Spain

Extremadura & Andalucia

An 8-day, small group birdwatching tour to Central & Southern Spain

Limosa’s spring birding tour to central and southern Spain combines two of Europe’s finest wildlife areas: the fabulous steppe grasslands and sierras of Extremadura, with the wetlands of Coto Doñana National Park. Timed to coincide both with the excitement of spring migration and the breeding season for Iberia’s many resident birds, highlights of our April birdwatching tours to Spain include Marbled Teal, Great and Little Bustards, Western Swamphen, Pin-tailed and Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Bee-eater, Roller, Western Orphean Warbler and the endemic Iberian Magpie. There’s also nowhere better in Europe to see birds of prey, with Egyptian, Black and Griffon Vultures, Spanish Imperial Eagle and Black-winged Kite among many to look forward to.

Tour Dates & Prices

Tue 20th April 2021

Tue 27th April 2021

  • Spaces

6 Spaces Available

Tour Cost: 8 Days from £1895* inc return flights from London Gatwick

Deposit: £300Single Supp: £195*Land Only: £1745*Group Size: 10Leaders:  Fernando Enrique & to be announced

* 2020 tour costs shown. Please note costs for our 2021 tour TBA (available summer 2020)

What's Included?

  • Limosa Tour Leaders
  • Return flights - outbound London Gatwick to Madrid, returning Seville to London Gatwick
  • 7 nights accommodation in Spain, staying at good and comfortable hotels in Extremadura & Andalucia
  • All main meals - and drinking water provided
  • Minibus transport
  • All excursions, entry fees, permits
  • All tour-based tips & taxes
  • Map & Limosa Checklist of birds

Cost Excludes

Insurance, drinks, airport/in-flight meals and snacks & other items of a personal nature.

View or Download Tour Info Pack

Notes

The Land Only cost is the price you will pay if you choose to arrange your own flights

Tour Highlights

  • Superb spring birding in central and southern Spain
  • 4 nights in Extremadura - simply THE best place in Europe for birds of prey
  • Based at a splendidly situated hotel overlooking beautiful Monfragüe National Park
  • Spanish Imperial Eagle, Great & Little Bustards, Black-bellied & Pin-tailed Sandgrouse, Iberian Magpie
  • 3 nights in Andalucia at a super hotel beside Spain's celebrated Coto Doñana National Park
  • Marbled Teal, Greater Flamingo, Glossy Ibis, Western Swamphen, Red-knobbed Coot, Iberian Grey Shrike
  • Returning for our 32nd year (2021) to the region
  • Expertly led by Limosa's English-speaking Spanish specialist Fernando Enrique

Outline Itinerary

  • Fly London Gatwick-Madrid. We transfer west to our hotel in Extremadura - right on the doorstep of Monfragüe National Park. Night Monfragüe

  • From our base near historic Trujillo, we have three full days to explore beautiful Monfragüe National Park and the steppes and sierras of Extremadura. Three further nights Monfragüe.

  • Leaving Extremadura today, we travel south into Andalucia and arrive at our lovely second hotel - close to Fernando’s home. Night Villamanrique de la Condesa

  • Discovering the wetlands and woods of famous Coto Doñana National Park. Two further nights Villamanrique

  • We enjoy some final birding in Andalucia today. Fly Seville-London Gatwick

Overview
Itinerary
Trip Info
Trip Reports
black-bellied sandgrouse brian small tabbed.jpg
Small groups of fast-flying Black-bellied Sandgrouse give themselves away by their tell-tale 'chuckling' calls as they scud over the Extremaduran grasslands © Brian Small, Limosa

Spring comes early to central and southern Spain! From February onwards, waves of storks, raptors and innumerable passerine migrants start to arrive, making their first landfall in Europe along the coast of Andalucia. By the time of our visit in April, Booted Eagles will be back over the dehesas, Red-rumped Swallows hawk the skies and the marshes will be a frenzy of activity with waterfowl, ibises, herons and egrets all busy nesting.

Our spring birdwatching tour to central and southern Spain kicks off in Madrid, from where we head west to Extremadura - the 'wild heart of Spain' - and the fabulous Spanish steppes. We spend the first four nights of our tour here, staying at a wonderfully situated Hospederia - right on the approach to beautiful Monfragüe National Park and with great birding right on the doorstep.

Nowhere else in Europe do birds of prey breed in such numbers or variety, while Little Bustards 'blow raspberries' and Great Bustards strut their stuff amid the rolling, flower-filled grasslands. Black Stork, Black-bellied and Pin-tailed Sandgrouse, Great Spotted Cuckoo, Calandra Lark, Blue Rock Thrush, Southern Grey Shrike, Spanish Sparrow and Rock Bunting are among many other possible treats in store.

