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Wallcreepers & Cranes in Northern Spain

Tour Code: ESP17

A 7-day winter break, looking first for Wallcreepers, Lammergeiers and other birds of prey in the pre-Pyrenean Sierra de Guara (Europe's Wallcreeper capital), then the spectacle of Cranes and waterfowl at the Laguna de Gallocanta and for bustards, sandgrouse and the enigmatic Dupont's Lark in the steppes around Belchite.

7 days from £1395(inc flights) Land Only Price: £1295 SRS: £150


This 2-centre birdwatching holiday offers the best of two magnificent regions in winter. First, in the Sierra de Guara, we will be based in the magical fortress town of Alquézar, the impressive cliffs that surround it a haven for wintering Wallcreepers. From here we will explore the hills and gorges of the sierra, where Lammergeiers and other raptors will be amongst our target species, the former regularly joining numerous Griffons at a nearby vulture feeding station. By contrast, at the Laguna de Gallocanta, south of Zaragoza, we stay in a small family-owned hotel, close to the lake, that offers warm hospitality and good food! The movements of Cranes at dawn and dusk are spectacular, and will be a highlight of the tour.

  • Charming hotel & hospitality in historic Alquézar
  • Griffon Vultures, Lammergeiers & Wallcreepers in the Sierra de Guara
  • Large concentrations of wintering Common Cranes at Lake Gallocanta
  • First class steppe birding & possibility of Dupont's Lark at Belchite
  • Magnificent winter vistas & light for photography
  • Small hotel owned by our local leader, very close to the lake
  • Guided by expert Naturetrek ornithologist leaders

Food

All included in the price.

Accommodation

A very comfortable family hotel in Alquézar and a modern, glass-fronted hotel at Gallocanta which offers great comfort together with unrivalled views of the lake and its birdlife. All rooms have private facilities but there are no twin rooms in Alquézar

Common Cranes (John Willsher)

Common Cranes (John Willsher)

Outline Itinerary Download

Day 1 Fly Zaragoza and transfer Alquézar

Day 2/3 Sierra de Guara, from Alquézar

Day 4/6 Gallocanta and Belchite, from Gallocanta

Day 7 Fly London

As any map of Spain will indicate, the Sierra de Guara, protected as a parque natural since 1990, is one of the quietest of regions in the Spanish Pyrenees and its outlying foothills. On its rolling lower slopes, a pretty patchwork of oak woods, almond orchards, olive groves and small, irregular wheat fields, traditionally farmed, is to be found. Attractive, limestone villages and their splendid churches ride the flanks of the sierra; their populations, like virtually all in rural Spain, dwindling today and allowing nature back in. Above them lies a rugged land, clothed in stunted oak forest and maquis scrub and noted for its numerous gorges and canyons, and spectacular cliffs, columns and pinnacles fashioned from limestone and conglomerate. In high summer the region attracts French ‘canyoners’; during the colder months this magnificent landscape becomes the winter capital of Spain’s Wallcreepers! It is also a land favoured by Lammergeiers, huge numbers of Griffon Vultures, Golden Eagles, and the occasional Bonelli’s Eagle, Hen Harrier or Peregrine.

Just a few hours away, to the south of Zaragoza, lies a very different ‘avian hotspot’. Laguna de Gallocanta is a giant saltpan, the largest natural lagoon in the Iberian peninsula. It lies in a vast, shallow depression surrounded by distant hills and, although its water levels are dependent on regular seasonal rainfall, at the time of our visit it is to be hoped that winter rains will have replenished them. Gallocanta attracts the greatest concentration of Common Cranes in western Europe. The largest numbers, 20,000-50,000, come through on passage, but increasing numbers are staying to winter here. Our February visit is timed to coincide with the more concentrated spring migration when the largest concentrations are generally to be found, prior to the Cranes’ northbound migration over the Pyrenees to their breeding grounds in northern Europe. Water levels permitting, Gallocanta can also sometimes host good numbers of wintering duck and other waterbirds. The area also supports a variety of wintering birds of prey, amongst them Hen and Marsh Harriers, Red Kites, Peregrines and Merlins. Great Bustards breed in this area and although the majority leave in winter, a few individuals are sometimes still present at the time of our visit.

The high páramo, or steppe, surrounding the lake is also attractive to birds. Here, Black-bellied Sandgrouse and such lark species as Calandra, Lesser Short-toed, Crested and Thekla Larks as well as many wintering Skylark may all be found. However, for the best steppe habitat we will spend some time during our transfer day around Belchite. Here, 40,000 hectares of steppe habitat — including within it the SEO’s 645-hectare El Planerón nature reserve, part-funded by proceeds from the 1992 British Birdwatching Fair — present the best habitat of its type in northern Spain. This windswept, arid land of dusty, red, scrub-covered plains and eroded plateaux, more reminiscent of Morocco or Afghanistan than western Europe, holds large percentages of the Spanish populations of Pin-tailed Sandgrouse, Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Lesser Short-toed Lark and the elusive and enigmatic Dupont’s Lark.

