Thursday 22 June 2023

The Spanish Tour for WINGS - Day 6 - 5th May 2023

There was a the usual short, pre-dawn amble at El Rocío where the Night Herons dutifully croaked their way home and then it was time for us to move on once again.  There was quite a bit of northbound driving to start with and a rest stop at a service station somewhere south of Monesterio. 

I waited in the with the vans and by the time we had regrouped we had seen three Cinereous Vultures, 30 Griffons, Honey Buzzard, Red Kite, Black Kite, three Short-toed Eagles and six Booted Eagles. Iberian Shrikes and Magpies and a few White Storks were seen along the roadsides.

Cinereous Vulture

Cinereous Vulture

Some funky high speed manoeuvres high above us...

Our first proper stop was a dried up river/reservoir valley at Rio Matachel where Alpine Swifts cut through the air in sharp shapes and Crested Larks and Melodious Warblers sang from the valley where Bee-eaters and a Black-shouldered Kite both hunted.  A Common Buzzard drifted overhead and the first Spanish Sparrows could be heard way off in the bottom of a White Stork nest.

Before too long we arrived at the vast reservoir and dam at Alange. We spent out time mostly staring up at the rocky outcrop and thankfully we found a displaying male Black Wheatear way up on top along with Blue Rock Thrush and Rock Buntings. This was my first Black Wheatear for many years.  Thekla’s Larks were singing from the down slope and Hawfinch, Quail and Golden Oriole added to the soundscape.  Griffs and Cinereous Vultures drifted over and two adult Egyptian Vultures performed a slow cruised around the rocks while a pair of Bonelli’s Eagles were picked up by John on a distant but regular pylon.  

Cinereous Vulture

Griffon Vulture

Egyptian Vulture

Black Wheatear 

Three species of Swifts and four of hirundines zipped by us and down on the flat reservoir there were Greylag and bizarrely, Egyptian Geese along with a few Mallard and our first seven Great Crested Grebes.

Retama sphaerocarpa

Pallenis spinosa

Thekla's Lark

Uresiphita gilvata

Our lunch stop was in the provincial capital of Extremadura, Mérida and we set ourselves up for a few hours in the shade of the riparian park alongside the Roman bridge. It was actually one of my favourite places of the whole trip.  Purple Herons, Little Bitterns, Night Herons and Egrets were all seen along the banks along with Purple Swamphen, Moorhens, Glossy Ibis and Storks.

Alpine Swift

Purple Heron

Hot Cattle Egrets

Circling Ibis

Alpine Swifts careened around the bridge with the local Jackdaws and Spotless Starlings and noisy Golden Orioles were feasting on the just about ripe (and very tasty) White Mulberries. Family flocks of Serins, Green, Gold and Chaffinches foraged in the grasses and the trees held Great, Blue and Long-tailed Tits while the Penduline Tits played very hard to get and were mostly picked up on call as they left a tree with fluff for an invisible nest on one of the riverine islands.  A couple of Kingfishers whizzed back and forth.

Cetti’s Warblers at last showed well and Reed Warblers and Zitting Cisticolas were busy with nests and broods while in the skies above both Griffon and Egyptian Vultures and Black Kites were seen.  It was a true Urban birding experience and I am sure that my friend  David L would have been pleased with our efforts.

Zitting Cisticola

Released Red-necked Sliders

Villa hottentotta - I reckon!

The margins also hosted a good selection of Dragons and Damsels and I managed to see Banded Groundling, Broad Scarlet, Violet Dropwing (my favourite), Black-tailed Skimmers, Lesser and Vagrant Emperor, Goblet Marked, Small Red-eyed and Iberian Blue-tail Damselflies.  What appeared to be Berger’s Clouded Yellows were also seen.

Violet Dropwing

Violet Dropwing

Broad Scarlet

Broad Scarlet

Iberian Blue-tail Damselfly

Goblet Marked Damselfly

Small Red-eyed Damselflies

Lesser Emperor

A final drink stop in the town and then on again with a very exposed and hot Embalse de Sierra Brava at Alcollarín. The dusty track took us to various viewpoints where Great Crested Grebes were displaying in good numbers and a single Black-necked Grebe was a pleasing find in breeding plumage.  Pratincoles, Common Sandpipers and Black-winged Stilts were around the margins.

White Storks were bill clattering in a big tree that they were sharing with Grey Herons and down at our feet there were several of the very impressive Oil Bettle - Berberomeloe majalis.  Sensibly we did not pick them up!

Oil Bettle - Berberomeloe majalis.

A secluded stop around the north side in the shade allowed us to check a tranquil pool above a dam and gave us good views at last of Kingfisher and Great Reed Warbler along with a couple of snaky necked Purple Herons, a pair of Gadwall and a smart White Wagtail.

Short-toed Eagle

Cynara humilis

Pallenis spinosa

Thapsia villosa - Villous Deadly Carrot - best plant name of the day!

A Quail was singing horribly close but was impossible to track down and Bee-eaters and Hoopoes could be heard.  A fine Short-toed Eagle circled above us – this one a fine adult with dark chocolate head unlike the patchy pale immatures coming in from Africa.

With time pressing on we headed off and John picked up a Roller perched up on some solar panels alongside the main road. It lingered long enough for a quick u-turn and we subsequently saw five of six on this stretch around nest boxes put up in mitigation for the construction of the solar farm. On Google Maps the area still looked like an olive grove…

Rollers - so hot that any pictures were somewhat flaky!

There was time for a quick stop in Trujillo where Mike speedily picked up the desired Scops Owl snoozing in a Horse Chestnut in the square and we left before creating too much traffic.

Scops Owl 

We arrived at the Hospedería Parque de Monfragüe  not long before dusk with Crag Martins circulating before roost and some very large Bats coming out the other way. Several Moorish Geckos and a medium sized Mole Cricket entertained us after dinner before Jim and I got distracted around reception with the Moths being attracted just inside! 

Thanks to Antony W and Graham E for all their combined moth help.  If anyone can take the queries further it would be appreciated!

Moorish Gecko in it's natural habitat

Mole Cricket

Symmoca revoluta

Chlorissa pulmentaria

Chrysocrambus sp

Four Spotted - Tyta luctuosa

Idaea libycata

Unknown Plume Moth sp

Unknown Idaea sp Pug #1

Unknown Idaea sp Pug #2

Scopula imitaria

Thistle Ermine - Myelois circumvoluta

Udea prunalis

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