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Extremadura 14 – 22 March 2017

Wild Central Spain

Extremadura is one of the few remaining truly wild areas of Spain and, indeed, Europe. The region is renowned for its amazing variety of birds of prey, especially in Monfragüe National Park, and special species such as the bustards and larks to be found on the rolling plains of the Spanish steppes.

The plains around Trujillo and Cáceres form part of the great Spanish steppes with their fascinating assemblage of birds. Here we will search for great bustards performing their incredible breeding display; if we are lucky, an astonishing ritual in which the male turns himself into the appearance of a huge white pom-pom of feathers. Other steppe birds in this area are little bustards, stone-curlews and both pin-tailed and black-bellied sandgrouse.

Crested and calandra larks are also found in the plains. Another speciality is Spanish sparrow, a rather local bird in Spain despite its name.

azure-winged magpie

calandra lark
Calandra lark, above, and azure-winged magpie, left (Steve Fletcher).

We will visit Monfragüe National Park, some 25 miles north of Trujillo. This is one of the most outstanding areas for seeing birds of prey in a country which is itself probably the best for raptors in Europe. It has the core Spanish population of black vultures, which breed here along with griffon and Egyptian vultures. Eagles are well represented here with Spanish imperial, Bonelli's, golden, short-toed and booted. From the various viewpoints, which make fine vantage points for raptor-watching, other species that can be seen include black stork, chough and rock bunting.

Tozo River

Tozo River, with water crowfoot. Behind is open holm oak dehesa.

The lower valleys approaching Monfragüe hold good stands of holm oak woodland, the ‘dehesa’ or wood pasture that is such a distinctive feature of Extremadura. The dehesa is famous for the wintering cranes, most of which leave in February, but here also are azure-winged magpies, that amazing, colourful bird of the east with an outpost in Spain. One theory was that they originated from birds escaped during trade with China in earlier times, but proof that it is a relict population has recently come to light with the discovery of subfossil bones.

western spadefoot toad Trujillo boys and bull-bike
Movie clips from February 2012. Left to right: azure-winged magpies, western spadefoot toad, carnival time in Trujillo. Click on the pictures to watch the movies.

We stay at the charming Finca Santa Marta, a granite-built olive oil mill converted into a country inn, situated in the countryside south of Trujillo.

great bustards
Great bustards (Steve Fletcher).

Birds

As well as those already mentioned, we should see a selection of the following: Montagu’s harrier, red, black and black-shouldered kites, peregrine, raven, hoopoe, blue rock thrush, little owl, southern grey shrike, red-rumped swallow, woodlark, Sardinian warbler, cirl and corn buntings, spotless starling and great spotted cuckoo.

Flowers

Patches of white Spanish broom and pink storksbills bring colour to fields close to Trujillo. Miniature daffodils include hoop petticoat and angel’s tears narcissi. Early orchids, such as conical, champagne and naked man orchids, irises and lupins are flowering.

Silene colorata
Mediterranean catchfly Silene colorata

Other wildlife

Spain is western Europe’s stronghold for wild mammals, including genet, mongoose and lynx, but these are mainly secretive or nocturnal. Stripe-necked terrapins and Iberian wall lizards are more obvious.

Holiday details

Excursions will include visits to Monfragüe Natural Park, including places such as Peña Falcón and the Tiétar cliffs; the holm oak dehesa region; and exploration of the plains around Trujillo. We also spend a morning in the wonderful old town of Trujillo with its striking central square and breeding white storks and lesser kestrels.

Price: £1,550 per person in twin room for eight nights (Tuesday to Wednesday)

Single room supplement: £200

En suite facilities

Flights: Scheduled easyJet flights Gatwick – Madrid or Liverpool – Madrid.

Deposit: £300

Maximum number (two leaders): 14

Conservation project

SUPPORTING

SEO logo

Traditional low intensity farming, especially non-irrigated arable farmland but also seasonal grazing, supports much of the special wildlife of Extremadura – and can never be protected just by nature reserves.

The conservation of the Spanish steppes and ‘dehesa’ wood pasture is a great priority for the Sociedad Española de Ornitología (Spanish Ornithological Society / BirdLife Spain).

cork oak dehesa
Cork oak dehesa in Extremadura

Main leader

Chris Durdin is the driving force behind Honeyguide, running holidays since 1991. For many years he combined this with his work for the RSPB in Eastern England, often the Society’s spokesman, but has been concentrating on Honeyguide full-time since 2009. Chris is the co-author of a book about Norfolk’s cranes. He’s also a qualified soccer coach, for one son’s under 14 year group. As a naturalist, Chris is an all rounder.

Map of Extremadura

Angel's tears

Angel's tears (Narcissus triandrus) The dark background is a cork oak.

Holiday reports

Holiday report March 2017 here.

Autumn 2016 holiday report here.

Other recent reports from February 2015 and March 2014.

There are many more Extremadura holiday reports on our holiday reports pages - 23 reports in total since 1998.

Statue of Pizarro, Plaza Mayor, Trujillo

The main square in Trujillo

Extremadura photos

Gallery of photos mostly places and flowers.

Birds gallery photos by Steve Fletcher.

Birds of prey gallery photos by Steve Fletcher.

Finca Santa Marta

Many photos of Finca Santa Marta on Facebook here.

Finca Santa Marta

For the Finca's website, click on the picture of the sign.

We have the run of its attractive and wildlife-rich grounds too.

In 1984, the Finca hosted a party of 58 from the Artists for Nature Foundation. They painted and sketched the wildlife and landscape (sometimes people and buildings too) in the area, or at the finca itself, all captured in a beautiful book. More about the book here, including a selection of artwork.

Many photos of Finca Santa Marta on Facebook here.

storks in Trujillo

White storks in Trujillo

Useful information and links

Martin Kelsey's blog about birds in Extremadura.

Birding in Extremadura: website of the Government of Extremadura.

Birds of Extremadura illustrated map here. We send a printed copy to anyone who books or enquires about this holiday.

Recommended reading from Crossbill Guides: Extremadura.


More information on this and other Crossbill Guides here.

Extremadura Crossbill Guide

Honeyguide web pages about Extremadura

Extremadura flowers. This is is for flowers we see here — mostly on our March holidays — that aren't in the usual field guides.

Orchis conica at Finca Santa Marta, in March.

More orchids on our Iberian orchids page (also more for March holidays).

Orchis conica at Finca Santa Marta
tree frog

 

Tree frog

 

Tree frogs on YouTube, filmed in Extremadura, March 2011 ... striped tree frog here and tree frog here.

Stripeless tree frog

stripeless tree frog

Marcelino from SEO

Marcelino Cardalliaguet from SEO accepts a cheque from Honeyguide (Malcolm Key).

Marcelino says Honeyguide is: "Currently the best example of sustainable tourism in Extremadura," and praises our "Direct support to local work for the conservation of Extremadura natural values."

Holiday leader

Chris Durdin

Chris Durdin in Extremadura, February 2015 (Howard Bayliss).

Chris has regularly co-led Honeyguide's Extremadura holiday for many years.

Facebook Honeyguide
... where there are many holiday photos to enjoy.

Atol protected

The air holidays shown are ATOL Protected by the Civil Aviation Authority. Our ATOL number is ATOL 3253. ATOL Protection extends primarily to customers who book and pay in the United Kingdom. Click on the ATOL logo if you want to know more.

Helping you enjoy wildlife – Helping you protect wildlife