landscape irrigated plains

Irrigated plains

Since the 1950's a number of large dams have been built on the major rivers of the region, mainly to provide irrigation during the long, hot summer months. As it flows through Extremadura, the water of the Guadiana is restrained by three large dams. Other river systems have their own dams, and these bodies of water and the fields under irrigation have modified the ecology of the region in very profound ways, so there is now a much greater diversity of species. There are extensive rice fields in the Guadiana valley as a consequence of the availability of water for irrigation.

landscape dehesa

Open woodland (dehesa)

This is a very characteristic landscape throughout the region, with rolling pasture scattered with cork oaks (alcornoques) or holm oaks (encinas). The acorns provide food for the renowned black pigs of the region, producing Spain's most sought-after and expensive jamón serrano.

Dehesa looks very much like parkland, and provides habitat for a wide range of birds from passerines to Black Kite and other raptors.

  

landscape river valley 2

River valleys

The valleys of the Guadiana and the Tagus (Tajo) form natural routes for migrating birds. The riverside vegetation of alder, willow, eucalyptus, poplar and abundant scrub provide habitats for numerous birds. The streams and rivers flowing from the Gredos mountains in the north run all year round, whilst many of the watercourses in Badajoz province carry little or no water during the summer months. Even the very big rivers - the Guadiana and the Tagus - show no flow in summer because they are controlled by large number of dams. In the lowland areas bankside vegetation is likely to provide a home to Cetti's Warbler, whilst from early April Nightingales provide their wonderful song.

landscape reservoir

Reservoirs

There are reservoirs built over the past 50 years spread throughout the region. There are no natural lakes in Extremadura, but despite this it is the Spanish region with the greatest volume of stored water. This is not for direct human or industrial consumption but to supply the complex network of irrigation canels and channels. The two largest reservoirs in Europe are both in the region - Alqueva (with the dam is in Portugal but much of the reservoir lies on the border with Extremadura) and the  La Serena. The reservoirs themselves provide habitat for a large number of birds, and it goes to show how adaptable birds are to new opportunities. The third most important overwintering site for waterfowl in Spain is Sierra Brava reservoir.

  
landscape scrub

Mediterranean scrub

Cistus, broom, wild olive, strawberry trees, and rosemary scrub covers many hillsides. This is favoured habitat for various warblers - Dartford, Moustached, Subalpine - and many passerines. Apart from birds, this type of habitat is suitable for Iberian Lynx. There is a re-introduction programme under way in Badajoz province.

  
landscape steppe

Rolling grassland or steppe

Along with the dehesa, the steppe grassland is very characteristic of this area. The largest area in Europe is the steppe of La Serena. By the end of summer the landscape is parched and baked, but in spring the steppe is a riot of flowers. The steppe is used for extensive grazing and also for growing cereals. A unique ecosystem has developed through this combination of agricultural practice over many centuries.

  
landscape mountains

Mountains

There are high mountains in the north of the region, reaching over 2,400 metres in the Sierra de Gredos. A more representative type of mountain are the extensive rocky outcrops of 500 to 700 metres which cross the region running roughly from west to east. They are made up of quartz outcrops with their lower slopes by Mediterranean scrub.

 The mountains hold various raptors all year round - Golden Eagle, Bonelli's Eagle - whilst cliff areas are favoured by Griffon Vulture and Eagle Owl.

  
landscape urban 2

Urban areas

Not to be overlooked are numerous urban areas with significant bird populations. Trujillo, Cáceres and Mérida are excellent examples of towns with fascinating birds - Lesser kestrel, White Stork, Crag Martin, Cattle Egrets and Night Herons.

The Roman bridge in the centre of Mérida provides an ideal platform to scan for Penduline Tit and Great Reed Warbler in the reeds, with herons and egrets on almost constant passage.