31st May. Day 2 Monfrague

After yesterdays stress today would be a much more relaxed affair. A pre-breakfast jaunt to the Belen Plains produced the first Great Bustards of the trip, but they as always here were too far off for photos. A rather showy Bee-eater along the fence and an obliging Thekla Lark made up for an otherwise quiet visit.

A quick - though substantial - breakfast back at the hotel and we were on our way to spend the rest of the day in Monfrague. Here was the first and only disappointment of the holiday. A fair chunk of money has been spent of the Castillo - including a safety barrier on top of the Moorish keep. Personally I found the old barrier, a painted red line coupled with a pretty nasty drop enough to keep me away from the edge. The steps up to the castle have been improved and an additional viewing platform provided all adding to the attractiveness of the location for visitors, making it a bit crowded for birding.  That said we still enjoyed the view and the very easy White-rumped Swifts overhead.

The Pena Falcon, below the Castillo, was typically busy with birders and visitors alike and a dog Otter on the opposite bank increased the popularity, though for me it was as ever the Vultures that made the visit. Also some very showy Crag Martins feeding young on the cliff face.

After spending several hours in this area we moved further along the river. Pulling in just beyond the viaduct I immediately picked up two Bonellis Eagles over the road. Probably the best views I've had in four visits to the area.

Calling at the small village of Villa Real de San Carlos for refreshments we studied the bewildering array of Ice Cream on offer only to be met with a resounding 'no' at every selection. It turned out that only two types were available!

At Portilla del Tietar we were a little too early in the day for the Eagle Owls, but had spectacular views of Spanish Imperial Eagle the photo does it no justice at all.

Happy with our lot we headed back to Trujillo.

30th May. El Viaje

Way back at the end of last year Jo and I started to make plans for a holiday location for her forthcoming 40th (cough) birthday. I left the decision to her, after all it was her birthday. To my delight she chose a week in Extremadura staying in our favourite town of Trujillo.

So on the 30th May I bid farewell to the patch - to be honest after almost 3 months of consistently early mornings I was glad to see the back of it - and headed for the warmth of Spain.

An early morning flight would ensure that we'd be in our hotel just after lunch. After a combination of lost boarding passes and Jo's lack of basic physics  i.e. what constitutes a liquid in your hand luggage, that saw us become those twats that get their names called out just before the flight leaves. Despite this the flight went okay. The car hire cost us just £58 for eight days (plus £40 insurance) so I wasn't too upset at having to queue for over an hour to collect it. Leaving the airport at midday we were still on course to arrive by 2.30pm, still plenty of time for birding.

On the drive to Luton Airport Jo started that thing that all women do. The thing where they start going through a list of things that you might have forgotten. First on the list was "did you pack the guide book?" My response "er no!" This then fired up the part of my brain that remembers such things. "We've also forgotten the map and notebook" Note at this point the 'we'. Fortunately we had the sat nav and map of Spain loaded on the tablet pc. Yes the sat nav that got us f**king lost for over an hour and insisted on taking us into the centre of Madrid. After stopping to calm down, answer a work related text from a colleague (bastard!) and convince Jo* that we should look at the map on the tablet rather rely on the stupid cow inside the machine to direct us, we finally started to head in the right direction.

*that might not be exactly how it happened

Arriving in Trujillo just after 4pm I pulled out at a crossroads straight into the path of an oncoming van. By nothing short of lucky it stopped less than a foot from our car and after a few gesticulations from the occupants and words of encouragement from Jo I pulled myself together and made it safely to the hotel.
Despite Jo's insistence** that we should get straight out birding I suggested that we should call it a day, as far as driving was concerned, and stay within the safety of the hotel.

**a complete lie

On our previous trips here we've generally stayed in budget (though always pleasant) accommodation. On this trip we opted for the relative luxury of the Palacio de Santa Marta just off the main square. This proved to be an excellent choice a great hotel with stunning views over Trujillo and eye-level views of Lesser Kestrels, Pallid Swifts (probably about 20% of the swifts in the square), Crag Martins, plus Storks, Black Kite, Black Redstart, Serin and Blue Rock Thrush all from the balcony. After a dip in the pool, several cold beers and a great meal we turned in eager to greet the following morning.