EXTREMADURA AND THE GREDOS MOUNTAINS
Spain is understandably one of the most popular foreign holiday venues for birdwatchers from the UK. It is with great pleasure that we can offer a new combination of two great birding areas, taking in the delights of the Gredos Mountains and Extremadura.
These are two wild and unspoilt areas with a great variety of habitats to explore. There are the steppelands of Extremadura, the spectacular river cliffs of Monfrague and the conifer forests and high mountains of the Gredos. You will not be disappointed as one of the keynotes of this holiday will be the huge numbers of raptors, for which Spain is renowned. Alongside these there will be many species typical of the Mediterranean as well as some of the rarest breeding birds in Europe.
We know of several nest sites for the Spanish Imperial Eagle. In one of their last strongholds Great Bustards will be seen displaying. The rare Black Stork will be watched at cliff-side nests. Golden Eagle, Bluethroat, Ortolan and Citril Finch are all likely species in the Gredos.
We will spend four nights at the pretty town of Trujillo in Extremadura followed by three nights in the Sierra de Gredos.
The first four nights are based in Trujillo, on the edge of Monfrague National Park. This is a very picturesque town and we will visit the main square and castle where Lesser Kestrels and White Storks nest.
Close to our hotel, the hills and valleys of Monfrague offer what will be, for some, the highlight of the trip. Not only will we see birds of prey at very close range, but we will see them amongst beautiful scenery. We will visit two Spanish Imperial Eagle eyries which may both have young at this time. The rare Black Vulture can be seen nesting in trees on a hillside and the adults regularly appear close to our viewpoint. There is often a pair of Bonelliís Eagles here too. The numerous Griffon Vultures choose the cliffs by the River Tajo to nest. Furthermore, at one site we visited recently, an Egyptian Vulture could be watched on her nest, almost within pecking distance of a nesting Black Stork!
On all our recent visits we have seen Eagle Owls and their young at their cliff-side nest.
Alpine Swifts can be watched hurtling through the sky and both Crag Martin and the beautiful Red-rumped Swallow favour this rocky area.
Peregrine and Short-toed and Booted Eagles are all regularly seen and there is a good chance of adding Golden Eagle to complete the set. Black Wheatears share the rocky terrain with Blue Rock Thrush and Black Redstart. Rock Buntings and Rock Sparrows are also present. In the wooded valleys there are Western Orphean and Subalpine Warblers, Golden Oriole, Hawfinch and Woodlark.
Vast plains are found just south of Monfrague. The main prize here is the Great Bustard and the region is one of its last strongholds. Flocks of up to fifty birds can be found. Its smaller relative, the Little Bustard is rather more widespread and is found singly or in pairs throughout the area.
Other species frequenting this dry steppe habitat include both Black-bellied and Pin-tailed Sandgrouse, and the brightly coloured Roller. Stone Curlews are widespread and the Montagu's Harrier is nowhere more common. The habitat is ideal for larks; Calandra, Short-toed, Crested and Thekla Lark all breed here. The superb Black-eared Wheatear, some with black throats, are typical of the area and Great Spotted Cuckoos can be surprisingly common. Black-shouldered Kite is a scarce breeding bird, but we know several reliable places to see them. We will be staying in the picturesque town of Trujillo, famous for its nesting Lesser Kestrels and White Storks.
By giving ourselves four nights in Extremadura we have enough time to locate some of those difficult species that sometimes require a second try.
On day five, after visiting some of the best sites in Europe, we will move on to the Gredos Mountains.
The Sierra de Gredos is a magnificent mountainous area just west of Madrid. Here, we will search out Bluethroats in the stunted junipers and Ortolan in the broom at lower elevations. The Bluethroats are quite interesting, in that most have no white spot on the throat. There are other differences to the typical form in Central Europe and we believe that in time the scientific world will give these birds their own race.
We will stay at a hotel high in the mountains, affording wonderful views. Citril Finches can be found in nearby open woodland and Alpine Accentor occurs in areas where the snow is melting. Three nights will give us a good chance of other specialities of the area such as Rock Thrush, Rock Bunting, Crossbill, Western Bonelliís Warbler and the Iberian forms of Pied Flycatcher and Green Woodpecker. This is also one of the best places for seeing Spanish Ibex.
Last year we saw both European Nightjar and Scops Owl in the grounds of the hotel.
Breakfast will be taken at about 7.30am most mornings. Basic fitness is all that is required. Full days will be spent in the field and short/medium length walks on the flat will be undertaken. In Monfrague there is an optional walk up to Gypsy Leap, for good views of Griffon Vultures and Choughs. The steps are rather steep but there is no rush and no obligation to get to the top. One day in the Gredos we will walk up a mountain track to look for Bluethroats and other mountain birds. It is a steady uphill walk, but is not far and we will allow plenty of time so the pace is sensible.
Full-board accommodation is provided, with four nights at the Hotel Victoria in Trujillo, Extremadura and three nights in the Hotel Almanzor, in the Gredos. All rooms have en suite bathrooms. Packed lunches will be taken every day.
PRICE INCLUDES Ö..
All birdwatching excursions with expert leader, full-board accommodation (starting with dinner on 21st, ending with breakfast on 28th), soft drinks at meal times, local transport by mini-bus, international flights and airport taxes.
Travel insurance. Items of a personal nature, alcoholic drinks, laundry.
We will fly from London Heathrow to Madrid, using the scheduled services of Iberia. The outbound flight departs late morning and the return flight arrives back mid-afternoon. Domestic flights from Manchester and other UK airports are avaiable on this tour. See booking form for details.
Maximum group size:
Cost with discount
(if you book before
5th February 2011):
21st to 28th May 2011
7 clients with one leader or
13 clients with two leaders
£1390 per person sharing
£1490 per person sharing
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