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Spain - Extremadura at Christmas

Tour Code: ESP28

A thorough 7-day winter exploration of the bird-rich steppes of Extremadura.

7 days from £1595(inc flights) Land Only Price: £1345 SRS: £195


A birding visit to Extremadura in the crystal-clear light and relatively mild temperatures of winter has its own particular, very special, charm. For all six nights we will be based in a delightful country house a short distance from the beautiful medieval town of Trujillo. With a lounge complete with open fire in front of which to complete our daily bird log, a warm Spanish welcome (including a special 'noche buena' - Christmas Eve - meal) and an enviable garden bird list, this is an ideal December base from which to explore the adjacent steppes and Monfragüe National Park. From an exquisite foraging Bluethroat or a large flock of Great Bustards, to a soaring Spanish Imperial Eagle or Black Vulture, this tour is likely to be full of highlights!

  • Enjoy large winter flocks of both Great & Little Bustards
  • Superb raptor-viewing, with a day (or more!) at Monfragüe a highlight!
  • Watch roosting Common Cranes in flocks of 10,000-strong
  • Magnificent far-reaching winter vistas
  • Delightful accommodation, with first class hospitality
  • Expertly guided by a Naturetrek ornithologist
  • Special 'Noche Buena' Christmas Eve meal

Food

All included in the price.

Accommodation

A beautifully restored and comfortable country house in delightful surroundings; all rooms with private facilities.

Griffon Vulture (David Morris)

Griffon Vulture (David Morris)

Outline Itinerary Download

Day 1 Fly to Madrid, drive Extremadura.

Day 2/6 Daily programme of birding excursions from our base near Trujillo.

Day 7 Fly London

Traditionally, most birders visit the magnificent rolling steppes, rugged sierras and Cork Oak woodland of Extremadura in April and May, when the countryside is besieged by migrants, and Great Bustards are in full display. A birding visit in the crystal-clear light and relatively mild temperatures of winter, though, has its own particular, very special, merit.

We begin this holiday with a flight to Madrid, from where we head south-west through rolling hills, olive groves and woodland to the central plateau of Extremadura, where we find extensive sheep-grazed grasslands and the Cork Oak forests known locally as ‘dehasa’. For all six nights we will be based in a delightful country house a short distance from the beautiful medieval town of Trujillo. With a lounge complete with open fire in front of which to complete our daily bird log, a warm Spanish welcome and an enviable garden bird list, this is an ideal locality from which to explore the adjacent steppes and Monfragüe National Park.

Due in part to the shorter grass at this time of year and the absence of any heat haze, Extremadura’s many attractive resident birds are much easier to see in winter than at any other season. Stately Great Bustards (the world’s heaviest flying bird) congregate in flocks in their winter quarters, the males busily exercising their wings in readiness for the annual springtime battle for a mate. Little Bustards congregate too, and as we scan the fallow steppes for bustards, we may find Black-bellied or Pin-tailed Sandgrouse, and flocks of larks. Great Spotted Cuckoos, too, may be seen, for they return from Africa as early as mid-January, while Stone Curlews, Calandra and Thekla Larks, Corn Buntings, Southern Grey Shrikes, Little Owls, Hoopoes, Spotless Starlings, Spanish Sparrows, Woodlarks, White Wagtails and magnificent far-reaching winter vistas complete the picture out on the plains.

