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Spain: Donana, Extremadura & Pyrenees

Iberian-(Azure-winged)-Magpie-spain-BINNS-IMG_9954-copy

Colorful birds and picturesque landscapes make Spain one of Europe’s premier birding destinations. We will visit the three main regions, Donana, Extremadura and the Pyrenees, exploring diverse habitats and encountering an array of exciting species during our two-week trip, including Rollers, Bee-eaters, Hoopoes, and Golden Orioles.

We begin in southern Spain at Donana, visiting Europe’s critically-important coastal wetland. In the nationally-protected lagoons and marshes we’ll look for Red-knobbed Coot, endangered Marbled Teal and White-headed Duck amongst a variety of waders, shorebirds and flocks of flamingos.  We’ll also find endemic Iberian Azure-winged Magpies amongst oak woodlands.

In central Spain, we’ll explore the expansive Extremadura region, which encompasses the most valuable steppe habitat remaining in Europe. These rolling grassland plains are home to more than 75% of the world’s population of Little Bustards, and is the last remaining stronghold of the Great Bustard. Stone curlews, Little Owl and Black-eared Wheatear are found here, along with White Storks and Lesser Kestrels – both common sights in quaint surrounding villages. Raptors command attention at Monfrague National Park, where 200 pairs of Eurasian Black Vultures, 600 pairs of Griffon Vultures, a handful of Egyptian Vultures, and Eagle Owl nest on the rocky cliffs. The endangered endemic Spanish Imperial Eagle is one of several raptor species that hunt over the dehesas.

Located in the north-east of the country, bordering France, are the breath-taking un-spoilt Pyrenees mountains. The montane habitat of dense forests, alpine meadows, fast rivers and high gorges host a variety of specialty species, including Black Woodpecker, White-backed Woodpecker, Ring Ouzel, Citril Finch, Red-billed and Yellow-billed Choughs, Alpine Accentor, White-winged Snow-Finch, and Water Pipit.  We’ll seek elusive Wallcreeper along rocky cliff faces, and watch Lammergeiers soaring overhead.

We’ll finish up in the steppes of the Ebro river, targeting Black and Pintail Sandgrouse, as well as Calandra Lark and the elusive Dupont’s Lark.

We should see about 200 bird species during our tour of Spain, along with some lovely butterflies and other fauna.

Focus: Birds,  Butterflies, Reptiles, Mammals, Scenery, Photography

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  • Tour Cost
  • Number of Days (Length of Tour)
    15 days / 14 nights

     

    Dates & Cost

    May 22 - June 5, 2018
    approx. $5000.00 per person, based upon double occupancy, from Seville.

     

    Cost includes: 14 nights accommodation; all meals from dinner on Day 1 to dinner on Day 14; all transportation by comfortable air-conditioned minivan(s) from Seville; services of your professional leader(s); all park entrance fees

     

    Cost does not include: Travel to Seviile and from Madrid; travel insurance; tip to local leader; drinks and other items of a personal nature

     

    Single Supplement
    If a single room is preferred, or we are unable to get a roommate for you, a single supplement fee of $515 will be assessed.

     

    Deposit
    $500.00, check, paypal or credit card, along with your completed Registration Form

     

    How to Book
    In order to hold your space, please  complete and submit the on-line Registration Form , or download a copy and mail it to us, along with a $500.00 deposit per participant.

     

    Final Payment
    Full payment, by check, is due 120 days prior to the departure date

  • Itinerary
  • Brief Itinerary:

    Day 1 :  Arrival in Seville

    Day 2 :  Parque Nacional de Doñana

    Day 3 :  Parque Nacional de Doñana

    Day 4 :  Doñana - Marismas del Odiel and Atlantic wetlands

    Day 5 :  Alange and Extremadura

    Day 6 :  Extremadura - Parque Nacional de Monfragüe

    Day 7 :  Extremadura - Llanos de Cáceres

    Day 8 :  Extremadura – Guadarrama Mountains

    Day 9 :  Guadarrama Mountains  – Pyrenees - Huesca – Valle de Hecho

    Day 10 : Pyrenees - Gabardito – Selva de Oza – Guarrinza

    Day 11 : Pyrenees - Zuriza – Larra-Belagua

    Day 12 : Pyrenees – Belchite Steppes

    Day 13 : Belchite steppes and Las Torcas reservoir

    Day 14 : Belchite and Jarama steppes – Madrid

    Day 15 : Depart from Madrid

     

