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WILD SPAIN

Including Mallorca. Iberian endemics and much more

Birdquest’s Wild Spain birding tour is a superb birdwatching trip to some of the most unspoiled regions in Western Europe. Our Wild Spain tour explores wild Extremadura in western Spain, the Sierras de Gredos and Guadarrama and the arid plains to the north. During this fabulous week of birding we will seek out all the major Iberian specialities including Spanish (Imperial) Eagle, Great and Little Bustards, Pin-tailed and Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Red-necked Nightjar, Iberian Green Woodpecker, Dupont’s Lark, Iberian Chiffchaff, Iberian Magpie and Citril Finch. During the Mallorca extension we will be concentrating on Balearic and Scopoli’s Shearwaters, Eleonora’s Falcon and Balearic and Moltoni’s Warblers.

Saturday 27th April — Saturday 4th May 2019
(8 days)


Mallorca Extension: Saturday 4th May — Tuesday 7th May (4 days)

Leader: Dani López-Velasco

Group Size Limit: 7

Tour Category: Easy walking for the most part and comfortable accommodations

Extremadura is without a doubt the best place in the world to see the spectacular Eurasian Black Vulture (Mike Watson)

Extremadura is without a doubt the best place in the world to see the spectacular Eurasian Black Vulture (Mike Watson)

Spain is a classic European birding destination, with a series of exciting specialities and many other interesting birds, as well as a wealth of wild flowers, splendid scenery and some beautiful, largely unspoiled towns that are redolent of ‘Old Spain’.

Extremadura, the wildest and, in spite of recent development, still one of the poorest regions of Spain, borders on Portugal. A hard climate, with extreme temperatures both in winter and summer, and a poor soil, has until very recently kept agricultural development at a low ebb and the farming population impoverished.

It was from Extremadura that men like Hernando Cortés and Francisco Pizarro set out to make their fortune, or die in the attempt, in a far-off New World that must then have seemed as distant as the moon. When the Conquistadors finally returned to the towns and villages of their birth, covered in blood, glory and gold, they built sumptuous palaces and endowed churches and monasteries with riches, a legacy which is still visible today in the historic and attractive old buildings that are a feature of the region.

This indeed is a part of Spain far from the Mediterranean coast with its concrete beach resorts, an area where the proud, traditional Spanish way of life continues with only limited outside influences.

Nowadays the lonely plains and hills of Extremadura, surely deserving of the epithet ‘Wild Spain’, provide a last great refuge for some of Europe’s most spectacular birds. In recent years its wide open expanses have become famous for their remarkable populations of both Great and Little Bustards, species which have declined drastically over most of their range and which are now very hard to find elsewhere in Western Europe. The arid plains are not just superb for bustards, but also provide a home for Pin-tailed and Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Stone-curlews and numerous larks.

This is also undoubtedly the best place in Western Europe for raptors, and the density is truly impressive. The star attraction is of course the Spanish Eagle, formerly treated as a subspecies of the Imperial Eagle, but now usually considered as a full species in its own right. Globally threatened, the Spanish Eagle is, for all intents and purposes, endemic to Spain, where the population is slowly recovering from near-extinction in the 1960s and 1970s. All the other eagles found in Western Europe occur here as well and vultures are still common; in particular we can expect to see numbers of the huge Eurasian Black Vulture. In addition, small numbers of Black-shouldered Kites have colonized the region.

As well as bustards, sandgrouse and raptors, Extremadura holds a number of other specialities including Red-necked Nightjar, Thekla Lark, Black Wheatear and the delightful Iberian Magpie (a species now recognized as specifically distinct from its cousin the Azure-winged Magpie in northeast Asia). As well as these specialities, Extremadura supports a great wealth of more widespread European species, including prehistoric-looking Black Storks and colourful Great Spotted Cuckoos, European Bee-eaters, European Rollers and Eurasian Golden Orioles.

Moving a little to the northeast, we will explore the attractive Sierra de Gredos in search of the endemic Iberian (or Sharpe’s) Green Woodpecker, the white-spotted form of the Bluethroat, Western Bonelli’s Warbler and Citril Finch.

Even further to the north we will visit an area of arid steppe near Sepulveda. Here, in the eerie pre-dawn light, or towards dusk, we will listen for the song of the restricted-range Dupont’s Lark and afterwards track down this mysterious lark. In the nearby Sierra de Guadarrama we have a better chance for Citril Finch and we should also encounter another regional speciality, Iberian Chiffchaff.

All in all this will be a wonderful week of birding and scenery that targets all of the Iberian Peninsula’s major specialities.

Mallorca, situated in the Mediterranean Sea off the east coast of Spain is the largest island in the Balearic archipelago. As with many Mediterranean islands, Mallorca endured a long and complicated history. In the sixth century, Christianity thrived and many churches were built, but by the early eighth century the island was under frequent attack by Muslim raiders from North Africa. Isn’t it amazing how little humanity has moved on! Many regime changes followed, but perhaps the most notable historic event on the island occurred at the beginning of the Spanish Civil War. Republicans invaded the Nationalist-held island in 1936 but were repelled by the superior air power (provided by the Italians) of the Nationalists, and this fierce battle became known as the Battle of Mallorca.

