La Mancha, Madrid and the Pyrennes-Spain

Day 1.

At 8:45 sharp, Deidre, Karmela and Rod are picked up by Pau from their hotel in Valencia. They drive west through a busy traffic in Valencia, and about 1:10 h later arrive to Fuenterrobles, close to the border with La Mancha. After a short walk in the scrubland, Pau finds a Thekla Lark and a stunning male Black-eared Wheatear perched on a telephone wire. Pau ears a familiar call and after few minutes searching they get their reward, a beautiful Spectacled warbler. On a nearby field, Greater short toed larks delight the group with their full song in a beautiful morning.

They continue driving along the A3 for 1:30 h to a local bar to have lunch. Their next stop is in the lagoons of “La Mancha Húmeda”. By the road, there is a small pond packed with birds, including 40+ Black terns, numerous species of waders and a pair of the most wished Bearded tits. They drive along the track and find the colourful Bee-eaters and distant Lesser Kestrels.

Finally, the afternoon is spent in Alcázar enjoying close views of White-headed Ducks, Black-necked Grebes and Red-crested Pochards.

Dinner is in a local restaurant in Belmonte: Ajoarriero (cod and potato), Patatas bravas, Pisto manchego (ratatouille with egg) and a salad, all washed down with a good bottle of red wine.

 

 

Day 2.

After driving through gorgeous fields of poppies, they arrive to a private state where Rock sparrows thrive in the ruins of what were the facilities of a quarry. Soon after that, they bump into a small patch of Woodcock orchids. This well managed state is a wonderful place for birds. It just take them few minutes to find Subalpine and Melodious warblers, however these birds are no the main reason why Pau take the group here. After searching for few more minutes, they hit the jackpot!! A cracking Eagle Owl takes off from about 12-15 m from where the group is standing. Smiling faces after seen this wonderful raptor.

The rest of the day is spent in the National Park of Tablas de Daimiel and the surrounding area. From the blind they get fantastic views of a Penduline Tit as well as Cetti’s and Savi’s warblers. After a most wanted coffee, they take a stroll to get some of the targets. Soon, they are rewarded with great views of a pair of European rollers mating and Deidre finds a Purple heron carrying a snake in its bill. They keep postponing lunch as there is a lot going on! Rod enjoys watching a pair of Golden orioles chasing one another from tree to tree and Pau finally gets in its scope some Spanish sparrows.

After lunch, they take a stroll around the reeds finding Spoonbills, a Greenshank and a Common coot with chicks which are photographed by Karmela from many different angles. Finally, we stop in the souvenir shop before driving back to our 18th century Hotel.

 

 

Day 3.

After loading the car they set off to the near farmland. Before reaching the first stop of the day, Pau has to pull over so everyone can get excellent views of a Black vulture. From a nearby almond tree, a stunning Great spotted cuckoo can be seen! That’s a good start! They continue driving but Pau stops again as Deidre spots a Stone curlew followed by another one.

Later, Pau takes them to the magic track where everyone gets excellent views of a male Little bustard displaying. Pau says it is his best view ever! Good to see Little bustards, since there has been a huge decline of these magnificent birds in the last decades. They drive to the following village to locate the elusive Great bustards with no luck. Pau decides to move towards Madrid hoping to find them in another area and bingo! They find 5 stunning males feeding in the arable land. After pleasant views, they drive for 1:30 h to make a stop for coffee and facilities in a petrol station near Madrid. They continue the journey towards the north of Madrid and make a stop near Tres Cantos. While they have the picnics lunch there, a Spanish Imperial Eagles display in the air. Fantastic! The air is quite warm, so the butterflies are very active: Marbled White, Kidnapped Fritillary, and Yellow Clouded are seen among others butterflies.

Their final destination is in the steppes close to the hotel in Torrelaguna, where they get close views of a group of 15-20 male Great bustards and a distant male Montagu’s Harrier.

