Saturday 25th May 2013

Pied Flycatcher
   Forest of Dean today to see if the Summer migrants were in. They were, we had Pied Flycatcher, Redstart, along with some resident Stock Doves, Bullfinch and Marsh Tit. Not a bad day i suppose…but probably my favourite pix of the day were at a feeding station near New Fancy View… Jays.


Sunday 19th May 2013

   We set off early, but sadly along the M4, the dreaded 'NO SIGN' message came on the pager, so Lakenheath it was.

   We got to Lakenheath RSPB, there were loads of people there, obviously had the same idea!!! The Falcon was sat miles away on a tree stump, in the middle of the reed bed. It gonna be one of those days i thought! I was wrong though. The falcon and its close cousin, Hobby, were both photographed fairly close there, we also had Bittern and Marsh Harrier, but no sign of any Golden Orioles. Will spend some more time there next year for them i think!

Red-footed Falcon
Red-footed Falcon
Red-footed Falcon

Well i did say they showed fairly close didn't i….????

Saturday 18th May 2013

   Bit of a come down after Spain, but we went to the Levels, to see what was about. Bad news hit home, when i realised there was a Dusky Thrush in Kent, would have gone for that if i had known. I made a few phone calls, but everyone had either gone already, were on their way, or couldn't go. Oh well, saves rushing around like a loony anyway. The Levels had a few good birds anyway, Bittern, Great White Egret and Marsh Harrier the main ones, but some Summer migrants had arrived too. Whitethroat, Blackcap, Hobby, Reed Warbler and Swift were about.

Dunlin (f. arctica on left)
   We stopped off at Chew on the way back, and at Herons Green there were 3 Dunlin. After chatting to a friend we decided one looked very like the form arctica. So i got some photos to send to people who might know these things. There were also some Swifts here and Common Terns too.

   A returned phone call later that evening, from Andy Jordan, saying do you fancy going for the Dusky Thrush tomorrow, i obviously answered, yes! We decided that if it wasn't there we would head to Lakenheath, as there had been a showy male Red-footed Falcon there. Lets keep my fingers crossed!!!!

Dunlin (f. arctica)

Friday 17th May 2013

Serin (Male)
  The holiday has flown by, still haven't got photos of some of the most wanted birds. Oh well means i have to come back to the Pyrenees at least! While my parents were getting packed up, and sorting out some other bits, i had a last wander around the village tracks. No sign of Crested Tits in the park, but had a few decent bits along the lane near the apartment. Rock Sparrow, Nightingale, Serin, Cirl Bunting and a mobile Western Bonellis Warbler, along with a Wryneck calling there.

Serin (Female)
   From there we had about an hour to spare. I decided to give san Juan de la Pena another chance, especially for Crested Tit for Dad. Within no time i had found 1 or 2, but now the hard part, getting Dad onto one. Fnally one flew to a big fir, it then decided to come out and sit on the end of a branch, NO CAMERA!!!! Bugger.

   Oh well, then the drive back to Madrid and the journey home. Decent holiday, only really missed a few of the main aims. Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Wallcreeper, Alpine Accentor, Snowfich and sightings of Black Woodpecker were probably the main misses. Next time i will get them…..


Rock Sparrow

Western Bonellis Warbler

Thursday 16th May 2013

Rock Sparrow
   I decided to go and have a look around the Citadel, in Jaca village, before the folks were ready to go out. I had some Common Swifts and a Pallid too. But, my main aim was to photograph the Rock Sparrows which nest there. I managed to get quite close to some, before realising this is where the whole village has their morning runs, with & without their dogs!!!! What a pain, every time i got close they were off, flushed by runners or dogs. I did though manage to get close enough, and then the runners seemed to run around me instead.
Rock Sparrow
   I went back, and we headed for the Hecho Valley, especially Garbardito. This time i was hoping to get photos of the Citril Finches, but also hoping to get to see Wallcreeper, and maybe a closer Lammergeier. The Citril Finches were showing quite well in the car park, as mentioned in most of the books i had read, at last one had it right!

Citril Fich

Citril Finch

Alpine Chough
Chough flock

   While there, 2 couples walked back to the car park, and we started chatting. The had been around to the rock face where the Wallcreepers breed. No sign!!! But, they told me of a place where they had, had Alpine Accentor the day before. So, we headed to Zuriza. On the way up to the Ski car park at the top, we found quite a few Black Redstarts. By now we were getting regular snow flurries. As we turned a corner and over a small bridge, the valley opened up a bit, and there was a nice meadow. It was covered in unto 200 Choughs, a look through and they were mainly Alpine Choughs, with just a handful of Red-billeds in amongst them. Lifer!!!! they were rather flighty, but i did manage some photos.
   Sadly, we didn't find the Accentors there. We went up to the car park at the top. and looked around. Then it really snowed, heavy!!!! We stayed around for a while, but then decided to head back down the valley. We got to a cross roads, near a campsite, there was a very steep slope on one side of the road, with some stunted trees, including some pines. On top of one of these pines was a beautiful male Rock Thrush. I had to get some photos of that one, obviously!!!!

