Friday, 19 May 2017

Iberia: Monfrague 17 - 19 May

Day 38 17.05.2015
Having finished our survey work we began a couple of days birding casually in Monfrague National Park. Even as we drove through the park there were plenty of birds; Griffon, Egyptian and Black Vultures all in abundance, as well as Black Stork. Passerines were also in good numbers; Melodious Warbler, Black Redstart, Blue Rock Thrush, Rock Bunting plus finally connecting with Cirl Bunting, with a couple of individuals seen during the afternoon including a singing male. In the evening we headed up to the castle to watch White-rumped Swifts and they more than performed, with birds coming into the castle to their nests, providing us with brilliant fly-by. An awesome way to spend the evening!
-Cirl Bunting
-Eurasian Griffon Vulture
-White-rumped Swift

Species List:
Monfrague National Park: White Stork, Black Stork, Eurasian Griffon Vulture, European Black Vulture, Egyptian Vulture, Black Kite, Booted Eagle, Feral Pigeon, Alpine Swift, Pallid Swift, Common Swift, White-rumped Swift, House Martin, Red-rumped Swallow, Barn Swallow, Rock Bunting, Cirl Bunting, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Serin, Black Redstart, Blackbird, Blue Rock Thrush, Mistle Thrush, Melodious Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Great Tit, Iberian Water Frog, Iberian Painted Frog, Mediterranean Pond Terrapin, Large Psammodromus, Small White, Large White, Clouded Yellow, Painted Lady, False Ilex Hairstreak, Small Copper, Meadow Brown, Southern Gatekeeper, Red-veined Darter,

Day 39 18.05.2017
This was our one and only full day in Monfrague, so it was an unfortunate development that the wind picked up overnight. Despite this we made the best of it, and whilst it seemed to have reduced the abundance of Cirl Buntings, other birds were not too badly affected it seemed. We first headed just out the park to a site for the buntings and Crested Tit. The Buntings were nowhere to be seen, but we had a good session with 4 Crested Tits. Sadly they did not really sit for photos, but they were such beautiful birds I can’t say that I really minded. A Subalpine Warbler was also present, but shared the same problem as all the others we have seen in that it remained within the bushes. A stunning male Common Redstart was a surprise, as it was a trip tick, and not something we had expected for the day. A couple of butterfly lifers was also nice; Black-veined White and Spanish Gatekeeper. The former was very nice after I had been unable to clinch one earlier in the trip.
-Crested Tit
-Black-veined White
-Spanish Gatekeeper
After spending the first half of the morning in the woods, we headed off to a watchpoint for Spanish Imperial Eagle. The birds were not as regular as they had been at this site, as they had failed with their nest, but we hoped for a flyby and after a short wait we struck lucky. Sadly it was very brief and its second appearance was equally as brief so we returned in the evening. In the evening we had much better views of an adult flying near the ridge behind us. It did not fly particularly low but low enough to see detail on the wings and feathers. Obviously brilliant to see, and about time given we have been in Iberia for over 6 weeks.
-Spanish Imperial Eagle
After spending time with the eagle we continued driving slowly up the road in the hope of finding some Cirl Buntings. We initially heard them and then finally saw well a small group of around 10 buntings feeding near the road. They came fairly close and we were finally able to get some good shots. At the same spot Re’a picked out a Lesser-spotted Woodpecker, which when we investigated, found a nest hole, and could clearly see the adults bringing in food. That was a pretty cool, and a lifer I did not expect for the trip. After dark we did a slow night drive along the main road, but Red Deer were all that we could manage.
-Cirl Bunting
-Lesser-spotted Woodpecker

Species List:
Monfrague National Park: White Stork, Eurasian Griffon Vulture, European Black Vulture, Black Kite, Spanish Imperial Eagle, Short-toed Eagle, Feral Pigeon, Woodpigeon, Common Swift, House Martin, Crag Martin, Red-rumped Swallow, Barn Swallow, Rock Bunting, Cirl Bunting, Blue Rock Thrush, Mistle Thrush, Lesser-spotted Woodpecker, Greater-spotted Woodpecker, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Serin, Common Redstart, Blackbird, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Crested Tit, Western Subalpine Warbler, Jay, Azure-winged Magpie, Raven, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Small White, Large White, Black-veined White, Clouded Yellow, Painted Lady, False Ilex Hairstreak, Small Copper, Meadow Brown, Spanish Gatekeeper, Red-veined Darter,