 

 

Day 4

Today the group set off to the snow-capped mountains of the National Park of Guadarrrama. The first stop in the mountain pass is rewarded with a group of very confident Citril finches. Everyone enjoys this beautiful bird displaying. Later, after lunch, they visit the woods adding Garden warbler and the Iberian subspecies of Pied flycatcher. The sun is warming up and butterflies start to fly around: Orange tip, De Prunner’s ringlet, Brimstone and Marsh fritillary. Reptiles also seem more than happy with the weather, especially the half meter Ocellated lizard that Pau finds in a wall.  Later we enjoy great views of Tree pipit displaying and raptors such as both kites and Black vultures.

The party leaves the park and head off to the oak forest near el Escorial but sadly start raining as soon as they find a Cirl bunting. On the way back to the hotel, a flock of Iberian magpies fly right across in front of the car.

After dinner, Deidre and Pau try to locate some of the Red-necked nightjars that Pau saw the previous night. After the rain, the tracks are too muddy to drive with the car so they decide to go for a walk. The night is filled with the sound of Scops owls and Red-necked nightjars. On the walk back to the car, we bump into a Natterjack and a Midwife toad.

 

 

Day 5

Pau suggests having breakfast today at 6:00 am. He would like to try a spot for Dupont’s lark on the way to the Pyrenees.  Once they get to the spot, the weather is not the best for finding this elusive bird, with wind and showers in a cold morning. However, they do get other interesting birds like Common cuckoo, Montagu’s harrier and Rock thrush. On the way back to the motorway, Pau see a Iberian green woodpecker flying to a poplar tree so pulls over to allow everyone views of this woodpecker. At the same time, a Golden oriole pops up in the top of a tree.

After a welcome stop in a local bakery, they set off to Zaragoza for a stop near el Pilar to see Pallid swifts.

The group arrives to Valle de Hecho around 3:30 pm and decide to explore for a couple of hours the surroundings before going to the hotel. In a farm, they get fantastic views of 5 Egyptian vultures displaying and chasing one to another. Karmela keeps pressing the button of her camera. It is just amazing! Later, along the river, we get long views of a Dipper diving and Pau finds Green-winged and Marsh orchids. In a meadow close to the car, we find 3 gorgeous male Bullfinches and a pair of Red-backed shrikes.

After a long day, we all soon go to bed.

 

 

Day 6

The morning is spent locally. After 30 minutes hike the party get to the cliffs where the Wallcreeper have been breeding during the last years. After waiting about 40 minutes, they get a glimpse of this stunning bird quite high up in the cliff. Suddenly, another one arrives and both fly off showing their distinctive red patch on their wings. The group decides to wait hoping to get another view and their patience pays off but not with a Wallcreeper but with a Lammergeier.

On route, Pau stops for a coffee in Hecho before visiting the next valley for lunch. In the near meadows everyone gets nice views of Rock bunting and Red kites. Few minutes later, Deidre spots a Griffon’s vulture perched in the ground just few meters from the road. They stop the car to watch the vultures circling around, there must be a carcass. They spend the rest of the day in Ansó, where the group get nice views of a Red Fox and a Crested Tit among other common birds.

Deidre and Karmela are woken up during the night by a loudly Tawny Owl, calling from a small patch of forest near the garden.

 

 

Day 7

Today, the group sets off to Navarra to look for some alpine birds. On route, Deidre finds an Egyptian vulture perched on a telephone post. It is nice to see that this threatened bird still remains fairly common in the area. Once they get into the valley, they find Alpine chough and lots of Northern wheatears displaying in the meadows. The group carry on towards France enjoying wonderful views of the snowy mountains. The snow still remains in many areas which is quite unusual at this time of the year. Later, Deidre finds a Ring ouzel perched in a pine and Pau quickly focuses the telescope so everyone enjoy fantastic views of a male of the subspecies alpestris. Citril finches chirp and fly in small flocks in front of the vehicle.

On the way down the valley they spot a flock of 4 raptors which turn out to be 3 Red kites and a Booted eagle. Near the road, Pau locates a Water pipit with its distinctive pinkie chest, but the big surprise comes when Pau finds a friendly Marmot which looks to us hidden in a pile of rocks.

