TRANSFER FROM MADRID TO EXTREMADURA WITH STOPS AT EL PARDO AND ARROCAMPO NATURAL PARK
WEATHER: all day sunshine, windy at first but just a breeze later. Top temp 27C
We all arrived in Madrid yesterday, at different times, but we all checked into the same hotel for our pre-tour evening. Most of us met up and had dinner in the plaza, it was lovely sitting outside up until 10pm in a nice warm temperature.
Today we made an excellent start to our birding watching tour of Extremadura and Coto Donana, we saw 72 species with one or two goodies in the mix. It was an early start in Barajas, Madrid, we met at 7am outside our hotel and walked up to the plaza for breakfast.
By 8am we had loaded up our minibus and were on way to El Pardo, a country park on the eastern perimeter of Madrid. It s a place where I love to start this trip because you can see so many common species and one or two hard to find species. We logged doves, pigeons, magpies and sparrows along the way. A pair of Mistle Thrushes flew up from the roadside once we got into the park and we saw a light morph Booted Eagle.
Our first bird on the list, once we had disembarked from the bus, was Crested Tit!
We saw a pair of them visiting a hole in the side of a pine tree, a great sighting to start off our tour. We walked along a track which traced the contour of a stream. Nightingales sang from almost every bush, we also heard Reed Warbler, Cetti’s Warbler Serin and Blackcap. All of those went onto the sightings list during our walk.
Rock Sparrows sat on power lines, Black Kites drifted over every few minutes and we also had a pair of Egyptian Geese and a Ruddy Shelduck fly over. When the air temperature finally began to pick up saw both Griffon and Black Vultures circling on the thermals.
looking over my shoulder, some of the group walking behind with Matt in the foreground
Our star bird of the walk was the Penduline Tit, we had a male feeding on Reed Mace just below us, it was a short encounter but nobody missed seeing it. Other goodies seen included: Water Rail, Northern Pintail (totally unexpected) and Kingfisher.
Pintail in the sun, an unexpected find
After stopping in town to buy supplies of water and snacks we set off for Extremadura and spent the next 90 minutes driving out of town and onto the A5 motorway. We stopped for lunch at a roadside restaurant, we had a little birding time in the car park where we saw Crested Lark, Corn Bunting and Zitting Cisticola. We added White Stork, Red Kite, Jackdaw and Raven as we progressed towards Extremadura.
a beautiful Common Swallowtail butterfly
It was around 1pm when we arrived at Arrocampo Natural Park and its Lagoons near Almarez. We spent three hours visiting all the hides in different parts of the reserve. The wind had died down, the temperature had gone up but the birding was fantastic.
Dozens of Gull-billed Terns were quartering the fields around the main reservoir, we had many views of Purple Heron and we heard 10+ Savi’s Warblers, we saw at least 4 of them (my bird of the day). Another Kingfisher flashed by, we saw Great, Little and Cattle Egrets, Purple Swamphen, Night Herons, Marsh Harrier, Little Bittern, and dozens of Great Cormorants.
my bird of the day - Savi's Warbler
In the fields behind and around the reservoirs we found Iberian Shrike, Melodious Warbler, Common Stonechat, Goldfinches, Spotless Starlings, European Bee-eaters, Red-rumped and Barn Swallows, Crested larks and more Zitters than we could count.
It was after 5pm when we finally left and just before 6pm when we arrived at our hotel next to Monfrague National Park. We saw our first Crag Martins in the car park, they were nesting in the eaves of the hotel building. We saw Woodchat Shrike along the way and we heard Common Cuckoo, Hoopoe and Matt went for a walk and found a small group of Iberian Magpies, a lifer for him.
I love this shot of a Stork nesting on top of a bird hide at Arrowcampo. The downside is that if anyone approches the hide the Strok leaves the nest unattended
We took dinner at 8:30pm, we discussed bird of the day when Crested Tit and Penduline Tit received two votes and Savi’s Warbler got three (including mine).