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A Report from

Andalucia and Extremadura, Spain 2nd-9th December 2006,

Sander Bot


Cause it rained in Holland we, Jannes Heusinkveld and Sander Bot, decided to do some bird watching for a week in Spain. We found a cheap ticket to Malaga, where car hire is also very cheap: €80 for 8 days, unlimited mileage and a diesel car (

We used mainly trip reports and the book Where to watch birds in Spain. The book was outdated, but is gives at least descriptions to sites mentioned in trip reports.

We used the 576 and 578 Regional Espagne Michelin maps.

Daily Report

2nd   Laguna de la Fuente de Piedra

Arrived in the end of the morning at Malaga airport, picking up our car without problems. We first went to the Guadalhorce River mouth, only a few minutes drive from the airport. We hoped to find Audouin’s Gull there. All we found there was a friendly, English speaking birdwatcher who gave us valuable information: 1 there are no Audouin’s Gulls here, 2 don’t go to the Medina Lagoon, the carps spoiled the lagoon, no coots there and 3 there are Lesser Flamingo’s at Laguna de la Fuente de Piedra. Specially the last tip was a good one and we immediately drove to Laguna de la Fuente de Piedra. To get there, take the highway from Malaga to Sevilla, and from the A92 take exit 132. It is close to the highway, and well signposted. From the visitor centre we saw only a small group of about 200 Greater Flamingo’s. But in that small group 2 Lesser Flamingo’s were picked out easily! What a start of the holidays! Beside the common water birds we saw 370 Cranes and many Black-winged Stilts here. We walked a little around the visitor centre seeing a flock of about 40 Spanish Sparrows and 2 Sardinian Warblers. When it started to rain we drove to Extremadura, ending at Alcaracejos, about 50 kilometres south of La Serena.

3rd     La Serena - lake Embalse de Arroyocampo

We left Alcaracejos in the dark, and sunrise was on the way to La Serena. While enjoying the sunrise we saw our first Azure-winged Magpies near Belalcazar. There a group of Spanish Sparrows as well. Arriving at La Serena we took the straight road through the area, starting between Cabeza del Buey and Almorchon. In the first kilometre we saw some Cranes and again a group of Spanish Sparrows. After a few km we saw our first group of Black-bellied Sandgrouses, and within an hour we saw 91 Little Bustards, 42 Great Bustards, 32 Black-bellied Sandgrouses a group of Calandra Larks and heard some Pin-tailed Sandgrouses. After this successful morning we drove gradually to the north. On our way we saw an adult and immature Golden Eagle near Embalse de Garcia de Sola, just before Paredon. We ended the day at the lake Embalse de Arroyocampo, which lies alongside the road between Saucedilla and Almaraz. Just before dark we found two Purple Swamphens in the north-east corner of the lake on the west side of the road. At dusk many Marsh Harriers, Cattle Egrets and Common Starlings came to roost and a lot of Cetti’s Warblers were singing. We drove to camping Monfrague, between Plasencia and the National Park to spend the night there. A Little Owl was calling in the night on the camp ground.

4th     Monfrague NP

Of coursse Spanish Imperial Eagle was one of the target species we first went to Portilla Del Tietar. This is a viewpoint at the north-eastern border of the park, where the species had a nest last summer. We didn’t know if they would be around there as well in winter. We first watched the wrong rock, before the dam. There we saw Blue Rock-thrush, Sardinian Warbler and some Griffon Vultures on the cliff. After an hour we went to Penafalcon, a cliff with way more Griffon Vultures, some Black Vultures and an Eagle Owl. We found the latter because two Ravens were mobbing the bird on the cliff, so we had great views of the not amused owl! Here we met a Spanish couple who saw an adult Spanish Imperian Eagle yesterday perched on the cliff at Portilla Del Tietar. So we went immediately to the place, spending the rest of the day waiting for the Eagle. The weather was bad all day: cloudy, and sometimes some rain. During our wait, we saw a pair of Bonelli’s Eagles flying past. One of the birds went in a group of circling vultures, from where it took dives in groups of Rock Doves, seven times without luck. Other birds seen here: many Griffon and some Black Vultures, Kingfisher, Rock Bunting, Blue Magpies, Sardinian Warbler and after hours of waiting a flyby juvenile Spanish Imperial Eagle. We waited till dusk for Eagle Owl, with no luck. About 2 km before Portilla Del Tietar there is another lookout, from where we saw an Otter, catching and eating a fish!

