If you are thinking of getting started in birdwatching, fortune is on your side: the birds are the most abundant faunal groups and occupy almost all the ecosystems of our country, considered by experts as one of the best destinations of the European Union for birding. There are over 450 species of birds, in addition to an exceptionally high number of endemisms and rarities, which can be sighted in the wetlands of Spain.
When the summer solstice gives way to the shortening of days and the drop in temperatures sets the guidelines for wildlife, many birds begin their annual tour in search of the barracks where to spend the autumn, winter and the beginning of spring. It is then when many territories of the Peninsula welcome these travelers, stopping in the wetlands and deltas where they find refuge and food.
Pay attention to the ecotourism destinations that we offer to enjoy the unique show that birds offer us.
1) THE TRIUMPH OF THE FIRST SPANISH ENVIRONMENTAL ACTIVIST: THE NATIONAL PARK OF DOÑANA
From a royal hunt for several centuries to the ducal residence of the Pérez de Guzmán family, Doñana had many suitors before being declared a National Park thanks to the illustrious José Antonio Valverde. Today, it is one of the most important wetland reserves in Europe and is a place of pilgrimage for bird lovers in Andalucía.
Located between the provinces of Huelva, Seville and Cádiz, the delta of the Guadalquivir has been constituted as a unique mixture of ecosystems recognized throughout the world for its great ecological wealth. In particular, for the more of 120 species of birds that inhabit it, such as flamingos, different types of geese or one of the largest populations of Iberian imperial eagles in the world. But also, Doñana is a key crossroads for the migratory routes of birds that come from northern Europe in winter.
You have many options to know all the fauna that hides in these places, because the network of trails that extends through the Park is important. Starting from the Acebuche visitor centers or the Ice Factory, you can enjoy bike routes through Matalascañas, access riparian forests on the Acebrón trail or watch birds from one of the observatories along the route of La Rocina.
Don’t miss any of these spots, enjoying a whole day with this ornithology activity in Doñana.
2) DELTA DEL EBRO, THE PERFECT PLOT BETWEEN THE SEA AND THE LAND
Located in southern Catalonia, the second most important wetland in mainland after Doñana, is the result of a historical struggle between the river and the sea. Also between nature and man; The landscape is dominated by rice fields, economic pillar of the region.
But far from diminishing its value, these crops help make this delta one of the wettest areas rich in flora and fauna in the Mediterranean. Within the Natural Park you can find different habitats, such as lagoons, dunes, beaches and, of course, the river that is used as a way of transport for the sediments that make up the flat delta through the riparian forests.
To know the different environments, you can make trips on foot or by bike that, leaving from Deltebre, cover the main protected areas of the Park. The Garxal, the Goleró, the Gola de Migjorn, the Alfacada and the Laguna de la Encañizada should be included in your route book. If you visit in the fall you will have the opportunity to see from the viewpoints the thousands of waterfowls on their migration, colonizing the rice fields, already harvested.
You can also enjoy kayak tours that are organized from the Ornithological Center of the Delta del Ebro, located in Casa de Fusta, in the town of Amposta.
3) THE CONTINENTAL WETLAND OF MANCHA HÚMEDA
The paradise for aquatic birds is in Castilla-La Mancha. This Biosphere Reserve hosts places as significant as Las Tablas de Daimiel, the Natural Park of Lagunas de Ruidera or the lagoon of Alcázar de San Juan, Villafranca de los Caballeros or Pedro Muñoz. In total, 400,000 hectares to quench your ornithological thirst.
THE TABLES OF DAIMIEL
In the province of Ciudad Real we find this unique wetland in Europe, for being the last ecosystem of known rivers. It combines the waters from the floods of the Guadiana and Cigüela rivers with the underground waters of nearby aquifers, which has caused a very unique habitat in which you can spot all kinds of aquatic fauna. In particular, birds use this area for wintering, moulting and nesting.
From the visitor’s center, which you can directly reach from Daimiel, you can find three itineraries you can enjoy on foot and that will take you to the different observatories scattered throughout the Park. A fourth itinerary is enabled to cross it in SUV. On your way you can see the red duck, the blue duck, the imperial heron, the little egret, the crabeater, the great crested grebe or the European pochard, among other species.
