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Spain - Andalucia for autumn migration and Iberian specialities

Raptors, storks and passerines on migration, plus key resident birds inland and on the coast.

2026 Dates
  • 05 Sep - 12 Sep 2026
Duration8 Days
2026 Price
Price TBC
Max Group Size6 per guide

More raptors and other large soaring birds migrate across the Straits of Gibraltar annually than at any other site in Europe. Counts suggest upwards of 275,000 pass between July and November, plus over 100,000 White Stork and all of Western Europe's Black Storks. A daily stream of thousands filter southwards through Spain, with concentrations in different places according to the weather. If this is unsuitable for passage, birds still continue to funnel into the area each day until there may be 10,000 individuals waiting to cross the Straits.

During this exciting holiday we watch spectacular migration from a variety of viewpoints, which we visit according to prevailing weather conditions and raptor movement. Connecting with bird movements is not straightforward, and good local knowledge and flexibility in movement is vital to ensure we have the best experience. There may also be significant passerine migration during our visit, and as an additional focus, we also take time to find key local resident birds rare or unknown elsewhere in Europe.

Target raptors include Honey Buzzard, Black and Red Kite, Egyptian and Griffon Vultures, Spanish Imperial, Short-toed, Bonelli's and Booted Eagle, Montagu's Harrier and Lesser Kestrel. Our long list of raptors may also include Golden Eagle and Black Vulture.

Local species include Northern Bald Ibis, Marbled Teal, White-headed Duck, Purple Gallinule, Greater Flamingo, Glossy Ibis and Penduline Tit in the wet “marismas”, Balearic and Cory's Shearwater, Audouin's and Slender-billed Gulls, Caspian and Lesser Crested Terns on the coast, Spotless Starling and Spanish Sparrow inland and other migrating birds such as Alpine and Pallid Swifts, Crag Martin, Red-rumped Swallow, Hoopoe and Bee-eater.

This is a real feast of birds in a warm and inviting Mediterranean environment, plus the opportunity of observing Long-finned Pilot Whales and up to three species of dolphins in the Strait's waters. Many of the local Spanish towns are unspoilt “pueblos blancos”, and we spend time investigating areas away from the main tourist spots on the costa. 

Enjoy your complimentary pre-flight overnight hotel before your holiday begins. Full details from our office! Read more about our Pre-flight Service here!

Day 1: Sat 7 September 2024  Arrival and Transfer to Zahara de los Atunes
After relaxing in our complimentary VIP Airport Lounge, we fly to Málaga where our guides will greet us. Time permitting, we will bird en-route to our hotel where we are based for the week, stopping perhaps at viewpoints along the coastal drive to provide us with our first looks at the migrant birds as they funnel into the Strait. 

Day 2: Sun 8 September   La Janda and the Barbate Marshes
We take a pre-breakfast walk by the beach in front of our hotel, where Audouin's Gull, Sanderling, Kentish Plover and passing Marsh Harrier are regular visitors. After breakfast we head to the plain of La Janda, just to the northwest, an excellent site for raptors, wetland birds and passerines. This is the best place to see Black-shouldered Kite and juvenile Bonelli’s and Spanish Imperial Eagles, plus Lanner Falcon and Pallid Harrier have been recorded amongst rarer species. This area is excellent for juvenile eagles, which patrol it as an “easy” hunting spot, due to the releases of Pheasant and Red Legged Partridge. Many other species, including Montagu’s Harrier, Rufous Bush Chat, European Bee-eater and Red-rumped Swallow, Spanish Sparrow and Turtle Dove will now be on the move here, plus there is the outside chance of finding the incredibly cryptic Red-necked Nightjar at a daytime roost. After lunch in a local restaurant where we will enjoy typical Spanish “tapas”, tides permitting, we head to the Barbate Marshes, where the birding can be spectacular, including flocks of waders feeding at close range, roosting Stone-curlew in the saltmarsh, plus feeding Caspian and Little Terns and Greater Flamingo in the salt pans. We will also detour to look for the well-established Northern Bald Ibis from the reintroduced population breeding locally nearby, though they do not visit the colony at this time of year.

Day 3: Mon 9 September   Lower Guadalquivir River and Cádiz Coast
Following an early morning breakfast, we drive to the southeast boundary of Doñana National Park beside the lower Guadalquivir River. The Sanlúcar salt pans hold a fine concentration of waders, raptors, Slender-billed Gull and Greater Flamingo amongst other species and in the small lakes nearby we will search for two of the most emblematic and sought-after birds of the Western Palearctic: White-headed and Marbled Ducks. Other possible birds include Red-knobbed Coot, Purple Swamphen, Black-crowned Night Heron, Wryneck and Iberian Grey Shrike, while we also keep a keen eye open for the elusive Mediterranean Chameleon. A picnic lunch may be taken at a nearby rivermouth beach where we look for the rich variety of waders and terns that the area holds, plus we head to Europe’s largest little swift colony. There perhaps may even be time to drop in to look for any rarities that may be along this part of the coast, such as the occasional Roseate or Elegant Tern that appear here almost annually.