Day 40 19.05.2017
Today is our final full day, and last day of any meaning, in Iberia. We only had the morning birding before heading back to Campo Maior as a half way stop before our trip to Lisbon tomorrow. We called off at Almarez Reservoir on the outskirts of Monfrague for some birding before we began wrapping it up. The site was pretty good, with a number of wetland birds present, especially Purple Heron and Little Bittern which we found in some number. Purple Swamphen was also present although typically skulking, and we had good views of Great Reed Warbler singing and heard several Savi’s Warblers, although we saw none. A nice end to the birding for our trip! On the way back we had a stop off at a petrol station to fill up, and here we had some nice views of Azure-winged Magpie. They were pretty upset with a Black Kite that flew over, and a posse of at least 10 Magpies followed the Kite until it had left.
-Little Bittern
-Purple Heron
-Spotless Starling
-Azure-winged Magpie

Species List:
Almarez Reservoir: Cormorant, Great-white Egret, Little Egret, Cattle Egret, Grey Heron, Purple Heron, Black-crowned Night Heron, Marsh Harrier, Black Kite, Red Kite, Booted Eagle, Great-crested Grebe, Purple Swamphen, Moorhen, Little Bittern, Swallow, House Martin, Red-rumped Swallow, Sand Martin, Common Swift, Pallid Swift, Reed Warbler, Great Reed Warbler, House Sparrow, Spotless Starling, Corn Bunting, Crested Lark, Squacco Heron, Gull-billed Tern, Azure-winged Magpie, Magpie, Jackdaw, Greenfinch, 

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Iberia: Merida & Trujillo 14 - 17 May

Day 35 14.05.2017
It’s crazy to think that we are now into the last week of working. So many birds have been seen, but there’s still so much more to see, and that was demonstrated today. We headed off La Albuera, a small town, quite close to Badajoz. Despite birding in an area of endless agriculture, I had a really sweet mornings birding. Without a doubt the highlight was a small colony of Collard Pratincoles next to the track I was walking. They showed really well, such class birds. Also showing crazy well were the areas abundant Montagu’s Harriers. I stumbled across a 2 pairs of Rollers, as well as a single Great Bustard. Perhaps the real surprise were four Lapwings in the fields, not a species I was expecting for the morning.
-Montagu's Harrier
-Lapwing
-Collard Pratincole

Species List:
La Albuera: Mallard, Red-legged Partridge, White Stork, Montagu’s Harrier, Black-winged Kite, Black Kite, Common Buzzard, Lesser Kestrel, Great Bustard, Little Ringed Plover, Black-winged Stilt, Lapwing, Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Woodpigeon, Feral Pigeon, Collard Dove, Common Swift, Alpine Swift, Red-rumped Swallow, European Bee-eater, European Roller, Crested Lark, Calandra Lark, Short-toed Lark, Blackbird, Iberian Grey Shrike, Magpie, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Goldfinch, Linnet, Corn Bunting, Small White, Large White, Green-striped White, False Ilex Hairstreak,


Day 36 15.05.2017
Today was our final day in Merida, although we were actually working in an area of Steppe half way between Merida and Trujillo, near Campo Lugar. Despite the habitat looking good there was a very limited array of birdlife. A few Little Bustards were a highlight, but apart from them it was a small assortment of common steppe birds. The only birds that were really different were three Roller, but sadly they were more distant than I would have liked. We also called off at a couple of the nearby reservoirs. The birdlife here was also limited, with a Red-crested Pochard probably being the best of it.
In the evening we started working near Trujillo. There was very little improvement it has to be said, although my first Red Kite for some time was nice, as was a very brief Great-spotted Cuckoo. Holly Blue was a nice butterfly trip tick, and I found an enormous Ocellated Lizard, with the individual being about 50cm long. An absolute beast!