Monfragüe itself is magnificent, famed for its spectacular landscape and hordes of Griffon Vultures, which throng the dramatic rock pinnacle of Peñafalcon. Mighty Black and Egyptian Vultures also breed in the park, along with Red and Black Kites, and all five Iberian eagles: Bonelli's, Booted, Short-toed Snake, Golden and Spanish Imperial. We will seek the elusive Black-winged Kite over the beautiful dehesa woodlands, scan for secretive Eurasian Eagle Owl on the cliffs and pay a visit to the historic old town of Trujillo, with its splendid medieval architecture adorned by numerous Lesser Kestrels, Pallid Swifts and bill-clattering European White Storks.

Leaving Extremadura, we then travel south into Andalucia for a three-night stay beside Spain’s most illustrious national park, the Coto Doñana. Our base here is a delightful, award winning rural hotel located in the northern sector of the park, with a reputation for comfort, great food and friendly staff.

This extraordinary corner of Spain also shelters some of the Europe’s rarest breeding birds: Eurasian Spoonbill, Squacco Heron, Glossy Ibis, Greater Flamingo and Red-knobbed Coot haunt the marshes and troops of exotic Iberian Magpies roam the warm, scented pinewoods. Chunky Western Swamphens clamber about the reeds and dappled Marbled Ducks tuck themselves away on quiet lagoons. In April, colourful European Rollers, European Bee-eaters and Woodchat Shrikes will be arriving, Hoopoes probe the sandy tracks and jangling European Serins add further to the delights of springtime in southern Spain.

During our stay in Doñana we shall also pay a visit to the fascinating 'wild west' village of El Rocío, its wide sandy streets lined with wooden hitching rails, elegant white-washed buildings and magnificent church being more reminiscent of old Mexico than Spain. Waders and Whiskered Terns regularly patrol the marismas beyond.

Limosa has been operating a wide-ranging annual programme of birdwatching tours to Spain since 1990, including dozens of trips to Extremadura and Andalucia. Add the unrivalled expertise of our English-speaking Spanish specialist Fernando Enrique - who was born and raised in Andalucía - and this classic, two-centre tour to Central and Southern Spain is hard to beat!

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We can look forward to spectacular views of the immense, 'barn-door' Black Vulture in the skies over Monfragüe National Park © Limosa participant Roger Cresswell

Day 1
TO MADRID & MONFRAGÜE

Our spring birdwatching tour to central and southern Spain begins with a morning flight from London Gatwick to Madrid. We transfer west by road toward the rolling steppe, beautiful oak woodlands and wild sierras of Extremadura. It's a three to four hour journey, but we will pause along the way to enjoy a delicious tapas lunch and to scan the flowing spring grasslands for our first Montagu’s Harriers and Bee-eaters - and maybe try for the elusive Black-winged Kite!

Early evening arrival at our comfortable hotel, a wonderfully situated Hospederia that lies right on the approach to magnificent Monfragüe National Park. This will be our base for the first four nights of the holiday. Cattle Egrets and White Storks forage for lizards and grasshoppers in the pastures, handsome Spanish Sparrows and Spotless Starlings nest in numbers about the scattered Extremaduran farmsteads, and Black Kites float effortlessly over the grasslands. Night at a hotel overlooking Monfragüe NP

Days 2 - 4
MONFRAGUE NATIONAL PARK & THE STEPPE GRASSLANDS OF EXTREMADURA

Beautiful Monfragüe National Park and the surrounding steppe grasslands are typified by mile upon mile of unspoilt countryside, where centuries of traditional land management have created the unique dehesas - a timeless, park-like habitat of cork and evergreen oaks, foraged by pigs and alive in spring with calls of Hoopoes, Woodlarks, Rock Sparrows, Woodchat Shrikes and exotic Iberian Magpies. Rocky fields and roadside verges brim with an exuberance of wildflowers at this season, Sardinian Warblers give their scolding ‘rat-a-tat-tat’ call at almost every halt and pink-chested Southern Grey Shrikes perch boldly beside the road.

This is perhaps the finest spot in all of Europe for birds of prey and we can expect to encounter a dozen or more different species during our stay. Immense Griffon Vultures patrol the skies, along with Egyptian Vulture and the even more massive Black Vulture, Red and Black Kites, Peregrine and up to five species of eagle: Short-toed Snake, Booted, Bonelli’s, Golden and the endemic Spanish Imperial. The latter is one of the world’s rarest and most endangered raptors but we have good chances of seeing one here. Many of these species breed on or around the dramatic rock pinnacle of Peñafalcon, which lies at the heart of the park and we will spend some time here enjoying the spectacle.