5th    Monfrague NP, Steppes

Started the day at the castle in Monfrague NP. Two Red-billed Choughs flew past. Besides the vultures no other raptors, probably cause the weather: cloudy with strong winds. From Monfrague NP it is only a short drive to the steppes. We first took a dirt road near Caseres: take the ex 390 from Caseres to the north-east, and turn right after about 10 km, signposted as Sta. Marta de Magasca. We immediately saw our first Thekla Larks, common at these steppes. From now on it started to rain, in combination with the wind making birding very difficult. Despite the conditions we saw two groups of Great bustards (14 and 16 individuals), a small group of Black-bellied Sandgrouse, an immature Black Vulture and some Red Kites alongside this road. Cause it is a dirt road, there is no traffic, making stopping very easy, an advantage above the next road we checked: the road between Monroy and Trujillo. The results were disappointing: 1 Black Vulture and a group of Calandra Larks. The poor results must be cause the very bad weather at that moment. The Belen Plains were good for 20 Great Bustards, a group of Calandra Larks and some Thekla Larks. While it started to rain again we decided to travel south, all the way to Ronda, and hoped for better weather tomorrow.

6th   Ronda

After a short night at a campsite in Ronda we were happy to see the weather had changed: still windy but sunny. We started to drive around in search for Black Wheatear. We took the A369 and after about 8 km we took the MA515 towards Alpandeire. Stopping and scanning didn’t work, but a few km before Alpandeire we found 2 Dartford Warblers in the heath like scrub near the road. It is hard to take a walk around, fences everywhere. But just before a bridge and about 1 km before Alpandeire there was an unfenced part. Again Dartford Warbler in the scrub. While walking uphill we found a pair of Black Wheatears, beautiful birds! We walked around there for another hour and found one more Black Wheatear, 2 Rock Buntings, many Red-legged Partridges, Thekla lark, some Blue Rock Thrushes and a pair of Bonelli’s Eagles. The latter gave brilliant views while flying past at close distance. So walking around instead of stopping and scanning gave the best results. Between Alpandeire and the next village, Farajan, there is a more forested part. We took a short walk there, which produced our first Common Crossbills and Crested Tits of the trip. Cause Jannes Had to take a flight back to Holland we drove back to Mallaga. On the way back we stopped near Fuengirola and scanned the sea: a group of Mediterranean Shearwaters and some Gannets gave constant good views while flying around over the sea. After bringing Jannes to the airport I drove down to Tarifa, spending the night at a campsite there.

7th    Andalucia

With first sunlight I was scanning Tarifa Beach for Audouin´s Gull. There were just a few gulls on the beach, which worried me, but after a few minutes I found an Audouin´s Gull in a small group of gulls. After photographing the bird I did some sea watching, seeing 3 Razorbills and 1 Gannet. On the way back to the car I found another adult Audouin´s Gull on the beach. From Tarifa I drove straight to the Espera and Lebrija Lagoons. At Arcos, take the A393 to Espera, and direct after Espera take the CAP 4413 (CAP 4412 on the map, confusing) to the left, and a short distance along here the reserve is signed off to the left. After a few km the first lagoon is on the left-hand side, but it appeared to be dried out. The second held water, but from the lookout I found very little birds on the lagoon: only some Shovelers, Mallards and Black-winged Stilts were seen. While scanning the lagoon I found a Black-shouldered Kite perched in a dead tree near the waterside. The third lagoon dried out again, but this time a Iberian Green Woodpecker was seen near the roadside. The other lagoons were very disappointing as well: no or very little water. Still no coots and good duck species seen so far, so I decided I had to go all the way to Donana NP. After a long drive I arrived at the big lagoon at El Rocio an hour before dark. And again, nearly no birds! Only a handful of Coots and Pochards, that was all! Where are all the ducks and coots? Spent the night on a campsite in El Rocio.

8th    Andalucia

This morning I decided to start at the lagoons between Mazagon and Huelva. There is a string of three lagoons, all alongside the road. They are reached from El Rocio by taking the A483 to the south, than the A494 to Mazagon. From Mazagon, take the N442 to Huelva. After a few km from Mazagon the first lagoon, Las Medras, is on the right. The same story: only a handful Coots and some Little Grebes. Though an otter and a group of about 180 Azure-winged Magpies made the stop worth it. The second is a few km further, but this one is very small now, sow again only some Shovelers and Coots. The last one, lagoon of Palos, is a few km further and is close to an industrial area, also on the right-hand site from the road. This one finally held some good birds: 1 Penduline Tit, 10 Purple Swamphens, a Squacco Heron, Little egrets, Wigeons, 80 Coots and finally a Crested Coot! Finding the last one was a big relief, what a gorgeous bird! All the characteristics could be seen, the easiest being the white neck collar L. Checking my map and trip reports in search for more places for water birds, I found Braze Del Este, south of Sevilla. To get there: take the N IV from Sevilla to the south, going off at the first sign for Isla Menor. Travel south along the SE685, and after the road makes a sharp right its only a km when ponds are seen on the left-hand side of the road. Trip reports tell me I should see marsh, so most of the area has turned into ponds. Here 1 juvenile Black Kite was seen, but the ponds only held Little Egrets, White Storks and gulls. Fortunately some marsh is left, behind the ponds, and a dirt road leads alongside the marsh. Here I saw my first Great White Egret of the trip, a Kingfisher and some Purple Swamphens. On the other side of that dirt road are ploughed fields. Here I found a mixed flock of pipits, wagtails and larks. Scanning the group resulted in 8 Lesser Short-toed Larks, very nice birds! The last hour of daylight was spent overlooking the marsh. More and more Purple Swamphens came out of the reed to feed on the dike of the ponds, the highest count being 56! Strange experience here was a hedgehog coming to feed closer and closer, finally smelling my shoes and biting my trousers, before proceeding his walk. After sunset I drove back to Malaga, spending the night in the car near the airport.