Species List:
Campo Lugar: Little Bustard, Roller, Bee-eater, Calandra Lark, Short-toed Lark, Crested Lark, House Sparrow, Corn Bunting, Lesser Kestrel, Black Kite, Booted Eagle, Eurasian Griffon Vulture, Linnet, Goldfinch, White Stork, Grey Heron, Cattle Egret, Mallard, Gull-billed Tern, Hoopoe, Barn Swallow, Spotless Starling, Serin, Goldfinch, Great-crested Grebe, Cormorant, Red-crested Pochard, Kingfisher, White Wagtail,
Trujillo: Red Kite, Great-spotted Cuckoo, Corn Bunting, Hoopoe, Bee-eater, Black Kite, Mallard, White Stork, House Sparrow, Crested Lark, Calandra Lark, Thekla Lark, Western Dappled White, Holly Blue, Small Copper,

Day 37 16.05.2017
We continued working in the same area that we started the previous evening. I had a fairly pleasant morning, with double figures of both Great and Little Bustard, although seeing the latter was a completely different challenge. Distant views of Black-bellied Sandgrouse and Stone-curlew were also nice. Great-spotted Cuckoo and Red Kite were also still around, plus I had a Northern Wheatear, which is always awesome to see. There was a good selection of insects on offer, with many species of Butterfly and Dragonfly, with a lifer of Knapweed Fritillary, plus I had an Ant-lion which is only my second ever.
-Thekla Lark
-Scarlet Darter
-Knapweed Fritillary
In the evening I worked in an area of very small, very well grazed fields. Sadly this meant there were not too many birds. The highlight was a pair of young Great-spotted Cuckoo, which were being ferociously mobbed by a Magpie. Upon our return to the accommodation I found a Turkish Gecko hanging from the roof of our porch.

Species List:
Trujillo: Mallard, Great-crested Grebe, Grey Heron, Cattle Egret, White Stork, Short-toed Eagle, Red Kite, Black Kite, Lesser Kestrel, Eurasian Griffon Vulture, Great Bustard, Little Bustard, Black-headed Gull, Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Stone Curlew, Woodpigeon, Collard Dove, Great-spotted Cuckoo, European Bee-eater, Hoopoe, Crested Lark, Thekla Lark, Calandra Lark, Short-toed Lark, Red-rumped Swallow, House Martin, Barn Swallow, Northern Wheatear, Stonechat, Iberian Grey Shrike, Jackdaw, Magpie, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Goldfinch, Linnet, Serin, Corn Bunting, Spanish Psammodromus, Spanish Pond Terrapin, Western Dappled White, Green Striped White, Common Blue, Brown Argus, Meadow Brown, Southern Gatekeeper, Small Copper, Knapweed Fritillary, Scarlet Darter, Black-tailed Skimmer, Broad-bodied Chaser, Red-veined Darter, Dainty Damselfly,

Day 38 17.05.2017
Today was our final working day. Unbelievable to think but our time in Iberia is almost over. It was nice to end our work with a few Great Bustards, but sadly only one Little Bustard was heard. There were good numbers of Bee-eater around, and a Booted Eagle was nice. Overall though it was a fairly steady morning! The reptiles were much better. I had a really nice Montpellier Snake slither into a wall when it saw me, plus a few Wall Lizards, Psammodromus and Ocellated Lizard. There were quite a few butterflies on the wing, but nothing really different from previous days.
-Bee-eater

Species List:
Trujillo: Trujillo: Mallard, Grey Heron, Cattle Egret, White Stork, Short-toed Eagle, Black Kite, Lesser Kestrel, Eurasian Griffon Vulture, Great Bustard, Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Woodpigeon, Collard Dove, Great-spotted Cuckoo, European Bee-eater, Hoopoe, Crested Lark, Thekla Lark, Calandra Lark, Short-toed Lark, House Martin, Barn Swallow, Stonechat, Woodchat Shrike, Jackdaw, Magpie, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Corn Bunting, Spanish Psammodromus, Western Montpellier Snake Ocellated Lizard, Western Dappled White, Green Striped White, Common Blue, Brown Argus, Meadow Brown, Southern Gatekeeper, Small Copper, Black-tailed Skimmer, Western Clubtail, Dainty Damselfly, Southern Emerald Damselfly, 

