Mothing The Straits!

 

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Amephana aurita © Inglorious Bustards

6 days – 23rd – 28th April 2020

€1,150 for 6 days – price includes all accommodation, meals, guiding, transportation, taxes and entrances but excludes flights.

Deposit: €230 

Single supplement: €120

To book your place on the above tour, check availability or for further information  contact us

Download trip summary for 2019 here.

NEW FOR 2020!

Birding and Wildlife-watching Extension!

4 days – 28 April – 1 May

€600 for 4 days – price includes all accommodation, meals, guiding, transportation, taxes and entrances but excludes flights.

Deposit: €120

Single supplement: €60

Need more moths? Contact us for further information on extending your moth-ing stay with Dave.

Tour overview

We like birds, but we like other animals too!  That´s why we have teamed up with Andalusian moth expert extraordinaire Dave Grundy, to offer you this six-day Lepidopteran extravaganza around Southern Andalusia.

We will be based near the Straits of Gibraltar, just 14 kilometers from North Africa, where the moths have more in common with Africa than with Northern Europe. We are conveniently situated between two of Spain’s most exciting Natural Parks; the Natural Park of the Straits which is home to moths of coastal and Olive-based Mediterranean scrub and the Los Alcornacales Natural Park up where the hills are shrouded with evergreen cork oak forest and mist.

This holiday will all be about adding a touch of Mediterranean spice to the moths you see. You will see a whole suite of moths that we think of as migrants in the UK from Silver Y to Striped Hawkmoth, as well as real Mediterranean specials such as the stunning small and shaggy Omphalophana serrata.  We should be able to see over 200 species of moths during our stay.

About Andalusia

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 here too provides tantalising glimpses of nature from across the waters, and are firmly influenced by the warm Mediterranean.

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Moth trap with a view across The Straits and viewing North Africa © Inglorious Bustards

Expected Moths

In just under a week of moth trapping we are likely to see over 200 moth species depending on weather conditions.  Most of these will be moths you have rarely seen in Britain if ever, apart from a handful of commoner migrants such as Silver Y – Autographa gamma and Rusty-dot Pearl – Udea ferrugalis. Some of the more exciting species that we should see on this holiday will include; the Tapestry Moth – Trichophaga tapetzella, Etiella zinckenella, Phyllodesma kermesifolia, Dorset Cream Wave – Stegania trimaculata, Lydd Beauty – Peribatodes ilicaria, Tawny Prominent – Harpyia milhauseri, Plumed Fan-foot – Polypogon plumigeralis, Four-spotted Tyta luctuosa, Porter’s Rustic – Athetis hospes, Guernsey Underwing –  Polyphaenis sericata, Small Black Arches – Meganola strigula and Speckled Footman – Coscinia cribraria.  For British moth-trappers, these offer great experience of species you will be very lucky to see at home as very rare vagrants. In addition there are many species of macro-moths to look out for that don’t have an English name because they have never been recorded in Britain, such as the beautiful green Earias albovenosana and Cilix hispanica which is a close relative of the Chinese Character – Cilix glaucata. (Other target moths for us are shown in photos below).

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Cilix hispanica © Inglorious Bustards

Itinerary

The itinerary is as follows, but this is likely to be adapted to fit in best with weather conditions of the area. Winds in the Straits are usually from the west or the east, so it is important to juggle sites to take advantage of shelter when necessary.  Moths perform best out of the wind and we want to maximise the numbers we see! 

Day 1

From your arrival at Gibraltar airport, we transfer to our delightful eco-resort in tranquil woodland near Tarifa, the new ‘centre of moth-ing’ in the Straits. Our base at Huerta Grande is ideal for studying moths from this area as it is located in the hills above the Straits of Gibraltar, amongst lush Cork Oak forest.  Most people will arrive in time for a delicious light lunch, after which there will be time to unpack and unwind after your journey.

Once refreshed, we can make our first foray into Spanish moths, taking the afternoon to go through traps that had been set up the previous night, then carefully closed up and left in shade, so as not to harm the moths!  These will be from the small woodland nature reserve which will be the hub of our moth-ing this week – the excellent Ornipark.  Just two minutes’ walk away from our base, it lies on the edge of Los Alcornacales Natural Park, Europe´s largest Cork Oak forest.  It hosts a large diversity of moth species characteristic of the area, and this first catch will provide an excellent introduction.

After our evening meal we will head to the Ornipark reserve itself, to set up tonight´s moth traps.  We will target different areas of the reserve from the previous night.  You will soon get used to setting up moth traps underneath cork oak trees and seeing some oak-feeding specialist moths. Very different from oak woodland moths in Britain!

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Striped Hawk-moth – Hyles livornica © Inglorious Bustards

Day 2

On our first morning, we will have an early breakfast before heading up to the Ornipark, getting there early enough to ensure we spare the moths in the traps from overheating.  We will all take part in looking through the traps using Spanish field guides to help us identify the moths, most of which will be new species for you if you have never looked at moths in Spain before. It’s fascinating to see the diversity involved.

