BIRD WATCHING FROM FINCA AL-MANZIL
Extremadura offers some superb bird-watching opportunities. It is huge, sparsely populated, and has great habitat diversity. It is located on one of the major European migration routes and has a wide range of species that may be observed at different seasons.
Three vultures, Black, Egyptian and Griffon, Black stork, Lesser Kestrel and Black-winged Kite are a delight and there should be regular sightings of Montague's Harrier, Azure-winged Magpie, Great Spotted Cuckoo, Purple Heron, Little Bittern and Spanish Sparrow.
Other birds likely in this tremendous area include the Bee-eater which nest on the finca, Stone Curlew, Collared Pratincole, Black Wheatear, Rock Bunting, Southern Grey Shrike, Golden Oriole, Little Owl, Alpine Swift, Red-rumped Swallow, Calandra Lark, Woodlark, Short-toed Lark, Tawny Pipit, Black-eared Wheatear, Great Spotted Cuckoo, Woodchat Shrike, Crested Tit, Melodious Warbler, Rock Sparrow, Hawfinch and Penduline ,both White and Black Stork.
INTERESTING MONTHS AROUND FINCA AL-MANZIL
Species - February
The final week of the month is a transitional point. The winter populations are reducing and the spring incoming birds are well in evidence with the first wave of summer migrants.
Amongst the earliest to arrive are Lesser Kestrel, Great Spotted Cuckoo, Common Swallow, Pallid Swift, House Martin, Black-winged Stilt.
Crane - migration north is well under way and many thousands of birds have already moved off. The numbers which may still be observed fluctuate between 850 (2003) - 2,500 (2004). During the course of the last week in February the population reduces sharply.
White Stork are occupying their nests, and the breeding rituals are under way.
Other species which are frequent include: Azure-winged Magpie, Raven, Black-headed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Hoopoe (the first birds singing), Great Grey Shrike, Red Avadavat, Kingfisher, Dartford Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Golden Plover, Calandra Lark, Crested Lark, Thekla Lark, Black-necked Grebe, Pintail, Mallard, Shoveller, Great Cormorant, Teal, Black-tailed Godwit, Snipe, Lapwing.
Species - April
Griffon Vulture, Egyptian Vulture, Golden Eagle, Bonelli's Eagle, Black Stork are now occupying nests on cliff sites and ledges. Black Kite are nesting in wooded areas, most commonly the dehesas.
Species - October
White Stork - birds which do not migrate in winter can be seen in areas under irrigation. Roosts may comprise several dozen birds.
Species - December
Crane - this month normally sees the some of the highest numbers of cranes in the Extremadura, with between 15,000 - 30,000 birds. This area serves as a "collector" with incoming birds pausing here for several days before some move on to other parts of the region. They are found in groups of various sizes, from a single pair up to 5-6,000 in feeding areas. One of most exciting times of the day is when these large numbers of birds come in to the roosting areas at dusk.
Aquatic birds are also found in excellent numbers. For example, last year we saw several thousand Mallard and Shoveler, hundreds of Pintail, Teal, Widgeon, Tufted duck, and some Red-necked Pochard and Little Grebe.
In the steppe areas and the non-irrigated areas there are good concentrations of Great Bustard, with groups of up to 100 birds or more.
Black-bellied Sandgrouse are also seen in smallish groups of up to 15 or so birds. In irrigated areas some Little Bustard may be seen. The numbers in the groups are highly variable, running from a pair up to several hundred.
Birds of prey are also easy to observe at this time. Last year we had 6 separate sightings of Black-shouldered Kite. They are highly territorial and an individual bird may be seen regularly once a territory has been identified.
Marsh Harrier may be seen regularly throughout the day. At dusk they come together to roost in large numbers - up to 50 or 60. Red Kite also have communal roosts of up to 20 birds. Hen Harrier are also seen in small numbers. Sparrowhawk may be observed but are not common.