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Culture & Vultures, Spain

25 May - 10 June 2002

by Ian Broadbent

mbi136@abdn.ac.uk

dark morph egret sp

Introduction

I hadn't birded much of the Iberian region before, apart from a family holiday to the Algarve in 1986 and a day in the Spanish Pyrenees in 1991. Gill had been to Spain on a couple of family holidays and a conference in Barcelona, but also had only seen a small part of the region, so we agreed that Spain would be a good choice this year to provide plenty of birding excitement and also loads of places of cultural interest at a reasonable cost. Camping for 8 nights also helped to bring costs down. We didn't make too many arrangements for accommodation before we left the UK, although I had booked the first night near Madrid and four nights at the Hotel Toruno in El Rocio in advance. I'd also made contact in January with Claudio Manetti to arrange a day's birding with him in Donana on June 7th. Other than that we were able to turn up at the campsites and get a pitch without any bother, and there were very few other guests at the hotel in El Garraf near Barcelona. Late May/early June would appear to be an excellent time to visit Spain as the hordes of tourists weren't in evidence, and temperatures were pleasantly warm rather than oppressively hot (although it was baking in Monfrague!).

I can thoroughly recommend Spain as a birding destination; in addition to the Iberian specialities the quality of the birding was excellent throughout, with many of the classic Mediterranean species (Bee-eater, Hoopoe, shrikes etc.) being fairly common. Spain has an excellent road network, making it easy to travel fairly long distances, and there seemed to be plenty of places to stay and eat.

I'd set out with a target list of world and Western Palearctic lifers, and in the end only Wallcreeper and Red Avadavat eluded us:

Potential World Lifers: Marbled Duck, White-headed Duck, Spanish Imperial Eagle, Pin-tailed Sandgrouse, White-rumped Swift, Monk Parakeet, Dupont's Lark, Red-necked Nightjar, Black Wheatear, Wallcreeper, Red Avadavat.

Potential WP Lifers: Crested Coot, Black-shouldered Kite.

Also I was particularly keen to see the two bustards and Eagle Owl again, as well as some of the other Iberian specialities (Purple Gallinule, Azure-winged Magpie, Spotless Starling etc.).

Most of the sites mentioned in this report are described in Dave Gosney's "Finding Birds Inů.." books for Northern and Southern Spain, which were very useful throughout. I also took Garcia and Patterson's "Where to Watch Birds in Southern Spain" and "A Birdwatching Guide to the Pyrenees" by Jacquie Crozier, both of which were useful sources of information. I also took the Collins Bird Guide by Mullarney et al., which proved to be sufficient for i.d. purposes.

Numerous trip reports to the region can be found at www.birdtours.co.uk, and www.surfbirds.com, the report by Joakim Djaef and his family is very comprehensive. Possibly the most useful book we took was the Rough Guide to Spain - absolutely essential! Flights to and from Madrid were booked via EasyJet (www.easyjet.com) and car hire through www.carhire4less.com.

Please feel free to email me (mbi136@abdn.ac.uk) regarding any aspect of the trip.

Contacts

Claudio Manetti (Discovering Donana): donana@sistelnet.es.
Hotel Toruno: Tel. (00 34) 959 442 323 Situated on the northern edge of the lagoon, c.2 blocks east of the main church.
Camping Monfrague: (00 34) 927 59 233 www.telexion.com/camping. Situated c.14km north of Villareal de San Carlos on the Plasencia road.
Camping Valle de Hecho: (00 34) 974 375 388 Situated 0.5km south of Hecho village.
Hotel Garraf (Garraf, nr. Barcelona): Tel. (00 34) 93 632 00 07. Situated right on the beach at Garraf, c.25km south of Barcelona.
Best Western Hotel Avion, Madrid: (00 34) 91 747 62 22 www.hotelavion.com. Situated on the Zaragoza/Barcelona road at Km.14.

Itinerary

25 May: EasyJet Aberdeen - Luton; Luton - Madrid Barajas. Night at Madrid Best Western Hotel Avion.
26 May: Picked up hire car, north to Aragon. Castillo de Loarre, Mallos de Riglos. Night at Valle de Hecho Camping.
27 May: Boca de Infierno, Gabardito. Night at Valle de Hecho.
28 May: Boca de Infierno, St Juan de la Pena. Night at Valle de Hecho.
29 May: Valle de Hecho, Jaca, south east to Belchite in Los Monegros. Night in car at Belchite.
30 May: Belchite, Laguna de la Playa, east to El Garraf nr Barcelona. Night at Hotel Garraf.
31 May: Train to Barcelona. Night in El Garraf.
1 June: El Garraf - Monfrague. Night at Camping Monfrague.
2 June: Sanctuario y Castillo de Monfrague, Mirador de la Bascula, Portilla del Tietar, Monroy, dusk at Portilla del Tietar. Night at Camping Monfrague.
3 June: Caceres/Trujillo Plains; Trujillo town centre. Night at Camping Monfrague.
4 June: Caceres old city and museum; Caceres/Trujillo plains. Night at Camping Monfrague.
5 June: Monfrague - Merida - Coto de Donana. La Rocina lagoon. Night in Hotel Toruno, El Rocio.
6 June: Laguna Primera de Palos, Matalascanas, Monasterio de la Rabida nr Huelva, El Acebuche. Night in El Rocio.
7 June: Day with Claudio Manetti in Donana. Night in El Rocio.
8 June: Matalascanas, Laguna de Medina, Jerez de la Frontera. Night in El Rocio.
9 June: El Rocio - Madrid. Night Hotel Avion.
10 June: Madrid Barajas - Luton; Luton - Aberdeen.

Daily Diary

25 May

Arrived late evening Madrid Barajas Airport and transferred to the Best Western Hotel Avion (10 minutes by taxi).

26 May

Took the courtesy bus back to the airport to pick up the hire car, a Citroen Xsara. Drove north via Zaragoza and Huesca; a flyover Green Woodpecker of the Iberian race sharpei was the main highlight en route c. 20km south of Zaragoza. Other roadside birds included Spotless Starlings, Griffon Vultures and 2 White Storks. First main point of call was north-west of Huesca, the spectacular 11th century Castillo de Loarre with its panoramic views. Birds in the area included Rock Sparrow, Rock Bunting, Bee-eater, Griffon Vulture, Booted Eagle, Red-billed Chough. We carried on to the vertiginous pillars of Riglos, and soon found a Black Wheatear behind the church at the top of the village - the first lifer of the trip! Numerous Griffon Vultures circled the cliffs, and an adult Lammergeier also drifted across the pillars. Red Kites were numerous in the valley as we approached the campsite just south of the village of Hecho. Overnight at least 2 Tawny Owls and several Nightingales could be heard from the tent, plus a cacophony of amphibians.

