Hoopoes bouncing through the dehesas on zebra-striped wings; tawny autumnal grasslands dotted with groups of stately Great Bustards; squadrons of Black and Griffon Vultures floating silently in the sky above the immense rock pinnacle of Peña Falcon; and the thrill of seeing thousands of spectacular Common Cranes, trumpeting loud their arrival here from northern Europe to winter beneath the oak trees and in harvested fields of maize and rice... Starting amid the rolling steppes and rugged sierras of Extremadura and concluding with visits to the tucked away wetlands and lagunas of rural La Mancha, our November birdwatching tour to the 'wild heart of Spain' promises all this and more!
From Madrid, we head west to delightful Viña Las Torres, a small and beautifully renovated private estate set amidst wonderful birding country not far from Trujillo. With good home cooking (and wine included with our evening meals), this comfortable Hotel Rural will be our base for the first five nights of the holiday. More than 90 species of bird have been recorded within five minutes walk of the hotel - so it can be hard to tear ourselves away from here. But we will, for our late autumn days in Extremadura are usually sunny and always memorable, filled with more birds than you could wish for!
Visits to magnificent Monfragüe National Park form the centrepiece of our stay in Extremadura - one of Limosa's all-time favourite places. Birds of prey are more numerous here than anywhere else in Western Europe. In late November, we will be looking for the scarce Black-winged Kite, immense Black and Griffon Vultures, and up to three species of eagle: Bonelli's, Golden and the endemic Spanish Imperial.
Autumn is also an excellent time to see the solitary Iberian Grey Shrike and the exotic but sociable Iberian (Azure-winged) Magpie, two further Iberian specialities that make their home in the beautiful dehesa woodlands that ring this national park.
Out on the rolling plains, flocks of Calandra Larks and droves of bustards - both Great and Little - will already have come together for the winter. As we scan the fields for them, we may be lucky to unearth secretive Black-bellied and Pin-tailed Sandgrouse, and parties of Stone-curlew, too.
During our stay, we’ll pay a short visit to the historic hilltop town of Trujillo, enjoying far-reaching views from the medieval battlements and a refreshing beer at a cafe in the cobbled Plaza Mayor, watched over by the formidable statue of Francisco Pizarro, conqueror of Peru.
Leaving Extremadura, we loop north and east beyond Toledo, where the lagunas (lakes) of La Mancha lie scattered like confetti across the rolling rural heartland of Spain. Nestling in a landscape made famous by Cervantes' classic novel Don Quixote, these tucked away wetlands are important to the threatened White-headed Duck plus a fine array of waterbirds in winter that can include hundreds of Greater Flamingos, Red-crested Pochard, Ferruginous Duck, Black-necked Grebe, Western Swamphen and - with a little good fortune - Moustached Warbler, too. We spend two nights in this sleepy 'backwater', at a comfortable hotel in Alcazar de San Juan.
Limosa has been operating a wide-ranging annual programme of birdwatching tours to Spain since 1990. Guide Fernando Enrique joined the Limosa team back in 2014 and is our English-speaking Spanish specialist. He has excellent experience of central Spain, having lived, birded and led tours in both Extremadura and La Mancha - including our November 2016, 2017 and 2018 tours there - plus very shortly our 2019 trip, too!
Join us as we return for another exciting and refreshingly different birding tour to Spain, discovering the land of the Conquistadores and Cervantes' fictional hero, Don Quixote!