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A Report from

"In search of Dupont's Lark" Spain, March 2003,

Gonçalo Elias

The following report describes a 5-day trip to central Spain in March 2003 made by me and two other Portuguese birders (Carlos Vilhena and Tiago Canavarro).

Our main goal was to find the Dupont's Lark, a species rarely seen by ornithologists, as it occurs away from the main birding areas.

Itinerary and Sites visited

(a general map of Spain can be found on the Internet at the following address:

28 Feb - departure Lisbon in the early evening eastwards along the A6 crossing over to Spain at Badajoz. We proceeded over Merida. Stay at Don Benito, Hotel Ortiz.

1 Mar - early departure and eastwards along the N430 to Ciudad Real. Then to the nearby village of Daimiel. Visit to Tablas de Daimiel National Park (map 1). In the afternoon, we drove northwards towards Toledo. Due to Carnival feasts, no accommodation was available in Toledo, so we proceeded to Aranjuez (on the way to Madrid), where we managed to find a place.

2 Mar - no birding; the whole day was dedicated to sightseeing in Toledo (a world heritage site). In late evening we proceeded northwards to Madrid and then northeastwards over Guadalajara to Medinaceli. Overnight at Medinaceli, Residencia La Cerámica.

3 Mar - Very early start and proceeded from Medinaceli to Altos de Barahona, near Almazán; (map 2) this place is situated in the core of Dupont's Lark best area in Spain. This was a very hard day, because of strong winds. We stopped at several places and explored on foot and at one site we briefly heard what sounded the song of Dupont's Lark, but failed to see any. Further more, we were nearly attacked by a group of 8 dogs from a nearby shepherd. Finally, when we got to the car we found out that the carter was damaged after we hit a stone on the rough track. We decided to drive northwards to Soria (the nearest large town) in order to try to find a garage to repair the car. When we got there, the garage was still open, but we were informed that it would take two days, so we would only have the car on 5 March in the afternoon. We decided to accept that so we left the car there. After that we also decided to rent a car for two days, so that we could use the available time. Overnight at Soria.

4 Mar - Early start again. In the morning there was fog around Soria, and this meant that the wind had settled down. We drove on the rented car straight to Almazán and then to Baraona and Barcones. Fortunately, conditions were much better: no wind and, above all, no dogs. After watching Dupont's Lark, we proceeded westwards over Sepúlveda to Hoces del Duratón Natural Park. In late afternoon we visited the castle of Peñafiel and then drove eastwards to Soria. Stay at Soria.

5 Mar - In the morning we drove northwestwards to the Sierra de Urbión. We drove through Vinuesa up the Sierra de Urbión. Whole morning birding around here. Due to heavy snowfall, the last 2km uphill were impassable, so we parked and then we walked up to Laguna Negra. After lunch we drove back to Soria, where we left the rental car and picked our own car. Finally we drove back to Lisbon - a long 900km drive - we arrived home after midnight.

Guides used

"Where to watch birds in Spain and Portugal", Laurence Rose

"Where to Watch Birds in Spain" - Eduardo de Juana, Lynx Edicions

 "IBA - Important Bird Areas in Europe" - useful because it describes the exact location of the best areas for Dupont's Lark - BirdLife International

Sites visited

1 March

Tablas de Daimiel
This is a very interesting National Park along the Guadiana River.
It consists of "tablas", or lagoons, covered with reedbeds. Wooden paths have been built over the water, so it is possible to walk between the lagoons and watch birds from there and from the existing hides. We saw about 60 species here, the most interesting being Crane (70+), Purple Swamp Hen, Little Bustard, Avocet, Ruff, Water Pipit, Penduline Tit, Spanish Sparrow and Reed Bunting. We failed to find Bearded Tits, although this species is resident in the park.
Mallard at Parque Nacional de Tablas de Daimiel; it is possible to walk over the water along the "overhanging" tracks.

2 March

no birding

3 March

Altos de Barahona
According to IBA inventory, This site holds one of the highest densities of Dupont's Lark in Spain and, therefore, in Europe (about 2200 pairs). Due to the extension of available habitat, it is not obvious where to look for them. We tried at several places but due to very strong wind, today we failed to find this species (although we heard one singing briefly). Birds seen in the area included: Griffon and Egyptian Vulture, Stone Curlew, Golden Plover, Black-bellied Sandgrouse (30+), Calandra Lark (many), Fieldfare, Raven and Rock Sparrow.

4 March

Habitat of Dupont's Lark around Barcones

Altos de Barahona
We went straight to the site where we had heard Dupont's Larks the day before; this place lies southwest of Almazán, slightly north of Barcones (see map), along the SO152 road, near km27 - this has perfect habitat and we managed to pick several individuals here. Wind had settled down and a few minutes after our arrival, we heard the song of Dupont's Lark and soon we spotted a few individuals running on the ground among the bushes. We were able to watch them for about one hour and took several pictures. Other birds seen here were basically the same as on the previous day.

