|Griffon Vultures Gyps fulvus at the Sepulveda gorge|
Tuesday 29 June
Away Monday lunch-time following morning tests to confirm negative for Covid and packing car to spend our first night in a delightful Country residence (only guests present) on the outskirts of Valdepeñas. Tuesday saw us heading north and once clear of Madrid into the region of Castilla y Leon where we were able to make a leisurely drive to our final overnight stop in the former Bishop’s palace in the small, isolated village of Guzman. Included in the following report is the additional journey within the region before crossing into Cantabria and our final destination of Santander where we took the evening ferry to Portsmouth.
No sooner into Castilla y Leon and we were still recording birds from the motorway including Magpie, Wood Pigeon, Rock and Collared Dove, House Sparrow and Spotless Starling. More “interesting” birds arrived with the sighting of Common Swift, a few more Buzzards and then a trio of Carrion Crow. No sooner finished smiling and we looked up ahead to see not the expected Griffon Vulture, they came later, but a single Black (Monk) Vulture. Travelling along deserted country lanes we made our way to the delightful village of Sepulveda in Segovia province where we intended to explore the deep gorges which are well-known for their vulture and eagle species. First passing a small flock of Bee-eaters resting on the wires we next came across a female Montagu’s Harrier quartering a recently harvested corn field and off to the right a raptor, which given Jenny’s description, suggested it might well have been an immature Golden Eagle. I only wished, on this out of character busier road with a little traffic, I had been able to stop and check for myself rather than the fleeting glimpse well off, disappearing large raptor.
|Sepulveda in Segovia province, Castilla y Leon|
Arriving in Sepulveda we first made our way up through the narrow streets to the top of the hillside village recording Pallid Swift, Barn Swallow and House Martin. From a mirador overlooking the valley below we could see the gorges and calculate the correct route to take for the best observations. Back down through the village to the main road below and then off to the far side where we were able to find a parking space overlooking the deep gorge below. Above us soaring Griffon Vultures and even a couple resting on a corner ledge also directly opposite. Lots of Common Swifts flying around below along with the occasional Crag Martin but not the expected birds, albeit we had only a limited stopping time. Behind us a female Blackbird was busy delivering food to nestlings somewhere nearby. As we drove off up to the top of the hill to seek a turning point we had an Iberian Grey Shrike on a wire to the left and then, having turned to retrace our steps to the bottom, we came across the first of at least a handful of Northern Wheatears that we were to see in the next couple of hours.
|Our friendly Griffon Vultures Gyps fulvus|
Having noted that there was a suggested site for Duppont’s Lark not so far away near the track leading to the old hermitage we made our way back up through the village and off to Villaseca. Unfortunately, we entered the wrong “Villaseca” into the Satnav (should have been Villaseca de Sepulveda) and a good job we did. Not only more Buzzards and Northern Wheatears but dropping down on the far side of Sepulveda we had a Great Spotted Cuckoo fly across the road immediately in front of us. Not long after this when I was convinced that we travelling in the wrong direction we stopped and re-checked the Satnav. Correction made, we then moved on to the correct Villaseca. All that but no Duppont’s Lark albeit we did find a Black-eared Wheatear on some scrubby, rocky land along with many Crested Lark and a Corn Bunting.
|The gorges below Sepulveda|
And so on to our booked overnight stop at Guzman. Again, no hurry so enjoyed wandering along almost deserted country lanes and found a couple of Blue-headed (Iberian) Yellow Wagtails. Passing through a small, apparently deserted little village we were suddenly confronted by a Red Kite at low level in front of us followed by a male Black Redstart and then a couple of White Wagtails. As the greenery began to appear after all the corn fields, many recently combined, we came across the occasional Black Kite before finding both Serin and Goldfinch. Where there was signs of water White Stork would appear in fields or in small kettles above.
A very pleasing day but the Castilla y Leon adventure was not yet over. Wonderful views form our bedroom window in the Palace of Guzman with the Swifts swarming around the hotel and church opposite but it was being awoken in the early morning by the calling Tawny Owl that made our day, certainly its start. Once underway by 9 o’clock we soon started counting Buzzards on poles and then entering the small village of Cevico Navero at a very slow speed a Dunnock hopped up onto the crash barrier at the side of the car as if to welcome us to the village, probably no more than a score or more small cottages, as we made our way on towards Cantabria.
White Stork, Black Vulture, Griffon Vulture, Red Kite, Black Kite, Montagu’s Harrier, Buzzard, Kestrel, Tawny Owl, Great Spotted Cuckoo, Bee-eater, Common Swift, Pallid Swift, Rock Dove, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Crested Lark, Crag Martin, Barn Swallow, House Martin, Iberian Yellow Wagtail, White Wagtail, Dunnock, Black Redstart, Northern Wheatear, Black-eared Wheatear, Blackbird, Magpie, Carrion Crow, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Serin, Goldfinch, Corn Bunting