9th     Malaga Airport

Between waking up and taking the flight back to Holland I saw two Ring-necked Parakeets and a group of Monk Parakeets around the airport of Malaga.

Sander Bot
sanderbot at
The Netherlands

Species List

1 Little Grebe
1 at Laguna de la Fuente de Piedra, common on Lagoon Las Medras.

2 Great Crested Grebe
2 birds on a lake near La Serena.

3 Mediterranean Shearwater
A group off the coast near Fuengirola on the 6th.

4 Gannet
Some birds seen while scanning the sea at Fuengirola and Tarifa.

5  Great Cormorant

6 Squacco Heron
1 bird at the lagoon of Palos on the 8th.

7 Cattle Egret

8 Little Egret

9 Great White Egret
Only once on the mars of Brazo del Este.

10 Grey Heron

11 White Stork
Common, sometimes abundant.

12 Black Stork
Seen once, at the Donana steppes on the 7th.

13 Greater Flamingo
Common at Laguna de la Fuente de Piedra, but not seen elsewhere.

14 Lesser Flamingo
2 adult birds on Laguna de la Fuente de Piedra on the 2nd. The surprise of the trip.

15 Greylag Goose
One lonely bird at Brazo del Este on the 8th.

16 Mallard

17 Gadwall
Some birds on the lagoon of Palos.

18 Northern Pintail

19 Shoveler

20 Wigeon
Some birds on the lagoon of Palos.

21 Teal

22 Pochard
A group on the lake near El Rocio

23 Common Shelduck
Only at Laguna de la Fuente de Piedra.

24 Griffon Vulture
Abundant in Monfrague NP and surrounding area. Some individuals at Ronda.

25 Black Vulture
Al least 10 birds in Monfrague NP, two birds in the steppes around Monroy.

26 Golden Eagle
An adult and a juvenile near Embalse de Garcia de Sola, just before Paredon on the 3rd.

27 Spanish Imperial Eagle
1 juvenile over Portilla Del Tietar on the 4th.

28 Bonelli’s Eagle
Twice a pair: at Portilla Del Tietar on the 4th and near Ronda on the 6th.

29 Red Kite
Surprisingly common, especially on steppes.

30 Black Kite
1 juvenile near Braze Del Este

31 Marsh Harrier
Seen at several marshes and lagoons.

32 Hen Herrier
1 on the steppes of La Serena.

33 Common Buzzard
Some roadside birds.

34 Black-winged Kite
An adult near the Espera and Lebrija Lagoons on the 7th.

35 Sparrowhawk
A few sightings.

36 Goshawk
Seen twice, in Monfrague and La Serena.

37 Kestrel

38 Red-legged Partridge
Surprisingly common, seen daily in sometimes high numbers, especially near the Espera and Lebrija Lagoons.

39 Quail
Heard on the Lesser Short-toed Lark spot at Braze Del Este on the 8th.

40 Moorhen
Common at marshes

41 Coot
Only small numbers in Donana and 80 birds at the lagoon of Palos on the 8th.

42 Crested Coot
One neck collared individual at the lagoon of Palos on the 8th.

43 Western Swamp-hen
2 birds at lake Embalse de Arroyocampo on the 3rd.
10 birds at the lagoon of Palos on the 8th.
56 birds at Braze Del Este on the 8th.

44 Crane
Common on Laguna de la Fuente de Piedra and La Serena.

45 Great Bustard
42 birds at La Serena on the 3rd, 30 birds near Caseres and 20 at the Belen Plains on the 5th.

46 Little Bustard
2 groups at La Serena on the 3rd.

47 Avocet
Once at Laguna de la Fuente de Piedra.

48 Black-winged Stilt
Very Common.

49 Ringed Plover
Only at Laguna de la Fuente de Piedra.

50 Golden Plover
Common at Laguna de la Fuente de Piedra and at La Serena

51 Lapwing
Very common at the Steppes

52 Sanderling
Some birds at the Guadalhorce River mouth.

53 Dunlin
Only at Laguna de la Fuente de Piedra.

54 Turnstone
Some birds at the Guadalhorce River mouth.

55 Green Sandpiper
Common, inland as well.

56 Common Redshank
Some birds at the Guadalhorce River mouth.

57 Greenshank
Two birds at Laguna de la Fuente de Piedra.

58 Snipe
Once at Laguna de la Fuente de Piedra.

59 Ruff

4 birds at Laguna de la Fuente de Piedra.

