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A Report from

Extremadura (Spain), April 11th-19th,

Lutz Lücker


11 April: Geneva - Figueras/Catalunya- Aiguamolls de l'Emporda, sunny but very windy. 700 km
12 April: Aiguamolls - Barcelona - Lerida- Bujaraloz - Gelsa - Quinto (SE Zaragoza) - Codo - Belchite - Codo (Reserva El Planeron). Sun, gale force wind. 400 km
13 April: Codo - Zaragoza - Madrid - Trujillo - Belén - Sta Marta de Magasca- Hocino de Arriba. Sunny and warm. 650km
14 April: Plains around Sta Marta - Monroy - Parque Monfrague - Almaraz - Trujillo - Belén. Sunny and warm
15 April: Belén - Torrecillas - Trujillo - Zorita - Acedera - Orellana - Cabeza - Castueras - good unsurfaced road going E at km 77 of Castuera-Puebla road, leading to the heart of La Serena. Sunny and warm.
16 April: La Serena - Campanario - Zorita - Trujillo - Hocino de Arriba
(SW Sta Marta). Sunny and warm, more windy at dusk.
17th April: Sta Marta - Monroy - Torrejon - Parque Monfrague - Malpartida de Plasencia (Hotel los Rosales, cheap but noisy). Cloudy and windy in the morning, becoming milder and sunnier later.
18th April: Mirador de la Bascula (all day) + Portilla de Tietar. Sunny and warm.
19th April: Monfragüe - Salto del Gitano -> Villareal de San Carlos - Portilla del Tietar - Castillo de Monfrague. Sunny and warm.
20th April: Casatejada - Serrejon - Saucedilla - Almaraz - Madrid - Zaragoza -
Figueras. Sunny, becoming more and more windy.
21st April: back to Geneva via Perpignan, snow on bottom of Isere valley!

(total: 4750 km)


First six nights camping rough , then Hotel Los Rosales in Malpartida. Had not booked anything in advance, so it was very difficult to find something else.One night: 2000 ptas only, but noisy bar downstairs.


Guia Campsa 2000 (1: 300.000) turned out to be the best. 3000 ptas for the whole of Spain is a good investment. Alas, the old 200.000 Firestone maps are out of print! But beware! There are (even yellow, numbered) roads on those maps that do either NOT exist, or else are only usable for jeeps, or which are private, fenced country tracks! Anyway, ALL species can be seen from asphalted roads; no need to trespass ! In the steppe areas many tracks that used to be feasible are in a rotten state, quite a few signs mentioned in birders guides (La Calderuela, La Encinilla.) have disappeared.

Introductory remarks

Having nothing special to "tick" off in the Extremadura area, my main aim was to get GOOD views of certain raptors and steppe birds. As 99% of the area is fenced in (NEVER cross a fence with cattle behind; bulls and sheepdogs can be VERY uncooperative!), many birds have a very short flight distance. Some Great bustards (Großtrappe) were only 100 m from the road, whereas in Hungary, they will fly off when they spot an unknown car 500 m away. Sitting unobtrusively in the county for hours is often more rewarding than zigzagging around for a new tick. (I DID see the sparkle in an Imperial Eagle (Kaiseradler)'s eye AND the eye colour of a Black-shouldered Kite (Gleitaar) !)
But I will not disclose precise locations when there is an accessible nest of an endangered species. One example: on Easter, there were some British birders picnicking beside their car in the Monroy area, virtually under a Black-shouldered Kite (Gleitaar)'s nest, the exact location of which had been unwisely published on the internet. Unfortunately, the bird had the bad idea to build its nest in the only unfenced area of the whole district, not far from an unsurfaced but motorable country road. SUCH SENSITIVE INFORMATION SHOULD BE WITHHELD ! There are plenty of other (fenced) places where one can see these birds ! Obviously, the birders had chased the Kite away and did not see it! Serves them right!
During this week, sunrise was at 7.45 - 7.55 h, sunset 20.50 - 21.00, so "noon" at about 14.25 h. Few raptors fly before 10 a.m.

