Saturday 23rd –Dawn & Jayne arrived into Barajas Airport just about on time and met up with Julian in the arrivals hall, with Dawn saying that she had already seen an interesting raptor from the runway. After a little discussion and scrutiny of the field guide it was concluded to be most likely a Booted Eagle. So we headed out of the city towards A Coruna but the weather was awful with some quite heavy rain as we passed over the mountains. However despite this we did start to add a few bird species such as Red Kite, Spotless Starlings, Carrion Crow and Jackdaw. Once through the tunnel we stopped for lunch and then continued to Medina del Campo with the weather improving all the time. As a consequence the larger birds were starting to appear with several White Storks (some on nests), Black & Red Kites, Griffon Vultures and a couple of Booted Eagles. An adult male Montagu’s Harrier flying down the central reservation of the motorway was fairly surreal! We passed a few large pools and Dawn did very well managing to pick out a few Cormorants, Mallard, Moorhen and Black-winged Stilts on them as we sped past. At Tordecillas we headed west towards Portugal and just beyond Zamora we exited the main road for San Pedro de Herrerias and our accommodation for the next five nights. Dawn was being ever vigilant as we travelled along finding a couple of Southern Grey Shrikes, more Montagu’s Harriers and even a Clouded Yellow butterfly. Late afternoon we reached our accommodation and was met by a fabulous welcome by its patron Antonio. He kindly showed us to our wonderful rooms and sorted ourselves out before reconvening later to out to Pistas de Linarejos. This is one of the main watch-points for Iberian Wolf and the info board in the hotel showed us that one had been seen there the previous day! Jayne and Julian met outside a little earlier than Dawn and were treated to good views of Common Cuckoo, Red-rumped Swallow and a male Serin singing on a nearby overhead wire. At the designated time we met up with Dawn and drove the short distance to the watch-point with the track being a little difficult from all the recent inclement weather. A group of watchers were already there and we joined them in the knowledge that nothing had been seen this day. For the next two hours we watched over the sierra seeing a few things but the weather wasn’t brilliant and made viewing uncomfortable. However we still managed to find some interesting things with Jayne taking the plaudits with a gorgeous male Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush sat on a pine tree. Julian spotted a couple of Red Deer in an almost devoid area and then a group of 5 Crossbills landed in the nearby pine wood but the train flushed them quite quickly after their arrival. It was now late evening and the weather was threatening to deteriorate again so we decide to head back to the hotel. We later met in the lounge for a pre-dinner drink and to do the log before going for the evening meal in the dining room.
Sunday 24th – We had decided today to go to the pseudo-steppe and lagoons of Villafafila today as the weather forecast weren’t brilliant. So we arranged breakfast for to give us a full day in this area. During breakfast Jayne said she had seen a couple of Short-toed Treecreepers in the garden from her bedroom window and Dawn had had been outside and found Rock Sparrows, Stonechat, Black Redstart, Goldfinch, Great & Blue Tits. Julian had also woken quite early to the song of a Nightingale right outside his window! After breakfast we met at the van and set off along the minor roads towards Ferreras de Arriba stopping en-route for a Hoopoe Jayne had seen fly up as we drove past. Although this also produced a few Jays, Chaffinch and a little further on an Iberian Green Woodpecker. As we joined the main road to Tabera we saw our first Montagu’s Harrier of the day and Jayne picked out a couple of Red Deer in a nearby field. As we drove on we managed to find other species such as Black & Red Kites, White Storks on nests, Grey Heron and Red-legged Partridge. Eventually we reached our first stop at the Estacion de La Tabla and were (as always) excellent. This group of derelict buildings is home to a small colony of Lesser Kestrels and it is magical to watch them flying all around you. Also here we saw Rock, Tree & House Sparrow together, Goldfinches and Spotless Starlings but just before we left a male Peregrine shot through. This was then followed by a slow drive through the agricultural fields to the town of Villafafila, which was again brilliant as we had several Lesser Kestrels mobbing a Black Kite, 10+ Montagu’s Harriers most of which were next to the van (a photographers dream), Dawn saw a Northern Wheatear followed by a couple of Clouded Yellow butterflies plus there were good numbers of Crested Larks, Corn Buntings and Linnets. However the highlight was finding our first Great Bustards and we got fabulous views of the males strutting their stuff and half-displaying to a few females in the same area. We even found a couple of females sat on nests in the ploughed fields