Once they get to the hotel, Karmela, Deidre and Pau walk around the forest and meadows looking for other species. A Firecrest shows well in a nearby Scots pine and Short-toed treecreeper flies every minute to its nest located under a tile on the roof. The rest of the evening is spent drinking some of the local beer and chatting with a group of Swedish birders.

 

 

Day 8

Today is the final day of this wildlife adventure around Spain. After passing through Siresa, Pau pulls over to one side as he hears two Wrynecks calling. Everyone see this nice bird. The group continue the long journey ahead, making a couple of quick stops for photographing /watching Common buzzard, Melodious warbler and other common birds. After a couple of stops for facilities and lunch, they get near Valencia where they spend few hours birding in the coastal wetland of Marjal del Moro. Audouin’s gulls, Little and Sandwich terns fly around while the group stays in one of the hides. While the group waits patiently to see some Little Bitterns, Pau and Deidre get a glimpse of a Purple swamp-hen walking along the shore, and Rod enjoys great views of a Great reed warbler perched up on the reeds. Before they leave the hide, a pair of Turtle doves land on a nearby tamarisk. The final surprise comes when Pau finds in the colony of Sandwich terns, an Elegant tern incubating its nest. Therefore, this pair will be the second breeding in Valencia region this season!

Finally, we drive to the hotel and say goodbye. Thanks to Deidre, Rod and Karmela for making this trip so enjoyable.

 

For more information about our upcoming trips, please visit our tour calendar

 

Canary Islands (Tenerife and Fuerteventura)

HOLIDAYS HIGHLIGHTS

It has been my second trip to the wonderful Canaries Islands, a great opportunity to visit other less-known places to put together an itinerary we will run next year in late winter 2019.

Day 1 – 30/03/18 Valencia-Tenerife Sur

After a late flight from Valencia to Tenerife Sur Airport, Pau and Virginia head off with the rented car straight to the Rural Hotel in Güímar to rest and be ready for this new adventure!

Day 2 – 31/03/18 El Teide and Erjos

At dawn, we are soon woken up by the songs and calls of the numerous birds that live in the hotel’s orchards. Among the avocados, Atlantic Canaries build their nests and the endemic Canary Islands chiffchaffs sing and flick their wings displaying. After a nice breakfast, we are off to the Canary pine forest near the Orotava to look for some endemic forest birds. Soon, we bump into a distinctive local form of Common Chaffinch F. c. tintillon. We continue walking for 10-15 minutes to get away from the crowds who are enjoying barbecues, a popular pastime in Easter. Near a stream, we find two Tenerife (African) Blue Tit C. t. teneriffae, a Tenerife Kinglet and a Common darter dragonfly.

Later we drive towards the impressive Teide. No wonder that this National Park gets 4 million visitors per year!!! It is an impressive volcanic landscape with different lava formations each few hundred meters. As we have the picnic, numerous Tenerife Lizards get closer and closer to us, hoping to be fed by tourists. We continue our journey towards the Parador to find there our first of many Berthelot’s pipits, and also the endemic subspecies of Common Buzzard B. b. insularum. From a viewpoint, we see another Macaronesia endemic, the Plain Swift.

Finally, our last visit of the day is in the pools of Erjos. We don’t see many birds, probably because there are dogs swimming in the pools. We just add Common coots and Barbary partridge, but some interesting and nice flowers make worth the stop: Argyranthemum frutescens, Bituminaria bituminosa, Mercurialis annuus, Canary Samphire (Astydamia latifolia), Aeonium canariense and Euphorbia aphylla. Regarding dragonflies, Blue emperor and Red-veined darter are seen.

Day 3 – 01/04/18 El Teide, viewpoint and Punta de Teno

During our pre-breakfast walk around the orchard, we find a beautiful Stripeless tree frog resting in a pond, a Broad scarlet dragonfly, a Canary Speckled Wood and a Turtle dove perched on the top of the stem of an Agave americana.

