Category Archives: Birdwatching Trips

Islas Atlánticas National Park

  • Region: Galicia.
  • Province: Pontevedra and La Coruña).
  • Declared a National Park: 2002.
  • Park surface area: 8,480 hectares.

The Islas Atlánticas National Park are known in English as the Galician Atlantic Islands Maritime-Terrestrial National Park. They are located on the southern coast of Galicia and are made up of four archipelagos, Cortegada and Sálvora in the Arousa estuary, facing the Estuary of Pontevedra and the Cíes, in the Vigo estuary.

In the past they were known as a pirate haunt but today they are uninhabited and only open to the public in the summer.

Points of interest

In Ons don’t miss the mysterious “furnas”, granite sea caves cut by the waves, such as the mythical “Burato do Inferno”, which was “believed to go all the way down to hell, and on stormy nights the voices of the dead could be heard”.

There is a regular passenger transport service by sea to the Cíes from the port of Vigo, Baiona and Cangas during high season. There is the same service to Ons from Portonovo, Sanxenxo, Bueu and Marín. Services of a guide to Cortegada from Carril (Vilagarcía de Arousa). (Sálvora has no transport service by sea, and access to it is restricted.)

This national park has a controlled access with a maximum of 2,200 people daily allowed on the islands.

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Flora:

This sea-land ecosystem has a laurel forest and over 200 species of seaweed whilst he beds of kelp are also of importance in these waters. The most representative land flora can be found on cliffs and dunes. Clumps of furze abound, but among the Park rarities are the corema album, Ons broom (Cytisus insularis) and sand toadflax (Linaria arenaria), a small annual plant that can be found on the dunes.

Fauna:

The park’s most representative natural systems are the coastal area and the Atlantic continental platform. All the islands have areas reserved as breeding grounds for numerous colonies of birds, principally the yellow-legged seagull and the shag. In the sea, there is the possibility of sighting cetaceans like the finback whale which frequent these waters in the summer.

Information/Visitors Centers

Cambón Visitor Center

Before getting on a boat to the Cíes Islands, a visit the Atlantic Islands National Park Interpretation Centre in Vigo’s old town is well worth it. This exhibition centre was designed to learn about the Cíes Islands, Ons, Sálvora and Cortegada, with audiovisual recreations about habitat, geography and geology etc

The different exhibition areas will allow you to explore the archipelago through different formats and media: images, maps, models, projections, sounds and even sculptures.

Address: Rúa Palma 4. Casco Vello – Vigo

The Interpretation Centre is located in the historic building of Cambón, behind the Church of Santa María. It is close to the Ría Maritime Station, from where boats depart for the Cíes and other parts of the Vigo estuary.

WINTER Tuesday to Saturday: 10: 00-14: 00 and 16: 30-19: 30 / Sundays and holidays: 11: 00-14: 00
SUMMER Tuesday to Saturday: 10: 00-14: 00 and 17: 00-20 : 00 / Sundays and holidays: 11: 00-14: 00
Monday closed (including holidays)

The official website for the Islas Atlánticas National Park can be found here.
https://www.turismo.gal/que-visitar/destacados/parque-nacional-das-illas-atlanticas-de-galicia?langId=en_US


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The Laguna de Gallocanta

Without a doubt, one of the most distinctive living elements of the Laguna de Gallocanta are the birds, especially the striking flocks of common cranes that rest and feed here during the course of their migratory trips.

Above image wikipedia (De Secretaria – http://www.xiloca.com/xilocapedia/index.php/Imagen:Atardecer_6_Gallocanta.jpg, CC BY 3.0 es, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19561884

The vast majority of the European population moving on the western migratory route use Gallocanta as a resting area and over 100,000 cranes have been counted in a single day (02/24/2011) .

Flocks of common cranes arrive en masse at dusk. This has to be one of the most impressive visual and sound spectacles of nature.

Best times to visiting the area is during the months of November to February.

The protected area covers1.924 hectares of natural reserve (the wetland itself) and 4.553 hectares of peripheral protection zone (the surrounding farmland sometimes also wetland dependin on rainfall)

Where is Gallocanta?

The Gallocanta Lake (Spanish: Laguna de Gallocanta) is an endorheic lake in the province of Aragon. It is within the boundaries of two provinces, Teruel and Zaragoza, and is located just to the south of Gallocanta village, between the Aragonese comarcas of Campo de Daroca and Comarca del Jiloca. This lake is situated on a high continental plain at an altitude of almost 1,000 m

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The Interpretation Center of the Gallocanta Lagoon (Obligatory visit to get the best out of the area)

Location: in an old road laborer’s house located on the A-1507 road, between the villages of Tornos and Bello. 120 km from Zaragoza and 95 km from Teruel.

