We have released a new Bird Migration Video in our Youtube channel. We filmed it exactly one year ago. On this third episode we present the onset of the White Stork migration. We also talk about other migrants in the Strait of Gibraltar this time of the year, like black kites and swifts.
Bird migration for all
The large concentration of White Storks and Black Kites in the Tarifa area offers a magnificent expectable. This show does not only draw the attention of keen birders, but regular tourists visiting Cadiz in summer are also stunned by it. Indeed, July and August is an excellent period for family birding in the Strait of Gibraltar.
The big show of the smaller
The migration of smaller birds is equally astonishing for the trained eye. It is currently known that the Strait of Gibraltar funnels the migration of European birds to Africa in a much bigger proportion than traditionally assumed. For instance, thousands of Common and Pallid Swifts can be seen heading south in a few hours. In addition, continuous flocks of migrant European bee-eaters can be heard by night as well.
The big days of “autumn” migration have only started. One more year, Birding The Strait will be offering birding wildlife excursions during this exciting time.
Check our youtube channel for more videos and stay tuned!
The ancient ramparts of Guzman el Bueno Castle in Tarifa, hold the southernmost colony of Lesser Kestrels in the continent. In addition, this is one of the few sites where this typically migrant species overwinters in Europe. Unfortunatelly, the Lesser Kestrel population has suffered a dramatic decline throughout its range. This is due to multiple factors. This way, make people aware about the presence and fascinating lifestyle of this charming raptor is a key factor towards its conservation.
Next Saturday 20th, Birding The Strait will be offering a free excursion around the Castle. The breeding colony of Lesser Kestrel will be the central subject of the activity. However, we will certainly have the chance to observe many other species as well.
This activity is part of Birding The Strait corporate responsibility . Come join us!
We want to thank the 17 participants for their friendliness and enthusiasm. The morning just flew by observing Lesser Kestrels around their nests. Moreover, we have seen numerous Black Kites in active migration from Africa. It has been very rewarding to discuss with this varied group of nature enthusiasts from Tarifa, other regions of Spain, Holland and Switzerland.
The most rewarding surprise has been to realize the remarkable knowledge for birds and nature by the youngest participants. No doubt, local initiatives such as MigBird are significantly contributing to increase the awareness for wildlife conservation in Tarifa. This is really encouraging! In Birding The Strait we will keep working in this direction as much as we can.
Finally, we want to thank Diego and Lucia, from the Tarifa Town Hall, for their support.
If you are interested in visiting this colony and learn more about the Lesser Kestrel and the other resident and migratory raptors, contact us!
One more year, since time immemorial, the raptor migration has started in Tarifa and the Strait of Gibraltar.
Black Kites on the move
Black Kites are always the first to be noticed. They are on the move in growing numbers. Adults are now in a race from their African wintering quarters to their breeding grounds in Europe. They are in a hurry to occupy the best possible nest site. The Sahara, the ocean, weather constrains and human infrastructure will be the main threats they will have to face. The Black Kite is, by far, the most abundant of all the raptors using this flyway. They often kettle in enormous flocks and gather in communal roosts providing a world class spectacle.
The new video shows the spring migration back from Africa of the Black Kite in the Strait of Gibraltar. It contains a selection of the best footage we have filmed over the last springs in Tarifa, the Strait of Gibraltar and Los Alcornocales Natural Park.
The show has only started. Birding The Strait will be offering guided birding day trips and tailor-made tours in Tarifa and the Strait of Gibraltar throughout the season. Feel free to contact us anytime for further information!
We have just returned from a thrilling wildlife expedition into one of the most remote regions of the Western Palearctic: the Western Sahara. More precisely, we have spent 8 days exploring the wildlife and landscapes within the Dakhla, Aousserd and Bir Anzarane triangle. This has led us to ridges of dunes, extensive mudflats, forested wadis, endless steppes, rock massifs, unexpected waterholes and even off into the Atlantic Ocean.
On this post we summarize some impressions and highlights of this trip.
Our second Birding Trip to the Western Sahara
Back in February 2016 we were invited by the Dakhla Attitude Hotel to a fam trip in the region. This was a memorable experience and we have been eagerly looking forward to returning since then. On this link you can read the trip report of our previous trip to the Western Sahara, including a large selection of pictures.
During our 2019 expedition we wanted to relocate key sites and target species, explore new trails getting deeper into the desert, reinforce our collaboration with local experts and logistics, and conduct nocturnal surveys for mammals. On this last (but not least) matter, our primary target was to observe the Sand CatFelis margarita. This is probably the most elusive and least known feline in the Palearctic.
