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Buzzards to bee-eaters

Depending on where you go, you can see a lot more than buzzards or bee-eaters. Look out for avocets, Bonelli’s eagles, curlews, egrets, flamingos, golden eagles, hoopoes, kingfishers, marsh harriers, nightingales, ospreys, purple herons, redwings, storks, terns, vultures, warblers and much more besides. Highlights from our walking and cycling holidays include…
  • The fact that the region’s name derives from the Roman word aviarium, meaning ‘gathering place of birds’, hints heavily at the bird-watching opportunities as you cycle leisurely past the lagoons and salt flats of this northern section of Portugal’s coastline. Look out for kites, swifts, warblers, little bitterns, Eurasian marsh harriers, Iberian yellow wagtails and more.
  • If you’ve ever visited the Farne Islands in Northumberland, you’ll probably be familiar with many of the birds to be found on the Faroes, particularly on the island of Mykines. It has colonies of puffins, kittiwakes, fulmars, guillemots, terns, gannets, the lot. The fact that you can see these birds in England does not make them any the less impressive. Besides, there’s another compelling reason why you should make the journey to the Faroes: the humbling wildness of the scenery. Think towering, layer-cake mountains and sheer-sided sea cliffs moulded by the forces of nature. These islands are unspoiled and untamed, and all the more unforgettable for it.
  • Virgin coastlines such as Portugal’s Costa Vicentina are not just great for walking, but great for wildlife-spotting too. The headline act here are the storks. If the nests you’ve seen built elsewhere on chimneys and church steeples have seemed precarious, the gravity-defying ones that they build here on precipitous sea stacks beggar belief. Their bravado is all the more special to witness given that this is the only place in the world where you’ll see storks nesting above the sea (you’ll need to come in spring, of course). Peregrine falcons also breed on the cliffs here, and you should look out, too, for Bonelli’s eagles and even, if you are lucky, ospreys.
  • Our holiday in the Basque Pyrenees promises thrilling walking and gradually changing scenery as you descend to the coast through a unique corner of France characterised by whitewashed villages and a distinctive culture and cuisine. Travel in late summer and you’ll also witness the migration of hundreds of thousands of raptors as they fly south – a fantastic sight, even for non-bird-watchers. The spectacle starts in mid-August, with black kites and honey buzzards, followed by black storks, ospreys, hobbies and marsh harriers in September, then red kites, buzzards and sparrowhawks in October.
  • Black drongo, chestnut-bellied rock thrush, pied bushchat, spot-winged grosbeak, grey-backed shrike, spotted nutcracker, white-capped water redstart… just the names add to the exoticism of a holiday in the Himalayas. These birds are among the 100-plus species that previous customers have told us they have sighted on our Himalayan Explorer holiday, on which you walk accompanied by your own local guide, who will help you to identify the wildlife you encounter (the mammals are equally exotic – if you are lucky, you may even glimpse a leopard) and offer insights into village life.
  • The island of Runde, accessible from Ålesund on the northern fringes of the Norwegian fjords, is home to the greatest number of bird species in Scandinavia. The puffin colony alone numbers some 100,000. Need we say more?
  • Andalucía is synonymous with white towns, beaches, flamenco and sherry. Our holidays in the Grazalema Sierra west of Ronda promise plenty of the first (in which there are bars serving the latter!) combined with one of Andalucía’s lesser-known features: its diverse wildlife. As you follow the inviting paths through this surprisingly verdant sierra, you may well spot griffon vultures gliding above the jagged limestone peaks – 200 pairs nest here. Keep your eyes peeled, too, for Bonelli’s, golden, booted and short-toed eagles – as well as the 130 or so other bird species found here.
  • To explore the Lofoten archipelago is to discover a land of stark beauty, where jagged mountains rise steeply above beaches of silver sand. Amid these untamed landscapes, all the more special when bathed in the Midnight Sun, you feel very close to nature. Along the coast, the air is filled with the cries of seabirds – eider ducks, common scoters, red breasted mergansers, goosanders and marauding seagulls which like nothing more than mobbing a sea eagle in the hope that it will drop its catch. Inland, the calls of ptarmigan, curlews, bluethroats and redwings echo across the moors.
  • The holidays above aren’t the only ones with a strong emphasis on birds. In Spain, listen for nightingales in the mountains of Alicante, which are also home to eagles, hoopoes, warblers and more; join your host on a bird-watching walk on our holiday in Green Spain; sight birds ranging from blue rock thrushes to buzzards in the Catalan Pyrenees; and keep your eyes peeled for black-winged stilts, Kentish plovers and black-necked grebes on the island of Formentera. In France, there are seabirds and waders aplenty on our Granite Coast of Brittany walk and La Rochelle, Islands & Beaches cycle. In Sicily, the Madonie Mountains shelter peregrine falcons, jays, golden and Bonelli’s eagles, or head to Germany's Kaiserstuhl area in mid-May to see the colourful bee-eaters.

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