Raptor Run!

Trip Start Nov 29, 2012
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37
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Trip End Feb 18, 2013


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Entremadora

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Friday, February 8, 2013

The Raptor Run

The National Park of Monfrague is the most beautiful area of Spain we have seen. Lush green and fertile land where catttle , horses and sheep graze and local farmers grow tobacco (This was after all where Columbus came from) and have fields of olive trees and cherry trees amongst other healthy crops of peppers and pimentoes, kiwi fruits and strawberries. Forests of cork oak; holm oak; Juniper trees and the rogue Euclyptus that they are trying to eradicate as it sucks the moisture from the earth making it too dry for the native oaks to grow.
The park a 500 square kms; 35 km wide East to West and 8 km long North to South in the region of Estremodoura which borders Portugal. With promises of sightings of vultures, storks and eagles we went on the guided birdwatching tour to be sure we would see them in the best place and we were not disappointed by our lovely guide,......... who brought with him spare binoculars and a powerful telescopic lens for us to be able to see right into the nests of the Griffon Vultures as they incubate their single egg. There were many Griffon Vultures around their big colony of rocks, as many as 60 odd and a few Black Vultures too but the real excitement came when we saw two rare Black Storks by the River Tajo, apparently the first ones spotted this year according to our guide.
Again we were excited to see close up on the guide telescopic lens a Bonelli's Eagle, which is resident here and an Imperial Eagle. There are only 70 Imperial eagles in the world and 12 of them live in this National Park. They are magnificent birds with a wingspan of 7 feet.
We saw lots of Herons and Grebes and White Storks and had also a very pretty Blue Rock Thrush and our guide was able to take a picture for us through his telescopic lens as my digital camera could only produce a speck on the rock.
We visited an unusual village called Villareal de San Carlos as our guide said a long name for a tiny one street village with only only eight people living there who look after the National Park and study centre where the 18th Century thatched huts have been turned into an education centre for schools.
We heard stories of the Puente del Cardenal built in 1450 and the only crossing point over the river for 100 kilometres, where bandits used to lie in wait for travellers and rob them, and the The Gypsy Jam Rock Gredos which got its name from a gypsy running away from the law and going 'splat' straight into the mighty rock. The Salto del Gitano is an amazing cliff gorge with vivid splashes of yellow lichen where we could watch the vultures soaring into the sky as we overlooked the River Tajo glinting green in the sunshine.
We drove around estates where there were many Red Deer and had coffee in a lovely little hotel well worth a visit for its peace and solitude but the culminating spectable of the day was the sight of the cranes in flight as they came home to roost in perfect formation ; it was almost a fly by in our honour as the sun was setting . There must have been about 500 birds in 5 waves all in their V formation. Spectacular... Pity the camera baterry had run out by that stage!!!
And a special message to Max...come here in May when the Egyptian Vulture visits the Park that apparently is a spectaular sighting. May is meant to be the best month to visit for bird watching.
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Comments

max on

Great time then Kay. I've seen that Black Stork and have a pic in flight of me looking at it as it cranks its head down looking at me!
Had a bit of a super time in Castro Verde. 5 sightings of (and pics) of Spanish Imperial Eagle. One afternoon was spent watching 2 Black Vultures 3 Griffon, 2 Spanish Imperial Eagles, 3 Golden Eagles and a Long Legged Buzzard! I remember those Egyptian vultures ... spectacular...
best wishes m&m

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