Rock Thrush
Rock Thrush

    Just below the village of Hecho, we had noticed a couple of Egyptian Vultures coming down into a cattle field. They had been there every time we had gone past, so i slowed down near there and did manage the photo below, before they went over to the other side of the valley.

Egyptian Vulture

Wednesday 15th May 2013

   Today i had planned for a visit to the Zaragoza plains, Belchite to be exact. The aim was to see Duponts Lark and the 2 species of Sandgrouse. The weather was really bad in the mountains today, rainy, cold and really misty. So, could be a good choice i thought! We drove down the mountains and out of the mist and rain. We arrived at Belchite and found the right areas, but it was really windy. this made it hard to hear the singing birds, but we did manage, by parking the car side on, and opening the window which wasn't into the wind! We could hear Duponts Larks all around, at least 6. But, no sign. We drove around a few times hoping we may just catch up with one. Crested, Calandra, Lesser & Greater Short-toed Larks were everywhere, but there were even more Corn Buntings, as everywhere else in Spain, they are still everywhere in big numbers. We found a Whinchat. Then decided to have some dinner in the car, and just sit and listen (and hope!). I saw a small lark-like bird fly up, i put the bins onto it, and as i did it sang……Duponts Lark!!! Not the view i was hoping for but a Duponts Lark none the less. After a while and no more sightings, we decided to drive around again, before giving up. As we reached the top of a hump, 4 birds flew up from the field and away from us. I jumped out of the car, and luckily they circled around, not close sadly, but enough to make out they were Pin-tailed Sandgrouse…2 lifers, not the best of views, but 2 lifers!!!!
   We headed back, and decided that we should spend the last couple of hours of light in the Hecho valley again. The same birds as before were seen on the journey up. But nothing new, on the way back down we had more luck. Where we had seen a lot of Griffon Vultures on the way up, we stopped to look as they were all perching in the trees earlier, but were now all on the move up the valley. then one struck me as a bit different…. Lammergeier, yes! The bird flew up the valley and was lost to view, but we all got a look at it. Again not the view i wanted, but my 3rd lifer of the day. As we got to the bottom end of the valley, and the last bit of light, by now it had brightened up a bit, we found a few Black Kites coming down to the fields, i couldn't resist trying to get some photos…..

Black Kite (Juvenile)

Black Kite (Adult)

Tuesday 14th May 2013

   Start at the Ski centre today. Looking for the high alpine birds. Bumped into some other English birders, who told me about a place for Alpine Chough and Lammergeier, the Hecho Valley!!! Oh well, we will do that later. They also told me about Lammergeiers at the Foz du Arbaiun, i had read about that in the book, so we headed for there!!! A flock of Choughs were seen flying high above the ski centre, but disappeared into the mist, they could have been Alpines!!!!!!
   After a fairly long drive and some searching around, we found the viewpoint. Lovely place, Vulture flying around regularly, but no Lammergeiers again. There was a male Subalpine Warbler singing there, and also a few Western Bonellis Warblers.
   Sadly, the best wildlife i photographed today were Orchids again!

Lady Orchid
Lady Orchid (White variant)

Monkey Orchid

Monday 13th May 2013

Queen of Spain Fritillary
    First stop, San Juan de la Pena Monastry. I have been looking forward to this for a very long time! Sadly, it turned out to be not as good as the books i had read about it…Bugger. Did manage to see a few Butterflies and some Moths. Birdwise i found some Crested Tits, but failed to get my Dad any views, this was one of the reasons for coming here, will jeep trying. I heard Black Woodpeckers calling a couple of times, but NO sign, will keep trying for them too. Firecrest and Short-toed Treecreeper were in the pines too.

Wood White
  Next stop was the Hecho Valley, lets hope this lives up to the books……
  Lots of Vultures flying around, but none looked like Lammergeier, another reason to come here. Short-toed Eagle and Egyptian Vultures. When we got to the top of the valley, there were little flocks of Linnets, some Stonechats, a Cirl Bunting with some Yellowhammers and a Red-backed Shrike. Also a Dipper flew along the stream there.
  Did manage a lifer, but not a Bird, a Mammal! Pyrennean Chamois (i think anyway). Lots of flowers, some nice new Orchids, Elderflower Orchid (both the common Yellow and rarer Red variant).

Red-backed Shrike

Pyrennean Chamois

   Before returning home, we visited the Gabardito Refuge, to see if we could find Citril Finch. Yes we did, but they were very flighty……will keep trying. There seems to be a theme there doesnt there?

Elder Flower Orchid (Yellow variant)
Elder Flower Orchid (Red variant)

Sunday 12th May 2013

Azure-winged Magpie
   We packed all our stuff up, for the long journey to the other side of Spain, and the Pyrenees. After photographing the Moths ( there is a list of the Moths i found on my Moth Blog), attracted to the porch lights, i tried again for the Starlings and Magpies in the campsite. A bit more success today.

