Chris Jackson and I drove from England to Extremadura and back taking in the Pyrenees, Zaragoza, Monfrague, Trujillo and Caceres, Picos de Europa, La Brenne, Fontainebleau and Calais.
Left Croughton at 03:05, drove to Dover for 07:00 hovercraft. Headed down through France seeing Honey Buzzard, Hen Harrier and Montagu's Harrier. Started seeing Black Kites from about 30 miles north of Bordeaux, with lots over the ring road. A tea stop in the Landes de Gasgogne produced only Great Spotted Woodpecker and Crested Tit. Arrived at Oloron in the Northern Pyrenees at 22:30 and spent the night.
Got to the Forêt d'Isseaux site for White-backed Woodpecker (Gosney) at 08:00. No joy with the woodpeckers (has anyone seen them in recent years?) and only saw Red-backed Shrike, Red Kite and Marsh Tit in the area. Proceeded through forest to the N132 where we had a look for Citril Finch (Gosney), but only saw two Serin.
Arrived at Arrête-Pierre-St. Martin at 11:00. In the immediate area of the Ski-resort, Northern Wheatear, Black Redstart and Water Pipit were abundant. A singing Alpine Accentor gave very close views on a track skirting the grassy hills to the west of the resort, and about forty Alpine Chough were in the area. In the area of limestone pavement with stunted trees to the south of the resort about ten Citril Finch were very obvious and vocal. Other birds included a Peregrine with an Alpine Chough in its talons, our first Griffon Vultures of the trip, Ring Ouzels and Coal Tit.
Drove on to Belagua, stopping to photograph about fifteen very obliging Alpine Choughs near the border. Tried the White-backed Woodpecker site next to the C134 (Gosney) near Belagua, it looked very suitable, with plenty of dead wood and some suspicious looking holes, but all we saw were a Treecreeper and two Egyptian Vultures (it was very hot by now).
Took the minor road from Roncal to Anso, seeing a splendid adult Lammergeier soon after the turn, with Red-backed Shrike, Bonelli's Warbler, Crag Martin, Raven, Booted Eagle and Short-toed Eagle on the way.
Reached the well known Wallcreeper site at Infierno de Hecho north of Siresa at 16:45 and stayed until 18:00. The road was very busy with traffic, with much hooting of horns, obviously a very popular weekend route for locals. Predictably, no sign of Wallcreepers, although we did see two Lammergeier (an adult and an immature with a radio backpack), one Golden Eagle, three Booted Eagle, lots of Griffon Vultures and Crag Martins and a possible Goshawk. The last pull in before the gorge is an excellent site for viewing raptors over the crags of the east side of the valley.
Camped up at the Hecho campsite (excellent facilities and bar).
Back to the Infierno by 08.00. A pair of Wallcreepers appeared at 08:40 whilst I was cooking breakfast below, and gave incredibly close views. The male was performing display flights and trying to entice the female into nest sites, seeming particularly interested in one crevice a couple of metres above our car. Both birds were very vocal. Note that this site is just before the first tunnel after the valley narrows into a gorge, the birds were frequenting the roadside of the gorge particularly above the only pull in, also dropping down towards the water and going up to the right of the tunnel. The Wallcreepers moved on at about 09:20, and we left at 09:45. I think an early weekday visit is the best bet here.
Driving down the Valley we noted another Lammergeier and a Red-backed Shrike. At the campsite a Wryneck and Bonelli's warbler were present. Closer to the main road Chris saw a Pratincole (Collared?) flying up the valley, I was concentrating on the road!
Drove via Jaca to the ski resort at Astun (near the Col du Somport). The resort area held Red-billed Chough, Water Pipit and Black Redstart. Walking east up the Valley we saw two singing male Rock Thrush, but continuing to the snow line produced little else, except for a stunning low level view of an adult Lammergeier passing close by. On the main road back to Jaca we saw a pair of Rock Thrush and Cirl Bunting near Somport.
