Julian Sykes Wildlife Holidays

Extremadura & Castilla La Mancha

CabanerosExtremadura is world famous amongst naturalists and birdwatchers with its incredible diversity and sheer numbers. In early Spring Great Bustards will be performing their bizarre 'foam bath' display, Little Bustards could still be in their winter flocks alongside Pin tailed & Black bellied Sandgrouse. Migrant breeding birds will be arriving on a daily basis with raucous Great Spotted Cuckoos being chased by their main host – Magpies. We shall watch the aerial display of Lesser Kestrels hawking insects around the famous ‘bull ring’ of historic Trujillo - home of the Conquistadors. Then there’s our day in arguably Spain’s premier National Park – Monfrague. Its jagged limestone peaks and rolling hills are constantly patrolled by vultures, eagles and kites including the rare and endangered Spanish Imperial Eagle. Our day here also includes a dusk visit for Eagle Owl, which have bred on the pinnacle of Portilla de Tietar for many years. Extremadura has it all!

Conversely the wetlands of La Mancha will hold good numbers of Greater Flamingos, wildfowl, waders and usually a few surprises along with a visit to the Gigantes (Windmills) on the 'Ruta de Don Quixote'. One of the week’s highlights will be a memorable half day in the little-known reserve of Los Cabañeros, a haven for birds (especially raptors) and mammals, as we traverse this 'Serengeti of Spain' in special vehicles getting us to the more remote inaccessible areas of this National Park.

seasonal poolDay 1:- A flight into Madrid Airport where you will be met by your guide and after loading the mini-bus we head south into Castilla La Mancha stopping for a break or lunch before reaching our first night accommodation in Mota del Cuervo. This is the home of the 'Gigantes' made eternally famous by Dantes novel - Don Quixote and as part of the day we will visit their site. This area is superb for birds with extensive agricultural fields and vineyards, which hold many steppe species such as Great & Little Bustard, Pin tailed Sandgrouse, Stone Curlew, Lesser Kestrel and possibly Montagu's Harrier. There are also a fantastic network of lagoons in the area and we shall endeavour to visit the best of these that will include Manvajacas and Pedro Munoz where we will find Black necked Grebes, Greater Flamingos, White Stork, White headed Duck, Marsh & Hen Harriers, waders, Gull billed Terns, Penduline Tit, Savi's & Cetti's Warblers.

Pin-tailed SandgrouseDay 2:- After breakfast we go to Miguel Estaban another of this area's excellent wetlands, which can be very good for Pin tailed Sandgrouse and Great Spotted Cuckoos as well as White Stork, waders & wildfowl. Slowly we will head west stopping at more lagoons on-route, previous stops here have produced Lesser Flamingo, Glossy Ibis, and Garganey. After lunch we will go to one of Castilla-la Mancha's most important wetlands 'Tablas de Daimiel', at this time of year birds could include Grey Lag Geese, Common Cranes,, Marsh Harrier, Purple Gallinule, Water Rail, Bearded Tit, Reed Bunting, Spanish Sparrows, Savi's, Cetti's & Moustached Warblers. Finally we head for Alcoba and if time allows we will call into the hide situated on the edge of 'Los Cabañeros Reserve', and we should see Black & Griffon Vultures, Azure winged Magpie, Great Spotted Cuckoo, and Spanish Sparrows.

Black VultureDay 3:- An early start as we swap transport for a special 4 x 4 vehicle, which will take us on safari for the morning. Apart from the main road that runs through the reserve vehicular access to here is restricted to this type of transport (or walking) and strictly governed. The huge plains and rolling hills, with Red Deer, Red Fox & Wild Boar and a very high concentration of raptors with reputedly 120+ pairs of Black Vulture alone, plus Spanish Imperial, Golden & Short toed Eagles, Lapwing, Little Bustard, Southern Grey Shrike, Jay and Corn Bunting. After lunch our next destination will be Embalse de Garcia de Sola, hoping to see the resident Bonelli’s Eagles, and possibly Griffon & Egyptian Vultures, Sparrowhawk, Peregrine, Raven, and Cattle Egrets. We drive into Extremadura and to our accommodation for the next five nights, a beautiful 'casa rural' situated just outside Trujillo, surrounded by some wonderful countryside with some excellent walks. At night we shall listen and look for singing Scop's Owl with a chance of also finding a Long eared Owl, which roost nearby.

Great BustardDays 4, 5, 6 & 7:- The next four days will be spent visiting some of the very best of sites in Extremadura such as Monfrague National Park, Santa Marta de Magasca, the Zorita Plains, Vegas Altas, Jaraicejo Heath,  Embalse de Arrocampo, and the Belen Plains. Some time will be spent in Trujillo's main square where we will see some lovely architecture along with nesting Lesser Kestrels, White Storks and Jackdaws.

The steppes can be simply outstanding with species gathering into large groups on the extensive rolling plains with Great & Little Bustard, Black-bellied & Pin-tailed Sandgrouse, Stone Curlew, Great Spotted Cuckoo and Southern Grey Shrikes being some of our targets.

Extremadura is home to huge numbers of raptors, which include Griffon Black & Egyptian Vultures, Spanish Imperial, Golden & Bonelli's Eagles, Red & Black Shouldered Kites, Marsh & Hen Harriers, Lesser Kestrel and Peregrine all of which can be found with a little vigilance.

Amongst the limestone crags we should find an Eagle Owl (on the nest), Black Stork, Rock & Cirl Buntings, Black Wheatear, Blue Rock Thrush, Crag Martin, and Black Redstart, and in the dehesa we look for Hawfinch, Woodlark, Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Short toed Treecreeper, Nuthatch, Firecrest, Crested & Long tailed Tits.

