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Tasting with Cati / Extremadura Wine Tours

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Birding in Tierra de Barros y Valle Matachel

The mountain ranges that occupy the centre of the province of Badajoz (Sierras de San Serván, Grajera, Peñas Blancas, del Conde-Vistalegre, Manchita and Hornachos), are authentic “ecosystem-islands” in a highly degraded agricultural environment, and boast a community of large birds of prey as the main ornithological value. Throughout the route and at each one of the suggested observation points and/or walking routes (Hill of the Castle-Dam of Alange, Mines of Tierra Blanca, Sierra Utrera, Sierra Grande and Sierra de Pinos), you can see birds of prey. The populations of Bonelli’s Eagle (10 pairs), Golden Eagle (9 pairs), Egyptian Vulture (8 pairs) and Griffon Vulture (over 100 pairs) are very important in conservation terms. Other important species (Short-toed Eagle, Eagle Owl, Common and Lesser Kestrels, Eurasian Sparrowhawk, etc.) as well as those that are of more general interest (Black Kite, Booted Eagle, Common Buzzard) can also be seen along the route. Other species of interest include Black Wheatear, Black-eared Wheatear, Blue Rock Thrush, Rock Bunting, Western Orphean, Dartford and Subalpine warblers, amongst others closely linked to rocky crags, Mediterranean forests and dehesa. In winter species such as Alpine Accentor appear, as well as a small population of Common Crane that feeds in the dehesa and roosts in the reservoirs. On the wall of the dam of Alange the biggest breeding colony of Alpine Swift in Extremadura is established (over 300 birds; and they are also present in some mountain crags in the area), as well as a large number of House Martins, Eurasian Jackdaws, etc. In the wetlands of the area, particularly Alange Reservoir (difficult to access as it is so large), a large group of water birds can be found throughout the whole year, but mainly in winter (grebes, rails, ducks, herons, gulls, terns, cormorants, etc.) but also during the breeding period (particularly colonial ducks and waders). Blackwinged Stilt, Little Grebe and Common Coot regularly breed in the Lake of Melchor Gómez, and occasionally Whiskered Tern, Collared Pratincole and Northern Lapwing. The community is enriched by other species (chiefly waders) during the migration, which can also include Eurasian Spoonbill. In short, there is a great ornithological richness here, as befits a diverse and heterogeneous area.

Best time to visit

Spring is the perfect time to do this birdwatching route, for the richness of both the fauna and botanical species (see later). However, the middle of winter (DecemberFebruary) also offers pleasant rewards.

Other environmental and cultural interest

Environmental interest. There is another series of Natural Areas of the Natura 2000 Network in the área (SCIs Guadiana alto, River Matachel, River Palomillas; SPAs Colonia de primillas de la Iglesia de Guareña (Lesser Kestrel) and Cornalvo Natural Park; you can find more information at http://www.extremambiente.es). The area also has interesting botanical values, such as the best and almost only Spanish populations of the geranium “Geranio de roca” (Erodium mouretii), and excellent populations of Orchids and Daffodils (Narcissus spp.). Molinos reservoir (Hornachos) is another area you could visit (roosting area for Common Crane, concentrations of Black Stork, ducks, etc. after the breeding season).

Historical-cultural interest. The mountain ranges mentioned have, without exception, one of the best collections of schematic rock art in the Southwest of Spain. There is a sign-posted route in La Zarza to visit the famous “Rock paintings of La Calderita”. The historical areas or monumental centres of Mérida (World Heritage Site), Alange (Roman thermal springs-spa,
Castle, parish church, chapels) and Hornachos (“Moorish enclave”: Arabic castle (alcazaba), pillars and fountains, orchards and irrigation channels, ancestral houses, chapels) have outstanding historical interest. The Mudejar churches of Palomas, Puebla de la Reina and Hornachos are also worth visiting.