2nd June. Extremadura Day 2. Monfrague

Jo's birthday today so I gave her the choice of what to do. She didn't opt for the usual girly things like shopping, spa or drinking wine, she wanted only one thing - to see Eagle Owl (if Carlsberg made wives!). So with a quick breakfast and provisions packed in to the coolbag we headed towards the natural park of Monfrague.

Crossing the Rio Almonte, just outside Torrejon el Rubio, we stopped to explore the area for amphibians and perhaps a few reptiles. Exiting the car I picked up a couple of large raptors which I instantly recognised as a pair of Bonnelli's Eagles. Having only seen one before and missing them on my last trip I was delighted to pick them up without any effort (or frustration).

Snaking our way beyond Torrejon we headed up to the Castillo de Monfrague. With already a few people up here and worse still a huge party of school children on their way up this was going to be a short visit. Despite being a short midday visit we still managed a couple of White-rumped Swifts, but little else.

The heat was becoming a problem by now so we did what the Spanish do and stuck the car under an olive tree and had a couple of hours.

Woke at four with the heat still very oppressive so we looked at our options and decided to leave Monfrague, visit the wetland reserve at Almaraz then return to Monfrague for the Eagle Owls.

Almaraz is probably the best place at the moment for seeing Black-winged Kites - another species that eluded me on my last visit - and it certainly did come up with the goods when I stumbled across one by the roadside. Unfortunately it immediately flew off. Finding the information centre at Saucedilla we acquired a hide key from the attractive young lady (nothing like those old boilers that work at RSPB reserves) at the desk. Something that we noticed about Extremadura as that almost every visitor attraction is free! We spent a couple of hours driving from one hide to the other - none of that walking rubbish - enjoying great views of Little Bittern, Purple Gallinule, Great Reed Warbler and eventually a pair of Black-winged Kites.

After a great couple of hours we headed back into Monfrague. I've seen Eagle Owl during both previous visits, but they've never been easy and I've only seen juveniles in near darkness. So walking up to the viewpoint at 9pm I was delighted when the Spanish couple we'd met earlier pointed at their scope and said, "Bubo". This adult bird performed well for over an hour delighting us with it's massiveness and beautiful amber eyes. Happy Birthday Jo.

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