SPAIN: DONANA & EXTREMADURA PART ONE

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GENERAL INFO & SITE ACCOUNTS

PART TWO

 

 

GENERAL

Spain is possibly one of the best countries in Europe to go bird watching with several sought after species occurring only on the Iberian peninsula or which are difficult to find in other parts of southern Europe. It is also a country that holds some great cultural highlights and cities. The opportunity to enjoy both made us decide to make a two week trip to southern Spain combining one week of birding in Donana and Extramadura, followed by a second week visiting the famous cities of Andalusia namely Granada, Cordoba, Ronda and Seville. To get the most out of the birding I decided to book a private bird tour for which I contacted Donana Bird Tours (www.donanabirdtours.com). The company was formerly owned and founded by John Butler who tragically died in September 2007. Nowadays Brian & Yolanda Davies keep Johnís legacy alive. After a few e-mails with David we agreed on an itinerary containing three night in Hinojos near Donana, and four nights in Trujillo in Extremadura. The price they offered was very reasonable (particularly for a private tour) and included transportation, private bird guide, accommodations and all food except at Donana and lunches in Trujillo. Afterwards the price appeared to be about the same as one would pay for a group tour offered by other companies on the internet because the food we had to pay for onsite was really cheap. The tour was perfectly guided by Peter Warham (pwarham@hotmail.co.uk) who also acted as our driver. Peter is a lifelong and experienced resident bird guide. He speaks fluently Spanish which appeared to become very handy especially in the Spanish countryside where really nobody speaks any word of English. Peter was really good company and besides the great birding we experienced, we also had a great time during lunch breaks and dinner in the evenings. We really had a fun week!! Together with his wife Norma he also runs a very nice B&B accommodation in the Aracena mountains (www.andaluciaholidays.eu) about 11/2 hours drive north of Seville. We really hope to visit their B&B in the near future for a couple of days.

 

 

PREPARATIONS

Spain is very popular amongst birders and as a result of that birding information on the country is widely available. For general birding info I used www.fatbirder.com which is my favorite website for preparing all of my birding trips. The website has numerous links to interesting sites providing valuable information about birding sites, accommodation, tour operators, reserves and trip reports. Numerous trip reports are also provided at www.travellingbirder.com. The 632 trip reports published on this website prove the immense popularity of Spain as a birding destination. Other interesting sites for general travel information are available at www.andalucia.com, and for the cities at www.exploreseville.com, www.turismoronda.es, www.infocordoba.com and www.turgranada.es. For birding preparations we used following books: Field guide to the birds of Europe & Northern Africa from Svensson/Zetterstrom, and the recently new edition of Where to watch birds in Southern & Western Spain from Garcia/Paterson. For general travel info we used the Lonely Planet Andalusia.

 

GETTING THERE

Cheap flights to Seville, Faro or Madrid are widely available from many cities throughout Europe. We flew from Weeze Dusseldorf to Seville with Ryanair at a cost of Euro 150 each including airport taxes, reservation costs and costs for luggage. However the maximum luggage weight is only 15 kg per bag. Be warned that Ryanair will charge you for every gram of overweight. We had to pay Euro 90 extra for 6 kg of overweight.

 

GETTING AROUND

During our first birding week all transportation was arranged by Donana Bird Tours. Our guide Peter picked us up at the airport and dropped us the next week at the Seville train station. Road conditions were mostly good to very good except a few minor roads in and around Donana and around Trujillo. Spain has excellent motorways and national roads with almost no traffic on it. The drive from Donana to Trujillo (about 320 km) takes only about 3 hours of driving. If you want to visit Andalusiaís cities like we did in the second week than taking the train is a very good and cheap option. We first wanted to rent a car but we were happy that we didnít. Travelling by train was really relaxing and cheap. The complete roundtrip from Seville to Granada, Ronda, Cordoba and back to Seville was only Euro 71 each. We did not have to worry about how to find our hotel and where to park the car which costs about Euro 17 per day in the big cities. Timetables and prices are available at www.renfe.es/horarios/english/index.html. Taxis from the train station to the hotels in the centre cost around Euro 5 to 8.

 

WEATHER AND WHEN TO GO

It is recommended to avoid the extremely hot summer season from the end of June until the beginning of September. The rest of the year birding can be very rewarding and enjoyable. Spring is absolutely an excellent time to visit the area. Early spring has the advantage of seeing many early migrants, late winter visitors and early breeders like displaying Great Bustards. However weather could be a bit unstable especially in March. We decided to visit the area in the first week of May which gives the advantage of having more stable weather conditions and also having the opportunity to see the late arrivers. Winter is also an excellent time to visit especially Donana with its many winter visitors like Cranes and numerous waders, geese, ducks etc.

 

ACCOMODATIONS & FOOD

Our accommodation during the first birding week was pre-arranged by DBT. The first three nights we stayed at Hostal Pino Donana in Hinojos, a village close to Donana NP. Despite it was only a two star hostal it was a perfectly adequate place to stay with comfortable and clean rooms. The next four nights we stayed at Hostal Julio in Trujillo, another two star hostal which was even better than the one in Hinojos. Itís location was really excellent at the edge of town, and still only a five minutes walk to the historic center. Dinner was excellent at Hostal Julio. In general we were astonished by the cleanliness and high standard of hostals during the whole trip. Accommodation in the cities during the second week was plentiful available from budget to luxury hotels. As during the first week the standard of one and two star hostals was very high and reasonably priced especially for city hotels. Food and eating out is another delight to enjoy if you are in Spain. We especially enjoyed their hams and sausages (mostly on a sandwich for lunch) and of course paella and the enormous variety of tapas.

 

BIRDING FACTS

With a bird list of about 455 species Spain is one of the most popular countries for birding in Europe. Our week of birding produced a trip list of 153 species of which 20 were new for me. Highlights included Spanish Imperial Eagle, Little and Great Bustard, Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Red-necked Nightjar and although common Azure-winged Magpie. Although having a great birding week we missed a few species which I had hoped to see namely Marbled Duck, White-headed Duck and Pin-tailed Sandgrouse.

 

 


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