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Book direct on 01962 733051or see page 284 for Booking Information127This tour combines the contrastinghabitats of central Spain - theundulating, sun-drenched steppesand shimmering plains of Extremadura, therugged oak-forested hills of MonfragüeNational Park, and the imposing granitepeaks of the Sierra de Gredos. We willexplore these exciting and wild habitatsduring the course of a 2-centre, week-longholiday focusing particularly on the birdlifeof the region, but also enjoying theabundant and colourful wayside flora ofboth the plains and mountains, as well asany butterflies and mammals we encounterduring the week. We begin the holiday with a flight toMadrid, from where we head south-westthrough rolling hills, olive groves and CorkOak woodland to the central plateau ofExtremadura, where we find extensivesheep-grazed grasslands and Cork Oakforests known locally as dehasa. For thenext four nights we will be based near thebeautiful medieval town of Trujillo, an idealspot from which to explore the adjacentsteppes and the magnificent MonfragüeNational Park. Flocks of Lesser Kestrelsand Pallid Swifts wheel around Trujillo'sbeautifully preserved ancient churches,whilst White Storks peer down from theirroof-top nests or clatter their bills to greeta returning mate. One of our main goals,however, will be to witness one of the mostexciting bird spectacles in Europe, thebreeding display of the Great Bustard. During this, the males - the world'sheaviest flying birds - convertthemselves, by a series of bizarredistortions, into huge white balls offeathers that revolve slowly in an almostmilitary step. While they look stately anddignified, the nearby Little Bustardsperform an awkward, head-throwing actionaccompanied by a comical buzzing sound.The two species are certainly the starattractions of this region, but it offers farmore besides, including many othergrassland specialities such as Quail, StoneCurlew, Pin-tailed and Black-belliedSandgrouse, and both Calandra and Short-toed Larks, whilst Bee-eaters, Rollers andHoopoes bring colour to the scene. In thesurrounding Cork Oak dehasawe will lookfor Great Spotted Cuckoos, Hoopoes,Orphean Warblers, Short-toedTreecreepers, both Woodchat andSouthern Grey Shrikes and Azure-wingedMagpies. Overhead we will keep an eyeopen for the 16 species of raptor which,with luck, may include the localised Black-shouldered Kite. It is in MonfragüeNational Park, however, that we will focusin particular on birds of prey; hereEgyptian, Black and Griffon Vultures riseon the thermals with the heat of the day,both Red and Black Kites are numerous,and Golden, Spanish Imperial, Bonelli's,Booted and Short-toed Eagle all breed.Amongst other specialities are Black Storkand Eagle Owl, whilst the smaller andmore abundant occupants of the hillsinclude Alpine Swift, Thekla Lark, CragMartin, Red-rumped Swallow, BlackWheatear, Blue Rock Thrush, SubalpineWarbler and Chough.To the north-east of Extremadura andMonfragüe lies the Sierra de Gredos. Thisis a rugged and imposing range of granitemountains that rises to 2,600 metres andis a stronghold of the magnificent SpanishIbex, a species that we will make a specialeffort to see during our stay. We will spendthe second part of our holiday here, basedin a very comfortable, boutique-style hotelthat boasts a fine view towards themountains and serves some of the finestfood in the province. This will ensure thatwe are in good shape for our walks in thesurrounding hills, forests and mountains! In the valley below our hotel we will searchthe pine forests for Honey Buzzard,Goshawk, Western Bonelli's Warbler,Firecrest, Pied Flycatcher, Crested Tit, andperhaps even Citril Finch and Crossbill.Higher up, above the tree-line, we willsearch for breeding Crag Martins, Dippers,Bluethroats, Rock and Ortolan Buntings,whilst higher still we will look for WaterPipits, Alpine Accentors, Black Redstartsand