Friday, May 19, 2017

Last days of fieldwork in Spain

I am almost back home, and have a lot of catching-up to do. In the last few days we worked in several sites in Badajoz and Caceres. We visited the SPA of La Albuera in western Badajoz, and were quite depressed to find there a huge vineyard planted right in the middle of the former lekking area. Back in 2015 this was a fantastic site - not anymore unfortunately. This is where the lekking area used to be:

Still quite many Montagu's Harriers there. This stunning male enjoyed the new perches in the early morning light:

We also worked in Campo Lugar which was actually quite beautiful. Large expanses of pastures and traditional cereal fields, and many steppe birds. However, I met a person monitoring grasshoppers there. The joy there is short-lived. In a few days the Extremadura government will send in an army of insect-busters to spray the entire SPA with insecticides, to combat 'grasshopper plagues'. Sad. Re'a did see a Pallid harrier there, most probably the same individual we had had in Sierra de Fuentes a few days earlier.

From there we moved on to a few days of work in Llanos de Trujillo. We were based in Casa Rural El Recuerdo. The plains are vast and beautiful, but densities of steppe birds were relatively low. I had some extra birding experiences there. First, I found this Long-legged Buzzard south of Trujillo on May 16th, a good-looking massive bird. A good national rarity. These are record shots from a huge distance. Here it's on the right, with a Common Buzzard on the left:

It was very shy and kept its distance, but in this long-shot the frontal pattern looks good:

Again, we encountered low densities of steppe birds in Llanos de Trujillo. Only a handful of Little Bustards. Few Great Bustards.

It was very hot

Llanos de Trujillo has phenomenal livestock density, which may be the reason for the few steppe birds. The vultures certainly enjoy all the animals - plenty of dead sheep to feed on. Among the many griffons on a dead sheep, this rogue individual kept me on my toes. Striking bird!

A more standard looking Black Vulture, very low above my head:

Before heading back home to the UK we made time for a cheeky visit to Monfrague - more on that in the next post.

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