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Birding all day in plains and steppe of Extremadura in fantastic doesn't get much better than this............


Another perfect morning greeted us as we left the finca after an early breakfast. The sun rose, a beautiful orange orb in a clear sky shedding ochre-coloured light across the huge expanse of Belen Plain. Not a whiff air stirred this vast grassland the only movement was of cattle and birds. The short song of the Corn Bunting came to us from all directions, Calandra Larks, ascending, delivered their sweet, melodic song from on high, Crested & Thekla Larks sang from almost every rock. Common Quails asked us to ‘wet their lips’ from deep in the grass and the resounding call of the Eurasian Hoopoe came to us from afar.

But it was the Bustards great and small that grabbed the limelight, we saw them distantly at first then nearer later, the male Little Bustard standing to attention and throwing back its heading as he delivered a short rasping note as if blowing a ‘raspberry’. The giant form of the Great Bustard could be seen dotted all over the plains, a male would display as he approached a female by erecting his tail and neck feathers and then contorting itself and all its body feathers into a ball of white, like an inverted feather mattress. He would strut around her with his long neck thrown backwards, what a performance we awarded full marks for effort.

A string of trees with wide domed-shaped canopies supported a couple of dozen vultures and a few Black Kites, it was a morning roost site, they stood like sentinels of the ‘dehesa’. Griffon, Black and Egyptian Vultures showed a great variety of size, colour and shape whilst the smaller Black Kites stood aloof or sat on the ground, belittled by their giant comrades.

Great-spotted Cuckoos chased one another across fields and tree tops occasionally perching on fences, we enjoyed the show, a much anticipated spectacle hoped for by the group. In the meantime the sun rose higher the light became superb and the boundaries of this magical landscape stretched as far as the eye could see. In all directions birds were sky-bound, soaring, circling, drifting or displaying it was a wonderful wildlife experience.  The prolific wild flower-show was simply amazing too, vibrant blues, yellows, pinks and whites covered the fields, roadside and any shrubby patch.

We reluctantly left the magic of Belen to explore the ‘steppe’ landscape between Trujillo and Caseres. After stopping off to buy lunch in Trujillo we made our way to Santa Marta de Magasca, making frequent stops to watch a variety of species.

An old bridge, just outside of Trujillo, spanning a stream gave us a vantage point from where we watched Common Kingfisher, Common Nightingale, Zitting Cisticola, Spanish Sparrow and a few finches. By now the temperature had risen by 15 degrees and sat at 24C, this brought an added difficulty of ‘heat­-haze’ when viewing open steppe, so our subsequent couple of stops to look for Sandgrouse proved to be fruitless. But it was larks-ville, hundreds of Calandra Larks were pairing off in the fields or singing in the sky, Crested and Thekla sang from rocks, wires and fences and the odd Short-toed Lark scurried away in front of the bus when we drove along tracks.

After eating lunch we drove to the large Embalse at Talavan, along the way we stopped to watch a few soaring raptors and saw a magnificent Golden Eagle with the Vultures, other quick stops produced Short-toed Eagle and Montagu’s Harrier. The reservoir was very quiet and a nearby Golden Eagle nest-site looked deserted for now.

Our return journey took us through areas of semi-steppe, rocky landscapes and passed some cultivated fields at one point we stopped to watch a Montagu’s Harrier then we soon realised that there were around 10 of these beautiful, delicate raptors, several were perched on fence posts.

We returned to the finca with enough time to relax and enjoy the peaceful ambiance of the lovely gardens before getting ready for dinner. It had been a memorable day the early morning experience was still fresh in our minds as we talked over dinner.