The Interpretation Center of the Gallocanta Lagoon
The Interpretation Center of the
Gallocanta Lagoon

The main content of the interpretation centre is the natural history ​​of the lagoon, its history and formation and the uniqueness of the species it provides a home for with special emphasis on the common crane. There is also an audiovisual projection and an interactive exhibition covering the geology of the lagoon, the habitat and human existence in the area.

Opening times Spring-Summer (from March 21 to September 20)

Mornings: 10:00 to 14:00
Afternoons: 15:00 to 18:00

Opening times Autumn-Winter (from January 24 to March 15 and from September 26 to December 20)

Mornings: 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
Afternoons: 3:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.

Telephone: 978 734 031
Telephone (central offices): 976 07 00 00
Website: https://www.aragon.es/-/reserva-natural-de-la-laguna-de-gallocanta (In Spanish language)

Places to visit and parking

  • Centro de Interpretación de la Reserva Natural de la Laguna de Gallocanta.(see above info about the intepretation centre)
  • Mirador de la Ermita de la Virgen del Buen Acuerdo.
  • Observatorio de Gallocanta.
  • Centro de visitantes de Gallocanta, con mirador (fuera de la Reserva y de su zona periférica de protección).

Parking

  • Centro de interpretación de la Reserva Natural Dirigida de la Laguna de Gallocanta) (Bello).
  • Ermita Nuestra Señora del Buen Acuerdo (Gallocanta).
  • Centro de visitantes y museo de las Aves (Gallocanta).

Walking Trails

Path PR-Z 33 La Laguna de Gallocanta and los Lagunazos. (32 Km – 9 hours – Circular)

This footpath is circular and goes completely around the lagoon passing by the 5 observation hides and the Ermita de la Virgen del Buen Acuerdo from where there is also an excellen view of the Lagoon. This path can also be made by bike. Its not obligatory to do the whole footpath, just walk as far as you want then turn around.

Berrueco trail (1km – 30 mins – Linear

This is a Linear path, which starts from the town of Berrueco and ascends to its Castle, from where you can see a magnificent panoramic view of the Gallocanta Lagoon.

Observation hides

  • Torre-observatorio del Cañizar.
  • Observatorio de los Aguanares.
  • Observatorio de la Ermita.
  • Observatorio de los Ojos.
  • Torre-observatorio de La Reguera.
  • Obvervatorio del Centro de Interpretación de la Reserva Natural de la Laguna de Gallocanta.
  • Observatorio accesible de Gallocanta.

Recreation and picnic sites

  • Fuente de los Haces.
  • Fuente Sancho.
  • Church of the Ermita de la Virgen del Buen Acuerdo.
  • La Serna.
  • Gallocanta swimming pool.

Museums

  • Gallocanta avian museum (Inside the Gallocanta visitor centre).

Other lagunas in the area

  • Laguna de La Zaida.
  • Laguna de Guialguerrero.

Renting hides at the Laguna de Gallocanta

Request processing is carried out by Servicio Provincial en Teruel del
Departamento de Agricultura, Ganadería y Medio Ambiente, Subdirección de Medio Ambiente, placed in C/ San Francisco, 27 de Teruel (44071).

Telephone +34 978 64 11 45
Email adress: hidesgallocanta@aragon.es.

Dowload the full guide to renting a hide here
https://www.aragon.es/documents/20127/12362674/How+to+book+hides+-+Reserva+Natural+Dirigida+de+la+Laguna+de+Gallocanta+-+2020.pdf/2925f255-4585-6d6e-6691-9ac7ab57cedf?t=1597824000140


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Doñana National and Natural Parks

  • Region: Andalucia
  • Provinces: Sevilla, Huelva, Cadiz
  • Declared a Natural Park: 1969 reclassified in 1978
  • In1963 WWF and the Council of Scientific Research bought land (6,794ha) and set up a research station
  • In 1994 it became a UNESCO World Heritage Site  
  • Natural Park surface area: 54,200
  • National Park surface area: 50,720 hectares – Total area: 77,260ha:
  • World Heritage and Special Bird Protection Areas: 50,720ha.
  • National Park and Ramsar site; buffer zone 26,540ha.

