-winged Kite            Ser       Cac       Grijze Wouw  -  naturally, a few only
               Black Kite trav       Ser       Cac  Mon  Zwarte Wouw
                 Red Kite trav       Ser                 Rode Wouw
         Egyptian Vulture                 SP        Mon  Aasgier
          Griffon Vulture       And  Ser  SP   Cac  Mon  Vale gier
     Black (Monk) Vulture       And       SP        Mon  Monniksgier  -  surprisingly common these days!
         Short-toed Eagle                 SP        Mon  Slangenarend
            Marsh Harrier trav       Ser                 Bruine Kiekendief
              Hen Harrier            Ser       Cac       Blauwe Kiekendief
        Montagu's Harrier            Ser                 Grauwe Kiekendief
              Sparrowhawk       And                      Sperwer
                  Buzzard       And  Ser  SP             Buizerd
   Spanish Imperial Eagle       And                 Mon  Spaanse Keizerarend  -  several in An˙jar area
             Golden Eagle            Ser  SP             Steenarend  -  on ground in Serena
             Booted Eagle           Ser?                 Dwergarend
          Bonelli's Eagle trav                           Havikarend  -  pair at easy stake-out, mail me
           Lesser Kestrel            Ser       Cac       Kleine Torenvalk  -  several small groups
                  Kestrel trav  And  Ser                 Torenvalk
                   Merlin                      Cac       Smelleken
                Peregrine trav                           Slechtvalk
     Red-legged Partridge trav  And  Ser  SP   Cac  Mon  Rode Patrijs  -  very common in And˙jar area
                  Moorhen trav                           Waterhoen
                     Coot       And                      Meerkoet
                    Crane            Ser                 Kraanvogel
           Little Bustard            Ser       Cac       Kleine Trap
            Great Bustard            Ser       Cac       Grote Trap
       Black-winged Stilt                      Cac       Steltkluut
            Golden Plover            Ser                 Goudplevier
               Greenshank            Ser                 Groenpootruiter
         Common Sandpiper trav                           Oeverloper
 Black-bellied Sandgrouse            Ser                 Zwartbuikzandhoen
    Pin-tailed Sandgrouse            Ser       Cac       Witbuikzandhoen
                Rock Dove trav       Ser                 Rotsduif
              Wood Pigeon                                Houtduif
            Collared Dove                                Turkse tortel
     Great Spotted Cuckoo       And                      Kuifkoekoek
                   Cuckoo       And                 Mon  Koekoek
                Scops Owl       And                      Dwergooruil
               Little Owl       And  Ser       Cac       Steenuil
                Tawny Owl       And                      Bosuil
          Short-eared Owl                      Cac       Velduil
                    Swift trav                           Gierzwaluw  -  7 at hotel in Orellana on 12 March
             Alpine Swift trav                           Alpengierzwaluw -  at dam Alange
                   Hoopoe trav  And  Ser  SP        Mon  Hop
         Green Woodpecker       And                      Groene Specht
 Great Spotted Woodpecker trav  And                      Grote Bonte Specht
Lesser Spotted Woodpecker trav                           Kleine Bonte Specht
            Calandra Lark            Ser  SP   Cac       Kalanderleeuwerik -  very common on the steppes
             Crested Lark       And  Ser  SP   Cac  Mon  Kuifleeuwerik
              Thekla Lark                 SP             Thekla Leeuwerik  -  one certain case only
                Wood Lark       And       SP             Boomleeuwerik
              Crag Martin       And  Ser  SP        Mon  Rotszwaluw
             Barn Swallow trav  And  Ser  SP             Boerenzwaluw
       Red-rumped Swallow       And                      Roodstuitzwaluw
             House Martin trav  And       SP             Huiszwaluw
             Meadow Pipit trav  And  Ser       Cac       Graspieper
             Grey Wagtail       And                      Grote Gele Kwikstaart
            White Wagtail trav  And                      Witte Kwikstaart
                     Wren                                Winterkoning
                    Robin                                Roodborst
           Black Redstart       And                      Zwarte Roodstaart
                Stonechat       And  Ser  SP   Cac  Mon  Roodborsttapuit
                 Wheatear            Ser                 Tapuit
           Black Wheatear            Ser                 Zwarte Tapuit
         Blue Rock Thrush trav  And  Ser            Mon  Blauwe Rotslijster
                Blackbird                                Merel
              Song Thrush       And       SP             Zanglijster
            Mistle Thrush       And       SP             Grote Lijster
          Cetti's Warbler trav  And                      Cetti's Zanger
       Fan-tailed Warbler                                Graszanger
         Dartford Warbler       And                      Provencaalse Grasmus
        Subalpine Warbler                           Mon  Baardgrasmus
        Sardinian Warbler trav  And       SP        Mon  Kleine Zwartkop
                 Blackcap trav  And       SP        Mon  Zwartkop
               Chiffchaff trav  And                      Tjiftjaf
          Long-tailed Tit trav  And                      Staartmees
              Crested Tit       And                      Kuifmees
                 Blue Tit                                Pimpelmees
                Great Tit                                Koolmees  -  (far less common than Blue Tit)
                 Nuthatch       And       SP             Boomklever
   Short-toed Treecreeper       And                      Boomkruiper
      Iberian Grey Shrike       And  Ser                 Iberische Klapekster
          Woodchat Shrike                 SP             Roodkopklauwier
                      Jay       And                      Gaai
      Azure-winged Magpie       And  Ser                 Blauwe Ekster
                   Magpie trav  And  Ser                 Ekster
        Red-billed Chough       And  Ser                 Alpenkraai
                  Jackdaw trav  And                      Kauw
                    Raven       And  Ser  SP             Raaf
        Spotless Starling trav  And  Ser  SP   Cac       Zwarte Spreeuw
            House Sparrow trav  And  Ser  SP             Huismus
          Spanish Sparrow            Ser                 Spaanse Mus  -  a large group a little south of Orellana
             Rock Sparrow       And                 Mon  Rotsmus  -  best above canyon Monroy
                Chaffinch                                Vink
                    Serin trav  And       SP             Europese Kanarie
               Greenfinch trav  And                 Mon  Groenling
                Goldfinch       And  Ser  SP        Mon  Putter
                   Linnet            Ser  SP        Mon  Kneu
             Cirl Bunting       And                      Cirlgors
             Rock Bunting       And                      Grijze Gors
             Corn Bunting trav  And  Ser  SP   Cac  Mon  Grauwe Gors
        
eBird logs: (click on Map in each log to see exact location)
http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S22469758  
http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S22469772
http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S22470086
http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S22470098  Span. Imp. Eagle (can be anywhere here), Ib. Green Woodpecker
http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S22470113
http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S22470122
http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S22470137
http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S22470149
http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S22470164  Black Wheatear
http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S22470233
http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S22470242  point 6 on Serena map, several good steppe species
http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S22470248
http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S22470256
http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S22470268
http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S22470278  the (early) Woodchat Shrike in the San Pedro
http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S22470311  Herreruela train station viewpoint
http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S22470320
http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S22470325  Monroy canyon
http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S22470344

The weather forecast (Celsius) for And˙jar from Sunday 8 March. Brilliant and no wind. How lucky can you be.