27 May

Made an early start and headed for the famous Wallcreeper site at Boca de Infierno. Sadly this was to be our main birding disappointment of the trip, as we found out later that there had been only a couple of sightings earlier in the spring and that they were not nesting in the gorge this year. A couple of Lammergeier sightings over the gorge were scant compensation for our disappointment! We went for a walk from the mountain refuge of Gabardito in the afternoon, and had good views of two Lammergeiers, plus Citril Finch near the refuge. In the forests we heard two Black Woodpeckers but didn't see either. Further up we had a Rock Thrush, Crested Tit and a few Firecrest. We returned later to the Boca on the off chance that a WC might cross our path but no luck. Overnight a European Nightjar was heard from the tent, churring away, and another Black Woodpecker was heard at dawn.

28 May

Another early visit to the Boca, where I had another Lammergeier. Back at the campsite, I videoed a couple of Rock Sparrows and an Egyptian Vulture, and then we headed to the monasteries at San Juan de la Pena. The older Lower Monastery is built into the base of a towering cliff, and is well worth a visit - absolutely stunning. We spent the day wandering around both monasteries and the surrounding woodland, and saw several Citril Finches (especially near the car park by the larger Upper monastery), Western Bonelli's Warbler and Firecrest. We walked along the ridge to a communications post (having a close encounter with a Wild Boar en route) where we got great views of Egyptian and Griffon Vultures. This is described as site 3 in the Gosney guide and is said to be good for Lammergeiers; however we spent most of the afternoon around here without seeing one. After returning to Hecho, we went for our evening meal and were greeted as we left the restaurant by the "poop" call of a Scops Owl from the nearby rooftops. It (and another) were easily audible from the tent later on, as was a Quail.

29 May

Checked out of the campsite and headed to Jaca. We spent the morning around the star-shaped Ciudadela, a 16th-century fort complete with a large colony of Rock Sparrows in the walls - surely the easiest place to see Rock Sparrow in the Pyrenees. Tree Sparrows were also common here, and we had great views of Booted Eagle and Red Kite low over the fort. After a picnic on the lawns outside the fort we drove south-east to the Zaragoza plains, and arrived at the Lomazas Steppe reserve near Belchite in the late afternoon. En route we had seen several Bee-eaters, a Little Owl, Marsh Harrier and a few Black-winged Stilts at a roadside scrape. At Belchite, several larks were singing including Crested, numerous Short-toed and at least a couple of displaying Calandras. A Stone Curlew was heard calling in the distance. Two Black-bellied Sandgrouse flew across the road, and then I picked up a flock of c.8 Pin-tailed Sandgrouse flying over fields to the south of the car-park. Another couple of distant sandgrouse (probably Black-bellied) were also seen. At least 3-4 Dupont's Larks started singing (tu-luweeeeeih) from about 8.30pm onwards, although I had heard the occasional call before then. Seeing them however was a different matter, and apart from the briefest of views it gradually became to dark to see anything, although the birds still continued to sing well after the sun went down. We spent the night in the car, on the promise that we would find something more comfortable tomorrow!!

30 May

The Dupont's Larks (6+) were singing all around the car park at 5am, and continued until at least 8am although the singing tailed off after sunrise. Some sounded incredibly close, but the most intense singing activity took place when it was too dark to see anything. However, the birds were still singing as the sun was coming up, and a walk along the track provided a view of a bird on the deck before a Short-toed Lark came along and chased it off. One of my favourite memories of the holiday was here, as a pair of Calandras in song-flight were silhouetted against the full moon, just as the sun was starting to come up. A Southern Grey Shrike hunted amongst the scattered bushes, and a Scops Owl called sporadically. After the Dupont's Larks stopped singing, we headed off and soon bumped into one of the best birds of the holiday near Escatron, a stunning roadside Roller which unfortunately flew off as I made for the camera. We had a brief look at the fields near Laguna de la Playa, which were excellent for Black-bellied Sandgrouse and Calandras, and I found a Hobby sat in the middle of a ploughed field. We then headed east towards Barcelona, and found a hotel in the village of El Garraf, just south of Barcelona, in a room with a balcony that opened right out onto the beach.

31 May

We took the train from El Garraf into Barcelona city centre, and made straight for Gaudi's sprawling masterpiece, La Sagrada Familia. Work is ongoing in this amazing cathedral, with a projected finish date of 2035! We took an open top bus tour of the city in the afternoon, which was quite long at 4 hours but showed us the major sights, and also gave us cracking views of the Monk Parakeets that have become well established in the city. Any area with palm trees seemed good for them, in particular the roads around Barcelona FC, Port Vell, and Parc Guell. Alpine Swifts were also a feature of the birdlife, with several sightings including two over the Nou Camp. After a long day in Barcelona we took the train back to El Garraf for another relaxing evening.

1 June

The day of the long drive! We set out from El Garraf at about 8.30, and successfully negotiated the Barcelona toll-road system before heading west towards Zaragoza then Madrid. The aim was to arrive at Camping Monfrague (between Plasencia and Villareal San Carlos, 15 minutes drive from the Monfrague park boundary) in the late afternoon/early evening, and fortunately everything went to plan, even to the point of a Black-shouldered Kite obligingly flying in front of the car west of Navalmoral on the 108. The campsite facilities were excellent, although the swimming pool wasn't open, and it was rather busy. However, the flocks of Azure-winged Magpies didn't seem to mind! After pitching the tent I couldn't resist a quick excursion into the park, and pretty soon I was at the Mirador de la Bascula, enjoying views of several Black, Griffon and Egyptian Vultures. A group of Spanish birders showed me a Black Kite nest with 3 young from the pull-in just west of the dam, and a pair of Egyptian Vultures were also nesting on the cliffs here amongst the more numerous Griffons. Along the road, a few hispanica Black-eared Wheatears were seen, favouring the more barren areas that have been cleared of Eucalyptus to make way for the replanting of native trees. We had a meal in the campsite restaurant, and overnight heard another Scops Owl from the tent.