60 Black-headed Gull

61 Mediterranean Gull
Common near the coast.

62 Yellow-legged Gull
Abundant near the coast.

63 Audouin’s Gull
Two adults at Tarifa Beach on the 7th.

64 Lesser Black-backed Gull
Common near the coast.

65 Sandwich Tern
Some birds at the Guadalhorce River mouth.

66 Razorbill
3 birds from Tarifa Beach.

67 Black-bellied Sandgrouse
5 groups, a total of 35, were seen at the La Serena steppes on the 3rd and a small group near Caceres on the 5th.

68 Pin-tailed Sandgrouse
Only heard at La Serena on the 3rd .

69 Rock Dove
Common at Monfrague, but nearly all groups held some feral friends as well.

70 Wood Pigeon

71 Collared Dove

72 Eagle Owl
1 gave great views at Penafalcon on the 4th.

73 Little Owl
Heard calling at night at the Monfrague camp site.

74 Hoopoe

75 Kingfisher
Twice: at Portilla Del Tietar and at Braze Del Este

76 Rose-ringed Parakeet
2 at Malaga airport

77 Monk Parakeet
A group at Malaga airport

78 Iberian Green Woodpecker
1 bird at the Espera and Lebrija Lagoons on the 7th.

79 Great Spotted Woodpecker
Only once: Monfrague NP.

80 Skylark

81 Crested Lark

82 Thekla Lark
Certain sightings on the steppes near Caceres, Belen Plains and the mountains near Ronda.

83 Lesser Short-toed Lark
8 birds in a mixed flock larks, wagtails and pipits at Braze Del Este on the 8th.  

84 Calandra Lark
Groups on all the steppes, but Skylark more common there.

85 Crag Martin
Groups in Monfrague NP and on the Costa’s near high buildings.

86 Barn Swallow
Some birds at lake Embalse de Arroyocampo.

87 Meadow Pipit

88 White Wagtail

89 Grey Wagtail
A few sightings.

90 Wren
Few sightings.

91 Dunnock
At lake Embalse de Arroyocampo.

92 Robin

93 Black Redstart
Common, both in cultivated area and in the mountains.

94 Black Wheatear
A pair and a single male near Alpandeire on the 6th.

95 Stonechat
Abundant! Seen everywhere.

96 Blue Rock Thrush
Common at Monfrague NP and near Ronda.

97 Song Thrush

98 Mistle Thrush
A Few sighings.

99 Blackbird

100 Blackcap 

101 Sardinian Warbler

102 Dartford Warbler
Twice seen well near Alpandeire in the early morning on the 6th . Checking the same sites later on the day without success.

103 Zitting Cistocola

104 Cettis Warbler
Heard many at every marsh.

105 Chiffchaff

106 Great Tit

107 Blue Tit

108 Crested Tit
Once in a pine forest near Farajan on the 6th.

109 Long-tailed Tit
Only seen well at Portilla Del Tietar on the 4th, nice to see the little differences compared to the birds at home.

110 Penduline Tit
Only at lagoon of Palos on the 8th.

111 Short-toed Treecreeper
Heard several times.

112 Southern Grey Shrike
Surprisingly common, especially Extremadura.

113 Azure-winged Magpie
Common at Extremadura, in Andalucia a flock of 180 birds near lagoon Las Medras on the 8th.

114 Jay
Some birds, mostly in groups of Azure-winged Magpies.

115 Magpie

116 Jackdaw

117 Red-billed Chough
2 Birds seen from the castle of Monfrague NP on the 5th.

118 Carrion Crow

119 Raven

120 Starling
Some groups, less common than Spotless Starling. More in cultivated area than Spotless.

121 Spotless Starling
Very common. Once a flock of both Common and Spotless.

122 House Sparrow

123 Spanish Sparrow
More common than expected. Groups regularly seen. Be aware of the fact that males are in winter plumage, so a group is easily misidentified as House Sparrow if you give a group a brief scan and expect Spanish Sparrow to be completely different.

124 Rock Sparrow
Heard a few times in Monfrague NP.

125 Chaffinch

126 Linnet

127 Goldfinch

128 Serin

129 Common Crossbill
Heard a group flying past in a pine forest near Farajan on the 6th.

130 Reed Bunting
Once in a winter group with Corn Buntings and pipits south of La Serena.

131 Corn Bunting
Common, abundant on Steppes.

132 Rock Bunting
Two birds at Portilla Del Tietar on the 4th and two birds near Alpandeire on the 6th.


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