Our transfer from Donana to Extremadura went smoothly we made frequent stops arriving at FINCA SANTA MARTA late afternoon.
TRANSFER FROM COTO DONANA TO EXTREMADURA WITH VISITS TO; LAGUNA MADRE DE LA MARISMA - ALENGE RESERVOIR – VEGAS ALTAS – LLANOS DE ZORITA – FINCA SANTA MARTA.
We had a lie-in today and had breakfast at 8am, then after loading the bus with our luggage we drove to the laguna for a last look before departing for Extremadura. It was a lovely still morning, the water looked calm and peaceful, its surface only broken by the occasional rising fish or diving duck.
In the reeds nearest to us there was a great mass of Sand Martins, a conservative count put the number at 500, occasionally they would fly up from the reeds en-masse and fill the air like a cloud of bees, it was quite a spectacle.
We noted the usual species and one observation of Grelag Geese with a string of chicks! We now had to down-grade our sighting of this species from a late migrant to a feral species.
Our journey began around 9:30am we made good progress and passed through Sevilla in no time the traffic was exceptionally quiet, it was a Sunday of course. After stopping for coffee we arrived at our first birding venue around 11:30am, the Alenge Reservoir was flat calm we had great views of it from the dam and the raised car park. A group of Alpine Swifts swarmed around the dry side of the dam with Eurasian Jackdaws and a few Red-rumped Swallows on or around the railings.
From the car park we walked a few hundred meters whilst scanning the sky, the distant hills and a pinnacle of rock adjacent to the path. Soon we had a nice list including a few species previously not seen before on the trip, these were Blue Rock Thrush, Rock Bunting and a very distant flock of 5 Black-bellied Sandgrouse. We constantly searched for Bonelli’s Eagle as this was a well-known spot for them but we had no luck.
We continued our journey and made a second stop some 50km south of our final destination. Vegas Altas is an area where intense rice-growing is carried out, we stopped on an old bridge that sat over one of the feeder rivers to the rice fields. We quickly found Cetti’s Warbler, a Garden Warbler, Great Reed Warbler and several Common Waxbills. An Iberian Shrike sat on a wire as did a Eurasian Hoopoe, Stonechat and a few Corn Buntings. White Storks were everywhere and we also logged Tree Sparrow, Common Nightingale (heard), Common Cuckoo and Marsh Harrier.
Moving on we made one final birding stop near Zorita, this was an area of vast grassland with occasional cultivated fields, ideal for larks, bustards, Sandgrouse etc. We scanned the rolling hills, grass fields and ploughed fields finding Crested Lark, Short-toed Lark, Calandra Lark, Common Cuckoo, Raven and lots of Black Kites. Just as we began to leave we noted two Black Vultures very high above us.
We finally arrived at Finca Santa Marta around 5pm, the afternoon warm sunlight added to the pleasant ambience of the finca and its environs. It still is a wonderful birding venue set in its own vine-yard, orchards, olive groves and dry stone walling. The rustic setting has a lovely calming influence, a nice cuppa sitting out on one of the terraces was well appreciated.
For dinner we drove into the nearest town, Trujillo, where first we stopped at the old bull-ring to watch Lesser Kestrels before driving up to the huge ‘Plaza Mayor’ at the top of the town. It was magnificent, surrounded by historical buildings and a huge statue of Pizarro (conquistador of Peru) and the old church tower the plaza exudes Spanish ambience at its very best. Hundreds of swifts, jackdaws, storks and kestrels dashed about above us adding both movement and noise to the atmospheric ‘buzz’ of this ancient plaza.
Everyone enjoyed a lovely meal, we drove back to the finca at 10pm, it was a beautiful star-lit night, we listened for Scops Owl but none were heard, it had been a long day so off to bed we went.