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|A Report from birdtours.co.uk|
Central Spain 28 – 30 May 2005,
Gruff Dodd, 2 Clos Tawe, Barri, Bro Morgannwg, Cymru/Wales; Gruff@doddg.freeserve.co.uk
Participants – Kingsley Parker, Gruff Dodd
Introduction and strategy
I have had an ambition for some time to try to see all the regularly breeding and wintering birds in Europe, and over the years I have whittled down the number I have left to see to just 11. I therefore decided to make a short trip over to Central Spain over the bank holiday weekend in order to try to tick off two of these, namely Little Bustard and Western Orphean Warbler. I was also keen to see the Iberian race of Green Woodpecker, as well as trying to locate 2 vagrants, Bald Ibis and Long-legged Buzzard (of the North African race cirtensis) that had been seen recently in the Belén area.
Kingsley had not previously visited mainland Spain and had a want list of about 30 species in the area I’d be visiting, so decided to come along to see how many he could see, partly enticed by the promise of a few beers along the way!
Despite the short amount of time we had available to us, and rather frantic schedule, the trip was a huge success. I saw all 5 of my target birds, Kingsley got 25 lifers, and we saw a load of really good birds. Due to the very limited time available to us, we didn’t spend any time looking for Iberian “specialities” which we had seen elsewhere in the world, e.g. Purple Gallinule, Black-winged Kite or White-rumped Swift, nor did we visit any wetland areas further south for birds such as Marbled Teal, so apologies to anyone who might be hoping for details of these species. Hopefully, this report will, however, show what is possible in this outstanding birding country in even a very short space of time.
We are extremely grateful to several people who helped a lot during the planning of this trip – John Butler of Doñanatours for providing us with a great deal of assistance both before and during the trip, Alfonso López for great directions to the Bald Ibis site at Belén, Ricard Gutiérrez for giving me Alfonso’s contact details and the Birdforum members who provided various advice and help during the planning stages – Nick-on, Jules Sykes of Olivaramatours, Edward, Tim Allwood and Jurek.
We flew to Madrid with Easyjet from Bristol – very efficient and cheap at UKP 103 per person. Flight times were as follows:
Depart BRS 27.05.05 17:45, arrive MAD 27.05.05 21:00
Depart MAD 30.05.05 21:35, arrive BRS 30.05.05 22:50
We hired a car for the duration from Hertz – the car was fine, but we felt that we were ripped off somewhat, as the initial quote provided of EUR 95 turned into EUR 125 when they added a EUR 30 airport surcharge that we had not previously been told about, and they also charged us EUR 50 for half a tank of petrol – roughly double the price had we filled up at a filling station. Lesson learned.
As other birders have written, we had a bit of difficulty finding our way out of Madrid, especially as we didn’t know the road number we wanted! We were basically given a choice between heading for Valencia or Zaragoza, neither of which seemed right, but with hindsight meant that they were trying to direct us clockwise or anti-clockwise respectively around the Madrid ring road.
To get to Extremadura, we eventually followed the ring road looking for signs for road R5, until we saw a turnoff signposted for Badajoz – from here it was a nice easy drive down to Trujillo.
At John Butler’s recommendation, we tried to book into the Hotel Carvajal at Torrejón El Rubio, but failed to get hold of an e-mail address, and they didn’t respond to our fax. We tried to find a hotel in Trujillo, but they were all booked up solid, so we ended up spending 2 nights at the rather expensive Hospedería Parque Monfragüe (fax +34 927 455016, tel +34 927 455245), booked through www.all-hotels.com. This was a really nice place, but pretty expensive at EUR 112 for a twin room per night – based on the amount of time we actually spent there it worked out at about EUR 30 per hour!
We stayed the third night at the Hotel Villa de Sepúlveda in the village of Santa Cruz, near Sepúlveda, north of Madrid, which is ideally situated for the Parque Natural del Río Duratón. Very comfortable and not bad value at EUR 45 per night.
Bird Guide to the birds of Britain and Europe – Mullarney, Svensson, Zetterström and Grant, Published by Collins
Where to watch birds in Spain and Portugal – Rose. (Published by Hamlyn, ISBN 0-600-58404-6)
Where to watch birds in Southern Spain – Garcia & Paterson.
