Extremadura is a real Spanish Mecca for many a birder, but there’s plenty to see without going anywhere near the usual honeypots. We spent this weekend exploring some of these lesser known hotspots with our friend David Lindo, aka The Urban Birder.
Without so much as whispering the word “Monfrague” we jammed into avian delights galore, off the beaten birding track.
Keeping true to David’s moniker, our first stop was a Saturday morning wander round a park in Merida. In true urban style, no sooner had we set foot outside the car than we were greeted by an Iberian Grey Shrike, perched up on a statue!
Set next to the city’s beautiful river, it wasn’t long before the park yielded many more delights – Serins, Black Redstarts, Hoopoes and Crested Larks mosied about the playgrounds and pathways, Penduline Tits called from the reed-fringed lakeside, and we got some great flybys from introduced (but still splendid!) Monk Parakeets and Waxbills (aka ‘Spambirds’!).
Another urban stop by the river in central Badajoz gave us chance to watch House, Spanish and Tree Sparrows feeding together, and muse on their chosen sexual dimorphism strategies (So do they fancy each other??)…
Next day it was time to get in the automobile and go rural. The plains and farmland north of Merida are truly spectacular at this time of year, as the skies and fields are teeming with tens of thousands of Common Cranes going about their graceful, musical business.
As we chomped on our lunchtime bocadillos, huge flocks of passerines hurried past included Corn Buntings, Spanish Sparrows, Meadow Pipits, Skylarks and even the odd ruby -coloured Red Adavadat. Raptors came thick and fast too – as well as dozens of Red Kites and Griffon Vultures, the ever-growing list soon included Merlin and Cinereous Vulture. And just to top it all off, five Great Bustards flew over to visit their Inglorious cousins.
Hanging out at Embalse de Alcollarin was a proper joy. Again there was a real bustling atmosphere, as Little and Great Egrets bickered with Cormorants and Grey Herons and we picked through thousands of Common Coots moving in and out of the shoreline.
The whole reservoir surfaced was dotted with wildfowl. We found Black-necked Grebes amongst the many hundred of Great Crested and Littles. A solitary Black Stork lingered on the banks. And, after much searching through a plethora of Mallards, Teal, Wigeon, Shovelers, Pintails and Tufties, we happened upon two Ferruginous Ducks, two Ring-necked Ducks and a red-head Smew – the latter being a first for Extremadura!
We had a cracking weekend with David and it gave us lots of ideas for trip destinations to chat about on the way home to Huerta Grande. Which was lucky as Niki realised after an hour on the road that she had left her trusty Leicas behind, hence doubling the length of the automobile stint…