Thursday, February 13, 2014

A road trip along the route of silver part 4:The Vultures of Monfragüe

After spending a few days based in the city we were eager to get out into the wilds of nature once again and relax into our normal pace of life. We had read about the Monfragüe National Park and as it was only an hour away from where we were. We decided to have a day walking in the hope of spotting some birds and wildlife we wouldn't normally see. On our list were: the Iberian Lynx (possible but highly unlikely x 2), Bonelli's Eagle (possible) and the Black Vulture (probable).

The park comprises over 18 hectares of mixed scrub and woodlands stretching along the river Tajo. It has been declared a unique refuge for the most representative Mediterranean wildlife. Driving through the national park, the evergreen oaks were impressive, the slate studded mountains and deep green gorges were worthy of the occasional stop. With binoculars in hand there were many small birds to spot and try and identify.

We parked at the visitor centre in Villarreal de San Carlos, a small village and amenity that is currently undergoing extensive infra-structure upgrade including new paths, road surfacing and car parking. There were a range of leaflets available both in English and Spanish, each detailing walking, cycling, horse-riding and car routes throughout the National Park. We decided we would head for Cerro Gimio in the hope of seeing the Black Vultures (Aegypius Monachus) of which there were reported to be up to 250 breeding pairs. It was only about 8km but we could extend it if we felt like, which in the end we strayed here and there but more or less stuck to the route as there was plenty along the way to keep you occupied.

The trails were well marked (for Spain) and the paths and tracks were is reasonable repair. The landscape was very interesting and so different to what we are used to in Asturias. My only disappointment were the hundreds/thousands of plastic tree guards and poles that were so obvious throughout the landscape on your way into the reserve. These had been placed when saplings were planted some time ago and there seemed to have been  such a terrific failure rate. We wondered if the now defunct tree guards would be left to rot or if efforts would be made to tidy them up?

Along the trail we saw small birds aplenty, we came across two Stags on separate occasions (but too slow with the camera) and many vultures gliding high above. After lunching at the side of a slowly trickling stream, we decided we would climb up to the top of  Cerro Gimio in the hope of closer views of the vultures. Only 372 metres or about 1000ft.

At the top we could admire the twists and turns of the Rio Tajo and spy on the roosting and nesting sites of the vultures way below. We were soon rewarded with fly pasts from many soaring birds, not too close but a much better view than from the valley below. We sat for quite a while and admired their grace and their impressive 8 foot wingspan.

We saw the vultures, we think we saw an eagle but couldn't see in any great details and we missed the Lynx completely, perhaps just as well.

Feeling very relaxed and a bit tired from a great day Monfragüe National Park we returned to our hotel and dined out at a really good Italian restaurant. The remainder of our journey home was uneventful but for the threat of snow as we headed for the mountain pass. Fortunately we made it home in time for dinner and looked forward to being back at home with Wentworth and Gawber who both made no fuss or acknowledged our return other than their usual laid back blink of the eye and flick of the tail....but that's cats.


  1. I think the reactions of the cats was one of disdain, no doubt they will greet you properly soon. Photos are beautiful as usual. I do miss seeing the large birds of prey, I especially miss the return of the Storks.

    1. Thanks Anne - The storks were wonderful and their nests never cease to amaze me.


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