Towns and Villages

  • Huelva: Almonte, Hinojos, Bollullos Par del Condado, Rociana del Condado, Bonanes y Lucena del Puerto, Palos de la Frontera, Moguer, La Puebla del Río and the Isla Mayor
  • Sevilla: Aznalcázar, Pilas y Villamanrique de la Condesa.
  • Cádiz: Sanlúcar de Barrameda

Points of interest

The Doñana National and Natural Parks occupy the northern area of the Guadalquivir river where it meets the Atlantic Ocean. Six thousand years ago it would have been a wide estuary, but this has mostly been closed off by a long, natural sand bar. This in turn created a large saline lake which gradually collected silt leaving a huge wetland area with lagoons, marshlands and semi-permanent sand dunes.

Some lake areas are saline and others are supplied by freshwater streams. Pine and oak woodland plus scrub or maquis further enhance the diversity of one of the most important habitats in Europe. This accumulation of varied ecosystems is capable of sustaining an incredible assortment of wildlife.

Used as hunting grounds for royalty from the 14th century, it was made a reserve in 1963 and a national park in 1969, and it remains the largest protected area in Europe.

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Flora

A diverse collection of around 750 species of plants exist through the different habitats. There are four main types of vegetation: marshland/aquatic, salt-tolerant, open forest and heathland.

  • Marsh land types; Glasswort (Salicornia ramosissima), Seablite (Suaeda sp) and Perennial glasswort (Arthrocnemum perenne).
  • Brackish lagoon types; Reeds (Juncus maritimus) and Cordgrass (Spartina alterniflora)
  • Dunes type; European beachgrass (Ammophila Arenaria), Portuguese crowberry (Corema album), Buckthorn (Rhamnus) and Juniper (Juniperus macrocarpa).
  • Inland dunes; Wild olive (Olea europea subsp oleaster) and Ash trees (Fraxinus angustifolia).
  • Forest; introduced stone pine (Pinus pinea) and Eucalyptus sp.
  • Heath lands; Tree heather (Erica scoparia), Heather (Erica ciliaris) Strawberry trees (Arbutus unedo) Thyme (Thymus tomentosa), Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) and Lavender (Lavandula stoechas).

Four national endemics occur, each a protected species, Linaria tursica and grasses, Micropyropsis tuberosa, Gaudinia hispanica and Vulpia fontquerana.

Fauna

Mammals include the highly endangered Iberian Lynx (the closest to extinction of all the big cat species) Wild boar, Red deer, Fallow deer, Egyptian mongoose and European badger.

Reptiles, which are found especially in the dunes, include Spur-thighed tortoise (Testudo graeca), Chameleon (Chamaeleo chamaeleon), Lataste’s viper (Vipera latasti) and Spiny-footed lizard (Acanthodactylus erythrurus).

Common fish are carp (Cyprinus carpio) and Eel (Anguilla anguilla) plus a threatened species, the Iberian toothcarp (Aphanius iberus).

The Doñana National and Natural Parks are on the main migration routes between Europe and Africa making it a favorite with ornithologists with as many as 250 species found in the reserve each year.

This huge list includes resident Greater flamingos, Spoonbills and summer breeding Little bittern, Purple heron with wintering Black stork and Osprey to name only a few. The park is also home to one of the world’s largest colonies of the Spanish Imperial Eagle.

The best times for birdwatchers are considered to be

  • Spring; to see the influx of migrating birds arriving to breed, or rest before continuing their journey.
  • Autumn; to see the selection of migrating birds that collect to rest and feed before their crossing into Africa.
  • Winter; when the reserve is topped up by rain water and vast flocks of wildfowl – geese and ducks arrive in Doñana.
  • The summer months see the wetlands begin to dry and many of the spring visitors depart with temperatures hitting 40 degrees Celsius leaving only the summer residents. Amongst the numerous species are Griffon Vultures, Booted eagles, Red-necked nightjars, Bee-eaters and Hoopoe. Spanish Imperial eagle (Aquila adalberti), Marbled Teal (Marmaronetta angustirostris), White-headed duck (Oxyura leucocephala) and Red-knobbed coot (Fulica cristata) are some of the rarities to look out for.

As well as the National Park of Doñana there is also a buffer zone (or pre-park area) around it, which is a designated Natural Park of Doñana (known in Spanish as Entorno de Doñana).

The National Park is under very tight protection, with public access restricted to its official visitor centres and some marked footpaths around them.

The Natural Park is less strictly protected with more open access but being a natural continuation of the National Park it is also of great importance for migratory and breeding birds, wildlife in general and tourism for the area

Research in the Park is of international scientific importance. Ornithological research has been carried out since the 1950s and studies have since been carried out on vertebrate zoology, botany, ecology, plant ecology, entomology, limnology, geography, ethnology, pesticides and diseases.