All the bird songs of Britain and Europe – Roché (Published by Sittelle). Very useful in learning the songs and calls beforehand, even having recordings of Western Orphean Warbler and Iberian Green Woodpecker
Central & Western Spain – May 2003 – Ben Miller - http://www.birdtours.co.uk/tripreports/spain/extra8/extre-may-03.htm. Outstanding report, with excellent precise directions
Extremadura – April 2005 – Nigel Voaden - http://www.birdtours.co.uk/tripreports/spain/extre11/extremadura-april-05.htm
Extremadura – 24.03.05 – 01.04.05 – Lutz Lücker - http://www.birdtours.co.uk/tripreports/spain/extre10/extremaura-mar-05.htm
Extremadura – 18.05.04 – 25.05.04 – Tom Goossens - http://www.birdtours.co.uk/tripreports/spain/extra9/extra-may-04.htm
Extremadura – 28.05.01 – 07.06.01 – Ian Kinley - http://www.birdtours.co.uk/tripreports/spain/extra5/extra2001.htm
Madrid & Extremadura – 19.06.04 – 25.06.04 – Steve Preddy - http://www.surfbirds.com/trip_report.php?id=534
Andalucia & Extremadura – 07.04.99 – 16.04.99 – Simon Woolley - http://www.surfbirds.com/trip_report.php?id=519
Spain – 27.06.99 – 05.07.99 – Richard Bonser - http://www.surfbirds.com/trip_report.php?id=520
The Magnificent Marshside Seven do España – 11.04.02 – 16.04.02 – John Bannon - http://www.birdtours.co.uk/tripreports/spain/tour5/tour-april2002.htm. Very funny report!
Michelin Map – Extremadura, Castilla-La Mancha, Madrid (Sheet 576) – 1:400,000. Superb map, with even the smallest of roads shown.
Sites visited were as follows:
Arrive Madrid, drive to Torrejón El Rubio, arriving there by c. 02:30
Up at 05:00, to bird Santa Marta de Magasca steppes at dawn. Late morning drove over to Belén steppes, then to Trujillo for lunch.
Afternoon in Monfragüe Natural Park, staying until dusk for Eagle Owl and Red-necked Nightjar
Dawn again at Santa Marta de Magasca steppes, then over to Belén steppes. Mid-morning drive up to valley between Campillo de Deleitosa and Valdecañas de Tajo.
Afternoon visit to Monfragüe Natural Park, then long drive up to Sepúlveda, arriving at 23:00
Dawn at Ermita de San Frutos and Río Duratón steppes. Mid-morning drive to Puerto de Navacerrada in the Sierra de Guadarrama, then back to Madrid arriving mid-afternoon.
Dropped off hire car and took metro into Madrid to visit Retiro Park, then back to airport for flight home
Details of these sites are given in the Daily Account section.
Saturday 28 May 2005
Having arrived at our hotel at 02:30 last night, getting up at 5:00 to be out by dawn proved a bit of a struggle, but the thought of all those good birds proved enough of an incentive. We drove down to Trujillo in the dark, turning westwards towards Cáceres. 10 km west of Trujillo, we turned right again onto a minor road signposted for Santa Marta de Magasca, and after 2.3 km we reached a junction with two tracks on the right.
We waited for it to get light enough to see, then took the right hand track, which led gently straight downhill, and we stopped just before the track swung around to the left. Almost the first thing we heard after stopping was a single call from a Little Bustard – it sounded quite close, but couldn’t be located, and didn’t call again, which was rather frustrating. Having watched some CRESTED LARKS and CORN BUNTINGS, we continued around the corner and followed the track until a short while later we reached a no entry sign, where we parked up.
A LESSER KESTREL was seen perched on a fence post, and we got out to scope it when a bird was seen flying across the field in front of us. To my delight it turned out to be a superb LITTLE BUSTARD that landed in full view and was scoped for some time. Just 15 minutes into our trip, and my main target bird was already in the bag, and this after 15 years of dipping this bird! Furthermore, it proved to be the only one we saw the whole weekend, so a dawn visit more than paid off.
Absolutely ecstatic, we returned to the car, and made our way back to the main road, stopping on the way for some SPANISH SPARROWS and CALANDRA LARKS. From here we drove up to Santa Marta de Magasca, then took the minor road south west back towards the Cáceres road.
The dehesa either side of the village was excellent – AZURE-WINGED MAGPIES were everywhere, BLACK and RED KITES were ludicrously common, and WHITE STORKS kept getting us excited thinking they were Great Bustards. One particularly productive patch of dehesa, where we found our first Azure-wingeds also produced STONE CURLEW, EUROPEAN ROLLER, RED-LEGGED PARTRIDGE and our first EUROPEAN HOOPOES, EUROPEAN BEE-EATERS and SPOTLESS STARLINGS of the trip.
West of Santa Marta de Magasca, the road crossed a small river where RED-RUMPED SWALLOWS seemed to be breeding, and west of here we started running into good numbers of both WOODCHAT and SOUTHERN GREY SHRIKES, as well as several MONTAGU’S HARRIERS, including one superb melanistic bird.
A few km short of the main Cáceres – Trujillo, we spotted a very large bird flying away from us in the distance – surely a Great Bustard, but when we stopped and got out it had disappeared from view, and couldn’t be relocated. We had some great compensation, however, when we set up the scope, as while checking out some distant storks, we came across a pair of BLACK-BELLIED SANDGROUSE much closer, which were watched well.
