We picked the wrong week to go to Extremadura, persistent rain, sometimes heavy made birding difficult. The country around Trujillo is completely waterlogged. No insects are flying in this cold and wet, we didn't see a single butterfly or dragonfly which is an indication of just how dire the food situation is for insectivores. I don't know what they do during these periods when there are simply no grasshoppers, bees or insects to feed upon but they are not out and about visible to birdwatchers like ourselves.
I shouldn't complain. I have been bemoaning how the drought has affected the food chain and bird numbers, so eventually the rain will bring better birding times. It's just a pity that it all comes at once and just when we had time to get out there. A brief stop at Fuente de Piedra on the way revealed that the recent Marsh Terns are all gone, driven away perhaps by the adverse weather as there would be precious few insects to hawk right now. The rain didn't seem to bother this delightful Reed Warbler though, he was up in the reeds singing for a mate in full view.
A few Bee-eaters provided a splash of colour in the otherwise grey gloom. I wonder just how they manage during these periods, there are certainly no bees about anyway.
Wednesday Morning did at least provide a few rain free hours. We were able to watch a distant Little Bustard from our breakfast table and to view the White Storks nesting in the grounds of our country hotel. This Black Kite seemed very interested in the young chicks in the nest, but they were always well guarded by the ever watchful adult Storks.
From the road through the steppes to the west of Trujillo we came across a number of ring tailed harriers quartering the wide open spaces. I joined a couple of Danish photographers who were ensconced in the long grass complete with full camouflage, big tripod mounted lenses and a blue-tooth playback speaker placed to attract birds into areas of good light. They lent me some camouflage and I got down into the grass with them and took a few shots with my puny little 400mm f5.6.
Quite pleased with a couple of these female shots though which look very much like Hen Harrier to me, being very broad winged with five fingered primaries and marking patterns like the illustrations as for Hen Harrier in Collins Guide.
Most if not all the male birds I could see however were Montagu's, having that black stripe across the upper wing and just four fingered primary projections, all a bit confusing so I will ask for other opinions on the female.
As the morning wore on the cloud cover became heavy and the rain started to come down again. This young Griffon Vulture sat by the roadside looking thoroughly cheesed off, it was cold and wet and didn't bother flying off as we stopped within a few meters & took a couple of photos.
The rows of nest boxes along the C-99 would normally be full of nesting Rollers and Kestrels at this time of year. Now however we saw only a single pair of Kestrels in situ, this one with feathers puffed out for warmth....
.. and Rollers were not wasting time nesting, they know it was too cold and wet with insufficient food to be rearing young just yet. In fact we only saw two rollers in total, both sitting quite still and looking miserable.
One opportunistic pair of Jackdaws were at least giving it a go, this one with what looks like a beakful of goat hair to line the nest.
Later that afternoon, before the rain became too heavy we drove over to the Salto del Gitano opposite the Penafalcon at Monfrague. Apart from the usual Griffon Vultures and a Black Stork on the nest there was not much to be seen. We met Dave Elliot-Binns here with a couple of his birding pals. They sounded a bit downbeat about the weather too having tried for the White Winged & other Marsh Terns at Fuente on the way here, but with no success.
I did snap a couple of small birds in the trees below the Mirador, this Blue Tit looks attractive on a grey canvas with pale green lichen on the branches, and the Rock Bunting below makes a nice image with the copper coloured leaves on the dead tree.
The Griffon Vulture below was not letting the bad weather stop him from advertising for a mate by flourishing some nesting material
Instead of driving onwards to look for the Spanish Imperial Eagles nest near the Dam, we decided to go back to the small town nearby where we enjoyed an excellent menu-del-dia.
Then a final sweep through the wet dehesa which was well suited to species like the Spanish Pond Turtle, seen here crossing the road where there were no ponds nearby, only waterlogged ground. Later we did find a few Great Bustards, and a nice male Little Bustard, Spanish Sparrows and Calandra Larks were seen frequently and bird of the day was probably the Red Necked Nightjar, caught in the headlights as it sat in the road that evening.
I do not usually list all the species seen, it is too repetitive a practice for my liking. But I list below the more notable ones that I can remember. We cut short our trip by leaving for home on Thursday morning instead of Friday, rain and bad light had stopped play. The last shot is appropriately of a Corn Bunting which was without doubt the most numerous species of all on this trip.
Great and Little Bustard, Montagu's, Hen and Marsh Harrier, Short-toed and Booted Eagle, Buzzard, Common & Lesser Kestrel, Peregrine Falcon, Black Kite, Griffon & Black Vulture, White & Black Stork, Red Necked Nightjar, Golden Oriole, Roller, Bee-eater, Hoopoe, Calandra, Crested, Thekla and Short-toed Lark, Redshank, Greenshank, Ruff, Little Stint, Avocet, Flamingo, Yellow-legged & Black Headed Gull, Spanish & House Sparrow, Grey and Woodchat Shrike, Common and Azure Winged Magpie, Corn and Rock Bunting, Linnet, Blue and Great Tit, Greenfinch, Chaffinch, Goldcrest, Serin, Gull Billed Tern, Cettis, Reed and Great Reed Warbler, Common & Curlew Sandpiper, Ringed Plover, Black Winged Stilt, Mallard, Common & Red Crested Pochard, Great Crested & Little Grebe, Teal, Gadwall, White Headed Duck, Coot, Moorhen, Grey Heron, Cattle & Little Egret, Shelduck, Barn & Red Rumped Swallow, Common & Pallid Swift, Crag & House Martin, Spotless Starling, Jackdaw, Raven, Blackbird, Stonechat, Black Redstart, Zitting Cisticola, Grey Wagtail, White Wagtail, Spotted Flycatcher, Nightingale, Sardinian Warbler, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, ....to be continued