• Great Bustard

Extremadura, Spain – Spring Tour!

Bustards, Sandgrouse and Vultures!

12 May to 19 May 2024

Led by David Lindo In association with Bird’s Wildlife & Nature

About Spain

Spain is by far the most well known destinations in Europe when it comes to wildlife and it brings in birders from all over the world. Extremadura is perhaps the best region in Spain for birding. Situated inland in the southwest of the country, the region butts onto the border of Portugal. The nearest airports are Madrid, Lisbon and Seville.

The local currency is the Euro.

The average daytime temperature at this time of the year will be approximately between 18aC/20aC max (64/68oF) in the afternoons and 8/10 min (46/50oF) at night.

Tour overview

Extremadura, although well known by British birders, is conversely one of the least known regions of Spain – even amongst the Spaniards. The area is twice the size of Wales and is indeed, Spain’s biggest secret.

The region is traditionally known as a spring venue for birding and wildlife watching. Many of the migrants like European Roller and Collared Pratincoles will be just arriving plus, many of the resident birds like Sardinian Warblers and the mighty Black Vultures will be busily breeding. One of the lasting impressions visitors have is the sheer number of birds, everywhere.

Extremadura boasts a wonderful variety of habitats ranging from mixed-farming plains to open managed woodland pasture (dehesas) where the famous black Iberian pigs roam free-range, deep rocky valleys, irrigated lands, reservoirs and mountains. Added to this mix are the beautiful towns and villages that are steeped in history and great for wildlife in their own right. During the time of this tour the landscape will be turning green after the winter rains with beautiful spring flowers in bloom attracting butterflies and dragonflies.

Speciality birds like the Great and Little Bustards, Pin-tailed and Black-bellied Sandgrouse are findable. Everywhere there should be migrant Whinchat, Pied Flycatcher and Willow Warbler with also a good chance of a scarcity.

Passage waders and waterfowl will be moving through the rice fields and reservoirs whilst we will witness feeding frenzies amongst the egrets, storks and gulls that follow the combines and tractors.

Meanwhile, at the world famous Monfragüe National Park, Griffon and Black Vultures drift and there is an opportunity for local Golden or Iberian Imperial Eagles to make an appearance.

We will also aim to visit the charity AMUS to see their amazing work running a bird hospital.

Expected birds

Great Egret, Squacco Heron, White Stork, Black Stork, Eurasian Spoonbill, Black Vulture, Griffon Vulture, Black-winged Kite, Golden Eagle, Iberian Imperial Eagle, Bonelli’s Eagle, Booted Eagle, Purple Swamphen, Black-winged Stilt, Great Bustard, Little Bustard, Pin- tailed Sandgrouse, Black-bellied Sandgrouse, White-rumped Swift, Little Owl, Eagle Owl, Wryneck, Iberian Green Woodpecker, Calandra Lark, Crested Lark, Thekla Lark, Greater Short-toed Lark, Red-rumped Swallow, Tawny Pipit, Blue Rock Thrush, Black Wheatear, Cetti’s Warbler, Western Bonelli’s Warbler, Iberian Chiffchaff, Penduline Tit, Iberian Shrike, Iberian Magpie, Spanish Sparrow, Rock Sparrow, Red-billed Chough, Raven, Spotless Starling.


NB. The sequence of places visited may alter to take into account possible changes in the weather

Sunday 12 May – Pick up from Madrid

After an early morning pick up from your hotel in Madrid we will transfer to Extremadura in a comfortable vehicle. If we were to head straight to our accommodation at Casa Rural Las Canteras, near the historic town of Trujillo, it would be a journey time of approximately three hours. Incidentally, you will love Las Canteras. It is a very popular choice for accommodation with birders. Situated in the Plains of Trujillo, it offers great opportunities to see birds like both the bustard and sandgrouse species, plus larks, Spanish Imperial Eagle and other raptors literally from the veranda.

So, instead on the way we will call in at Embalse de Arrocampo (Arrocampo Reservoir). This area of reed-fringed reservoirs near the northeastern border with Castille-La Mancha region is a brilliant place for finding Western Swamphen and possible Ferruginous Ducks. It is the only place in Extremadura with the possibility to find Bearded Tits and we might be lucky to catch sight of an Eurasian Bittern.

Dinner at Casa Rural Las Canteras Overnight stay at Casa Rural Las Canteras

Monday 13 May – Trujillo Plains, Embalse de Alcollarín and nearby rice fields

After breakfast and checking the environs around our accommodation we will visit the plains and river valleys west of Trujillo to get a good introduction to the landscape and scenery. We will be on the lookout for Great and Little Bustards, Pin-tailed and Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Griffon and Black Vultures, hopefully eagle species like Booted, Spanish Imperial and Short-toed. We will watch Calandra Larks displaying plus see Crested, Thekla’s and hopefully, returning Greater Short-toed Larks. Also, flocks of Corn Bunting and Spanish Sparrow plus possibly glances at Rock Sparrows.

