Rightfully regarded as one of Europe’s top wildlife destinations, Extremadura is the epitome of Spanish wilderness, from the vast rolling plains of Belén to the cork oak forests and rugged escarpments of the Monfragüe National Park.
This week long tour, based in one destination, will explore a cross-section of important habitats, home to many typical Spanish species as well as some specialities such as Great Spotted Cuckoo, Roller, Black Vulture, Eagle Owl, Red-rumped Swallow, Black-winged Kite, Azure-winged Magpie, Spanish Imperial Eagle, Stone Curlew, Great and Little Bustards plus Black-bellied and Pin-tailed Sandgrouse. This tour provides the ideal recipe to relax and enjoy to the full the varied natural treasures of a countryside little changed by the passage of time.
Heathrow / Madrid / Trujillo
Depart London Heathrow on a morning flight to Madrid. We then make the pleasant approximately 4-hour journey to our base in the delightful old town of Trujillo which is central for exploring the surrounding area.
En route we pass through rolling grassland where we may have our first sightings of White Storks and Montagu’s Harriers before our evening arrival at our hotel – a beautifully converted 16th Century convent which is now a Parador. This is where we will stay for the whole holiday.
We will spend the day exploring the fabulous hinterland around Trujillo including the vast Belén Plain. In the more open areas, we will have our first chances to see Great and Little Bustard, Stone Curlew plus Black-bellied and Pin-tailed Sandgrouse.
The whole region is renowned for raptors and we can expect to see Black, Griffon and Egyptian Vultures, Short-toed and Booted Eagles, plus Montagu’s Harrier. Hoopoes and Azure-winged Magpies are present in the cork oak woodlands with Rollers, Bee-eaters and Golden Orioles all arriving in from migration. Other highlights might include Great Spotted Cuckoo, Woodlark and Thekla Lark.
Parque Natural de Monfragüe
Our destination today is the Parque Natural de Monfragüe, north of Trujillo. Because of its vastness and great ornithological importance we will be devoting two whole days of the tour to this fabulous area, giving us the opportunity to scan properly from some of the many vantage points. Rolling oak woodlands and scrub-covered hillsides are punctuated by dramatic cliff edges and shimmering embalses.
This is perhaps the best raptor site in the whole of Spain if not Europe, with five species of eagle – Booted, Golden, Imperial, Short-toed and Bonelli’s plus Black, Griffon and Egyptian Vultures. Add to this incredible list Red Black and Black-winged Kites, Lesser Kestrel, Peregrine, Hobby and Goshawk and it is a haven for any ‘raptorphile’. In addition, other highlights of the park include Eagle Owl, Black Stork, Black-eared Wheatear, Red-billed Chough, Hawfinch, Blue Rock Thrush, Red-rumped Swallow and Alpine Swift.
Santa Marta de Magasca & Monroy
The countryside between Trujillo and Santa Marta de Magasca is another area of dehesa (lightly wooded savannah) specialities. Azure-winged Magpies and Great Spotted Cuckoos are found typically together while Montagu’s Harriers float lazily over open country which at this time of year is a sea of wild flowers. Crested, Thekla and Calandra Larks are all present and singing. We will work our way through this delightful habitat to Monroy, an excellent site for the scarce Black-winged Kite.
Rio Almonte / Puerto de Miravete
The Rio Almonte is one of many river systems which traverse the area just north of our base. We will take our time exploring the area where warblers including Melodious, Sardinian, Subalpine and Orphean can be found. Stands of Poplars are home to dazzling Golden Orioles while Woodchat and occasional Great Grey Shrikes hunt from exposed perches and Hawfinches bounce across from one tree to the next. The scrub slopes of Puerto de Miravete are the perfect habitat for both Spectacled and Dartford Warblers while newly-arriving Hobbies hawk for dragonflies.
Trujillo & Campo Lugar
We will spend more locally to Trujillo, not forgetting the old town itself which, apart from its ornithological riches, is also steeped in history, reflected in statues of Conquistadors and ancient battlements. It will also provide an opportunity to relax in the central square while White Storks, Common and Pallid Swifts and Lesser Kestrels sail overhead.
It is not unusual for a marauding Booted Eagle to join the scene and terrorize the local Jackdaws. We will also travel a little further south towards Camo Lugar where the journey crosses plains and river valleys, good for more sightings of bustards, Spanish Sparrows and larks.
Parque Natural de Monfragüe
We will spend another full day in the magnificent Parque Natural de Monfragüe.
Madrid / London Heathrow
To connect comfortably with our return flight we will be setting off to Madrid straight after an early breakfast and although we will not be able to linger, the journey will no doubt involve some last scanning as we travel. Afternoon flight from Madrid to London Heathrow.