Category Archives: Birdwatching Trips

Urdaibai Biosphere Reserve

  • Region: País Vasco
  • Province: Bizkaia
  • Declared a Biosphere Reserve: 1984
  • Protected area: 21,775 hectares plus 269 hectares marine reserve
  • Towns and villages: Ajangiz, Arratzu, Arrieta, Bermeo, Busturia, Elantxobe, Ereño, Errigoiti, Foru, GautegizArteaga, Gernika-Lumo, Ibarrangelu, Kortezubi, Mendata, Morga, Mundaka, Munitibar, Murueta, Muxika, Nabarniz, Sukarrieta, Amorebieta-Etxano.

Points of interest

The Urdaibai Biosphere Reserve is located around the estuary of Urdaibai which is a natural area formed at the mouth of the river Oca. It is home to a wide range of different ecosystems and landscapes, the most important being the Cantabrian holm oak woods, the Atlantic countryside, the coastline and the marshes. The marshes are probably the most visited and constitute an important wetland in the Atlantic Basque Country, due to their size and their excellent state of conservation. They provide an essential resting ground for birds during the migratory and wintering periods.

The area contains various protected zones
  • One Special Bird Protection Zone (Zona de Especial Protección para las Aves (ZEPA)
  • One Conservation area (Zona de Espacial Conservación (ZEC)
  • Three RAMSAR Wetland Reserves (Zona Húmeda de Importancia Internacional (Convenio de Ramsar)

In the summer of 2021 the area became famous internationally via its osprey webcam project run by the Urdaibai Bird Center when it was noted that of the three eggs layed the first chick to hatch was an albino, totally white and with red eyes. (The first ever recorded.) After the other two chicks hatched it was clear that something was wrong and sadly the albino died a few days later. It seemed that the chick was blind or partially blind and could not compete with the two other siblings for food.

Later the two remaining chicks also died after a storm caused hipothermia with the parent not having enough experience to keep them warm enough overnight. (see the topic over at the Iberia Nature Forum – https://iberianatureforum.com/forums/topic/albino-osprey-in-urdaibai-biosphere-reserve/)

This is a popular area for birdwatching (Up to 250 bird species can be seen here throughout the year) as the estuary and surrounding wetlands are a very valuable habitat for birdlife being a resting area for migratory birds, as well as for nesting, sedentary, wintering or accidental birdlife (A visit to the Urdaibai Bird Center is obligatory – See below)

Find a hotel close to the Urdaibai Biosphere Reserve

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Promotional video for the Urdaibai Biosphere Reserve


Information and tourist offices

The Urdaibai Bird Center

If you are in the area then the best (obligatory) place to visit is the Urdaibai Bird Center which is a state of the art museum and observation point from which visitors can enjoy the world of birds and their migratory journeys. Once a fish canning factory, the center is located in the heart of the Urdaibai Biosphere Reserve and houses an audio-guided exhibition and an observation platform equipped with telescopes.

Located in the municipality of Gautegiz Arteaga, the Center is about 4.5 km away from Gernika-Lumo, and stands on the right bank of the river Oka, on the edge of the marshes. If you are driving from Gernika, take the road heading towards Lekeitio until you reach the Kortezubi roundabout. After about 700 m, turn left when you see the signpost directing you to the centre car park..

Find out a lot more on the website for the Urdaibai Bird Center here: http://www.birdcenter.org

The official website for the Urdaibai Biosphere Reserve is here: https://turismo.euskadi.eus/es/top10/espacios-naturales/reserva-de-la-biosfera-de-urdaibai/aa30-12376/es/


Iberia Nature Forum

Struggling with identifying those bugs and beasties? Why not check out the Iberia nature Forum!

Discover the Iberia Nature Forum – Environment, geography, nature, landscape, climate, culture, history, rural tourism and travel.

Injured bearded vulture released after good recovery

The bearded vulture ‘”Aquilón” who is part of the recovery project in the Picos de Europa has been re released this Tuesday, March 2 in Cantabria by the Foundation for the Conservation of the Bearded Vulture (FCQ)

Almost three years old, this young male has now been returned to his natural habitat in the vicinity of the town of Espinama, in Camaleño after spending the last few months in rehabilitation.

He was found in a badly injured state after an impact with power lines and although his foot was so badly damaged that it had to be amputated, it was deemed that he still had a very high percentage of survival in the wild.

