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TRIP REPORTS. JUNE 2005.

1st, 2nd & 3rd June. These were days 2, 3 and 4 of a four-day Donana/Extremadura tour with Corinna Smart from Isleworth, Brian and Dorothy Roffey from Reading, Brian Rickwood and Tony Polley from Andover and John Herbert from Southampton.

  • See the entry for the 31st of May on the "MAY TRIP REPORTS" for the first day's report.

    1st June. In the morning we visited El Rocio marshes and the La Rocina and El Acebuche Visitors Centres. The birds we saw at these sites included Spoonbills, Avocets, Black-winged Stilts, Common Sandpipers, Ringed Plovers, Little and Cattle Egrets, Collared Pratincoles, Purple Swamp-hens, Whiskered and Gull-billed Terns, Tree Sparrows, Spotted Flycatchers, a Hawfinch, Crested Tits, Reed and Great Reed Warblers, an Olivaceous Warbler, Bee-eaters, Iberian Magpies, Woodchat Shrikes and Black Kites.
    We left the Donana region at 2.30pm and began our drive up to Extremadura, arriving in Caceres at about 6.30pm. As Bustards were high on everybod's target list I decided to drive straight onto Santa Magasca plains in an effort to find them. Within ten minutes I spotted a Great Bustard feeding about 70 metres from the road and we all had very good views for about 15 minutes.
    Other birds recorded were Montagu's Harriers, Lesser Kestrels, Southern Grey Shrikes, Little Owls, Calandra, Crested, Thekla and Greater Short-toed Larks and Red Kites.

    2nd June. We spent the whole of this day visiting various sites in and around the Monfrague Natural Park. Our first stop was at the Arroyo de la Vid, where we saw Spanish Sparrows, Sardinian Warblers, a Dartford Warbler, a Thekla Lark, a Common Cuckoo, Bee-eaters and Iberian Magpies. Overhead we saw Booted and Short-toed Eagles, a Monk (Black) Vulture, Griffon Vultures and two Egyptian Vultures.
    As we drove toward Monfrague Castle we stopped to watch two Rock Buntings feeding beside the road and had good views for a few minutes.
    At the castle there were Crag and House Martins, Barn and Red-rumped Swallows, Common Swifts, 2 White-rumped Swifts, Eurasian Jays and Blue Rock Thrushes.
    We then stopped at the Mirador del Salto, overlooking the Sierra de Peñafalcón, finding all three vulture species, Ravens, Black Storks, Sardinian Warblers, Rock Buntings, Blue Rock Thrushes, Wrens and a Common Redstart.
    At the Puente del Francés we saw a group of about 10 Alpine Swifts performing their aerobatic displays and then watched a Black Kite knock a feral pigeon into the water and then snatch it up and carry it to the far bank to feed.
    On the road to Tajandilla there was a family of two adult and four juvenile Black-eared Wheatears, Woodchat and Southern Grey Shrikes, Stonechats, a Dartford Warblers, a Black Wheatear and a Tree Pipit.
    We did not stay long at the Mirador de la Tajadilla as a coach party of schoolchildren arrived shortly after we did and the noise was not conducive to good birding. However, we did get cracking views of an Egyptian Vulture and a Raven sitting on their nests.
    We then headed for the Portilla de la Tietar in search of two of our main target species, the Spanish Imperial Eagle and the Eurasian Eagle Owl. Even before I parked the vehicle I could see an eagle on the nest (I saw it on my tour last week) and I pointed it out to the rest of the group, who had excellent views of the eagle standing beside the nest and the chicks moving around. We also saw Red-legged Partridges, a Subalpine Warbler and more vultures, eagles, Black Storks, Jays, Blue Rock Thrushes, Sardinian Warblers, Crag Martins and Rock Buntings. After about 90 minutes an adult Eagle Owl was spotted arriving by John and Tony. It perched perfectly on a rocky ledge about 100 metres away and we watched it preening for about 15 minutes before it disappeared into a hole in the rocks. As we were about to leave, the Spanish Imperial Eagle decided it was time to go off hunting and we watched it for about five minutes as it circled overhead, before gliding away over the crest of the hill.