Saturday, 13 May 2017

Iberia: Extremadura Ebird big day 13 May

Day 34 13.05.2017
It’s crazy but this will be our last day off before we head for a couple of chilled out days in Monfrague. Today was the Ebird big day, so we set ourselves a target of trying to see as many species as possible throughout Extremadura. Ebird is a website for recording bird sightings all across the world, and this is an annual event. We had a local birder, Fergus, with us to help us out, plus he was a friend of Yoav’s.
First we went to Montijo Dam where we had our Herons and a few other waterbirds. Squacco Heron was the obvious highlight here, with a couple of nice birds showing fairly well. Black-crowned Night Heron was also a nice addition to the day list, and I finally trip-ticked Tree Sparrow.
Next we drove on to a vineyard near Almendralejo for Rufous Bush Robin. It took some time before we located this beautiful and charismatic bird, but we did connect with a singing male. Sadly it did not show its tail while we were watching it. Obviously a cracking lifer and a superb bird! Following our time here we continued driving towards Hornachos, and area of cork oak woodland and mountains. Along the way we picked up a few raptors; Booted Eagle, Golden Eagle, Egyptian Vulture etc. An Imperial Eagle was seen but I can’t justify ticking it on the views that I got, so I’ll wait for that one.
-Rufous Bush Robin
Once in Hornachos we searched the woodland picking up a steady trickle of species. Black Stork was nice and we also got 2 Little Terns, dunno what they were doing in a small pond in the middle of a wood but whatever. Rock Sparrow was also common here, and we had a few Waxbills too. Subalpine Warblers were fairly abundant but continued their trend of being a nightmare to photograph. Once we had scoured the woodland we continued to the mountains where we had a couple of distant Black Wheatear. I also added a butterfly lifer in the form of Marsh Fritillary, although the views were far from ideal.
-Marsh Fritillary
After lunch we continued on our way, heading towards La Serena for the steppe birds. We connected with all our targets, including both Sandgrouse, both Bustards, plus all the Larks. We finally had a Calandra Lark that decided to show well, finally allowing me to get some photos of this species that I’m pleased with.
-Calandra Lark
Once we wrapped up on the steppes we moved on to a stretch of river north of Merida. Here we hoped to wrap up the day with a few final river species. It was a really nice evening with good numbers of warblers singing, including hearing my first ever Savi’s Warbler. A Kingfisher was a nice addition to our trip list, a long overdue addition it has to be said. A couple more Little Terns, plus Little Bittern and Purple Heron made it a really nice end to our day.
-Azure-winged Magpie
-Hoopoe
For the last few hours of the day we tried to wrap up our owls and nightjars. Sadly we failed with owls, but we had a great performance from Red-necked Nightjar, including a single bird sat on the track right in front of the car, finally allowing us to get a good view of one. There was also a steady stream of herons and egrets going to roost, including Glossy Ibis and Black-crowned Night Heron.
-Red-necked Nightjar

Species List:

