I've just checked some key dates in respect of migrants I have generally seen on the patch by this time of year. It was as I had thought. Dire. No Swallow, no Redstart, no Ouzel, no Willow Warbler. In short, no nothing. I have little opportunity the rest of this week and I am away at the weekend. So, Spain then I guess, in the absence of anything meaninful to say about Wanstead, and not having needed to travel to another country today in order to perform any heroic deeds.
We arrived in Seville at around lunchtime, and made our way up towards Extramadura immediately. About 10km outside the city we stopped by the side of the motorway so that I could stick a teeshirt on, and promptly saw our one and only Bee-eater of the entire trip. Spotless Starlings and Corn Buntings were everywhere, and Swallows zipped about constantly. Made relatively good time up towards Merida, where we left the main roads and wiggled across country to the area around Madrigalejo. There were birds everywhere, including vast flocks of Spanish Sparrows, and in one location just north of the town we found a flock of perhaps 50 Collared Pratincoles. What brilliant birds they are! Cattle Egrets in groups of 20, White Storks all over the place - this was clearly going to be a fun trip!
What was unexpected however was the amount of water all over the place. After an incredibly wet winter and start to spring, many of the more interesting-looking tracks were completely impassable, and I very nearly got the car stuck on two occasions. Reaching tarmac again, I vowed not to push it in future, and we then drove north up to Trujillo, where we enjoyed the superb Lesser Kestrel colony at the Bullring.
We stayed at the lovely Casa Rural El Recuerdo, a birder-friendly guest house run by a British birder called Martin Kelsey. He and his wife Claudia have the patience of saints, and run a top class establishment. They also freely hand out bird gen and wine, both of which were eagerly received.
The next day we put the former to good use, and explored a number of circular loops that began and ended in Trujillo, via Santa Marta de Magasca. Our first stop produced Little Bustard, our second a flock of 64 Pin-tailed Sandgrouse and a Great Bustard. Our third stop produced five more Little Bustard, twenty more Great Bustard, four Griffon Vultures, Black-eared Wheatear, and trillions of Larks. Thereafter it was mainly passerines, but nonetheless we enjoyed a wonderful morning cruising slowly around the back roads, papping things of the car, and stopping and scanning at various points.
The afternoon was more trying, with absurdly heavy rain following us around everywhere we attempted to go, including one particularly viscious thunder storm which turned the sky black. So essentially a wash out, but it was nice to have some properly big long chats with Muffin - he has such an active (if currently one-track: Tolkein) mind, and I didn't try and turn him to birds. This is the first big trip he and I have done together, and it worked really well. Hopefully I can wangle many more to come, especially with my recent dollop of Brownie Points that I envisage lasting until about 2015.