DAY 1 - BRISTOL TO MADRID - TRANSFER TO MONFRAGUE NATIONAL PARK. DAY 2 - FIO (Feria International de Turismo Ornitologico) - EXTREMADURA BIRD FAIR
WEATHER: Wall to wall sunshine, top temperature 20C - low of 6C in the evening.
This annual FAM (Familiarization) pilgrimage to Extremadura was, as usual, provided courtesy of the Spanish Tourist Board. There were 7 of us invited on this 5 day trip and we all arrived at different times from several destinations in Europe. I was collectd by taxi with a girl from Holland and taken to Extremadura with a visit to a private estate near the small town of Serrejon.
The view from the main lodge at La Parailla Estate
Skua Nature - La Parrilla Estate
We were given the complete tour of this huge private estate by two of their young staff, the main activity that is on offer is wild-life photography They have 8 hides strategically place for taking pictures of birds and mammals. A great set up with a vulture feeding staion next to one hide, eagle feeding station next to another, there two or three hides with eye-level pools for passerines to drink and bathe.
an eye-level pool viewed from one of the hides
Griffon and Black Vultures were ever-present in the sky during our 3 hour visit, as were Barn Swallows and Crag Martins, in the village of Serrejon we also saw House Martins building nests!!
Other species seen during our visit to the hides include: Crested Lark, Hawfinch, Serin, Chaffinch, Spanish Sparrow, Blue & Great Tit, Eurasian Nuthatch and lots of both Iberian and Eurasian Magpies. After feeding us by providing a wonderful tapas spread we left the Estate at 6pm for the 1 hour drive to the hotel "Hospederia Parque de Monfrague". We saw Egyptian Vulture along the way and a few Common Cranes sitting by a pool, Red Kites were very common.
We met for dinner at 8:30 and were introduced to our hosts Karissa and Vanessa from the Extremadura Tourist Board, with our main birding guide Martin Kelsey, the rest of the group comprised of 5 more guests from Europe, all from the tourist trade.
DAY 2 - Friday 22nd February 2019
FIO (Feria International de Turismo Ornitologico) - EXTREMADURA BIRD FAIR
The Bird Fair was set up adjacent to the small village of Villareal de San Carlos in the centre of Monfrague Park. We all attended a 'Work-Shop' from (9:30am - 2:30pm) where we sat as representives of our various companies, seen as 'buyers' and were visited by 'sellers' from a vast range of the Spanish Tourist sector and not just from Extremadura. All the meetings were pre-arranged and chosen by us and each meeting lasted 15 minutes. You can imagine the organisation it took and you would be surprised how exhausting it was. But it was very enjoyable and I made several new contacts for future plans. It wasn't just birding companies, there were mammal watching companies, hotel owners, walking groups, pelagic tour operators, photographic hide companies etc.
Griffon Vultures in the Monfragùe National Park
After an hour's grace when we had a picnic lunch and the chance to wander around the Bird Fair's main Marque we were taken birding to the two of the most important and best Vulture Watching Mirador's of the Monfrague National Park. We had a great time in the afternoon sunshine, superb light and a wonderful temperature.
Portilla de Tietar and Peñon Falcon
The vultures performed well, all three species were seen, the Griffon Vultures are incubating eggs at this stage we saw many sitting on nests. Black Vultures nest in trees and we were not taken to a nesting colony, whilst the Egyptian Vultures were just arriving from Africa after spending the winter there.
Other species seen during our stay in the park included: Black Redstart, Rock Bunting, Blue Rock Thrush, Peregrine Falcon, Eurasian Sparrowhawk and lots of common species. A large group of Common Cranes flew over at a great hieght during our lunch break, they were obviously setting off on their northerly migration back to central Europe. Crag Martins, Barn Swallows and the occasional Red Kite also flew over us but the much sought after Spainsh Imperial Eagle failed to appear niether did an Otter appear in the river Tietar.