This tour focusses solely on undoubtedly one of Europe’s finest and most exciting birding regions: Extremadura. During our time here we shall cover various habitats from the sun-drenched steppes and vast open plains, to the rugged oak-forested hills of Monfragüe National Park. During this single centre tour we will explore these habitats from a grand, converted stately home ideally located in a position that gives us many star birds from our doorstep! With breeding in full flow we can hope to encounter a huge range of birds with iconic species such as Roller, Bee-eater, Golden Oriole and Hoopoe firmly on our radar!
We begin the holiday with a flight to Madrid, from where we head south-west through rolling hills, olive groves and Cork Oak woodland to the central plateau of Extremadura, where we find extensive sheep-grazed grasslands and Cork Oak forests known locally as 'dehesa'. For the next six nights we will be based near the beautiful medieval town of Trujillo, an ideal spot from which to explore the adjacent steppes and magnificent Monfragüe National Park.
One of the main targets of our time out on the Extremaduran Steppe will be bustards. Both Great and Little Bustards are here in good numbers and with luck we shall witness them displaying. Here the male Great Bustard — the world’s heaviest flying bird — convert themselves into huge white balls of feathers that revolve slowly in an almost military step. While they look stately and dignified, the Little Bustards perform an awkward, head-throwing action accompanied by a comical buzzing sound.
These two species are certainly star attractions of this region but it offers far more besides, including many other grassland specialties such as Pin-tailed and Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Quail, Stone Curlew and both Calandra and Short-toed Larks, whilst Bee-eaters, Rollers and Hoopoes bring colour to the scene and Griffon and Black Vultures are often overhead. We also hope to find the impressive Great Spotted Cuckoo at an excellent local site.
On another day a journey north for around an hour leads to Monfragüe National Park. Here we will focus in particular on birds of prey as Egyptian, Black and Griffon Vultures rise on the thermals and Golden, Bonelli’s, Booted and Short-toed Eagle all breed while the sought after Spanish Imperial Eagle can often be viewed near a regular nest site.
Amongst other specialties are Black Stork and Eagle Owl, whilst the smaller occupants of the hills include Alpine Swift, Thekla Lark, Crag Martin, Red-rumped Swallow, Blue Rock Thrush, Rock Bunting and Subalpine Warbler.
In complete contrast to these habitats we will also dedicate time to a nearby wetland where such species as Night, Squacco and Purple Heron can be seen along with Little Bittern and all three egrets. Gull-billed Terns are often flying overhead, Great Reed Warblers croak from the reed beds while the reeling call of the Savi’s Warbler is distinct. Raptors are never far away here either and this area holds our best chance of Black-shouldered Kite and an Osprey is always a possibility. This relatively small wetland habitat brings another dynamic to the holiday and allows us to study a whole host of new and exciting species.
Following each days birding we shall return to enjoy delicious home cooked food coupled with the special atmosphere of this family run guesthouse while we discuss the day’s events and future plans. It mustn’t be forgotten that just stepping out of the front gate here often reveals Azure-winged Magpies, Woodchat Shrike and Hoopoe while the liquid call of Golden Oriole is a joy from the adjacent olive groves. Nightingales a wonderfully abundant as they blast away from the garden while Booted Eagles often drift overhead. Each wander along these quiet tracks seems to reveal something new.
Leaving this stunning region without visiting the medieval town of Trujillo would be a real shame so we make an effort to explore the town, walking the cobbled streets and enjoying a coffee in the square whilst White Storks bill clap from their elevated nests and Pallid Swifts scream past us.
This tour, our only purely focusing on Extremadura, is not only for beginners but for those maybe having not experienced a great deal of European birding before or simply those who would like a slightly steadier pace. We will still be aiming to see all the star species that any other “non beginners” tour would do, but with more time here we can really set out to obtain excellent views of each bird with more instruction on how to go about identifying species whilst really soaking up this special region of Europe.