The strait of Gibraltar and the surroundings are a wonderful place to witness the bird migration. We organise birdwatching and birding tours to the Strait og Gibraltar every spring and autumn. Please find our last trip report below.
It is a beautiful morning in Málaga airport. Pau is waiting for the arriving of the group from Bristol airport.
After greetings, we set off towards the Strait of Gibraltar for birding in the most important migratory bottleneck in West Europe. As we are getting close to Tarifa, we see the Rock of Gibraltar on our side and the Djebel Musa on the African side. Our first stop is in route, in Palmones river mouth where a Lesser Crested Tern was spotted few days before. This vagrant is recorded every autumn in the region. It takes just few minutes to get this beautiful tern in the scope. It stands out in a mix group of Sandwich and Little Terns. Along the muddy shores, we see different waders: Dunlins, Sandernings, Redshanks and Kentish Plover. In addition, there are 4 different species of gulls, including Mediterranean Gulls, Audouin’s and Slender-billed Gulls. On the back of the main lagoon a group of Greater Flamingos rest along egrets and herons.
We continued our journey towards the accommodation to enjoy our first Spanish dinner.
We have a long day planned and indeed it is! We have an early breakfast at the hotel and set off to the West part of Doñana Natural Park. The first stop of the day is for Bald Ibis, which a sighting of 24 birds feeding along Jackdaw. It is great to see how well they are doing after the reintroduction!
After enjoying these weird-looking birds, we make a detour to see Stone Curlew in Barbate. We continue our journey stopping for the Little Swift, watching a colony of about 20 pairs. After that, we get to a pond to see White-headed Ducks where we have lunch. In the surroundings of the pond, we get an Iberian Green Woodpecker flying over the woods. The rest of the day is spent in Bonanza saltpans. We scan the reeds in detail and we get good views of Western Purple Swamp-hen, Squacco Heron and Little Bittern. Regarding waterfowl, we find swimming around Red-crested Pochard and a Marbled Teal among others species.
On the saltpans, we see three different species of terns: Gull-billed, Black and Caspian Tern. Furthermore, there are both species of Godwits, Little Stints, Turnstone and other waders.
Finally, we make a stop in the surroundings for Lesser-short toed Lark. As we wait for them to show up, we see flying over our first Osprey.
It has been a long day and we still have a bit of driving ahead. Thus, we set off to the hotel after a successful birding day in the Strait of Gibraltar.
In our third day of this exciting birding tour to the Strait of Gibraltar we start the day watching the migration from a viewpoint. During the morning we add Lesser Kestrel, numerous Sparrowhawks and Bee-eaters, which are one of the favorite birds. Then, suddenly the sky is covered by a flock of 120 Black Storks!!! What an amazing and unusual sighting!! As the wind speed up again, we set off to the forest west of Tarifa. Here, sheltered from the wind, there are numerous passerines waiting for the right conditions to migrate. A female Redstart moves from the busses to the Umbrella pines, and in the branches there are Garden Warblers and both flycatchers: Pied and Spotted. In a Pistacia bush there are different warblers feeding on berries which turn out to be Sardenian Warbler and Bonelli’s Warbler.
After lunch, we drive towards la Janda, to look for new species. White Storks, Glossy Ibises and Egrets feed on the farmland. We continue driving along the track to find Tree and Spanish sparrows, Yellow wagtail and over 30 Turtle doves. We are very pleased to see so many Turtle Doves together, sadly an unusual sighting nowadays. The day finishes with a stunning pair of Spanish Imperial Eagle perched on a Pilon.
After breakfast we drive for few minutes to our first watchpoint. Winds play an important role in the migration, so depending of the wind direction we will choose a location. Soon, we watch our first raptors of the day: Booted Eagles, Black Kites, Short-toed Eagles and Honey Buzzard. The wind makes them fly a bit higher but the number of raptors is just amazing! We enjoy watching the interaction between birds. Raptors are mobbed by a Peregrine Falcon which ends up diving after a group of feral pigeons. Other interesting raptors include Egyptian Vultures, Bonelli’s Eagle and a Montagu’s Harrier.
As the weather has improved today, we decide to take the boat trip hoping to add seabirds and whales. As we wait to jump on the boat, we get a group of Pallid Swifts flying around. Once we are few miles away from Tarifa, we get a single Storm Petrel. About half an hour later, we see a group of 6 Pilot whales swimming right besides us. A fantastic sight! Later, we see a group of Cory’s Shearwaters. We also see two species of dolphins: Common Dolphin and Bottlenose Dolphin
After lunch, we look for birds among the cork oak forest. Here we get Short-toed treecreeper, Crested Tit, Jay, Firecrest, Subalpine Warbler and other forest birds. On the way back we get two “extra” raptors, a fast flying Hobby and a Goshawk. Later we drive back to our accommodation.
Today is our last day of the tour and we make the most of the few hours left before heading to Malaga airport. We go back to la Janda and this time we do get Black-shoulder Kite and few more waders: Common Snipe, Wood and Green Sandpiper.
All in all, it has been a successful birding trip around the strait of Gibraltar with a great diversity of species, including good number of raptors. Thanks everyone for joining this trip. Should you have any question, please do not hesitate to contact us or visit our tour calendar.
Recce trip-Wildlife trip report to the Canary Islands (Tenerife and Fuerteventura)
March 30th – April 5th 2018
It has been my second wildlife trip to the wonderful Canaries Islands, a great opportunity to visit other less-known places and to put together an itinerary we will run next year in late winter.
After a late flight from Valencia to Tenerife Sur Airport, Pau and Virginia head off with the rented car straight to the Rural Hotel in Güímar to rest and be ready for this new adventure!