Aquilon the bearded vulture with his amputated foot
Aquilon the bearded vulture with his amputated foot

Read more about the Beraded Vulture here

Source: https://www.animalshealth.es/animaladas/veterinarios-espanoles-recuperan-quebrantahuesos-electrocutado


Iberia Nature Forum

Struggling with identifying those bugs and beasties? Why not check out the Iberia nature Forum!

Discover the Iberia Nature Forum – Environment, geography, nature, landscape, climate, culture, history, rural tourism and travel.

Reserva Natural de los Galachos de la Alfranca de Pastriz, La Cartuja y El Burgo de Ebro

A bit of a mouthful even by Spanish standards but the Reserva Natural de los Galachos de la Alfranca de Pastriz, La Cartuja y El Burgo de Ebro is well worth a visit if you are in the area.

The nature reserve is located in the middle of the Ebro valley in the province of Zaragoza.

Also well worth a visit are the nearby villages of Alfajarín, El Burgo de Ebro, Fuentes de Ebro, Nuez de Ebro, Osera, Pastriz, La Puebla de Alfindén, La Cartuja Baja and of cource the city of Zaragoza.

Find a hotel in Zaragoza close to the Reserva Natural de los Galachos de la Alfranca de Pastriz, La Cartuja y El Burgo de Ebro.

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A Galacho (Ox-bow lake in English – Resaca in the US and Billabong in Australia) forms when a river creates a meander, due to the river’s eroding bank. After a long period of time, the meander becomes very curved, and eventually the neck of the meander becomes narrower and the river cuts through the neck, cutting off the meander and forming an oxbow lake.

Since the 1960s, these areas of still water (Galachos) have been declining due to extraction for human resources such as irrigation and drinking water.

The typical vegetation of this ecosystem is mostly reed being the typical plant of the humid environment in addition to the presence of aquatic fauna and flora. Also providing an excellent habitat are poplars, tamarisk and willow.

The irrigation of the southern farmland of Zaragoza (Aragón), the artificial ponds of Saica and other artificially formed bodies of water, such as the Canal Imperial de Aragón and its pond create a large protected area for migratory groups of more than 1500 specimens of birds such as kites, crows, lapwing, rooks, seagulls, storks, vultures and starlings.

Information Centres

Interpretation Center of La Alfranca (Centro de interpretación de La Alfranca)

Location: Finca de la Alfranca, in the International Center for Water and the Environment (Centro Internacional del Agua y del Medio Ambiente CIAMA), 15 km from Zaragoza, 2 km from Pastriz and 3 km from La Puebla de Alfind.

This centre has guided visits to the Galacho de la Alfranca

There are also excellent audiovisual projections, exhibitions and models. Indepth iformation can be found about the riparian ecosystems, fauna and vegetation of the reserve river forests and the fluvial dynamics of the river Ebro.

Opening times

Autumn-Winter: Weekends and holidays from 10.30 a.m. to 2.30 p.m. and 3.30 p.m. to 6.30 p.m.
Spring-Summer: Weekends and holidays, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.

The Grazalema Guide

The best way to see all our web projects in one place is over at the Grazalema Guide.

The Grazalema Guide – Tourist Information Portal for the Sierra de Grazalema, Wildside Holidays, The town of Ronda and the Caminito del Rey.

http://grazalemaguide.com/

Ten of the best natural parks to observe birds and wildlife in Spain

Spain has to rate as one of the best countries in in Europe for bird and wildlife watching. A destination with over 15 million hectares of protected areas and natural parks plus Spain is a strategic location on the avian migratory routes between Europe to Africa

Spain hosts huge forests and rocky mountain peaks where large birds of prey soar freely. There are wetlands where waterfowl find their home. Hundreds of nature parks and nature reserves teeming with birds and other wildlife.

If you need a bucket list for Spain then here is my top 10 for bird and wildlife watching in Spain. I have visited them all and would gladly return many times to all of them!

Just click the name of the park to find out much more information.

Cabañeros National Park, Ciudad Real (Castilla la Mancha)

The Cabañeros National Park (in Spanish: Parque Nacional de Cabañeros) is a NATIONAL park and is located within the two provinces of Ciudad Real andToledo
The Cabañeros National Park (in Spanish: Parque Nacional de Cabañeros) is a NATIONAL park and is located within the two provinces of Ciudad Real andToledo

Cabañeros is considered a Special Protection Area for Birds and is protected within the framework of the Natura 2000 Network. Famous for black vulture, griffon vulture, Iberian imperial eagle, Bonnelli’s eagle and black stork. With summer residents this park teems with birdlife.