In doing so we have camped in the desert and slept in jaimas (nomad tents) belonging to Saharawi camel herders, but also in cozy hotels in Dakhla. As for the transportation, we have used hired passengers cars and 4×4 with local expert drivers to safely get off the beaten track into the desert. Moreover, we used a boat to reach the most inaccessible corners of the huge Bay of Dakhla.
Using eBird in the Western Sahara
As usual during our Birding The Strait trips, we have invested a considerable effort to systematically upload all the resulting ornithological information to eBird, including pictures and sound recordings. This is our humble contribution to citizen science. As keen eBirders we have found it very exciting to complete bird checklists in some regions which have barely, if at all, being surveyed before. This way, all our records are accessible for the public in our eBird accounts, which can be consulted here (Yeray) and here (Javi).
The Desert environment and its changing conditions
Birding in semi-desert environments always implies a high degree of uncertainty and surprise. Here, rainfall in precedent months and the resulting plant coverage is the main driving force. This way, some of the best and richer birding sites we found in 2016, such as the eastern end of the Aousserd road and Oued Jenna were very dry and quiet this time. In turn, the regions nearer the coast held a greener plant coverage and several flooded and very productive waterholes!
Accordingly, some species which we struggled to find in 2016 were amongst the most widespread this year. This was the case of the Temminck’s Lark, for instance. In turn, the Black-crowned Sparrow-Lark was more scarce, although still well represented. Besides, the local specialties, like Saharan Dunn’s Lark and Cricket Longtail seemed to be in similar numbers. During this trip we missed some important targets including Sudan Golden Sparrow and Golden Nightjar. However, we enjoyed unbeatable observations of Pale Rock Martin, African Royal Tern, Spotted and Crowned Sandgrouses, and Houbara Bustard, to name but a few!
In this trip we have recorded a total of 86 bird scpecies, and a grand total of 111 considering our two visit to the Dakhla-Aousserd region.
Aside from the birds mentioned, other birding highlights during our trip included:
A gang of Fulvous Chatterers breaking into our campsite in Oued Jenna to feed on our supplies and drink our water!
A flock of 5 Pale Rock Martins flying and contact-calling overhead.
A male Houbara Bustard literally in the middle of nowhere.
Two Pharaoh Eagle-Owls illuminated by our torches
A pair of Lanner Falcons landing by a waterhole as we were watching Spotted and Corwned Sangrouses drinking.
Several family groups of Cream-coloured Courses.
Up to 8 different Cricket Longtails at Oued Jenna.
Large groups of Sandwich, Caspian, Common and African Royal Tern observed while navigating in the Bay of Dakhla with impressive sand dunes in the background.
We enjoyed observing and photographing the varied array of Larks and Wheatears in their different plumages and variations, namely: Desert, Black, Black-eared, Northern, White-crowned and Red-rumped Wheatear; and Short-toed, Desert, Bar-tailed, Dunn’s, Black Crowned, Thick-billed, Temminck’s, GreaterHoopoe and Maghreb (Crested) Lark.
Interestingly, we found two Corn Buntings around a waterhole not far from Dakhla. Much to our surprise, we later got to know that this was among the very first reports for the species in the region!
Mammals deserve special mention here. To our pleasure, we managed to find the sought-after Sand Cat! Indeed, we got to find this precious desert creature in each of our night surveys. Amazingly one of the encounters involved a Sand Cat hidden in low bushes a couple of meters from us! Never in our wildest dreams did we expect such an amazing observation.
But that was not it! An African Golden Wolf peacefully standing by its lair in the middle of the day made another highly unlikely target accomplished. In following nights, we had two additional encounters with wolfs while using torches from the car (stay tuned for the forthcoming nocturnal footage).
The list of mammas was completed with one Fennec, two Rüppel’s Foxes, African Savanna Hare, gerbils and the skull of a Saharan Striped Polecat.
We will return!
We are fascinated by the wildlife, landscape and tranquillity of this region. As expected in such an arid region, the density and diversity of birds is comparatively low. However, the interest and uniqueness of the avian community at the Western Palearctic level is out of question. The sense of wilderness greatly enhances the experience and the possibility of “coming through something new and unexpected” brings birding to a higher level. Moreover, the high chances of connecting with mammal species hard to find in other regions of the Maghreb is, no doubt, an additional highlight.
Thanks to the experience on the wildlife and logistics gathered in our two expeditions to the region, we are already working to offer a especially dedicated tour to the Western Sahara.
Stay tuned for the upcoming information and more pictures and videos!
We thank Patrick Bergier and Go-South for the valuable source of information they provide.
The Strait of Gibraltar is the most important bottleneck in the flyway of the Short-toed Eagle between Europe and Africa. This video shows striking images of eagles in active migration across the Strait. The footage stresses the vital challenge that sea-crossing represents for soaring migrants (enable subtitles).
During 2019 we will upload new videos of this series to our Youtube channel, Stay tuned!