Autumn Raptor Migration in Andalucia
Andalucian Guides offers an ornithological holiday in which you will see one of the most fantastic sights in raptor migrations. Thousands of raptors and other bird species often fly and soar across the short crossing from mainland Europe to the continent of Africa each day.
Well organised trips to view points, timing and local knowledge from your guide will ensure that you’ll see the very best in raptors crossings over the Strait of Gibraltar in beautiful autumnal weather. The week’s tour will concentrate on raptors although time will be taken, as we travel from location to location, to study the fantastic diversity of other species migration.
Our base is in the fishing village of Zahara de los Atunes, near Barbate. Set against the spectacular backdrop of the Sierra de la Plata, this village looks straight across into the Moroccan port of Tangiers. We are only 10 minutes drive from the vast Alcornocales Natural Park, the ancient Laguna de La Janda and the start of the beautiful Ojen Valley.
The Strait of Gibraltar at the southern end of the European mainland is a mere 12 km across to the African continent. The physical position combined with changing winds and powerful thermals makes the whole area around the Strait a fantastic place to sit comfortably at strategic crossing points and observe sometimes within ten metres the breathtaking spectacle of raptor migration. To have the opportunity to study these magnificent raptor’s flying and soaring techniques at close hand is truly breathtaking.
Wind direction is the most important factor for the crossing and we will look at the day’s forecast with a view to positioning ourselves in the most favourable spots along the coast. Soaring birds generally wait until sufficient thermals have built up during late morning until the middle of the afternoon, giving us plenty of time to find the best spot to watch the spectacle. Passerines and other non-soaring migrants tend to dart straight across in large and smaller flocks at first light and when the weather is right.
A strong westerly wind (Atlantic Poniente) seems to favour birds better than a strong easterly (Levante), as birds migrating south in a really strong Levant have the danger of being blown off course into the Atlantic, west of Cape Espartel where the Moroccan coastline ends rather abruptly. Lighter Levante winds aid both birds coming south on the Mediterranean coastline and Atlantic shoreline followers flying along to the Barbate & Tarifa areas.
Take a look at the the image above taken from the Space shuttle flying high above the Strait of Gibraltar. This gives an excellent explanation of the geographical and physical layout of the meeting of the two continents.
Africa (Morocco) is to the left of the picture and Spain on the right. The Atlantic is at the top of the photograph while the entrance to the Mediterranean is at the bottom of the image.
Of course there’s an awful lot going on with other species migration and we will vary our week’s programme accordingly to take in the very best this part of Andalucia has to offer. If the weather changes and the winds are not favourable for Raptor crossings, we will then head for the other rich areas on the coast and to the national parks. There we’ll be looking for species such as the now globally rare Audouin’s Gull and the European rarity, the Crested Coot, as well as Black-winged Stilt, Green Sandpiper, Avocet, Stone Curlew, Hoopoe, Kingfisher, Sardinian Warbler, Woodchat Shrike, Red-necked Nightjar, and Lesser Kestrel.
Arrival at Seville or Jerez de la Frontera airport. Transfer to Hotel Almadraba in the quiet village of Zahara de los Atunes, near Barbate. Audouin’s Gull and Mediterranean Gull often gather on the local shoreline and Crag Martins feed over the hotel itself. Kentish and Ringed Plover can often be seen from the hotel windows.
Watching the weather each day will determine where we travel to during the next days. We will pick the best vantage points and routes to take us the sites with most raptor migration activity.
As our location allows us quick access to many recognised vantage points we will optimize this to your best advantage as each day unfolds.
One of the best and highest Miradors at Mirador del Estrecho (Viewpoints) overlooking the strait directly overlooking Mt. Acha at Ceuta in Africa, often described as the other half of the Pillars or gates of Hercules. Here flocks of Black Kites, endless parties of White Storks with the rarer Black Storks too, Griffon and Egyptian vultures appear as tiny dots through our binoculars then mass in front of your eyes waiting for favourable winds to cross over to Morocco. Booted and Short-toed Eagle together with Montagu’s and Marsh Harrier, Sparrowhawk and the quicker Hobby quite often join the stream of birds crossing to the African continent.