2 June

Arguably the best birding day of the trip started at the Sanctuario y Castillo de Monfrague. As this involved a steep climb up to the castle I thought that this site would be best tackled earlier in the day, which proved to be a good call as temperatures were to rise into the 30's by the afternoon. On the walk up I heard an Iberian Chiffchaff, the only one of the trip - these birds are surprisingly local and sporadic in their distribution in Spain. We also had brief views of a Hawfinch, and several Crag Martins and Red-rumped Swallows zoomed around. At the top we didn't have to wait too long before two White-rumped Swifts flew past, and over the next 40 minutes or so we had several excellent views of at least four, possibly 5 individuals, some engaging in what looked like a display flight. The birds seemed to work their way along the ridge towards the Castillo, and then circle round with the other swifts and martins looking towards Penafalcon, before heading back along the ridge. Crag and House Martins were numerous, as were Red-rumped Swallows and Alpine Swifts, along with a few Common Swifts. Inside the Castillo itself we found 3 Red-billed Chough chicks, whilst a Blue Rock Thrush sang from the top of the Castillo. On the way back down we had excellent views of a Hawfinch on the path, and also managed more views of White-rumped Swifts from the upper car park. A good start got better after 40 minutes at the Mirador de la Bascula, where patient scanning with a group of 4 other British birders paid off when an adult Spanish Imperial Eagle joined the circling Griffons for a few minutes, its white forearms clearly visible. We were told that a nest here was in use this year, but we were unable to locate it although we did find the old nest. We then headed to the cliffs at Portilla del Tietar (where other British birders we met also saw Spanish Imperial Eagle later in the day) and enjoyed wonderful views of a pair of Black Storks with two chicks. Again raptors were much in evidence with the ubiquitous vultures, Short-toed Eagle and a single dark-phase Booted Eagle. After such a successful morning we had a picnic in the park then drove back to the camp to sweat out the hottest part of the day. In the late afternoon we drove south and stopped off at Penafalcon for fabulous views of the vultures, Black Stork, Peregrine, Rock Bunting and Blue Rock Thrush. This is also listed as a possible Black Wheatear site although no-one we spoke to had seen one here. We continued south through the park towards the famous site for Black-shouldered Kite near Monroy, encountering a 4ft Montpelier Snake en route. The site is easily recognisable as there is a large colony of White Storks in the pines around a small rise, from which tracks lead off to the north and south. The Gosney guide describes the track heading south as being the best for the kites, but others have had more success in recent years by looking north towards the row of pylons, and we didn't have to wait long before 2 kites started performing in this area, hovering frequently and displaying their distinctive almost tail-less shape. Common Kestrels and Common Buzzards here also added to the daily raptor tally, and a small party of Bee-eaters lined the wires. Early morning or early to mid-evening appears to be the best time of day for the kites; a party of British birders told me that they'd been unsuccessful here but had scored nearby at a farm called Finca Sotillo, which is on the road between Torrejon el Rubio and Monroy. We drove back to the park and joined an international group of birders at Portilla del Tietar, a renowned Eagle Owl site. The aforementioned British birders had described to me the point on the cliff where they'd seen two juveniles emerge at 21.50 the previous night, so I lined up my scope on the poop-splattered rock in question. While we were waiting, we were entertained by the vultures, Black Storks, Rock Bunting, Blue Rock Thrush and a Sparrowhawk (our 13th species of raptor for the day), a flock of c.40 Bee-eaters, and several large bats with prominent ear-flaps clearly visible. We could occasionally hear the begging calls of the young owlets, which increased in frequency until one appeared, right on time at 21.50 in the middle of my scope view. Almost immediately another flapped around the cliff onto a lower ledge, and everyone enjoyed fine views of the fledglings, which still possessed downy feathers on the crown and wing coverts. Later I heard an adult calling from the area to the right of the cliff, and an Eagle Owl then flew along the ridge although whether this was the adult or one of the juveniles was unclear. Anyway, these were serious candidates for bird of the trip, and we thought we would quit while we were ahead and drive back to the campsite rather than try the Mirador de la Bascula for Red-necked Nightjar. However, as we passed along the road about 200m past Mirador de la Bascula, the car in front of us (carrying a British couple we'd met at the Eagle Owl site) flushed a nightjar from the side of the road. We both screeched to a halt and watched the bird flying around our heads for ten minutes or so, and although it didn't call the large size clearly indicated that this was a Red-necked Nightjar. They had been heard on the previous couple of nights from Mirador de la Bascula, but no-one we'd spoken to had seen one here in recent days. Maybe we were using up some of the luck we were owed after the Hecho WC disappointment.

3 June

Today we explored the plains around Caceres and Trujillo in search of bustards. The main areas we concentrated on were the plains around St. Marta de Magasca, and we found our first Great Bustard pretty quickly, in a field near the farm of La Encinilla. The ploughed field opposite this farm was quite good for sandgrouse too, with groups of 3 and 2 Black-bellied Sandgrouse plus a single Pin-tailed Sandgrouse flying around. Just east of La Encinilla we found a fine group of six Great Bustards strutting their stuff, and on the road towards St Marta de Magasca we also had a Golden Eagle and several large flocks of Spanish Sparrows. Montagu's Harriers, Common Buzzards and Black Kites were particularly common around these plains. In the picturesque town square of Trujillo there were several White Stork nests with young, and at least 20 Lesser Kestrels around the Plaza Mayor, dominated by the statue of the notorious Conquistador Francisco Pizarro, who was born here. A couple of Booted Eagles and a Black Stork also drifted over as we explored the church of Santa Maria Mayor, and the castle and Moorish fortress. Later on, we tried some of the plains near Belen for bustards, and managed to find two more Great Bustards baking in the heat, but Little Bustards were proving elusive. Back at the campsite at Monfrague I videoed several Azure-winged Magpies around the tent, and a Short-toed Treecreeper visited the trees around our pitch. Overnight we heard another Scops Owl calling around the campsite.

4 June

In the morning we drove south to Caceres, where we explored the old walled city and visited the Caceres museum. Numerous stork nests lined the rooftops, and Lesser Kestrels were also in and around the town. In the afternoon we drove back again via St Marta de Magasca, although we failed to locate any bustards or sandgrouse, probably because we were there during the hottest part of the day. However we did find a nest box on a pylon that was occupied by an adult and juvenile Roller, approx. 1.4km west of the junction between the minor road to La Encinilla with the St Marta de Magasca - N521 road. Again we saw large flocks (c.500 birds) of Spanish Sparrows along these roads.

