Life bird number one was a wood pigeon sitting in Neptune’s hand in the Plaza del Castillo seen from the bus coming from Barajas Airport to Atocha Train Station in Madrid. I figured this was an auspicious start to my Spanish birding adventure.
The next morning I got common blackbird (Turdus merula) in front of the Prado on a walk from my flat in the Lavapiés neighborhood to the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu. On the walk I got many house sparrows and rock pigeons, the official species of many American cities. This trickle of life birds, two in two days, was just the opening act of the deluge of aves to follow.
My birding adventure started in earnest on Monday morning. The calls of swifts (the cinematic soundtrack that represents pastoral spring or summer) directed my gaze skywards to the narrow grey window of sky between the buildings of Lavapiés. A lifer on the way back from the coffee shop was not a bad way to start a birding adventure.
Pau picked me up in front of my flat and we left the traffic of Madrid and headed south west for the province of Extremadura. On the drive out of Madrid to Saucedilla these are the lifers seen from the car, without binoculars: grey heron, spotless starling, kestrel, marsh harrier, booted eagle, white stork, red kite, hoopoe, common buzzard, black, and griffin vulture.
We stopped in the small village of Saucedilla to have a bocadillo e una caña in the small cafe. After our repass we walked across the square to the 16th century Church of St. John the Baptist. The church was covered with jawdaws and we circled the church looking for our prize. Three lesser kestrels flew in and hovered above the church. Bingo! In the area around Saucedilla other highlights included: purple swamp-hen, purple heron, spoonbill, water rail, bearded reeding, Savi’s, Sardinian, fan-tailed, and sedge warbler, black-winged kite, and Iberian grey shrike.
At the close of the day, Monday March 28, I added 42 new bird species to my world list. The highlight at the end of the day was a little owl (Athene noctua) perched a stone wall seen from the porch of our base camp at Casa Rural Las Canteras.
On Tuesday we headed out to Monfragüe National Park where I added 26 new species. See the previous blog post on Parque Nacional Monfragüe.
On Wednesday we explored some reservoirs in Extremadura. Highlights included: red-cresteted grebe, shelduck, lapwing, greenshank, the “blue bullet” kingfisher, great spotted cuckoo, great bustard, bee-eater, and Scops owl. Total lifers: 22 species.
On Thursday we were attempting to find the Eurasian eagle owl with the assistance of a local farmer. We missed out but found an abandoned nest. Highlights included: little bustard, Montagu’s harrier, pallid swifts, and green sandpiper. Total lifers: 7 species.
On our last day in Extremadura we headed to the mountains and the monastery town of Guadalupe. Highlights included: jay, nuthatch, sparrow hawk, and green woodpecker. Total lifers: 6 species.
On April 4th, in San Sebastián I added two more species: firecrest and yellow-legged gull.
My guide in Extremadura was Pau Lucio. I would highly recommend him if you plan to bird this amazing part of Spain. His guiding company is called Birdwatching Spain and more info can be found at their website: http://birdwatchingspain.net