31 March 2022 to 6 April 2022
About Andalucía, Spain
This southernmost province of Spain is perhaps best known for its fantastic tapas, passionate discussions and welcoming people. However, it is also the most biodiverse region not only in Spain but the whole of Europe.
Because of its strategic position at the gateway of two continents, the land here has changed hands countless times in history between the ruling forces of Europe and North Africa, so the culture here is a fascinating blend of Mediterranean and Moroccan. The flora and fauna too provide tantalising glimpses of nature from across the waters and from a migratory bird’s perspective it is quite simply the centre of the world!
The local currency is the Euro.
The Straits of Gibraltar are just 14 km wide and provide migrant birds with an ideal crossing point of the Mediterranean. Soaring birds are able to make use of the thermals which form over the rocky hills of the Andalucian coast and the Moroccan peak of Jebel Musa to gain height to help them on a treacherous part of their journey.
This unlikely combination of geography and geology means a helping hand for birds and quite simply spectacular birding for us! Over 400,000 raptors and other soaring birds pass through this area each spring, as well as untold thousands of other journeying passerines and seabirds. We will be visiting the very best places to watch them, often arriving low over Europe´s coasts.
This incredible natural phenomenon will be happening all around us, meaning you can sit back and simply enjoy these unforgettable scenes.
A private chartered boat trip into The Straits itself will let you get close and personal with the area’s resident cetacean species – Common, Bottlenose & Striped Dolphins and Long-finned Pilot Whales. This trip is also timed to maximise our chances of encountering the area´s migratory giants – Fin Whales migrating into the Mediterranean and Sperm Whales seeking giant squid.
There will also be time to explore the local area in and around Tarifa where we will indulge in some fantastic urban birding around the Old Town and visit some superb wetland, farmland and woodland areas.
Thousands of raptors and soaring birds, including: Black Kite, Bonelli’s, Booted, Short-toed and Spanish Imperial Eagles, Egyptian and Griffon Vultures, Montagu’s Harrier and White Stork.
Plus, Balearic and Cory’s Shearwaters, Audouin’s Gull, Greater Flamingo, Northern Bald Ibis, Western Swamphen, Kentish Plover, Black-eared Wheatear, Blue Rock Thrush, Calandra Lark, Crested Tit, Firecrest and Woodchat Shrike.
Bottlenose, Common and Striped Dolphins, Long-finned Pilot Whale plus a good chance for Fin and Sperm Whales!
Please note that the order of this itinerary is likely to vary – we´ll be using our guides´ local knowledge to make best use of each day´s wind and weather conditions.
31 March – Arrival in Gibraltar Airport
From Gibraltar we will hop across the border into Spain and transfer to our delightful eco-resort in tranquil woodland near Tarifa, the centre of birding in The Straits. Our base at Huerta Grande is ideal for watching the migration as it is located between two natural parks in the hills above the Straits of Gibraltar, amongst lush Cork Oak forest. In the right winds, we should witness many hundreds of migratory birds arriving to Spain overhead – including Egyptian Vultures, Short-toed and Booted Eagles, Black Kites and White Storks – simply by looking up!
1 April – Cetaceans and seabirds
We will take a boat excursion, weather permitting, into The Straits to witness the seabird passage and look for cetaceans. From our private chartered vessel, we will be on the lookout for Cory’s, Scopoli´s and Balearic Shearwaters among other species, plus the three species of resident dolphin (Common, Bottlenose and Striped) and resident pods of Long-finned Pilot Whale. With luck, we may even encounter a migrating Fin Whale or feeding Sperm Whales who enter The Strait to search for giant squid.
Once back on dry land, we will have a go at some urban birding around the old town of Tarifa where we can encounter Common Bulbul and breeding Lesser Kestrels. We will enjoy a picnic lunch on nearby clifftops where – by simply by looking up – we may be able to see migrating raptors and storks crossing over this historic town.
