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WEATHER: wall to wall sunshine all day, light breeze. Temp 8-20C

We had a fabulous day in Monfragüe National Park the weather was superb and we saw some terrific birds, butterflies and flowers. Our great day started as we left the hotel at 8:30am after a lovely breakfast, Crag Martins were dashing about in the car park and we saw Azure-winged Magpies across the road in the ‘dehesa’. We added Corn Bunting (many) Griffon Vulture, Red Kite to the day list before we had even got into the park. We also saw Red-legged Partridge, Barn Swallow, Serin and Crested Lark.

Dehesa opposite our hotel

Our first stop in the park was on the steep track up to the Castillo de Monfragüe where we watched a Cirl Bunting singing from the top of an oak tree. At the base of a steep cliff face beneath the Castle we saw several new species. Blue Rock Thrush, Black Redstart, Red-rumped Swallow, Serin, Short-toed Treecreeper, also more Crag Martins and more Griffon Vultures were sitting on the ledges. We saw Black Vulture, Black Stork, Black Kite and 3 Peregrine Falcons in the sky above us.

Griffon Vulture

Blue Rock Thrush

At Salto del Gitano (gypsy’s leap) we stood in the mirador opposite the huge cliff face where many vultures nest and roost, we had a wonderful hour there. We saw Black Stork on the nest and had much closer views of Blue Rock Thrush, Red-rumped Swallow and Crag Martin. In the sky we saw both Short-toed & Booted Eagles, Egyptian Vultures, but we could not find a Rock Bunting.

salto del Gitano

Griffon Vulture

Black Stork on the nest

At the bridge next to the Fuente de Frances track we walked for a while watching over 1,000 pairs of House Martins and a few Alpine Swifts. We searched for Bonelli’s Eagle but never saw one.

The bridge over the river Tajo

At the village Villareal de San Carlos we stopped for a coffee and to buy a bocadillo (sandwich) to take with us. A quick stop along the road to the dam to look for Woodlark and Black-eared Wheatear proved a lucky one as we found a perched Spanish Imperial Eagle!! That was very exciting, a lifer for Mark, but the bird was very distant and the heat haze made it hard to focus our optics on the bird.

Red-rumped Swallow

"you looking at me kid?"

The next stop was the best of the day! We pulled onto the small car park at the mirador la Tajadilla and as soon as we got out of the car we heard Lesser Spotted Woodpecker calling. Mark got onto it straight away, a male drumming and calling, then a second male called from further along the car park! Then a female appeared, what was going on! The two males sorted out their differences and we had a pair dashing around us for about 30 minutes.

Hawfinc in the Hornbeam

If that wasn’t enough excitement a Hawfinch flew into a Hornbeam tree and started feeding on the new shoots, wow!  Then a small flock of Siskins flew into the same tree. In the meantime the cliff face held Griffon Vultures and Black Kites. We ate our picnic lunch at the benches and enjoyed the LS Woodpeckers as we ate.

Lesser Spotted Woodpecker - male

Lesser Spotted Woodpecker - female

Deeper we went into the park, crossing the dam and stopping at the Mirador de la portilla del Tietar. We hoped to see Rock Bunting there and maybe an Imperial Eagle in flight, we saw none of those. We heard Cetti’s Warbler and Blackcap but generally there was a lack of birds in the scrub.

Hoop-petticoat Narcissus

We then walked into the ‘dehesa’ (open woodland) a little further south and spent the next two hours enjoying some great sightings. We heard a distant Common Cuckoo a few times but never saw it, but we did see many other species. Woodlarks were abundant and quite showy, we also saw European Bee-eater, Short-toed Treecreeper, Eurasian Nuthatch, Woodchat Shrike, Chaffinches, Serins, Mistle Thrushes, and we tracked down a singing Western Orphean Warbler.

Western Orphean Warbler


Azure-winged magpies were everywhere, but we never got close enough for a picture! Overhead we saw Red Kite and all the usual Vultures. There was always something to look at, birds flitted around all the time.

We also found Spanish Festoon Butterfly and several other butterfly species. Many flowers carpeted the dehesa, we found just one Orchid, the Tongue Orchid, but also Hoop-petticoat Narcissus and Spanish Bluebell

Spanish Festoon

The heat eased off around 4pm and we slowly made our way back though the park stopping many times to look for Black-eared Wheatear and maybe an Imperial Eagle in flight. We saw nothing new, it was around 5:30pm that we got back to the hotel, a little early, but we were both shattered, the heat had taken its toll.

Common Tongue Orchid - Serapias lingua

not all birds are big and brightly coloured  - you can be beautiful just plain brown

We added 25 species to the list which now stands at 90 species. Tomorrow, we head out onto the plains looking for Bustards and Sandgrouse, wish us good luck!