Southern Spain and the Gibraltar Straits
Spring Migration spectacular
April 25 – May 2 2024
Tour at a glance
Tour leader: Jonathan Meyrav
Local leaders: Simon Tonkin and Niki Bloom (aka Inglorious Bustards)
7 nights, 8 days
Difficulty – Easy
Photography options – good
Tour begins and ends at Málaga airport
Late Spring is a fantastic period to visit southern Spain and the amazing Gibraltar straits. During this time the “flyway” explodes with tens of thousands of migrants returning to Europe after spending the winter in Africa.
Our tour focuses on migration of course, but also includes many specialty species, iconic birds of Prey and much more. Our birding adventures will bring us to the scenic mountains of southern Spain and all the way to the edge of Europe, the Gibraltar Straits. One of the tour highlights is a boat trip into the Straits to search for Seabirds, Dolphins, Whales and more, a memorable experience.
Besides enjoying amazing birds and wildlife this tour is truly the “classic Spain” experience: beautiful rural townships, amazing food (and wine) and the wonderful romantic energy that Spain has to offer. Our tour is run with our friends at Inglorious Bustards that besides being a great tour operator are also devoted to conservation and some of the tours proceeds will go directly to conservation.
New in 2024 – We have moved the tour dates to late April to coincide with the last big wave of raptors and the arrival of many local breeders. We have also added 2 days in the mountains and the Steppes of southern Spain for some mountain birds and with luck, Little and Great Bustards.
Click for our Full Program
Day 1 – 25 April 2024
We will meet in Málaga airport around midday, soon leaving the bustling coast of the Costa del Sol and taking the road up through the coniferous forests and evergreen Mediterranean scrub of the Serranía de Ronda, a little-visited but stunning area where the Sierra de las Nieves and Sierra de Grazalema meet.
En route to our hotel we’ll make a stop for picnic or afternoon tea in the magnificent Sierra de las Nieves Biosphere Reserve, where we should be treated to views of confiding Black Redstarts, Thekla Larks, Woodlarks and Corn Buntings amongst the mountain scrub and rocks. Golden and Bonelli´s Eagles frequent this lofty place.
Soon we´ll arrive in the quirky mountainside village of Júzcar. Among the many picturesque white-washed villages in the area, Júzcar stands out as its residents unanimously voted to paint the town blue! As such it was featured in the film ‘Smurfs!’ and it’s adorned with Smurf murals a-plenty to this day.
On arrival in Júzcar, we’ll settle in to our rooms at Hotel Bandolero and enjoy views across the beautiful wooded valley from the terrace bar, before enjoying some of the best dining of the region! Cordon Bleu chef Iván specialises in using seasonal, local produce to put his own mouth-watering twists on traditional Andaluz dishes. Nights at Hotel Bandolero, Júzcar.
Day 2 – 26 April 2024
After collecting the fresh bread from the hotel oven, our first stop today will be at Los Riscos, an
imposing limestone outcrop at 1400 m above sea level. After enjoying numerous farmland species such as Cirl Buntings, Woodlarks and Rock Petronia in the Wild Olives and Holm Oak trees, we will be looking for mountain specialities such as Crag Martins, Blue Rock Thrush and Rock Bunting.
We’ll take our picnic lunch at the picturesque caves and crystal-blue streams of Cueva del Gato. This awe-inspiring beauty spot – whose streams and pools are frequented by Black-bellied Dipper and Grey Wagtail – forms the downstream end of a vast 8-kilometre cave system, of which we will be birding both ends today. Above our heads we should see Griffon Vultures and Alpine Swifts soaring on afternoon thermals, and we´ll keep our eyes out for the area´s formidable Bonelli´s Eagles.
The final stop of the day is at Cueva del Hundidero. This second cave lies at the base of a spectacular mountain gorge and forms the northern end of the Hundidero/Gato cave system. From our viewpoint at Montejaque dam, we should enjoy Rock Petronia, Black Wheatear and Red-billed Chough coming in to roost, as well as Cirl and Rock Buntings, Crag Martins and Iberian Green Woodpecker. As the shadows lengthen, we´ll keep an eye out for Iberian Ibex bounding over the precipitous mountain sides.
Day 3 – 27 April 2024
Today we´ll spend a full day exploring the plains around Osuna and Lantejuela. This sweeping landscape features a patchwork of arable land, undisturbed areas and pockets of marsh and pond, so we can expect a diversity of birds from this array of habitats.
The fields here are alive with farmland birds such as Corn Buntings, Calandra and Greater Short-toed Larks and Spanish Sparrows, and we can also hope for views of Collared Pratincole, Iberian Grey and Woodchat Shrike, Dartford Warbler, and Eurasian Hoopoe, and maybe a Little Owl or two. Black-winged Kites, Montagu´s Harriers, Marsh Harriers, Red Kites and Common Buzzards patrol the area.
But with luck, persistent scanning and some patience the stars of today´s show will be some real plains specialists – Great and Little Bustard and Black-bellied Sandgrouse – for which the area is known.