Our first stop of the day is for the endemic Blue chaffinch at Las Lajas. Soon, we get an approachable beautiful male. Then, we drive for 45 minutes to a well-known viewpoint for the endemic pigeons on the West coast. The downside of this place is the constant traffic along the TF-5 but it is a reliable place for Laurel Pigeon. After 15 minutes, we get a distant bird flying over the vegetation.

The next stop is a small patch of laurel forest where we find two distant Bolle’s pigeons and some interesting laurel forest plants: Echium giganteum, Silene gallica and Limonium fruticans.

Today’s final destination is Punta de Teno. Due to access restrictions, we have to take a bus to reach this rocky lava habitat known as ‘malpaís’. It is midday and temperature is quite high (25ºC) and this might be the reason why it is so quiet. Nevertheless, we manage to see in the scope a distant group of 50 or so Cory’s Shearwaters. Regarding plants, some remarkable species are Reichardia crystalina, Monanthes laxiflora and Euphorbia canariensis.

Our rural hotel is not serving dinner today due to some improvement works, so we head off to El Puertito to have some excellent Canary food: almogrote (goat cheese with red pepper), fish and papas with mojo picón. Around the harbour, we find Whimbrel, Grey Wagtail, and Turnstone.

Day 4 – 02/04/18 Anaga, Los Rodeos, and flight to Fuerteventura

Today is our last day in Tenerife as the plan is to take a flight to Fuerteventura during the evening.

After breakfast, we drive North to the Anaga area and as nearly always happen there, the laurel forest is cover by clouds. This is the wettest area in Tenerife, the trade winds (‘vientos alisios’) blow from the sea carrying moisture. Nevertheless, we walk along an interesting path covered by Azores Laurel, Canary Strawberry Tree, and Tree Heather, watching our first Canary Islands Robin. Later, we drive down towards the sunny coast for some more plants and birds. Along the path, we find a Sardinian Warbler as well as a nice variety of flowers and endemic plants: the stunning Canary Bell flower, Dragon-tree, Echium leucophaeum, Lavandula buchii, the beautiful Echium simplex, Limonium arborescent, Monanthes wildpretii and Lotus dumentorum.

After lunch, we set off to Los Rodeos, near the airport, to see some fine patches of Gladiolus italicus. Corn buntings sing from the fences and we try to locate unsuccessfully a Quail.

Around 7:20 pm we board to the plain and 50 minutes later we land in a completely different landscape in Fuerteventura. After getting our rental car, we head off to the Hotel.

Day 5 – 03/04/18 La Antigua, Los Molinos and West coast

Once we have breakfast, we visit a pool near La Antigua. This green area is a magnet for both resident and migrant birds. As soon as we arrive, we find Ruddy shelducks, the local race of Great grey shrike L. e. koenigi and a Little ringed plover. Among the grass, Pau finds a bird that turns out to be a Wryneck. Most of the sightings of this uncommon migrant are recorded in the Eastern islands (Lanzarote and Fuerteventura) which are closer to the African coast.

On the sky, we find a ‘Guirre’ local name for the endemic race of Egyptian vulture N. p. majorensis. There are around 65 breeding pairs in Fuerteventura and a total population of 300 birds. This amazing raptor is recovering from a near extinction in the 80’s. One of the main differences from their European cousins is that the Fuerteventura ones do not migrate during winter, thus they can be found all year around.

On the way back to the car, five Black-bellied Sandgrouses fly off scared by the presence of a Common Buzzard.

Our next stop is near Los Molinos. There, we find a confident group of Spanish sparrows carrying damselflies on the bill. We also get to see Greenshank, Common Sandpiper, Northern Wheatear, and our first Barbary Falcon. In addition, there were a couple of Lesser emperors mating, Blue-tailed damselflies, and several Atlantic Lizards. We decide to drive few kilometres to have the picnic and while Virginia enjoys great sea views, Pau plays hide-and-seek with a Spectacle warbler and a Barbary squirrel. This mammal was brought in 1965 from Sidi ifni (Morocco) and since then, they have multiplied causing conservation problems. After lunch and coffee, we head North to our next stop. Our next new species is a group of three lovely Colour-creamed Courser and after a bit of search, Virginia spots a fantastic and globally threatened Houbara bustard, probably the most wanted and highly prized species in this area. A walk around the area proves to be a good decision as we got an excellent view of a perched Barbary Falcon and two Red-billed Tropicbirds, a species which is breeding in the islands since a few years ago.