At dawn, we are soon woken up by the songs and calls of the numerous birds that live in the hotel’s orchards. Among the avocados, Atlantic Canaries build their nests and the endemic Canary Islands chiffchaffs sing and flick their wings displaying. After a nice breakfast, we are off to the Canary pine forest near the Orotava to look for some endemic forest birds. Soon, we bump into a distinctive local form of Common Chaffinch F. c. tintillon. We continue walking for 10-15 minutes to get away from the crowds who are enjoying barbecues, a popular pastime in Easter. Near a stream, we find two Tenerife (African) Blue Tit C. t. teneriffae, a Tenerife Kinglet and a Common darter dragonfly.
Later we drive towards the impressive Teide. No wonder that this National Park gets 4 million visitors per year!!! It is an impressive volcanic landscape with different lava formations each few hundred meters. As we have the picnic, numerous Tenerife Lizards get closer and closer to us, hoping to be fed by tourists. We continue our journey towards the Parador to find there our first of many Berthelot’s pipits, and also the endemic subspecies of Common Buzzard B. b. insularum. From a viewpoint, we see another Macaronesia endemic, the Plain Swift.
Finally, our last visit of the day is in the pools of Erjos. We don’t see many birds, probably because there are dogs swimming in the pools. We just add Common coots and Barbary partridge, but some interesting and nice flowers make worth the stop: Argyranthemum frutescens, Bituminaria bituminosa, Mercurialis annuus, Canary Samphire (Astydamia latifolia), Aeonium canariense and Euphorbia aphylla. Regarding dragonflies, Blue emperor and Red-veined darter are seen.
During our pre-breakfast walk around the orchard, we find a beautiful Stripeless tree frog resting in a pond, a Broad scarlet dragonfly, a Canary Speckled Wood and a Turtle dove perched on the top of the stem of an Agave americana.
Our first stop of the day is for the endemic Blue chaffinch at Las Lajas. Soon, we get an approachable beautiful male. Then, we drive for 45 minutes to a well-known viewpoint for the endemic pigeons on the West coast. The downside of this place is the constant traffic along the TF-5 but it is a reliable place for Laurel Pigeon. After 15 minutes, we get a distant bird flying over the vegetation.
The next stop is a small patch of laurel forest where we find two distant Bolle’s pigeons and some interesting laurel forest plants: Echium giganteum, Silene gallica and Limonium fruticans.
Today’s final destination is Punta de Teno. Due to access restrictions, we have to take a bus to reach this rocky lava habitat known as ‘malpaís’. It is midday and temperature is quite high (25ºC) and this might be the reason why it is so quiet. Nevertheless, we manage to see in the scope a distant group of 50 or so Cory’s Shearwaters. Regarding plants, some remarkable species are Reichardia crystalina, Monanthes laxiflora and Euphorbia canariensis.
Our rural hotel is not serving dinner today due to some improvement works, so we head off to El Puertito to have some excellent Canary food: almogrote (goat cheese with red pepper), fish and papas with mojo picón. Around the harbour, we find Whimbrel, Grey Wagtail, and Turnstone.
Today is our last day in Tenerife as the plan is to take a flight to Fuerteventura during the evening.
After breakfast, we drive North to the Anaga area and as nearly always happen there, the laurel forest is cover by clouds. This is the wettest area in Tenerife, the trade winds (‘vientos alisios’) blow from the sea carrying moisture. Nevertheless, we walk along an interesting path covered by Azores Laurel, Canary Strawberry Tree, and Tree Heather, watching our first Canary Islands Robin. Later, we drive down towards the sunny coast for some more plants and birds. Along the path, we find a Sardinian Warbler as well as a nice variety of flowers and endemic plants: the stunning Canary Bell flower, Dragon-tree, Echium leucophaeum, Lavandula buchii, the beautiful Echium simplex, Limonium arborescent, Monanthes wildpretii and Lotus dumentorum.
After lunch, we set off to Los Rodeos, near the airport, to see some fine patches of Gladiolus italicus. Corn buntings sing from the fences and we try to locate unsuccessfully a Quail.
Around 7:20 pm we board to the plain and 50 minutes later we land in a completely different landscape in Fuerteventura. After getting our rental car, we head off to the Hotel.
Once we have breakfast, we visit a pool near La Antigua. This green area is a magnet for both resident and migrant birds. As soon as we arrive, we find Ruddy shelducks, the local race of Great grey shrike L. e. koenigi and a Little ringed plover. Among the grass, Pau finds a bird that turns out to be a Wryneck. Most of the sightings of this uncommon migrant are recorded in the Eastern islands (Lanzarote and Fuerteventura) which are closer to the African coast.
On the sky, we find a ‘Guirre’ local name for the endemic race of Egyptian vulture N. p. majorensis. There are around 65 breeding pairs in Fuerteventura and a total population of 300 birds. This amazing raptor is recovering from a near extinction in the 80’s. One of the main differences from their European cousins is that the Fuerteventura ones do not migrate during winter, thus they can be found all year around.
On the way back to the car, five Black-bellied Sandgrouses fly off scared by the presence of a Common Buzzard.
Our next stop is near Los Molinos. There, we find a confident group of Spanish sparrows carrying damselflies on the bill. We also get to see Greenshank, Common Sandpiper, Northern Wheatear, and our first Barbary Falcon. In addition, there were a couple of Lesser emperors mating, Blue-tailed damselflies, and several Atlantic Lizards. We decide to drive few kilometres to have the picnic and while Virginia enjoys great sea views, Pau plays hide-and-seek with a Spectacle warbler and a Barbary squirrel. This mammal was brought in 1965 from Sidi ifni (Morocco) and since then, they have multiplied causing conservation problems.