In the 1950s Mallorca enjoyed its first popularity as a tourist destination, and these days, this scenically rich and varied island is popular with sun-worshippers throughout the summer months, mainly because of the abundance of attractive beaches. Fortunately, for us at least, Mallorca has much more to offer, and this surprisingly remote island is also a great destination for birdwatchers, particularly in the spring. Situated more than 160 kilometres (100 miles) from the Spanish mainland, the island is mountainous, particularly along the northern coast where towering cliffs tumble down to the sea. In many areas aromatic Mediterranean ‘garrigue’ and ‘maquis’ vegetation still exist, habitats that are rich both botanically and ornithologically. In Albufera Marshes, Mallorca also boasts one of the largest wetlands in the Western Mediterranean, and there’s also the delightful hidden gem that is Cabrera National Park, a small archipelago off the southeast coast of the island. As well as the wide variety of habitats, Mallorca’s ornithological interest is added to by the fact that it’s on the spring migration route for migrants travelling from Africa to Europe, and we will be on the island at an excellent time to witness this.

We will have time to visit several areas. The Parc Naturel de S’Albufera is home to a number of interesting species, including the localized Moustached Warbler. Herons, including the attractive Squacco Heron, and the rare Marbled Duck are likely, and reintroduced populations of Red-crested Pochard, Red-knobbed Coot and Western Swamphen are all thriving, whilst European Bee-eaters and Pallid Swifts hawk overhead. On one day, we will make an excursion to the splendid island of Cabrera off the south coast of Mallorca. Here we will find the endemic Balearic Warbler as well as the recently split Moltoni’s Warbler. Eleonora’s Falcons hunt overhead and both Scopoli’s and Balearic Shearwaters are easily seen. The island is famous as a migrant hot spot and many a vagrant has been found here. Elsewhere on the island we can look out for Audouin’s Gull and Woodchat Shrike of the Mediterranean form badius. At this time of year, wildflowers will be in full bloom, including a number of species of orchid, and some splendid butterflies will add to the diversity.

Birdquest has operated tours to Spain since 1983.

Mallorca-only Option: You may opt to take just the Mallorca section as a stand-alone tour.

Important: The Birdquest group size limit is significantly lower than for most other tours to Spain.

Accommodation & Road Transport: The hotels/guesthouses are of good standard throughout. Road transport is by minibus and roads are good.

Walking: The walking effort is easy throughout.

Climate: Many days at this season are warm, dry and sunny, but it is sometimes cool, wet and overcast.

Bird Photography: Opportunities are good.

Prices are provisional

Tour Price: £1650, €1880, $2160 Madrid/Madrid. Single Room Supplement: £196, €223, $256. Deposit: £300, €360, $390.

Mallorca taken as an extension: £770, €880, $1010 Palma de Mallorca/Palma de Mallorca. Single Room Supplement: £93, €106, $122. No additional deposit is required.

Mallorca taken as a stand-alone tour: £770, €880, $1010 Palma de Mallorca/Palma de Mallorca. Single Room Supplement: £93, €106, $122. Deposit: £300, €360, $390.

Includes surface transportation, accommodations, meals, water, entrance fees and tips/gratuities.

Please note that the Madrid-Palma flight is not included and is more economically incorporated into your round trip international ticket from home, assuming you are flying to Madrid with a Oneworld alliance carrier.

Base prices for this tour are in Euros. The exchange rates applied at the time of costing were: £1 = €1.140 and €1 = $1.150.

Air Travel To & From The Tour: Our in-house IATA ticket agency will be pleased to arrange your air travel on request, or you may arrange this yourself if you prefer.

The main ridge of Monfrague National Park, viewed here from the castillo, is a veritable raptor highway (Mike Watson)

The main ridge of Monfrague National Park, viewed here from the castillo, is a veritable raptor highway (Mike Watson)

3 photos View Gallery Photos From WILD SPAIN
Great Bustard - the 'ostrich of the Spanish steppes' maintains a stronghold in Extremadura (Mike Watson)

Great Bustard - the 'ostrich of the Spanish steppes' maintains a stronghold in Extremadura (Mike Watson)

Breathtaking views of vultures are a feature of this tour like Eurasian Griffon Vulture (Mike Watson)

Breathtaking views of vultures are a feature of this tour like Eurasian Griffon Vulture (Mike Watson)

...and Egyptian Vulture (Mike Watson)

...and Egyptian Vulture (Mike Watson)

Dainty Lesser Kestrels grace the squares of ancient fortified towns of Extremadura, such as Trujillo (Mike Watson)

Dainty Lesser Kestrels grace the squares of ancient fortified towns of Extremadura, such as Trujillo (Mike Watson)

Black Storks nest on the lower sections of the impressive cliffs at Monfrague (Mike Watson)

Black Storks nest on the lower sections of the impressive cliffs at Monfrague (Mike Watson)

...in close proximity to Eurasian Eagle Owls, which can often be seen in daylight (Mike Watson)

...in close proximity to Eurasian Eagle Owls, which can often be seen in daylight (Mike Watson)

Black Wheatears also haunt rocky areas but can sometimes be a challenge to find (Mike Watson)

Black Wheatears also haunt rocky areas but can sometimes be a challenge to find (Mike Watson)

The smart Citril Finch is one of Europe's very few true endemics (Pete Morris)

The smart Citril Finch is one of Europe's very few true endemics (Pete Morris)

Many of the flights and flight-inclusive holidays on this website are financially protected by the ATOL scheme. But ATOL protection does not apply to all holiday and travel services listed on this website. Please ask us to confirm what protection may apply to your booking. If you do not receive an ATOL Certificate then the booking will not be ATOL protected. If you do receive an ATOL Certificate but all the parts of your trip are not listed on it, those parts will not be ATOL protected. Please see our booking conditions for information, or for more for more information about financial protection and the ATOL Certificate go to: www.atol.org.uk/ATOL Certificate

Birdquest Ltd is Registered in England, Company No. 01568270. The address of our registered office is Two Jays, Kemple End, Stonyhurst, Clitheroe, Lancashire BB7 9QY

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