Highlights of the trip

11 Apr:
Stopover at Aiguamolls reserve near Castello d'Empuries /Figueras. One Caspian Tern (Raubseeschwalbe) on the MATA ponds by the silos, 1 Short-toed Eagle (Schlangenadler), 18 Flamingos and a Squacco Heron (Rallenreiher) at the Estany de Europa E of Castello.

12 Apr:
Trip to La Lomaza reserve, went around with a SEO guide, very stormy day, saw 20 Griffons, 2 Golden Eagles (Steinadler), 1 Egyptian Vulture (Schmutzgeier), 1 Merlin (Merlin), 2 Stone Curlews (Triel), 1 Whimbrel (Regenbrachvogel) and 11 Pin-tailed Sandgrouse (Spießflughuhn). Slept in the car beside a few singing Dupont's Larks

13 Apr (Good Friday)
In the morning, heard at least 4-5 Dupont's, but, due to the gale force wind, had to wait until 10 a.m. to get sight of one, then a second bird, singing their heads off, the latter even once showing off in flight display. A Good Bird and a smashing experience! - Journey to Trujillo. Nobody around Madrid; took me 15' to get around the City. Arriving in Belen steppe, first 18 Great Bustards (Großtrappe)! SE and SW of Sta Marta, up to 6 Little Bustards (Zwergtrappe), 1 Golden Eagle (Steinadler), some Lesser Kestrels (Rötelfalke), 12+ Pin-tailed sandgrouse (Spießflughuhn), 6 Great spotted cuckoos (Häherkuckuck)! Night in car SE Hocino de Arriba.

14 Apr (Easter Saturday)
Morning on road SE Hocino de Arriba (the "La Encinilla" sign has disappeared). 15 Pin-tailed Sandgrouse (Spießflughuhn), 2 Black-bellied, 7 Great Bustards (Großtrappe). SE Monroy 2 Booted Eagles (Zwergadler), 1 Short-toed, several Black Vultures (Mönchsgeier). N Monroy 1 Black-Shouldered Kite (Gleitaar) hunting in the dehesa and perching on pylons and trees. First Spanish Sparrow (Weidensperling) (a lifer), 2 Scops Owls (Zwergohreule) whistling at noon !
3 Black Storks (Schwarzstorch) at Penafalcon Rock, but crowds of tourists from Madrid, (disgusting), so back to Belen steppe with 25 odd Great Bustards (Großtrappe). Slept in car.

15 Apr (Easter Sunday)
15 Great bustards (Großtrappe), some displaying with 3 Black and 4 Griffon Vultures (Gänsegeier) sitting on some rocks in the grass and watching them! More Spanish Sparrows (Weidensperling) and Lesser Kestrels (Rötelfalke). More vultures (3 species) on the country road going NE (E Torrecillas). Fled Easter touristm going to La Serena. Lesser Kestrels (Rötelfalke) and White Storks (Weißstorch) nesting on Acedera church. Road to Cabeza disappointing. Took the good track going E at km 77 of Castuera-Puebla road. 50+ Pin-tailed and 4+ Black-bellied Sandgrouse (Sandflughuhn) in the evening, Little Bustards (Zwergtrappe) everywhere, 1 Chough (Alpenkrähe) on old mine. After 10 km, turned round after the mine (a flock of Pin-tailed by the roadside, nice views), because track got worse and split in 3 directions. Night in car.

16 Apr
Flock of 95 Sandgrouse at 8.45 a.m., same place as yesterday, about 10% Black-bellied! Back to road NE Cabeza, 12 ad.male Great Bustards (Großtrappe) by the only copse on the roadside, probably the start of La Calderuela track. 1 Booted Eagle (Zwergadler) 17 km S Zorita, 50 Cattle Egret (Kuhreiher). Back to Trujillo and S Sta Marta area. Lots of Black Vultures (Mönchsgeier) and 12 Great Bustards (Großtrappe) along the Trujillo-Caceres road. One more Merlin (Merlin) near Hocino Arriba. 6 BB + 4-6 PT Sandgrouse in late evening. Slept in car.

