We regard Extremadura as Spain's best-kept secret. A region where the lonely plains and hills provide a great refuge for some of Europe's most spectacular birds. An area where man and wildlife co-exist in perfect harmony. An area so varied with its abundant fauna and flora. Everything from Bustards to Bee-eaters and Storks to Sandgrouse - plus lots more! 2018 will be our seventeenth visit to this spectacular region.


Great Bustard

Little Bustard

Calandra Lark

Bee-eater

Griffon Vulture

Black Vulture

Collared Pratincole

Subalpine Warbler

Rock Bunting

Click here for some evocative bird sounds recorded by Shetland Wildlife travellers Fred & Win Bridges on our 2008 holiday

Click HERE to read a detailed report from our trip in April / May 2014, HERE to read a detailed report from our trip in April / May 2015 and HERE for our trip in April 2016.

Day 1 Saturday 21 April 2018

We fly from London Gatwick to Madrid. We quickly leave the city behind as we drive south-west for about two hours to Trujillo. Our base for the next seven nights is the delightful Casa Rural El Recuerdo, situated on the outskirts of Trujillo. There will be time for some optional birding nearby before our welcome dinner.

Days 2 - 7 Sunday 22 - Friday 27 April 2018

We have six full days to explore the bird-rich plains and hills of Extremadura. From our base near Trujillo we will undertake a variety of excursions in order to enjoy the great variety of habitats and birds that the region has to offer. As well as visiting areas close to Trujillo, we will travel north to Monfrague National Park, a superb hilly area that is a mecca for raptors. At this time of year Extremadura is at its very best, with wildflowers growing in a profusion almost unknown elsewhere in western Europe, forming a mosaic of blue, violet, white and yellow across almost every field!

Both Great and Little Bustards will be target birds and they can usually be found with little difficulty. Indeed, Little Bustards sometimes seem to be everywhere amongst the green young cereal crops, the males ruffling up their throat feathers enhancing the black and white patterning, or jumping up into the air in display. Bachelor parties of huge Great Bustards stride across the plains, dwarfing other birds, while individual males may be encountered as they display to admiring females that have barely half their bulk. As well as the bustards, flocks of both Pin-tailed and Black-bellied Sandgrouse can be found in the area, although they are somewhat nomadic, roaming far and wide.

Other birds of the plains include magnificent Rollers, Stone Curlews, Tawny Pipits, Crested, Greater Short-toed and Calandra Larks, and even Cattle Egrets that breed far from water, pursuing the traditional black bulls through the pastures. White Storks are widespread, and the courting birds can be watched bill clattering on nests placed on buildings, trees or telegraph poles only a few metres above the roadways.

Where the plains meet the hills, the hand of man has, over the centuries, created a unique habitat - the 'dehesa'. Cork and evergreen oaks cover a gently undulating landscape, aromatic with the scent of a myriad of herbs and coloured by the dusty blue blooms of the French lavender that lines almost every roadside. This lightly wooded country is home to a very different set of birds from that of the plains. Hoopoes flick off through the trees, displaying their remarkably piebald wings, only to land and erect their equally zebra-striped crest. Gorgeous Hawfinches flit, elusively, through the dappled shade of the canopy, and Short-toed Treecreepers hug the rugged bark of the cork oaks, every once in a while giving their explosive songs. Serins tinkle from the treetops and Woodchat Shrikes hunt from exposed perches. Woodlarks are common, and their haunting, yodelling song is one of the characteristic sounds of the dehesa, and is surely one of the most beautiful bird songs of all. The star bird of the dehesa must be, however, the Azure-winged Magpie, and noisy parties can be found playing 'follow my leader' through the trees. In attendance are Great Spotted Cuckoos, which parasitise this gaudy oriental corvid, as well as the more familiar Common Magpie.