We will spend all morning checking through the traps before taking any particularly interesting individuals back to Huerta Grande, where we can check their ID further with the help of an extensive field book library.  We will have plenty of time to photograph the star moths, as well as chance to visit the Visitor Centre of Huerta Grande and learn more about the wildlife of the Straits.

After a picnic lunch, you will have time to yourselves in the afternoon.  After our early start, now is an excellent chance to get into the local culture and experience the joys of a siesta!  For non-nappers, we might make an optional local trip out to enjoy some of the area´s rich and varied birds and other wildlife.

In the evening we will drive out to Punta Paloma – an excellent sand dune site on the Atlantic coast near Tarifa and set up moth traps there.  

Then, tonight as every night, we will run through a moth checklist of species we have seen during the previous day before sitting down to a delicious three course meal of typical Andalus flavours.

Day 3

We will head back to Punta Paloma in the morning and cross a huge sand dune along the road which looks more like the Sahara than Spain! Punta Paloma doesn’t have the number of species that other sites we visit have, but it more than makes up for that with some really specialist sand dune moth species such as Festoon look-alike Hoyosia codeti, Spurge Hawk-moth and the very rare Euxoa oranaria. This part of the Andalusian coast is a great unknown for moths and you will be real trail blazers, visiting it for only the third year it has ever been trapped!

Again, we will take moths back to Huerta Grande for further ID checks and photography and this will be followed by lunch, and either a siesta or another trip out to see the local area.

After the evening meal we will return to our trapping base at Ornipark to set up our traps once more.  As we grow more familiar with the area and its commoner moths, it is time to increase the number of traps and see what else we can find!

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The Passenger Moth – Dysgonia algira © Inglorious Bustards

Day 4

After another early breakfast we´ll go through our traps at the Ornipark.  This morning should bring a double thrill – that of seeing yet more new species as we open our traps, but also that of beginning to be able to recognise and ID some local specialities!  

As ever there´s be plenty of time for photography and discussion before we head to the picnic area for lunch.  Today as every day, our lavish picnic will feature organic, locally grown salad produce, wines, nibbles and some of the area´s unmissable award-winning cheeses!  After lunch we´ll spend more time ID-ing, photographing and relaxing – maybe taking a dip in our eco-lodge´s delightful swimming pool.  

Then after our evening meal we will head out to San Carlos del Tiradero in the heart of the stunning Los Alcornacales Natural Park.  Here we´ll stay until late, surrounded by ancient Cork Oak trees, watching many fascinating moth species such as species such as Blair´s Mocha look-alike Cyclophora hyponoea, Marbled Pug, Tawny Prominent, Plumed Fan-foot look-alike Pechipogo flavicrinalis, Passenger, Latin and Small Black Arches coming in to traps.

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The Latin – Callopistria juventina © Inglorious Bustards

Day 5 

After the hardcore moth party of the previous evening, this morning we will allow ourselves a lie in!  We will take a leisurely breakfast and then the morning will be free to catch up on traps from the Ornipark, classroom-based mothing and any more photography and ID from the previous days.  

Alternatively, we may prefer to spend the day on a local walk or visit, such as the clifftops near Tarifa, with panoramic views across the Straits of Gibraltar to the towering mountain that is Jebel Musa in Africa – one of the Pillars of Hercules.  If you are interested in birds as well then take your binoculars with you, as this trip coincides with the peak migration period for raptors such as Booted and Short-toed Eagles, Black Kites and Honey Buzzards.  In the right conditions we may be able to see hundreds of them migrating north across the Strait from Africa. As ever we´ll be on the look-out for other wildlife too, such as some of the area´s wonderful butterflies, which include Monarch, Cleopatra, and Spanish Festoon.

In the evening we will stay local to Huerta Grande and concentrate our moth traps in the Ornipark for a last time and can either potter round the traps for the evening or walk up to the neighbouring village of Pelayo to visit a local bar.

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The Alchymist – Catephria alchymista © Inglorious Bustards

Day 6

Unfortunately, today is our last day and means we head back to the UK, but for early risers there will be a last chance to walk over and check the traps in the Ornipark before jumping on the plane home!

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The Goldwing – Synthimia fixa © Inglorious Bustards

Contact us for further information and to book your place on this tour.

Extension overview

Watching the avian migration spectacle at the Strait of Gibraltar is one of Nature´s true “bucket list” experiences.  As well as being here for some of Europe´s best moth-ing, you will also find yourself at Europe´s biggest avian migration bottleneck as raptors such as Booted and Short-toed Eagles, Black Kites and Honey Buzzards journey north to breed.  Although you may have come here to look into moth traps and discover the area´s fascinating moths, it would be a shame not to also spend a little time looking up, as thousands of migrating raptors flow over our heads!  

In Spring the area´s wetlands, woodlands and farmlands teem with avian life, as migrants pass through and residents prepare to breed.  Northern Bald Ibis, Egyptian Vulture, Spanish Imperial Eagle, Isabelline, Melodious and Western Bonelli´s Warbler, White-headed Duck, European Bee-eater, Collared Pratincole, Kentish Plover, Cory´s and Balearic Shearwater – the list goes on!