5 June

Another fairly long driving day saw us leave Camping Monfrague and head south to Merida where we stopped for lunch by the old Roman bridge in the centre of town. This was listed in Garcia and Patterson as a site for Red Avadavat (Red Munia), and we spent about an hour or so walking amongst some of the islands in the middle of the river. However, apart from a possible glimpse of a distant Avadavat, all we could find were four Common Waxbills, viewed from the middle of the Roman Bridge itself. The bridge also afforded great views of Alpine, Pallid and Common Swift, and a large colony of Cattle Egrets. After lunch we headed south again and turned west at Sevilla, and arrived at El Rocio by mid afternoon. Extreme care is needed when driving around this place as there are no tarmac roads in the town, and the normal rules of the road don't seem to apply! It is also very easy to get stuck in the sand, even in El Rocio itself, although the locals are used to helping tourists out of trouble. We were staying at the Hotel Toruno, which is right on the edge of the La Rocina lagoon which fringes the southern edge of the town. From our hotel room (decorated as a shrine to the Purple Gallinule!) we could see huge numbers of Greater Flamingos, 1000+ Black-tailed Godwits, Avocets, Whiskered Terns, Collared Pratincoles and Black-winged Stilts, a tremendous sight. In the early evening we took a walk around the La Rocina reserve, and saw at least 5 Purple Gallinules, several Spotted Flycatchers and Nightingales, Cetti's, Reed, and Savi's Warblers. Our evening meal in the Toruno restaurant overlooked the lagoon, allowing us to watch the Whiskered Terns flying past the window.

6 June

In the morning we headed south and along the coast towards Huelva, where we checked out the Laguna Primera de Palos, a potential White-headed Duck site. We failed to find any, but birds seen in the area included Little Bittern, Purple Heron, Purple Gallinule, Spoonbill, Great Reed Warbler, Ferruginous Duck and lots of Coots (worth checking here for Crested?). We spent some of the afternoon on the beach at Matalascanas, and then headed back towards Huelva to visit the monastery at La Rabida where Christopher Columbus stayed to gather funds and plan his famous journey, a fascinating place. Just below the monastery are full sized replicas of the three boats that made the epic voyage, also worth a visit to get an idea of the conditions the sailors must have endured. In the evening we went for a walk around the trails of the visitor centre at El Acebuche, but apart from cracking views of a Little Bittern the birds here were few and far between. Even the enclosed part of the lagoon which is supposed to house pinioned exhibits of Marbled Ducks, White-headed Ducks and the like was totally empty! Maybe this place is best visited earlier in the day before all the tourists have scared all the birds away.

7 June

Claudio Manetti met us at the hotel at 7am and we drove into the Parque Nacional in his 4WD. We stopped first in the Coto del Rey area, where he showed us fresh Iberian Lynx tracks in the sand, although this was the closest we were to get to this animal. Whilst walking around this area Gill accidentally flushed a Red-necked Nightjar from its nest, a really beautiful sight in daylight, and we retreated hastily to allow it to return. We headed through the restricted area of the park and from the road we had wonderful views of c.13 Pin-tailed Sandgrouse, a truly stunning bird when seen on the ground. Claudio informed us that Spanish Imperial Eagle would be very difficult to see in Donana this year as all but one of the nests had failed, so we were glad that we had put in the effort to see this species in Monfrague. He also informed us that he had recently seen a dark morph egret in the area, and later in the morning I was amazed to see the creature in question flying across the marismas. We managed to get some distant views of the bird, which showed an obvious white chin patch and scattered white feathers in the wings (primary coverts/bases, left alula, white slightly more extensive in the left wing), but it then flew much further away and we decided to move on as there were many other target birds to see. Near the Valverde centre Claudio showed us a pair of Crested (Red-knobbed) Coots with two young "knoblets"; one of the adults bore a neck collar (4M) to indicate that it was one of the c.150 individuals released in southern Spain as part of a reintroduction project. The other adult was uncollared and was therefore "countable"! We enjoyed great views of the birds, which showed a blueish tinge to the bill and the characteristic red knobs above the frontal shield. At the Valverde centre at Lucio Cerrado Garrido we enjoyed the fantastic heronry; in the last 5 or 6 years Glossy Ibis has colonised here, and there are now at least 50 pairs, along with large numbers of Purple, Grey, Black-crowned Night and Squacco Herons, Little and Cattle Egrets, and several pairs of Little Bitterns. This tremendous spectacle was augmented by Great Reed Warblers, Purple Gallinules, the ubiquitous Greater Flamingos and plenty of wildfowl. After a coffee we headed back c.200m along the track to the small bridge overlooking the lagoon where we'd seen the dark morph egret earlier. Gill had caught a glimpse of a "dark bird with white in the wings" dropping into a nearby channel, and sure enough it was the egret, this time showing extremely well and allowing me to get some video footage by pointing my camera down the telescope. The structure of the bill and all other features strongly suggested Western Reef Egret of the west African race gularis. After studying the bird at length we headed back towards Coto del Rey, where we relocated the Red-necked Nightjar (which had returned to its nest) and enjoyed stunning views of the bird almost perfectly camouflaged on the ground. By this time (3pm) the heat was starting to increase and we drove back to the hotel in El Rocio for a two-hour siesta, during which we managed to catch up with highlights of England's victory over Argentina in the World Cup. Claudio returned at 5pm and we drove south of El Rocio to an area of grassy fields. As soon as we stopped the car, I heard a farting sound coming from the field (my ears must be used to it) and I immediately picked out the head of the culprit, a male Little Bustard, its neck swelling with each rasp. Apparently we had been quite lucky to pull this one back in Donana (after dipping in Extremadura), as this was the only one that Claudio had seen all year - they are declining quite sharply here. From here we headed back north, and drove around the northern marismas back to the Valverde centre via Stone Curlews, Spanish Sparrows, Lesser Short-toed Larks and more Pin-tailed Sandgrouse. By the time we got to the Valverde centre it was closed, but we scanned the various lagoons for the main final target, Marbled Duck. Claudio had warned us that these had become tricky in the last few weeks, so I was resigning myself to missing out on them until Claudio found a pair on the lagoon opposite where the dark morph egret was still performing. We got good binocular views of the Marbled Ducks, but as we were setting up the telescopes they disappeared, and after a further half hour of searching we realised we had literally lost our Marbles. All that remained was to drive back to the Coto del Rey for dusk, where we had fantastic roadside views of a young Tawny Owl. At dusk, at least two Red-necked Nightjars were performing their "kutok-kutok-kutoků." display, and we had up to two birds flying around us. However, Claudio reckoned that they weren't performing at their best due to the strong breeze - I don't think we could complain too much though! What a day, and many thanks to Claudio for his patience and tireless efforts in showing us the birds.

