Extremadura: The Best of the Rest

With our total species count from the trip at over 85, it's very hard to write about each and every animal we saw. So this post is a collection of photographs, stories and facts on the best of the species that I haven't covered so far.

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bird list (excluding raptors):
Azure-winged Magpie, Rock Sparrow, Lesser-spotted Woodpecker, Blackcap, House Sparrow, Nuthatch, White Stork, Blue Rock Thrush, Crested Lark, Purple Heron, Little Egret, Corn Bunting, Moorhen, Great Egret, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Hoopoe, Coal Tit, Snipe, Common Magpie, Blackbird, Robin, Serin, Spotless Starling, Cormorant, Stonechat, Purple Swamphen, Cattle Egret, Grey Heron, Mallard, Alpine Swift, Barn Swallow, Goldfinch, Reed Warbler, Reed Bunting, Long-tailed Tit, Pied Wagtail, Chaffinch, Wren, Common Swift, Coot, Black Redstart, Common Cuckoo, Linnet, Rock Bunting, Black Stork, Eurasian Jay, Subalpine Warbler, Dunnock, Buzzard, Sardinian Warbler, Woodchat Shrike, Song Thrush, Willow Warbler, Iberian Grey Shrike.
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There was one bird in particular in Extremadura that certainly wasn't difficult to find. The White Storks in Extremadura are a common sight, nesting in prominent places across the region, most notably on top of pylons or tall trees. The towns and cities of Extremadura also host dozens of nesting pairs of storks, who build their huge nests on top of churches or houses.

We certainly didn't miss out on seeing these huge birds. They were hard to miss as they sat, perched on top of pylons and buildings along roads and in many of the towns we visited. Caceres, Trujillo and Plasencia all had healthy populations.

White Stork

The other stork species present in Extremadura is the Black Stork. This species is harder to see, but seeing them nesting is certainly possible, with the Monfrague National Park being a good place to start. Unlike other Black Stork populations across Europe who nest on trees, the Iberian population tend to build their nests on rocks and cliff faces, in similar spots to the vultures.

We saw this stork species in Monfrague National Park, at the Peñafalcon amongst the vultures. There was almost certainly a pair on the cliff face that we didn't see, as we only saw one individual as it flew in front of the cliff, straight past where we were standing. It continued past the face, gliding low over the water, until we lost it amongst the trees. It looked prehistoric as it soared below us - resembling a pterodactyl rather than a bird.

Black Stork

Herons and Egrets were another group of birds we saw quite a few of, mainly at the Arrocampo Reservoir. We had Purple Herons and, excitingly, a Purple Swamphen, but unfortunately no bitterns or crakes. Little Egrets and Cattle Egrets were also pretty easy to see in and around the reservoir. There is no doubt that the Arrocampo Reservoir is a haven for wildfowl and wetland or marshland birds.

Cattle Egret

As for the smaller birds, we saw quite a few! The hedgerows and trees were full of warblers and finches, and we got some great views of a variety of different species. My favourite must be the Sardinian Warbler, which we saw quite a few times in a few different locations. We saw one briefly in the Monfrague National Park, but our best views came on the plains of Trujillo, where we saw a couple in small trees and bushes whilst walking a country path. Their jet black heads and red eyes made them easy to identify and brilliant to look at.

Sardinian Warbler

The other warbler species we saw was just as impressive. The Subalpine Warbler. We saw this species in a tree right next to where we were parked at the Peñafalcon. We were able to watch it for a good minute or two before it headed deeper into the tree and out of sight.

Subalpine Warbler (centre)

Sticking with the smaller birds, the steppes were home to a number of species that were easy to see simply driving along the country roads. Corn Buntings, Crested LarksCalandra Larks sat on posts and in the grass on the edge of the roads, and were hard to miss when driving slowly looking for other species. It was great to see Corn Buntings doing so well in Extremadura, as they're having a tough time here in the UK. There numbers have been in dramatic decline in our countryside, putting them on the RSPB Red List.

Corn Bunting
Crested Lark

Other smaller birds included Black Redstarts at the Peñafalcon (both male and female), the brilliantly coloured Rock Bunting, also at the Peñafalcon, and the Serin; a bird that we saw regularly on top of trees singing its little heart out.


Black Redstart (male)
Black Redstart (female)
Serin

And other welcome additions to the list were the Hoopoe, seen at the Arrocampo Resevoir, Blue Rock Thrush, seen mainly in Monfrague, Woodchat Shrike, a species we have previously seen many times in Turkey, and the Spotless Starling, a bird found only on the Iberian Peninsula and a few Mediterranean islands.


Blue Rock Thrush
a group of Spotless Starling
Hoopoe
Woodchat Shrike

Extremadura certainly lived up to its reputation as one of the best places to see birds in Europe. We saw almost everything we could have wished for, and a few extras, making the Extremadura trip one of the best yet.



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