Dupont's Lark near a rough track in the Barcones area
Hoces del Duratón
A very nice natural park with canyonlike valleys. We had excellent views of Griffons, Egyptian Vultures and Choughs. Other birds here included Thekla Lark, Dartford Warbler and Raven.
Hoces del Duratón natural park; the chapel is a good watchpoint for griffon vultures

5 March

Sierra de Urbión
This is a chain of hills northwest of Soria, covered mainly by Scots Pine (Pinus sylvestris). In early March the higher areas were still covered with snow. Highlights here were Goldcrest, Citril Finch and Crossbill. We also saw Peregrine, Crested Tit and Rock Sparrow. This area holds a small population of Willow Tits, at the southern limit of their distribution area, but we failed to find any.
Citril Finch on a pine tree near Laguna Negra

Full Species List

1.   Little Grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis) -Tablas de Daimiel
2.   Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo) - Tablas de Daimiel and also Hoces del Duratón
3.   Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea) - Hoces del Duratón
4.   White Stork (Ciconia ciconia) - Tablas de Daimiel and Hoces del Duratón
5.   Greylag Goose (Anser anser) - several at Tablas de Daimiel
6.   Teal (Anas crecca) - seen at Tablas de Daimiel
7.   Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) - seen at Tablas de Daimiel
8.   Shoveler (Anas clypeata) - seen at Tablas de Daimiel
9.   Black Kite (Milvus migrans) - 4 at Tablas de Daimiel
10.  Red Kite (Milvus milvus) - 1 near Ayllón
11.  Short-toed Eagle (Circaetus gallicus) - 1 near the Sierra de Ayllón, 4 March (along the road from Barahona to Duratón)
12.  Marsh Harrier (Circus aeruginosus) - several pairs at Tablas de Daimiel
13.  Hen Harrier (Circus cyaneus) - a female at Tablas de Daimiel
14.  Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus) - 3 at Altos de Barahona and 1 at Hoces del Duratón
15.  Griffon Vulture (Gyps fulvus) - many at Altos de Barahona and hundreds at Hoces del Duratón
16.  Black Vulture (Aegypius monachus) - 1 near Ayllón
17.  Buzzard (Buteo buteo) - 1 at Altos de Barahona
18.  Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) - 1 at Tablas de Daimiel
19.  Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus) - widespread
20.  Peregrine (Falco peregrinus) - single flew over Laguna Negra on the Sierra de Urbión
21.  Red-legged Partridge (Alectoris rufa) - Tablas de Daimiel and Altos de Barahona
22.  Water Rail (Rallus aquaticus) -heard at Tablas de Daimiel
23.  Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus) - many at Tablas de Daimiel
24.  Purple Swamp-Hen (Porphyrio porphyrio) - several at Tablas de Daimiel
25.  Coot (Fulica atra) - common at Tablas de Daimiel
26.  Crane (Grus grus) - a flock ob at least 70 birds flew over at Tablas de Daimiel
27.  Little Bustard (Tetrax tetrax) - about 15 at Tablas de Daimiel
28.  Black-winged Stilt (Himantopus himantopus) - many at Tablas de Daimiel
29.  Stone Curlew (Burhinus oedicnemus) - seen at Altos de Barahona on both days
30.  Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus) - recorded from Tablas de Daimiel
31.  Golden Plover (Pluvialis apricaria) - seen at Altos de Barahona
32.  Ruff (Philomachus pugnax) - 1 at Tablas de Daimiel
33.  Black-tailed Godwit (Limosa limosa) - seen at Tablas de Daimiel
34.  Common Redshank (Tringa totanus) - Tablas de Daimiel only
35.  Black-headed Gull (Larus ridibundus) - Tablas de Daimiel
36.  Lesser Black-backed Gull (Larus fuscus) - Tablas de Daimiel
37.  Black-bellied Sandgrouse (Pterocles orientalis) - several birds on Altos de Barahona (max 30 on 3rd)
38.  Woodpigeon (Columba palumbus) - Tablas de Daimiel and Altos de Barahona
39.  Collared Dove (Streptopelia decaocto) - seen only at Tablas de Daimiel
40.  Little Owl (Athene noctua) - seen at Tablas de Daimiel
41.  Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis) - seen at Tablas de Daimiel
42.  Hoopoe (Upupa epops) - seen at Tablas de Daimiel
43.  Green Woodpecker (Picus viridis) - recorded from Altos de Barahona and Sierra de Urbión
44.  Great Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos major) - seen at Sierra de Ayllon and again at Sierra de Urbión

