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WEATHER: sunshine all day, light breeze. Temp 12-28C

Monfragüe national park is always a pleasure to visit, there is so much wildlife to see and the Vultures-pectacle is phenomenal. We left the hotel at 8:45 and drove a few kilometers to the Park entrance. We made two short stops before we entered the park to look for specific species, namely Cirl Bunting, Rock Sparrow, Hawfinch and warblers.

Our first stop was at the Arroyo de la Vid, a fast-flowing stream near the hotel, we saw a flyover Grey Wagtail, Black Stork, lots of Serins and Chaffinches, Goldfinches and Crag Martins. We had great views of a couple of dark morph Booted Eagles and the usual Black Kites.

a dark morph. Booted Eagle showing off its 'landing lights' - photo by Tony Moore

At the second stop, by the side of the road where open, oak woodland (dehesa) stretches for miles, we saw one flyover Hawfinch but no Cirl Buntings, and just one Subalpine Warbler. We did, however, see a lot of other species that we had seen so far. Iberian Magpie showed very well, Common Cuckoo was a flight shot, Woodchat Shrike, Corn Bunting and lots of common species also went onto the day list.

we had many close encounters with Black Vutlures today, this was captured by Tony Moore, with a Griffon Vulture in the background

We then enjoyed a Vulture fest at the Peña Falcón viewing area, it was loaded with birds wherever we looked. Lots of Griffon and Black Vultures either sat on the high cliff-face or circled above it. A pair of Black Storks shared incubation of their eggs, we saw a change-over at the nest of these elegant birds. A pair of peregrine Falcons put in a brief appearance and the usual mob of Black Kites drifted along the face of the cliffs.

Passerines also showed well, a Rock Bunting sat in a dead tree just below us, clickety-click, thank you very much. The Blue Rock thrush caused quite a stir, looking magnificent in the morning light. We also saw a distant Black Redstart, Crag Martins, Serins, Goldfinches and we heard a Wren but did not see it.

I thought that my effort of taking a pciture of the Rock Bunting was great until I saw Tony Moore's below

Tony Moore's depiction of the very showy Rock Bunting

Blue Rock Thrush

Next we took a walk along a track next the Puente de Cardenal, a huge modern bridge over the River Tajo. Hundreds of pairs of House Martins were breeding there, their movement in the sky was incredible, they looked clouds of insects up there. Once again we were disappointed with the lack of warblers or any passerines along this track, the same result as last week’s visit. We moved to the other side of the bridge, scanning the sky for Bonelli’s Eagles without finding them, but we did find a small bunch of Alpine Swifts up with the House Martins.

Vultures over the Pena Falcon rock

We took lunch in the village of Villareal, sitting outside in the warm sunlight, we then made our way towards the dam of the Rio Tajo. We stopped along the way and searched for Imperial Eagle, finding only Woodchat Shrike and Crested Larks. We did see our first Egyptian Vulture from this point, but it was very distant and we added a few butterflies to the list, the Red-underwing Skipper was a new species for most of the group.

At the mirador Tajadilla we watched a Black-eared Wheatear sitting on a bush on the high bank behind us and a pair of Ravens were feeding young at their nest on the cliff face in front of us. We saw more Serins, Goldfinches, Chaffinches and a few butterflies. A doe Red Deer appeared on the bank behind us which caused some excitement.

group excitement at the appearance of a Black-eared Wheatear

a Doe Red Deer - photo by Tony Moore

We worked our way across the park beyond the dam to the far boundary where the famous Mirador, Portilla de Tiétar sits overlooking another rock-face covered in Vultures. It is famous for housing a pair of Eagle Owls, but apparently they not in view this year! The wild flowers and butterflies we just as enjoyable and kept many of the group occupied.

Black Storks at the nest at pena Falcon

A brief stop at the Mirador produced Blue Rock Thrush, Rock Bunting and Subalpine Warbler, we could hear Common Nightingale and Cetti’s Warbler. We saw Grey Heron, Black Storks, Black Kites, Griffon and Black Vultures up above us. Continuing our walk along the road we passed through some scrubby-woodland where re-found the tiny Dense-flowered Orchid, Spanish Bluebells and a few Hoop-petticoat Narcissi.

Dense-flowered Orchid

The rood led us to a Cork-oak dehesa carpeted with wild flowers, it looked stunning in the afternoon light. We heard a Common Cuckoo and saw quite a few species from the road. We tracked down a singing Western Orphean Warbler, we also saw Eurasian Nuthatch, Short-toed Treecreeper, we heard Great Spotted Woodpecker drumming and a lesser Spotted Woodpecker calling. A Common Cuckoo was persistently calling, one of the group had a brief Golden Oriole sighting and we saw Woodlark on the ground, Bee-eaters, Iberian Magpies, Mistle Thrush (heard singing) and a few common species.

Lang's Short-tailed Blue - taken by Tony Moore

We took a break and enjoyed a cold drink at the Hotel Portilla de Monfragüe, it was lovely sitting out in the afternoon sunshine. From there we found our only Imperial Eagles!! Three birds were in the air at the same time, they were distant but unmistakeable in their adult plumage. A much smaller Booted Eagle went up and joined them, it was good to point out the size comparison.

a group-shot in the park

After our short break we entered the Cork-oak dehesa and spent a hour or so tracking down several species of birds. Hawfinches were elusive and only showed in flight, we got very close to a Common Cuckoo, at least three Orphean Warblers sang, we watched Nuthatches and Treecreepers, Iberian Magpies and lots Woodchat Shrikes.

Spanish Bluebell

As we made our way back through the park we made two stops to look for Cirl Buntings and Rock Sparrows, we did near a Cirl Bunting at one stage but we dipped on sightings of both species. We got back to the hotel around 7pm,ith enough time to get ready for our 8:30 dinner.