"Tucker"


My latest piece of artwork "Tucker", the French Bulldog. 

A Couple of Nights in Norfolk. Apr-May 2016.

 My wife Sarah and I spent a couple of nights in Norfolk over the Bank Holiday weekend just gone, it was great to be back there and the forecast was good, mind you it threw it down on the Friday evening so waking up to blue skies on Saturday we didn't hang about getting ready. We started at Kelling and walked along to the meadows. Chiffchaff and Blackcap singing and then treated to a close showing of a Goldcrest, it actively fed just a couple of feet in front of us. 

 Around the quags we had Stonechat and I'm sure I had a brief view of a Water Pipit, we then moved to the shoreline, here we decided we would walk along to Salthouse and then onto Cley and into the high street. 
 There were plenty of large gulls back and forth and a few waders, Oyc's, mainly, passing. We had great views of Sand Martin, and there was a constant stream of Swallows flying along the coast.

 Adjacent to Salthouse we paused for a while, there was a carcass of a seal which didn't have a lot of it left, the Great black backed gulls no doubt filling themselves. Next to a single GBBG I noticed a washed up fish, dogfish by the look of it, and also feeding on it was a Sanderling. Lovely to see some colour on it rather than the usual winter grey. It wasn't fussed by our presence either and carried on pulling chunks of meat off.


 Arriving at Cley beach car park we watched a couple of Little ringed plover and about 4 Wheatear, I noticed a smaller brighter bird among them, a male Whinchat. We followed the sea wall into the high street and paused at the pub for a pint and rest up before heading along to the Pinkfoot Gallery to take a look at the artwork.
 We headed back along the coast road to the visitor centre at Cley where we sat for a picnic before moving along to the East Bank next to Walsey Hill. From the bank we saw a couple of Ruff which looked lovely in the light, a green sheen lit up on one birds head when the sun hit it in the right angle. Further along the bank Sarah spotted a Water Vole swim across a channel before disappearing in the reeds, great spot and our first to see!

 As we walked back along the front towards Salthouse again, there was a good passage, and noisy at that, of Sandwich Terns and still the Swallows passed us by. We sat at Gramborough Hill for a while and then noticed close by a Short eared owl get on the wing from the grasses, it quartered the grassland slowly moving towards Kelling. After watching it for a time we moved again along to Kelling. The owl was still viewable, be it on the otherside of the fields but good enough to watch through the binoculars, there was heat haze present but I couldn't resist trying to get a couple of distant shots on the smaller holiday camera I had. As I was viewing the SEO remarkably another flew through my view and landed on a post a short distance away, wow what a lovely end to the day it was watching these 2 owls fly back and forth looking for food, one caught a vole and duly perched  on a post to devour it. Eventually one moved off towards Salthouse and we made a move back to the car. An absolute fantastic day, slightly knackering not surprising when I later calculated the distance walked as 10 miles! Looking forward to returning in June.




EXTREMADURA 2016.

Once again Sarah and I travelled to stay with our good friend, or should I be saying bueno amigo!, Neil Renwick in Extremadura, Spain. This time we were accompanied by my Dad, I knew we were going to see so much out there he wouldn't believe it, and with the prospect of a day in a hide for vultures I was keen more than ever to get back over there. 
 So here we go.
As we arrived at Madrid airport early evening, our very first and new addition was Monk Parakeet, not bad after just arriving.