Join this activity to visit the Tablas de Daimiel in a 4×4, passing through the lagoon of Navaseca.
Halfway between the provinces of Ciudad Real and Albacete, Lagunas de Ruidera make up a characteristic landscape of water, flows and waterfalls. From the towns of Ruidera and Ossa de Montiel, there are routes that you can enjoy on foot or by bike to see the 15 lagoons that form this landscape and the different species of waterbirds that inhabit it, such as ducks, coots, porrones and teals. You will also find some raptors, such as the marsh harrier.
If you want to get to know this Natural Park in the most complete way possible, don’t miss this chance to visit Ruidera with small hiking trails.
4) SANTOÑA, A MARISMA TO THE ANTOJO DE LAS TIDES
The Natural Park of Las Marismas de Santoña, Noja, Joyel and Victoria is a beauty show and is one of the most impressive seascapes of our coasts. The close link between the terrestrial and aquatic environment gives an extraordinary biological heritage, being cited more than fifty species and a count of more than 20,000 birds.
Erected natural paradise of ornithologists and nature lovers, the Natural Park offers you the possibility of guided ornithological visits by boat for the observation of waterbirds. Species of diving ducks, seabirds such as hawks and terns, rails, curlews or spatulas in their scale to the south are observed during the last months of the year.
You also have routes on foot to get into such unique landscapes as the Solija or Bengoa marsh, the Boo channel or the Sorbal lagoon, the only freshwater lagoon in the entire wetland complex, and where coots and porrones inhabit.
5) THE VALENCIA ALBUFERA OR THE AMENO POOL
The Albufera is an extensive wetland located in southern Valencia that was originated by the fluvial contributions of the Turia and Xúquer rivers.
It is made up of a large coastal lagoon surrounded by marshland (paddy area) and was declared as a Natural Park in 1986 to alleviate the process of consequent degradation of human actions. In recent years, great efforts are being made to conserve them and, despite the problems that have threatened it since the 1960s, it still conserves many natural values, being an important spot for many waterfowl populations.
You can enjoy a hiking tour from the Racó de l’Olla Visitors Center that will take you through the most important observatories. However, the most popular visit is the albuferenc (typical boat in the area) tour through the channels of the Albufera. Formerly, they were used to reach the island of El Palmar, inaccessible on foot. Today, it’s thought to be for tourists and allows you to enjoy all the wonders of this Natural Park.
Among the birds that inhabit there, it’s included the red duck, the gray heron, the coot, the stork, the great or the grebe. How many of them would you be able to watch during this visit to the Albufera Natural Park of Valencia?
6) GALLOCANTA: CRANES AND MUCH MORE
For a Japanese origamist, Gallocanta would be a source of inspiration. For you, who are looking to see birds, is a spectacle of nature in which to enjoy the striking flocks of cranes that come every year to these lands.
Laguna de Gallocanta is the largest salt marsh in Spain and one of the best ones preserved in Europe. Located in soutwestern Zaragoza, on a plain at 1,000 meters high, its waters are the rest area of thousands of cranes during their migrations, as well as serving as a habitat or passage area for another 200 species of birds.
If you want to go after the queen of the place, you can take a tour from the town of Gallocanta, where some dirt tracks will take you to the lagoon. In the observatory of the hermitage of Good Agreement you can watch the arrival of the flocks of cranes at dusk during November and December. Then we recommend you to go to Berrueco: from the viewpoint of the Castle you will have a complete view of the place, which will make it easier to spot other birds.
Trails leave from the town of Tornos, that will take you to other interesting areas of the lake, and on the way to Bello you will find an interpretation center where you can finish with some more practical information about the wetland.
7) AN OASIS AMONG PALOMARES: VILLAFÁFILA LAKES
In the middle of the Castilian cereal steppe is located this wetland formed mainly by 3 seasonal and shallow lagoons: Laguna Grande, Barillos and Las Salinas.