We’ll also enjoy watching the unforgettable evening spectacle of Common Cranes, in flocks of 10,000-strong, as they fly in to their night-time roosts. The sight of these Cranes coming in at dusk as the winter light slips beneath the horizon will be a highlight of the tour. Elsewhere, the region’s lakes should hold large numbers of wildfowl, Purple Gallinule, Black-necked and other Grebes, plus Cattle, Little and a few Great White Egrets. Water Rails, Cetti’s Warblers and the occasional exquisite Bluethroat emerge to forage at the fringes of the wetlands and in damp channels, all so much easier to see than ever they are in Britain! Patches of woodland and scrub hold Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers, Azure-winged Magpies, Blackcaps, Sardinian and Dartford Warblers, Firecrests, Short-toed Treecreepers, Crested and Iberian Long-tailed Tits, Serins, Siskins, Hawfinches and Cirl Buntings. In fact many of these species may be seen within a stone’s throw of our accommodation! On the higher ground Alpine Accentors overwinter, while Chough, Black Redstart, Raven, Rock Sparrow, Blue Rock Thrush, Rock Bunting and Black Wheatear are all on the cards along with the resident and omnipresent Crag Martins.

No mention of birding in Extremadura, however, can be made without reference to the magnificent raptor-watching opportunities. The onset of winter sees the Black Kite being replaced by the Red, and by January Spanish Imperial Eagles are displaying over their nest sites — a breathtaking sight. Although the Short-toed and Booted Eagles will not return from Africa until early March, there is still plenty of variety, with Golden Eagles starting to nest and airborne Griffon and Black Vultures drawing our attention to any carrion in the area. Bonelli’s Eagles soar in bonding pairs, with Buzzards having arrived for the winter by the thousand from elsewhere in Europe. Other residents include Goshawk, Sparrowhawk, Peregrine and, of course, the stunning and much sought-after Black-shouldered Kite, another species with a tendency to form winter groups. Eagle Owls have mated by late December, with the female usually incubating by January, calling for the male at dusk to bring her food. We hope that a late afternoon visit to a special site will provide a fitting climax to our holiday.

Sierra Brava (David Morris)Castle ruins (Byron Palacios)Pin-tailed Sandgrouse (Steve Fletcher)Great Bustards (Steve Fletcher)Black-shouldered Kite (David Morris)Bluethroat (David Morris)White Stork (David Morris)Iberian Water Frog (David Morris)Spanish Sparrows (David Morris)Natterjack Toad (David Morris)Red Fox (David Morris)Red Fox (David Morris)Belen Plain (David Morris)Black-shouldered Kite (David Morris)Bluethroat (Steve Fletcher)Common Cranes (David Morris)Common Crane (Steve Fletcher)Common Cranes (David Morris)Common Cranes (David Morris)Common Cranes (David Morris)Corn Bunting (David Morris)Southern Grey Shrike (David Morris)Blue Rock Thrush (Byron Palacios)Naturetrek clients scanning (Byron Palacios)Early mist rising (Byron Palacios)Griffon Vulture (David Morris)Griffon Vultures (David Morris)Griffon Vultures (David Morris)Griffon Vultures (Byron Palacios)Imperial Eagle (Steve Fletcher)Mantid sp. (David Morris)Purple Swamphen (David Morris)Rainbow (David Morris)Blue Rock Thrush (Peter Waterton)Griffons Mating (Peter Waterton)
D.J.
December 2015
The varied habitats of mountains, lakes and rivers provide a wide range of birds. The guides were expert at finding species and took pains to ensure that everyone got a view. The accommodation was excellent - well situated, excellent food and very welcoming.
J.S.
West Midlands
I very much enjoyed being out in the country with extensive views and dark starry nights.
M.L.
Kent
Our guides/leaders could not have been bettered both from a birding and social point of view.
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DeparturesAvailableCost

Fri 22nd December 2017 - Thu 28th December 2017

3

£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: £1445 More info

Room sharing options: More info

Sat 22nd December 2018 - Fri 28th December 2018

YES

£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: £1345 More info

Room sharing options: More info

Sun 22nd December 2019 - Sat 28th December 2019

YES

£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: £1345 More info

Room sharing options: More info

Visiting: Spain

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Tour Reviews

The varied habitats of mountains, lakes and rivers provide a wide range of birds. The guides were expert at finding species and took pains to ensure that everyone got a view. The accommodation was excellent - well situated, excellent food and very welcoming.
D.J., December 2015