which was a new event for this trip. We remained watching these incredibly regal birds for quite some time, and was definitely one of the highlights of the day. We prized ourselves away and continued into town with Julian’s suggestion of hot refreshments and a comfort stop – always a welcome combination! The weather was starting to improve so we drove out of town towards Villapanda were we started to find our first water birds on and around the areas many pools and lagoons (especially after the recent heavy rains). Our first roadside stop produced plenty of Lapwings, Black-winged Stilts, Avocets, Mallard and Black headed Gulls with smaller numbers of Shoveler, Shelduck and Gull-billed Terns with the added bonus of a Whiskered Tern. There were now lots of raptors around with 6+ Black Kites, Red Kite and Marsh Harrier in the air together. A little further we again stopped at one of the few purpose-built observation points and an initial scan produce the usual Lapwing, Black-winged Stilt, Avocet, Grey Heron but also a few Coot, Gadwall, Common Redshank, a male Kentish Plover and a Greenshank flying in. We also got good views of a lovely male Iberian Yellow Wagtail, with a male Northern Wheatear, 2 Greater Short-toed Larks and heard Zitting Cisticola and Cetti’s Warbler. It was now getting near to lunchtime and Julian wanted to just have a quick drive round the nearby agricultural fields. This was quick as the tracks had deteriorated somewhat after the recent inclement weather but we did find lots more Great Bustards seeing them in flight being an incredible experience. Around the fields there were lots of Corn Buntings, Crested Larks, Skylarks, Linnets, Northern Wheatears, Raven, Red & Black Kites, Common Buzzard, Red legged Partridge and a lovely Southern Scarce Swallowtail butterfly. It was now definitely lunchtime so Julian drove to a nearby picnic table he knew about and we settled done to our home-made Tortilla Española, Manchego Cheese, local bread and fruit – it was gorgeous. However so was the fact that we were surrounded by more Great Bustards plus Jayne found a Tawny Pipit sat on a sign. We also saw a Little Egret, Grey Herons, Black Kites, Ravens, Sand Martins, Zitting Cisticolas and Yellow Wagtails flew around, Iberian Water Frogs croaked from the small pools and we saw a Gatekeeper, Western Dappled White and Small White butterflies. After lunch we returned towards Villafafila but turned off on to one of the tracks that dissect this land and followed it to the Laguna Grande Observation Point. On the way we enjoyed several good stops, which produced more Gadwall, a couple of Teal, Shelduck, Greenshank & Redshank stood together, a few Common Sandpipers, 10+ Dunlin flew past, although best of all was a beautiful summer plumage Black Tern feeding over a small pool. At the ‘observatorio’ we stood for half an hour getting fabulous views of many of the same species but also added Common Pochard to our wildfowl list. A male Hen Harrier quickly followed by an adult female Marsh Harrier completed a brilliant trio of harriers for the day. Just as we were about to leave Julian spotted a Spoonbill flying over the lagoon, which sadly landed out of sight. Around the derelict village of Otero the Lesser Kestrels hawked insects and we saw a few more Rock Sparrows and our first Rabbits of the trip. We continued onwards to some more small lagoons where we found a single Black-tailed Godwit and Dawn saw a pair of Teal. Our final stop before heading back was the lagoon at Villarin and en-route Dawn said “what are these egret-like birds?” and as they came closer it was apparent they were in fact 10 Spoonbills flying towards the main lagoon. At Villarin we saw all the usual suspects although watching a female Mallard escort 10+ ducklings over the water was heart-warming and Julian found the only Little Grebe of the day. The highlight here was seeing a Short toed Eagle fly overhead being mobbed by a Red Kite and it making the kite look small in comparison. It was now mid-afternoon so we started back towards San Pedro and just before the Rio Esla we stopped for a very smart male Woodchat Shrike at the side of the road. Then at the river bridge we again stopped but the water levels were high and it was quiet although a ‘pale phase’ Booted Eagle was a good bird for the day. The rest of the journey back was pretty uneventful and we got back to the hotel with enough time to have a nice break before going back out to Pistas de Linarejos. Around 6:30pm we again met up at the van and drove the short distance to the viewpoint, where there were already quite a few people looking, but without success. We stayed there for a couple of hours having further great views of 2 fairly close Roe Deer, several Red Deer along with Short-toed & Booted Eagles, Common Cuckoo, Dunnock and Woodpigeon. We left there and quickly returned to the hotel for our gorgeous evening meal of lentil stew, house salad and pudding, washed down with the ‘House Red’. After the meal we completed the daily log and headed off to our rooms as we were having an earlier start the next day.