    Itinerary:

    Day 1 / May 24 :  Arrival in Seville

    Arrive in Seville and transfer to our hotel. Overnight: Seville

     

    Day 2 / May 25 :  Seville – Parque Nacional de Doñana – El Rocío

    Following breakfast we begin our trip with a short drive to El Rocío, on the way stopping at Bollullos Par del Condado to look for Rufous Bush Robin and Iberian Grey Shrike.  After checking into our hotel we head out to bird the local marshes. Here we should see our first Glossy Ibis, Greater Flamingo, White Stork, Black Kite, Black-winged Stilt and other waders. Overnight: El Rocio (3 nights).

     

    Day 3 / May 26 : El Rocío – Parque Nacional de Doñana – El Rocío

    We begin our first full day by going into the heart of Doñana National Park working our way towards the visitor centre named in honour of the naturalist Jose Antonio Valverde. In the surrounding fields and wetlands, it is possible to watch Great Reed Warbler, Purple Swamphen, Squacco Heron, Little Bittern and with luck, the rare Marbled Duck. We will make several stops along the sandy road before reaching the visitor centre where we hope to see typical open country birds such as Short-toed and Lesser Short-toed Larks, Stone Curlew and Pin-tailed Sandgrouse. In the nearby Caños del Guadiamar the rare Red-knobbed Coot breeds.

     

    Day 4 / May 27 : El Rocío – Marismas del Odiel and Atlantic wetlands – El Rocio

    Today we visit the Odiel marshes Nature Reserve. Adjacent to the town of Huelva this reserve has become the first place where Ospreys have once again bred in mainland Spain. Of the two pairs now nesting since 2009, one has managed to breed successfully here for the last three seasons. The narrow road that leads to the breakwater lighthouse, known as Juan Carlos I, provides excellent opportunities for seeing different species of gulls and Audouin's is surely the most attractive amongst them all . Additionally, we have good chances for Collared Pratincole, Whimbrel, Little and Caspian Tern. If time allows we will explore the public areas within the National Park near El Rocío: La Rocina, El Acebuche and El Acebrón all are well known popular spots to bird locally. Apart from its rich bird life, Doñana is home to a small population of the most threatened feline in the world, the Iberian Lynx.

     

    Day 5 / May 28 : El Rocío – Torrejón el Rubio (birding on route visiting the Alange reservoir)

    We start the day in the bird blinds (hides) at La Rocina trying for two local breeders, Iberian Chiffchaff and Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, and then transfer to Extremadura. On the way we stop for lunch in Santa Olalla del Cala, and visit Alange reservoir, which is not a nature reserve, but hosts a good variety of species associated with rocky habitats such as Black Wheatear, Blue Rock Thrush, Rock Bunting, Crag Martin and Bonelli’s Eagle. There is an attractive colony of Alpine Swifts while White-rumped Swifts will have recently returned from wintering in Africa. Around the reservoir we often see Gull-billed Tern and Common Sandpiper. Overnight: Torrejón El Rubio (3 nights).

     

    Day 6 / May 29 : Torrejón El Rubio – Parque Nacional de Monfragüe – Torrejón El Rubio

    Monfragüe will undoubtedly offer us some of our trip highlights. An impressive community of raptors breed within the 18,000 hectares National Park. Although Griffon Vultures are the more common bird of prey in the park with around 600 pairs breeding in 2012, we will also have good chances of watching Eurasian Black (Cinereous) Vulture, Spanish Imperial Eagles, Short-toed and Booted Eagles, both Black and Red Kites, and the odd looking Egyptian Vulture.

    Sylvia warblers are also well present in the woods and shrubby slopes of Monfragüe with six species: Subalpine, Western Orphean, Spectacled, Blackcap, Dartford and Sardinian Warblers. On the cliffs we will try our luck at finding Blue Rock Thrush, Rock Bunting, Red-rumped Swallow, Crag Martin, the wary Black Stork and the impressive Eurasian Eagle Owl.

