Monday, 21 April 2014

Easter in Extremadura (Trujillo, Plasencia & Monfrague, 20-21 April)

Sunday 20 April.  Megan wanted to look around Trujillo so I went out just before dawn.  In Plaza Mayor I had to step my way around the masses of litter strewn everywhere from the previous night's party.  Some of it was within 5m of large bins that had been strategically placed around ther square and remained half empty, not that we would be any better here.  A clean up crew was arriving as I left and Megan told me when she went out a couple of hours later it was all gone.  I had the morning on the Santa Marta de Magasca road, stopping atr a couple of decent viewpoints to look out over the plains and driving a short distance down the Caceres Road to look again at the Lesser Kestrel nest boxes.  Scanning the grasslands was excellent with 8 Little and 12 Great Bustards.  Two flocks of Pin-tailed Sandgrouse flew over (6 and 12) and I also saw Montagu's Harrier, Egyptian Vulture, Great Spotted Cuckoo, 7 Calandra Larks and 6 Azure-winged Magpies.  The afternoon and evening we walked around the town skirting the main party in the Plaza Mayor.

early morning Little Bustard doing its unimpressive 'raspberry' call
distant Great Bustard preening

Egyptian and Griffon Vultures about to be joined by a Black Kite
Zitting Cisticola

the section of road to the west of Santa Marta was the only place I saw Rollers

I didn't realise my camera was still on a setting giving a shutter speed of 1/4000th of a second and very dark images.  Attempts to brighten them have only been partially successful

it was a good section of road for Lesser Kestrels too

Correcting the camera settings made quite a difference

most telegraph poles on a section of the road west of Santa Marta had green nest boxes.  Many appeared to be occupied by Lesser Kestrels

back in Trujillo the Plaza Mayor was filling up for the afternoon's party

many of the ladies were in traditional dress

come early evening the party was fizzling out, not helped by some heavy rain showers.  Enough rubbish had been discarded to keep next shift of cleaners ocupied

Megan by one of the old city gates on our regular evening walk soon after the showers had finished

Monday 21 April.  We decided to visit Plasencia, a sizeable town to the northwest with another old walled centre. This gave me the opportunity of return visit to Monfrague but as I had forgotten to fill the car with petrol it seemed best to drive through to Plasencia first where I was sure we could fill up rather than detour to Portilla del Tietar and risk running dry.  More narrow streets and old buildings in a busy centre, aspects of distinctive towns (Trujillo, Caceres, Merida and now Plasencia) were in danger of becoming a bit of a blur although Plasencia had an impressive Roman aquaduct.   It also had a completely normal sounding Chiffchaff which started singing near the aquaduct from the other side of a tall wall where it remained unseen.  It seemed far too late for a migrant so it was just as well that the Apuldram Bilge crew were not about as it would clearly be more relevant to their cause than inconvenient sonograms.  A checklist I had downloaded suggested that there was a breeding population of 100 pairs of Common Chiffchaff and 250 of Iberian Chiffchaff in Extremadura.  I'm not sure if that makes me feel happier about the latter as a good species or not but in my opinion it does little to help identifying mixed singers.

With a full tank of petrol we returned to Monfrague and Portilla del Tietar, briefly seeing a very smart male Black-eared Wheatear on the way.  There were no other birders present and at first no sign of any Spanish Imperial Eagles, until one in the nesting tree put its head up.  The only Turtle Dove of the trip was heard calling from across the river.  With lots of apparently suitable habitat I was disappointed not to see good numbers and hope they were yet to arrive rather than the catastrophic decline in the UK being matched there.  Back at Pena Falcon we saw about 150 Griffon and 3 Black Vultures.  During our evening walk Trujillo seemed almost deserted in comparison to earlier, and previous days.  This was more the normality.

approaching the main church in Plasencia
one of the narrow back streets

the Roman aquaduct
it appeared to have been heavily renovated in places
Megan confirming the identification of a normal sounding Chiffchaff, me speculating that at times the aquaduct carried bilge
White Stork in Plasencia being greeted back to the nest.  The clacking of their bills was a regular sound when walking around the taller buildings in all the old towns we visited 
Iberian Azure-winged Magpies in Monfrague
they were constantly on the move and quite difficult to get a good view of, let alone a decent image
Black-eared Wheatear in Monfrague National Park.  Nice bird, shame about the image 
Stonechat in Monfrague National Park

Spanish Imperial Eagle on nest at Portilla del Tietar.  It is not often that I've seen the eye of an Aquilla

Griffon Vultures over Pena Falcon in Monfrague National Park

Black Vulture over Pena Falcon 

White Stork with two chicks in Trujillo.  I'm not sure how impressed they had been with the various noisy parties and processions of the last few days but they doubtless appreciated the quiet as much as we did

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