Monday 25th – At 7am we met at the van and armed with a flask of hot water, tea-bags and a jar of coffee we drove out to Pistas de Linarejos. It was a cold morning and initially difficult to see but quite soon enough the sun’s light started to filter through. Cuckoos were calling all over and we even managed to get some decent views of them as they flew around. Red Deer grazed the sierra but again there were no signs of any wolves. However the Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush seen on the first evening had returned and kept insisting on sitting on top of a pine right in front of us! It looked resplendent in the morning sun with its vivid blue, orange and white plumage, Dawn was spot on when she said it was like a child had painted it. There was a cool N/W wind but the day felt like it was going to be a nice one (initially anyway) and before we had left we had got good views of a male Dartford Warbler, several Dunnocks and a Chaffinch. We drove slowly back to the CTR Veniata for breakfast and en-route saw a Roe Deer next to the road and as we entered the village a Grey Wagtail flew up and landed on a fence in full view. Our breakfast was most welcome after being out for a couple of hours but we were keen to get back out into the sunshine so we quickly reconvened back outside. The plan this morning was to walk slowly around the village (hopefully) finding some of its local specialties. We were not disappointed as new species appeared right from the outset with a Nightingale singing out in the open, male Whitethroat, a few Blackcaps plus singing Cirl Bunting, at least 3 Red rumped Swallows, Rock, Tree and House Sparrows, Greenfinch, Goldfinch and Serin. That was just in the first 20 minutes! The walk continued round the edge of the village producing White Wagtails, Black Redstarts, with a Robin, Great & Blue Tits but the singing Wryneck was well received as we got fabulous telescope views. The journey continued through some ancient oak woodland where we found Short-toed Treecreeper, Western Bonelli’s Warbler and Nuthatch then in a stand of pines we teased out first a gorgeous male Firecrest followed by a couple of Crested Tits. It was now getting quite warm and an ‘off the cuff’ comment by Julian “strange I haven’t seen a butterfly?” had the desired effect. Brimstones first started to appear and this was then quickly followed by Marsh Fritillary and then the lovely Scarce Southern Swallowtail. The walk continued and we found a really nice stand of Early Purple Orchid and around the Roman Bath we found an Iberian Chiffchaff singing away plus a very interesting Giant Cranefly. It was now getting towards lunchtime so we carried on round towards the hotel seeing more of the same species but new butterflies included Spanish Festoon and Orange-tip found by Dawn. It had been a fabulous morning wandering around this historic hamlet and thoroughly enjoyed by us all. Julian had arranged to have our lunch in the hotel and Antonio provided a feast with Pumpkin Soup to start, followed by pasta/veg salad with bread and yogurt for dessert. I am sure we could have all gone for a siesta but Julian had other plans. We were still staying fairly local but near the towns of Ferreras de Abajo and Arriba. The drive to our first stop produced a Common Buzzard, Southern Grey Shrike and Stonechat, but the clouds were now looking threatening. At the cattle drinking ponds Julian was like a child in a sweet shop as played with his fishing net, but it did produce a cracking male Marbled Newt. While this was going on the rain started and for the rest of the afternoon we encountered occasional showers. After this we tried another pool for European Tree Frog but could only manage fleeting glimpses as they dove into the depths of the water and became impossible to find, however we did get cracking views of a Short-toed Eagle right above us. We passed through one village and headed out towards Otero stopping initially for a Rock Bunting sat on a wire. This was then joined by a Woodlark and Julian hit the jackpot with a flock of Bee-eaters sat in a dead tree. Understandably Jayne loved these exquisite colourful birds reminding her of the time she had spent in Trinidad & Tobago. It was now mid-afternoon and we continued our drive around Ferreras getting more good views of Bee-eaters plus Black Kite and Raven. We stopped at a known place for leaving carcasses and Julian showed us some of the bleached remains plus pointed out a few Iberian Wolf prints in the mud. A Little Grebe, Mallard with ducklings and a baby Moorhen were seen on one extensive pool next to the main road but we were now ready for a break before our late evening excursion. So we slowly returned to the hotel and caught up with a little lost sleep before our evening meal of paella. It was still daylight when we finished so Julian suggested a drive out to Flechas before our walk at dusk. This proved to be a very good decision as we found a group of 6 Montagu’s Harriers, which included one of the ‘melanistic’ forms rarely found in this species. The rest of the journey was fairly uneventful apart from a few Kestrels, Linnets and Magpies. Back in San Pedro we abandoned the van and walked out to the sierra seeing a Nightingale in full song sat on an overhead wire. Cuckoos were constantly calling until nightfall when we heard the distant ‘churr’ of a European Nightjar with Dawn and Jayne also hearing a Tawny Owl. As we returned to the hotel we encountered several Pipistrelle Bats and Julian pointed out a few constellations in the (now) cloudless sky. It had been a very long but enjoyable day but we were ready for our beds.
