Day 23 02.05.2017
Today was our first full day waking up and going to sleep in Spain. The change in habitat was obvious from the start, with the pastures substantially drier and less verdant than those we had left behind in Portugal. The walk in the morning produced plenty of Calandra and Short-toed Larks. I also had a lifer in Pin-tailed Sandgrouse. Stunning birds! I had a few that flew past me late morning and then again in the evening. Really awesome to catch up with these and hopefully we will see more during our time in Spain. Also in the morning I had one of my best bird encounters of the trip so far, when a pale phase Booted Eagle took to circling directly over my head for at least a minute. Seriously awesome to see, such a beautiful bird! Northern Wheatears were also on the agenda (always a win) and I also had a butterfly lifer in the form of Panoptes Blue, plus there were these crazy lacewing type insects all over, which were really smart.
In the evening we headed back out to the plains. Bustards were on the agenda this evening and I scored big time with a flock of 22 Great Bustards on my transect. Also on the transect I had a Golden Eagle fly overhead, although quite high as well as my first Ocellated Lizard, although it was an extremely brief encounter.
After the Booted Eagle in the morning it would be pushed to have a more amazing encounter, but I was wrong. On our drive up to my transect we had amazing views of Collard Pratincole coming to drink at a puddle near the car. We pulled up and had incredible views of the birds coming down and flying all around us, probably 10 in total although only one came down to drink. Seriously cool! And then, just to top it all off on the way back, as we drove home in the semi gloom we spotted a large ball of fluff on the roadside. We turned around, and sure enough we had juvenile Eagle Owl, not yet near fledging, that must have fallen out of the nest onto the road. We picked it up, beak clapping the whole time, and move it to a safer position back up away from the road. We later picked out the adult perched up on a pylon low down. A seriously amazing encounter and a seriously amazing day!
-Eagle Owl chick
La Serena: Crested Lark, Thekla Lark, Short-toed Lark, Calandra Lark, Northern Wheatear, Stonechat, Zitting Cisticola, Melodious Warbler, Cettis Warbler, House Sparrow, Spotless Starling, Barn Swallow, Red-rumped Swallow, House Martin, Crag Martin, Common Swift, Raven, Jackdaw, Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Pin-tailed Sandgrouse, Great Bustard, Little Bustard, Mallard, Gadwall, Grey Heron, Little Ringed Plover, Black-winged Stilt, Common Sandpiper, Collard Pratincole, European Eagle Owl, Little Owl, Lesser Kestrel, Common Buzzard, Booted Eagle, Short-toed Eagle, Golden Eagle, Montagu’s Harrier, White Stork, Hoopoe, Ocellated Lizard, Spanish Psammodromus, Mediterranean Pond Terrapin, Broad-bodied Chaser, Black-tailed Skimmer, Emperor Dragonfly, Iberian Bluetail, Meadow Brown, Western Dappled White, Bath White, Green-striped White, Clouded Yellow, Brown Argus, Common Blue, Panoptes Blue, Essex Skipper, Painted Lady,
Day 24 03.05.2017
For our morning work we returned to the area we had worked the previous evening, and given the great birding of the previous evening we were extremely optimistic it would be a brilliant morning. Whilst the morning was good, it was not as good as we had hoped. Bird wise it felt fairly steady, although there remained good numbers of Calandra and Short-toed Larks in the song. The Pratincoles were a prominent feature of the morning, flying overhead the whole time. A dry field near to my transect route seemed to be where they were congregating and I would bet they were nesting in there. Other birds; Our first Egyptian Vulture of the trip, a single Great Bustard, a few Little Bustards, 3 Stone Curlew and more Pin-tailed and Black-bellied Sandgrouse. On the none-bird front I had another Spanish Psammodromus, plus more frustratingly brief views of Ocellated Lizard. There were a few butterflies on the wing, a lifer in the form of Black-eyed Blue, plus better views of Berger’s Clouded Yellow. Dragonfly lifer; Western Clubtail! My first ever Clubtail dragonfly so happens to be the one without a club. A Damselfly lifer; Southern Emerald Damselfly, plus a trip tick in Common Blue Damselfly. In the evening the birds remained fairly steady; a Bonelli’s Eagle probably the highlight on the transect itself. On the way over we had a Roller on a fencepost right by the roadside, my first one since the first week back in Castro Verde. Continuing the trend for our drives back, tonight we were interrupted by a Red-necked Nightjar that had obviously been feeding from the road. We flushed it as we pulled up, sadly it did not return but we heard it calling in the distance. Another new dragonfly for me and the trip was Scarlet Darter, a seriously stunning insect.