Day 4: Tue 10 September   Zahara de los Atunes and Tarifa Watchpoints & Whalewatching
With onshore winds we can make an early visit to the Camarinal Lighthouse, an excellent watchpoint for sea birds such as Cory's Shearwater, Audouin's Gull and Sandwich Tern. The rest of the morning will be spent visiting various raptor watchpoints, the road leading to Tarifa providing some of the best places to see thousands of birds on active migration. Flocks of Honey Buzzard, Black Kite and White Stork may be seen, and depending on the winds we may see hundreds of Booted and Short-toed Eagles waiting to cross the Straits, while smaller numbers of Black Stork and Egyptian Vulture use the same route to fly south. Other birds crossing the Straits may include rarer migrants, such as Rüppell's Vulture, often flying with the numerous Griffon Vulture in the area. En-route we may stop to see Little Owl or Thekla's Lark.

In the afternoon will aim to enjoy a boat trip out of Tarifa which concentrates on seeing whales and dolphins, but also provides opportunities for observing both a few seabirds, including Cory’s and Balearic Shearwaters, as well as migrant raptors and storks passing overhead out to sea!

Day 5: Wed 11 September   Algeciras/ Tarifa Viewpoints
After breakfast we drive to one or more of the local viewpoints based on the prevailing wind direction, these being key spots to watch the thousands of birds on active migration. Flocks of Honey Buzzard, Black Kite and White Stork are some of the species that should be seen, and particularly with strong easterly winds, hundreds of Booted and Short-toed Eagles wait before crossing the Straits of Gibraltar, while smaller numbers of Black Stork and Egyptian Vulture use the same route to fly southwards. After lunch we may visit the Sierra de la Plata, where in addition to one of the best views towards Africa, Griffon Vultures rest on the cliffs and Blue Rock Thrushes play hide and seek along the ridgetops. Small numbers of migrant raptors, including regular Montagu’s Harriers and Ospreys often pass through and butterflies such as the exquisite Two-tailed Pasha and huge Monarch butterfly can be found. The rare White–rumped Swift may be present in this area.

Day 6: Thu 12 September   Los Alcornocales Natural Park
Today we visit a corner of the huge Los Alcornocales Natural Park forest, which houses a wide variety of passerines and supports a strong community of raptors. Among the more interesting species we should mention Firecrest, Crested Tit, Western Bonelli's Warbler, Serin, Woodlark, Woodchat Shrike, Short-toed Treecreeper and Sardinian Warbler. Afterwards we continue to the Los Barrios area, where there are good chances of observing Osprey, Golden and Bonelli's Eagle and many vultures, storks and kites.

Day 7: Fri 13 September   Los Lances Beach and Algeciras Watchpoints
Our last full day will be dedicated to concentrating on the hottest sites for migration, or if the weather’s wrong, revisiting some of the most productive sites seen earlier in the week and chasing down local specialities! After breakfast we head to Los Lances beach, one of the best places to see waders on migration as well as different species of gulls and terns. Among a range of commoner species we look for regular rarities such as Lesser Crested Tern or perhaps Dotterel which use this reserve during their autumn migration. A single Common Bulbul in Tarifa is the only representative of the species in Europe, inviting a look, while perhaps the pair of House Buntings, the first of their species to breed successfully in Europe in September 2023 in Algeciras, will make a reappearance!

Day 8: Sat 14 September   Departure
Given appropriate flights time, we do a little pre-breakfast birding around the hotel gardens, where Hawfinch, Crested Tit, Iberian Chiffchaff and Firecrest are possible. After breakfast we drive to the airport to take our flight back home.

Please note: all itineraries are given as a guide only. Actual holiday content may vary according to the judgement of your guide, and elements beyond our control (eg weather).

What's included in your holiday price:

  • return scheduled flight from London – Málaga, airport taxes, baggage and hand luggage up to airline included limit.
  • airport transfers, ground transportation, accommodation and meals as specified.
  • the services of your Heatherlea leader(s).
  • The Heatherlea Pre-Flight Service offers everything you need at the airport, including hotels, car parking, airport lounges, regional flights, and upgrades. Let Heatherlea take the strain! Pre-flight airport hotel and lounge included subject to terms and conditions. Read more....

