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So-called because it forms part of the Portuguese-Spanish border, this 40km stretch of the Tagus extends from where the Erges River joins the Tagus westwards to the Cedillo Dam. It includes the river valley with steep-sided gorges in places and densely-vegetated banks in others, as well as the surrounding countryside, open plains, cork-oak woodlands and eucalyptus plantations.
The plains of Idanha-a-Nova to the north of the river is a particularly good area of open cultivated land with occasional rocky outcrops. This range of habitats in a relatively undisturbed and unspoilt area attracts an excellent variety of birds to breed some of which are very difficult to see elsewhere in Portugal.
Raptors are well-represented with Eurasian Black Vulture, Griffon Vulture and Egyptian Vulture, Golden Eagle, Booted Eagle and Bonelli's Eagle on the cliffs along the river and Short-toed Eagle, Black Kite, Red Kite and Black-shouldered Kite and Montagu's Harrier in the surrounding farmland.
Also breeding along the river and on rocky outcrops are Black Stork, Eurasian Eagle Owl and Eurasian Scops Owl, Eurasian Crag Martin, Red-rumped Swallow, Blue Rock Thrush and, rare in Portugal, Black Wheatear.
Birds of the open plains include steppe specialities such as Great Bustard and Little Bustard, Stone-curlew and Black-bellied Sandgrouse. Pin-tailed Sandgrouse has been recorded but is commoner on the Spanish side of the river.
Spanish Sparrow is abundant in local villages and various larks including Thekla Lark and Calandra Lark, are abundant on the farmland, Great Spotted Cuckoo and European Bee-eater breed and the woodlands hold Eurasian Golden Oriole, Iberian Magpie and Red-necked Nightjar.
In winter Alpine Accentor is a rare but regular visitor to rocky areas.
Birds you can see here include:
Grey Heron, Black Stork, White Stork, European Honey Buzzard, Black Kite, Red Kite, Black-shouldered Kite, Egyptian Vulture, Griffon Vulture, Eurasian Black Vulture, Montagu's Harrier, Common Buzzard, Golden Eagle, Booted Eagle, Bonelli's Eagle, Osprey, Merlin, Little Bustard, Great Bustard, Black Tern, Stone-curlew, Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Pin-tailed Sandgrouse, Great Spotted Cuckoo, Eurasian Scops Owl, Great Eagle Owl, Red-necked Nightjar, Alpine Swift, European Bee-eater, Eurasian Hoopoe, Calandra Lark, Greater Short-toed Lark, Thekla Lark, Eurasian Crag Martin, Red-rumped Swallow, Alpine Accentor, Western Black-eared Wheatear, Black Wheatear, Blue Rock Thrush, Melodious Warbler, Dartford Warbler, Western Subalpine Warbler, Orphean Warbler, Eurasian Golden Oriole, Iberian Grey Shrike, Woodchat Shrike, Iberian Magpie, Northern Raven, House Sparrow, Spanish Sparrow, Rock Sparrow, Hawfinch, Cirl Bunting, Rock Bunting
History and Use
Areas of Interest
To view the river leave Idanha-a-Nova south-eastwards on the N353 to Rosmaninhal, where White Stork nests, and from there a track leads to the Vale da Morena farm where permission should be sought before proceeding to the river. To the east there is the border crossing at Segura on the N355 where the bridge can provide a good vantage point to view the Erges river.
Access and Facilities
The plain of Idanha-a-Nova is reached by leaving Castelo Branco north-eastwards on the N233 then turning onto the N240 towards Ladoeiro. Once there head north to Idanha-a-Nova on the N354 which crosses the plain where both bustards are possible.
Most visitors use the town of Castelo Branco as a base to explore the area. This town lies about 40km to the west of the site and has an extensive range of accommodation. Hotels can also be found at Idanha-a-Nova and Monfortinho.
Closer to the Tagus is Rosmaninhal where basic accommodation or campsites may be available. Castelo Branco is reached from Lisbon on the northern road towards Santarem then turn eastwards towards Abrantes and Castelo Branco.
Content and images originally posted by Steve