Mothing The Straits!

Crimson Speckled – Utetheisa pulchella © Inglorious Bustards / David Grundy

6 days – 29th October – 3 November 2021

6 days – 2nd – 7th May 2022

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

€230 deposit

€120 single supplement

2019 trip report available to download here

Birding and Wildlife-watching Extension!

4 days – 26th – 29th October 2021

4 days  – 7th-10th May 2022

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

€120 deposit

€60 single supplement

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 Andalucian moth expert extraordinaire Dave Grundy, to offer you this six-day Lepidopteran extravaganza around Southern Andalucía.

We will be based near The Straits of Gibraltar, just 14 kilometres 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 Alcornocales 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 are more commonly thought of as migrants, like Silver Y and Striped Hawkmoth in spring, or Purple Marbled and Egyptian Bollworm in autumn. There are also real Mediterranean specials such as the stunning small and shaggy Omphalophana serrata in spring or pink-coloured Compsoptera opacaria in autumn.  We should be able to see over 200 species of moths during our stay.

About Andalucía

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.

02 0IMG_6914 moth trap - Cerro del Tambor - 22-11-17
Moth trap with a view across The Straits and viewing North Africa © Inglorious Bustards / David Grundy

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 moths are rarely seen in other areas, 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 our spring trip 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), Porter’s Rustic (Athetis hospes), Guernsey Underwing (Polyphaenis sericata), Small Black Arches (Meganola strigula) and Speckled Footman (Coscinia cribraria).  In addition there are many species of macro-moths to look out for that don’t have a common name, such as the beautiful green Earias albovenosana and Cilix hispanica which is a close relative of the Chinese Character (Cilix glaucata).

In autumn we can hope for Old World Webworm (Hellula undalis), Dusky Scalloped Oak (Crocallis dardoinaria), Spanish Carpet (Scotopteryx peribolata),Marigold Shark (Cucullia calendula), Small Mottled Willow (Spodoptera exigua), Dark Mottled Willow (Spodoptera cilium), Berber (Pseudenargia ulicis), Dumeril’s Rustic (Luperina dumerilii), Cosmopolitan (Mythimna loreyi), Gregson’s Dart (Agrotis spinifera), Egyptian Bollworm (Earias insulana), Crimson Speckled (Utetheisa pulchella), Latreille’s Latin (Callopistria latreillei) and Southern Brindled Green (Dryobotodes roboris).

04 06860 Striped Hawk-moth - Finca la Molina - 20-03-15 (15)
Striped Hawk-moth – Hyles livornica © Inglorious Bustards / David Grundy

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

We pick you up from Gibraltar airport or other agreed arrival point, and 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 grounds of Huerta Grande, which lies on the edge of Los Alcornocales 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 into the Huerta Grande woodlands, to set up tonight’s moth traps.  We will target different areas of the woodland 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.

Day 2

On our first morning, we will have an early breakfast before heading back out into the woods, 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.

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 Andaluz 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. In autumn we may find Agrotis boetica, Episema grueneri andAntigastra catalaunalisThis part of the Andalucian coast is a great unknown for moths and you will be real trail blazers, as trapping has only begun here in recent years!

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 Huerta Grande 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!

Compsoptera opacaria © Inglorious Bustards / David Grundy

Day 4

After another early breakfast we´ll go through our traps.  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’ll 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 Pinar del Rey, near San Roque which is an exciting pine forest for moths.  Originally planted by the Spanish Navy in 1800 to build warships, the trees were never cut down as the Spanish and French fleets were defeated in the battle of Trafalgar in 1805. Here we will stay until late, checking the moths in the traps of this unusual sandy acidic habitat. Moths seen in spring might include; Oak Hawk-moth Marumba quercus,Tawny Prominent Harpyia milhauseri, Goldwing Synthymia fixa and Marbled Pug. In autumn we will look out for Lydd Beauty Peribatodes ilicaria, Eremepola oranaria and Agrotis sabulosa’.

Egyptian Bollworm (Earias insulana)  © Inglorious Bustards / David Grundy

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 around the grounds, 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 across the Strait of Gibraltar, between Europe and 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 and concentrate our moth trapping in the grounds of Huerta Grande for a last time.  We can either potter round the traps for the evening or walk up to the neighbouring village of Pelayo to visit a local bar.

Southern Brindled Green (Dryobotodes roboris)  © Inglorious Bustards / David Grundy

Day 6

Unfortunately, today is our last day and therefore time to head home, but for early risers there will be a last chance to check the traps before you go!

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

The Berber (Pseudenargia ulicis) © Inglorious Bustards / David Grundy

Birding and Wildlife-watching Extension

4 days – 26th – 29th October 2021

4 days – 7th May – 10th May 2022.

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!  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, raptors such as Booted and Short-toed Eagles, Black Kites and Honey Buzzards will be journeying north to breed.  In autumn we can see many of these species heading to their wintering grounds in sub-Saharan Africa, as well as finding ourselves in the middle of the spectacular migration of the European Griffon Vultures.  

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?

DSC08550
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!

Extension 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 migratory passage.  If conditions are right, as the air warms, we can hope to watch hundreds or even thousands of raptors soaring across The Strait between Europe and Africa.

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, Eurasian Stone-curlew, Kentish Plover and Curlew Sandpiper, as well as some larger stars like Eurasian Spoonbill, Greater Flamingo and Western Osprey.  There are many butterflies to be found 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 2004. The population now numbers around 80 birds, and we should be able to see these engaging and quirky birds at their nesting colony or grazing on surrounding farmland.

DSC07713
Northern Bald Ibis © Inglorious Bustards

Extension Day 2

Today we will head out to a lagoon near Medina Sidonia.  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 around, 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

Extension 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 place 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 we can enjoy the bustling Lesser Kestrel colony in the picturesque Old Town.

Extension 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 migration home, taking back some excellent memories of Andalucian 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.

Juvenile Black Kite © Inglorious Bustards

Email us for further details, to check availability, booking and for details on how to pay through our secure online shop (all major credit / debit cards accepted).