Having got many of our steppe target birds, we decided to drive back to Trujillo and continue east on a minor road to check out the steppes east of the village of Belén. Just east of the village we bumped into a couple of other birders, and while we were exchanging news, a nice BOOTED EAGLE glided overhead.
Out on the steppe we drove slowly stopping on every crest to scan for bustards, and eventually located one GREAT BUSTARD on the left hand side of the road, about 6 km from the village. Very distant view, but it would have to do for now. RED and BLACK KITES were again everywhere, as were CORN BUNTINGS, SPANISH SPARROWS and CRESTED LARKS, and checking the latter eventually produced one definite THEKLA LARK, at which point we stopped looking at these birds!
8 km from Belén, we arrived at a clump of dead trees in a small marsh on the left hand side of the road (just after a crossroads) – this is the site of a breeding colony of LITTLE EGRETS and WHITE STORKS, and sure enough there in the top of one of the trees was the BALD IBIS which had been seen in this area for the previous month – many thanks again to Alfonso López for the directions to this site.
We mooched around this area for a while longer in the hope of finding more bustards, but none were found. A nice GOLDEN EAGLE was seen, which we failed to turn into Spanish Eagle, several GRIFFON VULTURES soared overhead, and a BLACK VULTURE flew by, before the increasing heat eventually made the heat haze too bad for good visibility.
Back to Trujillo for a quick bite to eat, which turned into a long lazy lunch with wine in the main square – very civilised indeed! Having watched the resident LESSER KESTRELS flying around, accompanied by COMMON and PALLID SWIFTS, we eventually decided that maybe we should get back to some birding, and so we drove up to Monfragüe Park for the afternoon.
First stop was at Salto del Gitano, beneath Peñafalcón rock, where we hoped to find the elusive Black Wheatear, but instead we had to be satisfied with good views of EURASIAN GRIFFONS, BLUE ROCK THRUSH, RED-RUMPED SWALLOW, EURASIAN CRAG MARTIN and the distinctive Iberian race (irbii) of LONG-TAILED TIT.
From here we drove up to Villarreal de San Carlos, stopping briefly in the visitor centre to pick up a map and gather some information, and again at the dam over the Río Tietar for a BLACK REDSTART of the Iberian race aterrimus then headed straight up to Portilla del Tietar where some Spanish birders immediately pointed out the nest of the breeding pair of SPANISH EAGLES – these were scoped for some time, seeing both adult birds and at least one downy young.
Just then, John Butler showed up with his birding group – we’d exchanged several e-mails prior to the trip, so it was good to meet him and exchange bird sightings. He gave us directions to the BLACK STORK nest a few hundred metres back towards Villarreal, near the pull-off on the south side of the road, and just as we got out of the car one of these birds flew up the river past us.
Our other target bird at Portilla del Tietar was Eurasian Eagle-Owl, but the local birders advised us to come back around 21:00 to look for this, so we decided to bird our way back along the road towards Villarreal, in the hope of finding some of the many passerine species we still needed. The birding was tough mid-afternoon, however, and very little was seen. We checked every pile of dead brush along the road hoping for a Black-eared Wheatear, but only saw many WOODCHAT SHRIKES.
Arriving at Mirador La Báscula, we parked up and took the wide trail westwards into the area known as the plantation, and eventually found signs of life, with a couple of SHORT-TOED TREECREEPERS and a female SUBALPINE WARBLER seen here. Another stop just beyond the dam over the Río Tietar produced EGYPTIAN VULTURE on its nest, alongside many EURASIAN GRIFFONS, and a CRESTED TIT was seen in a nearby tree.
A bird perched on a dead twig a little further along at last proved to be a WESTERN BLACK-EARED WHEATEAR, although not a very convincing one, with the black restricted to just a mask around the eye, looking more like an Eastern than a Western.
The Spanish birders we met had told us that Salto del Gitano was a good spot for Rock Buntings as well as Black Wheatear, so we returned there for another try. Sure enough, the first bird we saw when we got there was a singing male ROCK BUNTING, but still no wheatears. Back to Villarreal for a cold drink, then a stop along the roadside between Villarreal and the turn off towards Portilla del Tietar produced a group of SUBALPINE WARBLERS and an obliging COMMON NIGHTINGALE – activity was at last starting to pick up.
More checking of dead sticks along the road to the dam produced a much better WESTERN BLACK-EARED WHEATEAR and a ROCK SPARROW, among the common WOODCHAT SHRIKES, before we drove on to Portilla del Tietar, arriving at 20:00 to join the crowd of 30 or so other birders watching the eagles and hoping the owl would show.
