Sunday 6 August 2023

The Spanish Tour for WINGS - Day 10 - 9th May 2023

A couple of us were out just before dawn to be greeted by a different Gredos chorus with Song Thrush, Common Chiffchaff, Goldcrest, Blackcap and Garden Warbler adding to fizzing Black Redstart, jingle jangle Serins, Firecrest, Wryneck, Melodious and Western Bonelli’s Warbler. Iberian Green Woodpeckers were yaffling away and we were lucky enough to get two brief flyovers but they would prove to be a bug bear for the remainder of the trip.

Carrion Crows left their roost and the Hoopoes were already taking food into the wall cavity but the two calling Crossbills that flew over were just too brief for most. After breakfast we opted for a walk into the village to try and fine the pesky Woodpecker and just how we could not find the mobile calling birds was simply baffling!

Iberian Blue-heads and a singing male Grey Wagtail were foraging around a Marsh Marigold filled stream and two female Crossbills did the decent thing and stopped in a dead tree long enough to get the scope onto.  Red Kites circled low overhead and a pair of White Storks were bill clattering on top of the church.

Black Redstart

Iberian Blue-headed Wagtail

Marsh Marigold - small leaved

We came back to Almanzor for breakfast and then headed up into the hills again towards the Platforma de Gredos.  We stopped a couple of times on the way up and had ‘doodling’ Woodlarks circling above us, Crag Martins, Grey Wagtails and rather oddly, Bonelli’s Warblers foraging alongside and Dipperless rocky stream.

Western Bonelli’s Warbler

Western Bonelli’s Warbler

Western Bonelli’s Warbler

This fine Booted Eagle circled low overhead

Once at the Platforma car park we decided to spend some time scanning from there rather than heading up the pass and got lucky and found all of our desired targets just metres from the vans.  This fortunate laziness saved us precious time for later in the day.

Ortolans and Rock Buntings sung from the boulders and Water Pipits were foraging in the grassy areas while up above a huge kettle of Griffons with a few Ravens and a couple of Cinereous Vultures had obviously been attracted to a hidden carcass which may have been put out to assist with the fledgling Lammergeir re-introduction project. They were magnificent and quite unexpected in such large numbers.


Ortolan Bunting

Black Kite

Black Redstart in full voice!

Our two main targets were Rock Thrush and Spanish Ibex and we found both in quick succession with two singing males of the former counter singing from across the valley and flashing their blue, white and orange as they moved between song perches. A single scaly female was keeping her distance.

Several parties of brown female and young Ibex were found along the ridge line and some came quite close but the lone dark male with the magnificent scimitar horns was standing aloof silhouetted on the ridge about a mile away.

Spanish Ibex 

Spanish Ibex - the male

Spanish Ibex 


Spring Squill

Ornithogalum umbellatum

The river looked fantastic for Dipper and I heard one before Jim and others saw it further down the road but it must have kept going as we failed to refind it.

Retracing our steps to Navarradonda, we stopped in the village for a coffee and watched the Black Redstarts in the back garden while the Iberian Green Woodpeckers laughed at us once again.  A big female Peregrine cruised overhead and two Sand Martins with the House Martins and Swallows suggested that there may have been a colony somewhere nearby.


Common Whitethroat

White Stork 

Black Redstart

Black Redstart

We struck out onto the forest tracks and two short walks afforded good views of Goldcrest and Firecrest although both species frustratingly stayed pretty high in the pine trees. Coal Tits, Long-tailed Tits and Short-toed Treecreepers were also encountered and in a favoured clearing we got very brief views of a couple of Citrel Finches in amongst the gleaming Serins and Chaffinches but we needed more time to explore and all too soon had to head back to Almanzor for lunch before moving on once again. 

Red Kite

Great Tit


Iberian Scarce Swallowtail and Safflower Skipper were both new and the delightful little Eurrhypis pollinalis nectaring alongside the similarly dayflying Frosted Broom - Isturgia famula.

Frosted Broom - Isturgia famula.

Eurrhypis pollinalis 

Safflower Skipper 

Adenocarpus hispanicus

The drive north was ornithologically uneventful but warranted a short stop to look at the magnificent fortified Medieval town of Ávila‎ from an appropriate viewpoint before heading north-east to Segovia where Red-billed Choughs danced through the rooftops, on a mini cultural stop to get up close to the vast Roman aqueduct which has over 160 arches. Pallid and Common Swifts careened between them and Lesser Kestrels, Jackdaws and the urbanised Choughs could be seen around the imposing cathedral.







 Red-billed Chough

On again to our dusk engagement with the St Frutos track at Villaseca. This was our chance to see the critically declining Dupont’s Lark and we lined ourselves up along the pale sandy road through the tree dotted heathland and were surrounded by the songs of Crested, Thekla, Sky, Wood and Short-toed Larks along with our prime quarry of two of the curious Dupont’s.  The strange unlark-like song carries well and pinning one down was tricky and we had to be content with a couple of parachute drops and one very brief perched view at distance.

That saying, it really was not, in my humble opinion, about getting close views but about the magical experience of hearing this species cutting through the wonderful wall of song from his congeners while the sun set and Western Black-eared Wheatears, Stonechats, Sardinian Warblers, Golden Orioles, Hoopoes, Tawny Pipits and Corn Buntings added their own refrains.

Aphyllanthes monspeliensis

Griffons drifted off to roost and a cloud of mixed Jackdaws and Red-billed Choughs were having a final forage in the adjacent rocky fields while a flock of over 30 Rock Sparrows moved past us.

Jackdaws and Red-billed Choughs 

It was only a short drive from here to our hotel in Sepulveda for the night. Sleep came easy once again.

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