BirdWatching In Spain
Birdwatching comes natural in Spain. No less than 1226 square kms of its surface is covered with national parks. Some of Europe’s rarest birds are to be found in Spain.
WHERE TO GO?
Spain’s geographical location, forming almost a natural bridge between Africa and Europe on the one hand and the enormous diversity of climates and landscapes on the other hand explain the vast numbers of birds that can be found here.
No less than 456 different species are quoted, some of the species having their last European sites in Spain (Purple Gallinule, Marble Teal and White Headed Duck to name just a few)
- Aigües Tortes and Lago de Sant Maurici National Park has a surface area of 10,230 hectares and isolated in the Lleida Pyrenees.
- Surrounded by mountain peaks that are 3,000 meters high, it contains cascades and high mountain lakes set in valleys and formed by ancient glaciers. Birdwatching at its best.
- Caldera de Taburiente National Park occupies 4,690 hectares and is located on the island of La Palma. It consists of a giant caldera formed by erosion, with a depth of between 600 and 900 meters and rims that rise up to some 2,400 metres.
- Cañadas del Teide National Park consists of 13,500 hectares and is located on the island of Tenerife. Teide Mountain, of volcanic origin, is 3,717 meters high and snowcapped in contrast to the subtropical climate of the island.
Among the rich flora are 50 autonomous species, some of which grow exclusively in this park. Geographically part of Africa, the Canary Islands offer far more than just beaches and winter sunshine.It is a paradise for naturelovers and birdwatching. In fact, a closer look at this volcanic group of islands reveals unexpected variety.
- Doñana National Park is located in the provinces of Seville and Huelva at the mouth of the Guadalquivir river. It occupies some 50,720 hectares of land and contains three complementary ecosystems: Marsh, or wetlands; the coastal dunes; and the Atlantic beaches.
These characteristics and its warm climate – the low temperature in winter is 8ºC – make this an ideal place for birds migrating south to Africa in winter as well as the wintering place for other species that spend the summer in northern Europe.
It’s a good thing that Doñana is Spain’s largest national park. After all, it needs to accommodate the hundreds of thousands of birds that are resident, seasonal, or just making a stopover on the long-haul flight between northern Europe and Africa.Flat, open horizons like a watery Montana embrace a landscape of salt marshes, shallow lagoons, and shifting sand dunes, while colonies of herons, spoonbills, and storks make the cork oak trees their second home.
As for birdwatching: the park hosts around 250 bird species-including, at the last count, 15 pairs of imperial eagles (about 15 percent of the world population), and an additional 100 occasional alighters
- Garajonay National Park occupies 3,974 hectares and is located on the island of Gomera. It has the most important laurisylvan forests remaining on the Canary Archipelago.
- Maritimo-Terrestre National Park of the Cabrera Archipelago, with 1,836 hectares, has recently become part of the National Park network.Cabrera is the largest non-populated island in the Mediterranean. Regarding fauna, the Eleonor falcon is abundant, and there are autoctonous wall lizards and flocks of sea birds.
- Montaña de Covadonga National Park occupies 17,000 hectares and is located on the western peak of the Picos de Europa Mountain Range between the Cares and Dobra rivers.It is the natural habitat of several animal and plant species threatened with extinction, such as the holly, the royal eagle and the capercaille, a kind of woodcock.
- Ordesa National Park has 16,000 hectares and is located in the Huesca Pyrenees near the National Park of the French Pyrenees. It constitutes a perfectly preserved natural enclave and is home to the only herd of Pyrenees mountain goats in existence.
- Tablas de Daimiel National Park occupies 1,982 hectares and is located in the region known as “La Mancha Humeda”, or wet La Mancha. It is formed by large plains with a large number of wetlands and areas in which over 200 different bird species can be observed. Birdwatching made easy!
- Timanfaya National Park occupies 5,170 hectares and is located on the island of Lanzarote. It consists of relatively recently formed volcanic formations from the 18th and 19th centuries. There are also some autoctonous plant species among its sparse flora. Among its animal species is the Haria lizard.
The absolute best birdwatching places however are located in Andalucía. It attracts birdwatchers all over the year. Since the province is closest to Africa ( Marocco is only 16 km from the closest point on the Andalusian coast), special birdwathing events can be observed during the migration season
- Granada and AlmeriaThe badlands and dry planes here are excellent birdwatching locations. Best in November to June. Birdwatchers can spot: Dupont`s Lark, Great Spotted Cuckoo, European Roller, Red-necked Nightjar, Pallid Swift, Alpine Swift, Thekla Lark, Lesser Short-toed Lark, Trumpeter Finch, Spanish Sparrow, and recently, for the first ever time in Europe, a small breeding population of Cream-coloured Courser.The Hoya de Baza & Guadix (Granada) or Tabernas & Cabo de Gata are the best birdwatching spots.
- Fuente De Piedra Salt LagoonThis salty lagoon in Spain is 6.5km long and 2.5km wide, and is situated in the geographic centre of Andalusia.The best birdwatching season is December to June.There is a large breeding colony of Greater Flamingo to be seen with a population variating of 8,000 – 12,000 pairs.It is also breeding spot for Gull-billed Tern, Slender-billed Gull, Kentish Plover & Montagu`s Harrier.
- Marismas Del OdielThis wetland with pinewood forests and freshwater lagoons is a great birdwatching spot for breeding colonies of Spoonbill & Little Tern. Plovers, seabirds, cormorants and migrant passerines are to be found as well.
- Tarifa AreaTarifa is and the shortest crossing to Africa (the European side of the Straits of Gibraltar).Many thousands of birds rest here before starting the last stretch on the way to Africa, before crossing the 16 km of water and reaching the Moroccan coastline.Raptors, Passerines, Swifts, Bustards, Plovers, Sandpipers among many other bird families arrive here from all over Europe. Best from August to November.
From the entire province of Andalucía, Tarifa is the birdwatching place to be. Not only can you see the resident species and you can witness one of Europe’s most magnificent migration spectacles, but you can spot vagrant African species as well as they drift into this region.
9 RULES FOR BIRDWATCHING WITH RESPECT
1. Take care not to disturb either the birds or their habitat. Walk softly on the land.
2. Stay on established pathways and keep motor vehicles on established roads and parking areas.
3. Avoid harassment; don’t disturb birds that are nesting or their nesting areas. Do not handle eggs or young or tarry too long at a working nest.
4. Don’t over-use playback tapes or screech owl recordings to call birds in.
5. Don’t trespass on private property. Respect landowner’s rights to privacy. Always ask permission first.
6. If looking to find endangered species, follow local rules and regulations.
7. Avoid “tree-whacking” to arouse cavity dwellers. Undue disturbance may cause the bird to abandon its nest and young or even kill young inadvertently in an attempt to escape.
8. Divide larger groups of people into smaller, more manageable numbers. Small groups cause less disturbance. When possible, car pool.
9. Leave no litter or trash. Pack your garbage out of wilderness areas. Ingested items can kill: “Take nothing but photographs, leave nothing but footprints”.