Amongst the cork oaks we should also come across flocks of Spanish Sparrows, a surprisingly localised species in the country celebrated in its English name. Moving higher, scrubby hillsides hold Red-legged Partridges and Black-eared Wheatears, while Dartford, Sardinian and the localised Spectacled Warbler skulk in the scrub. Another highly localised species, the Western Orphean Warbler is a denizen of this habitat. The gently rolling hills are interspersed with steep rocky valleys and gorges, beloved of Blue Rock Thrushes, Rock Sparrows and both Rock and Cirl Buntings, while Red-billed Choughs can be found around some of the most precipitous crags and ruins. Two special birds of the hill country are Thekla Lark, which is found on lightly-wooded rocky hillsides (a very different habitat from that of the extremely similar Crested Lark), and the smart, but sombre, Black Wheatear (so large it is almost thrush-like!), which favours rocky ravines. Also, in Monfrague and other hilly areas, prehistoric looking Black Storks still nest along the river gorges.

Overhead, we may well see Alpine Swifts, Crag Martins (displaying their distinctive white tail spots as they bank and turn) and Red-rumped Swallows. Indeed, our eyes will never be far from the skies because the area holds a great wealth of raptors, amongst which the star attraction is the Spanish Imperial Eagle. Small numbers breed in Monfrague National Park in an extensive area of craggy forested hills with other pairs scattered across the region, and we will make a special effort to see this highly endangered and endemic bird. We have a good chance of finding them quartering the hillsides, or even sitting, massive, dark and menacing, on their large tree nests. All the other eagles found in Western Europe occur here as well and we should see Short-toed and Booted Eagles, and have a good chance of finding Golden and Bonelli's Eagles too.

Vultures too are still common (quite unlike the situation in the rest of Europe) and, as well as good numbers of Eurasian Griffon Vultures and a few Egyptian Vultures, we should see the uncommon Eurasian Black Vulture soaring over its prime habitat (almost 150 pairs breed in the region). If we are especially fortunate, we may even find numbers of vultures attending a carcass. The vultures leave their roosts in the morning and methodically quarter the landscape at great height. They watch the ground, but also other vultures, and when one spots a carcass it is the signal for every vulture for miles around to descend. Large numbers can thus arrive with astonishing speed and strip a carcass clean in a matter of minutes. A strict pecking order is observed, with the great Eurasian Black Vulture being the dominant species and often the first to tear through the tough hide with its huge, sharply edged bill. After their grisly feast, the birds may be so gorged as to be almost unable to fly, and it is thus sometimes possible to obtain exceptional views of them on the ground.

Both Black and Red Kites are frequently sighted throughout the region and Lesser Kestrels nest in old buildings in the town of Trujillo. Over 100 can sometimes be seen wheeling over the town, often joined by Pallid Swifts. But perhaps best of all, small numbers of the extremely rare and localised Black-winged Kite can be found in the more open areas of cork oaks. Hovering like kestrels, and dipping to the ground to pick up small prey items, they can be elusive at times, and can require a bit of searching out. At dusk we may see the barrel-shaped Eurasian Eagle Owl as it emerges from its daytime seclusion in the dark hollows of an isolated crag before heading off to hunt across the wild countryside of this remote and very special corner of Spain. Dusk will also see us make a special excursion to see and hear Red-necked Nightjars.

We’ll also spend some time seeking out some significant wetland species and there are no better sites than Arrocampo, Almaraz and the rice fields south of Zorita. Here we should encounter Savi’s, Cetti’s, Reed and Sedge Warblers along with Purple and Squacco Heron, Great White Egret, Little Bittern and Purple Swamp-Hen (Gallinule). With luck we may also encounter passage Whiskered or Gull-billed Terns. Waders on the move should include Little Ringed Plover, Black-winged Stilt, Ruff, Green and Common Sandpipers and we should also encounter the delightful Collared Pratincole. These regions also host two recent introductions – Red Avadavat and Common Waxbill. Nearby lie the foothills of the Sierra de Gredos Mountains and we’ll spend time here searching for Western Bonelli’s Warbler, Ortolan Bunting, Crested Tit, Firecrest and with luck, Rock Thrush and White-spotted Bluethroat.

Day 8 Saturday 28 April 2018

After some morning birding we depart Extremadura and drive to Madrid to catch our late afternoon or early evening flight back to London Gatwick.

 

Holiday Information 2018 Operating Date

Sat 21st April

-

Sat 28th April

 

COST

£1795

 

Single Supplement

£250

 

DEPOSIT

£300

Group Size - maximum 12 travellers with two guides


Need more Information?

No problem! We'd be delighted to discuss this holiday with you. Please call us on 01950 460939 or drop us an e mail.

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