Dupont's Lark

45.  Dupont's Lark (Chersophilus duponti) - heard under strong wind at Altos de Barahona on 3 March; several birds singing and seen well at the same place on 4 March
46.  Calandra Lark (Melanocorypha calandra) - common at Altos de Barahona, in song
47.  Crested Lark (Galerida cristata) - seen at Tablas de Daimiel
48.  Thekla Lark (Galerida theklae) - seen at Altos de Barahona and Hoces del Duratón
49.  Woodlark (Lullula arborea) - recorded singing at Altos de Barahona
50.  Skylark (Alauda arvensis) -Altos de Barahona, where heard singing
51.  Sand Martin (Riparia riparia) - a few at Tablas de Daimiel
52.  Crag Martin (Ptyonoprogne rupestris) - recorded at the Embalse de la Cuerda del Pozo dam, "en route" to the Sierra de Urbión; also at Hoces del Duratón
53.  Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica) - several at Tablas de Daimiel
54.  Meadow Pipit (Anthus pratensis) - recorded at Tablas de Daimiel
55.  Water Pipit (Anthus spinoletta) - seen at Tablas de Daimiel, where excellent views were obtained from the hides
56.  Grey Wagtail (Motacilla cinerea) - seen at Hoces del Duratón and Sierra de Urbión (2 birds).
57.  White Wagtail (Motacilla alba) - Tablas de Daimiel and Altos de Barahona
58.  Robin (Erithacus rubecula) - common throughout
59.  Stonechat (Saxicola torquata) - recorded at Tablas de Daimiel and Altos de Barahona
60.  Black Redstart (Phoenicurus ochruros) - seen at Hoces del Duraton near the old chapel where the road ends
61.  Blackbird (Turdus merula) - widespread
62.  Song Thrush (Turdus philomelos) - seen at Altos de Barahona only
63.  Fieldfare (Turdus pilaris) - a few with Mistle Thrushes at Altos de Barahona
64.  Mistle Thrush (Turdus viscivorus) - seen at Altos de Barahona and Sierra de Urbión
65.  Cetti's Warbler (Cettia cetti) - many singing at Tablas de Daimiel
66.  Zitting Cisticola (Cisticola juncidis) - many singing at Tablas de Daimiel
67.  Dartford Warbler (Sylvia undata) - recorded at Tablas de Daimiel and Hoces del Duratón
68.  Sardinian Warbler (Sylvia melanocephala) - seen at Tablas de Daimiel only
69.  Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita) - singing at Tablas de Daimiel
70.  Goldcrest (Regulus regulus) - 2 birds at Sierra de Urbión
71.  Crested Tit (Parus cristatus) - singing at Sierra de Urbión
72.  Coal Tit (Parus ater) - singing at Sierra de Urbión
73.  Blue Tit (Parus caeruleus) - common
74.  Great Tit (Parus major) - common
75.  Short-toed Treecreeper (Certhia brachydactyla) - recorded singing at Sierra de Urbión
76.  Nuthatch (Sitta europaea) - recorded singing at Sierra de Urbión
77.  Penduline Tit (Remiz pendulinus) - seen from the hides at Tablas de Daimiel
78.  Southern Grey Shrike (Lanius meridionalis) - seen only at Altos de Barahona
79.  Azure-winged Magpie (Cyanopica cyanus) - several on the road between don Benito and Ciudad Real, 1 March; also recorded at Hoces del Duratón
80.  Magpie (Pica pica) - common
81.  Jay (Garrulus glandarius) - seen only at Sierra de Urbión
82.  Jackdaw (Corvus monedula) - seen at Sierra de Ayllón near the road and also Hoces del Duratón
83.  Carrion Crow (Corvus corone) - widespread
84.  Raven (Corvus corax) - recorded from Altos de Barahona, Hoces del Duratón and Sierra de Urbión
85.  Chough (Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax) - fisrt seen at Sierra de Ayllón; several at Hoces del Duratón; finally 2 at Peñafiel castle
86.  Spotless Starling (Sturnus unicolor) - common, seen everyday
87.  House Sparrow (Passer domesticus) - common
88.  Spanish Sparrow (Passer hispaniolensis) - a male at Tablas de Daimiel seen from the hide
89.  Tree Sparrow (Passer montanus) - seen only at Tablas de Daimiel
90.  Rock Sparrow (Petronia petronia) - recorded at Altos de Barahona and also on the Cuerda del Pozo Dam near the Sierra de Urbión
91.  Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs) - common
92.  Serin (Serinus serinus) - Tablas de Daimiel and Altos de Barahona
93.  Citril Finch (Serinus citrinella) - several singing and feeding with Crossbills on Scots Pine around Laguna Negra, Sierra de Urbión
94.  Greenfinch (Carduelis chloris) - Tablas de Daimiel only
95.  Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis) - Tablas de Daimiel and Altos de Barahona
96.  Linnet (Carduelis cannabina) - common
97.  Crossbill (Loxia curvirostra) - several feeding on Scots Pine around Laguna Negra on the Sierra de Urbión
98.  Cirl Bunting (Emberiza cirlus) - singing at Altos de Barahona
99.  Rock Bunting (Emberiza cia) - singing at Altos de Barahona
100.  Reed Bunting (Emberiza schoeniclus) - seen at Tablas de Daimiel
101.  Corn Bunting (Miliaria calandra) - widespread


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