This 2-centre holiday is designed to offer the best of these two magnificent regions. First, in the Sierra de Guara, we will be based in the magical fortress town of Alquézar, built around a spectacular 8th century Moorish citadel which sits on a pinnacle above the gorge of the Río Vero. This quaint and ancient town, with its narrow streets, sits like an eagle’s eyrie on a shoulder of the Sierra, the impressive cliffs that surround it a haven for wintering Wallcreepers. From this base, we will explore the slopes of the Sierra, where Lammergeiers and Wallcreepers will be foremost amongst our target species, and we will visit the Embalse de la Sotonera, a reservoir that attracts thousands of Cranes each spring as they make a final stop to rest and feed before crossing the Pyrenees.

At the Laguna de Gallocanta, we stay in a hotel that commands magnificent views over the entire lake. The movements of Cranes at dawn and dusk are spectacular, and will be a highlight of the tour, but for the cultural buffs, so too will be a visit to the nearby 8th century walled town of Daroca.

Alquezar (John Willsher)Alquezar (John Willsher)Alquezar (John Willsher)Cranes at dawn (John Willsher)Cranes at Gallocanta (John Willsher)Cranes at Gallocanta (John Willsher)Cranes at Gallocanta (John Willsher)Cranes at Gallocanta (John Willsher)Cranes at Gallocanta (John Willsher)Dawn at Gallocanta (John Willsher)Gallocanta (John Willsher)Gallocanta (John Willsher)Gallocanta (John Willsher)Great Bustards at Gallocanta (John Willsher)Griffon Vulture (John Willsher)Griffon Vultures (John Willsher)Griffon Vultures (John Willsher)Griffon Vulture (John Willsher)Griffon Vultures (John Willsher)Lammergeier (John Willsher)Mirador del Vero (John Willsher)Gallocanta (John Willsher)Griffon Vultures (John Willsher)Watching Griffon Vultures (John Willsher)Griffon Vulture
P.A.
October 2015
The hotel in Alquezar was wonderful. The trip to see the vulture feeding was also a great experience. The highlight was seeing the first flight of a Black-winged Kite chick.
N.E.
October 2015
I enjoyed just about every aspect of this trip. Leadership was excellent, weather very good, scenery fantastic, birding excellent and saw all I wanted.
R.A.
October 2015
Our primary objective was to see Wallcreepers and we were not disappointed. As always on Naturetrek holidays the company was excellent and the knowledge of the leaders first class.
Mr & Mrs C.A.
Suffolk
Excellent trip - first class leaders - Jenny and John.
P.F.
Leeds
The trip leaders were excellent and organised the group very well. Their botanical expertise was great for me as a holidaymaker with an interest (but no great expertise) in the subject.
Mr and Mrs T.
Hertfordshire
Rob and Kate created a very social and relaxed atmosphere within the group and always 'went the extra mile' to ensure our comfort and general wellbeing. A marvellous way to explore an unknown region - which we thoroughly enjoyed. Many thanks.
B.F.
Leeds
This was our first trip with Naturetrek and we enjoyed it. I will definitely look for another trip in the future.
A.W.
Devon
This was a lovely holiday with a relaxed feel. The birds were great – in particular, I’ll never forget the two Wallcreepers and the sheer number of Cranes – just what the brochure promised! Please convey my thanks to the leaders for making this trip so enjoyable.
A.H.
Yorkshire
Good group size, two centres, high standard of hotels and, above all, the leaders, John and Jenny, were knowledgeable, patient and good fun. I cannot praise them too highly.
A.L.
West Yorkshire
Our local guide was excellent. It is the first trip where we have had a local guide and she was an excellent addition giving us more insight to the locality and way of life in this unspoilt region. Thank you for another lovely holiday.
S.W.
Lancashire
Overall, a most enjoyable holiday - excellent leaders, hotels and birds! I appreciated the thoughtful driving - Jason's enthusiasm was infectious and delightful!
T.C.
Hertfordshire
The hotels were both gems. The rustic culinary style in the first hotel was interesting and the food at the second hotel was good and varied.
A.B.
Suffolk
A superb visit to fascinating areas. As a new trip to this area it went with surprisingly few hiccups, not that we noticed anyway! The birds exceeded my expectations! How about a longer trip, as there's so much to see? Thank you all.
J.B.
Gwynedd
Our first hotel (at Gallocanta) was excellent - position, helpful staff, nice atmosphere, excellent food (with choices) and interesting books for reference.
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DeparturesAvailableCost

Thu 22nd February 2018 - Wed 28th February 2018

YES

£1395

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: £1295 More info

Room sharing options: More info

Thu 1st March 2018 - Wed 7th March 2018

3

£1395

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: £1295 More info

Room sharing options: Male sharing is available More info

Thu 1st March 2018 - Wed 7th March 2018

YES

£1395

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: £1295 More info

Room sharing options: More info

Visiting: Spain

Detailed tour map

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Andy Tucker
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01962 733051

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Tour Reviews

The hotel in Alquezar was wonderful. The trip to see the vulture feeding was also a great experience. The highlight was seeing the first flight of a Black-winged Kite chick.
P.A., October 2015