31st July Best of the rest from Spain

In a shameless attempt to boost the blog ratings further I've dug out the remaining photos from our recent trip to Extremadura. Enjoy or just click the little cross in the top right corner.
Blue Rock Thrush Castillo de Monfrague
Woodchat Shrike. One of the very common roadside birds. 
Evenings on the Santa Marta Plains were better for Great Bustards with up to 15 on one evening. 
A visit to Trujillo's old bull ring is always a highlight for the Lesser Kestrels
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Little Owls are very common around farm buildings
Two pairs of Black Stork viewable from the Pina Falcon viewpoint
Short-toed Eagles seemed far more numerous than on previous visits.

25th July. No Oven No Pie

After a week of seemingly endless DIY and very little birding Jo and I decided on a rare afternoon/evening trip into town.

After a spot of shopping we started on our minor pub crawl. First pub was situated in the Old Water Works in the heart of the City. A pub where you can remarkably purchase a pint for less than two quid!! Though tempted to stay in for the rest of the day, or at least until I'd had enough - which for those that know me isn't very many - we started to make our way towards Kelham Island.

The Kelham Island area hosts several small pubs the type of which were traditionally frequented by men (and sometimes women) with beards and a generally low standard of personal hygiene. Whilst the old guard still sit in the corners of these pubs muttering about volume, body and general shit about beer that I couldn't possibly begin to understand and don't want to - these pubs have become a revolution for those that want a good night out with decent locally produced beer from the micro breweries that are popping up in Sheffield - non of that mass produced chemical crap here. Shit. Did I really just say that? Am I turning into a beer bore?

The Kelham Island Tavern has the added attraction of serving big pork pies and it would have been rude not to. Not just any old pork pie but a fine Wateralls pie and washed down with a pint of Barnsley's Acorn brewery Old Moor Porter. Presumably named after Old Moor (or Wath Ings as we knew it) is this the only birding hotspot to have a beer named after it? Beer bore info HERE

The real purpose of this night out (pronounced nee'tart) was to see the Everly Pregnant Brothers.  Anyone outside of South Yorkshire is unlikely to have heard of this curious ukulele sextet whose parodies of modern Indie songs are injected with subtle Sheffield dialect, humour, nostalgia and a general loathing of Leeds.

Coming on stage at 7.30pm the non paying audience (who says "Tha dunt get owt f nowt?") of several thousand were treated to such classics as Ham In, Common People ("If tha called thi fath-er e cud stop         it'all"), Hendos (a homage to Sheffield's beloved sauce), Pork Pie and the classic No Oven No Pie among a non-stop two and a quarter hour set. A set that made this middle-aged man from Rovrum (shhh) glow with nostalgia of his Sheffield roots, proud that I know what neets and afters are, that a snap tin isn't something you trap your hand in, that spice are sweet and what the oyl int ruwad was. Even Jo with her West Yorks upbringing enjoyed it, even laughing when the crowd chanted back F*ck Leeds.  Over the last few years i've seen a fair few live bands and for entertainment value alone the Everly Pregnant Brothers are up there with some of the best - no exaggeration they really were that good.  All in all a reet good neet.

5th June. Not For The Squeamish

We spent the morning/early afternoon walking the trail from the Castillo de Monfrague car park. The trees providing vital shade and plenty of birds, Subalpine Warblers and Short-toed Treecreeper being the highlights. As we headed back towards Trujillo in the mid-afternoon sun I noticed a large cloud of vultures circling over a farm just beyond Torrejon el Rubio. As we stopped to look by the roadside we noticed many birds (a couple of hundred) on the ground and the large body of a freshly dead cow. We spent the next hour watching these prehistoric garbage collectors reducing this large bovine by entering it's body via the soft spots i.e. mouth, backside and presumably as this was a cow..... Quite horrific but fascinating and without doubt the highlight of the trip.

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4th June. Sierra de Gredos

We spent the remainder of our trip mostly covering old ground but on the 4th decided to head north to the Sierra de Gredos mountains if nothing else we would at least escape the increasing heat the day.

The optimistic two hours predicted by the stupid woman in the Sat Nav turned into about three and half and with hindsight it would make more sense to do this area for a couple of days either en-route to or from Trujillo.  

Calling at the Parador de Gredos we spent a good couple of hours trying to see Citril Finches with just a few very fleeting glimpses - though a Rock Sparrow singing around the tennis courts was unexpected and the numerous Bonelli's Warblers enjoyed.

Arriving at the Plataforma car park much later than intended and consequently too late in the day for any kind of serious walking. However we did manage to go up a kilometre or so. 

The change of habitat made for a pleasant change with scenery no unlike the higher parts of Speyside. Walking alongside the mountain stream with patches of snow still in abundance we picked up Rock and Ortolan Buntings, Blue Rock Thrush and a stunning male Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush, Jo picking it up the second time by proclaiming, "I've got one of those orange and blue things!" A nice Water Pipit by the stream and numerous Dunnocks - who imitated their larger cousins that no doubt we would have seen further up the track. The Wheatears here are a funny looking bunch, much slighter than our wheatears and structurally more like Black-eared Wheatear  and lacking any peachy tones. 

A couple of tame Ortolans fed around the car park

1st-2nd June Monfrague continued

Having been struck down by blog writers block for the last 12 months, where you have all these great blogging ideas but as soon as you sit at a computer they all vanish or worse still you write complete shit and I am fully aware that has certainly been the case at times - okay most of the time.

Anyway before I go all Jack Nicholson in the Shining here's my latest offering.

I love the Spanish but their habit of congregating (quite rightly so it's their country after all) in large groups coincidentally at the best birding spots means you're best avoiding the popular areas at weekends.
With this in mind we made a the decision to tour the plains between Trujillo and Caceres. We set off shortly after breakfast, the temperature already coasting into the high twenties and as a consequence most of today's birding would be done from the car.

Following the Gosney Guide  tip we drove along the road from Santa Marta de Magasca towards Caceres (site 16 page 5) where no less than eight Rollers were found along the telegraph poles.

Little Bustards in June are particularly difficult, not because of the lack of birds but because of the height of the vegetation, so a female at the side of the track to La Encinilla Farmhouse was an unexpected bonus.

The site by the bridge over the Rio Almonte on the EX-390 again failed to produce any Black Wheatears but we did have great views of Alpine Swift and a close Black Kite. Despite the abundance of the latter species I never seem to get decent photos, so I was reasonably pleased with this one.

2nd June

Today was Jo's birthday and her choice of birthday treat wasn't a nice meal in the square but to see the Eagle Owls in Monfrague. Given that we'd heard that many people had missed the owls the meal option would have perhaps been easier to fulfill.  However later afternoon we headed out to Monfrague calling at a couple of sites en-route to Portilla del Tietar.  Our visit to the Castillo was brief due to an incredible plague of flying earwigs that even I couldn't stand.  

Picnicking at La Tajadilla we were joined by a mangy looking fox that seemed happy to take the prawn heads that we threw for him depriving the Azure-winged Magpies of their supper. The fox is mentioned on page 8 of the Gosney Guide as being present in January 2013 - so clearly makes a good living from picnickers!

We arrived at the Portilla del Tietar around 8pm and were immediately greeted by one of the adult Spanish Imperial Eagles overhead and one of the young Eagle Owls.  Over the next two hours the two young owls and a single adult performed in full view completely fulfilling Jo's birthday wish.

I also compiled a bit of shaky video with excited commentary from a German tourist.