Day 4 – 28 April 2024
This morning we head to our second base – the epicenter of the Spring raptor migration at The Straits of Gibraltar. Our base is ideal for watching the migration as it is located between two Natural Parks in The Straits of Gibraltar. In the right conditions we should witness many hundreds of migratory birds making the crossing from their wintering grounds in Africa to breeding grounds in Europe.
On the way we´ll spend some time in and around the beautiful historic city of Ronda, whose three
bridges (one roman, one Moorish and one 18th century) span the dramatic El Tajo gorge.
This charming city has been home and inspiration to many writers, artists and poets, including Ernest Hemingway, Orson Welles, Mary Anne Evans (better known as George Eliot) and German poet Rainer Maria Rilke, and with a stroll through the tranquil gardens and along the spectacular cliff-edge paseo you´ll soon understand why.
Don´t be caught here without your binoculars though – the town´s birding is also impressive, with Red Crossbill possible in the town parks, Red-billed Chough often dropping in, Alpine Swifts swirling under the bridges, plentiful raptors overhead and Blue Rock Thrush in the gorge itself!
Day 5 – 29 April 2024
A massive migration event is in progress at this time of the year, as Booted Eagles, Short-toed Eagles, Egyptian Vultures, European Honey Buzzards, Black Kites, White Storks, European Bee-eaters, Swifts, Hirundines and many more journey north to breed. Migratory movement of birds across The Straits is completely dependent on wind strength and direction. Depending on where – and whether – birds are crossing, today will be spent at one of several local watch points, relaxing in the sun whilst watching this natural phenomenon, as birds of prey and other soaring birds arrive into Europe for the breeding season.
We´ll enjoy our picnic lunch right under the flow of migration, so as not to miss a moment!
We will take a boat excursion, weather permitting, into The Straits to look for seabirds and cetaceans. We will be on the lookout for Cory’s, Scopoli’s and Balearic Shearwaters among other species, plus the three species of resident dolphin (Common, Bottlenose and Striped) and the resident pods of Long-finned Pilot Whale. Once back on dry land, we will have a go at some urban birding around the old town of Tarifa where we can encounter Common Bulbul and breeding Lesser Kestrels. We’ll enjoy a picnic lunch at a nearby coastal viewpoint overlooking Tarifa and The Straits. Simply by looking up you can often see migrating Raptors and Storks crossing over this historic town.
Day 6 – 30 April 2024
Today we’ll visit the high rocky cliffs of Sierra de la Plata, home to the area´s largest Griffon Vulture
colony at over 90 pairs. As they circle around us and we enjoy their eerie screeching, we´ll look amongst them for other local nesters such as Egyptian Vulture and possibly Bonelli´s Eagle.
Mountain specialities such as Blue Rock Thrush, Crag Martin, and Rock Bunting can all be encountered here, and from the top of the mountain we can view across the spectacular bay down over the Roman ruins of Baelo Claudia, once the Roman Empire´s most prosperous city.
We may also have time to visit the farmland and wetlands of La Janda. The huge area of farmland was once a vast wetland on a par with Doñana in terms of its ecological importance. It has long since been drained for agriculture, but amongst the rice fields and managed pools and ditches, some real wetland gems remain, hinting at its former natural glory. Amongst many hundreds of White Stork and Glossy Ibis, here we should see many waders, wildfowl and raptors, such as Purple Swamphen, Marsh and Montagu´s Harrier, Black-winged Kite as well as a chance of Spanish Imperial Eagle, whilst the farmland areas should yield Spanish Sparrow, Calandra Lark and perhaps Red-necked Nightjar.
Day 7 – 1 May 2024
Today, alongside more raptor-watching at sites with stunning views across The Straits to North Africa, we will make a visit to a nearby nature reserve created on the site of disused salt pans. This area offers a fantastic selection of waders which change every day, but we will especially hope for encounters with Kentish Plovers, Eurasian Stone-curlews, Curlew Sandpipers, Little Stint and one of the highest densities of breeding Collared Pratincoles. We will also look out for eye-catchers like Eurasian Spoonbill, Greater Flamingo and Western Osprey. We should also come across Tawny Pipits, Woodchat Shrikes, Greater Short-toed Larks, Iberian Yellow Wagtails and Corn Buntings.
Also close by is the town of Vejer de la Frontera, where a successful reintroduction program of the
Critically Endangered Northern Bald Ibis took place in 2004. The local population now numbers around 80, and we should be able to see these engaging and quirky birds at their nesting colony or grazing on surrounding farmland.
Day 8 – 2 May 2024
Today sadly our trip comes to an end, and it is time to make your own migratory journey home from Málaga.
€1990 per person sharing
€2215 – Single
All transportation during the tour, accommodation, guiding, meals and certain drinks.
Boat trip into The Straits,
Taxes and insurances.
Incidental refreshments and items of personal nature
Travel and medical insurance and prescription drugs.