I've not long returned from a guided birding trip to Extremadura in Spain. I last went there about 8 years ago and it's even better than I remembered.
Extremadura is situated in west/central Spain adjoining Portugal. It's one of the semi-autonomous Regions and is relatively undeveloped and well off the usual tourist trails.
Our small group were based in a very rural location a few miles from Trujillo which is just about bang in the middle. For five nights we were based at this very nice hotel overlooking open countryside. It's one of Spain's Hoteles Rurales network. It was family run and all the food was home cooked. We were treated as though we were members of the family. All the other guests were birders so word is getting about.
When you arrive to the sound of Nightingales singing in the garden you know you've come to a good place. Every morning before we set off for our day's birding you could hear Golden Oriole, Hoopoe, and Cuckoo singing and there were always the elusive Azure-winged Magpies flitting about the garden.
As you can imagine I took loads of photos but in truth many of the birds were rather distant so the results are not that good. Some of them are really rather good birds which I hope you might like to see even if the quality isn't up to scratch.
Trujillo is a rather nice town with a bit of history. It was the birthplace of Pizarro who was the conqueror of Peru and of course there is the inevitable statue.
And a castle overlooking the town.
The skies were filled with birds including Barn and Red-rumped Swallows, Black Kites (which I'll show later) and screaming Swifts.
White Storks were nesting everywhere including the bell tower of the church. Hope they don't ring the bell when they were in residence otherwise it would have given them a bit of a headache.
One of the highlights for me of the visit to Trujillo were the Lesser Kestrels. These are cousins of our well known Common Kestrel but unlike them they like to nest communally. The local bullring is a favourite hang out for them. Here's a few shots.
Male on the roof. Time to go hunting?
I've only shown this one to give a sense of scale.
Has it caught something?
Oh yes, very succulent looking. Marjus will identify it for you. LOL
Another rather heavily cropped shot of one hovering.
That's all for now. I'll add to the thread later with more photos from other sites.
Sounds like you had a great time - can't wait to see the next batch!
TJ, Excellent photos. I do like Extremadura, something different every day and one of those places that are hidden away in the middle of Spain when most visitors go to the mile wide strip along the south coast and think that is what the country is about. Casa Rurales are the way to go and we have used Martin Kelsey's with the same family feel that you describe.
Good post TeeJay.
My pal and I have been to the Algarve in southern Portugal and Andalucia in Spain. Extremadura could well be our destination next Spring.
Wow, TJ, it sounds like a brilliant area for wildlife & the buildings look lovely,
What a great way to start the day, listening to all those birds, i love the flutey sound of the Golden Orioles, can't wait for the next installment.
Brilliant report TJ it looks a fantastic place..looking forward to part two
If this is our 'starter for 10' I am really looking forward to the next set of photos, it looks beautiful and as you say, you know you are onto a good thing if nightingales greet you :)
Caroline in Jersey
Sounds like the real Spain Tony those lesser Kestrels are great.. What a wonderful place can't wait to see the rest of your photos.
I always enjoy your holiday reports, TJ. We get a bit of everything, from geography to history to birds and wildlife, with everything else between. I always feel as though I'm there with you.
I can't believe those blue skies after what we have had here, and the hotel sounds paradise with the singing birds, rural vfiews and family atmosphere. Perfect.
Roll on Part 2.
Looking good, I like the Kestrel shots best. Can't wait to see more and it seems like you had a fab time with good weather while we had ...... what we had!!!!
Glad you enjoyed yourself, TJ. Great report and photos, can't wait for more.....
Great pics of the storks and LesserKessers :) I look forward to more!
Steppes and Plains around Trujillo
All around the Trujillo area there are large tracts of open relatively uncultivated land. My understanding is that these areas have fairly poor soils so that farming is mainly grazing for sheep and some cattle but at very low densities. As a consequence there is a profusion of wild grasses and flowers which provides good habitat for insects and hence birds.
Calandra Larks and Crested Larks were in great profusion and filling the air with their songs. Calandra Lark is a large lark with a very distinctive black underwing. No photos I'm afraid - they were too far away - but I did manage a shot of a crested lark with his punk hairdo.
The most common raptor here and in many other areas was the Black Kite. They were everywhere. Not as colourful as our more familiar Red Kite but a similar shape and style of flying. The forked tail is much less pronounced.
I was pleased to see quite a number of Montagu's harrier quartering the fields with their bouncy flight. They were mostly fairly distant but I did manage to get a couple of not very good shots - both males I think.
I was surprised how easy it was to find both species of bustard in this habitat. You could generally hear the Little Bustard before you could see it. It occasionally pops its black head and neck above the grass and give a strange "crrrrk" call while tossing its head back.
Click here to play this audio clip
This is a very long distance shot but you can just about make out its features.
Great Bustards are much more visible - they are like large turkeys. I believe they are the largest flying bird although I'm not sure if this is true and on what basis.
Here's a distant group out on the steppe.
And one much closer showing his fine tail plumage which is used for display to woo the females. Click to enlarge.
A nice bonus was this sighting of a Great-spotted Cuckoo.This was taken for me by our leader through the open window of our mini-bus. Unfortunately, I'd got the camera on the wrong settings so the photo is not that good. My fault not his.
I believe they have the same unsavoury egg laying habits as the Common Cuckoo but the hosts are usually magpies and crows nests.
More to follow if you are not getting too bored.
Not bored at all.
That displaying bustard is a fabulous shot and I love the cuckoo - wrong settings or not. I think my favourite is the crested lark looking very much at home amongst the wild flowers.
I had the privilege of flying a black kite during a falconry day - my goodness he was big!
Roll on the next batch of pics.
Cracking photos and report, glad you had a great time and lets hope that nice weather follows you back to the UK