Tuesday 26th – Another early rise saw us at Pistas de Linarejos just as the sunning was rising over the distant mountains. It was beautiful calm morning with clear skies but also a little mist in the valley bottom, which made viewing a little difficult. However we did get a good look at several Red Deer and the resident Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush put on its usual show. Dunnocks seemed to be singing from every quarter, we got brief views of a couple of Dartford Warblers, a Great Spotted Woodpecker drummed in the distance and the Cuckoos were there vocal selves. It all made for a lovely scene but by 08:30 we wanted our breakfast so we returned to the hotel. After our leisurely breakfast we again got our things together and headed off west towards the Roman town of Puebla de Sanabria, about 40Km away. In the mountains above the town is a natural park with a couple of lagoons, which can be both productive and very scenic. So we drove up and up through the ancient oak woodland to above the tree-line and eventually stopped in the car park of the Laguna de los Peces having seen a Short toed Eagle en-route. The wind had now become stronger and being so high up it was also quite cold, however undeterred by this we walked slowly down to the small lake. Skylarks were singing everywhere and Linnets few around in small numbers. Jayne then found a pair of Whinchats, which were then joined by an ‘Iberian’ Yellow Wagtail and then a pair of Tawny Pipits flew past. A little further after admiring some Hoop Petticoat Daffodils and some Gentians, Dawn found a Natterjack Toad heading for a small stream next to the track. As we got closer to the water’s edge Julian located a pair of Common Pochard on the lagoon, which was most unusual, with Stonechats, Dunnocks and Northern Wheatears sitting around like sentries. At the lagoon Julian checked stones and rocks soon finding his target – Iberian Rock Lizard a small reptile restricted to this corner of Iberia. Then in the small pools next to the lagoon Dawn found an Iberian Frog, which was also fantastic. While Julian continued to search Dawn then got a brief view of Water Pipit but unfortunately couldn’t be relocated. We were getting cold now so we walked back up the hill to the car park seeing many of the same species recorded earlier but also adding a Raven to the day’s list. Once back at the van we started back down the mountain stopping on the way to get some fabulous views of a Tawny Pipit stood on a rock, several Northern Wheatears and even the local dairy cows! Passing back through the mountain village a comment was made on how Alpine the whole place looked. It was nearing lunchtime as we re-joined the main road through the reserve so Julian took us quickly to the edge of the main lake, which was massive in comparison to the higher one. We had our picnic at some purpose-built tables and benches under a stand of lovely ancient oak covered in lichen on the edge of the water. While we ate we watched and listened to Chaffinches, Short toed Treecreeper, Western Bonelli’s Warbler, Robin and Wren. After lunch we packed away the goods and headed back towards Sanabria stopping at the visitor centre, only to find it was closed on Tuesdays! Julian was most apologetic as we started back to San Pedro de Herrerias. He also had a plan to make a few stops on the way with the first at the Rio Tesla bridge where we got brilliant looks at the nesting Crag Martins. We then went the long way back taking in some of the Ferreras area where we again got brilliant views of Bee-eaters and a pair of Dartford Warblers feeding their young. At the frog pools we pulled in but the weather had got temporarily worse with some rain so we didn’t linger and continued on through to San Pedro. We then arranged to meet later at the van after a welcome siesta to go out and try for wolf again. A little after 6pm we set off for a new (to us) watchpoint near Villardeciervos and it was a lovely evening. Sadly no one had told the mammals to come out as we didn’t one single creature for the next two hours. It is a good job we had some birds to look at and as ever the Common Cuckoos were one of the highlights flying around right in front of our position. Dawn was struggling to identify a ‘sylvia’ warbler but got there eventually with good views of a Common Whitethroat. Although we also saw both Dartford and Sub-alpine Warblers as well along with a Black Kite that drifted right over our heads. We called time around 8:15pm and drove back to the hotel where Antonio had prepared another excellent meal ahead of the planned night-drive. After the meal we chatted for a while and as dusk gave way to darkness we left San Pedro and headed for Flechas. On the road to Flechas we got some Red Deer ‘eye-shine’ but not much else, and then on the way to San Vitero Julian made a speculative stop and heard a Scop’s Owl in the distance. So he drove a route in the right direction and eventually got within distance of this tiny owl. A couple of whistles back at the bird he knew it was close and quickly managed to get in his torch beam for Dawn and Jayne to see well. They were thrilled with this and Dawn even managed to take a quick photo before the lamp was turned off and we left the area. We then then drove back towards San Pedro seeing a few more Red Deer and several Rabbits at the side of the road. We continued beyond the village and spent another 30 minutes along the main road first seeing some more Red Deer and then hearing a Tawny Owl and lastly seeing a Red Fox briefly in the beam of the torch. We got back to the hotel around midnight and it had been a splendid adventure, one which will be repeated on the next visits to this wonderful area.
