Moheda Alta / Sierra Brava
Location and access
This route goes through the areas known as Zona Centro and Vegas Altas del Guadiana, in the centre-east of Extremadura, taking you over land within the municipal areas of Obando, Navalvillar de Pela, Vegas Altas and Madrigalejo. The old dehesas here hardly retain any traces of the vast original area they used to occupy due to the transformation caused by the implementation of the Irrigation Plan of Zona Centro. However, on the other hand, this has also given rise to the appearance of new species.
You can reach the start of the route via the EX-116 that connects Navalvillar de Pela to the south with Guadalupe to the north. Coming from the south you will find the road of the canal on the left, from which you can reach Cubilar reservoir, where the route starts. You can reach Navalvillar de Pela via the N-430, which starts from the A-5 at Torrefresneda to the west and continues until the province of Ciudad Real to the east.
Description of the route
The route is 37 km long, from Cubilar reservoir to Sierra Brava reservoir. It can be done in a day, alternating travelling by car with short walks, and finishing at lunchtime at Sierra Brava, where, after eating, you can go for a walk along the banks to the end of the reservoir, where you will see the most species. You will find different habitats along the route, most highly transformed and used for agriculture, making a very wide range of bird species easy to spot. Starting from a small reservoir surrounded by dehesa this route will take you past different crops, such as corn, wheat, barley, fruit trees…and rice. This last deserves special attention as it is grown by flooding, which, by creating a mass of shallow water, attracts numerous waders and water birds in search of food, as well as serving as a roosting area for large flocks of Common Cranes, Black-tailed Godwits, Marsh Harriers and Hen Harriers. The route also goes by dehesa and pastures, ending at a reservoir (Sierra Brava) in the middle of a large plain.
Start from point X: 286357, Y: 4.346.346 at Cubilar Reservoir. It’s worth walking a little in the area around the reservoir and watching the numerous species of ducks and geese, herons and egrets and waders, in the area from an elevated point (the wall of the dam makes a good viewpoint) with a telescope. Most of these birds use this area as a roosting site in winter. There are also a large number of Common Cranes, so birdwatchers will find the view from the dam at dawn in winter a wonderful spectacle.
Continue by car until you pass above the canal and at point X: 286.435, Y: 4.345.535 turn left, around the canal. From here you will see different cereal crops on your right and up above the riverside forest that flanks the River Cubilar, with dehesa in the background. Keep on the canal track, scattered with stone pine trees that form the lookout points for many of birds of prey, such as Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Common Kestrel, Black-winged Kite and Common Buzzard. When you reach point X: 289.100, Y: 4.344.836, where the track crosses the EX-116 that connects Navalvillar de Pela and Guadalupe, turn right, towards Navalvillar de Pela. From the road you will see rice fields on the left and livestock dehesa on the right. At point X: 288.196, Y: 4.343.543 you’ll find the entrance to the dehesa “Dehesa de Zarzalejos”, an alternative route you could follow to see Black-winged Kite, Common Buzzard, Azure-winged Magpie, etc. and family groups of Common Cranes foraging and eating acorns in winter. But continue onwards to point X: 284.836, Y: 4.338.512 where you will find a path with a birdwatching hide on the left, via which you can reach a large irrigation pool where you see lots of water birds. Beneath this pool, in the extensive crop fields, a large number of Common Cranes, Greylag Geese and Marsh Harriers roost in autumn and winter.
Continue to point X: 284.720, Y: 4.336.634, where, on the left, you will find the Centre of Interpretation Moheda Alta (within the 150 ha of the Periurban Park of Conservation and Leisure), which is worth visiting. Take the road on the right to Gorbea farm, leaving the asphalted road and going by a magnificent mature dehesa, evidence of the habitat that existed before the irrigation system was established. After the dehesa you will see rain-fed cereal fields and rice fields that serve as roosting places for Common Cranes and Marsh and Hen Harriers. When you reach point X: 280.287, Y: 4.335.636 turn right and continue on until you leave the village of Vegas Altas to your right and reach point X: 276.936, Y: 4.333.062 where you cross the EX-102 and turn right towards Madrigalejo. Go past this village and continue along the road, which leads to Zorita, but, at point X: 269.288, Y: 4.341.724 turn right and after barely 800 m you will get to Sierra Brava reservoir, the end of the route. It is worth taking your telescope and taking the path around the reservoir that starts on the left before the dam, where you can see many species of water birds.
The most representative species is, perhaps, the Common Crane (in autumn and winter). You can see over 30,000 birds in the various roosting sites in this area, many of which have been ringed, with it being possible to read those that have a colour code. Other species that are important in winter for their number in the pools and reservoirs are Greylag Geese, various species of ducks, such as Pintail, Gadwall, Northern Shoveler, Red-crested Pochard, Common Pochard, Tufted Duck, Common Teal, and other water birds, such as Great Crested, Little and Black-necked Grebes. In the rice fields you can see Common Snipe and other waders such as Black-tailed Godwit, Ringed Plover, Black-winged Stilt, Golden Plover, Little Stint, Dunlin, and Common, Green and Wood Sandpipers. Amongst the wintering birds of prey Red Kite, Merlin and Short-eared Owl are important. It’s also possible to find Northern Goshawks and Eurasian Sparrowhawks, as well as Common Buzzard, the number of which increases in winter with the arrival of birds from the north. Curiously, several Black Stork stay in the area throughout winter, without migrating to warmer sub Saharan lands.
Birds that breed in the area include Black-winged Kite, Gull-billed Tern (Sierra Brava), Collared Pratincole, Marsh Harrier, Montagu’s Harrier, Red Avadavat, Common Waxbill, Azure-winged Magpie, Common Kestrel, Lesser Kestrel etc. You can see species typical of steppe areas in the plains surrounding Sierra Brava reservoir, such as Great Bustard, Little Bustard, Stone Curlew, Black-bellied Sandgrouse and Pin-tailed Sandgrouse.
Species that are rare elsewhere in Extremadura appear in passage here, such as Bluethroat, Garganey, Avocet, Common Shelduck and Ruddy Shelduck.
Other species have been recorded in the area, such as White-fronted Goose, Bean Goose, Squacco Heron, Whiskered Tern, Great White Egret, Glossy Ibis, Eurasian Curlew and Osprey.
Best time to visit
This route can be done at any time of year, as many interesting species reside in the area. However, in autumn and winter the large number of birds such as Common Crane (the largest density in the peninsula throughout winter), Greylag Geese, Black-tailed Godwits, Northern Lapwings, etc. will delight any birdwatcher, with hardly any effort, without leaving the route.
Spring is also a good time; as well as the nesting species that come to the area numerous passage migrants appear until well into April.
Other environmental and cultural interest
The Holm oak “El Convenio” stands out amongst the others in the dehesa due to its height. Sadly it has now dried up. The sale and division of Gorbea farm was agreed beneath its branches, and in olden days it was also here that farming advice was given.
Serapias perez-chiscanoi, a species of orchid, is easy to find in the area around the Centre of Interpretation Moheda Alta. The species is classed as In Danger of Extinction in the Regional Catalogue of Endangered Species of Extremadura and was discovered by the Extremaduran pharmacist José Luís Pérez-Chiscano.
Other orchids; there are other species of the genus serapias in the area such as Serapias lingua, S. vomeracea, and other genuses such as Oprhys tenthredinifera, O. conica, Orchis morio, etc.