17 Apr
13 BB and 17+PT Sandgrouse, same place as eve (SE Hocino Arriba) + 1 Collared Pratincole (Rotflügel-Brachschwalbe) ! 1O + 6 + 1 Great Bustards (Großtrappe) near Trujillo-Caceres road. 40 PT + 8 BB Sandgrouse by km 22 of Trujillo-Monroy road, the BB sitting not far from the road. Stunning views! 3 Short-toed Eagles (Schlangenadler) at km 23. Monroy: the Black-Shouldered Kite (Gleitaar) still at its nest, disturbed twice, first by Italian and then by British birders. 1 Booted Eagle (Zwergadler), a dozen Vultures (Black + Griffon) by a carcass. Not hotel vacancies in Torrejon. SE of Monfrague Castle 1 ad. Spanish Imperial Eagle (Spanischer Kaiseradler) displaying and perching on pylon. Attacking other small eagle (a Bonelli's?). Orphean warbler (Orpheusgrasmücke) singing in Cork oak. 1 Short-toed, 1 Booted Eagle (Zwergadler), 4 Egyptian vultures (Schmutzgeier) displaying and chasing each other. Black stork (Schwarzstorch) on nest at Penafalcon. Hotel Los Rosales in Malpartida.

18 Apr
Spent whole day at Mirador de la Bascula 8from 7.30 a.m. to 7.30 p.m. splendid sunrise with Woodlark (Heidelerche) singing for hours. This place has 5 Black Vultures (Mönchsgeier)' and 1 Imperial Eagle (Kaiseradler)'s nest. Unnecessary to drive hundreds of miles around to tick off all the raptor species when you have such a place. Some extracts of my diary:
9 h: a Bonelli's Eagle perches on a rock, sits there until 11 h. -

10h: 1 Short-toed Eagle (Schlangenadler), first 2 Black Vultures (Mönchsgeier). More and more Griffons arrive, flying just over the car park. -

11.30 h: 2 Egyptian Vultures (Schmutzgeier)

12.30h: First appearance of the Spanish Imperial Eagle (Spanischer Kaiseradler)

14h: one more Short-toed Eagle (Schlangenadler)

14.30h: 2 Black storks (Schwarzstorch), 1 Booted Eagle (Zwergadler)

14.40h: 2 Span.Imp.Eagles (one with prey, flies to the nest, but bird invisible ON the nest).

15h: 1 Span.Imperial Eagle

15.15h: 1 Booted Eagle (Zwergadler)

15.20h: Imp.Eagle back to nest with snake (?)

15.40 h: 2 Black Vultures (Mönchsgeier) on nest less than 500 yards away.

15.50h: 1 Black Stork (Schwarzstorch).

16.15h: 2 Bonelli's Eagles dive-bombing on some prey (?) and displaying.

16.45h: 1 Imperial Eagle (Kaiseradler) and 2 EgyptianVultures.

17.20h : 3(!) Short-toed Eagles (Schlangenadler), the pair driving off the 3rd bird.

18.45-19h: long performance of Imperial Eagle (Kaiseradler).

It is obvious that staying in the same place sharpens attention, (costs no money for petrol) and can be very rewarding, but some birders had much less luck with the Eagles on the next day. Many others drove away because sometimes, nothing happens within an hour or even more. Tried tape-playing for nightjars (Ziegenmelker) but got no reaction - too early!

19 Apr
Early morning visit to the Park. Spanish Imperial Eagle (Spanischer Kaiseradler) perches on Portilla de Tietar cliff from 10.30h to 11 h. Sublime view! 2 Black Stork (Schwarzstorch) nests; much ado with nest material between 10 and 11 h, one adult flying around and fetching branches, the other being on the clutch. 1 Booted Eagle (Zwergadler), 2 Black Vultures (Mönchsgeier), Blue Rock Thrush (Blaumerle)... - 2 Choughs (Alpenkrähe) at the Castillo, but no Swifts (Mauersegler) (not even a White-rumped ...!) . Imperial Eagle (Kaiseradler) back at Portilla at 16h (display flight) and 17h. One more Black-shouldered Kite (Gleitaar) south of Malpartida (in unfenced area, precise location withheld), only 100 m from the road, could see his red eyes - fantastic!

