This is a brief report of a 10 day birding trip to Andalusia and Extremadura (Spain) made by my wife and myself from March 12th to 21st. Although the trip to Spain was not esclusively focused on birdwatching -- we spent half of our timemerely as tourists in Sevilla,Cordoba and Granada -- we had a trip list of 102 species, with 22 species seen which were completely new for me. Since some friends of mine (particularly Alberto Marcone) have already presented a trip report for Extremadura, I am not going to give details for the birding sites visited there, nor a complete checklist of the species seen. Here, I also Dave Gosney's instructions (with some changes though).
Torrejon del Rubio. We overnighted at the Hostal Monfrague, clean and inexpensive. Around this small town we watched flocks of Spanish Sparrows and the first Azure Magpies. Also Hoopoes (Upupa epops) and Stonechats (Saxicola torquata) are common.
Penafalcon. We arrived to Penafalcon in the late afternoon, and the view we got was really amazing! I never experienced such a beautiful overlook at raptors elsewhere in Europe. More than 30 Griffons (Gyps fulvus) were soaring the Castillo de Monfrague, and among them we found also a pair of very shy Black Vultures (Aegypius monachus) and a Black Kite (Milvus migrans; just one of the hundreds seen during the trip). The number of Griffons roosting on the rocks of the Penafalcon was really amazing: probably at least 100-150 birds were present and some of them already in breeding activity. The Black Stork (Ciconia nigra) was not seen, but the day after, in the early morning we observed here a couple of Egyptian Vultures (Neophron percnopterus) and a Peregrine (Falco peregrinus). Choughs and Crag Martins were abundant. Just 2 km before approaching the Castillo, we saw perching from a pylon a superb adult Spanish Imperial Eagle (Aquila adalberti) just in front of a roosting Griffon. This was the only Imperial Eagle we saw in the whole trip (We didn't even see one in Donana)!
Mirador Embalse de Torrejon (#5 for D.Gosney). Here we found a pair of Egyptian Vultures and our first Black Stork flying in front of the cliff before dusk. More Griffons were seen roosting on the rocks.
Mirador Portilla del Tietar. Beautiful site with Griffons, a couple of Black Storks bringing sticks to their nest and nearby, my first Black Wheatear (Oenanthe leucura). I heard also a Eagle Owl (Bubo bubo) in song at dusk.
This is indicated as the best steppe area to watch birds such as Bustards, Sandgrouses, and Stone Curlews. Indeed, it is far from easy to locate these species on steppe grounds of such wide extension. We watched a flock of 6 Great Bustards (Otis tarda) in flight on the road from Embalse del Zujar-Cabeza del Buey, and after checking the sites where they landed, we were able to relocate them near the drinking site reported by the Gosney's guide good for Sandgrouses. Nearby, a flock of Little Bustards (Tetrax tetrax) but no sign of Sandgrouse. Other: Corn Buntings (Miliaria calandra) widespread, Great Grey Shrike (Lanius excubitor), Woodchat Shrike (Lanius senator), Fan-tailed Warbler (Cisticola juncidis) and Crested Larks (Galerida cristata). Possibly also Thekla Larks were present, but who is sure? Common around farmhouses as well as in the historical urban centers of Trujillo, Caceres (and Sevilla) is the Lesser Kestrel (Falco naumanni). No Crane (Grus grus) which I have been told has already left, but in the same site suitable for watching Cranes we saw an adult Golden Eagle (Aquila chrisaetos).
This is an interesting mountainous area with many opportunities to watch raptors. I stopped also at Laguna de Campillos which yielded Greater Flamingos (Phoenicopterus ruber), Pochards (Aythya ferina), Little Grebes and Great Crested Grebes (Tachybaptus ruficollis, Podiceps cristatus) and Lapwings (Vanellus vanellus), but not much more. Around Ronda, I strongly recommend to visit the area of Montejaque and surroundings, especially the gorge near Cuevas del Becerro where we got Bonelli's Eagle (Hieraaetus fasciatus), Peregrine, and Alpine Swifts (Apus melba) along with hundreds of Choughs (very tame in Ronda town) and a Black Wheatear in display.
Water levels have been incredibly high this winter in the Coto Donana area, and some areas are still flooded, so that the La Rocina and Acebuche lagoons did not yield the incredible variety of birds I expected except for some Red Crested Pochards (Netta rufina) and a Woodcock (Scolapax rusticola). However, I have been told that some Glossy Ibises (Plegadis falcinellus) were seen the same day at La Rocina.
Conversely, the lagoon south of El Rocio produced lots of waders:
5 Marsh Sandpipers (Tringa stagnatilis),
50+ Redshanks (Tringa totanus),
200+ Ruffs (Philomachus pugnax),
30 Spoonbills (Platalea leucorodia),
200 Greater Flamingos (Phoenicopterus ruber),
50 Black Winged Stilts (Himantopus himantopus),
20+ Avocets (Recurvirostra avosetta),
3 Lesser Black-backed Gulls (Larus fuscus/ f.intermedius),
50 Greylag Geese (Anser anser),
1 Curlew (Numenius arquata),
along with Grey Herons (Ardea cinerea), and several Cattle and Little Egrets (Bulbucus ibis and Egretta garzetta).
However, the most productive trip was that organised for us by the
birding agency Discovering Donana (El Rocio, tel +959 44 24 66)
for the following day.
Access in the Coto Donana National Park is strictly limited, and walking
is not allowed without an authorized guide. We made a 10 hour birding
trip by Land Rover across some of the internal lagoons of the Gualdaquivir delta.
10 Cormorants (Phalacrocorax carbo),
2 Purple Herons (Ardea purpurea),
10+ White Storks (Ciconia ciconia) in breeding activity,
2 Teals (Anas crecca),
10+ Garganeys (Anas querquedula),
10+ Shovelers (Anas clypeata),
30+ Pochards (Aythya ferina),
3 Booted Eagles (Hieraaetus pennatus),
2 Red Kites (Milvus milvus),
20+ Black Kites (Milvus migrans; almost everywhere),
3 Marsh Harriers (Circus aeruginosus),
2 Purple Gallinules (Porphyrio porphyrio),
8 Red-legged Partridges (Alectoris rufa),
3 Ringed Plovers (Charadrius hiaticula),
2 Kentish Plovers ( Charadrius alexandrinus),
3 Little Stilts (Calidris minuta),
1 Dunlin (Calidris alpina),
200 Black-Winged Stilts (Himantopus himantopus),
300+ Black-tailed Godwits (Limosa limosa),
2 Curlews (Numenius arquata),
1 Spotted Redshank (Tringa erythropus),
12 Wiskered Terns (Chlidonias hybridus),
several Cetti's Warblers (Cetti cetti) and Fan-tailed Warblers (Cisticola juncidis) in song.
Dry open terrains produced 10+ Calandra Larks (Melanocorypha calandra), Short-toed and Lesser Short-toed Larks (Calandrella brachydactyla and rufescens), and 2 Kestrels (Falco tinnunculus). Unfortunately, we were not able to locate any Imperial Eagle nor Short-toed Eagle, but we found a herd of Fallow Deer and the track of an Hispanic Lynx (Lynx lynx pardina) in the sand. Although we used tapes for a short time, we had no chance to watch the Great Spotted Cockoo (Clamator glandarius).
Return to trip reports.