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Spain's Coto Donana & Extremadura

Tour Code: ESP11

A 9-day birdwatching tour to Spain's southern wetlands and the bird-rich steppes of Extremadura.

9 days from £1595(inc flights) Land Only Price: £1475 SRS: £175


This bird watching and natural history tour combines the contrasting habitats of south and central Spain – the sun-drenched steppes and plains of Extremadura, the rugged oak-forested hills of Monfragüe National Park, and one of Europe’s finest wetlands – the Coto Doñana National Park. We will explore these exciting and wild habitats during the course of this 2-centre holiday focusing particularly on the birdlife of the region, but also enjoying the abundant and colourful wayside flora, as well as any butterflies and mammals we encounter during our stay.

  • Fine food & wine in a beautiful former stately home in Extremadura!
  • Witness the 'foam bath' display of Great Bustards
  • Sandgrouse, Roller, Hoopoe, Golden Oriole & Azure-winged Magpie
  • Explore medieval Trujillo, birthplace of Francisco Pizarro (conqueror of Peru)
  • White-headed Duck & Purple Gallinule near Sanlucar de Barrameda
  • Spoonbill, Little Bittern & Spanish Imperial Eagle at Coto Doñana
  • Led by expert naturalist guide

Food

All included in the price.

Accommodation

Pleasant hotel in El Rocío; converted stately home outside Trujillo, Extremadura. All rooms have private facilities.

Lesser Kestrel

Lesser Kestrel

Outline Itinerary Download

Day 1 Fly Seville & transfer to El Rocio

Day 2/4 El Rocio/Coto Doñana

Day 5/8 Trujillo & the steppes

Day 9 Fly Madrid to London

Mention the idea of a Spanish holiday and the mind seems automatically to fill with images of vast hotel conurbations, over-crowded beaches, phoney flamenco dancers and fake bullfights, which have all long been served up to visitors as if they were representative of Spain’s authentic national life. Somehow, our impression of the country finds it hard to escape these holiday brochure clichés. Yet, ironically, most of this large country remains unknown to foreigners. Even the Spanish themselves live largely near its long coastline, leaving the mountains and high rolling plateaux of the interior undeveloped and sparsely populated. 

Partly for these reasons, Spain has some of the last true wilderness in western Europe and is the continent’s most important country for birds. It has, for example, a third of its Red Kites and Montagu’s Harriers; half of all its Black, Griffon and Egyptian Vultures; three-quarters of the Booted and Bonelli’s Eagles and, not surprisingly, nearly all the world’s Spanish Imperial Eagles. For grassland birds it is outstanding, retaining more Great and Little Bustards than probably any other single country in Eurasia. Then there are a number of Mediterranean endemics — Red-necked Nightjar, Black Wheatear, Melodious Warbler, and Spotless Starling to name but a few — of which Spain holds major populations. And finally there are birds that have just a toehold in western Europe — Marbled Duck, White-headed Duck, Crested Coot and Purple Gallinule — that can only be seen in this exceptional country. This tour aims to find as wide a selection as possible of these many birds and to experience some of the diversity of Iberia’s magnificent scenery. 

We begin our holiday with a flight to Seville and a drive through the cultivated lowlands of Andalucía, over the great Guadalquivir River and on to the Coto Doñana National Park, one of the finest wetlands in Europe. From our base in the small village of El Rocío we will explore the mosaic of marshes, Stone Pine woodland, open heathland and sand dunes in search of the park’s breeding and migrating birds. Flocks of Whiskered and Black Terns pick insects off the water’s surface, whilst Spoonbills, Little Egrets and the occasional Glossy Ibis feed in the shallows. Reedbeds hold good numbers of Little Bittern, Purple Heron and many of southern Spain’s specialities, amongst them Purple Gallinule, Marbled Teal, Crested Coot, the rare Spanish Imperial Eagle and Red-necked Nightjar. We will also visit the marshes, saltpans and freshwater lagoons along the eastern bank of the Guadalquivir River. With a hot and sunny climate this part of Andalucía is a major fruit growing area and, while agriculture has intensified here since Spain’s inclusion in the European Union, it remains rich in wildlife. Here such Andalucian specialities as the rare White-headed Duck and Purple Gallinule can be seen and the Bonanza saltpans are aptly named and well worth a visit, being a haven for vast numbers of waders and a noted site for the localised Slender-billed Gull. 

