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, 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. Overnight in Zahara de los Atunes for three nights.
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.
Dropping our luggage off early afternoon will enable us to move freely in the afternoon, perhaps in time to allow us 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!
Overnight Huerta Grande for four nights.
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
Perhaps including a short pre-breakfast walk close to our hotel in search of the difficult-to-find Hawfinch, 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.