Sierra de la Plata and Bolonia, scenic highlight

Situated very close to Tarifa, on the northern edge of El Estrecho Natural Park, this region offers some of the most beautiful and varied sceneries in the Strait. The transition between unspoiled beaches to sand dunes, pine and oak forests, and mountain cliffs overlooking the African coast, creates a unique landscape. The cliffs host a large griffonry, and species such as endangered Egyptian Vultures and Blue Rock Thrushes. Woodpeckers are amongst the most remarkable inhabitants of the forest. In fact this is an appropriate area in which to find the Iberian Green Woodpecker (Picus sharpei), which has recently been recognised as an Iberian endemism, and whose differential calls will surely draw the attention of the observer. Moreover, some of the Great Spotted Woodpeckers that can be observed here show a reddish tinge to their underparts. This gives them an intriguing appearance, halfway between the European and African subspecies. The dune edges are especially rich in botanical terms and support remarkable communities of Maritime Junipers, parasite Broomrapes and dense Brooms, where cryptic African Chameleons are likely to be found. In the late summer enormous kettles of White Storks cast their shadows on the beach, whilst during the periods of easterly winds (Levante) in spring, hundreds of Black Kites, Booted and Short-toed Snake Eagles and Honey Buzzards reach the European Continent over Bolonia, immediately after crossing the Strait on the journey from their wintering quarters in Africa. Not far away, in the scrubland areas, Black-eared Wheatears, Woodchat Shrikes, Melodious Warblers and the very scarce Rufous-tailed Scrub Robins occur.

Sierra de la Plata has long been a popular destination for European birders searching for Little and White-rumped Swifts, both of which formerly bred in the famous “Cueva del Moro”. However, these species are easier to find in other locations in the Strait.

Situated right next to the beach, the ancient and well-preserved roman city of Baelo Claudia is well worth visiting. A tour through the columns, aqueducts and the amphitheatre, all surrounded by a natural landscape, is really awe-inspiring. Sardinian Warblers are present in every corner and Ocellated Lizards come out of their burrows in the ancient walls to bask in the sunshine!