More raptors migrate across the Straits of Gibraltar annually than at any other site in Europe. Counts suggest upwards of 200,000 pass between July and November, plus over 100,000 White Storks 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 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, good local knowledge 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 Kite, Red Kite, Egyptian Vulture, Griffon Vulture, Short-toed Eagle, Bonelli`s Eagle, Booted Eagle, Montagu`s Harrier, Lesser Kestrel and Spanish Imperial Eagle. Our long list of raptors may also include Golden Eagle, Black Vulture, and Black-shouldered Kite.
Local species include Marbled Teal, White-headed Duck, Purple Gallinule, Greater Flamingo, Glossy Ibis and Penduline Tit in the wet “marismas”, Balearic Shearwater, Cory`s Shearwater, Audouin`s Gull, Slender-billed Gull, Caspian Tern and Lesser Crested Tern on the coast, Spotless Starling and Spanish Sparrow inland and other migrating birds such as Alpine Swift, Pallid Swift, Crag Martin, Red-Rumped Swallow, Hoopoe and Bee-eater.
This is a real feast of birds in a warm and inviting Mediterranean environment. Many of the local Spanish towns are unspoilt “pueblos blancos”, and we spend time investigating areas away from the main tourist ‘costas’. We are based in two centres, Zahara de Los Atunes, a small fishing town on the Costa de la Luz north of Tarifa, and Huerte Grande, south of Algeciras, in two lovely family run hotels which we know very well.
Enjoy your complimentary pre-flight overnight hotel before your holiday begins. Full details from our office!
Day 1: Malaga Airport – Zahara de los Atunes
Relax in your complimentary airport lounge, then fly to Malaga where Josele will greet us. We will bird en-route to our hotel, stopping at viewpoints between Algeciras and Tarifa to see raptors crossing the Straits, perhaps including Egyptian Vulture, Sparrowhawk, Booted and Short-toed Eagles, European Honey Buzzard and maybe also Black Stork. Rarer migrants, such as Rüppell's Vulture can be identified flying with the numerous Griffon Vultures in the area. Overnight in Zahara de los Atunes for four nights.
Day 2: Zahara – Tarifa raptor watchpoints - Barbate marshes
We drive to 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 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. En-route we may stop to see Little Owl, Thekla Lark and Blue Rock Thrush, and also to taste local melon by the roadside. After lunch we head to the Barbate Marshes, where depending on the tides birding can be spectacular, with flocks of waders including Oystercatcher, Turnstone and Spotted Redshank, Caspian and Little Tern and gull species.
Day 3 Zahara – Laguna de Medina - San Lucar de Barrameda
An early morning breakfast, followed by a drive to the edge of Dona National Park in the southeast boundary of the Guadalquivir River. The salt pans of San Lucar hold a good concentration of waders, raptors and Slender-billed Gull, and in the nearby natural lakes we will search for two of the most emblematic and sought-after birds of the Western Palearctic, White-headed Duck and Marbled Duck. Other possible birds include Wryneck and Iberian Shrike. After a typical 'tapas' lunch we head to the Medina lagoon, which holds one of the highest concentrations of White-headed Duck in the area, among other ducks and passerines.
Day 4: Zahara de los Atunes - Algeciras watchpoints
We take a pre-breakfast walk by the beach in front of our hotel, where Audouin´s Gull, Sanderling, Kentish Plover and Marsh Harrier are regular visitors. After breakfast we drive to Algeciras stopping at several raptor watchpoints, this road providing some of the best places to see 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 depending on winds we can have hundreds of Booted and Short-toed Eagles waiting to cross the Straits of Gibraltar, while smaller numbers of Black Stork and Egyptian Vulture use the same route to fly southwards. After lunch we will visit the Camarinal Lighthouse, an excellent watchpoint for sea birds such as Cory´s Shearwater, rare Little Shearwater, Audouin´s Gull and Sandwich Tern, and also an excellent place for rarities such as Little Swift or White–rumped Swift.
Day 5: Zahara – La Janda
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 Golden Eagles, and Lanner Falcon or Pallid Harrier have been recorded. 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. This area is excellent for juvenile eagles, which patrol it as an “easy” hunting spot, due to the reintroduction of Pheasant and Red Legged Partridge. After lunch in a local restaurant where we will enjoy typical Spanish “tapas”, we drive to Tarifa watchpoints to enjoy the migration experience once more. Overnight Huerta Grande for three nights.
Day 6: Los Alcornocales Natural Park
Pre breakfast walk in search of difficult-to-find Hawfinch. After breakfast, we visit the forest of Los Alcornocales Natural Park, 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 Los Barrios, where there are good chances of observing Ospreys, Golden Eagle, Bonelli´s Eagle and many vultures, storks and kites.
Day 7: Los Lances Beach – Algeciras watchpoints
On these day we concentrate on the hottest sites for migration. 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. The road leading to Algeciras provides some of the best places to see thousands of birds on active migration, and again we may see flocks of Honey Buzzard, Black Kite and White Stork, plus Booted and Short-toed Eagles, while smaller numbers of Black Stork and Egyptian Vulture use the same route to fly southwards.
Day 8: Pre-departure birding and airport
Pre breakfast birding around the hotel gardens, where Hawfinch, Red-necked Nightjar, Crested Tit and Firecrest are possible. After breakfast we drive to Malaga Airport to take our flight back home.
More Holiday Information:
Accommodation: is in two comfortable rural hotels 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 10C in the early morning to perhaps 25C in the heat of the day. Sunshine should be plentiful, but wind, cloud and rain are very possible. Cold weather, with temperatures as low as 5C, are rare 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 Gatwick. We may be able to offer flight arrangements from another airport 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.
What's included in your holiday price:
* return scheduled flight from London Gatwick – Malaga, 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.
WHY CHOOSE HEATHERLEA?
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 27 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).