By now the lack of sleep the previous night was starting to tell, and I really struggled for the next hour, during which the birding highlight was the mixed flocks of ROCK DOVES and Feral Pigeons, but this was quickly forgotten when one Spanish birder found the EURASIAN EAGLE-OWL. There then followed a frustrating few minutes while I tried to pick out details from the hurried Spanish directions being passed backwards and forwards, before one Spanish birder kindly located the bird in our scope! We enjoyed excellent views of this bird of the distinctive greyish Iberian race hispanus – very different from the birds I’ve seen previously in Sweden and Turkey – and shared our scope with the local birders.
Eventually, with about 10 minutes of daylight remaining, we decided to press on, returning to Mirador La Báscula, which our research had suggested was the best bet for Red-necked Nightjar. Before it had got dark, we heard a strange call coming from the scrub north of the road – it didn’t sound like the recordings we’d heard previously of this bird, but certainly sounded interesting, and sure enough we eventually managed to get decent views of a RED-NECKED NIGHTJAR fluttering around in an area of very thin ground cover about 50 metres away. We were pretty happy with these views, but even happier when, with the light fading, two birds started to hawk around, one flying right over our heads while calling loudly, this time the normal call we’d heard and learned from tapes – a great end to a superb day’s birding!
Santa Marta de Magasca steppes – Red-legged Partridge, Mallard, Eurasian Hoopoe, European Roller, European Bee-eater, Little Owl, Little Bustard, Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Stone Curlew, Red Kite, Black Kite, Montagu's Harrier, Lesser Kestrel, White Stork, Southern Grey Shrike, Woodchat Shrike, Azure-winged Magpie, Eurasian Magpie, Common Stonechat, Spotless Starling, Eurasian Swallow, Red-rumped Swallow, Northern House-Martin, Calandra Lark, Crested Lark, Spanish Sparrow, European Goldfinch, Corn Bunting
Belén steppes - Great Bustard, Red Kite, Black Kite, Eurasian Griffon, Black Vulture, Common Buzzard, Golden Eagle, Booted Eagle, Lesser Kestrel, Little Egret, Bald Ibis, White Stork, Eurasian Magpie, Eurasian Jackdaw, Common Raven, Spotless Starling, Eurasian Swallow, Red-rumped Swallow, Crested Lark, Thekla Lark, Spanish Sparrow, Corn Bunting
Trujillo – Common Swift, Pallid Swift, Lesser Kestrel, White Stork, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow
Monfragüe – Eurasian Eagle-Owl, Red-necked Nightjar, Rock Dove, Common Wood-Pigeon, Eurasian Collared-Dove, Red Kite, Black Kite, Egyptian Vulture, Eurasian Griffon, Spanish Eagle, Little Egret, Grey Heron, Black Stork, Woodchat Shrike, Eurasian Jay, Azure-winged Magpie, Eurasian Magpie, Blue Rock-Thrush, Eurasian Blackbird, European Robin, Common Nightingale, Black Redstart, Western Black-eared Wheatear, Spotless Starling, Short-toed Tree-Creeper, Northern Wren, Crested Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Eurasian Crag-Martin, Eurasian Swallow, Red-rumped Swallow, Subalpine Warbler, Spanish Sparrow, Rock Sparrow, Rock Bunting
Sunday 29 May 2005
Having seen most of our target birds yesterday, we decided to return to the Santa Marta de Magasca area this morning to look for 2 species, Great Spotted Cuckoo and Pin-tailed Sandgrouse, which had so far eluded us. Unfortunately the weather was poor this morning – cold and drizzling and this, together with the fact that we’d managed just 4 hours sleep last night and had a few beers into the bargain, meant that I ended up drowsing most of the first few hours as Kingsley drove around seeing just some of the commoner species from yesterday morning.
Eventually, we decided to cut our losses here and try again in the Belén area. Not only was this supposedly a good area for the cuckoo, but John had mentioned yesterday that the vagrant long-legged Buzzard which had recently been seen here was supposedly still present, at around the 5 km mark – a bit annoying as we hadn’t thought to look yesterday!
If anything the weather was worse when we got here, with heavy rain and string winds, but nevertheless the very first raptor we found proved to be a LONG-LEGGED BUZZARD, first seen perched on a roadside post, then flying across the field where it perched on a more distant post, giving good scope views, although I didn’t stay out in the rain for long!
Just then John’s group turned up again, and we continued on together to the stork colony, but unfortunately the Bald Ibis wasn’t in view. However, one of John’s group did manage to find a group of 4 GREAT BUSTARDS in a nearby field, much closer than yesterday and without the heat haze, so we enjoyed excellent views of these birds.
We said goodbye to John’s group, and moved on a few km’s, stopping around some farm buildings with trees where we looked unsuccessfully for Great Spotted Cuckoos, seeing only LESSER KESTRELS and SPOTLESS STARLINGS. Back towards Belén, further stops added EURASIAN BEE-EATERS and a nice close-up singing CALANDRA LARK, but sadly no cuckoos, so we eventually gave up and moved on.
