ROUTE 1: around Sierra de Cordoneros and Castilseras Reservoir

This route runs at the bottom of Sierra de Cordoneros, whose oldest rocks, primarily shale and quartzite, date from the Devonian, from around 450 million years ago. The plains at the foot of of the mountain are lined by dehesas of oaks (Quercus ilex), with some inserted cork trees (Quercus suber), that give way to the mountain and Mediterranean scrub land with marked slopes and rocky soils. The highest and steep areas leave completely bare rocky ridges, habitat of numerous species of rock birds such as the Griffon Vulture (Gyps fulvus), the Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos), the Bonelli’s Eagle (Aquila fasciata), the Alpine Swift (Tachymarptis melba), the Eurasian Crag Martin (Ptyonoprogne rupestris), the Blue Rock Thrush (Monticola solitarius), Black Wheatear (Oenanthe leucura) or Rock Bunting (Emberiza cia), among others, who find these cliffs and walls a perfect place to nest, to rest or to settle in search of prey.

Our route continues to the Castilseras Reservoir, always with the mountains on our left.  In the shores of the marsh, we will see  abundant and obvious traces of Otters (Lutra lutra) that warn us of the presence of this friendly mustelid. If we are lucky, hidden in a hide, we can see some of them swimming, eating some fish or crayfish and playing between them. We can also enjoy different species of waterfowl and other aquatic birds, depending on the time of year, and also, on its shores, herons and storks feeding themselves.

Both the rocks and wet areas are home to a rich and interesting herpetological community  Different species of snakes and  lizards sunbathe in the heat of the rocks, while on the banks of the reservoir, any spring or summer night will offer us a spectacular concert of amphibians under a huge blanket of stars.

“Dozens of rock-dwelling birds are watching us from their vantage points… take hold of your binoculars and discover them”

“Otters and herons are great at fishing… with a little patience you will see some of their fishing operations”

did you know that…

…the swift can spend months flying without perching? Swifts have adaptations that make them “perfect flying machines”: spindle-shape body, small feet, long and scythe-shaped wings. They even sleep flying. Some studies have shown that  swifts can spend up to six months flying without resting and that, despite migrating to Africa in winter, they will probably never set foot in African soil……

…you find yourself in one of the most important strongholds for Bonelli´s Eagle? The Bonelli’s Eagle (Aquila fasciata) is a bird of prey that has suffered a strong decline in recent years. This region is home to one of the best populations of Castilla-La Mancha and Spain of this threatened species.


ROUTE 2: The dehesa and steppe. The Iberian habitats by excellence

The route runs between areas of Mediterranean mountains and dehesas of oaks (Quercus ilex), and some cork trees (Quercus suber), abode of some birds, typical of these environments, such as the Eurasian Hoopoe (Upupa epops), the Great Sppotted Cuckoo (Clamator glandarius),  the EurasianJay (Garrulus glandarius), or the Iberian Magpie (Cyanopia cooki), that  we will easily see during our trip. It is also frequent to see in this route a deer (Cervus elaphus), a roe deer (Capreolus capreolus), a wild boar (Sus scrofa) or a fox (Vulpes vulpes); you will need to be luckier to discover any marten (Martes foina), or genet (Genetta genetta), that are much more elusive and that will observe us unnoticed from the branch of an oak.

During our route, we cross the Valdeazogues river, on whose banks grow willows, poplars and other vegetation that provides other distinct environments, and therefore also increases the richness and diversity of species of fauna. Among the bulrushes we can hear in spring and summer, the recognizable singing of Great Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus arundinaceus), or see the Little Bittern (Ixobrychus minutus), the smallest Heron of Europe.

Little by little, we will take height as we advance between dehesas to reach the Alto de Cuatro Caminos (“Hill of Four roads”), a steppe zone of cereal crops, where we can find different species of steppe birds, from Tekla and Crested Larks (Galerida cristata) or Corn Buntings (Emberiza calandra) that will warn us of their presence with their loud singing,  the Black-bellied Sandgrouses (Pterocles orientalis).

We will continue our journey, crossing another river, this time the Alcudia river which course we will be tracing up to the Reservoir of La Peña del Gato (“The Cat Rock”), where it is possible to observe Black Storks (Ciconia nigra) during the propitious periods.

