Julian Sykes Wildlife Holidays

Plains & Picos de Europa

The Picos de Europa got there name from the early sea travellers crossing the Bay of Biscay and these high jagged peaks being the first land they caught sight of. This is a wonderful time to visit the Picos de Europa not only for the birds but also the butterflies and flowers, which are in their full glory. The scenery alone is worth the visit with it's spectacular karst limestone mountains, some of which will still have snow on them. The birds at this time are still quite vocal with most species now feeding young and some having already left the nest.

Sepulveda is another of Spàin's secret gems rarely visited by people outside of the Iberian Peninsular. The Hoces del Rio Duraton reserve is a deep river gorge surrounded by open areas of fragrant herbs and flowers, which hold many special birds, most notably Dupont's Lark - one of Spain's most 'difficult to see' species. The reserve also holds a huge concentration of raptors and can be a constant aerial distraction of vultures and eagles.

Dupont's LarkDay 1:- After everyone has safely arrived at Madrid Airport we pack up the mini-bus and head to the agricultural plains adjacent to the Rio Jarama just north of Madrid. The cultivated fields here hold good populations of Great Bustard, Black bellied Sandgrouse, Montagu's Harriers, Crested Larks, Bee-eaters, Woodchat & Southern Grey Shrikes. After lunch we continue north for a short distance to Pantones de Abajo and another short walk up this tiny ravine to it's sister village Pantones de Abajo potentially the 'Brigadoon' of Spain as it's so hidden away. The walk could be interesting hopefully producing a few special species such as Black Wheatear, Black Redstart, Melodious & Sardinian Warblers, Blue Rock Thrush, Rock Sparrow, Cirl & Rock Buntings, After some refreshment in the village we shall make our way back to the mini-bus and finally head off to our overnight accommodation on the outskirts of Sepulveda. If time allows we might make the short journey to the Parque Natural del Rio Duraton searching this special landscape for our first Dupont's Lark. Night in Sepulveda.

Red KiteDay 2:-  Today we spend a full day in the Sepulveda area. Before breakfast we will drive to the Parque Natural del Rio Duraton to try again to locate the mythical Dupont's Lark, of which there is a healthy population and can be found making their distinctive song from a low vantage point. After breakfast we continue searching this excellent natural park an it's many diverse habitats and wildlife, with an easy walk to the Ermita de San Fruta. A raptor watchpoint en-route will produce fantastic views of Griffon Vultures as they pass close by below where we are standing, along with this the walk could produce our first Short toed & Booted Eagles, Egyptian Vultures, Peregrine, Thekla & Woodlarks, Tawny Pipit, Western Orphean, Dartford & Spectacled Warblers, Rock Sparrow, Northern & Black eared Wheatears. Later in the day we shall make a short walk through one of the many deciduous woodlands looking for Azure winged Magpie, Golden Oriole, Spotted Flycatcher, Cuckoo, Great Spotted & Iberian Green Woodpeckers, Short toed Treecreeper, Garden, Melodious & Western Bonelli's Warblers, Wryneck and Nightingale. We shall also visit the Rio Duraton looking for damselflies (Beautiful Demoiselle, Southern Damselfly) and butterflies (Heath Fritillary, Pale Clouded Yellow, Silver studded & Mazarine Blues).

Short-toed EagleDay 3:- If necessary we shall make a pre-breakfast visit to the Hoces del Rio Duraton searching for Dupont's Lark. However after breakfast we shall once again load the minibus and head north to the natural park of Fuentes Carriones, which form part of the Cordillera Cantabria mountain range. On the south side we will stop for lunch at Cervera del Rio Pisguera, plus we shall have a walk along the river looking for Dipper, Grey & White Wagtails, Cetti's Warbler, Blackcap, Crag & House Martins, Long tailed & Blue Tits. The last part of the journey is slow, but scenery is breath-taking with it's steep tree-clad slopes and rugged mountain tops, which should bring plenty of soaring raptors with a chance of Honey Buzzard or Goshawk over the mature forests. The cultivated areas in the south should also produce White Storks, Red Kites, Bee-eaters, Raven and our first gorgeous Red backed Shrikes sat on the roadside wires or bushes. Aiming to arrive at Potes late afternoon, which will give us a chance to freshen up before possibly a short walk from the guesthouse, which could produce Egyptian Vulture, Short toed & Booted Eagle, Middle Spotted Woodpecker, Common & Black Redstart, Wryneck, Nuthatch, Spotted Flycatcher and Cirl Bunting. Finally we shall relax on Casa Gustavo's balcony with a welcome drink watching the many birds go before delighting in one of Lisa & Mike's gorgeous evening meals. The next four nights will be spent at the charming Casa Gustavo.