Extremadura, Ebird Big Day: Mallard, Gadwall, Red-legged Partridge, Quail, Great-crested Grebe, Little Grebe, Cormorant, Grey Heron, Purple Heron, Black-crowned Night Heron, Glossy Ibis, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Little Bittern, White Stork, Black Stork, Spoonbill, Lesser Kestrel, Common Kestrel, Eurasian Griffon Vulture, European Black Vulture, Egyptian Vulture, Booted Eagle, Golden Eagle, Short-toed Eagle, Black Kite, Black-winged Kite, Montagu’s Harrier, Marsh Harrier, Common Buzzard, Moorhen, Coot, Great Bustard, Little Bustard, Little Ringed Plover, Black-winged Stilt, Stone Curlew, Collard Pratincole, Black-headed Gull, Little Tern, Gull-billed Tern, Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Pin-tailed Sandgrouse, Woodpigeon, Turtle Dove, Feral Pigeon, Collard Dove, European Cuckoo, Red-necked Nightjar, Alpine Swift, Common Swift, Pallid Swift, Common Kingfisher, European Bee-eater, Roller, Hoopoe, Great-spotted Woodpecker, Crested Lark, Thekla Lark, Calandra Lark, Short-toed Lark, Sand Martin, House Martin, Crag Martin, Red-rumped Swallow, Barn Swallow, White Wagtail, Iberian Yellow Wagtail, Wren, Blackbird, Mistle Thrush, Black-eared Wheatear, Black Wheatear, Stonechat, Rufous Bush Robin, Nightingale, Blue Rock Thrush, Subalpine Warbler, Dartford Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Western Orphean Warbler, Reed Warbler, Great Reed Warbler, Melodious Warbler, Spotted Flycatcher, Penduline Tit, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Short-toed Treecreeper, Iberian Grey Shrike, Woodchat Shrike, Jay, Chough, Magpie, Azure-winged Magpie, Jackdaw, Raven, Spotless Starling, Golden Oriole, House Sparrow, Tree Sparrow, Spanish Sparrow, Rock Sparrow, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Chaffinch, Serin, Linnet, Hawfinch, Common Waxbill, Corn Bunting, Rock Bunting, 

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Iberia: Merida 09 - 12 May

Day 30 09.05.2017
We have been based in Merida for the last few days but have been travelling some distance to do point counts. It was a relief this morning to work just outside the city, or that’s what it felt like when I woke up, but in reality the limited birdlife made it much less enjoyable. On the walk itself I managed a single Great Bustard and a flock of Black-bellied Sandgrouse, plus a single Turtle Dove and Night Heron. Once I had finished working in my box I had a bit of fun papping Black-winged Stilts on a small pond nearby, plus I got to try and photograph Azure-winged Magpies again. Once more the results are unsatisfactory, but they’re getting better and who knows, when I leave I might actually have some decent photos of them.
-Black-winged Stilt
-Azure-winged Magpie

Species List:
Merida: Collard Dove, Feral Pigeon, Turtle Dove, Woodpigeon, Raven, Jackdaw, Magpie, Azure-winged Magpie, Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Black-crowned Night Heron, Great Bustard, Black-winged Stilt, Little-ringed Plover, Hoopoe, European Bee-eater, Booted Eagle, Short-toed Eagle, Common Buzzard, Marsh Harrier, Montagu’s Harrier, European Black Vulture, Calandra Lark, Crested Lark, Short-toed Lark, Zitting Cisticola, Quail, Red-legged Partridge, Serin, House Sparrow, Spanish Sparrow, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Linnet, Clouded Yellow, Meadow Brown, Southern Gatekeeper, Small Copper, Western Dappled White, Green-striped White, Hummingbird Hawkmoth,


Day 31 10.05.2017
For our second day working around Merida we headed up the road to an area of open montado and stubble fields. The weather was supposed to turn in the afternoon and did not start great so this was our only work for the day. There were more birds than yesterday but it was still a slow day. My first Black-winged Kite for some time was a nice surprise, and there were good numbers of both Iberian Grey and Woodchat Shrike. I got nice views of both Calandra and Thekla lark but there were no photos to be had due to the poor light conditions. Fortunately we avoided the rain, so that was a bonus!
-Calandra Lark

Species List: 
Merida: Feral Pigeon, Woodpigeon, Magpie, Azure-winged Magpie, Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Cattle Egret, Hoopoe, European Bee-eater, Booted Eagle, Common Buzzard, Marsh Harrier, European Black Vulture, Calandra Lark, Crested Lark, Short-toed Lark, Zitting Cisticola, Red-legged Partridge, House Sparrow, Spanish Sparrow, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Linnet, Black-winged Kite, Chaffinch, Iberian Grey Shrike, Woodchat Shrike, Mistle Thrush, Clouded Yellow, Meadow Brown, Southern Gatekeeper, Small Copper, Western Dappled White, Green-striped White, Hummingbird Hawkmoth,