Drove down to Zaragoza, with Crested Lark, Hoopoe, Bee-eaters and White Storks appearing in the Ebro Valley. Farmland at the Pina de Ebro east of the city held Great Reed Warbler, Purple Heron, Fan-tailed Warbler, and Bee-eaters. Took the minor road from the N232 at Fuentes de Ebro to Medina, seeing a pair of Great Spotted Cuckoo, our first Thekla Larks and Booted Eagle.
Arrived at La Lomanza NR car park at 16:00 (on A222 11 km north of Belchite). Thekla Larks and Lesser Short-toed Larks were abundant, with a number of Calandra Larks and a pair of Black-eared Wheatears. The highlight was a flock of six Pin-tailed Sandgrouse which flew up from the area east of the car park. Stone Curlew were heard, and a distant flying bird seen.
Explored the minor road west of this area, which was very good for roadside Short-toed Larks and Calandra Larks. We also saw a Spectacled Warbler here.
Visited Belchite (which has little to recommend it) and returned to La Lomanza at 21:15. A Dupont's Lark was singing when we got there, but soon became silent. At 22:30 sporadic singing began again, with two birds on the east side of road and one on the west side, we saw none of these!. Several Stone Curlews were highly vocal in the grassy area in the depression south of the car park. The Dupont's Larks fell silent not long after nightfall.
Awoke to singing Dupont's Larks at 05:15, about five birds singing far more strongly then the previous evening. Some seemed to be very close, but we could still not see them. Eventually, at 06:20, when it was well light, we found one singing from a small rock, which treated us to a low display flight. It was incredibly hard to follow when running through the low vegetation. Contrary to what we had read, the birds did not indulge in high altitude display flights, almost all singing being from the ground. I would recommend scanning any small rocks and any pale areas (e.g. tracks) amongst the vegetation to give the best chance of seeing this species. Trying to find them against a dark background is near possible. Also, pinpointing the exact direction of song seemed very difficult. A dawn visit seems best. Birds were still singing at 07:10 when we left the site. Other birds included all the other Larks, Black-bellied Sandgrouse (heard only), Red-legged Partridge, Stone Curlew and two Chough.
Drove to Calatayud via Belchite and Carinena, seeing Rock Sparrow and Cirl Bunting at Villanueva del Huerva and Sardinian Warbler, Melodious Warbler, Rock Bunting, Woodlark and Golden Oriole in the very scenic Sierra de Algairen.
Took the E90 down past Madrid and on into Extremadura seeing a Montagu's Harrier en route.
We had heard that Black-shouldered Kites were very thin on the ground this year, so decided to try the triangle of roads north-west of Oropesa (Gosney). None were seen, but the first Azure-winged Magpies, Southern Grey Shrikes, Woodchat Shrikes, Red-rumped Swallows and Spanish Sparrows (in a Storks' nest, where else?) of our trip were, as well as a Parakeet (Monk?).
Carried on along E90, coming off to visit the lagoons at Almaraz at 14:00. These are on each side of the minor road between Almaraz and Saucedilla. We met a friendly Dutch birder here who quickly showed us at least five Purple Gallinule on the eastern lake and pointed us towards Little Bittern (a pair) which we saw after a short wait at the northern end of the western lake. Other birds included many Purple Herons, two Reed Warblers, a couple of bursts of Savi's Warbler song, Booted Eagle, Marsh Harriers, Great Crested Grebes, Spanish Sparrows, Crested Larks, Fan-tailed Warbler and some distant Terns (Gull-billed?).
Drove north to the EX 108 and headed west towards Plasencia. Took the minor road north, just after the bridge over the Rio Tietar, and then turned east at Pantano de Navabuen to a Black-shouldered Kite site our Dutch friend had told us about. Two birds were present, and we had excellent views.
The eastward turning is directly opposite a gate marked 'CM' and just before an electrical sub-station; the birds frequented the edge of the first field northwards of the road, just after a large agricultural building on the south side of the road.