Pasque FlowerDays 4 - 7:- Four full days will be spent in the very best areas around the Picos de Europa with one day travelling up to Fuente De. We then will take the cable car to the very top of the mountain and walk slowly back down looking for it's specialist alpine species such as Wallcreeper, Alpine Accentor, Snowfinch, Alpine Choughs, Red tailed Rock Thrushes, Golden Eagle and Peregrine Falcon. Other sites will include the Sierra de Bejes, La Hermida Gorge, Liebana, and the spectacular Cares Gorge, looking for Honey Buzzard, Short toed & Booted Eagles, Goshawk, Middle Spotted & Iberian Green Woodpeckers, Alpine Swift, Spotted & Pied Flycatchers, Water & Tree Pipits, Western Bonelli's, Garden & Melodious Warblers, Wryneck, Firecrest, Rock & Cirl Buntings. In addition to birds we will also be Golden Eaglelooking for more of the varied wildlife which occurs here, such as Snow Vole, Rebeco (local form of Chamois), Red Squirrel, Alpine & Marbled Newts, Mid wife Toad, plus awesome butterflies (Piedmont & Lefbrevve's Ringlets, Gavarnie Blue) and flowers (Alpine Pasque Flower, Trumpet & Spring Gentians, Burnt, Tongue, Lizard, Common Spotted & Early Purple Orchids) that inhabit the alpine meadows. The National Park can offer so much more with populations of Brown Bear, Iberian Wolf, Capercaillie and Lammergeier but are extremely difficult to find, however we could get lucky - and all within a backdrop of breath-taking scenery, which certainly makes the journey worthwhile on it's own.

Day 8:- We pack up the mini-bus for the last time make the short journey to either Santander or Bilbao Airports (depending on flights) giving everyone plenty of time to catch their flight back home.

A two-centre holiday offering a stylish, well appointed hotel with en-suite facilities, to a converted, family run “home away from home”. Set near the centre of the Picos, both give added value to this varied & interesting holiday.

What's been said...

Thanks, Julian. Hope you have a good drive home... and thanks, again for that wonderful discovery of those beautiful birds! I've enjoyed the trip tremendously! Take care and hope to make another trip with you in near future!


We would like to thank you for the Picos experience. We both really enjoyed the trip - for the places we visited and stayed, and the great new birds that we saw. Sorry, but we both agree that the stunning views of the hunting Montagu's was our bird of the trip. We also very much appreciate the patience and courtesy you show us in bird spotting and identification. It is a real privilege to have your guiding. We realise that the birding could have been even better, but that only makes us more keen to go back at another time. We also recognise that the birding opportunities were restricted by the physical disabilities of some, not least Wendy and she will be much more mobile for our next trip with you soon. So thank you again for a great trip.

M & W Ball

Hi Jules. Just a quick message to say thanks once more for a great trip - good birds, nice company and beautiful scenery, here's to the next one and hopefully many more.

J Beever

Thanks for a brilliant trip. Shirley thoroughly enjoyed herself, far more than she imagined she would, having not expected to be able to do any walks at all, and certainly had not expected the climbs she was able to make! I have reviewed my notes and over the week I recorded 121 species seen, 29 of which were lifers, and another 4 heard. Not bad for a week in such a small area, and the views we were able to get were superb. So you more than reached your target of 25 new species for me for the week!!!.

M & S Gostling

Hi mate, just letting you know we are home safe and well, and thanking you very much once again for a great time you showed us both birdwatching. Please thank Jill for us and also give her our love. I will keep in touch and we hope to join you again in the not too distant future. All the very best once again (even if you are from bloody Yorkshire!).

J & J Murray

Hi Jules, A returned thanks from me for another "fun-filled" birding adventure!. The Wallcreeper pics are great! Bird of the trip closely followed by that impressive wing clapping Honey Buzzard. I shall be in contact re another WP trip very soon!.

C Smart

Hi Jules, Just a quick email to thank you once again for a very enjoyable week, as well as the 5 lifers l added another 65 to my year list (l really must get out more) I must admit that my I'd skills aren't as good as they were, so some revision will be needed before my next trip. Anyway take care, and keep me informed of future trips

A Moorhouse


Cost £1490
Based on sharing a twin/double room.

Single Supplement - £110
Deposit - £200
Maximum Group Size - 6

Price Includes:

  • 7 nights at local hostels with ensuite facilities
  • All meals plus drinks.
  • All transport costs
  • Cable car tickets at Fuente De (one return)
  • Potential trip list with daily check list.
  • Use of field guides covering the area

Price does not Include:

  • Flights to Spain
  • Travel and contents insurance.
  • Extra refreshments to normal meal times.
  • Items of a personal nature.

Flights are not included in the prices quoted, however we are more than happy to help with finding suitable flights.

Train Travel - Train travel possible

4th - 11th June 2017
(see icon guide)

Target Species:

  • Black Kite
  • Egyptian Vulture
  • Golden Eagle
  • Short toed Eagle
  • Booted Eagle
  • Montagu's Harrier
  • Honey Buzzard
  • Hobby
  • Lesser Kestrel
  • Great Bustard
  • Blk bellied Sandgrouse
  • Scop's Owl
  • Middle Spotted Woodpecker
  • Black Woodpecker
  • Dupont's Lark
  • Calandra Lark
  • Short toed Lark
  • Thekla Lark
  • Tawny Pipit
  • Water Pipit
  • Dipper
  • Alpine Accentor
  • Black eared Wheatear
  • Red tailed Rock Thrush
  • Western Orphean Warbler
  • Spectacled Warbler
  • Iberian Chiffchaff
  • Azure winged Magpie
  • Alpine Chough
  • Wallcreeper
  • Snowfinch
  • Rock Bunting
  • Rebeco (Southern Chamois)
  • Snow Vole
  • Roe Deer
  • Red Squirrel
  • Palmate Newt
  • Alpine Newt
  • Mid-wife Toad
  • Iberian Rock Lizard
  • Spring Gentians
  • Trumpet Gentians

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