guided birding in the west of Spain
River Tormes & Sierra Ventosa, Biosphere Reserve
Included in the Biosphere reserve of Sierras de Béjar y Francia, The river Tormes and its surrounding area has a rich biodiversity. At the village of Puente del Congosto we’ll start out from the medieval castle tower and bridge over the River Tormes to see cliff-dwelling birds such as Crag Martin and Blue Rockthrush, then we’ll border the river downstream through pasture, Holm Oak ‘dehesa’ and riparian woodland, looking out for Kingfisher, Grey wagtail, Great white Egret, Long-tailed Tit, Black-eared Wheatear, Cirl and Corn bunting, Serin, Iberian grey Shrike, Great and lesser spotted woodpecker, Woodlark, Golden Oriole, Kestrel, Griffon Vulture, Red Kite, Short-toed Eagle and Booted Eagle. After a picnic lunch we’ll move on to the nearby Sierra de la Ventosa through an area of dehesa, scrub and moorland to look for Ortolan Bunting, Woodchat shrike, Subalpine warbler, Azure winged Magpie, Crested and Thekla lark, Rock and Spanish Sparrow. With luck we may get to see the Golden Eagle.
All year: Crag Martin, Serin, Grey Wagtail, Blue Rock thrush, Iberian Shrike, Woodlark, Crested & Thekla lark, Dartford warbler, Red Kite, Cirl & Corn bunting, Azure-winged magpie, Great & lesser spotted woodpecker, Great White Egret, Kestrel, Griffon Vulture.
Autumn / Winter: White Stork, Bluethroat, Rock Bunting.
Spring/ Summer: Black stork, Golden Oriole, Black-eared Wheatear, Nightingale, Hoopoe, Ortolan bunting, Short-toed & Booted Eagle.
Candelario Natural Park &
Sierra de Bejar, Biosphere Reserve
This is the western part of the Central system of mountains which cross Spain west to east and separate Salamanca from Extremadura. We’ll visit Pinewoods to look for Crossbill, Crested tit and the Iberian Pied flycatcher. In the mixed Pyrenean oak and holly forests we may chance across the Iberian emerald lizard, Crag martin, Short-toed treecreeper, Goshawk and Honey buzzard. Further up above the treeline and in the peat bog moors we can check for Tawny and Water Pipit, Rock thrush, Alpine accentor or Bluethroat. After a picnic lunch we’ll stop off in the pretty mountain village of Candelario to watch the Pallid swifts swooping above the rooftops. Back down in the foothills we’ll walk alongside a wooded stream below huge granite boulders where we may see Western Bonelli’s warbler, Rock bunting, Golden and Short-toed Eagle, Black Vulture.
All year: Bluethroat, Crested Tit, Short-toed treecreeper, Crossbill, Water Pipit, Golden Eagle, Rock bunting, Goshawk, Black Vulture. Spring/ Summer: Honey Buzzard, Red rock thrush, Pied flycatcher, Tawny pipit, Melodious warbler, Black vulture, Palid swift, Short-toed Eagle.
Batuecas natural Park - Sierra de Francia, Biosphere reserve
The remarkably lush Sierra de Francia and Batuecas Natural Park hosts both Atlantic and Mediterranean forest such as Sweet Chestnut, Pyrenean oak, Cork oak, Arbutus, cultivated Olive, Cistus ladanifer, and Tree heather. From heights of over 1600m you can dip down into lush wooded valleys at 600m above sea level with a Mediterranean micro-climate. Amongst rocky outcrops live groups of Spanish Ibex, and around the valleys breed Black stork, Egyptian vulture, Griffon Vulture and Golden eagle. The whole area has a charmed feel with its medieval villages and half-timbered houses, balconies almost touching as houses huddle together amongst the forested hills. Historically a fruit growing area, nature here has filled in the some of the spaces abandoned by man: cherry and olive groves on terraced banks above sparkling streams, too remote to reach except on foot or by mule, are home to an abundance of wildlife. We’ll look for Alpine Accentor in winter and Dartford warbler on the more exposed heights, Crested tit, Firecrest, and Sardinian warblers further down, and above, Peregrine Falcon, Goshawk, Golden Eagle, Black and Griffon Vulture and in the spring Egyptian vulture. We’ll wander along tracks and read the signs left by mammals such as genet and stone marten, wild boar and roe deer.
All year: Crested Tit, Cirl & Rock Bunting, Sardinian & Dartford warbler, Firecrest, Black Redstart, Bullfinch, Hawfinch, Dipper, Short-toed Treecreeper, Lesser-spotted Woodpecker, Griffon & Black vulture, Golden eagle, Goshawk.
Autumn/Winter: Redstart, Spotted flycatcher, Alpine accentor.
