Spring has just begun! As temperatures warm up, we are reminded how good birding can be during a visit to the Strait of Gibraltar in Spring. To give you an idea of what’s possible to see during this season, here we list some suggestions about what to do in a day, and what you should expect to see:
1. An early start in Tarifa, where we are based, can be rewarded with the prominent song of the Common Bulbul, a common species in Africa that, however, can only be found in one location in Europe: Tarifa. Nearby, we’d probably hear the sharp calls of the Lesser Kestrels too. At a walking distance, a short session of seawatching from the pier can provide good views of migrant seabirds, like Northern Gannet, Razorbill, Atlantic Puffin, Arctic Skua (Parasitic Jaeger) and the first Balearic Shearwaters coming out of the Mediterranean after their breeding season.
2. As you drive out of Tarifa, it might be a good idea to make a stop in Los Lances. This small nature reserve can be very productive, particularly in the morning. Mediterranean and Audouin’s Gulls are regular at this time of the year, same as Kentish Plovers. The migration of passerines can be visible here, with the first Western Yellow Wagtails and Greater Short-toed Larks showing up, while the last Meadow and Water Pipits abandon these latitudes in order to breed further north.
3. A visit to the lower limestone ridges around Tarifa, like Sierra de la Plata can be very good. Some species you should expect, and already singing in their breeding plumage, can be: Cirl and Rock Buntings, Iberian Green Woodpecker and the gorgeous Blue Rock Thrush. On top of that, the Eurasian Griffons will already be on their nests, some of the hatchlings already out of their shells. Surely, we will be looking for the first Black-eared Wheatears of the year, as well as the passing Northern Wheatears.
4. Depending on the winds, we will be sure to be well positioned in order to witness the raptor migration that takes place, roughly, from March to May. Even though many raptors have already passed by the beginning of Spring, there are still thousands still waiting for their opportunity on African soil: Short-toed Eagles, Booted Eagles, Black Kites, Sparrowhawks, Egyptian Vultures as well as good numbers of White and Black Storks. One of the best places to see these birds crossing the Strait would be Punta Carnero, not far from the city of Algeciras.
5. After having lunch at one of the numerous excellent restaurants that serve homemade food in the area, we can visit the Northern Bald Ibis colony, a must-see species for every birder, and certainly a highlight for anyone traveling to the province of Cadiz. This can be combined with a visit to the Barbate Marshes, which can be very rewarding, both for shorebirds and migrant passerines.
6. An excursion to the southernmost region of Spain can not be complete without a drive through La Janda. This well-known birding hotspot is excellent throughout the year, but even more splendorous during the spring months. The beginning of the season seems to be marked by the hundreds of Garganeys, which can be seen flying along the shoreline. However, if the weather has been wet enough and some of the seasonal lagoons and rice paddies are flooded, good numbers of these gorgeous dabbling ducks can be seen in La Janda. Along with the ducks, Purple Herons start to arrive, and Hoopoes are easier to find while feeding along the tracks. Raptors are always abundant here, and among all of them the Spanish Imperial Eagle stands out, due to its large size, on average almost as large as a Golden Eagle.
All of this is possible in a day without needing to drive very long distances, while you enjoy the spectacular scenery of the Strait and experience the marvels of migration firsthand. With the possibility of including other bird-rich locations or adapt the itinerary for wildlife photographers, the combinations are endless! If you want us to arrange a private excursion for you to see some of these sites and find some of the most sought after species of birds, contact us and let us know what your preferences are. You will find out, the Strait of Gibraltar never disappoints!