ALL DAY IN MONFRAGÜE NATIONAL PARK
WEATHER: quite chilly to start with, then wall to wall sunshine all day with a lovely cooling breeze. Temp 26C
We had a terrific day in the Park with some great successes and some disappointments, but that is the nature of birding! Comparing today’s visit to that of my visit a couple of weeks ago I would say that it was a little quiet, but we did see some great birds and my group would disagree with me!
We set out after breakfast at 9am, we could hear Woodlark, Hoopoe and Chaffinch as we loaded up the bus and Crag Martins dashed over us in the car park. Our trip into the national park was interrupted by a quick stop along the appraoch road at the Arroyo de la Vid. There we searched for Cirl Buntings, but what we found was both Grey and White Wagtails and some common species. We did hear Nightingale and we saw our first Wren of the trip.
a Crag Martin perched on a window sill at our hotel
Our first official stop was just below Monfrague Castle, we parked below the steep cliff face immediately below the castle and searched for birds there. Serins dashed about with Goldfinches, Blue Rock Thrushes flitted about on the rocks high above and we got very brief views of Black Redstart and Rock Bunting. Crag Martins, Barn & Red-rumped Swallows joined dozens of House Martins in large groups that filled the sky.
Blue Rock Thrush
On and dull and windy day we would have seen dozens of raptors in the sky, but today it was bright and clear with no wind and the sky was empty. We found several Griffon Vultures on the ledges high above us but none were flying just yet.
Next we drove round to the main car park at Salto del Gitano where dozens of vultures were roosting or skillfully gliding along the cliff face. You can view this fantastic site from various view-points, your view is across the dammed river Tajo (which in reality is a reservoir at this point because of the hydro-electric dam further down the river).
the iconic Griffon Vulture - hundreds were perched everywhere around the Salto del Gitano
From the various viewing platforms we saw Black Vultures and Egyptian Vultures very high up, many Black Kites, a pair of Ravens, a Peregrine Falcon and a Black Stork on its nest. Closer views were had of Blue Rock Thrush and Black Redstart, and we saw half-a-dozen Grey Herons. It was quite crowded with bird watchers at this very popular viewing area.
from the Mirador we could see down across the river into this Black Storks nest. The parent is turning the eggs in this picture
At the main bridge over the reservoir we walked along the wooded shoreline looking for warblers and scanning the sky for Alpine Swifts and raptors. Apart from the mass of House Martins (probably over 1,000 pairs breed in nests built below the bridge) we saw a couple of pairs of Alpine Swifts and not a lot else. Matt found a Short-toed Eagle perched on a pylon and we had great views of Black and Griffon Vultures, but we saw nothing else other than Black Kites in the air.
our first wader of the trip - Common Sandpiper
A Common Sandpiper was our first wader of the trip and we saw plenty of common woodland species and a few butterflies including a Green Hairstreak found by Lorna. After stopping in Villareal for lunch we continued into the park.
It was very warm now, over 25C with little breeze and my team began to tire, we made a couple of stops at miradors picking up a few species such as Long-tailed Tit, Short-toed Treecreeper, Serin and we heard Jay and Nuthatch without seeing them.
the group looking over the Reservoir near the main the bridge
At the Mirador de la Portilla del Tietar we found an Eagle Owl chick, it was high up on a ledge and barely visible as it huddled in the shade. We planned to return later to try to get a better view in cooler temperatures.
see if you can pick out the Eagle Owl chick in this picture?
I promised the group an ice-cream stop if they came for a walk in a section of dehesa nearby and so off we went. As the afternoon wore on it cooled down a little and some birds came out to play. In the dehesa we saw Iberian Magpies, Bee-eaters, Woodchat Shrikes, Spotless Starlings, We heard Common Cuckoo and we tracked down a singing Orphean Warbler, getting very brief views of it.
After our ice-cream stop we stopped once again at the Mirador where the Eagle Owl was, we did indeed get much better views. In fact, we saw an adult Eagle Owl standing next to the chick, wow!! We also had great views of a Subalpine Warbler as we walked from the bus to the mirador.
an adult Eagle Owl is now with the chick
We returned along the same route out of the park stopping twice more to look for more species. We heard more Woodlarks singing and another Common Cuckoo called. Woodchat Shrikes dashed about the ever-present Corn Bunting sang from every bush. The late afternoon light was superb and many birds were rousing after their afternoon slumber as was a very a large Red Deer.
this is a False-Smooth Snake - unfortunately, I ran it over on the way back out of the park, it was unavoidable I'm afraid!
We left around 6pm, our total was much lower today, we amassed a list of some 55 species, several of our target species were missing from our list, I convinced the group to blame the heat for that and not the guide!! Ha!!