Photos with this report (click to enlarge)
In February, I was given the opportunity to represent Surfbirds on a four day famtrip (familiarisation trip) to southern Extremadura in Spain. This being the Province of Badajoz. The trip was organised to promote this under-watched area for birdwatching and was led by the experienced and very knowledgeable Godfried Schreur
I flew into Lisbon airport in Portugal. The road journey to Badajoz province takes about two and a half hours.
Day 1. February 20th
Weather: Misty and grey with showers.
A visit to the plains and steppe of Valverde de Leganés was our first location. This habitat of large open fields, interspersed with olive groves and the occasional few big trees is the perfect landscape for our target birds here. Great Bustard and Little Bustard were seen in good numbers, on the ground and in flight. A few Black-bellied Sandgrouse were seen flying over, as a Merlin was spotted sitting on a post. Large groups of White Storks were perched up on nests in the large trees, as Hen Harriers and Red Kites patrolled the fields. Calandra and Crested Larks could be seen and heard calling. Common Cranes were heard in the distance.
We then moved on to the lagoons at La Albuera. Two hides overlook the main lagoon which is home to waterfowl. Amongst the more common birds here such as Pochard and Gadwall, of interest were Egyptian Goose, Red-crested Pochard and Black-necked Grebe. A pair of White Storks had taken up residence on top of a tower hide nearby, with more in the trees beyond. A Singing, Southern Grey Shrike was seen in a nearby tree and both Hen and Marsh Harrier were spotted here.
Lunch and the afternoon were spent at a private estate in Valverde de Leganes. We would be shown how the Iberian Pig is farmed and the breeding of the Toro Bravo (fighting bulls). Birds seen here of note were: Pallid Swift, Corn Bunting and Green Sandpiper. Serins and Crested Larks were calling in abundance. A nesting colony of White Storks occupied a number of large trees here. The day was finished off watching Common Cranes coming in to roost, large numbers were gathering in the fields.
Day 2. February 21st
From the hotel in Olivenza, Lesser Kestrel had been seen and Spotless Starlings were perching on the roof. The morning would be a trip to the Alqueva reservoir. On the way we would stop off at some cork woods which were very productive for passerines. A good list of birds were seen including: Short-toed Treecreeper, Thekla and Crested Lark, Hoopoe, Cirl Bunting, Hawfinch, Woodlark, Serin. At the reservoir we saw Cattle Egret, Golden Plover, Osprey, Stonechat, Zitting Cisticola and Hoopoe. A gathering group of Griffon and Black Vultures were high overhead.
After a picnic lunch we headed to Badajoz town which is situated on the Guadiana river, this is the border between Spain and Portugal. Here we would do some “Urban birding”. Along the edge of the river are a series of long thin islands, these have small trees, scrub and reeds and are home to a great variety of birds. We also saw Otters here. The birds seen here were: Common Kingfisher, Little Egret, Great Egret, Purple Swamphen, Little Bittern, Penduline Tit, Cetti’s Warbler, Grey Wagtail, Chiffchaff and Common Waxbill.
We then headed to the town of Alberquerque. As the sun was setting we would wait for an Eagle Owl, which returns each evening to announce it’s territory on a rocky outcrop near the town. A little dark for photography, but great to see such a bird fly in and sit on the rocks.
Day 3. February 22nd
Weather: Sunny with white cloud.
First today would be a trip around La Rocca de la Sierra and Villar del Rey. Some of the first birds seen were: A good group of Azure-winged Magpies, Black Redstart and Dartford Warbler. A walk behind an industrial area in the town of La Rocca de la Sierra would give us: Stone Curlew, Spanish Sparrow, Black-winged Kite, Hoopoe, Little Owl and a Great-spotted Cuckoo was heard. Then we had a good stroll along the river, we would see Griffon, Black and Egyptian Vultures. A Bonelli’s Eagle was circling overhead as well as a large forming group of Common Cranes which were heading off on migration. On the journey to our lunch venue at Alberqueque, we would see Bonelli’s and Spanish Imperial Eagle.
In the afternoon we would take an excursion through the Sierra de San Pedro to the Castle of Azagala. The castle sits high up above the surrounding countryside and is a great vantage point. With a lake and rocky outcrops below, there would be a lot to look for here. Species seen here would include: Golden Eagle, Black Stork, Crag Martin and Black Vultures which were loafing around on the rocks below.
Day 4. February 23rd
Sunny with a little cloud.
The final day would start with a look around the hilltop castle in Alburquerque. A Blue Rock Thrush was perched on the castle walls as we arrived. We climbed up on to the walls and could see Crag Martins flying around with House martins. Over the town there were a few Lesser Kestrels which would be the first ones to arrive for the breeding season, a good number collect here as summer migrants.
We would then head for the Gevora River in the vicinity of Alburquerque Birds seen here: Griffon and Black Vultures, Spanish Imperial Eagle, Sardinian Warbler, Hoopoe.
It would then be time for lunch and then our journey back to the airport for flights home.
It was a very intensive four days and with so much to see, my aim of recording the trip with photographs of the birds would be quite a challenge. I hope my shots give an idea of what to expect, if considering a well recommended visit. From a birdwatching point of view it couldn’t be faulted. 124 species in four days is very impressive. Godfried was an excellent tour leader, he knows the area very well and his experience of the birds meant that nothing went unseen. For anyone interested in visiting the area it would be worth contacting him– Godfried.email@example.com
I would like to thank Martin and the Surfbirds team for giving me the opportunity to go on the trip. It has given me a great insight into the area and I will definitely be returning, this time for some intensive photography.
There are more images in the Britain and Europe common birds gallery. Also, larger images can be seen on my blog - http://stevenround-birdphotography.blogspot.co.uk/
Great Crested Grebe
Western Marsh Harrier
Spanish Imperial Eagle
European Golden Plover
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Common Wood Pigeon
Eurasian Collared Dove
Great Spotted Cuckoo
Great Spotted Woodpecker
Lesser Spotted Woodpecker
Eurasian Crag Martin
Common House Martin
Blue Rock Thrush
European Crested Tit
Eurasian Blue Tit
Eurasian Penduline Tit
Southern Grey Shrike
Eurasian Tree Sparrow