Another large soaring bird, the scarce Black Stork, is perhaps easier to see well at Monfragüe than anywhere else we know. Nearby, we’ll check a favourite spot for the powerful Eurasian Eagle Owl, too.

Truly a magical place, Monfragüe’s Cistus and herb-scented hillsides, rocky ravines and plunging valleys are equally rich in small birds. Crag Martin, Thekla Lark, Blue Rock Thrush, secretive Dartford, Subalpine and Western Orphean Warblers, Short-toed Treecreeper, Hawfinch and Red-billed Chough are all present in spring, as parties of ‘bibbling’ Alpine Swifts sweep the skies.

The sweeping plain that stretches away to the south is a vital stronghold of the aristocratic Great Bustard. Early mornings offer the best chance to see these magnificent birds (don’t worry, it doesn’t get light here until about seven!), before the grasslands are lost beneath a sea of shimmering heat-haze. With Hoopoes, Stone-curlews and Calandra Larks calling all about us, from our vantage point overlooking the steppe we shall scan for the dominant males as they perform their extraordinary display. It’s one that culminates in the great birds shaking and turning themselves ‘inside-out’ to become a mass of white feathers - variously described as looking like a foaming bath or a giant blooming chrysanthemum, visible at tremendous range!

We should also see and hear the smaller Little Bustard here too, the males inflating their ‘Newcastle United-stocking’ necks and throwing back their heads to blow raspberries at one another across the fields in spring display!

The grasslands are interrupted by bands of low rocky sierras and slow-flowing rivers, and for sheer variety of birds this whole region is hard to beat. Little Bittern, Night Heron, Pin-tailed and Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Greater Short-toed Lark, Spectacled Warbler, Penduline Tit, Golden Oriole and (with luck) the increasingly scarce Black Wheatear are among many that await our discovery. Spanish Sparrows are actually rather scarce in Spain, but can be locally common here with flocks of several hundred sometimes seen. We may also hear the harsh rattling cackle of a Great Spotted Cuckoo, watch Red-rumped Swallows swooping low or see a squat Little Owl scowling at us from one of the massive boulders so characteristic of Extremadura's ‘hard lands’.

We’ll drop by at a productive wetland site that is home to Purple Heron, Savi’s Warbler and Purple Swamphen, and have further chances to look for that troublesome Black-winged Kite. Out in the region’s rice fields, we may encounter two tiny introduced finches: Common Waxbill and the startling Red Avadavat - in their white-spotted breeding plumage, males of the latter look not unlike a fast-flying strawberry!

Before leaving Extremadura, we’ll pay a visit to nearby Trujillo and spend a little time wandering the narrow cobbled streets of this historic old town. The Conquistadors may have long since departed this famous place but there are still plenty of nesting White Storks, Lesser Kestrels and Pallid Swifts to enjoy over a quiet drink in the beautiful main piazza. Bring your camera - on a clear day, views across the plains from atop the medieval battlements are unrivalled! Three further nights at our Monfragüe hotel

Day 5
SOUTH TO ANDALUCIA & COTO DOÑANA

We bid a reluctant farewell to Monfragüe this morning and travel south over good roads towards Seville - no doubt breaking our journey with one or two birding stops along the way.

From Seville, we swing west and continue on to reach our second hotel in the sleepy Andalucian village of Villamanrique de la Condesa, with its characterful white washed buildings overlooking the famous Coto Doñana National Park. We will aim to arrive at our hotel in time to enjoy some late afternoon birding in the marshes close by. Night Villamanrique de la Condesa

Days 6 - 7
COTO DOÑANA NATIONAL PARK

Covering an area of almost half a million acres, the marismas (marshes) at the mouth of the Guadalquivir river comprise one of the largest and most important wetlands in Europe: the Coto Doñana National Park. Our birding here might well begin with a look at some of the nearby wetland areas as well as the park’s impressive Visitor Centres. Fernando was born and raised in Andalucia, and presently lives close by the National Park, so this is a region he knows especially well.

Among a rich diversity of birds, Doñana boasts many that are rare or absent elsewhere in Europe. If water levels are right, the marshes can be crammed with birds with Spoonbill, Purple Heron, Little Egret, Whiskered Tern, Collared Pratincole and migrant waders among many to be seen, alongside regional specialities that include Glossy Ibis, Greater Flamingo, Squacco Heron and Western Swamphen. Depending on water levels, we may also visit some smaller and less well-known lagoons around the fringes of Doñana that can hold rare and localised species such as Red-knobbed Coot, Black-necked Grebe, and White-headed Duck and Marbled Teal.

No visit to the Coto would be complete without a trip to the protected zone of the Corredor Verde and the Dehesa de Abajo. The former is always a great place to watch for raptors and is one area where the rare Black-winged Kite and Booted Eagle, Europe’s smallest eagle, hunt.

