Strait Sketching

Griffon Vulture © Martin Gibbons

6 days – Dates for 2023 to be confirmed! enquire with us directly for further information here.

€1,150 for 6 days – price includes all accommodation, meals, guiding, tuition, transport during trip, taxes and entrances but excludes flights/transport to join trip and art materials.

€230 deposit

€150 single supplement

Tour overview

Ever wished you could paint a Plover or portray a Pipit? Or depict a Duck? Or create a Crane?!  New for 2022, we´ve teamed up with renowned wildlife artist Martin Gibbons, to offer you the chance to channel your inner Killian Mullarney!  Watching him sweep a pencil across a page and conjure a Kentish Plover from nowhere is fascinating to behold, and his accessible, supportive teaching style builds your confidence that you will soon be able to do the same!

Kentish Plover © Inglorious Bustards

Based in The Straits of Gibraltar, this trip combines the best of winter birding in the area´s prime wetland, coastal and mountains sites with expert field-sketching tuition.  While learning to turn a blank page into a watercolour created in the field, we´ll take time to enjoy wetlands full of thousands of wintering Common Cranes, Griffon Vulture colonies, Cory´s and Scopoli´s Shearwaters sweeping across a wintry sea, Blue Rock Thrush and Crag Martins adorning rocky crags, and swirling masses of wintering waders, gulls and Greater Flamingoes.

Although this trip is primarily aimed at complete novices to bird field sketching, Martin is practiced at working to share ideas and skills with people of all levels of experience, and all are welcome here.  We´ll enjoy the wealth of natural life the area has to offer, and really take our time to enjoy, explore, appreciate – and of course sketch! – individual birds and scenes.

Martin admires a Yellow-legged Gull on Isla de Palomas / Tarifa Island © Inglorious Bustards

Expected habitats and birds

Throughout the trip the focus will be on sketching techniques and taking time to experiment with and improve them, but also to have fun while doing it!  This will take us to some fantastic places with some awesome birds!

Around our accommodation adjoining Los Alcornocales Natural Park, woodland birds abound, such as Crested Tit, Hawfinch, Short-toed Treecreeper, and Firecrest. 

bird winter animal blur
Firecrest © Inglorious Bustards

Venturing into the coastal crags, we´ll look out for Blue Rock Thrush, Rock Bunting, Thekla´s Lark, Cirl Bunting, Dartford Warbler, Woodlark and Bonelli´s Eagle while we sketch impressive Griffon Vultures at the local colony. 

Local ricefields and pastures are alive with thousands of wintering Common Cranes, and we can hope for views of Black-winged Kites, Marsh and Hen Harriers, White Storks and Glossy Ibis, and uplifting flocks of thousands of farmland birds including Corn Buntings, Spanish Sparrows, Common Waxbills and Calandra Larks.  With luck we can hope for an audience with a royal, if one of the area´s Spanish Imperial Eagles in in residence.

Over 2,000 noisy Common Crane can be encountered on this tour © Inglorious Bustards

Saltpans host Greater Flamingoes, Eurasian Spoonbils, Audouin´s Gulls, and thousands of wintering and resident waders, including Black-winged Stilt, Kentish Plover, Little Stint among many Dunlin, Sanderling, and Common Ringed Plover.  Nearby pastures are often frequented by the Critically Endangered Northern Bald Ibis – possibly one of the most sketchable birds on the planet!

Viewing out to the wintry Straits from the very southernmost tip of Europe, we can expect views of seabirds including Balearic, Cory´s and Scopoli´s Shearwaters and Great Skuas, against a backdrop of the rocky coast of northern Morocco.

Suggested Materials List

Optics: Telescope, Binoculars Seat/stool

Art materials: Sketchbook, Pencils, Pens, Rubber, Sharpener.  Paints and water pot – a small watercolour set is ideal – contact us for advice.

Not only are the wildlife encounters amazing the landscapes are exceptional too © Inglorious Bustards


Day 1                     Arrival

We will meet you at Gibraltar or Málaga airport, Algeciras train station or other agreed arrival point, from where we will transfer to our accommodation in The Straits.  Huerta Grande Rural Eco-lodge is on the edge of Los Alcornocales Natural Park, the largest Cork Oak forest in Europe, and you can begin to enjoy the surrounding natural habitat in the grounds as soon as we arrive.

After a light lunch and time to settle in to our log cabins in the woods or one of the property´s turn-of-the-century houses, there´ll be time to relax in the wooded grounds and do a little light birding locally.

We´ll meet in the early evening to discuss the plan for the week, including information about the local area, sites we´ll visit, birds we hope to see and latest local birding news.  Martin will outline the sketching course plan.

We´ll then sit down for our first three-course meal of the trip, featuring traditional, locally-sourced Andaluz fair!

Day 2                    Birds on the Ground and Flying Birds                       

We´ll meet after breakfast to explore methods for quickly sketching birds in the field.  We´ll then head out to immediately start sketching birds in the field.  Martin will provide lots of one-to-one tuition and also demonstrate the techniques we are learning.

After our picnic lunch in the field, we´ll likely explore a second site for more sketching opportunities.

After dinner we´ll have a ‘show and tell’ discussion of the day´s work, to explore what worked well and any techniques people need help with.

Perched and in-flight our local Griffon Vulture colony will not fail to impress © Inglorious Bustards

Day 3                    Avian topography

After a hearty breakfast, we´ll meet briefly to discuss the day´s goals.  We´ll cover the basics of feather groups and maps and bird anatomy and how to use them to inform your sketching.

We´ll then visit further excellent local sites to put these ideas into practice and add them to methods learnt yesterday – as ever, demonstrated and assisted by Martin.

After more delicious, sustainably-produced local food for our picnic, we´ll continue sketching and looking, with personal tuition.

Our evening will again feature the opportunity for discussion, sharing of sketches and assessment of techniques.

Sitting comfortably we will be able to watch birds like this Little Stint at close range and discuss the different feather groups / topography © Inglorious Bustards

Day 4                    Light and Colour

After our usual discussions, today´s trip out will help you to think about and practice looking at the light and colour of the birds, and combining these new skills with the techniques we have learned so far.

Northern Bald Ibis © Inglorious Bustards

Day 5                    Putting it all together

As our trip approaches its end, today we will focus on pulling together everything we´ve learned about proportions, flight and motion, anatomy, feather groups, light and colour to produce our very own works of art!  We´ll spend the full day sketching birds, putting into practice the lessons learnt during the week with personal tuition.

Hopefully our after-dinner show-and tell session will feature some mini sketch masterpieces today!  It will certainly feature some great memories and fun from the fantastic birding, scenery and food in Southern Spain!

Common Greenshank © Martin Gibbons

Day 6

Sadly, our trip is at an end, and after breakfast we´ll take you to your chosen transport hub for departure.  Time permitting, we´ll make some stops to look at a few more of Nature´s works of art on the way!

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