The Embalse de Arrocampo will also produce some extra quality species such as Purple Gallinule, Great White Egret, Night & Purple Heron, Spoonbill, Penduline Tit, Cetti's & Savi's Warblers, this area has undergone some excellent habitat management and makes up one of Spain's premier wetland sites.  

Day 8:- This morning we repack the minibus and return to Madrid in good time for the flight back to Britain.

The first two nights in Castilla La Mancha are spent in a local hotel and hostal both with en-suite facilities and very close to the best wildlife sites of the area. Our last five nights are spent in one of the best rural hotels in Spain overlooking the historic city of Trujillo. The grounds themselves are a haven for wildlife and each day will produce something new and special amongst the dehesa and olive groves. Add to this the most wonderful hosts, fabulous local cuisine and wine, you simply have the perfect accommodation for this holiday.

What's been said...

Once again many, many thanks for such a wonderful week seeing so many different species. You asked for highlights - well here they are:

The place - Parc National de Cabeneros at dawn. Such a wonderful place with such a wide variety of wildlife, birds, mammals and plants etc. Your contact the guide was also very good with as you said eyes like a hawk seeing things even when I knew where they were, were still not straight forward to see. I would say that it would be a good thing to continue doing what you do by having the first couple of days in Castilla etc. It does widen the range of ecosystems and hence the range of wildlife available to see.

The species - it is not always the large birds BUT this time there were some very impressive large birds - all the vultures, Spanish Imperial Eagle and the Eagle Owl as well as Great & Little Bustard. However I was just as captivated by the Dartford & Sub-alpine Warblers their markings and colouration being wonderful, and of course the Great Spotted Cuckoos.

Generally your care and concern about how you look after us all. The hotel in Extremadura - you could not have found a better place to stay. Juan Pedro & Belen are such wonderful hosts (not hotel owners) but just sharing their magnificent home with guests. We were really REALLY impressed with the hotel. Once again the whole holiday was wonderful, very many thanks for such a great time and ALL your care and consideration over the whole time we were with.you.

M & J Neal

Just about finished going through our birding lists but thought we ought to let you know about our highlights :-
Firstly we would like to thank you for guiding us through an excellent birding and wildlife experience. It's brilliant how Spain has managed to avoid the tragic human intervention that has devastated the wildlife of other parts of Europe over the last century or so, especially the UK.
Highlights are difficult to pick out as it was all so good. However Anne just loved the Barn Owl lit up by the torches. For me the Golden Eagles with all the other raptors were pretty special and the Daimiel National Park was an amazing place especially so when we saw the Marbled Duck. The fact that we got 11 lifers is incredible and that will take some beating in Europe!

S & A Poole

Thank you for a fantastic week. When I got back and checked my records there were 8 new species which was incredible! By some measure my best birding holiday in Spain - great birds with superb views, a racing wild boar and a splendid group who got on very well together. We all appreciated not only the birding but also the taste of Spain eg in the lunch stops.

C Byrne

We are still enjoying the afterglow of a wonderful trip that has inspired us both to do a number of things, not least work out when we can get on another one! Your guiding was out of the top drawer, your enthusiasm is remarkable, and your patience is astonishing. Thank you so much. We were not able to give you as much, as a token of our appreciation as we would have wished.

M & W Ball

Thank you for the brilliant week, in spite of some identification difficulties on our part the week was brilliant both bird-wise and socially.  Just how many birds we saw and positively (with help) identified wasn't really evident until we got home and entered them on the computer. The list just went on and on with some stellar birds everyday and one memorable owl walk. Most organisations these days seem to require their customers to answer a questionnaire at the conclusion of their holiday. For your information the only thing which really bugged us all and probably put a damper on the Saturday was the idiotic Spanish Traffic Cop. But then I suppose this could be a further example of Spanish feral wild life.

R & A Chisholm-batten

Jules is the perfect blend of expert birder and good tour leader; his knowledge of the birds of Spain is extensive, and his skill in locating and identifying them, second to none!  Our trip with him was highly enjoyable and great fun.  I rate him up there with the best, and recommend his trips to anyone.

A. Skiffington


Cost £1395pp
Based on sharing a twin/double room.

Single Supplement - £130
Deposit - £200
Maximum Group Size - 6

Price Includes:

  • 7 nights in excellent hotels all with en-suite facilities.
  • All meals
  • Transport costs
  • 4 x 4 safari
  • Potential trip list with daily check list.
  • Information travel pack
  • Use of field guides covering the area

Price does not Include:

  • Flights to Madrid
  • Travel and contents insurance.
  • Drinks except water
  • Extra refreshments to normal meal times.
  • Items of a personal nature.
  • Tips & gratuities

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

16th - 23rd April 2015

(see icon guide)

Target Species:

  • Little Bittern
  • Great White Egret
  • Black Stork
  • White headed Duck
  • Black shouldered Kite
  • Black Vulture
  • Egyptian Vulture
  • Spanish Imperial Eagle
  • Bonelli's Eagle
  • Golden Eagle
  • Lesser Kestrel
  • Purple Gallinule
  • Great Bustard
  • Little Bustard
  • Pin tailed Sandgrouse
  • Blk bellied Sandgrouse
  • Great Spotted Cuckoo
  • Eagle Owl
  • Scop's Owl
  • Calandra Lark
  • Black Wheatear
  • Moustached Warbler
  • Penduline Tit
  • Azure winged Magpie
  • Rock Bunting
  • Wild Boar
  • Red Deer
  • Red Fox
  • Iberian Hare
  • Occellated Lizard

© Julian Sykes Wildlife Holidays 2011.

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