We had a wonderful tour in Spain. It was so nice that our guide, Rob, could speak Spanish. We saw many more species and lifers than we expected to. We would love to do another trip with him.
Our Birding Spain tour is especially timed for the European Spring, when the area’s many resident and breeding birds are joined by migrants en route from Africa to their northern nesting areas. Some of the fabulous species we hope to see include Spanish Imperial Eagle (up to 23 raptor species are possible!), Great and Little Bustard, Pin-tailed and Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Spectacled Warbler, Alpine Accentor, both species of noisy Chough, White-throated Dipper and the fabulous Wallcreeper. We travel in spacious and comfortable vehicles, the food is delicious and plentiful, while our accommodations are mostly family-run establishments in pleasant and beautifully renovated ancient stone farmhouses, nestled in quiet and charming villages.
Please note: while the official starting date of the tour is the 10th, it is recommended that guests arrive on the 9th so as to enjoy some of Madrid’s many cultural attractions before embarking on the Birding Spain tour the following day. If you do choose this option, then please bare in mind that this will be at your own expense.
Spanish Imperial & Bonelli’s Eagle, White-headed Duck, Marbled Teal, Great & Little Bustard, Pin-tailed & Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Alpine Accentor, Ring Ouzel, White-throated Dipper, Wallcreeper, Azure-winged Magpie, Bearded Reedling, Moustached & Spectacled Warbler, Red-billed and Yellow-billed Chough, Dupont’s Lark, Citril Finch
Red Fox, Iberian Hare, Pyrenean Chamois, European Badger, Alpine Marmot
coastal wetlands, cork-oak dehesas, deciduous woodlands, Olive groves, mountain crags, grasslands
temperate, mainly mild
ancient historical buildings & sites, great scenery, excellent food & wine
Day 1: Madrid to Monfrague National Park
After morning arrival at the airport, you will be met by your Rockjumper guide and then depart for Monfrague National Park in the Extremadura region (Please note that if arriving this morning, you should arrange to be in Madrid no later than 10am. Many participants prefer, however, to come a day or two beforehand in order to sample the cultural delights of Madrid prior to the start of the tour, and this is highly recommended).
En route to Monfrague NP there will be plenty of time for some great initial birding, allowing us to acquaint ourselves with many of the region’s more common species, such as Spotless Starling, Eurasian Jay and European Serin, as well as specialities that may include Azure-winged Magpie and possibly Spanish Imperial Eagle (a recent split from the Imperial Eagle of Eastern Europe and the only full endemic species in Iberia), before reaching our hotel in the heart of the cork-oak woodland for a three-night stay.
Days 2 & 3: Monfragüe Region
The Monfrague National Park, covering 18,000 hectares, was protected as a Natural Park from 1979 but only recently declared a National Park in 2007. There is an additional 11,700-hectare buffer zone, culminating in a vast area that is rich in wildlife. This fabulous region of mountains, gorges, forest and woodland holds Spain’s major breeding sites for the rare Spanish Imperial Eagle and during our stay here, we will hope for daily sightings of this impressive species. The area is also home to the world’s largest breeding colony of Cinereous Vulture. These huge birds are often visible throughout the region and can often be seen attending to goat or sheep carcases, along with the more numerous Griffon Vulture.
Other birds that we’ll be searching for during our time here include Black Stork, the impressive Eurasian Eagle-Owl, smartly plumaged Azure-winged Magpie, Black-winged Kite, European Roller, Eurasian Golden Oriole, Great Spotted Cuckoo, Red-rumped Swallow, Pallid Swift, Sardinian Warbler and Spanish Sparrow. The liquid calls of stunningly plumaged European Bee-eaters will no doubt attract our attention to these newly arrived flocks from their wintering grounds in Africa. We will also make our first searches for Bonelli’s Eagle and Great and Little Bustards, and will have time to visit ancient historic, fortified towns such as Trujillo where Lesser Kestrels are often seen perched on buildings during the day. After dark, we will venture out to look for Red-necked Nightjar and Barn Owl around the village.
Day 4: Monfrague to Valencia
Today on our Spain birding tour, we will set out north-east across the great open plains of La Mancha. This is a vast open landscape of mixed agriculture and pastures, allowing us a further opportunity to look for Great and Little Bustard. Other birds we will search for include Calandra Lark, while European Roller and Eurasian Hoopoe will add a dash of colour. Here we will also search isolated lagoons throughout this area to look for Eared Grebe, Eurasian Reed and Savi’s Warblers and White-headed Duck, a globally threatened species with a limited world range. By early evening we will arrive at our beautiful “bodega” hotel in the province of Valencia. Black Redstart and Rock Petronia are resident around our accommodation. At night we will search for European Scops Owl and Red-necked Nightjar.
