Spain is the country with the highest birding diversity in Europe. This birding tour starts in Madrid, the Spanish capital, and visits Extremadura, the arid Ebro valley plains, the high Pyrenees and the Ebro Delta wetlands to get a complete yet concise look at the rich bird life and scenery of this western European country. The tour concludes in Barcelona, the cosmopolitan capital of Catalonia, home of Gaudi and the Ramblas.
DAY 1: From Madrid to Monfragüe
We will start the tour with a morning rendezvous at your Madrid hotel and commence the transfer to Extremadura. Birding en-route should take us to the vicinity of the Sierra de Gredos Mountains, where we can search for some of the regional specialities. The inclusion of the Sierra de Gredos route on the first day allows us the possibility of seeing Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Whitethroat, Dunnock, Dartford Warbler, Subalpine Warbler and Bluethroat. We will complete our day’s journey by arriving at our hotel on the edge of the Monfragüe National Park. The approximate travel time of this route between Madrid and our hotel is 5 hours.
DAY 2: The Monfragüe National Park
We will spend all day birding the rocky crags and wooded slopes of the National Park of Monfragüe, rich in raptors, and the surrounding cork and holm oak dehesa. There is also the possibility of visiting a bird-rich reservoir, one of Extremadura’s most interesting wetlands. This area is raptor heaven, with the endemic Spanish Imperial Eagle, Golden Eagle, Booted Eagle, Bonelli’s Eagle and Short-toed Eagle, Egyptian Vulture, Black Vulture, Griffon Vulture, Black-winged Kite, Red Kite, Black Kite, Peregrine Falcon, Hobby, Montagu’s Harrier, Western Marsh Harrier, Lesser Kestrel and Common Buzzard.
Other interesting birds that we could see in the park include Blue Rock Thrush, Short-toed Treecreeper, Mistle Thrush, Rock Bunting, Little Owl, Red-rumped Swallow, Eurasian Wren and Great Spotted Woodpecker.
Other regional and Mediterranean specialities in Extremadura include birds such as Pallid Swift, Iberian Magpie, Spanish Sparrow, Black Stork, White Stork, European Bee-eater, Hawfinch, Rock Bunting, Orphean Warbler and more.
DAY 3: The Cáceres plains
Today we will be birding the extensive, flowery plains of Cáceres in search of a variety of steppe land and plains birds. Our main targets will be Great and Little Bustard as well as Black-bellied and Pin-tailed Sandgrouse. Other birds we will look for include Short-toed and Calandra Lark, Great Spotted Cuckoo, European Roller and Little Owl. This will be complemented with a visit to Trujillo to admire the historic town centre, as well as its colonies of Lesser Kestrel, White Stork and Pallid Swift.
DAY 4: From Monfragüe to the Ebro valley
We take leave of Extremadura today and transfer to our next base at Lécera, in the Ebro Valley, with a travel time of about 6 hours. We will incorporate a few strategic rest and birding stops en-route, nevertheless most of the day we will be driving to our next destination.
DAY 5: The Ebro valley
This is the ideal occasion to make a pre-breakfast birding outing to the steppes, in the hope of seeing the rare and elusive Dupont’s Lark, among others. Then after a well-earned breakfast we’ll be birding all day around a mosaic of steppes, gorges, river valleys and farmland to see a surprising range and variety of interesting and possibly quite rare birds. Here we look for bustards, sandgrouse and larks, including Lesser Short-toed Lark, Skylark and Thekla Lark. We will also hope for others such as Red-legged Partridge, Blue Rock Thrush, Tawny Pipit, Black-eared Wheatear, Black Wheatear, Dartford Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Spectacled Warbler, Iberian Grey Shrike, and Red-billed Chough. Riverside and woodland birds along the Ebro Valley often include Iberian Green Woodpecker, Penduline Tit, Cetti’s Warbler, Common Kingfisher, Grey Wagtail, Short-toed Treecreeper, Melodious Warbler, Golden Oriole, and Cirl Bunting.