The Dehesa de Abajo is a sight to behold in spring, with large expanses of flowering meadows where Bee-eaters sweep low, feeding over multi-coloured carpets of scented flowers. The surrounding wild olives or acebuche trees hold one of the largest concentrations of White Storks nests in Spain, where the birds actually nest on top of the trees. A flooded lagoon at the edge of the dehesa can hold large numbers of duck, including Red-crested Pochard, as well as Gull-billed and Black Terns hawking for insects.

As the day progresses, we can enjoy visits to various hides and take a walk through the resin-scented pinewoods and shady Cork Oak groves. Flocks of Iberian Magpies flit through the lower branches, Crested Tits and Firecrests work through the canopy, and furtive Dartford and Sardinian Warblers scold us from the scrub.

Along tracks to the José Antonio Valverde Visitors' Centre on the fringes of the northern marshes, migrant Spectacled and Subalpine Warblers can often be found, along with Common and sometimes Great Spotted Cuckoos. The sandy tracks that bisect the drier, drained farmlands hold all the southern European larks: Crested Larks are our constant companions, their melancholy song given in flight, and others we could see include Thekla, Calandra and both Greater and Lesser Short-toed Larks.

Migrants passing through the area in spring can include Night Herons in the tamarisks, Hoopoe, Black-eared Wheatear and Red-rumped Swallow. Alert Southern Grey and Woodchat Shrikes survey the scene and, as the daytime temperature starts to rise, birds of prey become more noticeable. In April, these can include Red Kite and the ubiquitous Black Kite, Marsh Harrier and Short-toed Snake Eagle. With luck, we may find the endangered Spanish Imperial Eagle, which nests in the national park. Two further nights at Villamanrique de la Condesa

Day 8
COTO TO SEVILLE, FLY LONDON

We should have time to enjoy some further birdwatching in and around the Coto today.

Afternoon return to Seville for our flight back to London Gatwick, where our spring birdwatching holiday to Spain concludes.

Limosa Group Coto Donana Spain FE new card.jpg
Our group enjoys close up views of the heron, egret and Glossy Ibis colony at Coto Donana © Fernando Enrique, Limosa

WHAT TO EXPECT
A two-centre birdwatching tour to central and southern Spain combining two of Europe’s finest wildlife areas: the fabulous steppe grasslands and sierras of Extremadura, with the wetlands of Coto Doñana National Park.

Timed to coincide both with the excitement of spring migration and the breeding season for Iberia’s resident birds, highlights of our late April bird tour to Spain might include Great and Little Bustards, Western Swamphen and the endemic Iberian Magpie. Plus there’s also nowhere better in Europe to see birds of prey, with Egyptian, Black and Griffon Vultures, Spanish Imperial Eagle and Black-winged Kite among many to look forward to.

The weather is generally fine at this time of year although, even in southern and central Spain, there can be April showers! Average daytime temperatures here in April typically range between 17-22C (62-72F), occasionally hotter.

Opportunities for bird photography can be good-excellent, especially raptors and storks at Peñafalcon in Monfragüe National Park.

BIRDS
135-165 species

ACCOMMODATION
7 nights accommodation in Spain, at two good and comfortable hotels.

Our tour commences in Extremadura, where we spend four nights at the Hospedería Parque de Monfragüe overlooking magnificent Monfragüe National Park, some 25 miles north of the town of Trujillo. All rooms have private facilities.

Moving to Andalucia, we then have three nights at the delightful Hotel Ardea Purpurea, an award-winning rural hotel situated close by the village of Villamanrique, on the northern fringes of the Coto Doñana National Park. All rooms have private bathroom with shower as well as air conditioning.

MEALS
All main meals are included in the price, commencing with a late tapas lunch following our arrival in Spain on Day 1 and concluding with lunch in Andalucia on Day 8.

Breakfasts and dinners will be at the hotels. Our lunches may variously be taken at a local venta (cafe) or as picnics in the field.

WALKING
Easy; short walks. One uphill walk followed by a steep climb up a series of stone steps to reach the viewpoint overlooking the heart of Monfragüe National Park is optional.

Wear comfy walking shoes or lightweight boots  with sturdy corrugated soles for grip.

FLIGHTS
We fly with Easyjet or British Airways/ Iberia (depending on airline schedules at the time), outbound from London Gatwick to Madrid, and returning Seville to London Gatwick.

Ground Transport   By minibus.

marbled duck mallorca spain fernando enrique card.jpg
Depending on water levels, we may also visit some smaller and less well-known lagoons around the fringes of Doñana that can hold rare and localised species such as Red-knobbed Coot, White-headed Duck and (above) Marbled Teal © Fernando Enrique, Limosa

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