These steep-sided valleys and the flanks of crag-topped mountain ridges snaking across the landscape provide innumerable nooks and crannies in a space large enough for species requiring a quiet corner in an ever more intensive modern world. This is the land of serene great bustards and awe-inspiring cinereous vultures, plus a host of other rare and declining steppic and forest birds.
Indeed, a quick look at the birds present reveals its enormous wealth and importance on the international level, with the great majority of the region recognised as an Internationally Important Bird Area (IBA). The vast swathes of flowery grasslands, which from late winter into spring turn from white, through golden yellow to deep purple given a succession of the more abundant plant species, are still home to often colourful gems such as Montagu’s harrier, little bustard, pin-tailed and black-bellied sandgrouse, great spotted cuckoo, European roller, European bee-eater and calandra lark.
The mountains in particular provide breeding sites for many raptors, with some of the greatest concentrations of these magnificent animals anywhere in Europe. Griffon vultures abound, majestic golden eagles, scarce Egyptian vultures and Bonelli’s eagles and feisty peregrine falcons prefer these domains, with spring seeing the return of plentiful short-toed snake and booted eagles as well. Rare Spanish imperial eagles are present in the wooded lowland areas, and lesser kestrels populate the small towns and farms in the more open areas. The list of birds just goes on and on, with the abundance of large birds of special note, including shy black storks in the deeper valleys, white storks just about everywhere and, in winter, a profusion of bugling common cranes. Flocks of gorgeous Iberian magpies are a sight in themselves!
Spring sees the smaller birds at their smartest, with Iberian grey and woodchat shrikes, crested, Thekla’s and wood larks, Eurasian hoopoe, Sardinian, Dartford, Subalpine and spectacled warblers, blue rock thrush, smart black wheatear, abundant common nightingale, furtive short-toed treecreeper and rock and cirl buntings all locally adding to the amazing soundscape with their respective songs. Red-rumped swallows and pallid swifts wheel overhead and dapper Spanish and wheezing rock sparrows just add to this remarkable variety. With purple swamphen, little bittern, great egret, Eurasian spoonbill, exquisite bearded reedlings, dainty Eurasian penduline tits, wintering bluethroats and spring arrivals of purple and black-crowned night herons, Savi’s and great reed warblers at one or two wetlands, just to name a few species, it’s no surprising there’s interest virtually year round!
But it’s certainly not only birds which are of interest! The countryside is an agricultural one, with many old olive orchards and livestock drinking ponds providing further variety of habitats, and given a minimal use of herbicides in many areas, in turn provides home for a wealth of flowers and butterflies. Even the large areas of rice fields and associated network of reservoirs for irrigation water have turned into a magnet for birds and dragonflies! Late March coincides with the peak of the orchids flowering the region and along with the displaying great bustards makes a perfect start to the spring. Would you like to come and enjoy it?
Join John on our Secret Wilderness of Extremadura trip. Contact us for more information!