On this special spring tour, we cover a rich variety of landscape and habitats each day from our base near Barbate, travelling from the mouth of the River Guadalquivir on the Atlantic coast, to the River Guadarranque that flows down from the sierras to the Mediterranean. We will be visiting all the key birding and wildlife sites on The Strait of Gibraltar, studying the wonderful phenomenon of avian migration.
Our base will be in heart of the massive pine forest that stretches along the cliffs from Barbate to Caños de Meca. Here lies what once was the largest dovecot in the world, and a 18th century gem in the heart of coastal Cadiz province. Tucked away from the sight of passing pirates, this pigeon-house was first and foremost a gunpowder factory. Barn Owls and Lesser Kestrels now inhabit the old dovecot, which can be seen at the rear of the hotel - with not a domestic pigeon daring to enter the once bustling farm. This peaceful hotel is the perfect base for the next few days birding and a great place to take our non-compulsory pre-breakfast walks!
From here we’ll explore many great birding sites looking for Short-toed Eagle, Booted, Spanish Imperial Eagle, Rock Bunting, European Bee-eater, Serin, Little Swift, Red-rumped Swallow, Western Orphean Warbler, Western Olivaceous Warbler and Black-eared Wheatear.
Our days out in the field will include stops at various ponds and lakes where we’ll stop off to see what’s present on the water and around the reed-fringed sides. Marbled Teal, White-headed Duck, Black-necked, Little and Great crested Grebes, Eurasian Spoonbill, Black Kite, Marsh Harrier and Purple Swamphen can regularly be seen.
Bonelli's Eagle, Spanish Imperial Eagle and Black-winged Kite can be found around the plains and rice fields of La Janda. This wonderful area offers great possibilities to catch up with White and Black Storks, Purple Heron, Squacco Heron, Glossy Ibis, Black-winged Stilt, Common Kingfisher, Collared Pratincole, Marsh Harrier, Montagu’s Harrier, Spanish Sparrow and Tawny Pipit. Otter and Egyptian Mongoose can also be seen with luck.
The marshes, fishponds and mudflats of Barbate often reveal Caspian, Sandwich, Black and Little Tern, Great Egret, Mediterranean and Audouin’s Gull and often a Slender-billed Gull too! Ringed, Little Ringed and Kentish Plover can be seen there with Calandra, Thekla and Short-toed Larks which all breed on the drier slopes, while a colony of Collared Pratincoles dance in the air and Black-eared Wheatear, Subalpine Warblers and the well camouflaged Stone Curlew keep watch.
We'll be visiting the beaches and river mouth of the Río Jara near Tarifa and the fringes of the Sierras that lead down to the Atlantic not forgetting the beautiful Cork Oak forest and hills within Alcornocales Natural Park. Here anything can turn up from Short-toed Eagles and Black-winged Kite on the coastal fields to Cory's and Balearic Shearwater out on the Atlantic waves. Whimbrel and Grey Plover, as well as a host of Gull and Tern species often roost on the long wide beach and shallow estuary at Playa de Los Lances.
This tour is a cooperative venture with our friends at Andalucian Guides
Guide: Stephen Daly, Yeray Seminario
Single room supplement: 160$
Length: 8 days
Maximum people within the group: 14
Accommodation: Very confortable hotel near Barbate.
Food: We'll have a taste of all the typical food.
Weather: It can be cool in the early morning and late in the evening. It can get hot at noon, we recommend bringing a hat or cap and sun cream.
Difficulty: Low, short walks in mostly flat terrain.
Notes and Recommendations for the trip
Airport or train station pick-up. Transport to Hotel El Palomar de La Breña.
Days 2 to 7
Our days will be spent exploring the very best birding and wildlife sites inland and on the unspoilt shores of the Strait of Gibraltar.
For example, the wonderful Ojen Valley and surrounding sierras of the picturesque Alcornocales Natural park, offers a chance to see many raptors including Griffon and Egyptian Vultures, Bonelli's, Booted, Short-toed and Golden Eagles. There are also Common Buzzard, Goshawk and Hobby. Other species here include Hawfinch, Black- eared Wheatear, Blue Rock Thrush, Short-toed Treecreeper, Firecrest and Great-spotted Cuckoo.
We’ll travel to the Guadalquivir basin over on the far side of Cadiz province. Here, we’ll explore the eastern side of the Parque Natural de Doñana’s vast protected areas, as well as the wetlands, river marshlands and forest of the Bajo Guadalquivir, the Bonanza saltpans and the Algaida Forest. Masses of Greater Flamingo, Osprey, Black Stork, Marbled Teal and White-headed Duck are some of the keys species found in this area. Our hotel is very close to the agricultural plain of La Janda and the farmland of the Benalup area.
This rich birding area is often a magnet for early migrants and already the beautiful Montagu’s Harriers should be displaying. Earlier in the year there’s always the chance to see Little Bustard.
La Janda was once one of the largest natural freshwater marshlands and lakes in Europe but has been drained and given over to rice, cotton maize and sunflower fields. Nevertheless the area still attracts huge numbers of resident and migrants alike. Here we can expect to see Purple, Grey and Night Heron, Cattle and Little Egret, Crested and Calandra Lark, Reed Warbler, Montagu’s and Marsh Harrier, White Stork and Black Stork. There is also a breeding colony of Collared Pratincole that nest alongside Black-winged Stilt, Green Sandpiper and Yellow Wagtail. Little Owl is usually present and Black Kites and other migrating birds of prey stop off to hunt after crossing The Strait.
The Laguna de Medina near Jerez is another famous lake that holds a good population of White-headed Ducks. Here we can often find Red-knobbed Coot, Black-necked, Little and Great Crested Grebes. Cetti’s, Marsh, Reed and Melodious Warblers are present with Little Bittern, Purple Swamphen, Marsh Harrier and Black-winged Kite making it a great place to visit.
We will also have a beach walk along Playa de los Lances near to the town of Tarifa. This is where the Rio Jara flows out on its last leg from the Alcornocales to the Atlantic. We can see almost anything here as the changing weather dictates what stays here for a few days or flies over, westwards or northwards. Sandwich and Caspian Terns can often be found sitting on sandbars amongst Audouin’s, Mediterranean, Slender-billed. Lesser Black-backed and Yellow-legged Gull. Grey Plover, Ringed Plover, Little ringed and Kentish Plover can be found here too.
No trip would be complete without a visit or two to the viewpoints over the Strait of Gibraltar to watch incoming flights of Booted, Short-toed Eagle, Egyptian Vulture, Red Kites and Black Kites. Another great viewing point is directly below on the coast at Guadalmesi opposite Morocco. This gives us flexibility to change our viewing positions according to the weather in the Strait.
We return to your airport of arrival for an afternoon flight back to the UK.