Hoopoes bouncing through the dehesas on zebra wings; tawny winter grasslands dotted with groups of stately Great Bustards; squadrons of mighty Cinereous (Black) and Griffon Vultures floating silently in the sky above the immense rock pinnacle of Peña Falcon; the deep grunting of Purple Swamphens hidden within dense stands of bullrushes... Focusing on the rolling steppes and rugged sierras of Extremadura, our January birdwatching tour to Spain promises all this - and more! For a winter visit to the 'wild heart of Spain' brings the thrill of spectacular thousands of Common Cranes, which arrive here from northern Europe to feed beneath the oaks and in harvested fields of maize and rice.
From Madrid, we head west to delightful Viña Las Torres, a small and beautifully renovated country house estate set amidst wonderful birding country a few miles from Trujillo. With good home cooking and wine included with our evening meals, this comfortable hotel rural will be our base throughout the holiday. Iberian (Azure-winged) Magpies roost in numbers in the garden and more than 90 species of bird have been recorded within just five minutes walk of the hotel - so it can be hard to tear ourselves away! But we will... for winter days in Extremadura are always memorable, filled with more birds than you could wish for.
Visits to magnificent Monfragüe National Park form the centrepiece of our tour. With its oak and scrub-covered hillsides, plunging river valleys and massive vulture crags, this is one of our all-time favourite places. Birds of prey are more numerous here than anywhere else in Western Europe. In January, we can expect to find a dozen or more different species including the scarce Black-winged Kite, Cinereous (Black) and Griffon Vultures, and up to three species of eagle - Bonelli's, Golden and the endemic Spanish Imperial. This is also an excellent time to see the solitary Southern Grey (Iberian) Shrike and the exotic but sociable Iberian Magpie - two further Iberian endemics that make their homes in the beautiful dehesa woodlands that ring this fine national park.
Out on the rolling plains, flocks of Calandra Larks and droves of bustards - both Great and Little - will have come together for the winter. As we scan the January fields for them, we may unearth Black-bellied and Pin-tailed Sandgrouse, and parties of Eurasian Stone-curlew, too.
During our stay, we’ll pay a visit to the historic old town of Trujillo, enjoying far-reaching views from the medieval battlements followed by dinner one evening at a restaurant in the cobbled Plaza Mayor, overseen by the formidable statue of Francisco Pizarro, conqueror of Peru. Even in winter, a few White Storks may already be back at their rooftop nests in the town.
We think the variety of species on this January tour will surprise you as we go in search of everything from flocks of Spanish Sparrows, Red Avadavats and Common Waxbills amid rice fields on the plains to Eurasian Crag Martins, Alpine Accentors and Hawfinches in the shadow of hilltop Moorish castles. Join us for a great week of birding amid the rugged sierras and rolling steppe grasslands of Extremadura - and leave the worst of the British winter behind!