Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Easter in Extremadura (Trujillo, Guadalupe & Arroyocampo, 22-23 April)

Tuesday 22 April.  We had not made it to Guadalupe on our first attempt, diverting to Merida on seeing the mountains covered in clouds.  A decent weather forecast for our last full day gave us a second chance but first I had 3 hours on the Magasca plains north of Trujillo, inadvertently arriving before dawn.  I was hoping for better view of Pin-tailed Sandgrouse and Great Spotted Cuckoo but failed to find either.  14 Great and a Little Bustard made it worthwhile although 10 of the Greats were very distant and the Little a flight view.  I also saw Egyptian Vulture, Montagu's Harrier, Booted Eagle, a pair of Stone Curlew, 2 Little Owls, 7 Bee-eaters, 10 Calandra Larks and 7 Azure-winged Magpies.   In the dehesa were 2 silent Iberian looking Chiffchaffs.  They came as a bit of a surprise and disappeared before I could find a recording.

Guadalupe was interesting with a walking trail around town that amongst the old buildings seemed to take in every city wall gate (3 of them), fountain (I lost count) and some very old streets.  We then drove up a rough road to the highest point in the range of mountains and a radar station.  We saw Wren, Robin and Rock Buntings near the top and I heard and glimpsed a Chough on getting out of the car at the summit but it disappeared.  A male Rock Thrush did a better flyby and a range of hirundines appeared to be finding some food.  driving back down to the main road we walked along a track through scrub and forest seeing Crested Tit and Short-toed Treecreeper.

Back at Trujillo Megan wanted to do some final shopping and I dropped her at the supermarket before heading out onto the Belen plains.  I wasn't seeing much and the road deteriorated so I was decided to turn back but a final scan of a very large field revealed 17 Great Bustards. While watching these a Little Bustard flew over and I also saw 5 Bee-eaters and 2 Calandra Larks, the latter really are a very distinctive long-winged shape.

Stone Curlew north of Trujillo

distant Great Bustard north of Trujillo
Azure-winged Magpie, this one only stayed still enough for a couple of images

Southern Grey Shrike
this one was even worse
Booted Eagle

Megan in one of Guadalupe's oldest streets

Guadalupe monastery

a modern narrow street
view from the radar station
Guadalupe in the far distance
view north from near the sumit

scrub and forest on the lower slopes
Guadalupe from afar

Great Bustards on the Belen Plains

Bee-eater at Belen
stunning even with the light fading

Wednesday 23 April.  Our last day and we planned on leaving our apartment at about 10:00. This gave me a last chance to visit the grasslands north of Trujillo.  I timed it better, to arrive at dawn and saw a distant Great Bustard, closer male Little Bustard, Montagu's Harrier, Great Spotted Cuckoo, Calandra Lark and 11 Azure-winged Magpies.  A worthwhile couple of hours.  we left Apartmentos Aquillo and Trujillo with some sadness, it had been an excellent base for a thoroughly enjoyable week.  We drove north to Arroyocampo Reservoir where we walked to some hides. By now it was approaching mid-day and not a lot was showing although we did see Little Bittern, Purple Heron, Purple Swamphen, Black-winged Stilt, Gull-billed Tern and another Great Spotted Cuckoo.  We drove back to Madrid encountering no holdups at all.   I saw a monk Parakeet while filling the car with petrol prior to returning it.  We checked in an hour early and our easyJet flight left on time.  Two hours later we were back at Gatwick. I was surprised how nice Extremadura was, despite Paul James having told me a few years ago.  until then I'd not even heard of it.  It is hard to imagine a better place to go birding that is two hours flying and three hours driving from a UK airport, and Megan liked it a lot too.

Great Spotted Cuckoo north of Trujillo, a better view but still rather distant
Southern Grey Shrikes were no more obliging
Little Bustard north of Trujillo

Gull-billed Tern at Arroyocampo
Purple Heron, always turning its head at the wrong moment
finally a Southern Grey Shrike that behaved
a rather smart bird when it did
one of the hides at Arroyocampo.  This one had more birds on it than from it
although sometimes you can get too close!
Great Spotted Cuckoo at Arroyocampo
a nice bird to finish the trip with

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