Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Our First Day Exploring the Extremadura Region of Spain

Rob writes: In late May, Stephanie and I had the chance to go birding in the Extremadura region of Spain. We had decided to add a week onto a family trip to Europe and chose to spend that time in Spain. As a birder, traveling to Extremadura was a natural choice. It's one of the best birding areas in Spain if not in all of Europe and the list of possible species was quite incredible.

After arriving in Madrid and spending an afternoon sightseeing, we grabbed our rental car early the next morning and started on our way to visit some friends in Toledo. We enjoyed a wonderful tour of Toledo and then spent the afternoon birding at Alcazar de San Juan. This wetland area was full of birds! During our short afternoon birding trip, I saw nearly 35 life birds. Once we were finished birding, we made a three hour drive to the Casa Rural El Recuerdo near Trujillo in Extremadura which would be our home base for the next 3 nights.

This hotel is owned by a birder, Martin Kelsey, and his family and is the perfect place to stay when birding in Extremadura. The location is extremely convenient and the hotel is very nice and comfortable. Martin is extremely knowledgeable about birding in the area and was a huge help when it came to planning out our days and helping us know where to look for our target species. Without his help, we would not have found nearly as many birds on our trip.

One of the most well-known birding destinations within Extremadura is Parque National de Monfragüe. This incredible national park is known for its diversity and density of raptors and vultures. Martin had told us to drive all the way though the park without stopping and then to work our way back towards where we entered the park. It was incredibly difficult not to stop too much but we made it to the other end of the park where there is a huge concentration of nesting birds. The Eurasian Griffons where everywhere but we had to wait for the star attraction, Spanish Eagle, to make an appearance. While waiting, we met a local birder who gave us more tips and tricks for birding the park and then pointed out the eagle! We also saw young eagles on a nest a bit later.

The Spanish Eagle never came very close but the white leading edge of the wing helps to make this species easy to identify from a distance.
We spent the next 5 hours exploring the park and finding all kinds of amazing birds. Some of my favorites were Black Stork, Egyptian Vulture, Woodchat Shrike, Eurasian Golden Oriole, Long-tailed Tit, Blue Rock-Thrush, and Black-eared Wheatear.

Eurasian Griffon is a vulture species and is one of the most common birds at Monfragüe. Hundreds of them nest on the cliffs in the park.
On our drive back to our hotel, we made a stop at the bullring in Trujillo to see the Lesser Kestrels that nest there. We had to wait a bit for them to come out but ended up getting great views as they flew overhead.

Out of the 57 species that we saw that day, 41 were lifers! Check back soon to hear about the rest of my time in Extremadura.

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