Rock Thrushes. Birds of prey are notnumerous here, but amongst the speciesthat do pass overhead from time to timeare both Black and Griffon Vultures,Golden Eagle and Booted Eagle. Thedominant plant of the mountains is theyellow-flowered broom, but along therivers, streams, roads and tracks of theGredos - and in the ancient stone-walledhay meadows and grazing pastures - wewill find a colourful flora that includesmany orchid species. Indeed, by spendingmost of our time on this part of the holidayexploring on foot, by means of mountainwalks, we can hope to see a wide range ofwildlife including an excellent flora andattendant butterfly and insect-life.ExtremaduraOutline itineraryDay 1Fly Madrid and transferto Trujillo.Day 2/4Monfragüe/Trujillo.Day 5/7Gredos Mountains.Day 8Fly Madrid to London.Accommodation A lovingly converted stately homedeep in the heart of Extremaduraand a superb family-run hotel in theGredos with an award-winningrestaurant. Exceptionalaccommodation and cuisine, plusen suite facilities, at both locations. Food and wineAll included in the price.GradingGrade A/B. Easy/moderate daywalks, though there will be sometougher options in the Gredos forthose requiring them! Focus Primarily birds, but also plants,butterflies and mammals.LeadersLee Morgan (ornithologist) and Andrew Cleave (botanist).Single room supplement£195.ExtensionsExtra nights in Madrid available onrequest.Web quick search: ESP06FRANCEPORTUGALTRUJILLOGREDOS MOUNTAINSSEVILLEGUADALQUIVIRRIVERMADRIDATLANTICOCEANMEDITERRANEAN SEASPAINSpain - Extremadura & Gredos MountainsAn 8-day holiday in search of the birds, and other natural history, in the steppes and plains ofExtremadura and the mountain habitats in the Sierra de Gredos.Tuesday 30th April - Tuesday 7th May Cost: £1,395 Spanish IbexPin-tailed Sandgrouse

It is very difficult to see the Wolf', saidSeñor Mozo. Then, pointing to numerouspoints all over a large map of the area,he added 'he can be anywhere'! Ourchances of a Wolf sighting looked slim, yet,by the time of our first tours in March 2006,Naturetrek staff had paid 14 visits to theregion and had successfully encounteredWolves on all but one of those visits. Wehave been delighted that this success ratehas proved sustainable whilst visiting ingroups, with 90% of our tours to datehaving seen Wolf. We have also seen WildBoar and 16 species of birds of prey. Wolf-watching can, indeed, seem very difficultduring the long hours that need to be put into track down such a notoriously elusiveanimal, but we believe that on this tour youhave as good a chance as any of actuallyseeing a Wolf in Europe!The Cordillera Cantábrica and its outlyingranges hold the vast majority of Spain's2,500 to 3,000 Wolves and are thestronghold of the species in Europe. Thisis a population that has increasedmarkedly since an estimated all-time lowof just 500 individuals in 1970. Thedepopulation of Spain's rural regions, asSpaniards have increasingly migrated intothe cities, has benefited the Wolf, as has achanging attitude towards an animal thatwas once viciously persecuted.The particular area in which we have beenwatching Wolves in recent years, and onwhich we focus during this holiday, is aregion of rolling hills and broad valleyswhich affords excellent opportunities toscan wide areas of open land and whichmay easily be accessed via an extensivenetwork of metalled roads and gravelledforest tracks. It is a landscape that is partScotland, part New Forest; it is a rollingtapestry of conifer plantations, sprawlingoak woodlands, extensive heaths, ancientgrazing meadows enclosed bytumbledown dry stone walls, and dampgrassy hollows marked by elegant poplarstands. Much of the birdlife here is sharedwith such similar habitats in Britain. Birdsof prey are much in evidence, and includeRed Kites, Hen Harriers, Sparrowhawks,Common Buzzards, Kestrels, Merlins andeven the occasional Golden Eagle. Coniferforests are filled with Firecrests, Coal