Frustratingly, we later heard from John that his group had found no less than 8 Great Spotted Cuckoos in the hour or so after we separated, and the Bald Ibis had also been found again in the field with the bustards.
Having failed to find Black Wheatear, we decided to try the area behind Campillo de Deleitosa and Valdecañas de Tajo, recommended by Ben Miller. By the time we got here late morning, the weather had improved, but the birding was still slow. We spent some time tracking down some strange calls that turned out to be frogs, then searched unsuccessfully around the orchard for the wheatears.
From here we birded for about 1 km up the road north of the river, adding WHITE WAGTAIL and CIRL BUNTING, before eventually giving up and driving towards Valdecañas. Sure enough, just then, a BLACK WHEATEAR flew across the road, landed on a rock ahead of up, showed briefly but well, and then moved up the slope, to be lost from view. A surprisingly tricky and elusive bird.
It was now decision time – having given up on Great Spotted Cuckoo and Pin-tailed Sandgrouse, our only major remaining target bird in this area was Western Orphean Warbler. This, however, seems a difficult bird to see in the Monfragüe area, with most sightings seeming to come from the area south of Peñafalcón, between Arroyo de la Vid and the bridge over the Río Tajo, but most crews seem to struggle here. We were planning on going to Sepúlveda tonight, so as to look for Dupont’s Lark tomorrow morning, and Ben Miller had mentioned this site as being very reliable for Orpheans, but I was reluctant to leave Monfragüe without at least trying for this species.
We therefore decided to try the Arroyo de la Vid / Castillo de Monfragüe area, hopefully leaving in time to get up to Sepúlveda in time for a pre-dusk attempt if we were unsuccessful. Ben Miller had reported finding this bird around the second gateway north of Arroyo de la Vid, about 1 km before arriving at the Castillo turn-off, and our hopes briefly soared just after getting here when we found a promising looking Sylvia warbler, but sadly it proved to be a SARDINIAN WARBLER.
Another hour or so here produced very little in the way of additional birds, with the highlight being a fly by BOOTED EAGLE, and the lowlight being a frustratingly unsuccessful attempt at tracking down a drumming woodpecker – the Iberian race sharpei of Green Woodpecker has been reported from here.
It soon became apparent that a lot more time would be needed here to give us a reasonable chance at Orphean Warbler, and that early afternoon was far from the best time to look for it. So we decided to cut our losses and drive up to Sepúlveda. Unfortunately, the road from Plasencia to Ávila proved to be much poorer than we had expected, and we then ran into very heavy weekend traffic around Segovia, so it was dark by the time we arrived at Sepúlveda – bit of a frustrating afternoon all around, although we were now in place for a last push tomorrow in the Río Duratón area. A superb meal washed down by a couple of beers at our Santa Cruz hotel certainly erased any disappointment at what had been, on the whole, a frustrating day.
Santa Marta de Magasca steppes – Red-legged Partridge, Red Kite, Black Kite, Montagu's Harrier, White Stork, Azure-winged Magpie, Eurasian Magpie, Spotless Starling, Spanish Sparrow, Corn Bunting
Belén steppes – European Bee-eater, Great Bustard, Red Kite, Black Kite, Long-legged Buzzard, Common Buzzard, Lesser Kestrel, Little Egret, White Stork, Eurasian Magpie, Common Raven, Spotless Starling, Calandra Lark, Spanish Sparrow, Corn Bunting
Campillo de Deleitosa –Azure-winged Magpie, Black Wheatear, White Wagtail, Cirl Bunting, Corn Bunting
Jaraicejo – European Turtle-Dove
Monfragüe – Eurasian Griffon, Booted Eagle, Azure-winged Magpie, Spotless Starling, Northern Wren, Blackcap, Sardinian Warbler, Crested Lark, Thekla Lark, Spanish Sparrow
Monday 30 May 2005
We were on the road again pre-dawn, having arranged to let ourselves out of the hotel and dropped off the key, heading north from Santa Cruz towards Urueñas, west to Castrillo de Sepúlveda, then south west to the village of Villaseca. Here, we took the track to the right at the church, signposted for Ermita de San Frutos.
After 1 km, we crossed over a dry riverbed, and having continued for a further 1.5 km, we stopped the car and listened for singing Dupont’s Lark. We had expected to be hearing these birds singing all around us, but there was relatively little song, with the birds drowned out by the numerous Thekla, Calandra, Great Short-toed and Skylarks. One Dupont’s was heard almost immediately on the south side of the road, but stopped singing long before we got near it.
Another bird was heard singing on the north side, and we patiently tracked it down, only to find that it was a THEKLA LARK, apparently mimicking Dupont’s – has anyone come across this behaviour before? Its call sounded very similar to our recordings of Dupont’s, although a little less nasal, but very hard to distinguish among the cacophony of other lark song. This was going to make it more difficult.