To end the route, we will arrive at the dungheaps where we will observe closely several species of carrion birds feeding from a hide, like the Griffon Vulture (Gyps fulvus), the  Cinereous Vulture (Aegypius monachus), the Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus), and the Red Kites (Milvus milvus) and Black Kites (Milvus migrans).

“Birds are very curious… sometimes we don’t have to look for them, just sit quietly and wait for them to approach us; in a short time you will be surrounded by tits,  long-tailed tits, magpies, robins…”

” Forests are full of life… if you pay a bit of attention you will witness the hustle and bustle of its inhabitants ‘”

“During the rutting is easy to listen to the deer males lowing, at dawn and at sunset, one of the most overwhelming sounds of nature…”

did you know that……

…the Iberian Magpie is a bird with one of the most curious distributions of the planet?. During the last glaciation, the advance of ice and snow from the North pushed the magpies to the more temperate ends of the Eurasian continent, the Iberian Peninsula and southeast of Asia, two very separate regions, where they were stationed; the passage of time has made of these cut-off populations to end up diverging into two different species…

…sandgrouses  can transport water between their feathers?. They are birds adapted to very dry and desert climates that can fly many kilometers in search of water points; when they arrive at a water fountain they dip the breast feathers in the water, whose special structure allows them to store water, the same as a sponge; so when they get to the nest, they can give water to their thirsty chicks…

.. every species of vulture is specialized in their way of feeding themselves and therefore their diet? During a carrion, every species of vulture feeds themselves on a part of the carrion and wait for their turn to take part in the feast; while the vultures have access inside the carrion with their bare necks, the powerful Cinereous Vulture peak allows him to tear hard and chewy tissues.  The small Egyptian Vulture is the last in access to the remains of the carrion, while the Bearded Vulture feeds himself with the remains of the bones…


ROUTE 3: the groves of the banks. The linear forests

The route runs along the Valdeazogues river, between the thickness and luxuriance of its grove of the bank, which is interspersed with areas of Mediterranean forest of shady slopes, where the oak appears accompanied by other species of trees and shrubs that require more fresh and humid environment, such as the Strawberry tree (Arbutus unedo), the Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna), Rose bushes (Rosa sp.) or the Blackberry (Rubus ulmifolius).

At dawn, and especially during the spring, the groves of the bank offer a fabulous concert of songs of different species of birds. If we keep silent and pay attention, we will be able to distinguish the common Nightingale (Luscinia megarhynchos) who sings in a nearby bush, the piping song of the Common Blackbird (Turdus merula) on the other side of the river, or Tits (Parus major) that emits its characteristic and repetitive song in a branch at few meters above us.

In this route, we go through a curious formation of three vertical rocks, popularly known as Las Tres Hermanas ( “The Three Sisters”), which are surrounded by the Valdeazogues river, by way of islets, and are a perfect keeper for some birds, such as Cormorants (Phalocrocorax carbo), and even for the Eurasian Eagle Owl (Bubo bubo). In the inaccessible walls of these “Tres Hermanas” grows a kind of endemic foxglove in the Marianico Massif , the “Digitalis marianica”, very striking for its purple flowers.

Following the course of the river, we will pass through the area of the island of Valdeazogues, an esplanade surrounded by two branches of the river, to  reach a bit later the crossroads of Castillejo, in a higher area, from where we will get a wonderful view of the course of the river, mountain masses, and crests of different mountains; a perfect point to stop along the way, enjoy fantastic views and raise the view to the sky in search of the silhouette of a bird of prey. Back to the river, after a short walk among the greenery of the groves of the banks, we will arrive to the Tabla del Burcio, a small corner of the river where  the yellow water-lily (Nuphar luteum) grows, an aquatic plant that is absent in several kilometers, but that finds a suitable habitat in this little corner. Its large leaves and colorful flowers takes us for an instant to any tropical river.

did you know that…

 …the common Nightingale can articulate more than thousand different sounds?… Although its sober plumage, common Nightingale males have an infallible resource to attract females of their species: his singing. They can articulate more than thousand different sounds, that combined in all possible forms, make him be one of the best singer among all the birds……

..the groves of the banks are the highways of nature? Due of its linear form, they are able to connect places of great ecological value and to channel the passage of many plants and animal species through other areas of lower ecological quality, being especially important during migratory journeys. They would be like  roads connecting large cities…