Wednesday 27th :- An easy start to the day saw the group having breakfast before most of us had gone out of the hotel. However Dawn had been out and had enjoyed a fantastic 40 minutes wandering around the village discovering some new birds for the list. These included a beautiful male Common Redstart, Sardinian Warbler and a pair of Goldcrests, with the latter not an easy species to find here. After a leisurely breakfast we got our things together and headed south towards the Portuguese border. Julian wanted us to see as much of this wonderful area as possible and as we drove we saw White Storks, Black & Red Kites, Common Buzzards, Kestrels, Red-legged Partridges, Woodpigeons, Crested Larks, Barn Swallows, House Martins, White Wagtail, Black Redstarts, Stonechats, Blackbirds, Southern Grey & Woodchat Shrikes, Spotless Starlings, Chaffinches, Serins, Linnets and Corn Buntings. There was wildlife everywhere and it was a lovely day despite the cool S/E wind. Julian also had a remit, which was to find Jayne a Hoopoe – so the challenge was on! Our first stop was as the wonderful Puente de Embalse de Castro, which is a large iron bridge that spans a gorge with the dam below it. Here the high crags are home to breeding Blue Rock Thrush, Rock Sparrow, Rock Bunting and Crag Martins, a bit of a give-away to the habitat type! As we dropped down to the bridge Dawn spied what she thought was an Egyptian Vulture and then Julian saw our first two watchable Griffon Vultures. We parked at the bridge and got out to many Crag & House Martins wheeling round plus a few Red rumped Swallows. A Black Kite flew over and then Julian found a gorgeous male Blue Rock Thrush and we got some excellent looks through the telescope. While watching this Jane alerted us to three raptors spiralling up, which were another Black Kite, Common Buzzard and a lovely (pale phase) Booted Eagle. It was actually strange she found anything as she still had one of her lenses caps on her binoculars, which caused great hilarity! We sorted this out quickly and then she went on to find the adult Egyptian Vulture as it flew around for a while before alighting on a rock in full view. We put the telescope on it and could see every feather in its head plume and its vivid yellow face – absolutely magic. Eventually we tore ourselves away from this fabulous place and being late morning Julian suggested a coffee and comfort stop before the next destination. This was well received and we headed for a place he knew on the main road to Portugal. Here we sat outside with our refreshments and Julian said “Hoopoe singing” and sure enough we could all hear the distinctive ‘boo boo boo’ of this enchanting bird. Unfortunately it couldn’t be found but Jayne was right when she said “we’re getting there”. We set off for Fariza passing through lots of open countryside and suddenly Julian again shouted “Hoopoe” as one flew across the road and out of sight. Jayne had glimpsed it but it was definitely a BVN (better views needed). This was getting a little tantalising now as eyes were peeled on every roadside verge then just on the way out of Gamones - Julian broke quickly, while blurting out “Hoopoe, there, right next to us”. Sure enough not 5m from the van was a superb Hoopoe picking its way through the short grass. We were all thrilled as we watched it for several minutes before it flew up and disappeared out of sight. Huge smiles all round we again set off and headed for Fariza as it was now getting towards midday. At Fariza we drove out to the quaint church that overlooks the Rio Duero and Portugal, it is a fabulous setting and well worth the visit without the wildlife on show. It was now quite warm and the butterflies were more evident with both Swallowtail and Southern Scarce Swallowtail, Black eyed & Common Blues, Wall Brown, Clouded Yellow and Pearl bordered Fritillaries. Just as we headed down towards the watchpoint Julian saw a movement in the grass and there was a huge Oscillated Lizard. We all got in position to see Europe’s largest lacertid and admired its beautiful green coloration overlaid with some yellow and black patterning. We wandered down to the mirador through some lovely stands of French Lavender and Spanish Broom and looked out over this impressive gorge with the mighty Rio Duero below. Crag & House Martins zipped around and a few Rock Buntings landed close to where we were standing. Julian picked up a few distant