Another couple of unsuccessful attempts, made difficult by having to watch our feet constantly in this rocky terrain and the bird’s habit of constantly moving ahead of us, left us frustrated and rapidly running out of time. A small flock of RED-BILLED CHOUGH provided only minor compensation for our lack of success. We therefore decided to make an attempt for Orphean Warblers while it was still early, and so drove up to the car park for the Ermita.
Ben Miller had highly recommended this area for this species, but the habitat looked totally unsuitable – just a few scattered conifers with some low bushes, but mostly bare rock and thin grass. Nevertheless, we soon heard what sounded like the bird, and five minutes later we were watching a superb WESTERN ORPHEAN WARBLER firstly scrambling around on a patch of bare rock, then singing from the top of a pine tree. This does indeed seem a very easy and reliable location for what can be a very difficult bird.
Having got one of our two target birds (and my only remaining Spanish lifer!), we returned to the plain for another try at Dupont’s Lark, this time choosing an area with flat sandy ground so that we could at least focus in front of us, rather than on our feet. As I had seen this bird previously, we decided to split up to cover more ground – I was quite sceptical of our chances as it had by now been light for over 3 hours and the general consensus seems to be that dawn is pretty much essential for this bird, but ten minutes later Kingsley called out that he had one.
I went over to join him, but we were unfortunately unable to relocate the bird, which had run across a bare patch of ground in front of him, stopped half way to peer back at him, then disappeared behind a tussock. Very pleased that Kingsley had managed to catch up with this difficult bird, we spent another hour or so birding the area, getting good views of TAWNY PIPIT, GREATER SHORT-TOED and CALANDRA LARK, before deciding to leave the area and drive down into the Sierra de Guadarrama.
South of Villaseca we reached a bridge, the Puente de Villaseca, over a small river, and as this area had some nice vegetation in an otherwise arid area, we decided to spend some time here in the hope of seeing perhaps a Melodious Warbler or Spanish Chiffchaff. No such luck, although EUROPEAN SERINS were common here together with some woodland species.
The highlight, however, came as we were just getting back into the car when one or more SHORT-TOED EAGLES flew over, first south, then north, then south again. These birds apparently breed in the south west part of the Río Duratón Park, and these birds may have been commuting from their nest sites to feeding areas?
From here we drove down to Segovia, then south through La Granja and up to Puerto de Navacerrada in the Sierra de Guadarrama, where our target was Citril Finch. We parked in the small car park just after the two cafes at the summit, and birded the wooded slope below the car park. All we found initially were numerous EUROPEAN SERINS and a single NUTHATCH, but it didn’t take very long before we found a single CITRIL FINCH feeding on the ground. The bird was flightier than others I have seen, but could still be seen well in the short grass.
We weren’t sure what to do now – it was only 14:00, our flight back to Bristol didn’t leave until 21:30, and we had seen virtually all our target birds. The one remaining target was the Iberian race sharpei of Green Woodpecker which was possible in any woodland, but which one trip report reported as being very easy and tame in Retiro Park in central Madrid.
After a brief visit to a small ecology park near the town of Manzanares, where we heard one of these woodpeckers calling but couldn’t track it down, we decided to return to the airport and drop off the car. We got there by 15:00, but by the time we’d completed the car hire formalities, dropped off our bags in the left luggage office and headed for the metro station it was 16:00.
The best area of Retiro Park for the woodpecker was apparently the south west corner, so we took the metro as far as the Atocha Renfe stop, which is just a few metres from that corner of the park, the journey from the airport taking about an hour.
We’d expected the woodpeckers to be fairly easy here but an hour later we hadn't had a sniff, seeing only common parkland birds. By now we were tired and pretty fed up with looking at Feral Pigeons and Blackbirds, so we decided to take a break at the snack bar at the south side of the park. We sat on the terrace waiting for our food, looking at a hedge fronting a small patch of grass with large trees, and had just commented jokingly that it looked perfect for woodpeckers, when an IBERIAN GREEN WOODPECKER flew down, landed right in front of us, no more than 3 metres away, and started digging for ants. Unbelievable!
Delighted to catch up at last with our last target bird we enjoyed stunning views of the bird, toasting our success with a cold drink, before wandering back through the park towards the Ibiza metro station on the east side. Needless to say, we found another Green Woodpecker on the way out, also proving to be very tame and confiding, before we finally got back to the airport by 20:00 and packed away our bins for the journey home.
