The Ultimate In Birding Tours

Europe & Surroundings

IBERIAN LYNX & BIRDS OF SOUTHERN SPAIN

Sunday 5th January – Saturday 11th January 2020

Leaders: Pete Morris and

7 Days Group Size Limit 10
Tuesday 5th January – Monday 11th January 2021

Leader: Pete Morris.

7 Days Group Size Limit 10

Birdquest’s Iberian Lynx & Birds of Southern Spain birding tours focus on both the endangered Iberian Lynx and a superb selection of bird species that can be found in the same area or between there and Madrid. Spain has long been a classic European birding destination, with a series of exciting specialities coupled with splendid scenery and some beautiful, largely unspoiled towns that are redolent of ‘Old Spain’.

On this short but enjoyable tour we will explore several areas between Madrid and the spectacular Sierra de Andújar in northern Andalucia. Most classic tours run in the Spring, but this tour is different… It is timed at the beginning of the year in order to find one of Spain’s biggest treasures… the marvellous Iberian Lynx, and we have an excellent chance of seeing this, the world’s rarest feline in the remote and scenic Sierra de Andújar. Here, at this time of year, the lynx is often more visible in the dehesa landscapes that it shares with the spectacular and globally threatened Spanish Imperial Eagle (it must be the best place in the world to see this speciality!). The eagle is, for all intents and purposes, endemic to Spain, where the population is slowly recovering from near-extinction in the 1960s and 1970s. We can also expect to see numbers of the huge Griffon and Cinereous Vultures as well as other specialities such as Iberian Green Woodpecker, Iberian Grey Shrike (now restricted to southern France and the Iberian peninsula), Iberian Magpie (a species now recognized as specifically distinct from its cousin the Azure-winged Magpie in northeast Asia), Thekla’s Lark, Dartford and Sardinian Warblers and Short-toed Treecreeper.

We will also explore the wetlands and vast plains of the nearby Castilla la Mancha region. The central plains of Spain provide a last great refuge for some of Europe’s most spectacular birds. The 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, and Calandra Larks. At this time of year, the plains birds are often to be found in large and impressive flocks, and there can be few finer sites than a large mixed flock of Little Bustards and Pin-tailed Sandgrouse dropping in to a field to feed, or a flock of huge Great Bustards slowly flapping over the plains! Also on these plains, we will have ample opportunity to watch Eurasian Hoopoes, Spotless Starlings and Spanish Sparrows.

We will also have the opportunity to explore some bird-rich wetlands. Here, the star of the show will be the rare White-headed Duck, which is likely to be found in a small raft of individuals, tails aloft! Here, we may well also find the scarce Ferruginous Duck as well as Greater Flamingo, impressive numbers of Common Cranes, White Storks, bold Western Swamphens, tiny Eurasian Penduline Tits and colourful Bluethroats. We will also visit a nearby castle, which will not only provide a scenic detour, but an excellent opportunity to find the regionally endemic Black Wheatear as well as Rock Sparrow and Blue Rock Thrush, and we will also seek out the impressive Eurasian Eagle Owl at one of its known breeding sites.

Birdquest has operated Southern Spain birding tours since 1983.

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

Walking: The walking effort during our Southern Spain birding tour is easy throughout.

Climate: Many days at this season are dry and sunny, though it is often cool to cold early in the day. There may be wet and overcast spells at times.

Bird Photography: Opportunities during our Southern Spain birding tour are good.


PRICE INFORMATION

Birdquest Inclusions: Our tour prices include surface transportation, accommodations, meals and entrance fees.

We also include all tipping for accommodation/restaurant staff.

Deposit: £180, $230, €200.

TO BOOK THIS TOUR: Click here (you will need the tour dates and deposit amount)


2020: £1540, $2010, €1790. Madrid/Madrid.
2021: provisional £1540, $2010, €1790. Madrid/Madrid.

Single Supplement: 2020: £180, $230, €210.
Single Supplement: 2021: £180, $230, €210.

The single supplement will not apply if you indicate on booking that you prefer to share a room and there is a room-mate of the same sex available.

This tour is priced in Euros. Amounts shown in other currencies are indicative.

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

IBERIAN LYNX & BIRDS OF SOUTHERN SPAIN BIRDING TOUR: DETAILED ITINERARY

Iberian Lynx & Birds of Southern Spain: Day 1  The tour begins in the morning at Madrid airport, from where we will drive southwards to Andújar for a five nights stay. As we drive south, we are sure to notice good numbers of Red Kites overhead, whilst the range-restricted Spotless Starlings use the roadside wires as convenient perches.

Other more widespread species we are likely to notice as we make good progress on the excellent roads are likely to include Common Buzzard, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Rock Dove, Common Wood Pigeon, Eurasian Collared Dove, Common Kestrel, Carrion Crow, Common Starling and House Sparrow.

We will break our journey south of Aldea del Rey at a wonderfully scenic castle which dominates the local landscape. Here we will look for the chunky regionally endemic Black Wheatear hopping on the rocks, and will also keep a look out on the castle walls for the smart Rock Sparrow. Other species we may well see in the local area include Red-billed Chough, Western Jackdaw, Eurasian Crag Martin, Black Redstart, the smart Blue Rock Thrush, the chunky Hawfinch, and attractive Rock and Cirl Buntings. Later we will continue to our lovely rural hotel in Andújar.

