Extremadura

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Birding in Extremadura

To put it into perspective, 74.1% of the total surface area qualifies under International IBA criteria (Important Bird Areas), the highest for any geo-political area in Europe, while considering just Cáceres, this rises to >90%! While 44 species of international conservation concern are represented in the area, the real 'stars' in this stage are some of the rarest and most threatened species in Europe: 38 - 40 pp. pairs of Spanish Imperial Eagles are found (of the 195 - 200 pp. that exist), concentrated in the Monfragüe and Sierra de San Pedro areas; 640 pp. of Eurasian Black Vulture breed almost exclusively in Monfragüe and the Sierra de San Pedro; c. 90 pp. of Bonelli's Eagle are spread widely across the region (especially the Sierra de San Pedro and Orellana areas); 170-175 pp.Black Stork (60% of the Iberian total are concentrated in the Monfragüe and Jerez de los Caballeros areas); and an estimated 6900 Great Bustards (of the c. 24 500 in Spain) are found widely across the plains.For further details of birding in Extremadura see the Iberian Wildlife Tours Web site here

Sierra de Gata

Sierra de Gata

Location and access
The route is in the region of Sierra de Gata, in the dehesa of the River Alagón and in the valley of the River Árrago, on the southern slope of the Sierra de Gata. You can start the route in the town of Moraleja (Cáceres), on the EX-108 road (Coria-Moraleja), where you take the road leading to the town of La Moheda and Borbollón Reservoir or from the EX-205, turning off towards Moraleja or going upriver in the valley of Árrago.

Description of the route
The route is about 106 km long, from the town of Moraleja to the end of the suggested route and back, taking you on a mixture of roads and forest trails. It is intended to be done by car in one day, stopping at the most interesting observation points.
Part of the route goes through the dehesa, pastures and irrigated farmland of the River Alagón, in which the wintering population of Common Crane is noteworthy. Then it takes you up the River Árrago among shady groves of ash and alder trees, between mountains such as Bolla and Gomara, which are over 1100 metres high and where there is a large breeding population of Eurasian Black Vulture, with over fifty breeding pairs. The route peaks at Puertos Nuevo and Viejo, at the provincial border with Salamanca, in the Sierra de los Ángeles, an area of pines, heathers and brooms. Halfway along the route, between the mountains and the plains, the Holm and Pyrenean oak dehesas soften the contrasts between the peaks and the plains. The Borbollón Reservoir is an important site for many wintering water birds, such as ducks, geese, Great Cormorant, gulls and Common Crane, which use an islet – that of Parra Chica or Borbollón – as a regular roost during winter, as well as a breeding ground for White Stork, Cattle Egret and Grey Heronduring the summer. Start the route in the town of Moraleja. From the EX-108 take the road leading to the town of Moheda and the Embalse de Borbollón reservoir. Turn off to the left at point (X:0703715, Y: 4442234), following the signs towards the reservoir of the Rivera de Gata. As you go along you will find mosaics of cornfields, pastures and dehesa where you can easily see Common Crane feeding or Black-winged Kite. The landscape is dominated by traditional tobacco drying sheds and, to the north, in the distance, you can see the mountaintops of the Sierra de Gata. Returning to the road turn left towards Borbollón Reservoir, declared a Special Protected Area for birds. Once you reach the campsite take the road to Hoyos and Villasbuenas de Gata, turning right at point (X:0705617, Y: 4445362). From here there is a path going around Borbollón Reservoir, where we suggest you leave your car and walk along the bank at dusk, after having completed the suggested route. It’s a good place to watch Common Crane, moving from their feeding site to the islet where they roost. From one of the nearest points to the island you can see the birds on the banks, as well as Great Cormorant, which roost in the eucalyptuses. Continue towards the EX-205 and turn right towards the town of Hervás, then turn left at the crossroads of Cadalso and Descargamaría. Go upstream in the valley of the River Árrago, shaded by a cool grove, where you can see the nervous flight of the Dipper. Once you have reached the pretty town of Robledillo de Gata, declared a Historical Artistic Ensemble, take the narrow road leading to Puerto Viejo mountain pass. At point (X:0715446, Y: 4446783) you will find the “Mirador de la Lagartera” viewpoint, where there is a good view of the narrow valley of Árrago and from where a Roman road starts, a small path that goes up the gorge towards the river’s source. Its slopes are dense, full of black pine, stunted Holm oaks, oaks and enormous treelike heathers, an ideal spot to watch small scrubland birds: warblers, Dunnock, Robin, etc.

Puerto Viejo

Puerto Viejo

When you get to Puerto Viejo, at point (X:0715802, Y: 4470009), take the forest trail to the left. This trail goes over an area of high peaks, dominated by plantations of black pine and thick bushes of heathers and broom. In this habitat you can find common summer breeding birds such as Ortolan Bunting, Northern Wheatear and Tawny Pipit as well as Yellowhammer, a winter visitor that can only be seen in this isolated mountain corner of Extremadura. You can also see Great Tit and Coal Tit in patchy clearings within the mountain pine forest. Scavengers such as Eurasian Black Vulture, Griffon Vulture and Egyptian Vulture, are also commonly seen flying over. The trail continues to the road of “Puerto Nuevo”, at point (X:0710899, Y: 4467314), between the towns of Descargamaría and Ciudad Rodrigo (Salamanca). Along it you should turn off at the following points: Point (X:07149172, Y: 4469784). Turn right. Point (X:0714467, Y: 4469218). Turn right. Point (X:0713105, Y: 4468702). Turn right. Point (X:0711596, Y: 4468458). Turn left.

When you reach the road turn left towards Descargamaría. The road twists and turns, giving views of steep valleys and slate hills, with junipers and stunted Holm oaks growing among their slabs. Eurasian Black Vulture is more common here, particularly in the shady spots of the Gomara. There is a good observation point of the mountain range from the road at point (X:0712815, Y: 4464117).

Once you reach Descargamaría take the road to Robledillo de Gata again, turning off to the right at point (X:0713912, Y: 4464947). The route goes up a steep slope towards the peak and Chorrito viewpoint, from where you can see a spectacular waterfall known as “Chorro de los Ángeles”. The proximity of a rubbish dump (recently reopened and part of the rubbish dump network authorized by Extremadura’s Administration) makes this site a perfect place to watch the incessant activity of large scavengers, particularly Griffon Vultures, which roost by the dozen in the slates of the waterfalls and crags of the “Sierra de los Ángeles”.

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