    3rd June. Today we headed for the Belen and Santa Magasca plains in search of more target birds. I drove through Belen and after about 6 kms made the first stop at a small cross-road junction, an area I know to be quite good for Little Bustards. As soon as I got out of the vehicle I could see the head of an adult male sticking up from some low scrub, about 80 metres away. Close by there was a small mound of earth which we climbed and gained an extra metre of height. We were able to set up two telescopes and could now see that there were three birds in the scrub. For a few minutes we could only see the heads, but then one male came right out into the open for about 30 seconds and everyone got an excellent view.
    We then drove another kilometre to an area where I had seen the Waldrapp (Bald) Ibis last Sunday, when I was here with a different group. As I got out of the vehicle a large black bird flew up from a small pool and landed at the top of a tree about 80 metres away, right above a White Stork's nest, It was the ibis and it remained in the tree for the whole period we were there, about one hour. At the same spot we also saw Cattle Egrets, Jackdaws, Common Kestrels, Spanish Sparrows, Calandra, Thekla and Greater Short-toed Larks and a group of about 12 Great Bustards.
    Next on the list were Great Spotted Cuckoos, so I returned to the small crossroads we had stopped at earlier, an area that had produced 8 birds the previous Sunday, and took the left-hand turn and drove as far as a small farm building. We saw Southern Grey Shrikes, Little Owls and a Zitting Cisticola, but only one Great Spotted Cuckoo, which flew off into the distance as soon as I stopped the vehicle. I then returned to the crossroads and took the other track. This was much better and we found 3 cuckoos sitting in the shade of Spanish Broom bushes. We were able to set the scopes up on one of them from about 40 metres and had good views for about 10 minutes.
    We stopped for lunch in Trujillo and saw Lesser Kestrels and Pallid Swifts, before driving on to Santa Magasca plains, in search of Rollers and Black-bellied Sandgrouse. The Roller was easy as we found one perched on an electrical cable as soon as we got onto the plains and were able to set the telescopes up on it from about 60 metres. We also saw a flock of about 200 Black Kites, numerous Montagu's Harriers, more Little Owls, vultures and larks, but we failed with the sandgrouse, the only target bird we dipped on.
    We left the area at 5pm and arrived back in Donana at 8.30pm. During the four days we had recorded over 130 species and the various members of the group had added between 28 and 49 "lifers" to their bird lists.

    4th June. Today I was again guiding Corinna Smart, who had been on my latest 4-day Donana/Extremadura tour. She was joined by John and Sandra Whitting from Bristol. Our tour began at the Corredor Verde and we immediately connected with 3 Little Owls, Bee-eaters, Crested Larks and Iberian Magpies.
    We then drove down to El Rocio to check out the marsh and the La Rocina visitors centre. On the marsh there were Black-winged Stilts, Avocets, Spoonbills, Collared Pratincoles, Black-tailed Godwits, Reed Warblers, Common Pochards and Wigeon.
    La Rocina produced Spotted Flycatchers, Tree Sparrows, 2 Cuckoos, 2 Short-toed Treecreepers, Woodchat Shrikes and a rather strange Spoonbill. It was with a group of 7 other Spoonbills but was only three-quarters of the size. It was a cinnamon colour all over with black legs and a completely black bill and it was an adult bird, as could be seen by its full breeding plumage crest. I have never seen anything like it, so if you have any ideas, please let me know.
    We moved on to the Lagunas de Mancho Zurillo, hoping to find the Black-shouldered Kites and the Red-knobbed Coots, but neither were to be seen. However, we did manage to find Booted Eagles, Black Kites, Ravens, White Storks, Red-rumped Swallows, Serins, Sardinian Warblers, Hoopoes and Great Crested Grebes.
    Next on our itinerary was the Entremuros and several sites in the Isla Mayor region. Here we saw Great Reed Warblers, a Zitting Cisticola, Purple Swamp-hens, Glossy Ibis, Black-crowned Night Herons, Purple Herons, Little and Cattle Egrets, Whiskered and Gull-billed Terns and Spanish Sparrows.