What's not included in your holiday price:

  • travel to and from departure airport before and after holiday, baggage above airline included limit.
  • incidental tips, expenses of a personal nature including drinks and personal insurance.

More holiday information:

Accommodation: is in a comfortable rural hotel with all rooms en suite.
Food: Breakfast is typical of Spain, consisting of a roll with jam and cheese. Fruit juice and tea or coffee is also available. Picnic lunches will include a variety of local produce plus soft drinks, and we also enjoy tapas-style restaurant meals on some days. Evening meals are generally local dishes, which are very good but sometimes simple. Food is usually plentiful. Vegetarian and other diets are welcome.
Walking: The holiday is not strenuous, and walking is generally easy, on paths and tracks. Most birding is done close to our vehicle, and even on the longest walks we are never far from the minibuses, should anyone wish to go back.
Weather:  Typically, temperatures will range from 15°C in the early morning to 25°C in the heat of the day. Sunshine should be plentiful, but wind, cloud and rain are very possible. Hot weather, with temperatures as high as 30+°C, is uncommon, but possible.
Insects: Biting insects are not expected but we are near wetlands at times. You might wish to bring insect repellent as a precaution only.
Group: size is restricted to 7 clients per guide, 12 clients maximum.
Flights: are by scheduled airline, from London. We may be able to offer flight arrangements from another location and/or or quote without flights so you can make your own arrangements. If you wish to add an extension either before or after your holiday, please contact us and we will be happy to arrange this for you.



John Muddeman - lives in the mountains near Madrid, and has led numerous birding tours throughout Spain. A very experienced Leader with over 300 group tours worldwide to his name, John began birding and guiding in Andalucia soon after moving to Spain in 1997. He has usually guided the Straits of Gibraltar and surrounding area several times annually in each of the past 20 years, especially during the exciting migration seasons. John also has a keen interest in the field identification and conservation of reptiles and amphibians, dragonflies, butterflies and moths, mammals and flora. Author of "A birdwatching guide to Extremadura" in 2000, John is an honorary member of the regional guiding association, GUIDEX.




Other birding and wildlife holidays in Spain

Why choose Heatherlea for your birding and wildlife holiday in Europe?

Our overseas holidays are planned with care to offer great birding and wildlife, led by capable Leaders who really look after you. Every holiday is run the 'Heatherlea Way', and we hope our Overseas Adventures remind you of the quality and care so many of you enjoy in Scotland. That means rewarding and exciting days in the field, and good quality accommodation and meals, with a real flavour of the country we are visiting. Heatherlea always seek to include the personal touches that make all the difference.

Heatherlea holidays are not ‘dawn to dusk’ expeditions. Our less-intensive approach is ideal for those who want to relax whilst experiencing the best wildlife watching, and wherever possible we organise early or late activity on an optional basis. We also take sensible breaks when in very hot places and regular comfort breaks on every holiday whenever possible. All itineraries are planned carefully around the best wildlife opportunities, and you won’t miss out on memorable wildlife, whilst enjoying relaxed, informal days that are great fun.

The really important part of any wildlife holiday is the experience for you, our valued customer. Heatherlea invest in many things to offer you the best possible service;

  • We have been organising birding and wildlife holidays for over 30 seasons, and have a highly experienced and capable office team. We also offer a telephone and email service outside normal office hours.
  • Heatherlea overseas holidays have a maximum of 12 clients per trip, putting the emphasis on personal service, and helping you get the best possible experience.
  • Our holidays often include things which others might invite you to pay yourself, for instance Departure Taxes and tips to hotels.
  • All elements of our holidays are sold under our own licence, ATOL 6113. Under ‘Flight-Plus’ legislation it is a legal requirement of any tour operator to hold an ATOL licence for the supply of any overseas holiday where a flight is involved, if that holiday includes either overseas accommodation and/or car hire. It can be a criminal offence for an operator to book flights as part of a package without an ATOL licence. Heatherlea also hold full Tour Operator Insurance for your added protection.
  • Heatherlea is your complete wildlife holiday provider. Our ‘Back Office’ team can organise all your pre-flight and other travel needs. Our specialists will help you book the right services, at the best price. Book holiday extensions through us, and your ATOL protection is extended further. We don’t charge extra for this service.
  • Heatherlea is a limited company, registered in Scotland, and registered to pay VAT (applies to all holidays within the European Union).
Tour Details

About Heatherlea Holidays

Contact Information

The Mountview Hotel, Nethybridge,
PH25 3EB Scotland

T: +44(0)1479 821248