Following the best of the spring weather and bird migration we head north for the second part of our tour, 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 dehasa. For the next four nights we will be based near the beautiful medieval town of Trujillo, an ideal spot from which to explore the adjacent steppes and the magnificent Monfragüe National Park. Flocks of Lesser Kestrels and Pallid Swifts wheel around Trujillo’s beautifully preserved ancient churches, whilst White Storks peer down from their roof-top nests or clatter their bills to greet a returning mate. Our main goal, however, will be to witness one of the most exciting bird spectacles in Europe, the breeding display of the Great Bustard. During this, the males — the world’s heaviest flying birds — convert themselves, by a series of bizarre distortions, into huge white balls of feathers that revolve slowly in an almost military step. While they look stately and dignified, the nearby Little Bustards perform an awkward, head-throwing action accompanied by a comical buzzing sound. The two species are certainly the star attractions of this region, but it offers far more besides, including many other grassland specialities such as Quail, Stone Curlew and Black-bellied Sandgrouse. In the surrounding Cork Oak dehesa we will look for Hoopoes, Azure-winged Magpies, Great-spotted Cuckoos, Woodchat Shrikes and Short-toed Treecreepers. Overhead we will keep an eye out for 16 species of raptor which should include the localised Black-shouldered Kite, Black Vulture and Spanish Imperial Eagle. 

The big skies and open landscapes of Extremadura, together with the exciting variety of special birds never ceases to impress even the most well travelled naturalist, helping to make this locality perhaps the highlight of our springtime visit to Spain.

 

 

El Rocio (Thomas Mills)Lounge area of our hotel in El RocioAccommodation at our hotel in El RocioWhite StorksScarlet Darter (David Morris)Black Vulture (Peter Dunn)Flowers of Extremadura (David Morris)Extremadura (David Morris)El Rocio (Peter Dunn)Azure-winged Magpie (Peter Dunn)Short-toed Treecreeper (Peter Dunn)Purple Gallinule (Peter Dunn)Squacco Heron (Peter Dunn)Lynx tracks (Peter Dunn)Eurasian Spoonbill (Peter Dunn)Little Tern (Peter Dunn)Our hotel in ExtremaduraOur Extremadura hotelExtremadura hotel lounge areaExtremadura hotel bedroomSlender-billed Gulls (Peter Dunn)Lesser Kestrel (Peter Dunn)Nightingale (Peter Dunn)Collared Pratincole (Peter Dunn)European Bee-eater (Peter Dunn)Cirl Bunting (Peter Dunn)Naturetrek picnic (Peter Dunn)Purple Heron (Peter Dunn)Little Bittern (Peter Dunn)Squacco Heron (Peter Dunn)Ringed Plover (Peter Dunn)Purple Heron (Peter Dunn)Curlew Sandpiper (Peter Dunn)Crested Tit (Peter Dunn)Iberian Lynx, Peter DunnIberian Lynx, Peter Dunn
A.R.
Cumbria
Both hotels were excellent. The view over the lagoon from our room at El Rocio was unforgettable and the meals at the adjoining restaurant were very good.
R.B.
East Sussex
Everything was wonderful - our guides, the accommodation, the food, transport and weather. All made for a great holiday.
G.C.
Somerset
Both leaders were always approachable and the group 'gelled' well. The accommodation at both hotels were, in my opinion, excellent. I enjoyed all the food and we were always made to feel welcome at our hotel rural and the owner took the trouble to explain about the different foods and what area the wine came from - a nice touch! I would add that the waiters at our first hotel were always attentive as well.
D.S.
Oxfordshire
Our tour leaders, David and Simon, performed beyond the call of duty. They worked to ensure the smooth running of the trip. Their driving skills ensured a safe comfortable journey. Picnic preparation was excellent ... and they then led a bird watching excursion with no break! Their enthusiasm and knowledge was greatly appreciated as a very inexperienced birdwatcher. Together they were an excellent team working long hours, always with a smile.
G.L.
Somerset
The trip leaders, David and Simon, were both excellent - hard-working, knowledgeable and very pleasant and helpful.
S.F.
Cambridgeshire
I thought the combination of two guides worked very well. Byron was well organised, and James' birding skills were very impressive.
M.H.
Yorkshire
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This was an excellent trip, supremely well led by the leaders. The itinerary was well-balanced, with plenty of interesting bird watching expeditions. Both leaders knew the wildlife and provided interesting information on habitats and lifestyles. They exhibited exactly the right level of understanding, friendship, courtesy and leadership. I really enjoyed the trip, and I look forward to my next trip with you.
M.B.
Bedfordshire
An excellent holiday. The finca was exceptional - good food, rooms, setting and hospitality from our hosts - a real family atmosphere. The tour leaders were all we could wish for - ensured we saw as many birds as we could and looked after us very well. Nothing was too much trouble for them.
M.H.
Nottinghamshire
Once again your leaders were excellent. They made sure everyone saw what was to be seen, and were cheerful and approachable, even when the birds were not! I certainly recommend them.
M.W.
Oxford
The three hotels were elegant. Andy Tucker was most helpful (beyond the course of duty) with my add-on stay, which worked really well.
R.C.
Kent
Day spent in Coto Donana Park with a lunch included was excellent. Excellent food with very good Spanish guides.
M.L.
Hampshire
The hotel accommodation was very good. The trip leaders were both excellent, knowledgeable ornithologists and had very likeable personalities.
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DeparturesAvailableCost