Alpine Swifts and a Red Kite drifted over. Then Jane said “what are these” and we saw a large bird of prey disappear below us being mobbed by Red-billed Choughs. Although the raptor had gone out of sight we then continued to have some very good looks at the choughs as they wheeled around and called below where we were standing. A few Griffon Vultures soared overhead and we enjoyed the whole ambience of the area. Julian then called “Golden Eagle” and from below us a majestic adult flew out from the rock face and proceeded to climb slowly and make its way to the other side of the gorge and disappear out of sight. Absolutely brilliant!. It was now time for lunch so we walked slowly back to the church and enjoyed our picnic while watching the birds and butterflies all around us. After we had finished both with the lunch and a bit of photography we loaded the van and headed off to Portugal. The border crossing is now obsolete in the wake of the EU but its still interesting to know you have just entered another country. Just inside the border is Miranda do Duero and just before the town we parked up for a while overlooking the river. Things were generally quiet but we did get better views of Alpine Swifts plus Jayne found a group of 4 Mallards on the river, which were our only wildfowl of the day. So we continued on through Portugal heading north along the river until we reached Aldeia Nova and here we drove down to another beautiful chapel – the Ermita de Castro. This again was situated in a stunning part of the river surrounded by mature woodland and magnificent crags. At the car park we got out of the van to the flute-like song of Golden Oriole and after a couple of responses we got good but brief views of a male flying past us, resplendent in its yellow and black plumage. This was really the only notable species (apart from a Red Kite) we saw here but that didn’t matter as we all thoroughly enjoyed the scenery and tranquillity of the area. It was now mid-afternoon and time to head back to the accommodation for a little siesta before our final evening’s watch of the short break. The journey back was punctuated with a few stops for Montagu’s Harrier, Booted Eagle and a Turtle Dove but the best stop was for the ice cream we treated ourselves too in Alcanices. After this we got back to the hotel without incident and retired to our rooms for a little while before meeting up again to go to Pistas de Linarejos. It was a lovely clear evening out on the sierra and as Jayne said you could see for miles. It was very tranquil and we stayed there until after 8pm in the hope of seeing a wolf but it wasn’t to be. We did find a couple of close Roe Deer and Julian picked out some distant Red Deer but that was the only mammals we saw. The birdlife was better with now a pair of Rufous-tailed Rock Thrushes showing themselves to us along with several Dartford Warblers, Stonechat, Dunnocks and Common Cuckoos. We returned to the hotel in time for another lovely meal prepared by our host – Antonio. After the meal Julian needed to make a phone call and the poor reception meant he had to walk to the top of the village and in doing so saw (and heard) a Tawny Owl flying over the buildings.
Thursday 28th :- Sadly it was our final morning and our last chance of seeing the very elusive Iberian Wolf, there had been no reported sightings in all the time we had been there. It was another lovely morning and the sierra looked completely different from the night before as light mist covered the area and the sun rose in front of us. The hour and a half went quickly and we were still in good spirits despite not seeing wolf and having to leave. We did see a few Red Deer plus Dawn got a brief view of an Iberian Green Woodpecker in the village before we left. It was fantastic to be there in this incredibly peaceful place. We returned to the CTR Veniata for breakfast and afterwards packed our bags, said “goodbye” to Antonio and headed for Madrid. The journey went as planned with a stop for lunch en-route and some roadside species included several Griffon Vultures, Booted Eagles, Black & Red Kites, Kestrel, Southern Grey Shrike, Crested Larks and a couple of Ravens. We arrived at Madrid Airport in plenty of time for Jayne’s flight, with Dawn sharing a taxi into the city centre as she was staying on a couple of days. It had been a brilliant short break in this very under-watched and under-rated corner of Iberia.