After lunch and coffee, we head North to our next stop. Our next new species is a group of three lovely Colour-creamed Courser and after a bit of search, Virginia spots a fantastic and globally threatened Houbara bustard, probably the most wanted and highly prized species in this area. A walk around the area proves to be a good decision as we got an excellent view of a perched Barbary Falcon and two Red-billed Tropicbirds, a species which is breeding in the islands since a few years ago.
Our last stop is in Vallebrón, where we get the endemic Fuerteventura stonechat. Later, we have a pleasant dinner with Toni and Julio, two good friends who are involved in the ‘Guirre’ conservation project.
Today is our last full day in these wonderful islands, so we start visiting the Salinas and adding Sandwich tern. In the nearby ‘barranco’ there are some plants adapted to salty soils such as Canary island Tamarisk, Atriplex semilunaris, Suaeda vera and also Asphodelus tenuifolius.
Following, we drive to Río Palmas where we see Epaulet skimmer dragonflies and Laughing dove, a recent coloniser on the island from continental Africa. Sadly, we find a death Barn Owl in the stream. However, the big surprise came later when Pau spotted two Ring Ouzels feeding on dates, a local rarity in the island.
We decide to drive to La Pájara for having lunch but before that, we make a quick stop in the viewpoint where we see a very tame Raven (C. c. tingitanus).
To finish the day, we visit a goat pen with a drinking trough which is a fantastic area for Trumpeter Finches. In just 1 hour we recorded above 50 birds drinking and feeding in the surroundings. There are very nice males with its bright orange-red bill, grey head and pink breast and rump. In the surroundings rocks, we also see a couple of Fuerteventura stonechats.
Our last day in the island is to finish packing and driving to the airport to take the plain to Madrid, where we will visit the ”dehesa” and the Guadarrama mountains for some specialities.
To download the full wildlife trip report to the Canary islands and check list, please click here.
I am meeting Dieter and Fiona in El Rocío. Our start of the birding trip Donana is along the promenade which overlooks the Marshes of El Rocío. The marshes are packed with birds after the abundant winter rain. Our first raptors on sight are Red Kites and Marsh Harriers. On the water there is a large number of Spoonbills, Greater Flamingos and wildfowl.
As we walk near the visitor centre, we get an amazing view of a Great spotted Cuckoo being chased by an angry Magpie. It is the first lifer for Dieter and Fiona. Once we get to La Rocina we see Short-toed Treecreeper, Serin, Iberian Grey Shrike, Hoopoe and Crested Lark among other common birds. On the river bank we find a mixed group of Little Egrets and Night Herons, which allow us to compare the age of these crepuscular birds. On the way back we bump into a group of 20 Azure-winged Magpies.
Finally, we spend the last hours of the day in the South part of El Rocío. In a Tamarix tree we find a mixed flock of House and Tree Sparrows which are joined later by Common Waxbills. After this, we head back to the hotel to enjoy a fantastic dinner.
A wonderful sunny morning is the prelude of a spectacular birding day. Pau drives towards Villamanrique to our first stop to see a flock of Spanish Sparrows feeding along a track. In a nearby pool we find a Common Sandpiper. Not far from there, we spend some time taking pictures of horses grassing on the flooded meadow! What a beautiful view!
We continue our birding trip Donana towards La Dehesa making three stops to see some crackers: Purple swam-hen, Black-winged Kite and Black Stork. Once we get to the lake we start looking out for ducks. Soon we find one Drake and two female Ferruginous Ducks, Red crested Pochards and a stunning White-headed Duck. Good birds are added fast! Surprisingly, we get three Swifts flying over! Very likely to be Pallid Swifts but difficult to be completely sure by the speed and height they fly about. In the back paddy fields, Golden Plovers, Lapwings and Black-tailed Godwits feed intensively.
It is getting late so we drive along the farmland stopping just 2 meters away from a Barn Owl, what a marvellous sight! As we drive, we witness numerous groups of Common Cranes already preparing for the migration and a beautiful male Dartford Warbler. Later, Pau pulls over in order to see a pair of far distant raptors approaching. They turn to be a sub-adult Golden Eagle and an odd pale looking Griffon Vulture. From the same spot, Pau scans the front marshes and finds a Caspian Tern.
After lunch and coffee, Dieter calls out as a Short-toed Eagle flies in front of us. An early one! Then, we move to other area hopping to add some new birds. We are lucky enough to find few of the small wintering population of Lesser Kestrel. Finally, on the way back to the hotel we see a nice flock of Calandra Larks and an Osprey flying with a fish on its talons. What a day!
Our final day is spent in Odiel marshes. In the surrounding of the visitor centre we get Dunlins, Redshanks, a Grey Plover, Ringed Plovers and Turnstones. We enter the hide and Pau points out a gorgeous Bluethroat which sadly hides very fast. Later, we continue driving towards the end of the road until we see on the right side of the bridge three Black-necked Grebes. Few minutes later we made another stop to compare two side by side Curlew and Whimbrel.
We park near the gate and take a stroll along the beach. On the other side there are two Razorbills and three Gannets. On the sand, large parties of Lesser black backed and Yellow Legged rest. Finally, we drive back to the visitor centre for having lunch and have a bit of shelter from the wind. On the way, we make two stops to see Ospreys, a Booted Eagle, a Bar-tailed Godwit and a Sandwich Tern. After finishing lunch, a noisy Caspian Tern greets us and we set off towards Seville.