DAY 1(first full day) - 9th April.
Our first day was to be a gentle start with a walk with Kelly, Neil's dog, from Neil's home town. But first breakfast in the garden and bird at our leisure. Before even setting off out the front door I was ticking off Serin, Crested Lark, Black Kite and Sardinian Warbler to name just a few. The weather was forecast as a mixed bag throughout our week in Spain but for now the forecast was nice and sunny with decent temperatures, so decent in fact that it turned out hotter than they predicted and the 3 of us got sunburnt! But not Neil, he was used to the sun so too was Kelly. As soon as we were out of the town we were adding species after species to the birding list and already some new birds my Dad had never seen, for instance Fan tailed warbler and Booted eagle.
Booted Eagle
Corn Bunting
A song that was to become very familiar everywhere we ventured came from the Corn Bunting, they were so numerous all over Extremadura.
Booted Eagle
At first we seemed to just encounter pale morph Booted eagles but the darker variants soon started to show. One of my favourite bird species are Shrikes, and contrary to previous visits this time it was the Woodchat Shrike that was most numerous and not Iberian Grey Shrike, probably due to the Iberians being resident and already nesting. The Woodchat was to become one of the most numerous birds, not far behind Corn Bunting it seemed, every few hundred yards along the roads seemed to have one of us calling Woodchat again!
Woodchat Shrike
Woodchat Shrike
White Stork
The White Storks are lovely to see, and nesting on any available platform whether remote or in a built up area, they are a sight you expect to see all over.
Typical dehesa habitat, from this track we stopped to watch a local nesting colony of Lesser Kestrels, whilst we also picked out a "bubbling" female Cuckoo sat up in a eucalyptus tree which turned out to be of the colourful rufous morph. The return route produced an abundance of birds numbering 44 species. We left Kelly to rest at home and then set off in the car slowly heading towards Trujillo.
Spanish Sparrows
We stopped at some scrubland not far from Neil's to look for Nightingale, as soon as we got out of the car we had one calling and in usual Nightingale fashion it took a while before we actually caught a glimpse of it. It was accompanied vocally by a Cetti's warbler, time to move on. The next stop was unexpected, this time to watch a group of around a 1000 Spanish Sparrows that were swarming around a field with a large haystack and livestock in. This was a stunning sight to see, absolutely mesmerising. A female Kestrel took advantage of this huge mass and was able to pick out a male Spanish Sparrow for its supper. As we headed away from our Sparrow fix we picked up Black winged Stilt feeding on a small pond.
Spanish Sparrows
Spanish Sparrows
Moving out across the Steppes we started to pick out Great Bustards, and one group was keeping company with large group of Pin tailed Sandgrouse.....result!
Pin tailed Sandgrouse
We viewed the sandgrouse flying around before once again settling down around the Great Bustards. The bustards also put on a show with a few of the males strutting and "foam bathing" (full displaying)
Pin tailed Sandgrouse
Great Bustard
With the sun getting lower we finally arrived at Trujillo to find somewhere for dinner, not before watching the Lesser Kestrels, Pallid/Common Swifts around the town centre.
What a fantastic first day, 59 species seen, it was so good to be back. And returning back to Neil's after dinner, I knew the day was not yet finished even though it was nightime!
A late night walk with Kelly produced at least 3 Scops Owls calling around the village and 3 Barn Owls seen flying over the roof tops, illuminated by the street lamps, and the nightly chorus of frogs and Natterjack Toads.
Great Bustard

DAY 2 - 10th April.

