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WEATHER; cold and windy to start but much warmer later. Top temp 20C

What a disastrous start to a trip , the worse start that has ever happened to me in 30 years of guiding and over 400 trips. My group never turned up!!!

It wasn’t their fault! Sleazy Jet cancelled their flight at the last minute and offered only a new flight 3 days later! They were totally gutted and so was I. Six of the group went AWOL which left me with Mark, who’s flight arrived on time from Birmingham. What makes this worse is that the group were kept at the airport until nearly midnight before they were told the flight was cancelled!!

I was already in Madrid having flown in from Heathrow and Mark, the last remaining group member arrived on time. So now I have a minibus with just one passenger and hotel bookings that cannot be cancelled at such a late stage! Mark wanted to go ahead with the trip, why wouldn’t he? A guide to himself and room to lie down in the bus.

I’m gutted that Craig, Chay, Will, Richard, Guy and Sue were let down by EasyJet and never made it to Madrid!

We met up at 7am and walked to the main Plaza in Barajas, it was still very dark, we could hear Sparrows and a Blackbird singing. We had our breakfast and went back to the hotel to load up the bus, which took 3 minutes. As we drove around the plaza we saw a White Stork sitting on a nest but nothing else moved.

Our first stop was some 30 minutes, El Pardo, country park lies on the east side of Madrid and is a huge area of woodland, with some open scrub, and a river with reedbeds. We stopped in the open area where a panoramic view of the city was spectacular, but it was very chilly up there, a cold wind was blowing. We logged a few species such as Magpie, Wood Pigeon, House Sparrow, Serin and lots of Feral Pigeons.


The main walk we took was along a river where we spent a good hour noting many species, the best of which was a pair of shown Penduline Tits and we had several sightings of Crested Tits. Other species seen included: Serin, Long-tailed Tit, Reed Warbler, Cetti’s Warbler, lots of Blackcaps, Common Chiffchaff, Firecrest, Corn Bunting, Rock Sparrow, Tree Pipit, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Chaffinches and Goldfinches.

Black Kites were ever present in the sky and we had great views of both Black and Griffon Vultures, they were very low skimming the tree tops. A pair of Ruddy Shelduck were an oddity and all we saw on the river was Moorhen and Mallards.

The main A5 out of Madrid towards Extremadura was chock-a-block with traffic for most of the route, we stop-started many time and it took a lot longer that expected to get to our next stop. We saw a few Red Kites and many Black Kites along the way as well as Monk Parakeets, Jackdaws, Spotless Starlings and Common Kestrel.


We pulled off at the Saucedilla turning (km 190) and headed straight to the Nature reserve at Embalse de Arrocampo, we i all the hides and walked a fair distance along the redd-fringed lakes. It was very windy, so we never expected to see much in the reedbeds. Purple Herons were very common as were all three Egrets, Little, Great and Cattle. On the main lake saw dozens of Continental Cormorants ssp. ‘sinenis’ both Gull-billed and Common Terns, some Black-headed Gulls.



The whole area was very dry we searched for some Serapias Orchids but none were out yet. Other birds seen were: Iberian Grey Shrike, Woodchat Shrike, Hoopoe, Zitting Cisticola, Crested Lark, Barn Swallow, House Martin and Common Stonechat.  On one pool we found Purple Swamphen, Kingfisher, Grey Herons, Glossy Ibis, Spoonbill and we heard Savi’s Warbler without seeing one. All the time there were vultures and kites in the sky but not much else, the wind persisted all day, but it did reach 20C.


It was 3pm by the time we visited the Orchid Park at Almaraz, what a great time we had there. Even though it was very dry many Orchids were in flower, especially Orchis italica Naked Man Orchid. We searched for a couple of hours in two places and found seven more species: Yellow Orchid, Woodcock Orchid, Conical Orchid, Mirror Orchid, Sombre Orchid and Champagne Orchid, we also found a hybrid I do not know the name of.






A few butterflies made it onto the list: Spanish Festoon, Large and Small Whites and Clouded Yellow.

At 5pm we completed the last leg of the journey to the hotel on the edge of Monfragüe National Park (pronounced Mon-frag-way). After a hot shower, a couple of cold beers and the checklist completed we went to dinner. Steak and some posh potatoes was my main course. We listed 65 species of birds today, it would have been more if the rest of the group were with me, I’m sure!