20 Apr
One more BS Kite SW of Casatejada, but more than a mile from the road! A Booted Eagle (Zwergadler) at km 95 of the E90 motorway to Madrid.

21 Apr
3 Flamingoes in lagoon near Fitou motorway rest area (Perpignan/France)

The whole Extremadura area was clad in lush green, there were little ponds full of water for the livestock. So it was useless to look for Sandgrouse drinking pools. Since the weather had been very dry lately, farm tracks were very extremely dusty, but it was rarely worthwhile to venture out very far from good roads.

Observed Species

This list is not complete - so I did not number the species !

Little Grebe (Zwergtaucher) (Tachybaptus ruficollis) -- The winter having been very wet, I observed those even on little ponds in the heart of La Serena !
Cattle Egret (Kuhreiher) (Bubulcus ibis) -- frequently seen, a great sighting were the +50 birds in breeding plumage on a sheep herd 17 km S of Zorita
Purple Heron (Purpurreiher) (Ardea purperea) -- only at Aiguamolls
Squacco Heron (Rallenreiher) (Ardeola ralloides) -- 1 at Aiguamolls
Black Stork (Schwarzstorch) (Ciconia nigra) --3 pairs nesting at the well-known places: Peñafalcon, Portilla del Tietar
White Stork (Weißstorch) (Ciconia ciconia) -- everywhere even on signposts along the highway to/from Madrid
Black-shouldered Kite (Gleitaar) (Elanus caerulus) -- One along the road from Trujillo to Monroy; . another south of Malpartida de Plasencia; a third bird SW of Casatejada.
Black Kite (Schwarzmilan) (Milvus migrans) -- the most abundant bird of prey in Extremadura...
Red Kite (Rotmilan) (Milvus milvus) -- daily seen, but in smaller numbers
Egyptian Vulture (Schmutzgeier) (Neophron percnopterus) -- breeding at Peñafalcon, Mirador de la Tajadilla; 1 pair present at Portilla de Tiétar, 4 birds displaying SE of the Castillo, 1 bird near Quinto/Zaragoza.
Eurasian Griffon Vulture (Gänsegeier) (Gyps fulvus) -- breeding at the Salto del Gitano, Mirador de la Tajadilla, Portilla del Tietar; even at the Castillo; abundant in the Serena and around Trujillo.
Monk Vulture (Mönchsgeier) (Aegypius monachus) -- breeding observed at Mirador de la Bascula (5 nests); more than 20 birds in steppe areas, often with Griffons (Serena, Belen, Sta Marta areas).
Short-toed Eagle (Schlangenadler) Circaetus gallicus) -- breeding near Mirador de la Bascula; up to 3 birds there and SE of the Castillo, Belen, Monroy area.
Eurasian Marsh Harrier (Rohrweihe) (Circus aeruginosus) - only seen in Aiguamolls
Montagu's Harrier (Wiesenweihe) (Circus pygargus) -- numerous in the steppes from Belén, Sta. Marta, La Serena ; up to 10 birds at a time ! 2 dark phase birds near Belen and in La Serena!
Common Buzzard (Mäusebussard) (Buteo buteo) -- daily observed in small numbers, mainly between steppe and dehesa
Spanish Imperial Eagle (Spanischer Kaiseradler) (Aquila heliaca adalberti) -- breeding at the Mirador de la Bascula; 1 bird displaying SE of the Castillo, 1 bird perched on the Portilla de Tietar griffon colony!
Golden Eagle (Steinadler) (Aquila chrysaetos) -- 2 birds on the cliffs along the road A1105 from Bujaraloz to Gelsa (ESE from Zaragoza), one in plains SE Sta Marta
Booted Eagle (Zwergadler) (Hieraaetus pennatus) - only few birds, both phases, best places: La Bascula, Portilla Tietar, Castillo.