Serin
After breakfast and garden birding was finished ( Black winged Stilt seen from garden!) it was time for our walk with Kelly before we headed off out. The usual suspects were still showing and calling but we managed to find a few Little ringed Plover in a small livestock compound which I didn't expect to see there. Once back home and with gear ready we headed to Alcollarin reservoir. On the approach road we stopped to watch some Lesser Kestrels on the church, Kingfisher and Black redstart were both seen but I didn't connect at that time.
Lesser Kestrel (fem)
Lesser Kestrel (male)
Tree Pipit
A halt in the route to inspect a bird flitting around next to the road turned up a lovely Tree Pipit which duly posed next to my window for a couple of shots.
Tree Pipit
Short toed Eagle
And then overhead a Short toed Eagle slowly passed by, this was to be a fantastic bird filled place.
Thekla Lark
Bee-eater
On previous trips the Bee-eaters had only shown flying overhead or perched a bit too far for the camera, on this occasion however we were treated to a few birds perching on a wire fence close by as they flew low over the bushes feeding. This was a highlight, being able to view these stunning birds close up was lovely and we didn't budge from the spot until they had departed for good.
Bee-eater
Bee-eater
Bee-eater
Storks as per norm were nesting everywhere, right next to a picnic area too. Around the shoreline we picked out a few waders, Common and Green Sandpiper, Ringed Plover and Stilts. A scan through the wildfowl turned up a pair of Red Crested Pochard, Egyptian geese, and Shelduck. I heard a Kingfisher calling but neither Neil or I could locate it. The group of Egrets, including Great White, close by took to the air and the culprits turned out to be a Marsh Harrier along with a circling Golden Eagle just above it.
White Stork
Cattle Egret
As is seen in Spain the flocks of sheep are watched and followed at all times by the local sheep dogs, it's lovely to watch these gentle giants governing the flocks keeping them safe and controlled as they move around the grassland. Also following these flocks were the Cattle Egrets along with a handful of Yellow Wagtails (Iberian race), they could be picked out every now and again around the sheeps feet.
An unexpected call when watching the wagtails came from a Quail calling between us and the waters edge!
Iberian Yellow Wagtail
Stonechat
From the reservoir we moved towards the paddyfields with the hope of some new species. Some of the male Stonechats had such a deep colour to their breasts, by now the rain had started to increase and the photography options were put on hold until something good turned up and it was worth getting wet!
Whimbrel
I had to grab a record shot of a Whimbrel though, this was one of 2 seen feeding whilst behind them in a further field a flock of Collared Pratincoles busily moved back and forth.
Kentish Plover
The fields looked drained ready for planting perhaps? but then alongside a ditch I noticed a small wader and cried joyfully "Kentish", this was to be a welcomed bird for me and indeed for everyone, this was a first for me and one I had been wanting to see for years. I was so pleased and then to add to this we found a couple of juvenile birds keeping close to the adult bird, how early had they bred? The adult was a male bird, female lacks the head colouring, and Neil said that the parents normally split to look after the young seperately, what a great moment.
Kentish Plover
Kentish Plovers (juv)
Kentish Plover
Kentish Plover (juv)
Yellow Wagtail (Iberiae)
Some of the drainage channels were concrete runs, it was along these that we had great views of Yellow Wagtails, of the Iberiae form. A couple of the males were so bright in colour..awesome.
Yellow Wagtail (Iberiae)
Yellow Wagtail (Iberiae)
Tree Sparrow
With the rain continuing we viewed a large ditch that had been totally burnt of vegetation on one side of a bridge, but thankfully amongst the reeds we happily located a flock of Avadavat's and a bonus few Tree Sparrows. Time for a coffee break and cake whilst the rain continued, luckily it looked like it would start to break so after a welcome drink we moved from the productive paddies to the hopefully drier steppes.
Avadavat
Avadavat
Woodchat Shrike
As hoped for, the weather did brighten up, enabling us to connect with more Great Bustards and Little Bustards. A spectacle happened whilst scanning the steppes, we watched a movement of hundreds of Sand Martins low over the fields pass by, wave after wave....were they aware of some bad weather moving in or birds still migrating?
Woodchat Shrike
Great Bustards
Journeying home, silhouetted by the fading light, we saw the unmistakeable figure of a Eagle Owl perched up on a pylon, what a superb day.

DAY 3 - 11th April.
"HIDE DAY"
This was the day I had been looking forward to the most. Neil had booked up a day in a hide that attracted Vultures and raptors, this was going to be an experience like nothing before. The day started early and we had to be there to meet the owners before the birds started to arrive at the hide. The weather however was not a good forecast and as we waited for the owners to arrive the rain started and the skies darkened. But we were so eager to get set up, we all hoped the weather would at least break and improve for us.
Egyptian Vulture
I had to manually adjust the camera settings as the light was so dark, enabling me to grab some record images of the early arrivals. Blessed by slightly better light conditions I could worry less on adjusting the camera settings, what was to show before our very eyes was an absolute spectacle and a thoroughly enjoyable day. I had been given access to the new hide joining the existing hide which Sarah, Neil and my Dad. On their hide they had a window ledge and unbeknown to me the Vultures were actually perching on the ledge peering into the hide where they were!! they had to peer around the birds to see what was going on!  I had a thoroughly enjoyable, fantastic day and clicked off 2700 images, I couldn't get enough of them.
Black Kite
Raven
The Ravens were funny trying to get at the bait laid out, they would aggravate the vultures by pulling at their tail feathers to get them to move.
Griffon Vultures
Black Kite
The Black Kite's were just beautiful, such a lovely looking bird. I tended to concentrate a lot on these alongside the strangely attention grabbing Egyptian Vultures.
Egyptian Vulture
Black Vulture
The way the vultures ran around in a "lolliping fashion" had Sarah laughing every time.
Griffon & Black Vultures
Black Vulture & Griffon Vultures
Griffon Vultures
Griffon Vultures
Vulture Scrum
What a sight seeing so many vultures descending right in front of us.
Spanish Imperial Eagle
Thankfully I pulled myself away from the camera and my attention was immediately drawn to something different sat up in a nearby tree...a young Spanish Imperial Eagle. I knew one had visited a few days before but it was another thing to have one sat up right in front of you. What a stunner!
Spanish Imperial Eagle
Spanish Imperial Eagle
Spanish Imperial Eagle
It was wary of the vultures around it and kept a safe distance from them, it then moved to a tree further away and disappeared not to return, Neil came in after and asked if I had seen the eagle and thankfully I was able to say I had, grabbing photos of this bird was a real bonus.
Spanish Imperial Eagle
Griffons & Black Vulture
Ravens
Raven
Raven
Vulture Scrum
When the feeding was under way it was a scrum to say the least, with birds standing on one another just to try and get a way in.
Vulture Scrum
Griffon Vulture
Once the frenzy had quietened down I could pick out individuals to photograph.
Black Vulture
Black Vulture
The yellow flowers set off the scene for some nice photos.
Griffon Vulture
Griffon Vulture
Black Vulture
Strange, maybe ugly to some but they were great to watch and definitely photogenic.
Black Vulture
Egyptian Vulture
Griffon Vulture
Sunning itself before departing. Some were so full they couldn't move, just fall asleep on the spot!
Griffon Vulture
Egyptian Vulture
As the numbers thinned out, the Egyptians put on an aerial show, completing circuit after circuit, giving me the chance for some flight shots.
Egyptian Vulture
Egyptian Vultures
Red Kite
A couple of Red Kites put in an appearance including one very pale bird.
Red Kite
Black Kite
Black Kite