Drove on to Camping Monfrague, just south of the railway on the EX 208. The campsite was overrun with Azure-winged Magpies and Spotless Starlings and had its own Storks' nest on a pole at the entrance. A Short-toed Treecreeper was singing in the small trees by our tent, and several Hoopoes could be heard and seen.
Headed down into the Parque natural de Monfrague at 10:45, and saw a Black Vulture the moment we entered the park, along with Griffon Vultures and Red-rumped Swallow.
Headed down to view the Pena Falcon, which didn't disappoint with lots of Griffons, a Black Stork on its nest in a cave, a soaring Peregrine and Blue Rock Thrush.
The Casa de Peones Camineros produced Alpine Swifts and Rock Sparrow, and we visited the Information Centre at Villarreal de San Carlos for an excellent free map of the park, seeing Black-eared Wheatear, Black Vulture and Thekla Lark in the area.
Took the road east and went to Portilla del Tietar where, whilst viewing the Griffon colony, we saw a splendid adult Spanish Imperial Eagle soaring and displaying over the crags. Several Black Storks, Black Vulture, Rock Bunting, Blue Rock Thrush and Booted Eagle were also seen there.
Watched from Mirador de la Higuella for a while seeing two more Black Vultures and then onto La Bascula (the former Imperial Eagle site). Through the heat haze we could see a Black Vulture on its nest and two more in the air. A passing tour guide showed the unoccupied Imperial Eagle nest to us. Golden Oriole, Woodlark, Sardinian Warbler and Subalpine Warbler were singing nearby.
Back to Villarreal de San Carlos for refreshments, seeing Black Vulture and Red-rumped Swallows there. Whilst at Hecho an English birder had told us of a claim of White-rumped Swift from Casa de Peones Camineros (the long bridge on the way to the Pena Falcon) early in May, which had been widely dismissed as being too early. We decided to go and watch swifts there just in case, and were amazed to meet a birder who had just seen White-rumped from Santuario y castillo de Monfrague. We headed up there, seeing two Golden Eagles on the way. Having sweated our way to the top of the Castillo (worth it for the views alone), we were blown away to see three White-rumped Swifts almost immediately, giving fantastic views. Also in the air were Alpine Swifts, two Pallid Swifts, Common Swift, and Red-rumped Swallows. We searched around the area of the top car park for Black Wheatear (seen there by Steve Young and Ian Reid in 1999), but saw only Blue Rock Thrush.
Headed back to Portilla del Tietar to search for Eagle Owl. We arrived far too early (17:30), as the sun was still on the rock face, and it was unbelievably hot. After two hours systematically searching every inch of the cliff (and just after the sun had sunk below the ridge), we were relieved to see that a juvenile Eagle Owl sat out on a large block of rock, directly opposite the view point, and just below it in level. We think it may have emerged from the shade of a nearby bush. Apparently the bird had been out of the nest for two to three weeks and was still being fed by the adults. We heard it calling several times before we left at 20:30, but some birders who stayed until dark saw no sign of the adults. Also at this site; Black Stork, Short-toed Eagle and Booted Eagle.
Went back to Villarreal de San Carlos for celebratory beers and omelette and then headed out in search of nightjars.
Arrived La Bascula 22:00 to hear a Red-necked Nightjar singing in the distance, we tracked it west down the road towards the pines, where we saw one hawking in our torch beam and heard wing clapping. Walking back towards La Bascula we found that two birds were perching on telegraph poles in the dip to the north of the road. We subsequently had amazing views of a male singing from a few metres range on short grass. There were at least three males singing in the area, and we believed one of the birds on the poles to be a female.
Back to the campsite by 23:30, where there were two or three Scops Owls singing invisibly.
Piled up to the Castillo area again for another look for Black Wheatear at 10:00. Two or three Honey Buzzards, three Booted Eagles and Blue Rock Thrush were seen, but no Wheatears. Headed round to La Bascula, seeing a Black Vulture on route and three from the mirador.
