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WEATHER: wall to wall sunshine but cold for most of the day. Temp 8 -18C

Our last full day of this mini-break concentrated on afew species missing from our list and we spent some time looking for Orchids again.

The Penduline Tit had eluded us thus far so we headed off to a site where there was good chance of seeing one, the Roman Bridge at Mérida. It was a fairly long drive to get there and our breakfast only finished at 9am so we did not arrive until after 10am. The weather was just perfect, glorious sunshine, achily breeze kept the temperature down to single figures.

a Serin seen in the park

We parked near the bridge and walked through a small parkland area where we found Greenfinch, Chaffinch, Serin and Goldfinch. Near the river we added Cetti’s Warbler, Glossy Ibis (fly-overs) Cattle Egret, Moorhen, Greylag Goose and lots of Alpine Swifts.

Glossy Ibis flying over the bridge - taken by Tony Moore

The amazing 790 meter-long Roman Bridge spanning the Rio Guadiana at Merida

on the bridge

the group on the bridge with Tony Moore and his precious camera in the foreground

Once on the bridge we found a beautiful male Penduline Tit within milliseconds, this very obliging induvial fed on reedmace directly below us, how good was that?  Then spent an hour or so enjoying the birds from this fabulous view-point. The bridge is the longest Roman Bridge (790m) still in existence and spans the Rio Guadiana which was in full flow after the rains.

Penduline Tit - taken from the Roman Bridge - Tony Moore

The Penduline Tit with a grub it had just extracted from the reedmace head. Taken by Tony Moore

The Alpine Swifts in particular are magical, it is arguably the best place to view these magnificent beasts in Europe, you can almost touch them as they zoom around your heads.

Three pictures of Alpine Swifts by Tony Moore

The whole group loved it there. A huge mixed breeding colony of egrets, ibis, herons and spoonbills can be seen from the bridge, we also watched Little Bitterns, Purple Swamphens, Great Crested Grebes, Cormorants and a few Black Kites. Black-crowned Night Herons were well hidden but we did see one or two in flight, but we never found a Squacco Heron.

male Little Bittern

female Little Bittern with a Moorhen and a Red-faced Slider (terrapin)

the invasive, foreign,  Red-faced Sliders are decimating local wildlife.

From the bridge we drove to a supermarket to buy lunch and then we headed to Alangé Reservoir and dam. Before we reached the dam we stopped at a site where Giant Orchids can be seen. We searched for this early flowering Orchid and only found two spikes, both of which had seen better days! We did find Champagne and Sawfly Orchids as well as a profusion of other wild flowers.

Sawfly Orchid taken by Tony Moore

At the dam we sat in the shade and ate our picnic lunch whilst watching White Storks, Black Kites, Marsh Harrier and Short-toed Eagle. A little later we saw Griffon and Egyptian Vultures and, of course, some more Alpine Swifts. The colony of Alpine Swifts at the dam reaches huge numbers (over 400 pairs) today we saw around 50 individuals, the others may not have arrived yet.

the view from the dam towards Merida

The drive from Alangé to the rice fields at Madridgalejo took about an hour, it was the scenic route back to the hotel via Trujillo. We found that the temperature in this area was much higher, the bus registered 20C but a cooling breeze kept the outside temperature a little lower. A heat haze hampered scope views of distant species on the rice fields.

Iberian Grey Shrike with a pet lizard - taken by Tony Moore (the photo not the lizard)

The first track we walk along produced Stonechat, Crested Lark, Marsh Harrier and White Storks. Sitting in the same bush as the Stonechat was a small group of Red Avadavats. These tiny Asian Finches are an invasive species which either were released or escaped from pet cages, they are prolific in some areas of Spain.

Iberian Western Yellow Wagtail

We then started to see Iberian Yellow Wagtails, some distant some close but mostly in flight., We moved to get closer to them and found a very obliging Iberian Shrike sitting on a power line and we saw a Collared Pratincole very briefly. Moving the bus once again produced our best birding of the visit, we got reasonably close to a flooded field where 30+ Black-winged Stilts fed with Little Ringed Plovers and a small group of Collared Pratincoles. We got much better views of the Wagtails too and more Pratincoles flew over us calling. One or two Short-toed Larks were also up on the wing singing high above us.

Collared Pratincole pictures by Tony Moore

It was after 5pm when we left the rice fields, it took just over an hour to get back to the hotel. We had spent a few hours in the bus today but the time we had out in the field and the birds we saw, was well worth it.