Thanks to Fiona and Dieter for being great companions and for having such an interest about Spanish culture and wildlife.
Please find a selection of our wildlife trip reports in Spain.
Morocco-Atlas Mountains and Sahara NEW
Morocco-Atlas Mountains and Sahara
30 March – 5 April 2018 Wildlife trip to Tenerife and Fuerteventura
Picos de Europa
30 August – 6 September 2016 Spanish Carnivorous (Iberian Wolf, Wildcat and Brown Bear)
Local Tours (Alicante, Valencia and Albacete)
10-14 May 2018. 5-birding days in East Spain check list
15-19 November 2017 Birding in East Spain
January 2017 El Fondo, Santa Pola, Monnegre and Alicante mountains
17-18 November 2016 Genet and Steppes of Albacete
22 May 2016 Great Bustard tour-Steppes of Albacete
29 April-1 May 2016 Málaga and Granada
19 April Costa Blanca 2016-Alicante
July Costa Blanca 2015-Alicante
30 November 2015-Alicante
22 December 2015-Valencia
10 September 2014-Valencia
Extremadura and Coto Doñana check list 24 Feb – 3 Mar
22-30 April 2018 Extremadura and Coto Doñana check list
Granada and Tarifa
The Grand Tour
Sierra de Guara
In this article, we hope to give you some ideas about where to watch bustards in Spain. The country holds the largest density of bustards in Europe. Both Great and Little can be found in different areas, being La Mancha (Ciudad Real, Cuenca and Albacete provinces) and Extremadura the best places. However, bustards are suffering a huge decline, specially Little Bustards. Farming practises and intensification seems to be the main factor.
Apart from the popular steppes of Extremadura or Villafáfila, there are other superb birding places unknown by most. For instance, the steppes of Albacete and La Mancha in East Spain offer a great opportunity to watch Great and Little Bustards. Futhermore, other specialities such as sandgrouses, larks and Rollers can be found in the steppes. Finally, the temporary pools are packed with Black-necked Grebes, Greater Flamingos, Red Crested Pochars, White headed-ducks and many more.
Please find the short trip report below:
I am spending three days with Hervé watching birds and looking for mammals (Genet). Today we are going to pick Linda and Mike from a camp site in Oliva and we are heading to the steppes of Albacete.
After half and hour drive and a quick coffee we are watching our first birds: Corn bunting, Rock sparrow, Hoopoe and Crested lark. Pau drives straight to the breeding ground of the elusive Little bustard. The wheat is high, so it is going to be a bit of a challenge to see them. As we walk, a cracking Roller flies over us! Marsh harriers soar in the fields behind us and a solitary Great bustard remains in a green patch in the middle of ploughed field. After that, Pau hears a Little bustard so we move along the track, and finally, Hervé spots a silhouette who turns to be a gorgeous male of Little Bustard, well done!
We drive up to visit different pools finding: Black-winged Stilts, Red-crested Pochards, Whiskered, Gull-billed, Black tern and other common birds. Linda particularly enjoys a pair of Black-necked Grebe. It’s 1:20 pm. and our bellies are asking for lunch. After having some tapas and coffee in Pétrola we visit the largest lagoon where the Greater Flamingos breed. There, we also add a Black kite, Yellow Wagtail, Kentish Plovers, Ringed Plover, Collared Pratincole and a superb Great Reed Warbler singing from the reeds. Birds are very close allowing nice views. Later we undo the way following tracks and we get a Little Owl, Calandra Larks, Great Bustards and a Northern Wheatear.
Finally, we stop in one last area to add a White-headed Duck and a Lizard Orchid! Please, do not hesitate to contact us for a tailor-made trip to find this sadly scarce birds. You can also visit our tour calendar for schedule trips.
Welcome to our spring trip report “Wildlife tour Málaga and Granada”, from April 29th to May 1st. A wonderful combination of birds and orchids! Would you like to know more about orchids tours in Spain?
I got the enquire from Sam to organize a wildlife tour Málaga for him and his family. They are very keen on orchids, wildflowers and general wildlife. So, after picking them from the airport we set off to Villanuva del Rosario where we have a nice walk seeing our first orchids: Yellow-bee orchid (Ophrys lutea) and the first group of Spanish Ibex.
Just in the other side of the road, in a small pine forest we find a large group of Sawfly orchid (Ophrys tenthredinifera). The shade of the pines provides enough moisture to make them grow with great strength. We carry on along the track and find a Mirror orchid (Ophrys speculum) and Pau spots a flock of 8 Red-billed Chough. In the pines there are Bonelli’s Warbler, Willow Warbler, Short-toed Treecreeper, Coal Tit and Crested Tit chirping and moving around. Then, on the way to the picnic area, we find some Fan-flipped Orchid (Anacampis collina) and Early purple orchid (Androrchis mascula) which sadly were passed. While we have lunch, we enjoy good views of Melodious Warbler, Griffon Vultures and Rock Bunting.
After that, we continue driving up hill seeing Spotless Starling, Iberian Magpie and a cracking Bonelli’s Eagle!!! Wonderful! Pau makes a last stop on the way dawn hill when he shows us a very interesting orchid; Small Woodcock Orchid (Ophrys picta). Ann is happy to see this beautiful and rare orchid. After this, we drive for 45 minutes to our hotel in Huétor-Tajar.
During the morning we visit the farmland around Huétor Tajar adding some birds: Yellow Wagtail, Common Sandpiper, Little Owl, Great Spotted Cuckoo, Bee-eaters and Sardenian Warbler among other common birds.