On to Mirador de la Higuerilla for 11:15, which is said to be the best place to see Bonelli's Eagle in the park. An adult Spanish Imperial Eagle over the ridge to the north was presumably the same one as the day before, and would also have been viewable from Portilla del Tietar. At least three Black Storks and two Black Vultures were also seen.
Lunched at Villarreal de San Carlos, and then decided to spend the rest of the day at the bar at Camping Monfrague. Sitting on the veranda with beers and scopes we watched singing Hoopoes, Azure-winged Magpies, a hybrid Spanish x House Sparrow and heard Short-toed Treecreeper. In the night Scops Owl was again heard.
Met up with Pat Giles at 09:00 and took our hangovers down the dusty tracks to the Bonelli's Eagle site near Serradilla (Gosney). First we checked the rocky hill (with transmitter) above Serradilla for Black Wheatear, as Pat had seen them there in the past. No joy, but we did see Honey Buzzard, Rock Bunting, Black-eared Wheatear, Blue Rock Thrush and Booted Eagles. Back to the Bonelli's site from 10:30 to 13:30, where we saw a possible at long range in the heat haze. Also there; two Black Vulture, Booted and Short-toed Eagles, Sardinian Warbler and Short-toed Treecreeper.
Back to campsite to pull our tent, then drove south through the park, stopping to admire the Pena Falcon (Black Stork and Peregrine) and Arroya de la Vid (Cirl Bunting and Spanish Sparrow).
As we continued towards Torrejon el Rubio, we came across six Black Vultures soaring very low over the road, with another one over nearby hills and two Honey Buzzards.
Headed south to Trujillo. About 20 km before there, we came across our only Rollers of the trip (a pair), various Southern Grey Shrikes and two Little Owls. On the edge of the town we saw our first definite Lesser Kestrels.
Went out to Belen at 17:00, and saw four displaying Great Bustards and two female Little Bustards, despite the heat. Also in the area, many Calandra and Thekla Larks, three male Montagu's Harriers, Hoopoes, Lesser Kestrels, Southern Grey Shrikes, four Black Vultures (and many Griffons) and incredible numbers of Corn Buntings.
Went back into town and booked into the Hostel Trujillo (highly recommended, although parking can be hard). Had dinner on the street, whilst watching up to thirty Lesser Kestrels at one time, many Common Swift, a few Pallid Swift, White Storks and Red-rumped Swallows.
Out to Belen at 08:15. Thirteen Great Bustard were in the same area as the previous day, with several displaying males in action. Good, if distant, views. Four or more male Little Bustards were in the area, including several on rocks very close to the road. One female was seen. This site is 5.5 km north-east of Belen, a low area to north of road with various dry stone walls and a long, low white barn on the horizon. Six Black-bellied Sandgrouse flew around at distance. Three Cattle Egrets, a male Montagu's Harrier, Lesser Kestrels, Calandra Larks and a Stone Curlew were also seen.
Drove west out of Trujillo on the N521 and took the road north towards Sta. Marta de Magasca. Stopped where two rough tracks head east at 09:30. In the field between the road and the northern track, two Great Bustard were close to the track. We were able to approach very closely in the car. Three Little Bustard were in the same field, including a male singing from a rock. The next field also held a singing Little Bustard. A male Montagu's Harrier quartered the area. The track became too harsh for my car (more of a hire car manoeuvre!) so we retreated and tried the other track. This too was a bit much for my low slung 'craft, so we gave up, seeing only Southern Grey Shrike and Calandra Lark. I think that these tracks would be easily negotiable in a small car.
Drove on to SMdM and headed south-west. In the small river valley (mentioned as looking promising by Gosney), we saw our only Black Wheatear of the trip, perched on wires and frequenting the road cutting on the east side of the valley. The bridge was fantastic for close views of Crag Martins and Red-rumped Swallow, and we saw a Black Vulture on the way out of the valley. Soon after leaving the valley we came across two more Black Vultures perched on rocks close to the road.
