Kite-fest 2021!

We’re all pretty sick of travel restrictions by now, for sure. Well today, for Black Kites at least, they were finally lifted!

After ten days of strong easterlies, overcast conditions and heavy rain around The Straits of Gibraltar, the meteorological ´border´ finally opened for the most spectacular day so far of 2021´s spring migration!

Black Kites incoming! © Inglorious Bustards

Since early February we´ve been seeing brave attempts by plucky raptors to cross The Straits towards their northerly breeding grounds.  Driven on by the desire to grab the best territory, numerous Black Kites, Short-toed Eagles and Griffon Vultures have been braving all sorts of weathers – some succeeding and some sadly not.

But the sensible ones chose today – and as the morning rain stopped, the clouds parted to reveal hundreds upon hundreds of Black Kites streaming towards us across the sea!

Black Kites swirling overhead © Inglorious Bustards

As ever it´s hard to describe such a mind-blowing gathering of soaring birds of prey!  Within an hour of arriving at the coast we had counted 3,000, with Booted Eagles, Short-toed Eagles, Marsh Harriers, Black and White Storks and even a decidedly lost Lanner Falcon amongst them!  

“The sky was full of Kites” is in this case a literal description.  As each wave of hundreds of birds turns into a swirling mass of thousands and drifts inland on a welcoming thermal, still more arrive, until you just don’t know where to look!

Our conservation partners, Fundación Migres, reckon that upwards of 12,000 birds crossed The Straits today!

We were happy to run into some of our off-duty friends from Migres on the clifftop – today was their day off from counting the migrating raptors, so they joined us to simply to marvel at the Kite-fest!

Also marvelling at the incredible day was our friend Ugo Mellone of MEDRAPTORS research group.  Those of you who are regular readers of this blog may remember our “Tale of Two Eagles”, covering the migratory journeys of two Italian Short-toed Eagles – father and son, Egidio and Michele.  Ugo leads on the project that fitted their satellite tags and follows their travels.  He excitedly told us that Egidio was on the way!  Last night his tag transmitted that he had spent the night on the rocky Moroccan coastline just 14 km from where we were standing, and that he would surely be one of the birds crossing over our heads today!

Carlos (left) and Ugo (right) in amongst the Kite fest!

Onward journeys, travel with no restrictions, families and friends reunited – we could all use some of that!  Hopefully, by the time these very birds are heading south in the autumn, we will be able to share days like these with you.

If this is just the kind of uplifting spectacle you need, then our Straits of Gibraltar – Bird Migration and Cetaceans tour is definitely for you!  We are taking no-obligation provisional bookings for Autumn 2021 and Spring 2022!

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