para la Sierra de Gata
Location and access
The route is in the region of Sierra de Gata, in the dehesa of the River Alagón and in the valley of the River Árrago, on the southern slope of the Sierra de Gata. You can start the route in the town of Moraleja (Cáceres), on the EX-108 road (Coria-Moraleja), where you take the road leading to the town of La Moheda and Borbollón Reservoir or from the EX-205, turning off towards Moraleja or going upriver in the valley of Árrago.
Description of the route
The route is about 106 km long, from the town of Moraleja to the end of the suggested route and back, taking you on a mixture of roads and forest trails. It is intended to be done by car in one day, stopping at the most interesting observation points.
Part of the route goes through the dehesa, pastures and irrigated farmland of the River Alagón, in which the wintering population of Common Crane is noteworthy. Then it takes you up the River Árrago among shady groves of ash and alder trees, between mountains such as Bolla and Gomara, which are over 1100 metres high and where there is a large breeding population of Eurasian Black Vulture, with over fifty breeding pairs. The route peaks at Puertos Nuevo and Viejo, at the provincial border with Salamanca, in the Sierra de los Ángeles, an area of pines, heathers and brooms. Halfway along the route, between the mountains and the plains, the Holm and Pyrenean oak dehesas soften the contrasts between the peaks and the plains. The Borbollón Reservoir is an important site for many wintering water birds, such as ducks, geese, Great Cormorant, gulls and Common Crane, which use an islet – that of Parra Chica or Borbollón – as a regular roost during winter, as well as a breeding ground for White Stork, Cattle Egret and Grey Heronduring the summer. Start the route in the town of Moraleja. From the EX-108 take the road leading to the town of Moheda and the Embalse de Borbollón reservoir. Turn off to the left at point (X:0703715, Y: 4442234), following the signs towards the reservoir of the Rivera de Gata. As you go along you will find mosaics of cornfields, pastures and dehesa where you can easily see Common Crane feeding or Black-winged Kite. The landscape is dominated by traditional tobacco drying sheds and, to the north, in the distance, you can see the mountaintops of the Sierra de Gata. Returning to the road turn left towards Borbollón Reservoir, declared a Special Protected Area for birds. Once you reach the campsite take the road to Hoyos and Villasbuenas de Gata, turning right at point (X:0705617, Y: 4445362). From here there is a path going around Borbollón Reservoir, where we suggest you leave your car and walk along the bank at dusk, after having completed the suggested route. It’s a good place to watch Common Crane, moving from their feeding site to the islet where they roost. From one of the nearest points to the island you can see the birds on the banks, as well as Great Cormorant, which roost in the eucalyptuses. Continue towards the EX-205 and turn right towards the town of Hervás, then turn left at the crossroads of Cadalso and Descargamaría. Go upstream in the valley of the River Árrago, shaded by a cool grove, where you can see the nervous flight of the Dipper. Once you have reached the pretty town of Robledillo de Gata, declared a Historical Artistic Ensemble, take the narrow road leading to Puerto Viejo mountain pass. At point (X:0715446, Y: 4446783) you will find the “Mirador de la Lagartera” viewpoint, where there is a good view of the narrow valley of Árrago and from where a Roman road starts, a small path that goes up the gorge towards the river’s source. Its slopes are dense, full of black pine, stunted Holm oaks, oaks and enormous treelike heathers, an ideal spot to watch small scrubland birds: warblers, Dunnock, Robin, etc.
Due to the diversity of the habitats this route has many and varied ornithological interests. The wintering population of Common Crane stands out, with an estimated population of about 4000 birds. In winter the Black-winged Kite is common in the irrigated lands and dehesa of the rivers. Borbollón Island is the nesting site of, amongst other species, Cattle Egret(240 breeding pairs) and Grey Heron, which has its biggest breeding colony in Extremadura here, with 160 nests. There are over fifty breeding pairs of Eurasian Black Vulture in this region. Together with the northern groups in Hurdes and Granadilla its numbers reach 100 breeding pairs. You can also see other species such as overwintering Black Stork, although these habitats are not very favourable for them. In some mountain pine forests you can see Coal Tit and in the heather and broom thickets you can see the typical breeding birds of these mountain habitats, such as Northern Wheatear, Ortolan Bunting and Tawny Pipit, as well as characteristic scrubland species, such as Dunnock and Common Whitethroat. In the pine forests and deciduous woodland areas the birds of prey you can see include Booted Eagle, Eurasian Sparrowhawk and Northern Goshawk, as well as Tawny Owl and Long-eared Owl.
Best time to visit
This route can be done at any time of the year. In winter you can enjoy the spectacle of the wintering birds, mainly Common Cranes, drawn to the irrigated lands, dehesa and water bodies. In spring the summer birds return, such as Black Stork, Egyptian Vulture, Booted Eagle or Short-toed Eagle. Spring is also the breeding season, so you must not stray from the established route to avoid disturbing the birds during this sensitive period. Although part of the route goes through a mountain area it is very hot in summer, so avoid the hottest hours of the day if you do this route then, which are also less favourable for seeing birds.
Other environmental and cultural interest
Several areas listed in the Natura 2000 network are found in this district, such as the Gata and Acebo valleys, the Enjas, Árrago and Tralgas Rivers, the seasonal lagoon of Valdehornos and a number of bat roosts. The Cedar of Gata, declared a Singular Tree, is also noteworthy.
There are many attractive spots in the valleys descending from the mountains, especially along the Eljas, Acebo, Gata and Árrago rivers, as well as very beautiful waterfalls, gallery woodland and natural swimming pools.
There are many attractive small hill towns and villages, particularly fine examples include Robledillo de Gata, Hoyos, Trevejo, San Martín de Trevejo and Gata. In the past, this district established defences against neighbouring Portugal and the Arabs and this is reflected in the forts and watch towers such as La Almenara de Gata and castles like those at Trevejo and Santibáñez el Alto. Local crafts here include lacework of Hoyos and Axebo, the goldsmiths of Gata and basketwork of San Martín de Trevejo.
Amongst the rich cultural traditions of the district, mention must be made of “a fala”, a dialect with Portuguese and Galician roots, unique in the area, that is most widely spoken in places such as Valverde del Fresno (where it is known as “Valverdeiru”), San Martín de Trevejo (“Manhegu”) and Eljas (“Lagarteiru”). The olive groves bestow a special character and identity to this mountainous landscape, so much so that a denominación de origen Olive Oil (“Gata-Hurdes”) of excellent quality is recognised.