Spotless Starling

    Really long (8+ hours) drive across the whole of Spain today, hope to get some birding done when we arrive!!?? We stopped briefly at the Waxbill site, saw them, but they were not playing ball for the camera. The Great-spotted Cuckoo was there too, but camera shy as well! So drive, and drive, and drive…….. On the way we saw the usual Black & Red Kites, White Storks, a single Short-toed Eagle and a small flock of, what were probably, Ring-necked Parakeets near Madrid. By the time we found our apartment and got checked in, there was not a lot of time to do any birding, so relaxed a bit and looked forward to what tomorrow will bring????????

Saturday 11th May 2013

   Last full day in Extremadura today. So decided to have another look for Great-spotted Cuckoo and Black-shouldered Kite amongst other stuff, so we drove down towards Trujillo, then on to the Monroy road, and the Santa Marta de Magasca area.

Black Kite
   Driving along the lanes, we again heard Little Bustards, but no sign sadly. As usual lots of Black Kites, Vultures and White Storks, in the fields and at their nest sites. One ruined building had at least 20 White Storks nests on it! We then picked out some different raptors amongst the Kites, Vultures and Storks, Booted Eagle and at last a fairly close Montagu's Harrier! WE had been told, that it had been the coldest Spring for 47 years, which could be the reason we were NOT seeing as many Harriers as i was expecting? Oh well…..

Booted Eagle
Montagu's Harrier

Common Waxbill
   After travelling around for most of the heat of the day, and not seeing too much, except flocks of Spanish Sparrows, the odd Hoopoe, Southern Grey and Woodchat Shrikes. We found ourselves back at the Waxbill site. After a short time searching we found them, again they were nest building, flying back and forward across the road. So we waited around to try for photos. Did manage these………..

Common Waxbill


   While waiting i heard a very harsh call from along the road, and went to investigate. I had heard a call like that on my iPod last night, while trying to see if i could hear what Great-spotted Cuckoo sounded like! But could i see one? No!!! Then a slight movement in a tree, with some really thick cover, could i see something??? Scope out and yes…. a Great-spotted Cuckoo. Not the best of views, but a view at least.

Great-spotted Cuckoo

    Back to the campsite and i tried to get some Spotless Starling and Azure-winged Magpie shots, before dark.

Azure-winged Magpie

Friday 10th May 2013

Stripeless Tree Frog
   Fairly early morning start to la Tajadilla viewpoint, to look for Bonellis Eagle, i found a Stripeless Tree Frog on the doorstep of the chalet. At la Tajadilla viewpoint. i saw 2 Hawfinches, along with a few other things which had been seen there before, but there were a few Vultures hanging around the area, and eventually i managed distant views of a pair of Bonellis Eagle! Not quite what i was hoping for, but better than nothing!

Black Vulture

Griffon Vultures

Rock Bunting
    I went back to picked my parents up, and we decided to have a drive around Monfrague NP and see what we could find, then move onto Arrocampo Reservoir again, and try again for Black-shouldered Kite. We drove back to Pena Falcon, much the same as days before, but this time a few birds showed for photos. Including Rock Bunting, Blue Rock Thrush and Red-rumped Swallow.

Blue Rock Thrush
Red-rumped Swallow

   Next stop was the bridge over the river Tajo, to look for Alpine Swift, saw 1 or 2. Under the tree cover near the bridge i found a small Fritillary, hopefully i will be able to ID it soon? Any ideas???

Fritillary sp.??

   From there we went back to la Tajadilla viewpoint. Only new thing there was a really tatty looking Fox, which was picking up scraps to take to her pups, up in the rocks. Then onto the Portilla del Tietar viewpoint, where we were really lucky to find a Spanish Imperial Eagle sat in a tree, in the open, by the side of the rock face. Sadly a bit too distant for good photos! Shame!!!

Spanish Imperial Eagle

   Ah well, Arrocampo next, must try to find a Black-shouldered Kite, especially as that was the bird my dad wanted to see, and why i arranged the trip in the first place!!!! We drove around looking, but with no luck. We did have some good birds there though. Lots of White Storks, Gull-billed Terns, with Black & Red Kites & Vultures overhead. Purple & Grey Herons, Great White, Little & Cattle Egrets, also quite a few Stonechats, including some juvenile birds. I then found a male Little Bittern on top of a pile of reeds, lovely little birds! We also had Great Reed & Savis Warblers and a Waxbill.

Little Bittern


  We drove down another track, still looking for the kites. By a cattle drinking pool, we found some Bee-eaters, Swallows & Martins.


   As we got onto a slightly higher track, i very luckily spotted a small white bird shape in a very distant tree. Out came the scope, and even at that distance i could tell it was, at last, a Black-shouldered Kite!!!! Yes!!!!!!!!!!!!!
   After getting my parents on it, we tried to get closer, we did, but not anywhere near enough for photos, not so 'yes'! Oh well.........
   On the way back towards the Reservoir, i found a Black Vulture sat in a dead tree, which was very nice. Closest photos i have of that species.
Black Vulture

   Right then back to Monfrague and home for the night. But, not before a brilliant sighting, sadly in terrible light! A farm field with a big manure/waste pile in it, and one big tree. Nothing special????? Except the tree held a big flock of Black Kites and an Egyptian Vulture! 
   Very nice....but, there were many more Kites than in the photo below: