Natural History Diary : November 2018
Friday 30th November
I visited Farmoor this morning. The usual residents were present on the water. The solitary Canada Goose was still on F1; presumably it can't fly. At Pinkhill there were quite a few Fieldfares and Redwings in the hedgerow, but they were hard to approach. I saw a Water Rail swimming across the small pond in front of the hide. There was a Great Black-backed Gull on the wave wall at the north end of F1.
Redwing, Farmoor, 30-Nov
Water Rail, Farmoor, 30-Nov
Wren, Farmoor, 30-Nov
Redwing | Farmoor Water Rail | Farmoor Wren | Farmoor
Thursday 29th November
A Common Frog was out and about in the garden this evening.
Wednesday 28th November
I spotted a Hedgehog at the front of the house this evening. As it was dark I couldn't be sure of its size, but it didn't seem to be very big.
Tuesday 27th November
There were around a dozen Goldfinches in the Ash tree at the front of my house this morning.
Monday 26th November
There was a Wren in the garden this morning.
Thursday 22nd November
A sunny but cold start. I headed to over to Farmoor (my first visit for 3 weeks). There were lots of the usual residents on the water, but nothing out of the ordinary. A couple of Grey Wagtails provided a bit of colour. Along the river there were quite a few Redwings, probably at least twenty. As usual at this time of year they were very wary. The feeders at the Pinkhill hide were well patronised by Blue and Great Tits, and Reed Buntings, but although I stayed in the hide for half an hour no Water Rails turned up. I also saw a Green Woodpecker. At 11:30 a bank of fog rolled in, so I headed back to the car park. On the way I noticed a female Tufted Duck with a lot of white at the base of her bill - rather like a female Scaup.
Grey Wagtail, Farmoor, 22-Nov
Great Tit, Farmoor, 22-Nov
Tufted Duck, Farmoor, 22-Nov
Grey Wagtail | Farmoor Great Tit | Farmoor Tufted Duck ♀ | Farmoor
Saturday 17th November
Today was our last day in Spain, but with an afternoon flight there was time for an hour's birding at the Embalse de Arrocampo near Almarez. As we were nearing the car park a Black-winged Kite was spotted, but as usual it was hard to approach. I managed a record shot through the front window of the bus. The extensive reed beds here were unlike other habitats we'd seen during the week. A Water Rail was heard, a group of five Hoopoes were seen on the ground, and we eventually had glimpses of a couple of Western Swamp-hens. I saw a Speckled Wood here, probably my last butterfly of the year. Finally, as we approached Madrid airport, I spotted a trio of Monk Parakeets flying over.
Black-winged Kite, Almaraz, Spain, 16-Nov
Black-winged Kite | Almaraz, Spain    
Friday 16th November
Today started sunny, but by the time we'd got to the Bel&eacte;n Plain it had clouded over. The first stop was near a farm building. A Black Redstart, a Serin, a Southern Grey Shrike and a distant Stone-curlew were seen here. A bit further down the road there were about ten Stone-curlews together in a field. Then we saw some Corn Buntings and Black-bellied Sandgrouse, a Kestrel and several Calandra Larks. The third stop was at a farm building. At the bottom of the slope a large group of Griffon Vultures and a few Cinereous Vultures were feeding on a carcass. As we continued down the road some Rock Sparrows were seen in roadside trees, and a Green Sandpiper flew up from a pool.
Back on the main road we were nearly at Torrecillas de la Tiesa when Simon spotted an immature Spanish Imperial Eagle perched on top of a pole. This bird stayed around for quite a while, giving great views, before flying off. Lunch was taken in a wooded area, but there was hardly anything to see there. The final stop was at a pond at Belén, north-east of Trujillo. A Black-winged Stilt was seen here, as well as a couple of Green Sandpipers.
A walk near the hotel turned up a flock of Iberian Magpies, but as usual they were wary and hard to approach.
Black Redstart, Belén plain, Spain, 16-Nov
Spanish Imperial Eagle, Torrecillas de la Tiesa, Spain, 16-Nov
Iberian Magpie, Viña Las Torres, Spain, 16-Nov
Black Redstart | Belén plain, Spain Spanish Imperial Eagle | Torrecillas de la Tiesa, Spain Iberian Magpie | Viña Las Torres, Spain
We had a trip into Trujillo later, to see lots of Spotless Starlings coming in to roost on the roofs of buildings. A Hoopoe flew over the main square, and there were also lots of Crag Martins roosting on the walls of buildings.
Crag Martin, Trujillo, Spain, 16-Nov
Crag Martin | Trujillo, Spain    
Thursday 15th November
The first stop today was on the plains of Campo Lugar. There wasn't a great deal of note here. A Common Starling was the most interesting, as it is not a common bird in Spain. A Hoopoe was also seen. The second stop was in the rice fields along the Rio Ruecas between Madrigalejo and Palazuelo. There were lots of Common Cranes here. We had a bit of a walk along a track, but this didn't turn up much except for calling Cetti's Warblers. A flock of seventeen Great Bustards was seen. We got back in the vehicles and headed further west. There were a few White Storks in the fields and we saw a Great White Egret. We stopped by an agricultural building. We found Common Waxbills quite easily, but Red Avadavats were rather harder to locate. A quartet of Tree Sparrows flew over.
Common Crane, Madrigalejo, Spain, 15-Nov
Common Crane, Madrigalejo, Spain, 15-Nov
White Stork, Madrigalejo, Spain, 15-Nov
Common Crane | Madrigalejo, Spain Common Crane | Madrigalejo, Spain White Stork | Madrigalejo, Spain
Lunch was taken in dehesa habitat at Moheda Alta. There were lots of Autumn Buttercups in flower, but only bees seemed to be taking advantage. A few butterflies were seen: Red Admiral, Clouded Yellow, Large White and Small Copper. A few Southern Migrant Hawker dragonflies were flying around, and I found an immature Red-veined Darter. There were several Chiffchaffs active in the oak trees. Each tree appeared to have its own family of Moorish Geckos in residence. After lunch we drove about 1km to a bird hide overlooking rice fields. On getting out of the bus a rather faded Broad Scarlet and a fairly fresh Black Percher were sunning themselves in the vegetation. There wasn't too much of interest on the rice fields, with the exception of a solitary Black Stork. Walking along a sheltered hedgerow turned up a number of Epaulet Skimmer dragonflies and a Small White.
Black Percher, Moheda Alta, Spain, 15-Nov
Epaulet Skimmer, Moheda Alta, Spain, 15-Nov
Red-veined Darter, Moheda Alta, Spain, 15-Nov
Black Percher | Moheda Alta, Spain Epaulet Skimmer | Moheda Alta, Spain Red-veined Darter | Moheda Alta, Spain
We returned to the fields to the south-east of Madrigalejo, which is a major pre-roost location for Common Cranes. We were not disappointed, as there were thousands of them either flying in large flocks, or sitting on the ground. A flock of seventeen Little Bustards went almost overhead. A patch of sunflowers had attracted a mixed flock of finches, and we saw Goldfinch, Brambling, Linnet, Chaffinch and Greenfinch here. A flock of around fifty Cattle Egrets were seen, but they were quite distant. As we were heading back to the main road we found around fifty White Storks in a field.
In the evening we found more Natterjack Toads and Marbled Newts in the hotel gardens.
Natterjack Toad, Viña Las Torres, Spain, 15-Nov
Marbled Newt, Viña Las Torres, Spain, 15-Nov
Natterjack Toad | Viña Las Torres, Spain Marbled Newt | Viña Las Torres, Spain  
Wednesday 14th November
This morning was nice and sunny. We headed northwards to the Monfragüe National Park, the main protected area in Extremadura. We stopped at the El Salto del Gitano cliff. Here there were many Griffon Vultures and a few Cinereous Vultures soaring, and more were perched on the cliffs. Some Griffons flew past below us. A pair of Peregrine Falcons was also present, soaring up the cliff faces, but we didn't see them catch anything. There were lots of Crag Martins and a very obliging male Blue Rock Thrush. A Rock Bunting made a brief appearance. There were a few Red Deer on the slopes on the other side of the gorge.
Cinereous Vulture, Monfragüe NP, Spain, 14-Nov
Griffon Vulture, Monfragüe NP, Spain, 14-Nov
Blue Rock Thrush, Monfragüe NP, Spain, 14-Nov
Cinereous Vulture | Monfragüe NP, Spain Griffon Vulture | Monfragüe NP, Spain Blue Rock Thrush | Monfragüe NP
We headed to Villarreal De San Carlos for a coffee, and then on to our lunch stop at the La Tajadilla viewpoint. The scrub beside the road turned up a few butterflies: Clouded Yellow, Cleopatra, Lang's Short-tailed Blue, Red Admiral and Speckled Wood. A dead Horseshoe Whip Snake was an interesting find. In the car park a couple of Dung Beetles were busy trundling their balls of dung off somewhere. Finally we drove to La Portilla del Tietar, finding several Red Deer on the way. We then had quite a long wait until a Spanish Imperial Eagle turned up to inspect its roosting site. While we were waiting, a couple of Jays and a party of Iberian Magpies went past. Eventually the eagle did appear. Unfortunately the light had deteriorated by this time, so it was hard to take a good photo (and the bird didn't come very close). But it was possible to see the main diagnostic feature of this species, the white leading edges of its wings.
Horseshoe Whip Snake, Monfragüe NP, Spain, 14-Nov
Red Deer, Monfragüe NP, Spain, 14-Nov
Spanish Imperial Eagle, Monfragüe NP, Spain, 14-Nov
Horseshoe Whip Snake | Monfragüe NP, Spain Red Deer | Monfragüe NP, Spain Spanish Imperial Eagle | Monfragüe NP
In the evening we found a number of juvenile Natterjack Toads and adult Marbled Newts in the hotel garden.
Tuesday 13th November
This morning we headed west of Trujillo to the Santa Marta de Magasca plain. Unfortunately it was quite foggy, so initially we could only make out a few Common Cranes on the ground. Thekla Larks were quite numerous and a Southern Grey Shrike gave reasonably close views. A rather greyish Red Fox also gave good views. Eventually the fog cleared, so we moved on a bit and found three Great Bustards and two Little Bustards. There were lots of Pin-tailed Sandgrouse airborne, but none were found on the ground. A few Black-bellied Sandgrouse were found, but they were very distant. Calandra Larks were quite numerous. As the day warmed up a large number of small brown moths with pale markings appeared, and were very busy searching for females in the grassland. They rarely settled, but eventually I got some pictures of one (later identified as Rambur's Pellicle). Raptors seen here were a Golden Eagle, Griffon Vultures, Cinerous Vultures and Red Kites. A group of about seven Great Bustards flew in and landed on a ridge, but were still pretty distant. As we were returning to the minibuses a Clouded Yellow was seen.
Rambur's Pellicle, Santa Marta de Magasca, Spain, 13-Nov
Corn Bunting, Santa Marta de Magasca, Spain, 13-Nov
Clouded Yellow, Santa Marta de Magasca, Spain, 13-Nov
Rambur's Pellicle | Santa Marta de Magasca, Spain Corn Bunting | Santa Marta de Magasca, Spain Clouded Yellow | Santa Marta de Magasca, Spain
We stopped in the village of Santa Marta de Magasca for a coffee, before heading off to our lunch stop at the Rio Tamuja. A couple of Iberian Pond Turtles were spotted sitting on a rock in the river. This was a good place for insects. Butterflies seen were Clouded Yellow, Small White, Small Heath, Lang's Short-tailed Blue, Red Admiral and Cleopatra. Dragonflies seen were Common Darter, Southern Migrant Hawker and Western Willow Spreadwing. During lunch a Woodlark flew over, as did a few Griffon Vultures and a Bonelli's Eagle.
Small Heath, Rio Tamuja, Spain, 13-Nov
Lang's Short-tailed Blue, Rio Tamuja, Spain, 13-Nov
Common Darter, Rio Tamuja, Spain, 13-Nov
Small Heath | Rio Tamuja, Spain Lang's Short-tailed Blue | Rio Tamuja, Spain Common Darter | Rio Tamuja, Spain
After lunch we headed back up onto the pseudosteppe, where the most notable species seen was a Golden Eagle. It was being mobbed by a Sparrowhawk! A bit further a long the road a pair of Little Owls were spotted on a stone wall. Then Simon found a group of vultures on the ground, feeding on a sheep carcass. A ring-tailed Hen Harrier made a brief appearance, before a small group of Great Bustards flew over. I was able to get a few shots of one of the latter. The vultures were mostly Griffon, with just a couple of Cinereous. Seen in the same area were a Stonechat and a fresh-looking Brown Argus.
Great Bustard, Santa Marta de Magasca, Spain, 13-Nov
Stonechat, Santa Marta de Magasca, Spain, 13-Nov
Brown Argus, Santa Marta de Magasca, Spain, 13-Nov
Great Bustard | Santa Marta de Magasca, Spain Stonechat | Santa Marta de Magasca, Spain Brown Argus | Santa Marta de Magasca, Spain
Monday 12th November
It was raining this morning, but we headed for Trujillo to visit the supermarket. Near the hotel I saw Southern Grey Shrike, Black Redstart, Spotless Starling and Stonechat. At a pond in a park in a very wet Trujillo were two Little Ringed Plovers, several Little Grebes, a Snipe and a Green Sandpiper. A Cetti's Warbler was heard.
After drying off in the supermarket we headed for the Alcollarin reservoir. Although it had stopped raining the light was terrible and there was a cold wind. There were many Great Crested and Little Grebes on the reservoir, with just one Black-necked Grebe. Despite the chilly wind there were several Crag Martins and juvenile Red-rumped Swallows flying around over the reservoir wall. There were a couple of Red-legged Partridges and a flock of Serin in the trees below the wall. There were a few Pintail on the reservoir. A flock of around a hundred Egyptian Geese flew in and landed at the water's edge. A Dartford Warbler was spotted in some scrub.
We drove round to the southern end of the reservoir. There were several Great White Egrets, Little Grebes and Grey Herons here. A Kingfisher flew over, and Iberian Magpies were also in the area. While we were having lunch it brightened up a bit, and a Speckled Wood put in an appearance. A few dragonflies also turned up: a Common Darter, a Southern Migrant Hawker and a Western Willow Spreadwing. After lunch an adult Bonelli's Eagle showed up - a very impressive bird. Some Common Cranes flew over. A Lang's Short-tailed Blue was found later in the afternoon.
Crag Martin, Alcollarin Res, Spain, 12-Nov
Red-rumped Swallow, Alcollarin Res, Spain, 12-Nov
Great White Egret, Alcollarin Res, Spain, 12-Nov
Crag Martin | Alcollarin Res, Spain Red-rumped Swallow | Alcollarin Res, Spain Great White Egret | Alcollarin Res, Spain
Speckled Wood, Alcollarin Res, Spain, 12-Nov
Bonelli's Eagle, Alcollarin Res, Spain, 12-Nov
Thekla Lark, Alcollarin Res, Spain, 12-Nov
Speckled Wood | Alcollarin Res, Spain Bonelli's Eagle | Alcollarin Res, Spain Thekla Lark | Alcollarin Res, Spain
Sunday 11th November
Today I flew out to Spain for a week's birding with Naturetrek in Extremadura. On the way to the hotel a few birds were seen, including Spanish Sparrow, Crested Lark, Spotless Starling, White Stork and Common Crane.
Saturday 3rd November
I visited three sites today. The first was Buckland Warren, a place I hadn't been to before. In the field before the wooded area I saw two Stock Doves in amongst the mixed corvid flock. There were various tits (including two Long-tailed and one Coal) and a Goldcrest in the wood. A Jay flew across the ride. I also saw two Muntjacs.
Moving on to Hackpen Hill on the Ridgeway. It was rather hard to find anything other than small flocks of Starlings, but eventually I saw a couple of Meadow Pipits, a flock of around sixteen Linnets and a Great Spotted Woodpecker. Birds of prey were four Red Kites, two Buzzards and a Kestrel.
Finally I headed to Blewbury and drove up the Woodway Road onto the Downs. This was another place I hadn't been to before, although it is quite close to Aston Upthorpe Downs. The reason for going was that a Richard's Pipit had been found there yesterday. It was still showing when I arrived, but it was too far away for photography. By about 2pm it had disappeared from view. I also saw a flock af around thirty Fieldfares fly over.
Back at home I heard a loud commotion from the House Sparrows in the garden, and looked out to see a male Sparrowhawk perched on the feeder pole. Of course, it didn't hang around while I got the camera.
Linnet, Hackpen Hill, 03-Nov
Starling, Hackpen Hill, 03-Nov
Red Kite, Hackpen Hill, 03-Nov
Linnet | Hackpen Hill Starling | Hackpen Hill Red Kite | Hackpen Hill