I spent less time birding than I did herping or butterflying (blog to follow!), largely because I had a good stint out here in January-February. But I was keen to see one particular species, a new one for me in Europe, and possibly the Western Palearctic (I can't recall if I have seen it in Morocco): White-rumped Swift. At least two individuals showed well at Monfrague Castle but didn't really present themselves for gripping photos (unlike for Daniel Branch earlier in the month). Thanks to Martin Kelsey and Yoav Perlman for the gen.
One of the great things about Extremadura is that when you do venture away from the wet stuff, landscape or urban highlights tend to coincide with wildlife. Some examples above, plus the famous Salto de Gitano in Monfrague national park below.
A nice stop on the journey from Madrid was at Arrocampo reservoir. I had been here in January with Martin and rather liked it. This time, it was excellent. In a profitable half-hour stop, we enjoyed a singing (and showing, just) Savi's Warbler,Penduline Tit, Booted Eagle, several Purple Herons and - best of all - two Little Bitterns. Given how I have struggled for this latter species (I have dipped several in Britain, and missed them in several countries overseas; indeed, my sum total is one seen, one heard), they were a cinch here, even in mid-afternoon. Wonderful!
Plenty of nice stuff out on the plains, of course. These Crested Larks posed nicely - even if I assumed they were Theklas until being put right by Alex Lees...
I was keen to show my daughter (in particular) big birds such as vultures, and Monfrague didn't disappoint. The views of Griffons were often spectacular - as this first picture neatly conveys.
Or, precisely, spring birds in parts of Extremadura. I am recently back from a research-trip-cum-family-holiday. We stayed at the wonderful Casa El Recuerdo, run by Claudia and Martin Kelsey. My work aim was to get sufficient material for another chapter in the forthcoming book 52 European Wildlife Weekends. My family aim involved the swimming pool...
It actually proved eminently possible to combine wildlife with swimming, simultaneously. My 'from the pool' list included Booted Eagle, Griffon and Cinereous Vultures, White Stork, Iberian (Azure-winged) Magpie, Bee-eater, Red-rumped Swallow, Black Redstart, Nightingale, Sardinian Warbler, Serin, Hawfinch and Corn Bunting. What a garden list!
Alpine Swifts shot around madly, making Crag Martins look lazy. Aerial Insectivore Award, however, goes to the House Martin colony at the bridge in Monfrague: hundreds of the things making quite some racket.
Plenty of small, pretty birds caught our eyes too. A handful of Rollers out on the plains were lovely, but saddening, for the species is declining rapidly. I have memories of seeing them commonly in Extremadura c25 years ago... but no longer. Blue Rock Thrushes also pleased the Lowen crowd, but stuff like Rock and Cirl Buntings, Western Subalpine and Melodious Warblers were more of an acquired taste.
Plenty of other 'big bird' interest of course, in Monfrague and also the steppes. A Great Bustard, a couple of Iberian Eagles, Black-winged Kite, five Black Storks, a dozen Cinereous Vultures, a handful of Egyptian Vultures, innumerable Black Kites, a few Short-toed Eagles etc. As for Lesser Kestrels... well, they merited their own blogpost.
A final word for Maya's avian highlight of the trip - indeed, her highlight full stop of the holiday. She was enchanted by the urban White Storks. And why not? How I wish that we had these majestic creatures breeding in British towns.