     

    Day 7 / May 30 : Torrejón El Rubio – Llanos de Cáceres – Torrejón El Rubio

    Following breakfast we travel to the plains, a vast flat region the towns of between Trujillo and Cáceres with isolated woodland patches suitable for a large community of steppe birds and raptors. This will be the best day to see some of the steppe specialities such as Stone Curlew, European Roller, European Bee-eater, Black-bellied and Pin-tailed Sandgrouse, Montagu's Harrier, Great and Little Bustards, Lesser Kestrel, Corn Buntings, Calandra Lark and Black-eared Wheatears. Before ending our day we will surely have time to explore the Guadiloba reservoir where we might see Eurasian Spoonbill , Little Ringed Plover, Cattle Egret, Spanish Sparrow, Crested Lark and Zitting Cisticola.

     

    Day 8 / May 31 : Torrejón El Rubio – Madrid – Guadarrama Mountains

    In the morning transfer to the mountains of Madrid, and the recently declared Sierra de Guadarrama National Park. Within the only national park in Madrid region we will search for Rufuous-tailed Rock Thrush, Rock Bunting, Ortolan Bunting, Citril Finch, Firecrest, Red Crossbill and Iberian Pied Flycatcher. Overnight: Cerceda.

     

    Day 9 / June 1 : Guadarrama Mountains  – Huesca – Valle de Hecho

    A long day drive from Guadarrama mountains to Valle de Hecho in Huesca province of the Pyrenees. Birding en route with a stop along the Henares River for Eagle Owl, Rock Sparrow and Iberian Green Woodpecker. As we ascend the Pyrenees we will be on the lookout for our first Lammergeier! Overnight: Valle de Hecho (3 nights).

     

    Day 10 / June 2 : Valle de Hecho – Gabardito – Selva de Oza – Guarrinza – Valle de Hecho

    We start with a pre-breakfast walk in the surroundings of our hotel and then head to the famous Boca del Infierno where a pair of Wallcreepers has been breeding in recent years. The spectacular ravines and deep gorges of this site will also give us a chance to see Egyptian Vulture, White-throated Dipper, Crag Martin, Grey Wagtail and Red-billed Chough. After the visit to the Boca we will drive up towards the well known Gabardito refuge, and in the surroundings we look for Citril Finch, Marsh Tit, Black Woodpecker, Firecrest and Garden Warbler. From the refuge we will walk to another traditional place for nesting Wallcreepers, plus look for Red-billed and Alpine Choughs, Lammergeier, Black Redstart, Rock Bunting and Alpine Swift. After this superb spot we return to the Hecho Valley and visit the Selva de Oza forest where Lammergeier, Black Woodpecker, Citril Finch and Yellowhammer are present. Excellent chances also exist for seeing Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush, Water Pipit, Northern Wheatear, Lammergeier and two of the most representative mammals of the region, Pyrenean Chamois and Alpine Marmot.

     

    Day 11 / June 3 : Valle de Hecho – Zuriza – Larra-Belagua – Valle de Hecho

    Today we will concentrate in the most western of the valleys that we will visit on our trip, the Roncal Valley, where a very popular sheep's milk cheese is made and where the last Brown Bears of the Pyrenees still survive in very low number. The mixed woodland areas of ancient firs and beeches of the Rincon de Belagua Natural Reserve houses one of the rarest birds of the Spanish Pyrenees, the White-backed Woodpecker. However, we will also try to see some other easier targets such as Citril Finch, Eurasian Bullfinch, Alpine Accentor and Ring Ouzel.....and today we also cross the border into France! In the Zuriza area we might see Golden Eagle, Lammergeier, Griffon and Egyptian Vultures, Short-toed Eagle and European Honey Buzzard.

     

    Day 12 / June 4 : Valle de Hecho – Belchite Steppes – Lécera

    We will look for any Pyrenean specialty we might still need before leaving the mountains. Our journey south to the Belchite Steppes will have us arriving after lunch.  During the heat of the afternoon we will check into our hotel before heading out to the El Planerón Nature Reserve where Stone Curlew, Black-eared Wheatear, Greater Short-toed, Lesser Short-toed, Calandra, Crested and Thekla Larks, plus of course the enigmatic Dupont's Lark are found. Overnight: Lécera (2 nights).

