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Spain's Best

Simple...a series of lists declaring Spain's "best" in anything and everything...they may be lists compiled by independent reviewers or by myself....whichever, I hope you find them useful :-)

Ornithology in Spain - Special spots
Wednesday, November 2, 2022 @ 8:20 PM

If you are one of those people who always travel glued to your binoculars, silently looking at the sky with your camera's telephoto lens always ready to go, then you are probably one of the thousands of fans in Spain of ornithological tourism — also known as birding, or birdwatching. If that’s the case, your most frequent travel destinations probably include places like Monfragüe, Doñana, Cabañeros, etc. But there is life beyond the large National Parks. Here are five lesser-known but equally interesting destinations for birding. Get your eagle eye ready!

1. Llobregat Delta, Barcelona

It’s astonishing that, just over six miles (ten kilometers) outside of a major city like Barcelona, you can find an amazing natural area like this one. The Llobregat Delta has been declared a Special Protection Area for Birds because of its excellent location on a strategic point along the migratory route between Africa and northern Europe. The area includes marked routes that you can explore as you please, following leaflets and information panels, or with one of the guided tours organized by the park itself. In fact, there is a special guide service for birdwatching. The visit is guided by an expert ornithologist, who will take you to the spots where the most interesting species can be seen. Storks, Kentish plovers, Little ringed plovers, grebes, avocets, pratincoles, little terns, and even endangered species, like ospreys and Balearic shearwaters, await you here.


2. Los Barruecos, Cáceres

Did you know that, Spain has one of the largest urban colonies of white storks in Europe? In the small Extremaduran village of Malpartida de Cáceres, you have to walk around as if you were in New York city, with your head turned up to the sky—not to see skyscrapers, but instead to admire the hundreds of storks that have made their nests on its buildings. Among the village’s hundreds of specimens, one of the most beloved is Antonia the stork, whose migratory journeys stretch as far as Mali. And outside the village, at the Los Barruecos Natural Monument, you'll be treated to an exceptional landscape, one of the very few colonies of this species of stork in the wild. The birds live on the massive granite boulders — especially on the rock formation called Peñas del Tesoro — in front of the ponds where the storks quench their thirst.

3. Río Lobos Canyon, Soria

The walls and hollows of the canyon that rises up on both sides of the Lobos River in Soria are the perfect refuge for the many birds that inhabit the Natural Park. Strolling along the river or venturing into its forested areas, you can find species like the golden eagle, the peregrine falcon, the eagle-owl, the goshawk, and river-dwelling species like the kingfisher and the mallard. A unique experience in this area is to get up early and arrive at the Galiana lookout point before any of the tourists. Here, in silence, with the breathtaking canyon in front of us, spectacular specimens of griffon vultures, one of the area's most abundant species, will fly over you at an altitude of only five meters. They take flight from among the rocks beneath the lookout point and emerge, majestic, in front of your eyes, so close that you can even admire the way their feathers move in the wind.


4. Gallocanta Lake Nature Reserve, Zaragoza

It’s not a National Park, but it’s undoubtedly one of the favorite destinations for genuine birdwatching enthusiasts. The Gallocanta Lake, halfway between Zaragoza and Teruel is a salt water lake despite being located at an altitude of almost 3,300 feet (1,000) meters. It is a spectacular setting that has been declared a Special Protection Area for Birds. Among the species that are most frequently found in this area are the common pochard, the red-crested pochard, the mallard, the northern shoveler, and even the aquatic warbler, the most threatened small bird species in Europe. The one that stands out the most, however, is the crane — both for its beauty and for the large number of specimens who find shelter in this lake, with about 40,000 cranes stopping every year.


5. Villafáfila Lakes Nature Reserve, Zamora

Only 40 minutes away from the city of Zamora, you can find one of the best birding spots in Castile and León: the Villafáfila Lakes. These important wetlands emerge almost as an oasis amid the farms, where grains are the main crop. The area includes three large lakes — Salina Grande, Barillos, and Salinas — and other small marshes. It is an exceptional place for all types of birds. The most characteristic species here is the great bustard. In fact, it is one of the world’s largest communities of the species, with more than 2,000 specimens. This species looks like it was born to be in front of the camera, and here you’ll be able to shoot incredible photos, especially when they are in large groups. The observatory in front of the main lake is the perfect place to see species like the Montagu's harrier, the little bustard, the little grebe, the white stork, the northern shoveler, the mallard, and the crane.

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