Bonelli's Eagle (Habichtsadler) (Hieraaetus fasciatus) -- 1 couple displaying at La Bascula.
Lesser Kestrel (Rötelfalke) (Falco naumanni) -- frequently seen, especially in a colony on Acedera church and low uninhabited buildings in steppe areas (Belen, Serena)
Common Kestrel (Turmfalke) (Falco tinnunculus) -- frequently seen, in limited numbers
Merlin (Merlin) (Falco columbarius) - one in Lomaza reserve/Codo, one SE Sta Marta
Red-legged Partridge (Rothuhn) (Alectoris rufa) -- some observations in dehesa and steppe areas
Common Quail (Wachtel) (Coturnix coturnix) -- calling birds in the plains of Belén, Sta Marta, La Serena ...
Little Bustard (Zwergtrappe) (Tetrax tetrax) -- high numbers in the steppes of Belén, Sta. Marta and La . Serena
Great Bustard (Großtrappe) (Otis tarda) -- only seen in the plains between Belén and Torrecillas de la Tiesa, La Serena and near the road from Trujillo to Caceres; groups of max. 12+ birds
Black-winged Stilt (Stelzenläufer) (Himantopus himantopus) - lots of birds in Aiguamolls
Whimbrel (Regenbrachvogel) (Numenius phaeopus): 1 in La Lomaza/Codo
Stone-Curlew (Triel) (Burhinus Oedicnemus) -- some birds in the steppes of Belén, Sta. Marta and Serena
Collared Pratincole (Rotflügel-Brachschwalbe) (Glareola pratincola) - one bird SW Sta Marta (SE Hocino de Arr.)
Caspian Tern (Raubseeschwalbe) (Hydroprogne tschegrava) - one bird in Aiguamolls (La Matà silo area).
Pin-tailed Sandgrouse (Spießflughuhn) (Pterocles alchata) -- flocks of up to 20 near Sta. Marta de Magasca/ Hocino de Arriba and SE Monroy ; one of 95 birds Serena/NE Castuera
Black-bellied Sandgrouse (Sandflughuhn) (Pterocles orientalis) - flocks of up to 6, same places; the big flock of Pin-tailed in La Serena might have had up to 10 BBSG.
Rock Pigeon (Felsentaube) (Columba livia) -- several birds in Monfragüe, together with domestic birds
European Turtle Dove (Turteltaube) (Streptopelia turtur) - common in small numbers in the dehesa
Great Spotted Cuckoo (Häherkuckuck) (Clamator glandarius) -- near Belén, also seen in the Sta Marta/Hocino de Arriba, Belen and Monroy areas and Monfrague parc.
Common Cuckoo (Kuckuck) (Cuculus canorus) -- frequently seen and heard in small numbers
Eurasian Scops Owl (Zwergohreule) (Otus scops) -- 2 singing males near Monroy at 14.20 h! One by the hotel in Malpartida.
Eagle Owl (Uhu) (Bubo bubo) -- 1 adult at the Portilla del Tietar late at dusk, seen by other birders. I did not try there and went for nighthawks (Nachtfalke) elsewhere.
Little Owl (Steinkauz) (Athena noctua) -- near the hotel in Malpartida, in the steppe at Belén and N of La Serena
Red-necked Nightjar (Rothals-Ziegenmelker) (Caprimulgus ruficollis) - tried tape-recording near the Embalse de Torrejón, but no answers; probably too early (18th Apr).
Common Swift (Mauersegler) (Apus apus) - only a few at the end of the stay.
Alpine Swift (Alpensegler) (Apus melba) -- several birds in Monfragüe/ Castillo.
European Bee-eater (Bienenfresser) (Merops apiaster) -- daily seen, mainly in or near the park.
European Roller (Blauracke) (Coracias garrulus) - seen by other birders along the road from Trujillo to Cáceres
Hoopoe (Wiedehopf) (Upupa epops) -- daily seen, high numbers
Great Spotted Woodpecker (Buntspecht) (Dendrocopos major) - only 2 birds in oaks.