Iberian Lynx & Birds of Southern Spain: Days 2-5  The Iberian Lynx is currently believed to be the World’s rarest cat species. From a population of around 3000 in 1960, the population dwindled to a low of around 100 in 2005. Since then, intensive conservation measures, coupled with a reintroduction programme, has seen the population increased again, and by 2015, the population had recovered to more than 400 individuals. The splendid Sierra de Andújar has always been a stronghold of this spectacular feline (it’s not one of the reintroduction areas), and in recent years has offered interested parties a unique opportunity to see this wonderful cat in the wild. By working our way along a few kilometres of dirt road, overlooking the attractive cork oak dehesa habitat, we have an excellent chance of seeing a lynx or two, and we have allowed a good deal of time to make our dreams come true. At the best times, during the mating season (which should coincide with our visit) the lynxes are much more active during daylight, and there can be several lynx sightings daily, sometimes at quite close range; but of course, as with any wildlife, nothing is certain!

Whilst scanning for lynxes, we will be impressed by the numbers of raptors present in the area. Spanish Imperial Eagle are frequently visible, sometimes displaying spectacularly whilst emitting their loud barking calls, or sat atop a cork oak. As the day warms, and the thermals form, Griffon and a few Cinereous Vultures can often be seen overhead, and these are sometimes joined by a Golden Eagle.

Real wild Red-legged Partridges are not infrequent, and the lightly wooded slopes are also home to smart Iberian Green Woodpeckers, Iberian Grey Shrikes, Iberian (Azure-winged) Magpie (large flocks of which sometimes draw attention to a passing lynx!), melodious Thekla’s Larks, charismatic Sardinian and Dartford Warblers and Short-toed Treecreeper.

More widespread species likely in the area include Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Little Owl, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Eurasian Jay, Eurasian Magpie, European Crested, Eurasian Blue and Great Tits, Woodlark, Long-tailed Tit (of the interesting subspecies taiti), Eurasian Blackcap, Common Blackbird, European Robin, Common Chiffchaff, Common Firecrest, Eurasian Wren, Eurasian Nuthatch, Song and Mistle Thrushes, the introduced Common Waxbill, Dunnock, Grey Wagtail, Meadow Pipit, Common Chaffinch and Eurasian Siskin.

In some winters a Wallcreeper has wintered in the area, and although unlikely, we will give it a look, and we may also be fortunate enough to come across one of the scarcer species such as Bonelli’s Eagle or Great Spotted Cuckoo, the latter an extremely early migrant! We are also likely to find other mammals in the area. Red and Fallow Deers are both common, introduced but impressive Moufflon are occasionally spotted roaming the hillsides, and, on some rocky slopes, we will seek out Spanish Ibex. In a nearby area, we have a chance of finding the secretive European Otter, whilst at night, we may well find the introduced Common Genet and Tawny Owl (the interesting population here resembles the North African ‘Maghreb’ Tawny Owl in many respects).

Our day to day activities will be to some degree determined by the weather and our success with finding the Iberian Lynx. We are likely to make one or two day excursions back towards the Ciudad Real area. Here we will explore two quite different areas. The somewhat barren, agricultural areas to the south of town are home to good numbers of ‘steppe’ birds, and here we will seek out impressive flocks of Little Bustards and Pin-tailed Sandgrouse (sometimes to be seen swirling around in incredible mixed flocks numbering in the 100s!!), as well as smaller numbers of delightful Black-bellied Sandgrouse and immense Great Bustards!

In this landscape, Calandra Larks are common and we are also likely to come across European Golden Plovers (which are occasionally joined by Eurasian Dotterel), flocks of seed-eating species are dominated by European Greenfinch, Common Linnet, European Goldfinch, European Serin and Corn Buntings, whilst Western Marsh Harriers and perhaps even a Northern Goshawk may be seen hunting across the area. Granada Hare is also likely here.

Iberian Lynx & Birds of Southern Spain: Day 6  After some final birding or mammal watching in the Andújar area, we will make our way back north towards Ciudad Real for an overnight stay.

Time permitting, we will begin our exploration of the excellent wetlands near to Ciudad Real (if we’ve not already done so on a day trip from Andújar). Prime targets in the rich wetlands of the area include the superb but globally declining White-headed Duck, the scarce Ferruginous Duck, Greater Flamingo, White Stork, the range-restricted Western Swamphen, the smart Eurasian Penduline Tit, and, with luck, we’ll see a Bluethroat feeding along the muddy margins of the reeds. Large numbers of Common Cranes winter in the area, and we should connect with plenty of these, whilst open country is home to good numbers of smart Spanish Sparrows as well as Eurasian Hoopoe and Crested Lark.

Other species likely in the area include Greylag Goose, Common Shelduck, Northern Shoveler, Gadwall, Mallard, Northern Pintail, Eurasian Teal, Common Pochard, Little and Black-necked (or Eared) Grebes, Western Cattle Egret, Grey Heron, Little Egret, Great Cormorant, Common Moorhen, Eurasian Coot, Black-winged Stilt, Northern Lapwing, Ruff, Common Snipe, Black-headed Gull, Whiskered Tern, Common Kingfisher, Cetti’s Warbler, European Stonechat, White Wagtail, the furtive Water Pipit and Common Reed Bunting. More tricky species here include Water Rail and Moustached Warbler, though we will certainly keep an eye open for them.

Iberian Lynx & Birds of Southern Spain: Day 7  After some final birding in the Ciudad Real area (targeting any species we’ve not yet found), we will make our way back towards Madrid, making a concerted effort to see the impressive Eurasian Eagle Owl at a known nest site on the way. If time and weather permits, we will detour to the north of Madrid for a look for Citril Finch (as well as Northern Raven, Coal Tit and Red Crossbill) before making our way back to Madrid Airport where the tour ends in the early evening.


Other southern and central Europe birding tours by Birdquest include:

Brown

Europe & Surroundings

HUNGARY & TRANSYLVANIA

Red-breasted

Europe & Surroundings

HUNGARY’S HORTOBÁGY