Alcollarín is a superb site that, itself, is worthy of a full day’s visit. It water surface is almost always coated with hundreds, sometimes thousands of ducks, plus plentiful Great Crested and Little Grebes. The shoreline could harbour Black Storks, Spoonbills, Great and Little Egrets and waders like Wood Sandpiper and Black-winged Stilts. Its hinterland is good for Thekla’s and Crested Larks, Hoopoe and Woodchat Shrikes.

After lunch, we will spend the afternoon searching through the nearby rice fields. It may be hit and miss as some of the fields may be drained and ploughed by the time of your visit. However, others may still be wet and frequented by Black-headed Gulls, Ruff, Snipe, Black-winged Stilts and other goodies including possible Whiskered Terns.

Dinner in Trujillo. Overnight stay at Casa Rural Las Canteras.

Tuesday 14 May – Full day birding in Monfragüe Natural Park

This will be a day spent in the iconic Monfragüe Natural Park. This magnificent area is a must-see for any visitor to Extremadura. And, at only an hour’s drive from our accommodation, it is not too distant. We will stop along the way for brief walks along rivers and through woodlands hoping for Cirl Bunting, Hawfinch and Short- toed Treecreepers.

The famous hotspot in Monfragüe is Peña Falcon (Falcon Rock). It is an impressive natural feature and a superb site for watching all three regular species of vulture (Black, Griffon and small numbers of Egyptian) plus raptors like Peregrine, Black Kite, Golden, Short- toed and Spanish Imperial Eagles. We may be a tad early for the other speciality here – the very scarce White-rumped Swift – as they may not as yet returned from Africa. But, we will still check the nearby castle (their breeding grounds) for any signs of them. From that lofty point we will also watch for rock dwellers like Rock Bunting and Blue Rock Thrush and woodland species such as Hawfinch, Firecrest and Crested Tit.

Dinner at Casa Rural Las Canteras. Overnight stay at Casa Rural Las Canteras.

Wednesday 15 May – Embalses de Guadiloba and Valdesalor plus, Charca de la Atalaya

We will leave our accommodation after breakfast and head towards, Mérida, the capital of Extremadura. ‘Capital’ is a term to be used lightly as it has a population of around 60,000 and is fairly low-rise. Huge village would be a better moniker!

If we were to drive non-stop it would be a 90 minute journey. Instead, we will pause along the way to visit two reservoirs on the outskirts of Cáceres, a larger (120,000 inhabitants) medieval city. We could even stop for a cuppa and walk around its historical centre, if you so desired. We will certainly be watching plenty on screaming Pallid Swifts and hunting Lesser Kestrels overhead in the picturesque Old City.

Embalse de Guadiloba is a large reservoir in the Plains of Cáceres. There is usually not too much to see on the water itself bar a few Coots and Mallards. The shoreline should harbour waders like Little Ringed Plover, Common and Green Sandpipers. In the scrub around the reservoir we may sight Great Spotted Cuckoos but certainly Crested and Thekla’s Larks plus plentiful Hoopoe, Corn Buntings, Iberian Magpies and Iberian Shrike. In the surrounding steppes we could be hopeful for both bustard species, both sandgrouse, Calandra Larks, possible Tawny Pipit, Little Owl and migrants.

At Embalse de Valdesalor, we will be looking for waders along its northern shores. We should hope to expect Spoonbill, White Stork, Black-winged Stilts plus Dunlin and other waders. Last year, the site played host to a vagrant Pectoral Sandpiper.

Finally, on the motorway to Mérida, we will pop in the small village of Aldea Del Cana to visit their small lake, Charca de la Atalaya. Here, we will peer through the fence (it is on private land) to sift through the duck and waders that gather there. Last year, I found Extremadura’s only record for Bar-tailed Godwit in 2021 plus, in the past the site has hosted a long staying Ring-necked Duck. We could hope to see Black-tailed Godwit, Spotted Redshank, Ruff and perhaps a late Pintail.

Dinner in Mérida. Overnight stay at Hotel Ilunion Mérida Palace your tranquil base within Mérida.

Thursday 16 May – urban birding Merida, Embalses de Proserpina, Montijo, Esparragalejo & Canchales

After breakfast, we will walk from your hotel to the nearby and world-famous Roman Bridge – the longest and oldest Roman bridge in the world. It spans the Guadiana River where we will look out for Alpine and Pallid Swifts that nest beneath our feet within the arches of the bridge. There will be Purple Swamphen, Penduline Tit and Cetti’s Warbler to watch and listen out for too. In the park nearby, we will look for Hoopoe, Serin, Spotless Starling, White Stork, Glossy Ibis and Little Bittern.

Later, we will drop into the various reservoirs listed. All are within 40 minutes drive from Mérida and will hopefully supply us with sightings of migrants like Woodchat Shrike, Western Subalpine Warbler and various wader species. Plus, Black and Griffon Vultures, Black-winged and Black Kites, Booted Eagle, Red-rumped Swallow plus many more.

Dinner in Mérida. Overnight stay at Hotel Ilunion Mérida Palace.