    6th June. Today's tour was with Mike and Jean Smith from Leeds and Stijn Burrgraeve and his girlfriend Mika, from Belgium. The first stop was at the Arroyo de Santa Maria, where we recorded Reed Warblers, Red-rumped Swallows, Tree Sparrows, Corn Buntings, Crested Larks, Zitting Cisticolas, Common Buzzards, Black Kites, Bee-eaters and a Southern Grey Shrike.

    We then moved on to Villamanrique and saw White Storks, Kestrels, Hoopoes and Iberian Magpies in the forest of Las Labrados y Torrejones.
    At the Corredor Verde we found 3 Black-shouldered Kites, a Red-knobbed Coot, Nightingales, Booted Eagles, Ravens, Little Egrets, Purple Herons and an Osprey.
    At the Entremuros there were Squacco and Black-crowned Night Herons, Purple swamp-hens, a Great White Egret, Spoonbills and a Marsh Harrier.
    A visit to the "reedbeds" produced Great Reed Warblers, Black-winged Stilts, Whiskered and Gull-billed Terns and Cattle Egrets.
    At the Dehesa de Abajo there were Avocets, Glossy Ibis, Black-tailed Godwits, Little-ringed Plovers, Woodchat Shrikes and Little Grebes.
    We then drove into the northern marsh region and found 5 Short-toed Eagles, Lapwings, Spanish Sparrows and both Greater and Lesser Short-toed Larks.

    14th & 15th June.
    Not a tour report but a report on a visit that my wife and I made to Portugal this week. We visited several areas after crossing from Spain into Portugal at Rosal de la Frontiera. We drove down the Guadiana valley to Mertola, seeing many of the expected bird species, Iberian Magpies, Hoopoes, Golden Orioles, Southern Grey Shrikes, Bee-eaters, Rollers, etc.
    On reaching Mertola we aimed for Castro Verde, crossing over vast areas of plains on the way. We stopped on six occasions and each time we found either Great or Little Bustards, some within 50 metres of the road. Altogether we counted 36 Great Bustards and 14 Little Bustards. We stopped at two rivers and added Common and Green Sandpipers, Little-ringed Plovers, Cattle Egrets, Common Buzzards, Common Kestrels, Montagu's Harriers, Crested, Thekla, Calandra and Greater Short-toed Larks, Woodchat Shrikes, Cetti's Warblers and Turtle Doves.
    We stayed overnight in Castro Verde and returned along the same road the next morning. This time we saw 22 Great Bustards and 7 Little Bustards, along with numerous other species.
    We drove down to the Algarve area and visited the river and salt pans at Vila Real do St Antonio and the Sapal visitors centre at Castro Marim, where we saw Whiskered and Little Terns, Kentish and Ringed Plovers, Dunlins, Avocets, Whimbrels, Black-winged Stilts, Spoonbills, Redshanks, White Storks, Purple Herons, Stonechats, Yellow Wagtails and 8 Quail.
    Our tour was primarily to devise an itinerary for a new four-day Donana / Portugal tour I hope to be offering from this autumn onwards.

    21st June. Back to work today guiding Jim Fowler and Ken Stewart, two university lecturers from Leicester. our first stop was at the Arroyo de Santa Maria where we saw Bee-eaters, Hoopoes, Iberian Magpies, Woodchat Shrikes, Red-rumped Swallows, Zitting Cisticolas, Crested Larks, Little Grebes, Common Kestrels and Black Kites.
    We then moved on to the Dehesa de Pilas, in search of Pin-tailed sandgrouse. I saw four fly down as we were driving along and I was able to stop and locate them within a few minutes. White Storks, Cattle Egrets and Collared Pratincoles were also seen during this stop.
    As we drove through the Dehesa de Pilas and Partido de Resina we recorded Spanish Sparrows, a Melodious Warbler, Stone Curlews, Spoonbills, Grey Herons and Montagu's Harriers.
    We then stopped at the Hato Raton rice fields, finding Whiskered, Little and Gull-billed Terns, thousands of Black-tailed Godwits, Little Egrets, Kentish and Ringed Plovers, Green Sandpipers, Redshanks, Black-winged Stilts, Purple Herons, Reed Warblers, Greater and Lesser Short-toed Larks, Calandra Larks, Sand Martins, Common Swifts, a Short-toed Eagle and 3 Marbled Ducks.
    We paid a quick visit to the JA Valverde centre, but only managed to add Purple Swamp-hens, Shovelers, a Marsh Harrier and a Red Kite to our list.
    We had lunch at the Dehesa de Abajo and saw a Little Owl, a Southern Grey Shrike, Little-ringed Plovers, Black-crowned Night Herons, Avocets, Wood and Curlew Sandpipers, a Little Stint, Black-headed Gulls and Black Terns.
    A visit to the "reedbeds" proved very profitable and we managed to get excellent views of a Little Bittern, Squacco Herons, a Common Sandpiper and both Great Reed and Savi's Warblers.
    We drove back to El Rocio via the Corredor Verde, finding Booted Eagles, Common Buzzards, Ravens and a Red-knobbed Coot.