Between the three of them, they extend over approximately 400 hectares, and in winter they welcome almost half of the aquatic birds of Castile and Leon, like the white jars, common teals, the ducks spoons and the common geese, of those that have been sighted up to 20,000 units some years. Other species of geese such as the facet, the piquicorto and the cariblancas barnacles are more or less usual companions in the great flocks of commons.
There is a path of about 15 kilometers to walk that area of Casa del Parque, located on the road from Villafáfila to Villalpando. You can skirt the Laguna Grande and reach one of the most significant viewpoints to the Reserve.
Very close to these habitats, we find populations of Great Bustard, Little Bustard, Ortega, Stone Curlew, Barn Owl and Little Owl. If your visit is at the end of the year, you will witness the arrival of large flocks of geese and cranes.
If you still don’t have an eye to distinguish the different species, you can do an ornithology initiation activity in Ledesma, very close to this area.
8) ALBUFERA DE MALLORCA, THE GREAT WETLAND OF LAS BALEARES
Located between the terms of Muro and La Pobla and with an area of 1,700 hectares, this old lagoon is the most important protected area of the Balearic Islands. Each year, more than 270 species are registered by the staff of the Park, being the place with the most biodiversity of island flora and fauna, hosting more than two thirds of the total bird species of the Balearic Islands.
With access totally restricted to motor vehicles and with a limited capacity of daily visits, you must previously go to the Roca reception center where free permits are processed for visitors. The entrance to the Park is located behind the bridge of the English and from the interpretation center of Can Bateman de Muro you can make a circuit with 4 different routes, which you must do on foot or by bike, and that will take you through the different environments of the Park. In these tours, the most unique spots and points of interest are perfectly identified.
Tetons, fighters, moritos and spatulas will make you enjoy your visit.
9) DOMAINS OF FLAMENCO: LAKE SOURCE OF STONE
In the province of Málaga, near Antequera, you will find this Natural Reserve, with waters permanently dyed in pink. By taking a second look, you will discover that those spots that you see in the distance are, in fact, thousands of flamingos that have made this place their place of reproduction. If you want to immerse yourself in the life that exists in the wetland, you have to participate as a volunteer in the ringing campaigns that take place every year between the months of July and August.
But the Laguna de Fuente de Piedra not only gives shelter to the largest colony of flamingos in Spain. Being the largest wetland in Andalucía, with 1,400 hectares, another 170 species of birds have found in this lagoon their place of breeding, passage or wintering. Birds like the wigeon duck, the white jar or the duck spoon are very abundant. But other species are less abundant, as fighters, curlews and even flocks of cranes can be easily spotted with your binoculars.
For you to watch them, there are two paths that start from the Interpretation Center of the Lagoon, called Laguneto and Albinas, which take you to the viewpoint of the Laguneto and the Vicaría, respectively. In addition, you can go around the lagoon by bike along the tracks around it.
Do you like flamingos? You can see many more if you join this activity to know the Biosphere Reserve of La Mancha Húmeda.
10) FROM GERNIKA TO MUNDAKA: THE URDAIBAI RIVER
In Mundaka you will not only find surfers and waves. Located at the mouth of the Oka River, and in between Gernika, Machichaco Cape and Ogoño Rock, the Urdaibai Biosphere Reserve is a surprisingly varied and beautiful natural area. Its heart is the Oka River, which becomes a river upon reaching Mundaka, creating spectacular marshes full of life. These present remarkable differences between low tide and high tide that you shouldn’t miss.
From the different viewpoints of the Bird Center, your eyes will be delighted with the spatulas from the Wadden Sea, the elegant herons, geese and waders arriving from the north and you can even spot the bittern, the wizard of camouflage.
Starting from the station of San Cristóbal, a small path that surrounds an area of the marsh will take you to one of the watchtower-houses from where enjoyment is assured. The Orueta Lagoon is another observation point that you should know.
The birds that haven’t stopped in Spain, are those that haven’t found their way yet. From Nattule, we help you to find yours. Choose your favorite destination within this ornithological paradise, and tell us what species have surrendered to your binoculars.