Monfragüe National Park, Cáceres (Extremadura)

The area of Monfragüe National Park is noted for its importance as a breeding area for a selection of rare and protected birds,
The area of Monfragüe National Park is noted for its importance as a breeding area for a selection of rare and protected birds,

Monfragüe is, without a doubt, one of the best places in Spain for bird watching and especially for birds of prey. Every year this area also hosts the International Ornithological Tourism Fair, which attracts bird lovers from all over the world. Top of the list here is black stork, griffon vulture, imperial eagle, eagle owl, Egyptian vulture and short-toed eagle.


Atlantic Islands National Park (Galicia)

The Islas Atlánticas National Park are known in English as the Galician Atlantic Islands Maritime-Terrestrial National Park.
The Islas Atlánticas National Park are known in English as the Galician Atlantic Islands Maritime-Terrestrial National Park.

A Special Protection Area for birds. And, although there are many species, this national park can boast of being home to the largest colonies of shag and yellow-legged gull in the entire country. The park has strategically located hides.


Doñana National Park, Huelva and Seville (Andalucia)

The Doñana National and Natural Parks occupy the northern area of the Guadalquivir river where it meets the Atlantic Ocean
The Doñana National and Natural Parks occupy the northern area of the Guadalquivir river where it meets the Atlantic Ocean

The Doñana National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and there are more than 300 species listed. Some are sedentary and others migratory so the time of year greatly influences what species you will see. In spring there are organized visits and every year the International Bird Fair of Doñana is held. The ecosystems are varied between dunes and marshes and it is home to black storks, flamingos, purple herons, coots, bee-eaters and a seemingly endless number of different birds.


The Gallocanta Lagoon, Zaragoza and Teruel (Aragon)

Gallocanta laguna in Aragon, Spain
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 Gallocanta Lagoon is around 1,000 meters above sea level and is one of the most important saline lakes in Western Europe. This lake is on the migratory route for the common crane. October / November and February / March are the best times to visit this area. Guided tours of the nature reserve are also organized from the Gallocanta Lagoon Interpretation Center.


Hoces del Duratón Natural Park, Segovia (Castille y Leon)

Hoces del Rio Duratón Natural Park Parque Natural de las Hoces del Río Duratón is a natural park close to the town of Sepúlveda in the province of Segovia
Hoces del Rio Duratón Natural Park Parque Natural de las Hoces del Río Duratón is a natural park close to the town of Sepúlveda in the province of Segovia

The gorges of the Duratón river are home to one of the largest population of griffon vultures in Europe. Canoe trips here are a great way to get a bit closer to the wildlife of the area.


Ebro Delta Natural Park, Tarragona (Catalonia)

The Parque natural del Delta del Ebro holds a great importance internationally as more than 300 species of birds
The Parque natural del Delta del Ebro holds a great importance internationally as more than 300 species of birds

An absolute biological jewel and the most important wetland in Catalonia. Famous for its large and permanent colony of flamingos plus an excellent number of aquatic birds totaling more than 325 species


Marismas de Santoña, Victoria and Joyel Natural Park (Cantabria)

Marismas de Santoña, Victoria y Joyel Natural Park
Marismas de Santoña, Victoria y Joyel Natural Park

This Cantabrian natural park is considered one of the places with a huge biological diversity containing around 120 different species including grebes, cormorants, herons, loons, terns, ospreys, coots and white storks.


Lagunas de Villafáfila Nature Reserve, Zamora (Castille y Leon)

Reserva Natural de Lagunas de Villafáfila
Reserva Natural de Lagunas de Villafáfila

The best time to visit the Villafáfila Lagoons is in winter or spring. This is an area of ​​special protection for birds that make their home in the wetlands amongst the arable farmland. There are several viewpoints and hides. Grebe, white stork an cranes can be seen but the area is famous for the geese that use the area as a rest stop during their winter migration.


L’Albufera Natural Park (Valencia)

Albufera natural park - Valencia
Albufera natural park – Valencia

L’Albufera holds a great variety of aquatic birds. Its shores are protected for nesting and shelter for birds and the best months to find them are May, June, July, November, December and January. Look out for European rail, Purple galinule, common tern and black-footed tern.


Wildside Holidays – Spain

The top wildlife, activity and walking holiday companies in Spain. Small family companies living and working in Spain. Local guides are the best!

http://wildsideholidays.co.uk/