Spring/Summer: Turtle Dove, Red-rumped swallow, Egyptian vulture, Booted eagle, Short-toed Eagle, Honey buzzard, Black stork.
Sangusin & Alagon Valleys
The little known south-eastern area of the Sierra de Francia harbours a multitude of birds, with its river valleys rich in fauna. We can wander along the wide and sunny Sangusin river valley and, surrounded by wild flowers such as bluebell and wild peony filling the spaces between the shady ‘dehesas’ of Ash and Holm oak, we can look out for Black Stork, observe European pond turtle basking on rocks, and see Bee-eater dancing in the air to catch insects for their broods. Further west we’ll drive over the hill and on the far side look down into the stunning Alagon valley, walking towards the confluence between both rivers now two hundred metres below, a fantastic vantage point for spotting Golden, Short-toed and Booted Eagle as well as Egyptian, Black and Griffon vulture, Goshawk and Sparrowhawk. Here we can come across a variety of fauna prints including stone marten, roe deer and wild boar, along with boar ‘bathtubs’: muddy basins in which they give themselves the full body treatment to rid themselves of parasites. The vegetation here is a rich mixture of Cistus, Spanish broom, Holm and Cork oak and countless wild herbs all filling the air with their scents.
All year: Serin, Cirl Bunting, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Rock Sparrow, Dipper, Short-toed Treecreeper, Sardinian & Dartford warbler, Griffon & Black vulture, Golden eagle, Goshawk.
Autumn/Winter: Pied flycatcher, Spotted flycatcher, Whinchat, Redstart.
Spring/Summer: Subalpine warbler, Bee-eater, Black Kite, Turtle Dove, Red-rumped swallow, Honey buzzard, Egyptian vulture, Booted eagle, Short-toed Eagle, Black stork.
Steppes and Wetlands Special Protection Area & Important Bird Area
A route in search of ‘steppeland’ species: harriers, sandgrouse, larks and Great Bustard, stopping off at wetlands to look for waders, aquatics and reed-dwelling species. We’ll visit the rolling cereal ‘steppelands’ of the Campos de Alba and Peñaranda, where it’s possible to spot Montagu’s and Hen harriers, and Lesser Kestrel nesting in silos, nest boxes and church towers. We’ll look out for Great Bustard, Black-bellied sandgrouse, Crested, Calandria and Short-toed larks, and keep an eye out for the rare Spanish Imperial Eagle.
We’ll visit wetlands where we may see Zitting Cisticola, Marsh harrier, Spoonbill, Avocet, Black-winged Stilt, Shelduck, waders, aquatics and reed-dwelling species such as Great Reed warbler. From October to early March we can see Cranes gathering to roost for the evening, as well as wintering ducks and geese.
All year: Great Bustard, Spanish Imperial Eagle, Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Zitting Cisticola, Kestrel, Buzzard, Red Kite, Marsh Harrier, Hen harrier, Crested, Calandria and Short-toed larks.
Autumn / Winter: Common Crane, Lapwing, Spoonbill, Avocet, Shelduck, Greylag goose, Shoveller, Teal.
Spring/ Summer: Montagu's Harrier, Lesser Kestrel, Black Kite, Short-toed Eagle, Great Reed warbler, Tawny Pipit, Black-winged Stilt.
Arribes Natural Park, Biosphere Reserve
As the Castillian plateau starts to dip down towards Portugal in western Salamanca the climate and vegetation become more Mediterranean.
This is the Arribes Natural Park, comprising the canyons of the Duero, Águeda and Huebra rivers. Here we can see Hoopoe, Hawfinch and Harriers, Black stork and large populations of breeding Griffon Vulture in colonies on the cliff face. From the vantage point of the clifftops it is possible to see Alpine swift, Crag Martin and Blue Rock thrush alongside Egyptian Vulture and Peregrine Falcon as well as the spectacular Bonelli’s Eagle. Sardinian and Western Orphean warblers can be seen as well as Turtle Dove, Black-eared Wheatear, Bee-eater, Black-winged Kite and Penduline tit. On the lush riverbanks and lagoons we may come across Spanish or European pond turtles basking in the sun, and if we’re lucky we may see otters playing in the water. The vegetation ranges from Holm oak to Hackberry, Portuguese Oak, cultivated Olive, Almond, Cherry and Orange groves.
All year: Penduline Tit, Sardinian & Dartford warbler, Blue Rock thrush, Crag Martin, Griffon Vulture, Black-winged Kite, Golden Eagle, Bonelli’s Eagle, Peregrine Falcon.
Autumn/Winter: Hen harrier, Hoopoe, Hawfinch.
Spring/Summer: Turtledove, Egyptian Vulture, Black Stork, Short-toed Eagle, Bee-eater, Alpine swift, Western Orphean & Melodious Warbler.