Took the minor roads north-east of Caceres to the EX390, seeing plenty of Montagu's Harriers and Azure-winged Magpies in the right habitat. In an area of small hills we had excellent views of a pair of Black-bellied Sandgrouse on the ground, various Little Owls and lots of Lesser Kestrels.
Headed into Caceres for lunch on the square. Plenty of White Storks and Lesser Kestrels were seen, and Pallid Swifts seemed a bit more common then in Trujillo, but were still heavily outnumbered by Common.
Drove south-west out of Caceres on the N523 and then north up to Aliseda. This is a noted area for Imperial Eagle (Gosney). We didn't see Imperial there, but in an area of scattered trees, we came across a large gathering of vultures on the ground at a kill. Among them were at least twenty Black Vultures, giving staggering views, and it was worth the drive just for this. Also on this road we saw Booted and Short-toed Eagles and Honey Buzzard.
Headed back to Caceres on the N521, stopping at an excellent supermarket on the outskirts to stock up on booze.
Drove back to Trujillo seeing more Montagu's Harriers on the way. Visited the castle, then spent the rest of the evening on the lively main square, seeing the usual Kestrels, Swifts and Storks.
We decided to begin heading north, taking in the Picos de Europe. It was a much cooler day, and the weather seemed about to change, so an afternoon in the car seemed like a good option.
Breakfasted on the square and then headed north at 12:00, back through Monfrague. Saw our last four Black Vultures of the trip near Villarreal de San Carlos.
Headed north via Salamanca and Valladolid, seeing Calandra Larks from the motorway north of the latter. Some horrendous weather washed the thick layer of Extremaduran dust off the 'craft, and the temperature plummeted to 14°C (had been mid-to-high thirties most of trip). Saw a female Golden Oriole flying from a huge poplar wood at Herrera de Pisuerga and the first Griffon Vultures since Monfrague at Herrera. A male Montagu's Harrier was at Pradanos de Orieda and a male Hen Harrier on the 627 at Deheas de Montejo as we entered the mountains. A couple of White Storks were at San Salvador de Cantamuda, and Hobby and Spotted Flycatcher were seen as we neared Potes. Arrived at Potes 19:30 and checked into the Hostel Picos Europa (OK, but wouldn't recommend it). The temperature was 9°C by now, and thick clouds hid the mountains, and we wondered if we would be able to visit the tops the next day.
Out at 09:15, the weather had cleared, and spectacular scenery of previously unseen mountains was revealed. Drove to Fuente De for the Teleferico. Had been told in Potes that the first car was at 10:00, but managed to get on at 09:45, hitting the tops at 09:50. The ride is spectacular, up an 800m high sheer cliff and costs 1300 pesetas return. Followed obvious path north from El Cable, seeing Water Pipits, Chamois and the odd Northern Wheatear and Red-billed Chough. Saw first pair of Snow Finch where path splits at the base of large cliffs and followed the path north-west into La Vueltona, leaving the high cliffs on the right. A number of Snow Finch were making display flights from the high crags and frequenting snow at the base of the cliffs, and we began to see singing Alpine Accentors among the scree. As we walked up the valley, we saw a pair of Wallcreepers feeding on scree and even on the snow, before reverting to form and frequenting the cliffs on the east side. They flew across the valley to the smaller cliff on the west side (just after the path has bent round to head south) and seemed to be using a crevice by a small waterfall. They are very easy to pick out at this site, even at distance, due to the large dark shadows they project onto the pale grey rocks, and their distinctive song and calls carry for long distances as there is no water noise to drown them out. We followed the path as it headed south and then west out of the valley, getting excellent views of the Wallcreepers, more Alpine Accentors and Snow Finch. On the westbound path, we tempted in Alpine Choughs with a packet of porky scratchings, and then decided to head back and work the valley again. All the same birds were seen again, with constant display flights overhead from the Snow Finches. As we came round the east side of the valley again, we were treated to courting Alpine Accentors at about three metres range. The speciality birds mainly gave up when we got back to where the paths split, although we did see a pair of Snow Finch overhead near El Cable, and about ten Alpine Choughs again lured in with the pig skins. A couple of Black Redstarts, twenty Griffon Vultures, two Egyptian Vultures and a pair of Ravens were also seen from El Cable. A Golden Eagle soared over the peak of Pena Remona. We took the car back down at 15:00 and had a beer at the café to celebrate, seeing four Red-billed Chough and Firecrest in the Fuente De area. This was certainly the best high mountain birding I'd ever done in Europe. It was hard to be sure of numbers, but we think we saw at least ten Snow Finch and at least fifteen Alpine Accentors in addition to the pair of Wallcreepers, all in a very small area, with little walking required. The time of year may be critical; the paths were passable with care, and the birds were highly territorial.