Day 5: Valencia to Ebro Delta
The Ebro Delta is a huge complex of coastal dunes, saline lagoons, fresh marshes, reedbeds and rice fields. Here we will search for several range-restricted species in Spain that include Red-knobbed Coot and Marbled Duck (another globally threatened and range-restricted bird), plus a superb breeding colony of Mediterranean Gulls at Albufera de Valencia. We will visit the lagoons where Common, Sandwich, Whiskered, Gull-billed and Little Terns should be breeding. En route to the Ebro Delta, we will visit other coastal wetlands to look for the very localised Moustached Warbler, along with colonies of Collared Pratincole and possible sightings of Audouin’s and Slender-billed Gulls. Arriving in the Ebro Delta, we will check into our superb, modern hotel (famed for its wonderful seafood!).
Day 6: Ebro Delta
We will spend a full day of our Spain birding tour on the Ebro Delta exploring the varied coastal habitats, giving a large boost to our species list without having to travel any great distances at all. The focus here will be on the waterfowl, herons, gulls, terns, shorebirds and other specialities of the area’s reedbeds and marshes. Waterfowl may include Common Shelduck, Great Crested and Little Grebe, and large numbers of stunning Red-crested Pochard. Equally numerous are Greater Flamingos with smaller numbers of Grey, Purple, Black-crowned Night and Squacco Herons, Great and Little Egrets and Little Bittern. We will also search for scarcer species, such as Eurasian Spoonbill, Glossy Ibis, European Water Rail and the strikingly plumaged Purple Swamphen. Western Marsh Harriers can be a common sight over the extensive reedbeds where Reed Bunting, Great, Eurasian Reed and Savi’s Warblers and Zitting Cisticola sing. Waders may include Common Redshank, Pied Avocet, Kentish Plover, Little Stint, Wood Sandpiper, Common Greenshank, Spotted Redshank, Eurasian Oystercatcher, Ruff and Black-tailed Godwit.
Day 7: Ebro Delta to the Spanish Steppes
After breakfast this morning on our Spain birding tour, we will have the option of further birding on the Ebro Delta before heading off inland towards the famous Monegros area of arid steppe. Here we will cross a labyrinth of farm tracks across the steppe to the salt lakes, where we have good chances for various lark species, including Thekla, Crested and both Greater and Lesser Short-toed Larks. Flocks of Pin-tailed and Black-bellied Sandgrouse may be seen flying en route to watering holes, and beady-eyed Eurasian Thick-knee standing motionless in the shade of a tree. White Stork breed here and their nests can be seen on top of old farm buildings or precariously perched on ancient church spires. Here we will try for the elusive and scarce Dupont’s Lark that breeds in the area. This is a very range-restricted bird so we will try our best to find this enigmatic species. By early evening we will arrive at Lecera in Goya country, now amidst a burgeoning wine-growing area.
Day 8: Spanish Steppes
We will spend a day in the steppe areas and preserves of Belchite, paying special attention to locating Dupont’s, Calandra, Thekla, Lesser and Greater Short-toed Larks, Lesser Kestrel, Egyptian Vulture, Montagu’s Harrier, Red-legged Partridge, Black-eared Wheatear, Southern Grey Shrike, Spectacled Warbler and no doubt a whole host of other great birds. We will also bird along the Ebro River near Zaragoza for species of the more lush and verdant river edge, including Little Ringed Plover, Eurasian Wryneck, Eurasian Penduline Tit, Melodious and Cetti’s Warblers and the smartly plumaged Eurasian Golden Oriole. Several raptors breed in this area, including Peregrine Falcon and Eurasian Hobby. During our Spain birding tour, we will pass by the old town of Belchite, where we may find time to pause at this settlement that was bombed into dereliction in the Spanish Civil War, and then left as an eerie monument to the conflict.
Day 9: Spanish Steppes to Siresa, Pyrenees
This will be a day driving north into the Pyrenees near Hecho, with birding stops along the way. We have many options, including some great alternative sites for species still missing on our lists, or to obtain better views for anyone who may have missed out earlier. We can also visit further steppe areas if necessary, as well as some very scenic cliffs where we have a good possibility for Black Wheatear. We will, in addition, call in to wetland reserves for chances of Black Tern, Great Bittern, Bearded Reedling and Common Kingfisher. We arrive by early evening at our welcoming hotel in the Pyrenees, which offers a wide menu that includes local game dishes.
