Flightless birding to Extremadura

A talk by John O’Connell-Davidson, Devon Birds Plymouth Branch committee member at the Devon Birds Plymouth Branch Indoor meeting –  Monday 10th April 2017

John combines his love of travel with worldwide birdwatching and has visited many far-flung places in his search for species. Accompany John on a local bird watching trip and you will benefit from his expertise and ID knowledge and this skill was brought out in this engaging and informative presentation on birdwatching in Extremadura. The title of John’s presentation had nothing to do with some exotic non-flying species but referred to a cost effective and enjoyable trip which combined Plymouth to Santander ferry and car hire road trip down through Spain. John has kindly offered to give advice on travel and accommodation as well as birding hot-spots for iconic Iberian species of birds, insects and flora in this untouched and idyllic area of Spain.

Extremadura is located on a large flat plane and with varied habitat that has been shaped by an agrarian system that has been used for centuries and that allows for a harmonious relationship between farmer and wildlife. The bio-diversity is such that a rich and varied flora and fauna can exist and it is this ecology that is a key to the successful populations of resident, migrant and passing migrant birds. The management of the land with a more leisurely rotation of crops and livestock promotes the wild flowers, trees and insect life that in turn support the wide and flourishing bird populations. Even the towns and villages make homes for species such as Lesser Kestrel, Spotless Starling and Stork. The many lakes and reservoirs support warblers and water birds including Little, Great and Cattle Egrets, Purple Heron and even Whiskered Tern. Over the winter the many managed Oak groves that are an integral feature of the agrarian landscape support huge numbers of Crane which gorge themselves on the acorns before the find roosts at the local lakes.

John had visited Extremadura with his friend Peter whose photographs of many iconic species, such as Roller, Booted and Short-toed Eagle, and in the nearby Sierra Gredos Mountains Honey Buzzard, Goshawk and the sure-footed Ibex mountain goat featured in John’s presentation. The visit to the mountains also provided opportunities to see Alpine flora and to put one’s boots in the snow!

Information and advice about Extremadura is freely available both from the internet and in hardcopy from events such as Birdfair and help to make this area of Spain an easily accessible and rich resource for anyone who wishes to be immersed in a wildlife paradise.

John Lloyd

All photos by Peter Burkill