2 April – Los Lances intertidal habitat and migration-watching
After breakfast, we will spend the morning at Los Lances nature reserve, a small area of intertidal habitat on Tarifa beach. On the short walk across low intensity farmland we may see Crested Lark, Tawny Pipit and Corn Bunting. A boardwalk takes us out to a hide from where we can look across the lagoons to see birds including Common Ringed and Kentish Plovers, Sanderling and Little Stint. There is a decent chance of a visiting Western Osprey here too and seabirds can include Sandwich and Caspian Terns plus, the once extremely rare Audouin’s Gull.
Migratory movement is completely determined on wind strength and direction. Depending on whether birds are soaring in from Africa or battling in low against the wind, this afternoon will be spent at one of several local raptor watchpoints making the absolute most of whatever the conditions bring us.
3 April – Salinas de Barbate
Today, alongside more raptor-watching at sites with stunning views across the Straits to North Africa, we’ll make a visit to nearby Barbate salt pans. This area offers a fantastic selection of migrating and resident waders which change every day, including Kentish and Grey Plovers, Black-tailed Godwits, Spotted and Common Redshanks, Eurasian Stone Curlews, Collared Pratincoles and mixed flocks of Dunlin and Sanderling. We will also hope for some flamboyant stars in the form of Greater Flamingo and Eurasian Spoonbill.
Close by are the cliffs of Cabo de Trafalgar, where a successful reintroduction programme of the Critically Endangered Northern Bald Ibis took place in 2008. The colony is thriving and now numbers around 80 and we should be able to see these engaging and quirky birds at one of their nesting colonies or feeding on surrounding farmland.
4 April – Rice fields and farmlands of La Janda
Today, we will visit the farmland and wetlands of La Janda. The huge area of low intensity farmland was once a vast wetland on a par with Coto Doñana, in terms of its ecological importance. It’s long since been drained for agriculture, but amongst the rice fields and managed pools and ditches, some real wetland gems remain hinting at its former natural glory. Amongst many hundreds of White Stork and Glossy Ibis here, we should see many waders, wildfowl and raptors such as Purple Swamphen, Marsh Harrier, Black-winged Kite as well as a chance of Spanish Imperial Eagle and Bonelli’s Eagle whilst the farmland areas should yield Spanish Sparrow and Calandra Lark.
5 April – Los Alcornocales Natural Park
Our last full day in Spain we’ll take time to explore our rich local surroundings in the Los Alcornocales Natural Park. This is the biggest Cork Oak forest in Europe and especially unique in the way that it gathers moisture coming in off the ocean to create a warm Mediterranean cloud forest. As well as some adorable local avian specialities in the form of Iberian Chiffchaff, Firecrest, Crested Tit, Hawfinch and Short-toed Treecreeper, almost anything can turn up here during migration as passerines collect amongst the trees to gather strength after their northwards crossing of The Straits.
There are also a host of interesting rare plants to see here, such as the quasi-endemic carnivorous plant Drosophyllum lusitanicum, which occurs only here and in some areas of Portugal.
We will then have a look at the high rocky cliffs of Sierra de la Plata. Here, amongst the eerie screeching of the resident Griffon Vulture colony, mountain specialities such as Blue Rock Thrush, Black-eared Wheatear, Crag Martin, and Rock Bunting are all likely to be encountered.
We should again find ourselves in the midst of the spring raptor migration, and will take our final chance to sit back and relax with a picnic at a raptor watchpoint as the spectacular birds drift in overhead.
6 April – return home
Today sadly our trip comes to an end, and it’s time for you to make your own migratory journey home.
- Full board accommodation.
- All drinks and meals.
- Transport in a comfortable minibus.
- Entrance fees to reserves and national parks.
- The services of David Lindo and the Inglorious Bustards
- The optional loan of a pair of sexy Leica binoculars for the duration of the tour – subject to availability –
Price does not include
- Airline tickets and airport taxes.
- Incidental refreshments at cafes and bars.
- All alcoholic beverages.
- Items of a personal nature.
- Personal travel insurance.