DAY 4 - 12th April.

Today we headed out onto the steppes for a mixed bag, hopefully consisting of Bustards, Montagu's Harriers, Roller and Sandgrouse. The weather was a mixed bag with some heavy clouds and rain dotted around, with a bit of luck we would dodge most of it.
Sawfly Orchid
We stopped outside Neil's village searching for Sawfly Orchids, this is the spot where we had had a Knapweed Fritillary butterfly the year before.
Pink Butterfly Orchids
At our first major stop we could hear Pin tailed Sandgrouse calling distantly but were unable to locate them, we saw Montagu's Harriers, Meadow Pipit, Quail calling and connected with one of our target birds, Short toed Lark. There were a couple feeding in a ploughed field adjacent to us, although distant we had scope views of them moving in and out of the troughs.
Montagu's Harrier
There were quite a few Montagu's flying around and some perching on the fence posts, this male above had been sat in a roadside field and got up as we passed. We stopped a little further up the road and Neil prepared the much loved coffee and snack whilst we scanned around. With Montagu's passing all around we then got onto a few Little Bustards flying nearby, thankfully we seemed to be missing the heavy rains passing close by, we now headed onto where the Roller colony nests to hopefully connect.
Short Toed Lark
We did indeed connect with Rollers, perched on the wires they unfortunately were in a position where I was looking into the sun hence I did not get any shots, but we did manage to view them well enough and were treated to a couple of seconds of plumage brilliance as one landed on the ground only to take off straight away. We headed to a known area where we could look for Short toed Larks among other resident larks, and sure enough as we approached a newly set up hide overlooking the steppes, we watched a few Short toed Larks moving along the roadside close by.
Steppes
Nice to see the same tree still there after the previous 2 visits....just one more photo!
Heavy rain approaching
A huge expanse of rain could be seen moving closer, but luckily we seemed to out of its path.
I tried for some more images of the Shot toed Larks as they fed among the flower clad grass. the rufous tinged crown really standing out on some birds.
Short Toed Lark
Short Toed Lark
Short Toed Lark
Fan tailed Warbler
We all watched this tiny Fan tailed Warbler busily collecting sheeps hair caught on barbed wire, it continually pulled and tugged at it until it finally gave itself up and it flew away with a full bill.
Calandra Lark
The Calandra Lark's were very vocal and very numerous here, in fact we then witnessed another spectacle, one that Neil had come across at this time of year. There was a huge flock of Calandra's all flying and landing as a group just as if we were watching a wader flock by the coast! Indeed Neil had witnessed large amounts together before but during the winter, not at this time of year? probably they were still moving onto breeding grounds further on hence why still grouping together in such large numbers/ perhaps grounded by the weather, whatever the reason it was a lovely sight to see so many sweeping back and forth.
Dark Morph Montagu's Harrier
Once "full" from our Calandra Lark spectacle we slowly drove away to where we had hoped to find what we thought was a Marsh Harrier, seen flying over a field it disappeared along this large dip which snaked its way to the ridge of the hill we were heading to. As we approached the top we noticed a dark Harrier quatering a nearby field, it was a male Montagu's Harrier but this was a dark morph bird and very dark bird. I managed to grab a few distant record shots just to show the plumage, it was completely dark underneath not showing the characteristic barring or indeed show the upperwing black band.
Dark Morph Montagu's Harrier
Dark Morph Montagu's Harrier
This was exciting to see such a dark bird, my Dad and I had previously seen a dark morph bird in the UK, but as it moved over the ridge and we eased forward to gain more views it vanished! no doubt sitting tight in a field nearby we eagerly awaited it's re-emergence but it was not to be. A great finish to another bird filled day.
Dark Morph Montagu's Harrier