Before noon, we leave to the mountains of Loja where we take a stroll to see some interesting wildlife. We find soon a Pyramidal orchid (Anacamptis pyramidalis) and other beautiful flowers such as Mediterranean Catchfly (Silene colorata), Star of Bethlehem (Ornithogalum umbellatum), Andalusian Storksbill (Erodium recoderi), Southern Daisy (Bellis cordifolia), Southern Knapweed (Centaurea pullata ssp pullata), Tassel Hyacinth (Muscari comosum) and Andalusian Storksbill (Erodium recoderi). Birds are also great, with Crag martins, 2 gorgeous Black wheatear, Stonchat, Woodchat Shrike and a stunning Golden Eagle soaring. What a stroll! Regarding butterflies, Moroccan orange tip, Speckled Wood and Adoni’s blue are also seeing. After having picnic, we continue driving and seeing some birds: Teckla Lark, Spectacled Warbler, Blue-Rock Thrush and Rock Thrush very well spotted by John.
Today we spend the morning in the lagoon of Fuente de Piedra. Pau takes us straight to a colony of Spanish Sparrows and then drives us around the farmland where we find Cattle Egrets, Linnets, Lesser Kestrels, Corn Buntings and a wonderful Montagu’s Harrier. We add some waterfowl and waders in the pools near the visitor centre: Common Pochard, White-headed Duck, Black winged Stilt, Ringed and Little ringed Plover, Collared Pratincole and Curlew Sandpiper.
It is a good think that the lagoon has water again, last January was completely dry. Pau shows us two smaller Flamingos among a flock of Greater Flamingos which turn out to be Lesser Flamingos. They are distant but there is a clear difference in colouration. We stop in different hides seeing Little Stilt, Dunlin, Green and Wood Sandpiper, Gadwall, Marsh Harriers and three more butterflies: Scarce Swallowtail, Swallowtail and Bath White. On the drive back to the town, Sam got a Roller perched on a wire and Pau spots a large raptor which turns to be a Short-toed Eagle. Excellent!
Time the drive the guests to Antequera where they will spend some days with friends. Thanks again for such a great wildlife tour Málaga!!!
Should you have any question, please do not hesitate to contact us.
Arriving on our previous days to the beautiful city of Granada, we met our guide Pau Lucio on October 8th when he picked us from our Hotel in Granada. We took the motorway and our first stop was in the farmland near Huetor-Tajar (second home of Pau).
We parked the car in an almond tree orchard and went for a stroll seeing a party of 3 Black-bellied sandgrouses following by another 6 birds. Groups of Skylarks and Lesser-short toed larks were flying around and a Little Owl was perched in a wall. The sun was warming up and our first raptors were soaring in the sky, a Short-toed Eagle and a Peregrin Falcon. A far distant Sparrowhawk and a group of 5 Black Storks were circle up in the sky! That was fantastic and we hadn’t arrived to Tarifa yet! As we were walking back to the car an Iberian Green Woodpecker flew from tree to tree.
After driving few minutes to the next place, a large raptor was soaring in the sky, Pau pulled over to see it better and it was an inm. Golden Eagle!! The 5 of us were delighted and lucky as according Pau there are very few pairs in the area. Ten minutes later, we were in a pool with some interesting dragonflies that we were interested in seeing. Once we arrived, a dark morph Booted Eagle was on view and a Green Sandpiper flew away with some Shovellers.
Regarding dragonflies, me managed to see a beautiful Violet dropwing, Epaulet Skimmer and the abundant Red-veined darter. In addition, we add few more dragonfles in a nearby river: Common darter, Blue emperor, Blue-tailed damselfly, Common Blue damselfly and Orange-winged dropwing.
After having lunch in a bar, we drove to another point to add some new birds. Iberian magpies were cooperative as we witnessed a group of 10 chasing off a Common kestrel. In addition, Lapwings, Stonchat, Whinchat, Marsh Harrier, Common Buzzard and other song birds were also seeing. Around 1 h later, we drove back to our Hotel in Huétor-Tajar where we arrived on time to have dinner.
Pau picked us with a 4×4 (it came as a pleasant surprise!!). Very soon we were driving up hill to Loja mountains, seeing Red-billed Choughs and a Black Weathear perched on the cliff. Stonechat, Northern Weathear and Thekla Lark were seen on the top of the pile rocks. A low-level flying Marsh Harrier passed close to us, not a bird we expected to see in this environment! Pau pulled over to try to get better views but the bird was gone. However, Pau heard a Darford Warbler calling which he located very rapidly, nice views!
After that, we continued driving up the mountain until we were at the same level that the clouds, the weather was worsening, and the light was poor so we decided to turn around. Esther found a small silhouette on a rock which happen to be a Little Owl! Then from the car, while we were seeing a Common Kestrel hovering, a Merlin dived down showing its paws to the Kestrel! What a fantastic interaction!
Our last stop in Loja was in a pine forest just at the bottom where we saw Mistle Thrushes, Crossbills, a Coal Tit and a migrant a Pied Flycatcher. On the way back to the Hotel we turned off the motorway to visit another area where Pau had seen few Lesser Kestrels the previous days. These birds were mainly juveniles, birds which had not started to migrate. On the wire, we spotted 4 Lesser Kestrels and Bard Swallows, Sand and House Martins were still abundant.
We set off our trip to Tarifa at 9:00 to continue the birdwatching trip. One hour later we were in Antequera visiting a local reserve. The area is fantastic to get close views of Spanish Ibex and Griffon Vultures and that is what we did! We went for a stroll and added some more birds such as Black Redstar, Long-tailed Tit and the first wintering Ring Ouzel.
