Thursday 11 April 2013

Monfragüe National Park

Day two of my Spanish adventure was spent in Monfragüe National Park. We only had two days in Extramadura, and so reading previous trip reports it seemed that this was the most sensible option, both for Western Pal ticks and also photographic opportunities. Following heavy rain in the night, and sadly during a lot of the previous day, it actually dawned fine. Heading north though it became darker and darker, and as we hit the mountains it really closed in. Bugger. We soon reached our first destination, the impressive Pena Falcon cliff face, and considered our options. Easy! Despite the clag, we bailed from the car and went and stood admiring the amazing view of hundreds of damp Griffon Vultures sat on rocks! With them were two Black Vultures and two Egyptian Vultures, whilst a Cormorant on the river below was a trip tick. The weather seemed to be moving in from the south, and gradually it cleared, a little warmth appeared, and all of a sudden birds were on the move!

We spent over four hours here, until well past lunchtime, waiting for Vultures to fly within range - more on that here, but also enjoying the overall spectacle and all the other birds that were around. These included Serins, Goldfinches, Blue Tits, Red-rumped Swallows, Crag Martins, Blue Rock Thrushes, and an incredibly friendly Rock Bunting.

Driving onwards through the Park towards the next location at Portilla del Tietar took forever as we stopped continually, but it was worth it. Siskins, loads of Hawfinch, Black Kites and more. At the Portilla site were more Vultures and a miserable-looking Eagle Owl, for once again it was chucking it down. Muffin got great views of this new bird though, and I probably had better views that the birds I saw in Bulgaria. Retracing our steps, as I felt it looked clearer to the west, we found ourselves back at the Pena Falcon around mid-afternoon. A Subalpine Warbler was new, and embarrassingly a new bird for me, but again it was all about the sheer spectacle of what was taking place around us. Hundreds of Griffons were up, and more of them were at eye-level....

We probably explored only a fraction of the Park, and indeed most of the time were stationary at one of two spots. It would have been nice to have walked a few tracks, but with the weather slightly dicey, we didn't want to find ourselves stuck in a downpour so played it safe. Of all the locations in Spain I visited, this is where I'm going back to just as soon as I can.

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