8 June

After such a great day with Claudio we took it a little easier today, and spent the morning and early afternoon on the beach at Matalascanas. We then set off at 3pm towards Sevilla, then south to the Laguna de Medina near Jerez, arriving just after 4.30pm. From the car park I was able to scope our final quarry, White-headed Duck. By walking along the path that runs along the southern edge of the lagoon we managed to get good views of at least 3 males and a female, although they could be tricky at times as they kept close in to the near shore, and spent more time under the water than on top of it! Across the lagoon, there were two huge flocks of Coot that spread out like oil slicks across the surface, probably involving between 1500-2000 birds in total. This is supposed to be a good site for Crested Coot, but most of the birds were fairly distant and you would need a slice of luck and considerable patience to pick one out. The areas of water that did not contain Coots were filled with pairs of Black-necked Grebes and wildfowl including Red-crested Pochard. We spent the early evening in Jerez, walking around the Alcanaz fort with its picturesque gardens, before driving back to El Rocio for our final night at the Hotel Toruno.

9 June

Unfortunately the final morning in El Rocio was not a pleasant experience for me, as a combination of too much sun the day before and a particularly nasty stomach bug combined to spectacular effect. This meant that the 6-hour drive back to Madrid had to be done by Gill alone, while I curled up on the back seat of the car in a pretty sorry state. We checked into the Hotel Avion again, which was slightly expensive at 100 euros per night, but at least it was convenient for the airport.

10 June

Took the hire car back to the airport for 8.30am, and crawled onto the Easyjet back to Aberdeen via Luton. By the time we got home both of us were feeling the effects of the bug, although this unfortunate end to the holiday didn't spoil our enjoyment of what had been a great trip. Can't wait 'til we go back!

Systematic List

Taxonomy and order of species follows that of the Collins Bird Guide (Mullarney et al. 1999). Bold indicates a Western Palearctic lifer, bold and underlined indicates a world lifer.

1. Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis. Several pairs at the Laguna de Medina 8/6.
2. Little Grebe Tachybaptus podiceps. First noted at a pool in Bujaraloz 29/5; also fairly common in Coto de Donana.
3. Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus. Only noted in Coto de Donana e.g. Laguna de Rocina.
4. Little Bittern Ixobrychus minutus. Singles at Laguna Primera de Palos and El Acebuche 6/7; c.3 at the Valverde Centre 7/6.
5. Black-crowned Night Heron Nycticorax nycticorax. Fairly common around the Valverde Centre 7/6.
6. Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis. Uncommon in Northern Spain, but common in Southern Spain with colonies at Merida and the Valverde Centre.
7. Squacco Heron Ardeola ralloides. Small numbers at the Valverde heronry 7/6.
8. Little Egret Egretta garzetta. 2 over Barcelona Playa de Catalunya 31/5; common in south.
9. Western Reef Egret Egretta gularis. A dark morph adult egret considered to be of this species on the marismas near the Lucio Cerrado Garrido Valverde Information Centre 7/6. Probably of the west African race gularis. Many thanks to the birders who have sent their comments to me on this bird following the photos I posted on www.surfbirds.com.
10. Grey Heron Ardea cinerea. First recorded in the Ebro valley 29/5; common in southern Spain.
11. Purple Heron Ardea purpurea. Singles at Laguna Primera de Palos and El Acebuche 6/6. Many pairs at the Valverde heronry 7/6 including several fledglings.
12. White Stork Ciconia ciconia. Singles seen over the road between Madrid and Zaragoza 26/5 and in the Ebro Valley 29/5 were the only birds seen in the north, but almost every pylon in some regions of Extremadura had a pair, and the rooftops of Caceres and Trujillo had several pairs with young. Fairly common in Donana.
13. Black Stork Ciconia nigra. 1 Penafalcon, 3 Portilla del Tietar including a nesting pair on the cliff + 2 chicks 2/6; 1 over Trujillo 3/6.
14. Glossy Ibis Plegadis falcinellus. c.50 pairs Valverde heronry 7/6.
15. Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia. Fairly common around Donana.
16. Greater Flamingo Phoenicpterus ruber. On our first night in El Rocio I counted at least 800 on the lagoon outside the hotel; common and conspicuous in Donana.
17. Greylag Anser anser. Small numbers in Donana 5-8/6 e.g. 4 Laguna de Rocina 5/6.
18. Shelduck Tadorna tadorna. One on the northern marismas in Donana 7/6, a late date according to Claudio.
19. Mallard Anas platyrhynchos. Common and widespread.
20. Gadwall Anas strepera. Fairly common in Donana.
21. Northern Shoveler Anas clypeata. Small numbers in Donana 7/6.
22. Marbled Duck Marmaronetta angustirostris. A pair on the marismas near Lucio Cerrado Garrido 7/6.
23. Common Pochard Aythya ferina. Small numbers in Donana.
24. Red-crested Pochard Netta rufina. Flocks of c. 100 birds on the marismas 7/6 and at Laguna de Medina 8/6.
25. Ferruginous Duck Aythya nyroca. Only seen at Laguna Primera de Palos and El Acebuche 6/6.
26. White-headed Duck Oxyura leucocephala. 3 males + 1 female Laguna de Medina 8/6.
27. Lammergeier Gypaetus barbatus. Single adults at Riglos 26/5; Boca de Infierno (3 sightings of possibly the same bird), 2 together Gabardito 27/5; single adult over Boca de Infierno 28/5.
28. Griffon Vulture Gyps fulvus. A few seen en route from Madrid 26/5; common in the Pyrenees with excellent views at San Juan de la Pena, especially from the telecom post. Common and conspicuous in Monfrague, with possibly the best views at Penafalcon in the late afternoon. 2 were seen distantly in Donana 7/6.
29. Black Vulture Aegypius monachus. Several sightings in Monfrague 1-2/6, with Mirador de la Bascula being probably the best site (4+ on the evening of 1/6).
30. Egyptian Vulture Neophron percnopterus. Adults seen over Riglos 26/5 and the campsite at Hecho 28/5 and 29/5; 2+1 San Juan de la Pena 28/5; several sightings in Monfrague including nesting birds on the cliffs amongst the Griffons.
31. Golden Eagle Aquila chrysaetos. A second calendar year bird near St Marta de Magasca 3/6.
32. Spanish Imperial Eagle Aquila adalberti. An adult seen from the Mirador de la Bascula 2/6.
33. Short-toed Eagle Circaetus gallicus. Singles seen in various locations, fairly common in Monfrague.
34. Booted Eagle Hiareetus pennatus. Several light morph birds in the Pyrenees and Monfrague; the only definite dark morph birds we saw were at Portilla del Tietar 2/6 and in Donana 7/6.
35. Red Kite Milvus milvus. Common in the Pyrenees esp. in the Hecho Valley, less common in Southern Spain.
36. Black Kite Milvus migrans. Common and widespread.
37. Black-shouldered Kite Elanus caeruleus. One flew across the 108 west of Navalmoral 1/6, but better views were had of two birds hunting near Monroy in the early evening 2/6.
38. Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus. First seen in the Ebro Valley 29/5; several Coto de Donana 5-8/6.
39. Hen Harrier Circus cyaneus. A male seen from the Castillo de Loarre 26/5.
40. Montagu's Harrier Circus pygargus. Small numbers in the Ebro Valley and around Belchite 29/5; common around the Caceres/Trujillo plains 3-4/6; also small numbers in Donana.
41. Common Buzzard Buteo buteo. Fairly common and widespread.
42. Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus. Singles at San Juan de la Pena 28/5 and Portilla del Tietar 2/6.
43. Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus. Fairly common and widespread.
44. Lesser Kestrel Falco naumanni. Hunting parties of up to 12 birds over the Caceres/Trujillo plains near La Encinilla 3/6; 20+ Trujillo town centre 3/6; 10+ Caceres town centre 4/6.
45. Hobby Falco subbuteo. One sat in a field near Laguna la Playa 30/5.
46. Peregrine Falco peregrinus. Adult over Penafalcon 2/6.
47. Red-legged Partridge Alectoris rufa. Singles noted in various locations.
48. Quail Coturnix coturnix. One heard calling from the tent in Hecho 28/5.
49. Moorhen Gallinula chloropus. Fairly common in southern Spain.
50. Coot Fulica atra. Huge flocks at Laguna de Medina 8/6; large numbers in Donana.
51. Crested Coot Fulica cristata. Excellent views of a pair plus two young on the marismas near the Valverde centre 7/6. One of the adults was from the reintroduction scheme and carried a neck collar (4M).
52. Purple Gallinule Porphyrio porphyrio. Fairly common in Donana, esp. at the La Rocina pools, El Acebuche and around the Valverde Centre.
53. Great Bustard Otis tarda. 1+6 near La Encinilla; 2 north of Belen 3/6.
54. Little Bustard Tetrax tetrax. Excellent views of a calling male south-west of El Rocio 7/6. They are surprisingly difficult at this time of the year! Other British birders I spoke to had seen a male near La Encinilla.
55. Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta. Several small parties in Donana.
56. Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus. First seen at small roadside pools near Sarinena 29/5; subsequently seen in various locations. Common in the south.
57. Stone Curlew Burhinus oedicnemus. Heard at Belchite 29/5; 2 seen near Villamanrique 7/6.
58. Collared Pratincole Glareola praticola. 2 were seen from the hotel balcony at El Rocio 5/6; common around the fields and marismas of Donana 7/6; also a few over the road en route to Jerez 8/6.
59. Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius. 2 El Acebuche 6/6.
60. Kentish Plover Charadrius alexandrinus. 2 Donana 7/6.
61. Lapwing Vanellus vanellus. Only seen in and around Donana, where fairly common around the marismas.