After lunch, we continued our journey to our hotel in Tarifa where we check-in the Hotel. Then, we went to Los Lances where we watched Yellow Wagtail, Sanderlings, Turnstone, Dunlins, Sandwich Terns, Audouin’s, Black-backed and Black-headed Gulls. Off shore, Cory’s Shearwaters and Gannets were migrating into the Med and Greenfinches were feeding on the dunes. Then before going back to the Hotel to have dinner, we went to a view point to look for late migrants and we managed to see a flock of Bee-eaters, 3 Short-toed Eagle, 4 Booted Eagles, 1 White Stork, 1 Hobby and lots of swallows and martins.
Today we went to visit the feeding grounds of the reintroduced Bald Ibises. We got cracking views of two of them which were looking for insects in the grass. Meanwhile everyone enjoyed taking photos of these fantastic birds, a group of 4 Black Kites and 1 Red Kite flew over us.
Crested Tits were also seeing in the nearby forest and Short-toed Treecreeper sung from the same area. Then, we drove to la Janda where we had our picnic seeing large flocks of Spotless Starlings, Glossy Ibises and Calandra Larks. Pau did very well finding a Black-shoulder Kite on a paddy field. As we drove along the track, Tree Sparrows, Corn Buntings, Cetti’s Warblers and finches hid in the bushes and White Storks fed on the ditches. John found a large bird of prey which turned to be a Spanish Imperial Eagle! Superb! Soon after this, we left to the port of Tarifa to embark in a boat to watch seabirds and whales. We managed to see, Long-finned Pilot Whales (fantastic close-up views!), Ocean Sunfish, Common Dolphin and Balearic Shearwaters.
After checking-out, we went to the mouth of the Palomones. This small area was packed with birds including 2 Ospreys, Wood and Common Sandpipers, both Redshanks, Whiskered Terns and Slender-billed Gulls. After this break, we set off to Málaga airport but with memories not only of the fantastic wildlife we had all witnessed but also the culture and friendliness of all our hosts.
We hope you find this tailor-made birdwatching trip report to Granada and Tarifa useful. Please do not hesitate to contact us for more information.
Welcome to our Sierra de Guara trip report, in search of stunning birds like the Wallcreepers and Lammergeier
Notice that this was a tailor made tour in early April and therefore too late to watch Wallcreepers in Guara or Cranes in Gallocanta, so we combined Sierra de Guara with the Aragón Valley in the Pyrenees. It is worth to mention that neither Wallcreepers or Cranes were in our target list. However, this itinerary in Autumn an Winter ofers a great chance to see Wallcreepers as well as other wintering birds: Brambling, Ring Ouzel, Hawfinches, etc
Our two full days at Sierra de Guara gave us a fantastic sightings of raptors, both resident and migrants. Numerous Black and Red Kites, Short-toed Eagles, Egyptian Vultures, Sparrowhawks, a Lammergeier and a pair of Golden Eagles were seen. In addition, the five of us were flabbergasted (I will never get used to it) to see tens of Griffon Vultures feeding and flying just few meters form us. Our hotel in Alquézar gave us the chance to make the most of this stunning village, certainly one of the most beautiful of all Spain.
The second part of the tour in the Pyrenees was fantastic with 3 more sights of Lammergeier, one of them landing in the nest were the other one was in the nest incubating! Superb! We also managed to see a Golden Eagle, Yellow-billed Chough, Ring Ouzel, Dipper, Water Pipit and mammals such as Chamois. Not to mention the breathtaking views of the snow-capped Pyrenees.
I arrived at midday to Zaragoza airport to pick Sally, Simon, Dorothy and Mary on time. After greetings, we set up to Huesca and then to Alcázar. Our first birds during the transfer were White Storks, Black and Red Kite, Common Buzzard and Starlings. After check-in, we went for a walk around the village and nearby countryside seeing our first Black redstar, Crag Martins, Corn Buntings, Linnets, Barn Swallows, Crested, Sky and Wood Larks and a Little Owl calling. Then, we returned along the cobbled streets to our hotel to enjoy our first traditional Spanish dinner.
Our first stop by the old Moorish bridge revealed Short-toed Trecreeper, Sardenian Warbler, a male Stonechat, Grey Wagtail, Black Caps and in the sky a pair of Egyptian Vultures flying among tens of Griffons’. After a short stroll along the river, we continued driving up the valley until I pulled over the car so everyone can see our first Short-toed Eagle and Sparrowhawk. Our next stop was in the Mirador del Vero, where soon a familiar silhouette turns up, our first Lammergeier! It turned upside down to grab with its claws a Griffon Vulture, but finally it didn’t. It was just a manoeuvre to show who was the boss! Nice sight!
After having lunch, we drove back to Alcázar making a stop to find the endangered European freshwater crayfish. It is fantastic that Sierra de Guara still holds a healthy population of this threaten specie. We spent the afternoon walking the Vero Gorge near Alquézar, enjoying carpets of lilies and birds such as Crag Martins, Grey and White Wagtails, Red Billed Choughs, Wrens, Blackcaps and a Firecrest. Before we walked up back to Alcázar I found an Otter scat.
On the third day we visited the Vultures’ feeding station near Santa Cilia. During the walk to access to the feeding station, tens of Vultures chased us as if they already knew we were going to feed them. It was impressive to see these huge birds soaring so close to us!
Once the food was unloaded from the wheelbarrow, the show started, the Vultures fought each other to grab the butcher’s waste.
We had a brilliant close views of approx. 100 Griffon’s, Ravens, Egyptian Vultures and Red Kites. Once the meal was finished, we retreated few meters hoping to see a Lammergier coming down to grab some bones. Around noon, we set off back to the car and found an impressive Golden Eagle soaring high up! We had lunch while we searched through the scopes the feeding station and watched a Red Fox feeding on the scraps. A Dartford Warbler was also seeing from the bushes besides us.