Tue 11th April 2017 - Wed 19th April 2017

FULL

£1595

more details

Flights: Flights are included in the tour costMore info

Regional Departures: Regional Departures are limited. Call 01962 733051 for detailsMore info

Land only cost: £1475 More info

Room sharing options: More info

Tue 18th April 2017 - Wed 26th April 2017

FULL

£1595

more details

Flights: Flights are included in the tour costMore info

Regional Departures: Regional Departures are limited. Call 01962 733051 for detailsMore info

Land only cost: £1475 More info

Room sharing options: More info

Sat 6th May 2017 - Sun 14th May 2017

2

£1595

more details

Flights: Flights are included in the tour costMore info

Regional Departures: Regional Departures are limited. Call 01962 733051 for detailsMore info

Land only cost: £1475 More info

Room sharing options: Male sharing is available More info

Tue 10th April 2018 - Wed 18th April 2018

YES

£1695

more details

Flights: Flights are included in the tour costMore info

Regional Departures: Regional Departures are limited. Call 01962 733051 for detailsMore info

Land only cost: £1575 More info

Room sharing options: More info

Sat 14th April 2018 - Sun 22nd April 2018

YES

£1695

more details

Flights: Flights are included in the tour costMore info

Regional Departures: Regional Departures are limited. Call 01962 733051 for detailsMore info

Land only cost: £1575 More info

Room sharing options: More info

Sat 28th April 2018 - Sun 6th May 2018

YES

£1695

more details

Flights: Flights are included in the tour costMore info

Regional Departures: Regional Departures are limited. Call 01962 733051 for detailsMore info

Land only cost: £1575 More info

Room sharing options: More info

Visiting: Spain

Detailed tour map

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Andy Tucker
Operations Manager

Email Andy

01962 733051

Tour Focus

Birds

Tour Reviews

Both hotels were excellent. The view over the lagoon from our room at El Rocio was unforgettable and the meals at the adjoining restaurant were very good.
A.R., Cumbria