andCrested Tits, Jays and large and noisyflocks of Crossbills. The heaths holdWoodlarks, Stonechats and DartfordWarblers, whilst Ravens honk evocativelyas they pass overhead. Good numbers ofboth Red and Roe Deer (the prey of theWolf!) complete the picture. But, take alook around the traditional granite-builtvillages of the region and the CrestedLarks, Black Redstarts, Southern GreyShrikes, Spotless Starlings, RockSparrows, Serins, Cirl Buntings and RockBuntings soon confirm that you really arein southern Europe ... as, too, do the WildBoar that are common in this region.Looking for Wolves requires a great deal ofpersistence, patience and stealth. It alsorequires a lot of luck . not least with theweather! We will spend much of each day(certainly the first and last three or fourhours) touring the roads and tracksthroughout the hills and stopping forvariable periods at suitable viewpoints inorder to scan for Wolves, and any othermammals and also birds that we mayhappen to see. We may also go out afterdark to listen for Wolves. En route to and from the hills we will detourto a very special area of rolling agriculturalland. Here, low intensity farming ispractised specifically to encourage birdlife,especially the Great Bustard. The areaoffers a bleak yet charming landscape,almost from a bygone age, its undulatingplains stretching in all directions to thehorizon, a mosaic of stubble, plough andset-aside grasslands broken by wildwetlands and traditional old farmingvillages, often of mud construction andeach dominated by a giant church withstatutory Storks' nests adorning eachimposing bell-tower. Lavish antique 'pigeonhouses' and grain silos, both ornatelyfashioned from mud and clay tiles, furthercharacterise the landscape. Here, GreatBustards occur in vast numbers, severalhundred or more generally being easilyobserved within a single visit. We will alsolook for the flocks of Common Cranes andthe thousands of Greylag Geese and otherwaterfowl that winter here, together withMarsh and Hen Harriers, Merlins, Red Kitesand other raptors. Amongst a great manyother species that we will hope to see maybe Little Bustard, Black-bellied Sandgrouseand numerous larks, finches and buntings.So good is this site that it might even merita full day's excursion for anyone wishing fora break from the routine of our dailysearches for Wolves, for, as Señor Mozostressed, 'it is very difficult to see theWolf'. but a lot easier finding Bustards!Wolves & Bustards in Rural SpainA 5-day holiday to a little-known and very rural corner of northern Spain in search of Wolves in the hills, and Common Cranes and Great Bustards on the plains.Tuesday 23rd October - Saturday 27th October 2012 Cost: £695Saturday 27th October - Wednesday 31st October 2012 Cost: £695Tuesday 30th April - Saturday 4th May 2013 Cost: £795Friday 14th June - Tuesday 18th June 2013 Cost: £795Friday 20th September - Tuesday 24th September 2013 Cost: £795Monday 23rd December - Friday 27th December 2013 Cost: £895128Call now or visit www.naturetrek.co.ukfor your free Trip ItineraryFRANCEPORTUGALSEVILLEBILBAOCORDILLERA CANT!BRICAVALLADOLIDMADRIDATLANTICOCEANMEDITERRANEANSEASPAINGreat BustardRural SpainWolfWolf country!'Outline itineraryDay 1Fly Valladolíd; transferto the hills.Day 2/4Daily programme ofWolf-tracking, and/orbirdwatching, excursions.Day 5Fly Stansted.Accommodation A simple but clean and comfortablevillage hotel (that doubles as thevillage inn); all rooms haveattached private bathrooms. Food All included in the price.GradingGrade A. Some easy walks, butmost of our Wolf-tracking/watchingis done by patiently scanning frompanoramic viewpoints. Focus Wolves, Great Bustards and otherbirds and mammals.LeaderGerald Broddelez, Byron Palaciosor Dave Pierce.Single room supplement£65.ExtensionA self-drive extension to the ParqueNatural Hoces del Rio Duratón forDupont's Larks and other steppespecies can be arranged onrequest.Web quick search: ESP19