If the weather forces location changes we can quickly drive to the other Miradors, towards Algeciras and on the coast, to Guadalmesi as well as deeper within the Alcornocales towards the Mirador at Puerto de Ojen.
The 2003 Autumn migration was spectacular for watching Egyptian Vulture resting on the ground, on the open grazing areas within the southern end of the Alcornocales.
Our aim over the next six days will be to travel to the best observation points and explore the other range of habitats that are in the surrounding countryside. The beautiful and quiet Ojen Valley will be one of the other areas where we will likely see various species in the cork and Holm Oak forest fringes such as Griffon Vulture, Goshawk, Bonelli’s Eagle & Common Buzzard. All around us in the open stretches of scrub and in the forest clearings we will see Short-toed Lark, Hawfinch, Jay, Little Owl as well as hosts of migrating Barn Swallow with some Red-rumped Swallow and the faster higher flying Alpine Swift. The Oaks themselves often give us the chance to watch Crested Tit, Stonechat, Black Redstart, Blue Rock Thrush and Short-toed Treecreeper.
Passing through the ancient lagoon of La Janda, which was at one time, one of the largest freshwater lakes and marshlands in Europe, we’ll be able to see Purple & Grey Heron, Black-winged Stilt, Collared Pratincole and Avocet. In the rice field corners and ditches we can usually see Green Sandpiper, Fan-tailed Warbler, Yellow Wagtail, Tawny Pipit, Corn Bunting, Thekla Lark and Short-toed Lark as well as the ever present little and Cattle Egret. This is also the winter home for thousands of Common Crane that fly in later to take advantage of the mild wet climate that the flooded La Janda plain offers.
Early autumn rains may have added to the depleted smaller lakes and ponds that often dry up during the long Andalucian summer. If this is the case we will explore some of them to look for Red-crested Pochard, Marbled Duck, White-headed Duck, Purple Swamp-hen, Black-necked Grebe and Great-crested Grebe. The surrounding areas can also throw up anything at all from hungry Gull-billed Tern and Greater Flamingo to Cetti’s Warbler and Pied Flycatcher.
On Los Lances beach that leads eastwards to Tarifa, we will look in this different coastal habitat for species that come down from the fringes of the nearby Alcornocales National Park and find themselves on the coast only 10Kms from Morocco. Here we expect to see on the beach itself large numbers of Yellow-legged Gull with a sprinkling of Audouin’s Gull. Caspian, Sandwich and Little Tern are also to be found amongst the roosting Gulls and waders include Kentish Plover and Ringed Plover. Scouring the Atlantic waves can reveal Gannet and often Mediterranean Shearwater. Nights will be in the Zahara de los Atunes area and the local saltwater marshes and estuary have always something to offer including Black-winged Stilts, Whimbrel, Black-tailed Godwit, Little, Sandwich & Caspian Tern and quite often Spoonbill and Greater Flamingo.
Transfer to Airport. If we have time before airport check-in, we will stop en route to have a last look at Andalucia’s wealth of bird life during this fantastic migration time.
Flight prices and holiday insurance are not included.
All other holiday expenses are fully inclusive : All accommodation, meals, wine, transport, entrance fees, guidance, tips & taxes. There are no hidden extras.
Accommodation is in twin-bedded and single rooms at a comfortable medium grade hotel at Zahara de Los Atunes. All rooms have private facilities. Lunches will usually be picnics or at a local restaurant .Transport by minibus (depending on numbers.) Walks short and easy, interspersed with periods sitting watching and waiting for passing birds of prey.
Comfortable walking shoes and sunglasses are recommended. Birds: 110-130 species.
Cost: 660 GBP*
Single sup. (2004): 120 GBP*
Deposit: 200 GBP per person.
2004 dates can be found Here
To Book this tour please visit our “contact us” section to send us your queries regarding payment and terms. We will then send you full details of travel, climate, health, what to bring, bird list and our responsible tourism document.
* Flight prices and holiday insurance are not included.
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