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WEATHER: sunshine all day, no wind. Temp 12 -25C

Everyone had arrived yesterday so we all met up (except Neville & Tony) at 7am for breakfast in the plaza at Barajas. A Scops Owl was calling from the mature pines, we searched for it, but it was hidden in the dense foliage and refused to come out.

By the time we had finished breakfast it was light and we could see the White Storks on the nest in the pines, Spotless starlings, Monk Parakeets and House Sparrows too. It was 8am by the time we set off to collect Neville from his hotel, the traffic was horrendous, it took us nearly an hour to get him and head off to El Pardo.

Our first stop in the park was on a high grassy hill overlooking the spectacular city. We heard Iberian Woodpecker as soon as we got out of the bus, it was our target species but we never saw it! We did see Black Kite, lots of Feral and Wood Pigeons, Spotless Starlings,Serins and a few butterflies.

a view of Madrid from El Pardo

After parking the bus we walked down to the arroyo in the park and started listing new species for the trip. Serin, Chaffinches, Blue Tit and Great Tits were calling in the pines and our first bird on the river was a Night Heron.

Night Heron (Black-crowned)

Our walk produced many species and Steve our American group member was delighted to see Cetti’s Warbler and Common Nightingale. A Hoopoe flew over us, we saw Tree Sparrows, Eurasian Nuthatch, Short-toed Treecreeper, Goldfinches, Robin, Moorhen, Ruddy Shelduck, Mallard and lots of Blackcaps. A few raptors started to appear as it got warmer, Black Kites were ever-present, we also saw Common Buzzard and Common Kestrel.

Moving to another area we parked the bus in the main car park and walked along the river to a bridge. We saw much of the same but added a few species such as Common Kingfisher, we heard Common Cuckoo and we had flyover Hawfinches and we tracked down two Penduline Tits but only saw them in flight too.

Griffon Vultures took to the air around 11am and we saw distant Booted Eagle, Red Kite and lots more Black Kites. At 12 noon we set off on the road out of Madrid and headed south-west to Extremadura. We stopped for lunch about 50km outside of Madrid and continued to our first stop around 2pm.

The Reservoir at Arrocampo is always a great place to stop en-route to Extemadura central, there is always lots to see. We visited the three main hides and scanned the water and reedbeds from each of them. From the hide nearest the visitor’s centre we saw the least number of species, Barn Swallow, Sand Martin, Purple Heron, Little Egret, Reed Warbler, Crested Lark, Stonechat, Zitting Cisticola, Iberian Grey Shrike, lots of White Storks, our first Black Vultures, Booted Eagle and we heard Cetti’s Warbler.

reedbeds around Arrocampo Reservoir held a colony of Purple Herons

The second hide produced the most goodies, a colony of Purple Herons could be seen in the reeds, we saw Eurasian Spoonbill, Purple Swamphen, Water Rail, Gull-billed Tern, Cattle Egrets, Great Egrets, a flock of Redshanks and in the reeds two exciting sightings were made of Savi’s Warbler and Bearded Tit.

At the third hide we had an extraordinary experience with a pair of Cetti’s Warblers, they landed on the grass in front of us and performed a wing-flapping display to one another for a couple of minutes, right out in the open, I have never seen this behaviour before it was amazing.

looking at Butterflies and Tongue Orchids

It was now getting late in the afternoon so we departed and visited the Orchid Park at the nearby town of Almaraz. We saw plenty of orchids and other fascinating flowering plants but not as many species as my visit here last week, many had ‘gone over’, we saw Naked Man Orchid, Sawfly, Woodcock and Yellow Bee Orchids, Barbary-nut Iris and a flowering Broomrape. European Bee-eaters, Red-rumped Swallows and vultures entertained us overhead.

Yellow Bee Orchids

Woodcock Orchid

Naked Man Orchid

Our last port of call was the very scenic 3-bridges area at the Rio Almonte just south of the Jaraicejo village. It was beautiful there with all the wild flowers on show. We parked beneath a eucalyptus tree that had 100+ nests of Spanish Sparrows, so noisy!

the 3-bridges over the Rio Almonte at Jaraicejo. !5th Century Bridge on the right

A walk down to the river produced sightings of Crag Martins, House Martins, Woodchat Shrike, Corn Buntings, European Bee-eaters, Common Kingfisher, White Wagtails and we saw more Stonechats, the usual Cetti’s Warblers and Common Nightingales were still belting out their respective songs, the former, harsh and very loud, the latter sweet and melodic.

We drove to our hotel some 40 minutes away, arriving before 7pm. Dinner was served at 8:30pm amd we completed our log at 8pm where we met up with our final group member Tony Moore, who was also with last week’s group.