-Iberian Water Frog
-Berger's Clouded Yellow
-Western Clubtail Dragonfly
-Southern Emerald Damselfly
-Iberian Pond Terrapin
La Serena: Crested Lark, Short-toed Lark, Calandra Lark, Stonechat, Zitting Cisticola, House Sparrow, Spotless Starling, Barn Swallow, Common Swift, Raven, Jackdaw, Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Pin-tailed Sandgrouse, Great Bustard, Little Bustard, Mallard, Gadwall, Grey Heron, Little Ringed Plover, Black-winged Stilt, Collard Pratincole, Lesser Kestrel, Egyptian Vulture, Griffon Vulture, Common Buzzard, Short-toed Eagle, Bonelli’s Eagle, Montagu’s Harrier, White Stork, Hoopoe, European Roller, Red-necked Nightjar, Marsh Harrier, Moorhen, Whinchat, Ocellated Lizard, Spanish Psammodromus, Iberian Water Frog, Broad-bodied Chaser, Emperor Dragonfly, Western Clubtail, Scarlett Darter, Common Blue Damselfly, Southern Emerald Damselfly, Iberian Bluetail Damselfly, Meadow Brown, Western Dappled White, Clouded Yellow, Berger’s Clouded Yellow, Brown Argus, Common Blue, Black-eyed Blue, Essex Skipper, Southern Marbled Skipper, Painted Lady, Small Copper,
Day 25 04.05.2017
For our penultimate day in La Serena we returned to the area we had worked the previous couple of days for the last time. Birds were fairly steady, with a regular assortment of species on display. A Golden Eagle gave me a hard time, looking right into the sun, but it was indeed a Golden, nothing more. Early morning a large number of Vultures had taken to roosting in the field next to my transect, and using a bit of classic Branch stealth I was able to get reasonably close to them. It’s always worth mentioning when a Northern Wheatear makes an appearance, as it was obviously a highlight. On the none bird front; Dragonflies remained in healthy numbers, with an obviously large emergence of Common Darters overnight, lots of fresh individuals around. A few Lizards were on the rocks and there were good numbers of Terrapins around. One, in discovering my presence attempted to scuttle into the water, but ended up flipping itself over. I gave it a hand and flipped it back, and as a result got to see one with its limbs and head withdrawn into its shell. All good stuff!
-European Black Vulture & Griffon Vulture
-Iberian Pond Terrapin
-Geniez's Wall Lizard
-Fledgling Crested Lark
In the evening we headed off to a mountain site in the hope of WR swift again. We failed again but had a good time anyway, especially with Rock Buntings. There was a family with 3 fledged juveniles plus an additional, possibly two additional, males singing around the mountain. We found a Blue Rock Thrush nest and had Melodious Warbler, Black Vulture and plenty of Serins. A really nice reptile tick was Iberian False Smooth Snake, which crossed the road right in front of me, evening attempting to go under my foot.
-European Black Vulture
-Iberian False Smooth Snake
La Serena: Crested Lark, Short-toed Lark, Calandra Lark, Stonechat, Zitting Cisticola, House Sparrow, Spotless Starling, Barn Swallow, House Martin, Common Swift, Raven, Jackdaw, Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Pin-tailed Sandgrouse, Great Bustard, Little Bustard, Mallard, Gadwall, Grey Heron, Little Ringed Plover, Black-winged Stilt, Collard Pratincole, Lesser Kestrel, European Black Vulture, Griffon Vulture, Common Buzzard, Short-toed Eagle, Golden Eagle, Montagu’s Harrier, White Stork, Hoopoe, Marsh Harrier, Northern Wheatear, Blue Rock Thrush, Melodious Warbler, Serin, Rock Bunting, Black-eared Wheatear, Lesser Kestrel, Crag Martin, Red-rumped Swallow, Spanish Psammodromus, Mediterranean Pond Terrapin, Iberian Water Frog, Broad-bodied Chaser, Emperor Dragonfly, Western Clubtail, Common Blue Damselfly, Southern Emerald Damselfly, Iberian Bluetail Damselfly, Meadow Brown, Western Dappled White, Common Blue, Black-eyed Blue, Panoptes Blue, Lulworth Skipper, Gatekeeper, Essex Skipper, Painted Lady, Small Copper,
For our final day in La Serena we headed out to an area just north of the town, across the road from where we had worked on the first day. The weather had taken a turn for the worse and as a result there was not a great deal of birdlife on display. A few Short-toed Larks and Tawny Pipits were about the best on offer. A couple of Chough were nice and a pair of Roller were obviously nice to see. However, I found something I had been looking for during the entire time in Iberia; corrugated tin slabs, 2 in fact, and under each one I found an enormous Ocellated Lizard looking superb. Each one was about a foot long, and a fairly hefty beast too. Really nice to see! That got me in the mood for turning over rocks and other items, which produced a surprise in the form of a Scorpion, not something I expected to see during my time in Spain. And that wraps up our time in La Serena, next stop: Merida.
-Male Ocellated Lizard
La Serena: Crested Lark, Short-toed Lark, Calandra Lark, Stonechat, Zitting Cisticola, House Sparrow, Spotless Starling, Barn Swallow, House Martin, Common Swift, Raven, Jackdaw, Chough, Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Little Bustard, Mallard, Little Ringed Plover, Black-winged Stilt, Lesser Kestrel, Common Buzzard, Short-toed Eagle, Montagu’s Harrier, White Stork, Hoopoe, Roller, Tawny Pipit, Black-eared Wheatear, Red-legged Partridge, Ocellated Lizard, Large Psammodromus, Scarlet Darter, Broad-bodied Chaser, Meadow Brown, Iberian Marbled White,