    22nd June. With me today were Gordon and Sheila Duthie from Newmarket, Suffolk. The first site we visited was the "egrets roost" near Villamanrique. Here we saw a Purple Heron, A Red-knobbed Coot, White Storks, Iberian Magpies, Crested Larks, Woodchat Shrikes, Black Kites, Booted Eagles and Common Buzzards.
    We then drove along the Corredor Verde and found Barn and Red-rumped Swallows, Common Swifts, House Martins and Zitting Cisticolas.
    The rice fields of the Isla Mayor held good numbers of Little and Cattle Egrets, Black-winged Stilts, Redshanks, Black-crowned Night Herons and Collared Pratincoles.
    The "reedbeds" was again the place to be and produced Reed, Great Reed and Savi's Warblers, Penduline Tits, Purple Swamp-hens, Squacco Herons, Whiskered and Gull-billed Terns and stunning prolonged close-up views (5-6 metres) of a Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin. A Water Rail called persistently, but was never seen.
    The water level at the Dehesa de Abajo is now very low, but the place was alive with birds, especially waders, ducks and coots. We saw Little-ringed Plovers, Spoonbills, Black-tailed Godwits, Avocets, Bee-eaters and Black Terns, along with many of the previously mentioned birds.
    In the northern marshes we had excellent views of at least 4 Short-toed Eagles, Kestrels, a Marsh Harrier and a Montagu's Harrier. We also recorded Stone Curlews, Ringedand Kentish Plovers, Dunlin, Lapwings, Yellow Wagtails, Spanish Sparrows, Greater and Lesser Short-toed Larks, Calandra Larks, 3 Spectacled Warblers and Little Terns.

    24th June. Today I was guiding Bryn Martin, a history teacher from Michegan, USA.
    The first area we visited was the Corredor Verde, where we saw Iberian Magpies, Hoopoes, White Storks, Spotless Starlings, Nightingales, Melodious and Sardinian Warblers, Bee-eaters, Crested Larks, a Turtle Dove, Woodchat and Southern Grey Shrikes, Black Kites, Booted Eagles, Ravens and 4 Black-shouldered Kites.
    The "egret's roost" produced Common Pochards, Little Grebes, Cattle Egrets, a Purple Heron, a Little Bittern, Barn and Red-rumped Swallows, Pallid Swifts and the resident Red-knobbed Coot.
    We drove through the Dehesa de Pilas en-route to the Entremuros, finding Spanish Sparrows, Black-crowned Night Herons, little Egrets and Yellow Wagtails.
    At the Entremuros there were Common and Spotted Redshanks, Green Sandpipers, a Great White Egret, Common Kestrels and Marsh Harriers. Bryn decided to follow the call of a Quail and accidently flushed the bird, along with two Stone Curlews.
    Our next stop was the Dehesa de Abajo and the Cañada de Rianzuela, where we saw Whiskered, Black, Little and Gull-billed Terns, Black-headed Gulls, Glossy Ibis, Avocets, Black-winged Stilts, Curlew Sandpipers, Ringed and Little-ringed Plovers, Greenshanks, Black-tailed Godwits, Spoonbills, 5 Marbled Ducks, and Little Owls.
    A quick visit to the "reedbeds" turned up Squacco Herons, Reed and Great Reed Warblers, another Little Bittern and Purple Swamp-hens.
    We spent the rest of the day in the northern marshes area, recording Short-toed Eagles, Montagu's Harriers, Greater and Lesser Short-toed Larks, Collared Pratincoles, Kentish Plovers, Wood Sandpipers, Dunlins and several more Stone Curlews.
    Altogether we recorded 74 species, of which, 29 were "lifers" from Bryn.

