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South of Salamanca 8 – 16 May 2020

Spain's Wild West

This holiday visits an attractive yet largely undiscovered part of Spain. Every small town seems to have a castle, church with storks, a bridge over a rocky river, or sometimes all three. In between there are craggy heaths of lavender and broom and wood pasture of narrow-leaved ash or holm oak.

Not far away is an arable area with a remarkable concentration of crop-nesting harriers, plus calandra larks. A little farther afield are hills with a higher altitude mix of flowers and birds such as rock and ortolan buntings.

Puente del Congosto
Puente del Congosto: river, bridge, church, castle.

Riverside woods have orioles, nightingales and short-toed treeecreepers. There are cliffs with nesting griffon vultures and a few black and Egyptian vultures occur. There are certainly bee-eater colonies.

However for Honeyguide, this is only partly explored. A recce trip in February 2019 confirmed its potential, with much to be discovered by a Honeyguide group visiting at a peak time for wildlife in early May.

Salvatierra, where we stay, is very much off the beaten track. To say it's a quiet village rather understates it: parts of the village are little more than rubble as rural depopulation has been sped up by the construction of the reservoir that the hotel overlooks. Yet the undisturbed, low intensity farmland, mostly small fields of sheep pasture surrounded by stone walls, brings wildlife benefits. Thekla larks, rock sparrow and hoopoe can be seen, plus the usual village birds such as black redstarts and serins.

farmland by Salvatierra
Farmland by Salvatierra.


As well as those already mentioned, we should see a selection of the following: black stork, booted and short-toed eagles, red and black kites, peregrine, raven, blue rock thrush, little owl, Iberian grey and woodchat shrikes, red-rumped swallow, woodlark, Sardinian warbler, Spanish sparrow, cirl and corn buntings and spotless starling.


A big gap to be filled! Spanish adenocarpus is a local endemic. There are records of green-winged, early purple, champagne and tongue orchids for May, which chime with what we'd expect, plus asphodels, star-of-Bethlehem and gagea species and hoop petticoat narcissi. There's a range from the rock-rose & cistus family. We can expect some interesting and perhaps tricky toadflaxes: Anarrhinum sp, the tiny amesthyst toadflax and Antirrhinum graniticum.

Other wildlife

Most mammals - there are plenty here - are secretive (such as red squirrel and wild boar) or nocturnal. There are otters on the river in Salamanca, offering good view on the recce trip: whether that's usual or a stroke of luck we don't know. Iberian water frogs and wall lizards are plentiful. Tree frogs, midwife toads, green lizards and sharp-ribbed newts are in the area; best to assume they'll be tricky to see. May is an ideal time to see a good range of butterflies and other invertebrates.

Salamanca, Plaza Mayor
Salamanca, Plaza Mayor (main square)

Holiday details

One place available after a recent cancellation, having previously been fully booked. It isn't in the brochure for 2020.

We have seven days in Spain, plus travel days, allowing time to explore a range of places and habitats at a relaxed pace. A draft itinerary is available from the Honeyguide office, though this will be adapted as we go.

We stay at Hotel Rural Salvatierra, which has successfully built a business in this rather remote part of Spain.

Price: £1,600 per person in twin room for eight nights (Friday to Saturday)

Single room supplement: £120

En suite facilities

Flights: Scheduled Ryanair flights London Stansted – Madrid
8 May: FR5994 depart London Stansted 08:25 arrive Madrid 12:00.
16 May: FR5995 depart Madrid 15:55 arrive Stansted 17:25.

Deposit: £300

Maximum number (two leaders): 7

Conservation project


SEO logo

Montagu's harriers are declining everywhere, especially in nearby Extremadura, but this area remains a stronghold. They nest in crops – as do other harriers – so safeguarding them means active monitoring and working with farmers. Our local leader Vega is part of the local SEO team doing this.

This adds further to our links to the Sociedad Española de Ornitología (Spanish Ornithological Society / BirdLife Spain), also supported by Honeyguide in Extremadura, the Spanish Pyrenees and Fuerteventura.

Main leader

Chris Durdin is the driving force behind Honeyguide, running holidays since 1991. For many years he combined this with his work for the RSPB in Eastern England, often the Society’s spokesman, but has been concentrating on Honeyguide full-time since 2009. Chris is the co-author of a book about Norfolk’s cranes and leads regular walks on his local wildlife trust nature reserve. The end of his youth soccer years should allow more time for barbershop singing. As a naturalist, Chris is an all rounder.

Vega Bermejo from 'Birding in Spain's Wild West' lives locally, though grew up in England. Working as a bird guide is a fairly new enterprise based around her knowledge of her local area, though she also looks forward to learning from a Honeyguide group, especailly about flowers and other wildlife. She is an active volunteer with the local SEO/BirdLife Spain group, concentrating on safeguarding Montagu's hariers and other crop-nesting raptors. 

For prices, see Holiday Details at the bottom of the page.

travel aware logo

FCO travel advice for Spain here.

Castle at Alba de Tormes

Castle at Alba de Tormes

(Virtual) birding in Salamanca, Spain’s Wild West

Online presentation by Vega Bermejo, prepared for the Vrtual Birdfair in August 2020.

Great sounds, as well as nice pictures.

Holiday report

Salamanca recce February 2019


Recce photos on Honeyguide's Facebook page.

large tortoiseshell

Large tortoiseshell (Vega Bermejo)

strawberry tree Arbutus unedo

Strawberry tree in flower, February

Granite heaths are a feature of the area.

Miranda del Castanar

Miranda del Castanar

Hoop petticoat narcissi

Hoop petticoat narcissi

wolf trap

Wolf trap in the mountains

Spanish adenocarpus

Spanish adenocarpus

clouded yellow

Clouded yellow, one of many butterflies we should find.

Iberian water frog Rana perezi

Iberian water frog Rana perezi

Holiday leaders

Chris Durdin

Chris Durdin in Extremadura, February 2015 (Howard Bayliss).

Chris has regularly led or co-led Honeyguide groups in Spain for many years.

Vega Bermejo

Vega Bermejo

narrow-leaved ash pollard

Narrow-leaved ash pollard, Camino de Molino

Facebook Honeyguide
... where there are many holiday photos to enjoy.

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The air holidays shown are ATOL Protected by the Civil Aviation Authority. Our ATOL number is ATOL 3253. ATOL Protection extends primarily to customers who book and pay in the United Kingdom. Click on the ATOL logo if you want to know more.

Helping you enjoy wildlife – Helping you protect wildlife