Later we move to the west of the park visiting impressive gorges and finding a beautiful male of Blue-Rock Thrush singing from the rocks. In the nearby cliffs, there was a colony of Griffons’ incubating. As we were looking down the gorge, I spotted a gorgeous male Cirl Bunting singing from the top of bush and Sardenian Warbler flying.
In the evening we set off to our accommodation in valley of the river Aragón, in the Pyrenees.
We had fantastic warm and sunny weather during the trip. However, on the fourth day the sky was slightly overcast and do to the altitude we could feel the cold during the early morning! After breakfast, we walked along a path behind our Hotel and found a breeding pair of Dippers, one of them was carrying lots of insects in the bill to the hole where thee nest was. On the way back to the car, I heard a Firecrest calling from the garden besides the car park. Dorothy was very glad to see one of her favourites birds!
After a short drive we stopped in Canfranc. While we where visiting the impressive old train station, we saw a Golden Eagle, Great Spotted Woodpecker, a Jay and a flock of 30 Yellowhammers. Besides, Peacock butterflies where around. The shade of the huge mountains made us to fell the damp and the cold wind, so we went to have warm drinks and cakes. Once we were recovered, we continued driving up through the border of France. We stopped in the surroundings of the ski resort where we saw the first Yellow-billed Coughs, Water Pipits and Citril Finches. The wind was a bit cold, so we decided to drive back to lower altitudes. There we spot Chiffchaffs, a Golcrest, Song and Mistle Thrushes and our second Lammergeier!
Time to go back to the hotel to enjoy the dinner: fighting bull as main dish and a tasty sheep milk yoghurt for dessert.
Our last day started in a quite side valley. In the hillside, a group of 8 Chamois grazed peacefully and a Ring Ozuel was spotted by Simon. Dunnocks, Water Pipits, Black Redstarts, Red and Black Kites and a two Lammergeier were seeing! One of them was carrying in the bill something which leaved to the second one in the nest. Just superb! There were also tracks of Ptarmigan, but no sight of them.
After lunch, we set off to Valencia where my guests would stay overnight to catch an early flight the following morning. After drive 3 h, we stopped in a gorge 20 km passing Teruel in order to see an Eagle Owl. It took nearly two hours to find it, but we did it. On Easter Sunday there were people everywhere and the pair of Eagle Owls became much more elusive. This top predator was still in a rock behind a bush 50 m away from the nest. From the gorge we also watched a dark morph Booted Eagle. As it was getting dark, we drove the final stretch to Valencia where I dropped them off in a Hotel near the airport.
All in all, a very interesting trip with good birding. Many thanks to Sally, Simon, Dorothy and Mary. Please, visit our tour calendar or contact us for the next winter Sierra de Guara tour. It will be focus on spotting Wallcreepers and Lammergeiers.
We hope you find this Sierra de Guara Trip report useful.
Have a nice day
Please, find below our Gallocanta trip report. November, 15th – 16th . This itineray could be combinef with the stunning wetlands of Valencia and Alicante. Moreover, near Gallocanta you will find Sierra de Guara, a great place to look for Lammergeier and Wallcreeper.
Today I am going to meet Jill, Patricia, Laura and Frances at their hotel in Valencia. After loading the luggage, we set off for the first stop at the Sierra del Toro. The wind makes us feel the cold! Despite the wind, we managed very well seeing a party of 6 Siskins, Coal and Crested Tits, a Song Thrush, Griffon Vultures, Firecrests (what produced a wide smile in Jill) and other common birds. Then, we had a warm coffee with biscuits at a local bar before leaving to Gallocanta.
As soon as we got to Calamocha, I pulled over to photograph a low flying Red Kite. A few minutes later a Sparrowhawk crossed the sky. Then, we continued driving to the visitor centre where we parked. Suddenly, as we were getting out of the car more than 300 Cranes took off. I searched the sky and I found the reason of this behaviour, an immature Golden Eagle, what a wonder! Skylarks, Common Buzzard, Linnets and a female Hen Harrier were also seen from the same area. After that, we got back to the car to have our picnics and drove to the hotel to check-in and put on our warmest clothes to wait the arrival of the cranes at dusk.
Around 15:00 , we left the hotel to explore the northern part of the lagoon. This year has been very dry and there is no much water in the lagoon. In the puddles we found Shelducks, Teals, Marsh and beautiful males Hen Harriers and a group of 4 Corn Buntings in a nearby bush. Later, we got into position to witness the arrival of the cranes to roost in the lagoon, and we really enjoyed it! Marvellous!
After a nutritious breakfast, we are ready for our second day birding. Our first stop is in a viewpoint in Gallocanta. There we watched a group of 30 Ruffs, 3 Greylags and a good number of Cranes. Then, we continued driving to explore the surroundings and we found Northern Wheatear, Stonechats, Calandra and Crested Larks, Tree Sparrows, a shy Great Spotted Woodpecker, Spotless Starlings and other birds we saw the day before.
The landscape is really impressive with the contrast of the colours; the land is red, green and yellow ochre and the sky clear blue and white, fantastic for landscape shoots. Our next stop was in a nearby fresh water lagoon where there were Coots, Widgeons, Gadwalls, Shovelers and Chiffchaffs.