    26th June. Today's tour was with "PJ" and Colleen Murray from West virginia, USA. We started at Villamanrique and drove straight out towards the Dehesa de Pilas, looking for sandgrouse. On the way we saw White Storks, Hoopoes, Woodchat Shrikes, Crested Larks and Collared Pratincoles. We stopped beside the dehesa and within five minutes we had seen eleven Pin-tailed Sandgrouse.
    We then moved on to the Corredor Verde and the "egret's roost", finding a Red-knobbed Coot, Iberian Magpies, a Sparrowhawk, Black Kites, Booted Eagles, Southern Grey Shrikes, 5 Black-shouldered Kites, Bee-eaters, Melodious Warblers, an Olivaceous Warbler, Pallid Swifts and Red-rumped Swallows.
    We had our lunch at a picnic area near Cartaya, where Iberian Magpies and Hoopoes were recorded.
    The afternoon was spent at the Marismas del Odiel, where we added White Storks, Greater Flamingos, Common Sandpipers, Kentish Plovers, Willow Warblers and Audouin's Gulls to our list.
  • 27th June. Today was the first of five days that I am guiding Brian and Yolanda Davies from Royston, Hertfordshire.
    Brian is very interested in photography, so we will be concentrating on spending our time trying to find good photographic opportunities of selected birds for him, rather than clocking up the species, although that is also important.
    I collected the couple from the Casa Doñana in Hinojos (www.casadonana.com) and headed towards Villamanrique. On the way Brian got good shots of Hoopoes, Iberian Magpies and three Little Owls.
    The White Stork nesting colony, in the grounds of the Palacio de Bourbon, offered another excellent photo opportunity, with the adult birds feeding the young.
    We moved on to the Corredor Verde, finding Crested Larks, Woodchat Shrikes, Bee-eaters, Black Kites, Booted Eagles, 8 Black-shouldered Kites, a Common Buzzard, a Red-knobbed Coot and Purple Herons.
    We then drove to the Cortijo de Madrigales, where 14 Black-crowned Night Herons posed well for Brian, who also managed to get good shots of Little and Cattle Egrets, Collared Pratincoles, Sand Martins and Red-rumped Swallows. We also saw Marsh and Montagu's Harriers.
    In the Dehesa de Abajo/Cañada de Rianzuela there were Spoonbills, Avocets, Black-tailed Godwits, Glossy Ibis, Spanish Sparrows, a Southern Grey Shrike, Black-headed Gulls, Gull-billed Terns and 4 more Little Owls.

    Good birding was again had at the "reedbeds", with Savi's, Olivaceous, Reed Great Reed Warblers, Black-winged Stilts, Green Sandpipers, Whiskered Terns, Marsh Harriers and two Little Bitterns.
    In other areas we visited we managed to find Yellow Wagtails, Corn Buntings, Griffon Vultures and numerous Squacco Herons.

    28th June. Day two with Brian and Yolanda Davies. Today we were concentrating on water and woodland birds. We visited the almost dry marshes at El Rocio, finding many of the species we had recorded yesterday.
    We then crossed over to the La Rocina reserve and found Great and Blue Tits, Tree Sparrows, Serins, Chaffinches, a Short-toed Treecreeper, Woodchat Shrikes, Bee-eaters, Olivaceous, Sardinian and Reed Warblers, a Turtle Dove and Spotted Flycatchers.
    At the El Acebuche centre we saw Iberian Magpies, Hoopoes, a Golden Oriole, Black Kites, Booted Eagles, Little-ringed Plovers, Green Sandpipers, Spoonbills, Purple Herons, Black-necked Grebes and White Storks.