Friday 17 May – Alange and Sierra Grande de Hornachos

We will start the day heading south of Mérida to Alange, which is only 30 minutes drive from the hotel. We will visit several sites in the area ranging from a rocky valley to the shores of Embalse de Alange looking for species as varied as Greater Flamingo to scouting for Black Wheatear and Rock Bunting. On the way to Alange we will also pop into a couple of sites along the River Guadiana to look for migrants like Western Bonelli’s Warbler and Western Subalpine Warbler.

If we have the time, and the desire, we will then visit a nearby bird hospital run by the charity AMUS to see how they recuperate injured raptors.

We will then journey to the gorgeous Hornachos region. After lunch in the town we will explore this mountainous sierra for Spanish Imperial, Golden, Bonelli’s and Booted Eagles plus Rock Sparrow, Rock Bunting and Crag Martins. It is probably the best place in the whole of Extremadura to get good views of the nationally declining Black Wheatear.

Dinner in Mérida. Overnight stay at Hotel Ilunion Mérida Palace.

Saturday 18 May – Montijo area and Cornalvo Natural Park

After breakfast, we will head west to the Montijo area to visit a few sites notably looking for nesting Eagle Owl and signs of the Moustached Warblers that were heard singing there last month. The general area is good for migrants and I hope that we get to see some Bee-eaters there too.

After lunch, we will back east to Cornalvo – a huge park on Mérida’s doorstep. It is a mixture of farmland, dehesa, reservoirs and scrub. It is home to Woodlarks, Woodchat Shrikes, Quail and breeding Black-winged Kites. We will spend the remainder of the afternoon traversing its varied terrain seeing whatever we find.

Dinner in Mérida. Overnight stay at Hotel Ilunion Mérida Palace.

Sunday 19 May – back to Madrid and eventually, home…

After breakfast we will go on a guided walk around historic Mérida before transferring to Madrid.

Happy days!

Special trip notes

The tour will depart from Madrid on Sunday 12 May in the early afternoon from Madrid Airport. Therefore, please aim to get flights that arrive around 13:00 on that day.

Book your return flights to leave at 15:00 onwards from Madrid Airport as we shall aim to arrive there by 12:30 on Sunday 19 May.

The pace of this tour will be gentle. We will let the wildlife come to us.

In Extremadura most of the region’s rain falls during the spring and autumn. The temperature may be warm but be prepared for chillier weather. We can anticipate a chance of rain, but we should also be able to enjoy some sunshine as well.

Recommended literature

Collins Bird Guide

Book now

  • Duration: 12 May to 19 May 2024
  • Price: £1,795 per person plus flights
  • Single supplement: £295
  • Deposit: £500 per person
  • Final payment will be due 90 days before start of tour
  • Group size: Minimum for tour to go ahead – 4 maximum 8
  • Please contact us if you have any other queries

    Email: tours@theurbanbirderworld.com

Price includes

  • B&B hotel accommodation
  • Dinner and drinks in Trujillo on day 4 plus, lunch in Hornachos Transport in a comfortable vehicle
  • The services of your guide David Lindo (The Urban Birder) The services of the official city guide in Mérida

Price does not include

  • Airline tickets and airport taxes
  • Personal travel insurance
  • Entry fees to monuments and museums (if desired)
  • Additional lunch snacks (apart from in Hornachos), incidental refreshments at cafes and bars, most dinners plus all additional drinks

Click on the booking form above to reserve your place on this tour. You will be re-directed to the birdswildlife.com website.


Ashley and I wanted to thank you so much for guiding us on that wonderful tour in Extremadura last week. Your knowledge and expertise were truly amazing and we really enjoyed seeing so many new birds – BIMBOS!

Anthea & Ashley Edgar(Cambridge, England)

It really was an excellent weeks birding: the welcome from David and Martin, the group of such lovely people who all got on so well together. The trips around the Extremadura countryside, the evenings, the food and drink, Martin and Claudia’s hospitality, David and Martin’s knowledge and of course, not forgetting the birds all made it a very worthwhile experience. I’m very glad I came on it. I shall tell every one at home how good it was.

John Lilley(Essex, England)

Thank you a really enjoyable few days, lots of birds, lots of wine, very nice accommodation really nice group.

Mike Beer(Cheltenham, England)

Just to let you know I really enjoyed the week’s birding in Extremadura. I felt really welcome since we met at the airport. It was great to benefit from the in depth knowledge both you and Martin had of the birds in the area and it was nice to have the company of other birders in a relaxed and informal atmosphere.

James Walsh(Leeds, England)

The whole package was just great. Casa rural El Recuerdo was a superb place to stay and we couldn’t have been looked after any better. The company was amazing, light hearted birding at its best, just what we wanted! We especially enjoyed the Alpine Swifts and Spanish Imperial Eagles. So pleased we visited AMUS (conservation centre & wildlife Hospital) too and we’re now able to support their valuable work.

Louise & Jim Bentley(Bolton, England)