After that, we went to a bar to have a warm chocolate, which made us feel great!. Our last stop was in a gorge, where I expected to show them different species. Black Redstars and a group of Red-legged Partridges were seen along the track. Once we started walking, a pair of Golden Eagles and a few Griffon’s glided above us. We watched them few more times. Then, when we were about to walk back to the car a group of 50 Red-billed Choughs and a Peregrine Falcon were seen. What an end! Finally, we had a tasty and warm menu for lunch before heading back to Valencia.
This short holiday is a good option for those who wish a short break in an area with an unique landscape, and to witness the always impressive roost of thousands of cranes. Should you have any question, please do not hesitate to contact us.
Have a nice day
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I have had the pleasure of guiding Keith and Liz during 11 days in the South of Spain. We have visited Doñana, Sierra de Andújar and Cazorla from June, 23rd to July, 2nd. In this trip report, I will just comment the visit to the Coto de Doñana. Welcome to this birdwatching report Doñana.
At 9:00 I am picking Keith and Lee from their Hotel in the city center of Seville. Around 10:10 we arrive to el Rocio, a beautiful town which hasn’t lost any of his pure Spanish taste. I really recommend to go round this town.
Despite the low rainfall in this area during the last spring, the Rocio marshes and la Rocina still have a reasonable level of water. As we get to the Marshes of el Rocio and scan them, we see lots of Greater Flamingos, Spoonbills, Black tailed Godwits which have already started their post breeding migration, Black-winged Stilts, Black Kites, Shelducks, White Storks, Collared Pratincoles, Avocets, Booted Eagles, Griffon Vultures, Greylags, Reed Warblers, Little and Cattle Egrets and Spotless Starlings. We also enjoy for a while a family of Purple Swamp-hens feeding in the reeds.
After that, we grab some fruit for lunch and move to la Rocina. There, as we go from hide to hide following the boardwalk we find Short-toed Treecreeper, Melodious Warblers, Nightingales, Azure-winged Magpies, Stonechats and Woodchat Shrikes, many of them juveniles. From the hides, we see Glossy Ibis, Little Ringed Plover, Common Waxbills, Tree Sparrows, finches and a Red Deer.
Later we visit the other closeby visitor center, el Palacio del Acebrón which is accessible from La Rocina. There we find Bee-eaters, Hoopoes and Crested, Great and Long-tailed Tits, Iberian Grey Shrike and a Spotted Flycatcher. As we approach to the “closed” boarding walk, the weather worsened and starts raining so we decide go back to the Hotel.
We have dinner in the square in front of our Hotel. As the sunset, the sky is covered by Pratincoles and baths (Pipistrelle and Mouse-eared Bats). A great spectacle we all enjoy!
Today we will visit the North part of Doñana. In order to do it, we have to drive for 30 km along tracks surrounded with farmlands and ditches. As we drive we watch Purple Herons, Yellow Wagtails, Zitting Cisticola and Marsh Harrier. Our first stop is in a breeding colony of Spanish Sparrows, where Liz is delighted watching these ‘cheeky’ birds and a close nest of White Storks with three young. There, we are taken by surprise when a flock of 120-150 Collared Pratincoles is seen. Probably the biggest flock I have ever seen!
After that, we continue driving and spot a pair of Red-rumped Swallow, Gull-billed Terns, a flock of nearly 100 Calandra Larks, and few Short-toed Larks. Suddenly, I spot a distinctive raptor approaching, a Black-winged Kite! a few minutes later another appears. What a great bird!
The next stop is a an area where good numbers of Lesser Kestrels can be seen. We stay there for 30 minutes watching beautiful juveniles and adults. While Liz and Keith are enjoying a close view of them, I find a good number of Barn Owl pellets in a nearby building. Will they be around? Then, we continue driving and just before we get to JAV visitor center Liz finds a Barn Owl in a post. We stop the car just few meters away and get cracking views of this wonderful bird. Amazingly, Keith finds another Barn Owl hiding in a tamarisk just next to the first owl. What a moment! We stay more than 20 minutes taking photos and watching both birds.
Later, we stop for lunch and a coffee in the visitor center. We watch the egrets-ibis-herons colony and find a pair of Night Heron, Little Bittern, Little Grebe and Gadwalls. After that, we continue driving to the Dehesa de Abajo finding another Barn Owl (3 in total), Red Kite, a Green Sandpiper, a pair of Great Reed Warbler and a Short-toed Eagle. In the rice fields near the Dehesa, we find a Squacco Heron.
As we drive back to the Hotel after such a superb day, we see a Little Owl perch in a fence.
This coastal marsy reserve offers an interesting variety of species all year round thanks to the tides. A quick visit to the back of the visitor center reveals Little Terns, Kentish and Little Ringed Plovers and Black-tailed Godwit. Then, as we drive to the end of the docks, we find 3 Ospreys perched. Close to them, a female Hen Harrier bombs a Marsh Harrier which is resting on a Salicornia. A nice sighting! After that, we continue driving and as I heard the calling of Curlews I pull over. I set and focus the scope and we find Oystercatchers, Spoonbills, Common Redshank and a solitary Little Stint. We are surprised by the huge number of crab fish in the mud. On the dunes, Kentish Plovers and Crested Larks fly around.
After lunch we visit the lagoon of Portil. I look out for White-headed Duck but unfortunately there is none. However, we watch Red-crested and Common Pochard, a limping Greenshank, Spotted Redshank, Black-winged Stilts and Black-necked Grebe. We also find a Red-eared Terrapin basking in the shore. It is an American invasive species which is causing lot of trouble to the natives species.
The sun is intense and with 32ºC, we decide to change plans, so we move towards Doñana and stop to look for chameleons. It takes me around 25 minutes to find one in the middle of the bush, hiding from the sun. They are gorgeous!
Have a nice day
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