This year's tour of Spain (Coto Doñana and Extremadura) was another resounding success with all of the specialities seen well plus one or two surprises.
The drive from Faro, Portugal into Spain and onto our excellent hotel in Matalascanas gave us a good introduction to the birds of southwestern Europe with the highlight undoubtedly being prolonged views of an Audouin's Gull. Over the next three days we explored the Coto Doñana and slightly further afield, slowly but surely catching up with all of the specialities of the area. Some of the more highly sought-after species included Little Bittern, White Stork, Greater Flamingo, White-headed Duck, Booted, Short-toed and Spanish Eagles, Purple Swamphen, Collared Pratincole, Gull-billed and Whiskered Terns, Red-necked Nightjar, European Bee-eater, Calandra, Greater and Lesser Short-toed Larks, Red-rumped Swallow, Melodious, Sardinian, Savi's and Spectacled Warblers, Short-toed Treecreeper, Southern Grey and Woodchat Shrikes, Azure-winged Magpie, Spotless Starling, Golden Oriole, Spanish Sparrow and European Serin. The difficult duo of Marbled Duck and Crested Coot both showed exceptionally well but the real surprise was a pair of Ruddy Shelduck flying past our hotel!
The weather was mostly kind to us but we did suffer a torrential downpour when we were in the marismas which made driving back out on dirt roads somewhat interesting and on the motorway we experienced a hailstorm with ice the size of golf balls!
Moving up into Extremadura for a two-night stay in the beautiful town of Trujillo we continued our success, seeing Black Stork, Black-shouldered Kite, Lesser Kestrel, Black and Egyptian Vulture and European Griffon, more Spanish Eagles, Great and Little Bustards, Pin-tailed Sandgrouse, Great Spotted Cuckoo, Pallid Swift, European Roller, Thekla Lark, Subalpine and Western Orphean Warblers, Black and Black-eared Wheatears, Blue Rock-thrush, Rock Bunting and the long-established Common Waxbill. The highlight of Trujillo is always standing in the historic town square surrounded by the ancient church and castle whilst watching White Storks nesting and Lesser Kestrels and Pallid Swifts screaming around us and this year was no different. Highlights of the tour? Well, multiple views of Spanish Eagle and prolonged views of a hunting Black-shouldered Kite took some beating but for the leader it was undoubtedly watching and photographing a Red-necked Nightjar just six feet in front of the minibus. Oh, I forgot, the magnificent buffet meals with unlimited deserts (including ice cream) at our hotel came a close second!