Day 32 11.05.2017
We headed an hour away from Merida for our transects today, but the day was not ideal with strong winds and frequent rainfall. Ultimately this might have been the reason the days birding was so steady. I still had a few nice birds, notable Black-winged Kite, Turtle Dove and a few Black-bellied Sandgrouse, but the overall cold and wet very much took the edge off the day. There was one extremely satisfying silver-lining, and that being my first real mammal of the trip. Initially I was just wrapping up a point count when I heard a snuffling noise nearby and looked up to see what I presumed was a Wild Boar piglet. Clearly on its own and by weak nature of its behaviour it seems to have been that way for some time, it showed no fear before it trotted on its way. Stunned, I later came across a feeding group of 5 adults round the edge of a pond. Incredible to see these awesome wild animals, really saving what would have been a pretty poor day otherwise.
-Wild Boar
-Wild Boar

Species List:
Merida: Feral Pigeon, Woodpigeon, Magpie, Azure-winged Magpie, Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Cattle Egret, Hoopoe, European Bee-eater, Common Buzzard, Marsh Harrier, Calandra Lark, Crested Lark, Short-toed Lark, Thekla Lark, Zitting Cisticola, Red-legged Partridge, House Sparrow, Spanish Sparrow, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Linnet, Black-winged Kite, Chaffinch, Iberian Grey Shrike, Woodchat Shrike, Turtle Dove, Wild Boar,


Day 33 12.05.2017
Again in similar conditions we returned to the site we had surveyed the previous morning. This morning though the rain cut our time short, it being seemingly pointless to be out trying to survey steppe birds in such poor conditions. That being said, I had a pretty decent morning, with eleven Great Bustards and quite a few Black-bellied Sandgrouse, plus Short-toed Lark, Little Owl and then the usual Calandra and Thekla Larks. So not the worst morning I have had here by any stretch of the imagination, but hardly the greatest either.
In the evening the weather cleared up somewhat, and it turned into a pleasant evening. We decided to head into Merida, to a park near a roman bridge, that we had been recommended for a few nice birds. Our evening was slow to get going but once we started to see birds we had a great time. A large heronry (Mainly Cattle Egret and Glossy Ibis) was really nice, and we got brief views of Purple Swamphen, including a chick. The birding highlight for certain was a family of Penduline Tits, which showed well, and at times quite close too. The none birding highlight was a Horseshoe Whip Snake that we found settled on one the pillars supporting the bridge. An awesome beast to see, especially since it was sat out in the open so chilled.
-Cattle Egret
-Spoonbill
-Horseshoe Whip Snake
-Penduline Tit

Species List:
Merida: Feral Pigeon, Woodpigeon, Magpie, Azure-winged Magpie, Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Cattle Egret, Hoopoe, European Bee-eater, Great Bustard, Grey Heron, Cormorant, Gadwall, Mallard, Common Buzzard, Black Kite, Calandra Lark, Crested Lark, Short-toed Lark, Zitting Cisticola, Red-legged Partridge, House Sparrow, Spanish Sparrow, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Linnet, Black-winged Kite, Chaffinch, Iberian Grey Shrike, Meadow Brown, 
Merida; Roman Bridge: Purple Swamphen, Moorhen, Mallard, Gadwall, Little Egret, Cattle Egret, Glossy Ibis, Spoonbill, Grey Heron, Purple Heron, Little Bittern, Black-crowned Night Heron, Penduline Tit, Alpine Swift, Common Swift, Red-rumped Swallow, Barn Swallow, House Martin, Golden Oriole, European Black Vulture, Black Kite, White Stork, Greenfinch, Serin, Goldfinch, House Sparrow, Spotless Starling, Reed Warbler, Gull-billed Tern, Feral Pigeon, Woodpigeon, Collard Dove, Hoopoe, Grey Wagtail, Blackbird, Great Tit, Jackdaw, Raven, Horseshoe Whip Snake,