7 days – 28th March – 3rd April 2020.
(Spring 2018 trip report available here)
(Autumn 2019 trip report available here)
7 days – 26th August – 1st September 2020.
€1,200 for 7 days – price includes all accommodation, meals, guiding, transportation, taxes and entrances but excludes flights.
€160 Single supplement
The Strait of Gibraltar is the point at which Africa and Europe are at their closest, and is the epicentre for one of the world’s most spectacular bird migrations. Every year, millions of birds make the 14 km sea crossing, making use of uplifts and thermals rising off the Rock of Gibraltar and the stunning Moroccan peak of Jebel Musa. An estimated 250,000 raptors pass over this rugged terrain during these periods, as well as untold thousands of other journeying passerines and seabirds
This flukey combination of geography and geology means a helping hand for birds and quite simply spectacular birding for us! The incredible natural phenomenon of visible migration will be happening all around us, meaning you can sit back with a nice cold beer and simply enjoy these unforgettable scenes.
A boat trip into the Straits itself will let you get close and personal with the many cetacean species that can be found in spring and autumn, such as Common, Bottlenose and Striped Dolphins and Long-finned Pilot Whale – even Fin, Sperm Whales and Orca are possible here. There are seabirds to look out for too, and we can hope to see Cory´s, Scopoli´s and Balearic Shearwaters, Northern Gannets, and in the right conditions, Wilson´s and European Storm Petrels.
There will also be time to explore more of the area´s superb habitats, which include salt pans, intertidal areas, freshwater wetlands, low intensity farmland, Mediterranean scrub, precipitous rock faces and the woodlands of Los Alcornocales Natural Park, Europe´s largest Cork oak Forest. The diversity and wealth of avian and other wildlife in this beautifully unspoilt area of Spain really is astounding!
Couple this with tranquil accommodation in an eco-lodge at the edge of the Natural Park itself, the chance to enjoy the picturescue streets and Moorish fortifications of the Old Town of Tarifa, and of course the chance to sample some of Andalusia´s best local food and wine, and you really do have a trip that´s Strait-up fantastic!
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 from a migratory birds perspective it is quite simply the centre of the world!
A massive migration event is in progress at this time of year, as birds journey south to winter. We hope to see several species of raptor including Griffon Vultures, Egyptian Vultures, Bonelli’s Eagles and Spanish Imperial Eagles alongside tens of thousands of migrating raptors Honey Buzzards, Black Kites, Short-toed and Booted Eagles, interspersed with huge flocks of White and Black Storks and European Bee-eaters. Resident Spanish specialities include Firecrest, Short-toed Treecreeper, Crested Tit and Northern Bald Ibis. Visits to wetlands should yield a host of waders including Kentish Plover, Sanderling, Little Stint and Collared Pratincole, as well a star birds like Purple Swamphen, Eurasian Spoonbill and Greater Flamingo.
Our boat trip should give us views of Cory’s Shearwaters as well as Long- finned Pilot Whales, Common and Striped Dolphins and possibly Sperm Whale.
We begin with your flight to Gibraltar, from where we meet you 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. We should witness many hundreds of migratory birds making the crossing to their wintering grounds in Africa, including Egyptian Vultures, Short-toed and Booted Eagles, Honey Buzzards, Black Kites and both Black and White Storks.
We will take a boat excursion, weather permitting, into the Straits to witness the seabird passage and cetaceans. We will be on the lookout for Cory’s and Balearic Shearwaters among other species, plus the three species of resident dolphin (Common, Bottlenose and Striped) and the resident pods of Long-finned Pilot Whale. 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’ll enjoy a picnic lunch in the old town square where, simply by looking up you will be able to see migrating raptors and storks crossing over this historic town.
We’ll 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, Short-toed Lark, Yellow Wagtails 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 Plover, Sanderling and Little Stint. Theres 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.
Migratory movement is completely dependent on wind strength and direction. Depending on whether birds are crossing or gathering inland waiting for their moment, this afternoon will be spent at one of several local raptor watchpoints, making the absolute most of whatever the conditions bring us.
Today, alongside more raptor-watching at sites with stunning views across the Straits to North Africa, we will make a visit to nearby Barbate salt pans. This area offers a fantastic selection of waders which change every day, as well as some real stars like Eurasian Spoonbill, Greater Flamingo and Western Osprey.
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.
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 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 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, Calandra Lark and perhaps Red-necked Nightjar.
Our last full day in Spain taking time to explore our rich local surroundings in the Los Alcornacales 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 Western Bonelli’s Warbler, Firecrest, Crested Tit, Hawfinch and Short-toed Treecreeper, almost anything can turn up here during autumn migration, as passerines collect amongst the trees to gather strength for their southwards 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 also 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, Crag Martin, and Rock Bunting are all likely to be encountered.
We should again find ourselves in the midst of the Autumn raptor migration, and will take our final chance to sit back and relax with a picnic and a glass of wine at a raptor watchpoint as the spectacular birds drift overhead.
Today sadly our trip comes to an end, and it is time to make our own migratory journey back to the UK.