DAY 6: From the Ebro valley to the Pyrenees
Today we have the option of another pre-breakfast outing to a nearby gorge and then we head northwards to transfer to our next base in the Pyrenees, birding en-route. We traverse a diverse array of landscapes and habitats today, from dry, open plains, past vertical rock faces, forested slopes, river valleys and into the high Pyrenees.
DAY 7: The Pyrenees Mountains and valleys
Today we will spend the whole day birding the high mountain areas in Spain and into France. We will be looking for some of the key mountain birds of forest, rock faces and slopes. The spectacular mountain scenery is populated with some special birds such as Lammergeier, Wallcreeper, Black Woodpecker, Wryneck, Scop’s Owl, Eurasian Nightjar, Alpine Accentor, Water Pipit, Tree Pipit, Ring Ouzel, White-throated Dipper, Rock Thrush, Marsh Tit, Crested Tit, Bullfinch, Western Bonelli’s Warbler, Goldcrest, Firecrest, Red-backed Shrike, Red Crossbill, Alpine Chough, Citril Finch, Ortolan Bunting and many more.
DAY 8: The Pyrenees Mountains and valleys
Another day’s birding in the lush green landscapes of the Pyrenees of Navarra will allow us to seek out some of the elusive forest birds, including Black and White-backed Woodpeckers.
DAY 9: From the Pyrenees to the Ebro Delta
Today we leave the Pyrenees and head to the Ebro Delta, with a total driving time of about 5 hours. Birding en-route, we have a last opportunity to see more birds of the Pyrenees in the morning, then plains, farmland and river valleys in the afternoon before reaching the Ebro Delta.
DAY 10: The Ebro Delta.
This is the day we dedicate almost exclusively to the many wetland birds that can be found among the lagoons, rice fields, bays, reedbeds and marshes of the Ebro Delta. We will be looking out for gulls, ducks, waders, seabirds and terns. Some of the bird species we might see are: Audouin’s Gull, Slender-billed Gull, Mediterranean Gull, Red Crested Pochard, Common Shelduck, Black-winged Stilt, Collared Pratincole, Kentish Plover, Greater Flamingo, Little Bittern, Squacco Heron, Purple Heron, Purple Swamphen, Glossy Ibis, Water Rail, Red-necked Nightjar, Yellow Wagtail, Great Reed Warbler, Savi’s Warbler and Whiskered Tern.
DAY 11: Morning pelagic cruise off the Mediterranean coast. Afternoon birding in the Ebro Delta.
This morning we will take a chartered vessel and sail out into the Mediterranean Sea in the hope of encountering a good number of seabirds such as skuas, shearwaters and more. We will be looking out for Balearic Shearwater, Yelkouan Shearwater, Cory’s Shearwater, Great Skua, Arctic Skua, Storm Petrel, Shag and Northern Gannet. In the afternoon we can catch up on some birds in the Ebro Delta or one of the coastal massifs in the vicinity.
The Ebro Delta should be very productive and we can enjoy great views of Mediterranean, Audouin’s, Slender-billed, Lesser Black-backed, Black-headed and Yellow-legged Gulls, Little, Common, Sandwich, Gull-billed and breeding Whiskered Terns. Some waders that can be seen are Bar-tailed and Black-tailed Godwit, Eurasian Curlew, Eurasian Oystercatcher, Ruddy Turnstone, Dunlin, Sanderling, Kentish Plover, Grey, Little Ringed and Common Ringed Plover and Common Redshank. Mallard, Gadwall, Common Shelduck, Red-crested Pochard, Little and Great Crested Grebe, European, Great Reed, Savi’s, Ceti’s Warblers and Greater Flamingo.
DAY 12: From the Ebro Delta to Barcelona
We’ll probably do some final morning birding in the Ebro Delta before our transfer to Barcelona, with a total transfer time of about 2 hours. If convenient we will also look in on the Llobregat Delta reserve on the edge of Barcelona city. We plan for an afternoon arrival at the city hotel, where the tour concludes.