Calandra Lark (Kalanderlerche) (Melanocorypha calandra) -- frequent in the plains near Belén and Sta Marta + La Serena
Greater Short-toed Lark (Kurzzehenlerche) (Calandrella brachydactyla) - locally, especially near Belén
Crested Lark (Haubenlerche) (Galerida cristata) -- abundant
Thekla Lark (Theklalerche) (Galerida theklae) - same places as Calandra
Wood Lark (Heidelerche) (Lullula arborea) -- some singing birds in Monfragüe (Bascula)
Dupont's Lark (Cersophilus duponti) - 2 birds seen and many heard in La Lomaza reserve (itinerary 2) near Codo /SE Zaragoza.
Eurasian Crag Martin (Felsenschwalbe) (Ptyonoprogne rupestris) -- frequently observed (Castillo, bridges.)
Barn Swallow (Rauchschwalbe) (Hirundo rustica) -- very common
Red-rumped Swallow (Rötelschwalbe) (Hirundo daurica) -- unexpected numbers in all visited spots, most of all rocky places (Penafalcon..) but also in flat cultivated dehesa
House Martin (Mehlschwalbe) (Delichon urbica) -- very common .
Tawny Pipit (Brachpieper) (Anthus campestris) - one bird in Belen plain
Black-eared Wheatear (Mittelmeer-Steinschmätzer) (Oenanthe hispanica) -- irregularly seen in Codo/Zaragoza (one very white, black-thorated bird), Belén and Sta. Marta
Blue Rock Thrush (Blaumerle) (Monticola solitarius) -- very common, certainly in Monfragüe
Cetti's Warbler (Seidensänger) (Cettia cetti) -- frequently heard, mainly near embalses and Aiguamolls.
Zitting Cisticola (Cistensänger) (Cisticola juncidis) -- regularly heard and seen in the plains of Belén, Monroy etc.
Sardinian Warbler (Samtkopf-Grasmücke) (Sylvia melanocephala) -- very regularly heard in dehesa locations.
Orphean Warbler (Orpheusgrasmücke) (Sylvia hortensis) -- 2 bird heard: SE of the Castillo, and E of Portilla Tietar in a bull pen. (Did not want to go and look for it !)
Short-toed Treecreeper (Gartenbaumläufer) (Certhia brachydactyla) -- irregularly heard in small numbers (Castillo.)
Southern Grey Shrike (Raubwürger Unterart meridionalis) (Lanius excubitor meridionalis) -- very numerous
Woodchat Shrike (Rotkopfwürger) (Lanius senator) -- very common in different habitats
Azure-winged Magpie (Blauelster) (Cyanopica cyana) -- very common in dehesa and even in Belen steppe, 1 km from the nearest tree!
Red-billed Chough (Alpenkrähe) (Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax) -- few birds around the Castillo de Monfragüe and 1 in the heart of La Serena (abandoned mines NE of Castuera)
Eurasian Jackdaw (Dohle) (Corvus monedula) -- irregularly seen in very small numbers
Common Raven (Kolkrabe) (Corvus corax) -- frequently seen in the visited areas
Spotless Starling (Einfarbstar) (Sturnus unicolor) -- very common
Spanish Sparrow (Weidensperling) (Passer hispaniolensis) -- very numerous in the plains
Rock Sparrow (Steinsperling) (Petronia petronia) -- 3 birds on the Tietar dam at the power station, late evening, not seen again during the day.
Hawfinch (Kernbeißer) (Coccothraustes coccothraustes) - some birds heard in dehesa areas
Rock Bunting (Zippammer) (Emberiza cia) -- observed near Portilla de Tietar and Salto del Gitano /Penafalcon

Sorry for my French and German speaking friends, but English was the obvious solution!

Lutz Lücker - 5, Fort-Ecluse - Ch-1213 Petit-Lancy/Geneva - Switzerland
Tel/fax 0041-22-792.84.62

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