Local invertebrate attractions include beauties like the Monarch, Two-tailed Pasha, Common and Scarce Swallowtail butterflies and Red-veined Darter, Orange-winged Dropwing and Banded Groundling for the Odonata fans!  And let´s not forget our migratory Whales and resident Delphid species waiting to greet us in the ocean itself!  Now you´re here, why not spend a few days enjoying a taster of the excellent birding and wildlife the Straits have to offer?

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Collared Pratincole © Inglorious Bustards

Itinerary

As with the mothing trip, this suggested itinerary offers an idea of our schedule, but we will of course take into account local weather conditions to make the very best use of every single day!

BWWE Day 1

As we say goodbye to some of your fellow moth-ers, we will assuage your sorrow by heading out to a nearby raptor watchpoint.  Local knowledge will help us judge the wind direction and coincide our choice of site with the best of the day´s northward passage.  If conditions are right, as the air warms, we can hope to watch hundreds of raptors battling across the Strait to arrive on Europe´s shores.

Later we will head to nearby Barbate salt pans.  This area offers a fantastic selection of waders which change every day, such as Collared Pratincole, Stone-curlew, Kentish Plover and Curlew Sandpiper, as well as some larger stars like Eurasian Spoonbill, Greater Flamingo and Western Osprey.  At this time of year there are many butterflies emerging on the surrounding pasturelands, and we´ll be on the lookout for Spanish Festoon, Common and Scarce Swallowtail, Marbled and Green-striped White.

Our picnic in the field will feature a delicious medley of local produce, featuring locally-grown salads and olives, and cheeses lovingly produced from local sustainably-grazed goats and sheep – not to mention a choice of wines!

Also close by is the town of Vejer de la Frontera, where a successful reintroduction programme of the Critically Endangered Northern Bald Ibis took place in 2008. From thirty pairs, the birds now number around 78 pairs, and we should be able to see these engaging and quirky birds at their nesting colony or grazing on surrounding farmland.

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Northern Bald Ibis © Inglorious Bustards

BWWE Day 2

Today we will head out to a lagoon near Medina Sidiona.  An erstwhile gravel pit and duck-hunting lake, this nature reserve now hosts avian gems such as White-headed Duck, Red-crested Pochard, Black-necked Grebe, Little Bittern, and Isabelline and Great Reed Warblers lurk in the lakeside vegetation!  Dragonflies and Damselflies should be emerging at this time of year, so we´ll be looking out for local residents like Red-veined Darter, Orange-winged Dropwing and Orange-spotted Emerald.

We will return via the farmland and wetlands of La Janda. The huge area of low intensity farmland was once a vast wetland on a par with Doñana in terms of its ecological importance. It has 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 Glossy Ibis, we should see a diversity of migrants and residents such as Purple Swamphen, and raptors like Montagu´s and Marsh Harrier and Black-winged Kite as well as a chance of Spanish Imperial Eagle.  The farmland areas should yield European Bee-eaters, Red-rumped Swallow, Pallid Swift, Spanish Sparrow and Calandra Lark, as well as Banded Groundling Dragonflies.

European Bee-eater
European Bee-eater © Jake Gearty

BWWE Day 3

Weather permitting, we will take a boat excursion, into the Straits to look for Cetaceans and seabirds. We will be on the lookout for Cory’s and Balearic Shearwaters, Sandwich and migrating Black Terns among other species, plus the three species of resident dolphin (Common, Bottlenose and Striped) and the resident pods of Long-finned Pilot Whale.  This is also an excellent time to encounter migrating Sperm and Fin Whales, but we will have to be lucky!

Depending on time we may spend some time 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, Short-toed Lark, Yellow Wagtails and Corn Bunting.  A boardwalk takes us out to a viewing point, from where we can look across the lagoons to see birds including Common Ringed and Kentish Plover, Sanderling and Bar-tailed Godwit. There´s a decent chance of visiting Western Osprey here too, and seabirds can include Sandwich and Caspian Terns, and the once extremely rare Audouin’s Gull.

As we head back to base, we will do a little “urban birding” around the streets of Tarifa where the Lesser Kestrel breeding season should be in full swing and we can enjoy views of busy parents around the colony in the Old Town, feeding their chicks on delicacies like Iberian Wall Lizard and even the poisonous Scolopendra centipedes!

BWWE Day 4

For those who wish we can take a last breakfast-time look around the grounds for some resident specialities such as Firecrest, Crested Tit, Hawfinch and Short-toed Treecreeper, as well as looking up for drifting resident Griffon Vultures, and looking out for butterflies like the glorious Monarch and the tiny Geranium Bronze.  Sadly though we are now out of time and you must make your own northerly migration back to the UK, taking back some excellent memories of Andalusian wildlife and culture!

Contact us for further information and to book your place on this tour.

Need more moths? Contact us for further information on extending your mothing stay with Dave.

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Booted Eagle © Inglorious Bustards