Days 10 & 11: The High Pyrenees
We have two full days of our Spain birding tour based in Siresa in order to search for alpine species. One day will be spent travelling to higher Pyrenean mountain passes at 1,800 – 2,100m (6 – 7,000ft) elevations, amidst spectacular scenery. Targets at these heights, from just below the tree line to the open alpine zone above, include the very attractive Red Kite, Alpine Accentor, Ring Ouzel, Citril Finch, Water Pipit, Eurasian Crag Martin, Red-billed and Yellow-billed Choughs and, depending on weather conditions and snow cover, perhaps a chance encounter with White-winged Snowfinch. We will also stop at attractive villages in the Roncal Valley, famed for its wonderful sheep’s milk cheese.
Our second day may be spent either revisiting higher areas, remaining in lower wooded regions, or else travelling further west to different beautiful mountain habitats in search of some new birds, including Marsh Tit, Firecrest, Eurasian Bullfinch, Yellowhammer, Eurasian Jay and Red Crossbill. Mountain streams may produce White-throated Dipper and Grey Wagtail. Our hotel here is in a picturesque village close to prime birding sites. One of our main targets is the unique Wallcreeper. This stunning crimson, grey and black species is a regular breeding bird in the deep, rocky gorges just minutes away from our accommodation, and we have several sites to try for this gem. Other target species at these mid-elevations are Alpine Swift, Black Woodpecker, Blue and Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush, Crested Tit and Mistle Thrush. This whole area is prime raptor country with good possibilities for our first sightings of Lammergeier along with Golden, Short-toed and Booted Eagles, many Eurasian Griffons and migrating European Honey Buzzards.
Day 12: Siresa to Lecina, Sierra De Guara
We will have a leisurely breakfast this morning and thereafter will search for any species that we may still be missing. Depending on what has been recorded so far, we can opt for another higher elevation excursion or look for other species lower down in the impressive grand red sandstone massifs of the Sierra De Guara, which have resident Red-billed Chough, Blue Rock and Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush, Crag Martin, Rock Sparrow, and Rock and Ortolan Buntings. The Oak and coniferous forests here have Black Woodpecker, Crested Tit and the small but stunningly plumaged Firecrest. There may also be time to combine our birding with interesting historical monasteries, such as San Juan De La Pena or fortified villages in spectacular settings. Throughout the day we will watch overhead for Lammergeier sightings.
Lecina, where we will be spending the night, is an idyllic, tiny and timeless village far up a winding dead-end Pyrenean road. Our accommodation is a beautifully converted ancient farmhouse, a little haven all to ourselves serving excellent food and wine!
Days 13 & 14: Lecina and vicinity
We have two full days of our Spain birding tour based in Lecina, with excellent birding literally right on the doorstep. The varied habitats here include precipitous gorges, box-scrub covered hillsides, patches of stunted oak forest, tiny green fields surrounded by ancient stone walls and olive groves, all creating a wonderful, picturesque mosaic and ensuring a fine variety of birds. A morning of gentle rambles on foot from our base will no doubt be a welcome respite from the vehicles. The whole area is rich in typical southern European species, and we can expect good sightings of many of the following: Subalpine, Dartford, Western Orphean, Sardinian and Western Bonelli’s Warblers, Cirl Bunting, Common Nightingale, Woodlark, Woodchat Shrike, Short-toed Treecreeper and European Serin.
The region is also phenomenal for raptors and sightings may include Bearded, Egyptian and Griffon Vultures, Black and Red Kites, Short-toed Snake, Booted and the huge Golden Eagle, and European Honey Buzzard. Early risers will enjoy the opportunity to wander before breakfast and get to know the birds at their own pace. After dark, we will try for the resident Tawny Owl just outside the front door of our hotel! We may also have time to visit some of the fine cultural sites nearby such as Alquezar, a splendidly restored hilltop village with an ancient church and fortified monastery.
Day 15: Lecina to Barcelona
After some final birding around Lecina, we leave the Pyrenees and head east to the Mediterranean coast and the bustling and historic city of Barcelona, birding en route. We will seek out any other species still on our “want list”. This may include further time in the sierras, or else out on dry steppe areas or wetlands depending on last minute preferences. We arrive in Barcelona in the late afternoon. Common Kestrel, European Serin, Black Redstart, Barn Swallow, Common Magpie and Common and Little Swifts may all be seen in the vicinity of our accommodations. We will spend the night in a hotel near the airport.
Day 16: Barcelona, Departure Day
Our Spain birding tour ends today with breakfast at the hotel. Transfers to the Barcelona International Airport take about 15 minutes and can be made by you at the hotel at times convenient for your homeward flights.