Wednesday 22 February 2017

Exttremadura; Day 3 and Arrocampo

Sunday 19 February

A morning return visit to the steppe lands south of Obando in the hope that we might find the Little Bustard along with Black-bellied and Pin-tailed Sandgrouse that we missed on yesterday's ABS day.  A further, closer, sighting of more Great Bustards would be an added bonus.  As yesterday, as we gathered in the car park of the hotel  we could look across the road and see the resting Stone Curlews and both Lapwing and Crane were in early evidence as we set off on the first part of our journey which was to take a look at the old ruined church in Acedera which is a well-known site for seeing both nesting White Stork and Lesser Kestrel.  We were not to be disappointed.

How many Stone Curlews Alcaravan Comun Burhinus oedicnemus can you find?

The church has remained in, basically, its preset state since damaged during the Lisbon earthquake of 1755.  There are many holes, niches and crannies on the short tower and walls to enable a large colony of Lesser Kestrels to find suitable nesting sites albeit a few years ago the small tower section was cemented over and painted joints appended.  Not only does this do very little for the appearance of the tower, the resulting work covered many nesting access points and so reduced the number of pf opportunities for the returning small raptors. 

Lesser Kestrel cernicalo Primilla Falco naumanni
Meanwhile, the White Storks make use of the higher levels for their large nests of sticks, etc.

This White Egret Ciguena Blanca Ciconia ciconia certainly knows how to get a decent blow-job

The White Egrets obviously enjoy living together
Both on the drive to the church and on leaving to reach the rolling plains we added an assortment of birds including Magpie, Crested Lark, Stonechat and Collared Dove.  Once south of Orellana la Vieja and the Zujar reservoir and onto the hills it was somewhat surprising to see a couple of Black-headed Gulls but the Red-legged Partirdge was a delight as was was the Raven and many Jackdaws along with sightings of Corn Buntings on the fences.  A small pond held a pair of Mallards and then we were ready to see a number of both Buzzards and Marsh Harriers.

We had regular sightings of individual Lapwing and then a stop as we eventually found our Great Bustards, a flock of about twenty-five.  Not so long after and I had a very brief sighting of a departing Little Bustard and would have been most disappointed if this was to be the only sighting.  A couple of minutes later we were all out f our cars and counted a flock slightly in excess of a hundred pass over.  Then another three and as local guide William Haworth stated, this was most peculiar.  We should have been seeing regular movements of sandgrouse with Little Bustard being the possible occasion and then only in very small numbers.  But was I complaining?

Most of the flock of Great Bustards Avutarda Comun Otis tarda can be seen
A couple of large flocks of Calandra Lark were working the fields and then, slowly drifting by in the distance, an immature Golden Eagle.  We then added a Thekla Lark to the list and eventually came to a stop for our picnic lunch and a chance to use the higher ground to look into the valleys below.  More Golden Plover were seen and the birds seem to be breaking away from large flock and coming to rest on the grasses.  Difficult to get a decent photograph but many managed to get the birds focused in their scopes.  Indeed, whilst here we saw our first Northern Wheatear of the year.  The bird was on a sandy track near the road then obligingly came to rest on top of a fence post.  Shame that my photograph could not do justice to this handsome male in the windy conditions.  Whilst here we also had a hovering Common Kestrel and witnessed the passage of a small flock of Wood Pigeon.

Record shot of a pair of Golden Plover Chorlito Dorado Europeo Pluvialis apricaria
Carrying on we made a further stop, not for the Golden Plovers that flew away to the right but because we hear sandgouse.  then a party of four Black-bellied Sandgrouse flew over to be followed by a another group of about seven.  Great!  Even better, we then heard Pin-tailed Sandgrouse and three individuals appeared over the horizon and disappeared over our cars to the rear.  Object achieved and all four target birds now recorded.

Time to take my leave and make my way north to my hotel in Tejeda de Tietar in preparation for the morning's visit to the Monfrague National Park.  However, with time in hand I was able to leave the motorway and take a detour around the Arrocamp reservoir and especially the little back lane that in the past has provided some good sightings based on the small village of Saucedilla.  The only bird seen in the village, apart from more Barn Swallows, was a single Coot.  But once on the back road I added Stonechat, Corn Bunting and Crested Lark before arriving at a small lake.  More Barn Swallows over the water and I am sure that I saw a Red-rumped Swallow out of the corner of my eye but no further sighting so this bird still awaits being added to my year list.  On the opposite side of the road is a very large, shallow pond used by the resident cattle and, as expected, it also housed a number of birds, mainly White Wagtails but also mallard and a single Egyptian Goose.  There were Cattle Egrets in the field and then the sighting of a single Great White Egret on the next lake along the road.  This lake also held a handful of Shoveler and a couple of Coot with Cormorants passing overhead to and from the main reservoir.

Egyptian Goose Ganse deNilo Alopochen aegyptiaca
Finally, making my way back to the motorway to complete the journey I was able to add a few Teal at a small water and stopped for the occasional Chiffchaff and then, at last, the first Iberian Grey Shrike of the day.  Most enjoyable and no sooner had I arrived at a lovely rural hotel than I was joined by friends Derek and Barbara Etherton along with Jerry and Barbara Laycock for the evening who had spent the day exploring the Monfrague area with much success.

Birds seen:
Mallard, Shoveler, Teal, Red-legged Partridge, Cormorant, Little Egret, Great White Egret, White Stork, Golden Eagle, Marsh Harrier, Buzzard, Lesser Kestrel, Common Kestrel, Coot, Crane, Little Bustard, Great Bustard, Stone Curlew, Golden Plover, Lapwing, Black-headed Gull, Pin-tailed Sandgrouse, Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Rock Dove, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Calandra Lark, Crested Lark, Thekla Lark, Barn Swallow, White Wagtail, Stonechat, Northern Wheatear, Chiffchaff, Iberian Grey Shrike, Jackdaw, Raven, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Corn Bunting.

Check out the accompanying website at for the latest sightings, photographs and additional information.

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