DAY 5 - 13th April.
"Magacela"
We ventured further afield to somewhere different this time in search of Wheatear's!
We hadn't seen Black-eared or Black Wheatear's on previous trips and so were eager to find these 2 wanted species. As we approached our journey's end we could see the historical Magacela Castle looming ahead. As we slowly drove up the approach road around the sloped hill we were immediately graced with a stunning male Black-eared Wheatear perched up on a rock close to the car! Everyone was in awe of this absolute beauty, thank the birding gods it posed for a couple of pictures, then we saw the female bird follow in its shadow as they moved from rock to rock.
Fantastic start and for sure the bird of the day for me and we had only just got going!
Black-eared Wheatear
Black-eared Wheatear (fem)
And then before we had even started the car up again, looking left......Black Wheatear!
2 target species both conquered straight away, sadly the Black Wheatear did not show anymore, on the slopes we added Blue Rock Thrush, Subalpine Warbler and Rock Bunting before heading through the quaint little streets to the castle top.
Black Wheatear
Blue Rock thrush (fem)
Magacela Castle
Magacela Castle
The views from the top were stunning, and with great weather we could see for miles.
View from Magacela Castle
Scarce Swallowtail
Around the top plateau there were a few butterflies present, and my Dad and I watched Wall and Swallowtail before catching sight of this stunner, Scarce Swallowtail and what a beauty of a new species to see. Luckily once we had met up with Sarah and Neil again, it had remained in the same area for them to gaze upon it.
Scarce Swallowtail
Chough
Chough, Jackdaw, Swifts and Crag Martins filled the skies, I set about trying for some flight shots whilst we stopped for a welcomed coffee and lunch.
Common Swift
I could not pick out any Pallid Swifts among the many Common, the Crag Martins were swooping down over the road collecting insects, and giving me a challenge just to keep up with them in the camera's viewfinder.
Crag Martin
Spectacled Warbler
I was ambling around on my own watching Subalpines and trying to grab a photo as they moved around the scrub collecting nesting material and food, unbeknown to me I had snapped off a couple of shots of a warbler and not even thought about it as I chased after a butterfly, I later realised when looking that I had taken a photo of a Spectacled Warbler!! That will teach me for not paying attention, but at least I got a shot.
Crag Martin
Crag Martin
The Crag finally slowed themselves for a few shots, Sarah and I watched them moving in and out of their nesting sites hidden in the rock face. It was now onto the next birding site, the town of Merida and a walk along the old Roman bridge.
Crag Martin

"Merida Bridge"
This old Roman bridge is the longest surviving from ancient times, great to be able to walk along it and bird from it!
Merida Roman Bridge
Gull billed Tern
As we walked towards the waters edge just down from the old Roman bridge, we set off a Common Sandpiper, overhead were passing Gull billed Terns, Cattle Egrets to name just a couple. We walked up the steps and onto the old Roman bridge, it wasn't long before we were staring down at a Purple Swamphen feeding in the reedbed directly below us!
Purple Swamphen
Purple Swamphen
Cetti's Warblers were teasing us with their calls but never giving themselves up except for the briefest of moments. There were large colonies of Egrets around the waters edge and scanning through with the scope showed a couple of Night Heron hidden away, also a couple of Glossy Ibis made appearances.
Cattle Egret
Alpine Swift
The underside of the bridge had Swallows busily moving back and forth returning to their nests, and a favourite of mine, Alpine Swifts. I stood for ages watching them return and swoop around the bridge, not easy trying to get a photo mind you, and with the darkening skies I knew I was on a loser!
Alpine Swift
Alpine Swift
Whilst on the bridge the rain had been spitting but never really getting going, and the skies darkened, but as we left the bridge for the car the skies once again brightened...sod's law! But we were planning on returning to Trujillo and so set off.
Merida Roman Bridge
We had only just left the outskirts of Merida when Neil stopped the car next to a little flooded enclosure which held a stunningly coloured Glossy Ibis, feeding the otherside of a fence right next to us!
Glossy Ibis
Glossy Ibis