Headed back to Potes for a late lunch and then searched for woodpeckers towards San Pedro, seeing only Tree Pipit, Cirl Buntings, Egyptian Vulture and Black Kite.
Gave up at 19:00 and went back to Potes for the night.
Left Potes at 13:00 and headed towards coast. Stopped at San Vincente de la Barquera to inspect the local Yellow-legged Gulls, which are sometimes said to be a unique form: cantabricans. Saw plenty, but I can't say that they looked any different from michahellis, perhaps they've been swallowed up in the latter's expansion?.
Continued on the coastal motorways seeing three Griffon Vultures near Orinon, past Bilbao and up into France, with a single Booted Eagle just over the border. Continued past Bordeaux to St. Emilion, where we pitched for the night at the Montagne campsite (very nice). Some very obliging Nightingales and a Fan-tailed Warbler were on the site.
Up to singing Golden Orioles and left St. Emilion after testing some local wines.
Pushed north, slowly, and arrived at La Gabrière in La Brenne at 17:00, having seen a Red-backed Shrike past La Blanc. The Étang de la Gabrière held about twenty Whiskered Terns, seven Black-necked Grebes, Marsh Harrier and Purple Heron.
Tried the fishponds past Gabrau, which were dry, we saw Melodious Warbler, Lapwing and a small wader sp. (in flight).
Drove up the track off the road north of La Gabrière to Étang de Beauregard, which held 30 Black-necked Grebes with young, a Coypu, Whiskered Terns and two Purple Herons.
Visited the hide at Cherine Lake, which was quite poor, but it was rather windy for reedbed species. Kingfisher, Little Egret, a few Whiskered Terns and a brief snatch of Great Reed Warbler song were the result.
Checked reeds by road opposite Étang Miclos and saw two Cetti's and two Savi's Warblers, with a Cattle Egret flying over.
Returned to La Gabrière at 19:00 and viewed the lake from the garden of the restaurant on the junction. Dined on pike, fine wines and Kronenburg, whilst watching the Whiskered Terns build up to 115 birds as the evening progressed, with more still arriving as we left. Also saw two Night Herons over the reedbed, Purple Herons and Marsh Harrier. Pitched tent at the campsite by the lake hearing Short-toed Treecreeper in the process.
All the sites mentioned above are well covered in Gosney.
Awoke to Golden Orioles (again!). Left at 10:15. Scanned a few lakes as we passed north out of La Brenne, seeing Black-winged Stilt, Redshank, Black-necked Grebes and a displaying Honey Buzzard.
Arrived Fontainebleau area at 14:20, having seen Montagu's Harrier from the A20 north of Chateauroux.
Following Gosney, we tried the following areas for woodpeckers:
The track west from the N152 along the edge of the show jumping area (just north of the viaduct). Here we saw Wood and Bonelli's Warblers, Tree Pipits, about six Great Spotted Woodpeckers, one Middle Spotted Woodpecker in birches, one Green Woodpecker and fantastic views of a male Grey-headed Woodpecker, just after the motorbike training area. In the air we saw two Honey Buzzards and, to our surprise, a Short-toed Eagle, well north of its main range.