Río Duratón – Great Spotted Woodpecker, Black Kite, Eurasian Griffon, Short-toed Snake-Eagle, Red-billed Chough, Eurasian Jackdaw, Spotted Flycatcher, Western Orphean Warbler, Calandra Lark, Greater Short-toed Lark, Dupont's Lark (KP only), Thekla Lark, Eurasian Skylark, Grey Wagtail, Tawny Pipit, Chaffinch, European Serin, Corn Bunting
Puerto de Navacerrada –Black Redstart, Northern Wheatear, Nuthatch, European Serin, Citril Finch, Rock Bunting
Retiro Park, Madrid – Mallard, Eurasian Green Woodpecker, Common Wood-Pigeon, Eurasian Blackbird, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Greenfinch (KP only)
The letter 'h' denotes that the bird was heard but not seen.
1. Red-legged Partridge (Alectoris rufa) Santa Marta de Magasca 28.5, Santa Marta de Magasca 29.5
2. Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) Santa Marta de Magasca 28.5, Retiro Park 30.5
3. Great Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos major) Río Duratón 30.5
4. Eurasian Green Woodpecker (Picus viridis) Retiro Park 30.5
5. Eurasian Hoopoe (Upupa epops) Santa Marta de Magasca 28.5
6. European Roller (Coracias garrulus) Santa Marta de Magasca 28.5
7. European Bee-eater (Merops apiaster) Santa Marta de Magasca 28.5, Belén 29.5
8. Common Swift (Apus apus) Trujillo 28.5
9. Pallid Swift (Apus pallidus) Trujillo 28.5
10. Eurasian Eagle-Owl (Bubo bubo) Monfragüe 28.5
11. Little Owl (Athene noctua) Santa Marta de Magasca 28.5
12. Red-necked Nightjar (Caprimulgus ruficollis) Monfragüe 28.5
13. Rock Dove (Pigeon) (Columba livia) Monfragüe 28.5
14. Common Wood-Pigeon (Columba palumbus) Monfragüe 28.5, Retiro Park 30.5
15. European Turtle-Dove (Streptopelia turtur) Jaraicejo 29.5
16. Eurasian Collared-Dove (Streptopelia decaocto) Monfragüe 28.5
17. Little Bustard (Tetrax tetrax) Santa Marta de Magasca 28.5
18. Great Bustard (Otis tarda) Belén 28.5, Belén 29.5
19. Black-bellied Sandgrouse (Pterocles orientalis) Santa Marta de Magasca 28.5
20. Stone Curlew (Eurasian Thick-knee) (Burhinus oedicnemus) Santa Marta de Magasca 28.5
21. Red Kite (Milvus milvus) Santa Marta de Magasca 28.5, Belén 28.5, Monfragüe 28.5, Santa Marta de Magasca 29.5, Belén 29.5
22. Black Kite (Milvus migrans) Santa Marta de Magasca 28.5, Belén 28.5, Monfragüe 28.5, Santa Marta de Magasca 29.5, Belén 29.5, Río Duratón 30.5
23. Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus) Monfragüe 28.5
24. Eurasian Griffon (Gyps fulvus) Belén 28.5, Monfragüe 28.5, Monfragüe 29.5, Río Duratón 30.5
25. Black (Cinereous) Vulture (Aegypius monachus) Belén 28.5
26. Short-toed Snake-Eagle (Circaetus gallicus) Río Duratón 30.5
27. Montagu's Harrier (Circus pygargus) Santa Marta de Magasca 28.5, Santa Marta de Magasca 29.5
28. Long-legged Buzzard (Buteo rufinus) Belén 29.5
29. Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo) Belén 28.5, Belén 29.5
30. Spanish (Adalbert's) Eagle (Aquila adalberti) Monfragüe 28.5
31. Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) Belén 28.5
32. Booted Eagle (Hieraaetus pennatus) Belén 28.5, Monfragüe 29.5
33. Lesser Kestrel (Falco naumanni) Santa Marta de Magasca 28.5, Belén 28.5, Trujillo 28.5, Belén 29.5
34. Little Egret (Egretta garzetta) Belén 28.5, Monfragüe 28.5, Belén 29.5
35. Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea) Monfragüe 28.5
36. Bald Ibis (Geronticus eremita) Belén 28.5
37. Black Stork (Ciconia nigra) Monfragüe 28.5
38. White Stork (Ciconia ciconia) Santa Marta de Magasca 28.5, Belén 28.5, Trujillo 28.5, Santa Marta de Magasca 29.5, Belén 29.5
39. Southern Grey Shrike (Lanius meridionalis) Santa Marta de Magasca 28.5
40. Woodchat Shrike (Lanius senator) Santa Marta de Magasca 28.5, Monfragüe 28.5
41. Eurasian Jay (Garrulus glandarius) Monfragüe 28.5
42. Western Azure-winged Magpie (Cyanopica (cyana) cooki) Santa Marta de Magasca 28.5, Monfragüe 28.5, Santa Marta de Magasca 29.5, Campillo de Deleitosa 29.5, Monfragüe 29.5