Trujillo
Once back in Trujillo we stopped at the Bull Ring for the Lesser Kestrel colony before heading into the Plaza for dinner. And in the centre it was then that I connected with a Black Redstart, gaining that species after missing the last one.
Lesser Kestrel
Lesser Kestrel
Lesser Kestrel
Lesser Kestrel
Lesser Kestrel
Lesser Kestrel
Lesser Kestrel

DAY 6 - 14th April.
Monfrague
This is a great place to bird and just admire. There is never a shortage of wildlife to look for. Today our main target bird was Spanish Imperial Eagle, but we knew we would see an abundance of species. We headed straight for the Imperial site, where we found one of the adults just viewable sitting on the nest. Whilst waiting for some flight activity from the eagles we had plenty to look at besides, Subalpines and Rock Buntings, Red rumped Swallows, a pair of Black Storks flew over, but a big dip was missing out on a Bonnelli's Eagle that had flown through just 5 minutes before we arrived!!
Black Stork
Griffon Vulture
The Griffons were attending their young at the nests.
Griffon Vulture
Long tailed Tit
We watched a pair of Long tailed Tits constructing a nest, they would bring in materials and carefully place it before sitting inside the nest to make sure it was comfy and precise.
Then I spotted another adult Spanish Imperial Eagle fly in over the ridge, all eyes were now on this majestic bird.
Spanish Imperial Eagle
Spanish Imperial Eagle
As it passed the cliff face with the Griffon nests, the vultures all paid attention to what the eagle was doing! only the other week Neil had emailed a photo of a Spanish Imperial Eagle flying off with a young Griffon taken from a nest!
Spanish Imperial Eagle
The Imperial made a flyby over our heads before departing over the hill, and with coffee finished we moved further around the Monfrague area aiming for some woodland which may turn up something different.
Serin
Watching a small flock of Serin and Long tailed Tit, I hoped to perhaps pick out a Crested Tit but to no avail. We heard and had glimpses of an elusive Firecrest, and I caught a glimpse of a female Cirl Bunting but no one else was able to get on it before it vanished into woodland.
Serin
Red Deer
A rustling in the bushes below us turned out to be 3 Red Deer which casually strolled out and continued feeding totally unconcerned by our presence.
Sardinian Warbler
Having moved to more scrubby area for warblers, it wasn't long after leaving the car that we heard Sardinian and Dartford Warbler. Sarah and my Dad had moved on ahead of Neil and I and came back to tell us of a Black eared Wheatear across the road, Neil had seen the bird previously but Sarah had let it out of the bag before we got there! it was going to be a surpirse, especially if we hadn't of connected with them previously at Magacela.
Black eared Wheatear
The Black eared looked just as stunning seeing them again. The Subalpine's were flitting around but the Dartford warbler was being a lot more elusive until back at the car as we were about to move off one flew up onto a tree guard for us all to see before once again vanishing. Result.
Griffon Vulture
After stopping for some cheese at the Monfrague Centre, we headed back to the main viewpoint where the vultures would be returning for their roost as the light started to fade.
Maybe because it was so cold and dull, but the vulture numbers seemed less than usual, although it is always a awesome place to watch from.
Griffon Vulture
Rock Bunting
Moving around and watching various stuff, I refrained from taking many photos as the light was just to low for flight images of the vultures passing by, Sarah and I were then joined by a beautiful Rock Bunting which sat on the railing between the two of us just feet away!
What an absolute joy, I had to grab some images, and with the camera settings tweaked to fit the lighting I clicked away, and the bird seemed to just pose for the fun of it.
Rock Bunting
Subalpine Warbler
And no sooner had the Rock Bunting flown that a nearby Subalpine Warbler flew in to call and take its turn to be photographed, by now I was buzzing with joy.
Subalpine Warbler
Subalpine Warbler
Rock Bunting
The Rock Bunting duly arrived back again, only to be pursued by another Rock Bunting, now I realised that the reason it had stayed so close was to prevent another rival from getting at it, but it seemed they weren't bothered by our being there anymore and sat up for a few more photos.
Rock Bunting
Black Redstart
An absolute corker of a male Black Redstart showed up and posed just below me, what a stunner it was. I waited for a Blue Rock Thrush to put in another show but the light was fading below and I didn't see it again. I headed back to the car and watched Red rumped Swallows skim the road for insects, but when called to get a photo of a pair of Red rumped' sitting in a roadside tree my luck had just run out as they departed just as I arrived. Still after the Black Redstart and very confiding Rock Buntings I couldn't of been happier, what a joy it is to be at Monfrague.
Black Redstart
Blue Rock thrush