62. Dunlin Calidris alpina. A distant party of small waders in Donana on 7/6 were probably of this species; another was seen at the La Rocina lagoon 5/6.
63. Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos. 1 on the river at Hecho 27/5 was the only one noted on the trip.
64. Common Redshank Tringa totanus. 2 in Donana 7/6.
65. Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa. Several large flocks in Donana. Over 1000 were present at the La Rocina lagoon on the afternoon of 5/6 viewable from the hotel balcony.
66. Ruff Philmachus pugnax. A single bird in Donana 7/6.
67. Black-headed Gull Larus ridibundus. Fairly common and widespread except in the north.
68. Yellow-legged Gull Larus cachinnans michahellis. Several were seen at El Garraf and Barcelona 30/5-1/6; also seen at La Rocina lagoon and along the coast between Matalascanas and Huelva. Also several were congregating at Laguna de Medina 8/6.
69. Little Tern Sterna albifrons. 1 at Laguna Primera de Palos 6/6; small numbers in Donana 7/6.
70. Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis. 1 in Donana 7/6.
71. Gull-billed Tern Sterna nilotica. Several in Donana 7/6 over the marismas; also a colony of c. 50 pairs on the northern marismas.
72. Common Tern Sterna hirundo. Small numbers in and around Donana.
73. Whiskered Tern Chlidonias hybridus. The only species of marsh tern noted; fairly common in Donana and ever-present outside our hotel balcony and restaurant at El Rocio.
74. Black-bellied Sandgrouse Pterocles orientalis. Several small parties were noted with excellent flight views, but never seen on the ground: 2 Belchite 29/5, 2+4+8+2 Laguna de la Playa 30/5; 3+2 La Encinilla 3/6.
75. Pin-tailed Sandgrouse Pterocles alchata. A party of c.8 birds were seen flying over Belchite on the evening of 29/5; another single in flight at La Encinilla 3/6. Excellent views of a party of c.13 birds in Donana on the morning of 7/6 enjoying dust baths at the roadside, candidates for birds of the trip; parties of 2+3 birds were seen in flight over the northern marismas in the afternoon of 7/6.
76. Rock Dove Columba livia. Small numbers of "genuine" birds at Riglos 26/5.
77. Stock Dove Columba oenas. Occasional flyover birds at various locations en route.
78. Woodpigeon Columba palumbus. Common and widespread.
79. Collared Dove Streptopelia decaocto. Common in the north; also esp. numerous around the monastery at La Rabida - I don't think I've ever seen so many!
80. Turtle Dove Streptopelia turtur. Fairly common and widespread, more often heard than seen.
81. Common Cuckoo Cuculus canorus. Heard at various locations, also occasional birds seen flying over the road. Several were seen around La Encinilla, sadly none had great spots e.g. 1 on 3/6, 4 on 4/6.
82. Tawny Owl Strix aluco. 2-3 birds were heard calling from the tent every night at Hecho; excellent views of a grey morph bird in Donana 7/6.
83. Eagle Owl Bubo bubo. 2 recently fledged juveniles on the cliffs at Portilla del Tietar 2/6; also an adult heard calling there and another (possibly the adult) seen flying along the ridge.
84. Little Owl Athene noctua. Fairly common; several were seen around Los Monegros and also Monfrague and Donana. They seem to favour small piles of rocks in open fields.
85. Scops Owl Otus scops. One, possibly 2 heard from the rooftops at Hecho 28/5; also heard at Belchite on the morning of 30/5, and heard on most nights from the tent at Monfrague.
86. European Nightjar Caprimulgus europaeus. One heard churring from the tent at Hecho at 4am 28/5.
87. Red-necked Nightjar Caprimulgus ruficollis. One flying around a small clearing c.200m west of the Mirador de la Bascula 2/6; excellent views of a bird on 2 eggs in the Coto del Rey, Donana 7/6; 2-3 birds singing and flying around there in the evening.
88. Common Swift Apus apus. Numerous and widespread.
89. Pallid Swift Apus pallidus. Definite sightings near St. Marta de Magasca 3-4/6 and Merida 5/6.
90. Alpine Swift Apus melba. First recorded over Barcelona city centre with up to ten birds 31/5; excellent views around Monfrague and esp. at the Roman bridge in Merida 5/6.
91. White-rumped Swift Apus caffer. 4-5 birds viewed from the Sanctuario y Castillo de Monfrague 2/6.
92. Hoopoe Upupa epops. Common and widespread.
93. Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis. 2 at Laguna Primera de Palos 6/6.
94. European Bee-eater Merops apiaster. Seen almost daily (except in Barcelona area); fairly common and widespread.
95. European Roller Coracias garrulus. A superb adult right beside the car near Escatron 30/5; 1ad+1juv between La Encinilla and St. Marta de Magasca 4/6.
96. Monk Parakeet Myiopsitta monachus. Over 20 sightings of this noisy resident of Barcelona at various locations in the city 31/5.
97. Black Woodpecker Dryocopus martius. Heard only; 2 Gabardito 27/5, 1 heard at dawn from the campsite at Hecho 28/5.
98. (Sharpe's) Green Woodpecker Picus viridis sharpei. One flew over the road near Zaragoza 26/5.
99. Great Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopus major. Singles noted at various locations e.g. Riglos 26/5, Gabardito 27/5, San Juan de la Pena 28/5, Sanctuario y Castillo de Monfrague 2/6.
100. Skylark Alauda arvensis. Fairly common and widespread.
101. Crested Lark Galerida cristata. The common lark, esp. abundant in Extremadura - it is quite difficult to avoid running them over!
102. Thekla Lark Galerida theklae. Only definitely identified in Monfrague; most Galerida larks had to go down as "Creklas".
103. Greater Short-toed Lark Calandrella brachydactyla. Common and widespread, esp. in Los Monegros.
104. Lesser Short-toed Lark Calandrella rufescens. 15-20 birds were seen at the roadside amongst the northern marismas in Donana 7/6, including several singing birds.
105. Calandra Lark Melanocorypha calandra. Excellent views of c. 4 birds displaying at Belchite 29-30/5; common around Los Monegros esp. at Laguna de la Playa, also seen in Donana with 2 on 7/6.
106. Dupont's Lark Chersophilus duponti. 3-4 singing at the Lomazas steppe reserve, Belchite from 8.30pm onwards; 6+ singing around the car park the next morning. Very brief views of one bird on the evening of the 29th; slightly better views of a bird on a track on the 30th.
107. Sand Martin Riparia riparia. Strangely, this bird was only recorded in small numbers in Donana near the Valverde centre 7/6.
108. Crag Martin Ptyonoprogne rupestris. Fairly common and widespread; excellent views in the Pyrenees and in Monfrague.
109. Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica. Common and widespread.
110. Red-rumped Swallow Hirundo daurica. Seen in various locations, but absent from the Pyrenees. Excellent views from the Sanctuario y Castillo de Monfrague 2/6.
111. House Martin Delichon urbica. Common near human habitation.
112. Tawny Pipit Anthus campestris. Gill found a splendid displaying bird near the telecom post at San Juan de la Pena 28/5.
113. White Wagtail Motacilla alba alba. Fairly common and widespread.
114. (Spanish) Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava iberiae. Numerous around the marismas in Donana 7/6.
115. Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea. Pair at Boca de Infierno 27-28/5; also seen in Monfrague 2/6.
116. Wren Troglodytes troglodytes. Common in the Pyrenees and wooded areas.
117. (Black-bellied) Dipper Cinclus cinclus. A pair were frequenting the gorge at Boca de Infierno 27-28/5.
118. Dunnock Prunella modularis. Fairly common only in the Pyrenees, not seen in Extremadura or Donana.
