Preparing the itinerary through Caceres. Part I.

In the middle of last December we spent a few days in the city of Caceres and its surroundings, finalizing details for one of the itineraries that will soon be included in our Natural Heritage Travel Catalogue 2013.

Pin-tailed Sandgrouse Ganga común Pterocles alchata

This is one of the Pin-tailed Sandgrouse females we observed through the telescope.

In this occasion we counted on the collaboration of the great naturalist and friend Alberto Puente de la Rosa.

Although we know where to enjoy many of the natural treasures of the Iberian Peninsula getting off the beaten tracks, we must yield to the evidence and recognize the province of Caceres as an almost mandatory destination for bird watchers.

Even though the landscape this territory is able to provide reaches its peak during the spring, when the itinerary will be ready to be carried out, we were able to contemplate some highly interesting attractive aspects.


We started Saturday morning through the countryside. Within minutes we detected the songs of several Pin-tailed Sandgrouses (Pterocles alchata), that overflew us at a low altitude. As we moved forward, several observations of little groups of this species took place, zigzagging through the air and breaking the silence with its distinctive song. All of a sudden, a large flock of several dozens of individuals exhibited their synchronized flight skills in front of us. Some birds left the group and alighted within a short distance from our location. It was then that we could observe the beauty of these birds clearly through the telescope, slowly enjoying the astonishing design of their plumage and gender variations. They strolled about, without separating, pecking the ground from time to time until they huddled up in the grass and dozed off, having us under constant vigilance.

It was unexpected to see a Hoopoe (Upupa epops) crossing the telescope field while we were observing the Pin-tailed Sandgrouses. As a matter of fact, this location is surprisingly crammed with different species whose presence is not expected in this season at this latitude.

Cinereous Vulture Buitre Negro Aegypius Monachus
One of the Cinereous Vultures that took flight clos to us

In the same area we detected some Little Bustards (Tetrax tetrax). Both male and female spend the winter grouped together and both genders wear the same "suit", so now the sexual dimorphism occurring during the reproductive season is not evident.

This wintry gregariousness is as well observed in the abundant Calandra Lark (Melanocorypha calandra) flocks that spread across pastures and farmlands.

There were, of course, hundreds of Northern Lapwings (Vanellus vanellus) showing their stunning iridescent colors.

Between the Pin-tailed Sandgrouse flock and the Little Bustards, a group of European Golden Plover (Pluvialis apricaria) craning their necks over the small hill that stood between them and us to keep us under surveillance.

Earlier in the same place, we thought we saw several low flying Stone Curlews (Burhinus oedicnemus), close to the ground that hid them once they alighted and made them invisible in a sea of dirt and grass. Despite not being able to identify them 100% sure, their presence wouldn’t have been strange because the habitat that extended before us appeared optimal for this cryptic species.

Some large shadows ploughed through the surface of the countryside. Raising the head from the telescope and looking up we could see a flock of Great Bustards (Otis tarda) defying gravity, considering that this species is the heaviest flying bird in the world.

Thus, we concluded that morning in that paradise for steppe birds. Before lunch we headed a nearby wetland, which faunistic activity was scarce but promising for months to come. Near this place, the magnificence of a nest of Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) on an equally magnificent tree highlighted its presence.

Our bellies warned us that it was time to fill them, so we went to the city of Caceres to have a bite to eat. The place chosen was La Minerva Tapas & Restaurant, in the Main Square, a recent opening located in the facilities of a former printing house. Among what we could taste, we highlight:

  • Duck cannelloni with mushrooms, pear and cardamom.
  • Bull’s tail and foie hamburger.
  • Curled squid with mushrooms, its own ink soup and sautéed walnuts and garlic shoots.

Excellent preparation and presentation of dishes, full of easily identifiable flavors and delightfully combined.

Having satisfied our spirits and bodies with all that the day had provided so far, we devoted the evening walking through the streets of this beautiful city. The next day we would visit another area in search of the natural wonders that we want to include in our travel catalog.


The structure of the property and the agricultural and livestock activities that take place in this province, favor a broad and diverse landscape with scarce presence of anthropic elements outside the main population centers. An example of this fact is the area we visited during that day.

Our first stop was in a wetland surrounded by Holm Oak pastures known as Dehesas. Knowing that the presence of Black Stork (Ciconia nigra) is habitual, we approached there hoping to see it prosper in those waters, hunting for a little fish or distracted amphibian. It was not so in this occasion, although we could verify the suitability of the place for the observation of this species given its location, orientation and geometry of the shore.

Common Crane Grulla Común Grus Grus
Some Common Cranes grazed between cattle and Holm Oaks...

Numerous Common Snipes (Gallinago gallinago) prospered in those waters, relentlessly busy in search of food in an area of flooded land. A Great Egret (Ardea alba) flew away in opposite direction to that the Great Cormorants (Phalacrocorax carbo) traced as black arrows. We could also see a specimen Common Greenshank (Tringa nebularia) and a Green Sandpiper (Tringa ochropus), which, each with its particular style, scrutinized the shallow waters in search of their sustenance.

We left that area to try to see Common Cranes (Grus grus) that have been amply warning their presence, with their indiscreet trumpeting, in a wide dehesa behind us since we left our car. As we approached stealthily to the wooded area, a very close cow corpse caught our attention. Immediately, a couple of Cinereous Vultures (Aegypius monachus) took flight a few meters away. Undoubtedly, they were approximating their breakfast when we showed up. They perched not far away surely waiting us to leave to return and resume their involuntarily interrupted task.

Respecting those circumstances, we turned away in silence to the top of a small hill from which we could see hundreds of Cranes, parsimoniously parading among the Holm Oaks and extending in small groups as far as the eye could see. In the same way the Hoopoe did the previous day, a Great Bustard crossed the telescope field. Alberto warned us of the importance of this fact, given the increasing scarcity of this species in the area.

Common Crane Grulla Común Grus Grus
... while others  moved through the pastures in front of us

Thereby lunchtime was upon us. We took that opportunity to go to a little lake to taste two cheeses we bought in Caceres (a cake-shaped or Atortado cheese Los Golfines and an Acehúche cheese), along with two extraordinary homemade cured sausages (chorizo and salchichón) from Tiedra, in the province of Valladolid.

The cheeses awaken different sensations in our palates, all very pleasant. The first one, from Quesos del Casar, is in our opinion a cheese for real cheese-lovers. Its palace name complements a defined personality whose smell and texture recalls some of the malodorous and delicious cheeses made in northern Italy. The second, from El Acehucheño, was as well a sensational finding. The intensity of the flavor of this goat paste evoked in our palate (despite the obvious organoleptic and physical differences), a certain resemblance to Eastern Asturias cheeses, in particular to those produced in Buelles (although the paste of the latter is considerably less fatty). We hope that this type of cheese soon culminate the process of setting up its own Denominación de Origen classification. Both cheeses were a perfect accompaniment to the landscape we were observing.

The sausages, from our friend Alejandra’s home, treasured the quality of homemade products, treated with care and the know-how that the centuries have provided to the artisan hands of mothers and grandmothers.

So, watching the Black-headed Gulls (Chroicocephalus ridibundus), the Tufted Ducks (Aythya fuligula) of Eurasian Coots (Fulica atra) and Black-winged Stilt (Himantopus himantopus), we enjoyed those delicacies and got ready to make the journey back awaiting our return in a few weeks, to complete the design of the itinerary through the lands of Caceres.

We are moving now.

We will tell everybody where we are once we arrive.