     

    Day 13 / June 5 : Lécera – Belchite steppes and Las Torcas reservoir – Lécera 

    A full day exploring the steppes around Belchite and the cliffs along the Las Torcas reservoir where Griffon and Egyptian Vultures, Golden and Bonelli’s Eagles breed. In the evening we will try once more for the elusive Dupont’s Lark as well as the two scarce species of sandgrouse, Black-bellied and Pin-tailed.

     

    Day 14 / June 6 : Lécera – Madrid

    Flexibility will be the key to our last day depending upon species we still need to see. The journey back to Madrid is a long one, broken up with a stop at the plains along the Jarama river, where we might see Spanish Imperial Eagles, both bustards or Black-bellied Sandgrouse. Our tour ends in Madrid. Overnight: Madrid

     

    Day 15 / June 7 :  Madrid

    Morning transfer to Madrid-Barajas Airport

  • Accommodations
  • All hotels on this tour have clean comfortable rooms with en suite facilities.

    Note: European rooms and beds are usually smaller than we are accustomed to in the US.

     

    Seville - 1 night

    El Rocío (Huelva region, Andalucía) - 3 nights

    Torrejón El Rubio (Cáceres region, Extremadura) - 3 nights

    Cerceda (Madrid region, Guadarrama) - 1 night

    Valle de Hecho (Aragón region, Pyrenees) - 3 nights

    Lécera (Aragón region, Belchite steppes) - 2 nights

    Madrid - 1 night

     

     

  • Additional Info
  • birds-of-europe-2nd-edition-book-cover

    Recommended Field Guide:

    Birds of Europe

    (2nd Edition, 2010, Princeton University Press)

    by Lars Svensson, Killian Mullarney and Dan Zetterstrom

     

     

     

    This trip is for non-smokers only. Smoking is not permitted at any time during our tour.

     

    No Visa is required to visit Spain

     

     

     

     

    Weather/Climate:

    During our stay there will be a large variation in altitude, from the coastal region of Donana; steppes in the Ebro region (180m/600ft a.s.l.) to the plains in Extremadura (600m/1970ft a.s.l.) and mountains (2000m/6550ft a.s.l.), consequently we could see a variety of local climate conditions.

     

    We are basically in a Mediterranean climate, which during May is hot, dry and sunny, though rain or an evening storm can never be ruled out. At this time of the year the open steppe areas may reach into the 90’s (normally mid 80’s), while the mountains in early June may only be in the 50’s, with highs possibly reaching the mid-70’s. Mornings in the Pyrenees will likely be chilly, with temperatures in the upper 30’s to low 40’s, but it should warm up by mid day!

     

    Walking:

    This tour does not require a great deal of walking or steep hiking to see the bulk of the birds, though there will a couple of longer uphill hikes in the mountains, nothing too strenuous. Walking will be at a slow pace, usually no more than 1-3 miles over the course of a day. On the steppes expect to be mainly on dirt or sandy terrain, while in the mountains the paths may be uneven, rocky in spots and narrow. For those that use walking sticks it would be recommended that you bring them.

     

    There is a steady climb to the castle ruins at Monfragüe Natural Park where the views are amazing. It will also be our best chance to see the rare White-rumped Swift. In the Pyrenees, our hike for Wallcreeper, Red-billed Chough and Lammergeier at Salto de la Vieja is is about a mile plus in length on narrow paths and rocky in some spots. We will spend a couple of hours in this beautiful location.

     

     

     

  • Species Lists
  • List of Species Recorded SPAIN May-June 2016

     

    List of Species Seen on Previous SPAIN Trips 2005-2016

     

     

    Wallcreeper

    Wallcreeper

     

    Wallcreepers are small passerines that of are found in the Pyrenees (and mountains of Eurasia) where they can be seen on sheer rock faces.

     

    These insectivores have a long thin curved bill perfectly adapted for gleaning spiders from crevices.