119. European Robin Erithacus rubecula. Fairly common in the Pyrenees and Extremadura.
120. Nightingale Luscinia megarhynchos. Common in the Pyrenees, Extremadura and Donana (esp. at La Rocina and El Acebuche); a recent fledgling was seen at La Rocina 5/6.
121. Common Redstart Phoenicurus phoenicurus. Heard only near Hecho 28/5.
122. Black Redstart Phoenicurus ochruros. Common and widespread.
123. Northern Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe. Fairly common in Los Monegros 29-30/5.
124. Black-eared Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe hispanica. A female near Castillo de Loarre 26/5; c.4 Monfrague 1-2/6.
125. Black Wheatear Oenanthe leucura. A splendid male feeding young at the base of the cliffs at Riglos 26/5.
126. Stonechat Saxicola torquata. Small numbers seen in various locations; a family party at Laguna de Medina 8/6.
127. Blue Rock Thrush Monticola solitarius. Fairly common in Monfrague, with birds seen at Portilla del Tietar, Penafalcon and the Sanctuario.
128. Rock Thrush Monticola saxatalis. A single distant bird near Gabardito 27/5.
129. Song Thrush Turdus philomelos. Fairly common in the Pyrenees.
130. Mistle Thrush Turdus viscivorus. Only recorded at Gabardito 27/5.
131. Blackbird Turdus merula. Common and widespread.
132. Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla. Numerous in the Pyrenees and Monfrague.
133. Sardinian Warbler Sylvia melanocephala. Seen and heard in various locations e.g. El Garraf 31/5, El Acebuche 6/6.
134. Common Whitethroat Sylvia communis. Seen and heard in various locations.
135. Subalpine Warbler Sylvia cantillans. 2 at Mirador de la Bascula 2/6.
136. Zitting Cisticola Cisticola juncidis. Common and widespread.
137. Savi's Warbler Locustella luscinioides. Singing birds in Donana at El Acebuche and La Rocina (2+).
138. Cetti's Warbler Cettia cetti. Fairly common, heard at various locations throughout.
139. Reed Warbler Acrocephalus scirpaceus. Family party of 4 birds at La Rocina 5/6.
140. Great Reed Warbler Acrocephalus arundinaceus. One at Laguna Primera de Palos 6/6; common around the Valverde centre 7/6.
141. Western Bonelli's Warbler Phylloscopus bonelli. Several singing birds in the woods around the lower monastery at San Juan de la Pena 28/5.
142. Common Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita. Singing birds in the Pyrenees at Gabardito 27/5 and San Juan de la Pena 28/5.
143. Iberian Chiffchaff Phylloscopus brehmii. A singing bird below the Sanctuario y Castillo de Monfrague 2/6.
144. Goldcrest Regulus regulus. Fairly common in the Pyrenees.
145. Firecrest Regulus ignicapillus. Small numbers at Gabardito 27/5 and several in the woods around the lower monastery at San Juan de la Pena 28/5.
146. Spotted Flycatcher Musciapa striata. Common in the woodlands around La Rocina 5/6.
147. Great Tit Parus major. Common and widespread.
148. Coal Tit Parus ater. Common in the Pyrenees.
149. Blue Tit Parus caeruleus. Common and widespread.
150. Crested Tit Parus cristatus. 2-3 Gabardito 27/5.
151. Long-tailed Tit Aegithalos caudatus. A couple of family parties in Monfrague 2/6.
152. Nuthatch Sitta europaea. 2 San Juan de la Pena 28/5.
153. Treecreeper Certhia familiaris. Only certainly identified at San Juan de la Pena 28/5.
154. Short-toed Treecreeper Certhia familiaris. 2+ San Juan de la Pena; also a confiding individual at the Monfrague campsite 3/6 giving its characteristic insistent, accelerating call. 2 heard in the Coto del Rey 7/6.
155. Red-backed Shrike Lanius collurio. Fairly common in the Pyrenees esp. in the Hecho Valley.
156. Woodchat Shrike Lanius senator. The commonest shrike, encountered throughout the trip.
157. Southern Grey Shrike Lanius (excubitor) meridionalis. First seen at Belchite, a single on 30/5; also seen in Monfrague 1-2/6 and 2 along the road to La Encinilla 4/6.
158. Azure-winged Magpie Cyanopica cyanus. Common in Extremadura, and 10+ confiding individuals were seen daily around the campsite. Also seen daily in Donana, esp. at El Acebuche.
159. Black-billed Magpie Pica pica. The first bird seen on the trip in Madrid, common and widespread.
160. Jay Garrulus glandarius. Small numbers seen in various locations e.g. Portilla del Tietar 2/6.
161. Jackdaw Corvus monedula. Common throughout.
162. (Red-billed) Chough Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax. Fairly common in the Pyrenees, and a nest with 3 well-developed young was found inside the walls of the Castillo de Monfrague 2/6.
163. Alpine Chough Pyrrhocorax graculus. Only seen at Gabardito 27/5 (c.15).
164. Carrion Crow Corvus corone. Fairly common throughout.
165. Raven Corvus corax. Small numbers seen in various locations throughout.
166. Spotless Starling Sturnus unicolor. Common throughout; no definite Common Starlings were identified in Northern Spain.
167. House Sparrow Passer domesticus. The common sparrow, esp. around human habitation.
168. Spanish Sparrow Passer hispaniola. Local, but large flocks (500+) were seen around La Encinilla and St. Marta de Magasca 3-4/6; also seen nesting in a White Stork nest in northern Donana near Villamanrique. A site mentioned in the Gosney guide at a bridge over the Rio Almonte north of Caceres only had House Sparrows, but there were excellent views of Alpine Swifts here.
169. Tree Sparrow Passer montanus. Small numbers seen around the Ciudadela in Jaca 29/5.
170. Rock Sparrow Petronia petronia. Nesting in the walls of the Castillo de Loarre; 2 at the Hecho Campsite 28/5; large colony (c.100 pairs?) in the walls of the Ciudadela at Jaca 29/5.
171. Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs. Common and widespread.
172. Linnet Carduelis cannabina. Fairly common, esp. at Merida 5/6.
173. Goldfinch Carduelis carduelis. Common in gardens and parks.
174. Greenfinch Carduelis choris. Common in gardens and parks.
175. Siskin Carduelis spinus. Only recorded in the Pyrenees.
176. Citril Finch Serinus citrinella. Fairly common in the woods around San Juan de la Pena, esp. near the car park at the Upper Monastery (sometimes feeding on the gravel at the side of the track), and at the T-junction where the road leads off to the telecom post.
177. Serin Serinus serinus. Fairly common in gardens and woodland.
178. Bullfinch Pyrrhula pyrrhula. 3 near Boca de Infierno 27/5.
179. Hawfinch Coccothraustes coccothraustes. 1+1 at Sanctuario y Castillo de Monfrague 2/6, including excellent views of one on the path. Another roadside single was seen in Monfrague on 4/6.
180. Common Crossbill Loxia curvirostra. Heard only at Gabardito 27/5 and San Juan de la Pena 28/5.
181. Reed Bunting Emberiza schoeniclus. Only seen at Laguna de Medina 8/6.
182. Cirl Bunting Emberiza cirlus. Single in Monfrague 2/6.
183. Corn Bunting Miliaria calandra. Fairly common throughout esp. the plains around Trujillo/Caceres.
184. Rock Bunting Emberiza cia. Singles seen at various locations in the Pyrenees e.g. Castillo de Loarre 26/5, and Monfrague 1-2/6.
185. Common Waxbill Estrilda astrild. Good views of 4 seen from the Roman bridge in Merida 5/6.

Photos

Nobby Pin-tailed Sandgrouse Black Wheatear
adult Griffon Vulture Bubo bubo! Bee-eater
dark morph egret sp Black Stork Spot the Nightjar!

Other Critters

Montpelier Snake - 1 near Monroy 2/6. A couple of unid'd snakes were also seen on the road.
Wild Boar - 1 a little too close for our liking on the road up to the telecom post at San Juan de la Pena 28/5.
Red Squirrel - fairly common in the Pyrenees.