del Los Canchales Reservoir
Location and access
Los Canchales Reservoir is in the province of Badajoz, to the northwest of the towns of La Garrovilla and Esparragalejo, and was built over Lácara Brook, a water course that originates in the Sierra de San Pedro and flows into the left side of the River Guadiana. It can be reached from the EX-305 between Montijo and Nava de Santiago, with two entrances between kilometre points 8 and 13 that lead towards the western area of the reservoir. You can also get to the reservoir via a track that starts in the outskirts of Esparragalejo.
It is recommended to reach it from the EX-209 as it goes through the town of La Garrovilla, where you will find a sign-posted asphalted track that leads straight to the wall of the dam, the perfect starting point for a birdwatching trip.
Description of the route
The route starts in La Garrovilla, reaching the wall of Los Canchales Reservoir after about 7.5 km along an asphalted road. This first section is of great interest as it crosses land used for the dry-farming of cereals, sunflowers and olive trees. In the area around the reservoir there are several information panels about visiting regulations and routes to follow.
The rest of the route goes along a dirt track around the reservoir, over 23 km long, built above the maximum flood level of the reservoir and which enables you to go all the way around it.
About 80 m before you reach the dam take the road on the right, just before the car parking area and the Centre of Interpretation of the Hydrographic Confederation of the Guadiana, leading straight down to the banks of the reservoir. The first stop is 800 m along, at a man-made dyke that flows into the reservoir and has a hide at its end. You’ll reach the end of the reservoir about 4 km further on: an area of shallow water where you can still see the winding branches of Lácara Brook. When the water level is very low you can take an alternative track that significantly reduces the length of the route. The route continues along the right bank of the reservoir, passing two of the islets most used by the birds, situated opposite a group of man-made islands. Next the track goes away from the reservoir and momentarily takes you to the EX-305 (Montijo-La Nava de Santiago) where you must go 1770 m towards Montijo until you reach a track on the left that will lead you back to the reservoir. Follow the track until you reach a small dam built in one of the reservoir’s islets and 600 m later you will find a dyke to observe the birds and a path along the bank that you can go along on foot and that goes up a thick scrubland slope. The last 3 km of the track goes up a small hill before arriving at the wall of the dam, where the route ends.
Los Canchales Reservoir has been declared a Special Protection Area for birds (SPA) and is also recognised as a “Wetland of International Importance”. It has highly favourable conditions for numerous species of birds, as it has large areas of shallow water, diverse types of vegetation associated with water (bulrush and giant reed thickets, grasslands and formations of spurges, ashes and willows) and is surrounded by Holm oak dehesa and large areas of irrigated and rain-fed farmland. The Hydrographic Confederation of the Guadiana has also carried out numerous activities to favour the presence of birds, such as the construction of islands, pools and lakes, dykes, water retaining dams and improvements to the habitat, etc.
During the breeding season the populations of colonial birds that nest on the islands are important, including large numbers of Collared Pratincole, Gull-billed Tern, Little Tern and Black-winged Stilt. Other water birds also nest here, such as Mallard, Gadwall, Common Coot, Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe and Black-headed Gull. There are also breeding pairs of Whiskered Tern and Black Tern.
During the autumn passage many species and large concentrations of birds gather here. The presence of waders is noteworthy, with the possibility of seeing Dunlin, Little Stint, Curlew Sandpiper, Red Knot, Ringed Plover, Common and Spotted Redshanks, Greenshank, Grey Plover, Turnstone, Wood Sandpiper and Bar-tailed Godwit. The concentrations of White Stork on the banks are spectacular in summer, with over 500 birds. It is considered to be one of the most important areas for the wintering and passage of the Eurasian Spoonbill, which has even bred in the reservoir.
In winter the waterfowl are of interest (Mallard, Pintail, Eurasian Wigeon, Gadwall, Northern Shoveler, Common Pochard, Common Teal, Greylag Goose), with over 10,000 birds, as well as concentrations of Lesser Black-backed Gull and Black-headed Gull and a wintering flock of Common Crane of more than 1500 birds, which roost on the banks of the reservoir.
You can also see very interesting species in the rain-fed farmland and dehesa around the reservoir (birds of prey, steppe species) and it’s also good to stop at the frequent patches of Kermes oak, myrtle and wild olive, as they usually shelter several passerines (Subalpine, Western Orphean and Melodious Warblers, Black Wheatear and Rufous Bush Robin).
Best time to visit
This route is good at any time of year but you must bear in mind that the species you will find depends on when you visit. Unlike other places the summer months are very interesting for birdwatching.
Other environmental and cultural interest
Mouth of the River Aljucén. If you take the EX-209 towards Mérida you will find the course of the River Aljucén after you have gone past the town of Esparragalejo It’s a very good place for birdwatching (Squacco Heron, Purple Swamphen and Purple Heron) and has a hide.
Dolmen of Lácara. This interesting collective tomb is to the north of Los Canchales Reservoir. It is a large tomb in an excellent state of conservation and dates from the Calcolithic period. It is reached by following the EX-214 from La Nava de Santiago to Aljucén.