Also in the area of Doñana National and Natural Parks

Wood gathering, charcoal production, cattle-grazing, beekeeping and fish farming are traditional practices that occur within the park.

Market gardening forms a part of the agricultural land uses in the surrounding area. Rice farming covers over 38,000 hectares of former salt marsh areas with water from the Guadalquivir used for irrigation.

Intensive fruit farming (Strawberries) and illegal wells have caused issues over the years creating clashes between local farmers and ecologists

El Rocio is a small, sleepy lake side village of wide sandy streets whose focal point is the “Santuario de Nuestra Señora de el Rocio” Church. There is a religious festival at El Rocio each year coinciding with Whitsunday which brings approximately a million pilgrims from every part of Spain. There is an explosion of music, dance, traditional dress and flower adorned wagons, drawn by mule or oxen.

For the rest of the year the village remains virtually unihabited in comparison.

Information/Visitors Centers

Remember that the Doñana area is huge and has quite a few “official” interpretation centres. Most towns and villages also have their own municipal information centres. Your first resource for guides and leaflets for the area would also be your hotel reception.

La Rocina (Information Centre, walks and hides)

In the village of El Rocio, this visitor centre has a nice and accessible, easy hike with a few observation points overlooking the marshes. The path also takes you through some other ecosystems such as the scrubland.

El Acebuche (Information centre, café, walk-ways and hides)

Close to El Rocio on the road to Matalascañas this Center (OBLIGATORY VISIT IF YOU ARE IN THE AREA) offers an excellent information service to visitors. There is normally a live TV feed showing the current captive breeding area of the Iberian lynx. There is also an audiovisual room and well marked footpaths to hides and areas of marsh and scrubland.

El Acebuche is also the start point for guided visits to the National Park of Doñana in all-terrain vehicles, accompanied by guide-driver, on a route of around 70 kms. This guided route takes you through the different ecosystems of the National Park.

Palacio del Acebrón

(On the A-483 take the turning for La Rocina and El Acebrón. Once you have passed the La Rocina visitor centre continue for 6 kilomtres on the H-9021)

Once a private hunting estate the an ethnological museum inside in very interesting with lots of detail and is free to enter

José Antonio Valverde (water side café/hide and great information)

Road access not well marked and from Villamanrique de la Condesa, Puebla del Río and Isla Mayor it is about 25 km. Access is through unpaved tracks. Ask in your hotel or other visitor centre to double check opening times before you make the trip!

This Visitor Centre is located on a small hill known as Cerro del Palo, from which there is a great view of the Laguna de la Fuente de Piedra. (Not to be confused with Fuente de Piedra in the province of Malaga.) Inside there is a fantastic view from the large windows that looks out onto the lagoon. There is also an excellent exhibition of photographs of the lagoons and other wetlands of Andalusia.

Ask about guided tours for wildlife watching.

The center was named after Jose Antonio Valverde. A biologist and ecologist born in 1926 in Valladolid who was one of the pioneers of the conservation of wetlands in Andalusia. He died in Seville
In 2003.

Fábrica de hielo (Ice Factory).

At the southern point of the Guadalquivir estuary. (Av. Bajo de Guía, S/N, 11540 Sanlúcar de Barrameda)

This interpretation centre offers an overview of the area from the flora and fauna that make up the landscape to the richness of the marine ecosystem associated with the mouth of the Guadalquivir.

Dehesa Boyal near Villamanrique de la Condesa. Camino del Bujeo in front of the sports ground.

The excellent Dehesa Boyal visitors centre is in the village of Villamanrique de la Condesa. It offers visitors general information about the Natural Park of Doñana and the fauna and flora of the area and an exhibition detailing traditional uses and exploits of nearby populations such as coal production, pineapple harvesting, beekeeping, cork mining and cotton are also part of the sample.

This centre also arranges guided visits, hiking, horseriding and is a popular destination for schools for education courses. (See the website here.)


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Birding and wildlife holidays in Andalucia

Nice to see Ingloriuos Bustards ( I love the name of this company!) working hard on their blog and facebook pages whilst we are stuck in this awfull lockdown due to the coronavirus. I am sure that these guys are chomping at the bit having been forced to cancel some of the best birding holidays in Andalucia and missing a lot of the return migration to Spain….

A small company, with a philosophy based in sustainability rather than huge profits, taking the comfort of your holiday and the smooth operation of our tours very seriously.

Check out the info page here… http://wildsideholidays.co.uk/inglorious-bustards/

Check out the Inglorious Bustards excellent blog detailing past trips and thoughts on wildlife experiences.
https://ingloriousbustards.com/blog/