DAY 7 - 15th April
Arrocampo

This was our final full days birding...it had gone all too quick. Today we visited Arrocampo, a great place for wetland birds as well as passerines. We headed to the visitor centre and Neil obtained a key for the hides and then we set off.
I was standing on the slope outside the first hide with Sarah when my Dad came out and said there was a Bluethroat out infront of the hide! I eagerly entered and crouched on the floor looking out the first available window. A birder/photographer had been photographing it and said it keeps returning and low and behold it appeared from a bushy fenceline. Such a lovely bird and unexpected so what a bonus.
Bluethroat
Little Bittern
As I knew from previous visits here, you have to keep your eyes open and scanning at all times, anything can and does fly past or appear. So when a Little Bittern took to the air above the reeds it was a quick call to make sure everyone got onto it. On this occasion it landed to the side of the hide where my Dad and I were scanning from and we picked it out as it hunted for small fish along the reed edge before flying towards us and disappearing in the nearby reedbed, a new and most welcome species for my Dad.
Bluethroat
Bluethroat
The Bluethroat had by now returned and was showing very well to the side of the hide, this turned out to be a younger red throated race. A contender for Bird of the Day.
Bluethroat
Purple Heron
Purple Herons were very active around the nests, and the Swamphens very vocal.
Purple Swamphen
Great White Egret
The previous year I had photographed a Great White Egret from near enough the same spot as I was now watching and photographing another.
The Gull Billed Terns had been passing back and forth over the water some distance away but all attention was now drawn to the side of the hide where a group of Gull Billed Terns were feeding on insects in the meadow. What a great sight watching these swooping down and picking up beetles etc.
Gull Billed Tern
Gull Billed Tern
Gull Billed Tern
Gull Billed Tern
Black winged Stilts
And as if to repeat itself once again, a pair of Black winged Stilts flew into the same pool that we had watched them the previous year, this time though they had company in the form of a Ruff which had latched onto them and moved whenever they did so.
Great White Egret
And as the first Great White Egret departed it's space was immediately occupied by another bird, it was never quiet, always something to look at.
Great White Egret
Reed Warbler
The hide at the causeway had a lot of warblers present, with Savi's and Reed and Chiffchaff, Willow and Subalpine all showing well. There was too much heat haze to see if any Squacco were present further afield.
Subalpine Warbler
Subalpine Warbler
Our time at Arrocampo came to an end and we returned the keys before heading back to the steppes on the way home. The rain finally caught up with us as we headed across the steppes, and we talked about birds missed and best birds seen. None of us could believe it when a Great Spotted Cuckoo was spotted at the side of the road directly infront of the car, and as we watched that fly away another was spotted heading off after it!
Pin Tailed Sandgrouse
The rain was now keeping us inside the car, but we still scanned the fields and Neil set up the tripod under the cover of the boot door, we had been watching Bustards nearby and heard Pin tailed Sandgrouse calling, sure enough we watched a few fly over. Whilst keeping an eye on the distant Bustard field a group of 4 Sandgrouse were seen flying in, surprisingly 2 of them were Black Bellied Sandgrouse!! despite the weather we had now seen 2 of the species that had eluded us all week. With no let up in the weather we headed back, not before seeing Spanish Imperial Eagle, Black Stork and a couple of Stone Curlews....birding extreme....birding Extremadura.
Stone Curlews
And so our holiday had come to an end, we were travelling home the next day and despite our hopefulness the weather was absolutely awful, it rained so much and so hard it was difficult to pick out anything. Once again we have Neil to thank for such an enjoyable time in Extremadura, we had all seen 145 species with my Dad connecting with the most lifers, every day brought something wonderful and memorable. I knew I would miss being woken up by the neighbours cockerel, being greeted by Kelly and the sound of Hoopoe as you stepped out into the garden. I can't wait to return.
Thank you Neil for a wonderful time.