    29th June. Day three with Brian and Yolanda and today we travelled to the west of the region, looking for seabirds and Lesser Kestrels.
    Our first stop was at Niebla castle, where 50+ Lesser Kestrels kept us entertained for over two hours. We watched six nest holes with young birds looking out, all on the point of flying. One young kestrel made its maiden flight, landing rather clumsily in a tree 15 metres away from us. Within a minute the male parent arrived and fed it with a grasshopper. It then managed to fly the 30 metres back to its two siblings in the nest and then ignored all other attempts by the parents to make it fly again.
    We also saw Common and Pallid Swifts, Jackdaws, White Storks and Griffon Vultures. Brian took over 500 photos in the time we were there and I feel certain that he will end up with some excellent kestrel photos.
    Our next stop was at the Laguna El Portil, where, surprisingly, I spotted two Egyptian Geese. These are very rare birds for us and will be reported to the Iberian Rarities Committee. Also at the lagoon were Great Crested and Little Grebes, Gadwalls and Common Pochards
    We then visited the Marismas del Río Piedras, finding Cormorants, Little Terns, Whimbrels, Redshanks, a Southern Grey Shrike, Iberian Magpies and 3 Caspian Terns.
    After a picnic lunch we drove to the Marismas del Odiel and almost immediately found Red-crested Pochards, a Red-knobbed Coot, Black-winged Stilts, Black-tailed Godwits and Kentish Plovers.
    Elsewhere in the marshes we saw Oystercatchers, Curlews, Spoonbills, Lesser Black-backed and Yellow-legged Gulls, Purple and Grey Herons and Turnstones.

    30th June. Brian and Yolanda Davies, who have been with me for the last three days, were having a break today, so I was guiding Clair and Richard Cartwright from New Zealand.
    I collected the couple from their hotel in Matalascañas and headed straight for the El Acebuche Visitors Centre. As soon as we entered the park we were confronted by a Southern Grey Shrike which posed well for about two minutes. We entered one of the bird hides and I immediately heard the call of a Green Woodpecker ssp Sharpei) and within a few minutes I had located it about 100 metres away. Whilst watching the woodpecker my attention was grabbed by a large bird flying past the hide and landing on the dry muddy surface of the lagoon, just 40 metres away. It was a Great Spotted Cuckoo and it remained in view for several minutes.
    We visited two more hides, finding Great Crested Grebes, Spoonbills, White Storks, Little-ringed Plovers, Purple and Grey Herons and Green Sandpipers. A short walk through a forested area produced Woodchat Shrikes, Iberian Magpies, 4 Short-toed Treecreepers and Crested Tits.
    Our next stop was at La Rocina, where we saw Black Kites, a Booted Eagle, Tree Sparrows, Serins, Spotted Flycatchers, a Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin and Reed Warblers.
    In the afternoon we visited several sites in the Isla Mayor region. At the Cortijo de Madrigales there were Squacco and Black-crowned Night Herons, Little and Cattle Egrets, Corn Buntings, Pallid Swifts and Yellow Wagtails.
    At the "reedbeds" we found Black-winged Stilts, Whiskered and Gull-billed Terns, Collared Pratincoles and a Marsh Harrier.
    We then visited the Cañada de Rianzuela and saw Avocets, Black-tailed Godwits, Redshanks, Ravens, Bee-eaters, Hoopoes, Crested Larks and a family of Little Owls. The next area we visited was the Isla Mayor and at the Entremuros we saw Spoonbills, Grey, Purple and Black-crowned Night Herons, Little and Cattle Egrets, Greenshanks and Yellow Wagtails. At the "reedbeds" there were Black-winged Stilts, two Little Bitterns, a Great White Egret, Reed, Great Reed and Savi's Warblers, Squacco Herons, Green Sandpipers, a Marsh Harrier and a Great Spotted Cuckoo.

    The Cañada de Rianzuela is now nearly dry, but there are thousands of waders and terns congregating there. We found hundreds of Whiskered, Black and Gull-billed Terns, Black-headed Gulls, Black-tailed Godwits, Avocets, Redshanks, Ringed and Little-ringed Plovers and a single Spotted Redshank.
    In the northern marshes there were Griffon Vultures, Short-toed Eagles, Spanish Sparrows, Greater Short-toed Larks, Sand Martins, Shovelers, Little Grebes and Dunlins.