43. Eurasian Magpie (Pica pica) Santa Marta de Magasca 28.5, Belén 28.5, , Monfragüe 28.5, Santa Marta de Magasca 29.5, Belén 29.5
44. Red-billed Chough (Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax) Río Duratón 30.5
45. Eurasian Jackdaw (Corvus monedula) Belén 28.5, Río Duratón 30.5
46. Common Raven (Corvus corax) Belén 28.5, Belén 29.5
47. Blue Rock-Thrush (Monticola solitarius) Monfragüe 28.5
48. Eurasian Blackbird (Turdus merula) Monfragüe 28.5, Retiro Park 30.5
49. Spotted Flycatcher (Muscicapa striata) Río Duratón 30.5
50. European Robin (Erithacus rubecula) Monfragüe 28.5
51. Common Nightingale (Luscinia megarhynchos) Monfragüe 28.5
52. Black Redstart (Phoenicurus ochruros) Monfragüe 28.5, Puerto de Navacerrada 30.5
53. Common Stonechat (Saxicola torquata) Santa Marta de Magasca 28.5
54. Black Wheatear (Oenanthe leucura) Campillo de Deleitosa 29.5
55. Northern Wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe) Puerto de Navacerrada 30.5
56. Western Black-eared Wheatear (Oenanthe hispanica) Monfragüe 28.5
57. Spotless Starling (Sturnus unicolor) Santa Marta de Magasca 28.5, Belén 28.5, Trujillo 28.5, Monfragüe 28.5, Santa Marta de Magasca 29.5, Belén 29.5, Monfragüe 29.5, Retiro Park 30.5
58. (Wood) Nuthatch (Sitta europaea) Puerto de Navacerrada 30.5
59. Short-toed Tree-Creeper (Certhia brachydactyla) Monfragüe 28.5
60. Northern Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes) Monfragüe 28.5, Monfragüe 29.5
61. Crested Tit (Parus cristatus) Monfragüe 28.5
62. Long-tailed Tit (Aegithalos caudatus) Monfragüe 28.5
63. Eurasian Crag-Martin (Hirundo rupestris) Monfragüe 28.5
64. Eurasian Swallow (Hirundo rustica) Santa Marta de Magasca 28.5, Belén 28.5, Monfragüe 28.5
65. Red-rumped Swallow (Hirundo daurica) Santa Marta de Magasca 28.5, Belén 28.5, Monfragüe 28.5
66. Northern House-Martin (Delichon urbica) Santa Marta de Magasca 28.5
67. Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla) Monfragüe 29.5
68. Western Orphean Warbler (Sylvia hortensis) Río Duratón 30.5
69. Sardinian Warbler (Sylvia melanocephala) Monfragüe 29.5
70. Subalpine Warbler (Sylvia cantillans) Monfragüe 28.5
71. Calandra Lark (Melanocorypha calandra) Santa Marta de Magasca 28.5, Belén 29.5, Río Duratón 30.5
72. Greater Short-toed Lark (Calandrella brachydactyla) Río Duratón 30.5
73. Dupont's Lark (Chersophilus duponti) Río Duratón 30.5 (KP only)
74. Crested Lark (Galerida cristata) Santa Marta de Magasca 28.5, Belén 28.5, Monfragüe 29.5
75. Thekla Lark (Galerida theklae) Belén 28.5, Monfragüe 29.5, Río Duratón 30.5
76. Eurasian Skylark (Alauda arvensis) Río Duratón 30.5
77. House Sparrow (Passer domesticus) Trujillo 28.5, Retiro Park 30.5
78. Spanish Sparrow (Passer hispaniolensis) Santa Marta de Magasca 28.5, Belén 28.5, Monfragüe 28.5, Santa Marta de Magasca 29.5, Belén 29.5, Monfragüe 29.5
79. Rock Sparrow (Petronia petronia) Monfragüe 28.5
80. White Wagtail (Motacilla alba) Campillo de Deleitosa 29.5
81. Grey Wagtail (Motacilla cinerea) Río Duratón 30.5
82. Tawny Pipit (Anthus campestris) Río Duratón 30.5
83. Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs) Río Duratón 30.5
84. Greenfinch (Carduelis chloris) Retiro Park 30.5 (KP only)
85. European Serin (Serinus serinus) Río Duratón 30.5, Puerto de Navacerrada 30.5
86. Citril Finch (Serinus citrinella) Puerto de Navacerrada 30.5
87. European Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis) Santa Marta de Magasca 28.5
88. Cirl Bunting (Emberiza cirlus) Campillo de Deleitosa 29.5
89. Rock Bunting (Emberiza cia) Monfragüe 28.5, Puerto de Navacerrada 30.5
90. Corn Bunting (Miliaria calandra) Santa Marta de Magasca 28.5, Belén 28.5, Santa Marta de Magasca 29.5, Belén 29.5, Campillo de Deleitosa 29.5, Río Duratón 30.5