Spain: Wings Across the Strait September 2022

This new itinerary to Southern Spain which will be led by Limosa’s locally based English speaking expert Fernando Enrique and is timed to coincide with one of Europe’s greatest avian spectacles, the mass migration of birds of prey and storks over the Strait of Gibraltar.

This narrow stretch of water between the sierras of Southernmost Andalucía and the coastal mountains of North Africa provides the shortest crossing over the Mediterranean (less than 9 miles at the closest point) and huge numbers of soaring migratory birds from across Europe congregate here to make the crossing every autumn.

 

After exploring the best raptor watchpoints and coastal wetlands, we head inland to beautiful Ronda, still with a view to watching migration, but also to explore the limestone landscapes close to this picturesque and historic Spanish town.

 

The second half of September sees peak passage here, with birds of prey funnelling down from the hills to migration ‘hotspots’. When conditions are right, parties of Honey Buzzards, Black Kites and Short-toed Eagles rise up above the wooded coastal sierras in search of the thermals that will give them lift on their Southward journeys. Anticipation grows as the first distant dots appear, gradually metamorphosing into an assortment of different shapes and sizes, discernible as birds of prey as they glide ever nearer. At times, some may pass so close we can even see the expression on their faces! Egyptian and Griffon Vultures, Hobbies and Sparrowhawks, Bonelli’s and Booted Eagles, Montagu’s and Marsh Harriers all pass this way, gathering in readiness for the crossing to Morocco. With them come clouds of White Storks and often a sprinkling of scarcer Black Storks, all needing to gain height before streaming out across the waters to Africa.

 

Each day will be different as the presence of soaring birds is influenced by the prevailing winds. On days when the winds are ‘not right’, there is much to see elsewhere in this bird-rich corner of Spain. Red-necked Nightjar, Sardinian Warbler, Hoopoe and Iberian Grey Shrike are among a wealth of Mediterranean species to look for and we might also be lucky to find one or two of the region’s rarer inhabitants, as over our many previous visits to Andalucía, our groups have seen Northern Bald Ibis, Lesser Crested Tern, Little Swift, Spanish Imperial Eagle, Black-winged Kite and even Rüppell’s Vulture!

 

Southern Andalucía is, however, not just about raptor migration, as there are also many great wetlands. Taking a day trip West to the mouth of the Guadalquivir River, we will visit saltpans and lakes that are home to some of the most iconic and sought-after species of the region including Red-knobbed Coot, Marbled Teal, White-headed Duck, Audouin’s Gull and Greater Flamingo.

 

If the sea conditions permit, we will also take a boat trip out of Tarifa to get close to seabirds, including Gannets, both Cory’s and Scopoli’s Shearwaters and maybe a few Balearic Shearwaters with cetaceans such as Bottlenose Dolphin and Long-finned Pilot Whale also possible.

 

After five nights close to the coast, we travel North to spend our final two nights amid the beautiful limestone mountains of the Sierra de Grazalema. As well as enjoying birdwatching in the Natural Park, we will pay a visit to the historic and hugely scenic hill-top town of Ronda that sits astride El Tajo – a deep chasm carved by the Río Guadalevín. Bonelli’s Eagle, Blue Rock Thrush and the localised Black Wheatear are among a wealth of upland birds to look forward to before our holiday concludes.

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