There were lots of highlights, near Sepulveda we searched hard for DUPONT'S LARK which gave itsef up after singing from the darkness and generally managing to ghost between sparse vegetation, here to were numerous GRIFFON VULTURES, flying at eye-level on the edge of a gorge being joined sporadically by the odd EGYPTIAN VULTURE (first new bird) and BOOTED EAGLE.
A drive north and west took us to an area near Benavente and a village called Villafafila, we pulled up in a lay-by surrounded by large arable fields scanning these fields we found no less than 350 or more GREAT BUSTARDS!!! a sight I will never forget, groups 30-60 and odd birds here and there, amazing. Dave wandered down the road and found 9 BLACK BELLIED SANDGROUSE (tick no.2) a difficult bird to find and a real bonus.
The other stand out moment here on the first day at this site was, Gav finding an IBERIAN GREEN WOODPECKER in a small clump of trees at least half a mile away, I am still in awe!!
The next morning was spent around a large lagoon just south of Villafafila it held, GULL BILLED TERNS, KENTISH PLOVERS, 4 SPOONBILLS, TAWNY PIPITS were flying over there were also plenty of BLACK WINGED STILTS and AVOCET. A quick stop at a small clump of trees produced several BONELLI'S WARBLERS, IBERIAN CHIFFCHAFF, GREAT SPOTTED CUCKOO, SUBALPINE WARBLER and SHORT EARED OWL. GREAT BUSTARDS were in the fields and 3 HOOPOE flew over there. All the time round the lagoon LESSER KESTRELS and BLACK and RED KITES were seen. After some great tapas in the village we decided on a circular route around the area that held the Great Bustards. The highlight was when Stephen picked out a LITTLE BUSTARD (tick no.3), in a stubble field, great find! we managed to find another 4 birds on the other side of the road.The rest of the afternoon we drove round slowly adding to the list of birds, our second and third GOLDEN EAGLES a MELANISTIC and an INTERMEDIATE type MONTAGU'S HARRIERS, along with more Great Bustards, White Storks, several races of Yellow Wagtail, ROCK SPARROW, to name but a few.
|Great Spotted Cuckoo|
The next day was a longish drive to a little place called San Juan which has a large dam, from here we found BLACK VULTURE (tick no.4), SHORT TOED EAGLE, BONELLI'S EAGLE and good numbers of AZURE WINGED MAGPIES but not the hoped for Spanish Imperial Eagle.
|Azure Winged Magpie|
Our final day saw us in temperatures of -3 degrees C in the morning to 20 degrees in the afternoon!! We looked for and found CITRIL FINCH (tick no.5) in those bitterly cold morning temperatures at around 1700m altitude, here we also had CRESTED TITS and CROSSBILLS. We descended from the mountains and started seeing Griffon Vultures again with the odd Black Vulture and a Short toed Eagle. Another stop now not far from Madrid added a singing GOLDEN ORIOLE, LESSER SPOTTED WOODPECKER and further on SARDINIAN WARBLER, WOODLARKS plus a ew butterfly for me Provence Hairstreak. The last part of the day before our flight back was spent on some plains to the north-east of Madrid one random stop found us adding SPANISH IMPERIAL EAGLE (tick no.6) to the trip list, a great finish!! we weren't quite done as we found approximately 20 Great Bustards which were watched while we could see planes taking off from Madrid airport in the background.
There were many more highlights in that short time, these are just a few, the atmosphere was always jovial and I thank my travelling companions for making it so enjoyable with some great anecdotes from everyone especially Mr.G and great organisation from Edge, thanks to all :-)