We tried the clearing opposite the Golf Course on the same road and saw one Honey Buzzard.
Moved on to the large clearing east of the D63E towards Recloses. Here we had excellent views of a singing Grey-headed Woodpecker on an exposed dead tree. We also saw one Middle Spotted Woodpecker and one Green Woodpecker.
We finished at the area behind the cottage on the D301. Walked through the clearing and turned right along its far edge, heard a Black Woodpecker call, and then saw it fly into the woods behind the clearing. Heard it drumming and tracked it down to its tree, where we had superb views. Left the site at 17:10.
Drove to Grez-sur-Loing and camped at the site near the river (very nice). A Middle Spotted Woodpecker in the trees there was the only bird of note. Spent the evening outside a bizarre pub in the village, seeing Hobby and Black Redstart.
Left the site at 10:00 and breakfasted in the forest, seeing little. Bypassed Paris successfully and arrived at the Romelaere Reserve near St. Omer at 15:00. Unfortunately, it was rather windy, and heavy rain began later. Birds of note included Cetti's Warbler, three Savi's Warblers (one in song), a Bittern, Marsh Harriers, Black Kite, Black-winged Stilt and Little Egret. The information board said Little Bittern and Bluethroat were present.
Couldn't find accommodation in St. Omer, so drove on to Berthem, and stayed at "Le Mas Fleuri" on the N43 before Ardres (very well priced, nice food and people).
We had planned a leisurely day looking for Bluethroats, Orioles and Rosefinchs, but high wind and rain dictated against it. Left hotel at 10:30 and arrived at Platier d'Oye at 11:30. Here we saw Avocets and young, two male Garganey, an Egyptian Goose, a first summer Mediterranean Gull, a first summer Little Gull, a second summer Yellow-legged Gull, Little Ringed Plover, two Barnacle Geese and four horrendous Barnacle x Canada Hybrids.
Drove to Le Portel which was devoid of gulls.
Small pools at the beach near Maerck held Avocets and a Kentish Plover.
Around Calais we saw three Kentish Plovers on the lorry park near the Hoverport, various Crested Larks and a Wheatear.
We half-heartedly tried the grim wood behind the Tioxide factory (said to hold Icterine Warblers and Golden Orioles), with no joy.
Filled the car up with beer and wine and took the 20:30 hovercraft back to England. Arrived back at Croughton with 3790 miles on the clock at 23:00.
We identified a total of 200 species of bird.
The star birds of the trip were the Hecho Wallcreepers, which were a dream come true for both of us, having only had fleeting glimpses of Wallcreepers before. Close behind came the twenty-one species of bird of prey seen; particularly the Lammergeiers and Black Vultures. The number of Black Vultures seen (54!) was a surprise. The White-rumped Swifts were a real shock, we hadn't expected to see them so far north, and the sight of them wheeling at immense speed around the Castillo at Monfrague was incredible. Seeing the three scarcer woodpeckers within three hours at Fontainebleau was the highlight of the French section of the trip; we had thought they would be hard to find at this time of year.
The only misses were White-backed Woodpecker (which we didn't really expect to see) and Bonelli's Eagle.
Nearly misses were Black Wheatear and Roller, seen only once each, which we found amazing considering the amount of apparently suitable habitat we drove through. Perhaps it was a bad spring for these species; a Dutch birder we met had not seen any Rollers, despite searching.
Dave Gosney: Gostour Guides: Finding Birds in Northern France, Southern France, Northern Spain. (and updates from Birdguides website).
Dave Gosney: Where to see Wallcreepers in Europe (on Birdguides website).
John van der Woude: Extremadura birding trip report 1998.
John van der Woude: Birding trip report NE Spain (+France) June 1999.
Simon Woolley: Andalucia and Extremadura, April 7th-16th 1999.
Ian Reid and Steve Young: Central Spain, 13-17 May, 1999.
John Cantelo: Cross Channel Birding.
Thanks to John van der Woude and Simon Woolley for their responses to my requests for further information.
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