Our last stop is in Vallebrón, where we get the endemic Fuerteventura stonechat. Later, we have a pleasant dinner with Toni and Julio, two good friends who are involved in the ‘Guirre’ conservation project.

Day 6 – 04/04/18 Salinas, Río Palmas, and East coast

Today is our last full day in these wonderful islands, so we start visiting the Salinas and adding Sandwich tern. In the nearby ‘barranco’ there are some plants adapted to salty soils such as Canary island Tamarisk, Atriplex semilunaris, Suaeda vera and also Asphodelus tenuifolius.

Following, we drive to Río Palmas where we see Epaulet skimmer dragonflies and Laughing dove, a recent coloniser on the island from continental Africa. Sadly, we find a death Barn Owl in the stream. However, the big surprise came later when Pau spotted two Ring Ouzels feeding on dates, a local rarity in the island.

We decide to drive to La Pájara for having lunch but before that, we make a quick stop in the viewpoint where we see a very tame Raven (C. c. tingitanus).

To finish the day, we visit a goat pen with a drinking trough which is a fantastic area for Trumpeter Finches. In just 1 hour we recorded above 50 birds drinking and feeding in the surroundings. There are very nice males with its bright orange-red bill, grey head and pink breast and rump. In the surroundings rocks, we also see a couple of Fuerteventura stonechats.

Day 7 – 05/04/18 Fuerteventura-Madrid

Our last day in the island is to finish packing and driving to the airport to take the plain to Madrid, where we will visit the ”dehesa” and the Guadarrama mountains for some specialities.

 

SPECIES LIST

Birds (75 species)

Ruddy Shelduck

Pintail

Barbary partridge

Quail

Cory’s shearwater

Gannet

Cormorant

Night Heron

Little Egret

Cattle Egret

Grey Heron

Egyptian Vulture ‘Guirre’

Common Buzzard

Kestrel

Barbary Falcon

Moorhen

Coot

Houbara bustard

Black-winged Stilt

Cream-coloured Courser

Little ringed plover

Turnstone

Common sandpiper

Greenshank

Whimbrel

Yellow-legged Gull

Sandwich tern

Black-bellied Sandgrouse

Rock dove

Laurel pigeon

Bolle’s pigeon

Collared dove

Turtle dove

Laughing dove

Monk parakeet

Ring-rose parakeet

Barn Owl (death)

Plain Swift

Hoopoe

Bee-eater

Great Spotted Woodpecker

Wryneck

Short-toed Lark

Barn Swallow

House martin

Berthelot’s pipit

White wagtail

Grey wagtail

Northern Wheatear

Fuerteventura stonechat

Blackbird

Ring Ouzel

Blackcap

Sardinian warbler

Spectacled warbler

Common chiffchaff

Canary Islands chiffchaff

Canary Islands Robin

Tenerife Kinglet

Fuerteventura African blue tit

Tenerife African blue tit

Great Grey shrike

Magpie

Raven

Spotless starling

House sparrow

Spanish sparrow

Chaffinch

Linnet

Goldfinch

Atlantic Canary

Trumpeter finch

Corn bunting

Red-billed Tropicbird

 

Butterfly list

Small white

Canary Islands large white

Clouded yellow

Canary brimstone

Canary speckled wood

Painted lady

Canary blue

Greenish black-tip

 

Dragonfly list

Epaulet skimmer

Blue emperor

Lesser emperor

Blue-tailed damselfly

Broad scarlet

Red-veined darter

 

Reptiles and amphibians

Stripeless Tree Frog

Tenerife Lizard

Atlantic Lizard

 

Mammals

Barbary squirrel

Rabbit

Algerian hedgehog (death)

Please, visit our website and find the next trip to the Canary islands.