There is a whole variety of places to see nature to see in Spain in January. Here are a few ideas with links to companies offering winter trips there.
Winter is mild (except in the mountains). On cold nights, temperatures may dip below freezing, but when the sun is shining, as it does most days, an agreeable temperature of around 15C makes it feel like spring
Winter is the best time of year to get to grips with the speciality birds of Extremadura, when resident species form flocks in the rolling steppes and cork oak dehesa. You can expect to see around 150 species in a few days, including great bustard, little bustard, pin-tailed sandgrouse, black-bellied sandgrouse, Spanish Imperial Eagle, Black-shouldered kite, purple swamp-hen, black vulture, Iberian magpie, white-spotted bluethroat, alpine accentor, thekla lark, calandra lark and large flocks of common cranes. Some 90,000 common cranes migrate to Extremadura for the winter, as do 30,000 greylag geese, and thousands of wildfowl of other species.
Lying on the coast of Catalonia in north-eastern Spain, the Ebro Delta is a wetland of immense importance to birds – no less than 10% of all the waterfowl in the whole of Spain winter here. Some 75,000 ducks – mostly mallard, around 15,000 coot (including a few introduced red-knobbed coot) and 30,000 waders. If that isn’t enough, there are thousands of gulls including 30,000 Mediterranean gulls, plus Audouin’s and slender-billed gulls in smaller numbers.
Doñana National Park
Spain’s premier wetland has plenty to offer at all times of year (except perhaps in the later summer heat). A winter visit comes with fewer tourists and more pleasant weather. More hotels are available now in El Rocio (top photo) than when I visited in 1989 and 2001.
Here are my suggestions for enjoying Doñana if you are travelling independently.
In the early 2000s, the Iberian lynx was on the verge of extinction. However, a recent, intensive conservation programme has brought them back from the brink. Numbers have increased from around 100 individuals in 2002 to more than 300 now. Iberian lynx are still found only in isolated parts of Spain and Portugal, with the two main breeding populations in Andalucia at Donana and Andujar. Sightings cannot be guaranteed, even at these strongholds, but there is plenty of other wildlife around.
The Sierra de la Culebra hosts the highest density of wild wolves in Spain. However, any sighting has to be regarded as a bonus when spending time in this area of wolf country.
Guided trips do have a high success rate of sightings of these iconic predators, but at least be assured, even if you haven’t seen them… they have seen you! This is a blog post from January 2017
The Santoña Marshes near Santander are always worth a visit – some 20,000 waterbirds spend the winter there. And it’s not far from the port if you are travelling to and from the UK by car ferry.
The Parque Natural de Santoña Victoria y Joyel, to give it its full name, was designated in 1992. The 6,500ha (25sq miles) is an outstanding area of estuary, marshland, freshwater and other habitats – considered to be one of the wetlands of most ecological value in the north of Spain. It attracts more than 20,000 birds of 120 different species, as well as being home to small mammals and a unique flora.
These books will give you a few more ideas about where to watch nature in Spain in January
Click on book covers for more information.
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More ideas for nature-watching in winter
How to get the most out of a visit to the Doñana National Park. My recommendations after several visits.
The Golfe du Morbihan provides a huge feast for wintering waders and wildfowl. Here are a few suggestions for places to watch them.
There is plenty to see along the Dorset coast – scenery, geology, birds, flowers, butterflies, rare reptiles.
Some 70,000 water birds spend their winter on the Tejo estuary near Lisbon in Portugal. That can mean some serious birdwatching there.
France isn’t an obvious place for nature-watching in winter, but there are plenty of birds, and even some mammals to see. Here are some suggestions of where to find them.