Strait of Gibraltar: the autumn migration

Wildlife watching
Expert Nature Guide
Wildlife watching
Expert Nature Guide

Natural parks

Doñana, The Strait, Alcornocales, Grazalema

Seasons

September

À la carte

6 days rambling for wildlife 

– Classic route for the migration

– Visit of wetlands, coast and mountains

– Diverse program not obsessed with birds

Region

Spain/ Andalusia

Meeting point

Seville

Specialized service

Small parties

The autumnal migration of birds at the Strait of Gibraltar, crossing the sea in direction to Africa, is one of the most renowned and spectacular wildlife phenomena in Europe. Many birdwatchers expect eagerly the “fiesta” of the end of summer and its exalirating number of raptors and storks.

We have designed a short trip in order to live the migration first hand during a few days, visiting the best available spots, but also to enjoy more wildlife and not focusing only on birds. The region is so rich and attractive that we need to spend some time looking for whales and dolphins, monarch butterflies and dragonflies.

Travel schedule


DAY 1 | Transfer from airport - Eastern Doñana

Meeting at Sevilla international airport. We will visit two important wetlands where waders and waterfowl thrive. Water levels are highly dependent of waterfall and very variable between years. First stop at a freshwater marsh, the former branch of the Guadalquivir River Brazo del Este” in Doñana, surrounded by harvested rice paddles. We will then pass through a landscape of farmland range. Second stop in the Bay of Cadiz, nearby the Atlantic Ocean, to explore well preserved coastal pine woods and saltmarshes. The migration of Red-Veined Darter is not unlikely at this time of the year near the coast. Accommodation near Vejer de la Frontera for two nights.

DAY 2 | La Janda & Trafalgar beach

We will start the day searching for the resident Bald Ibis, a species of incredible aspect, which spend its times between inland cliffs, beaches and grazed field. The area hosts an array of beautiful habitats, the last unspoiled Andalusian coastline, Mediterranean woodlands and matorrals, cattle meadows and “La Janda, a considerable lagoon which was turned in the 1960’ into a mix of arable land, rice paddle and canals: a stopover for many birds on migration, both waterfowl and raptors. Spanish Imperial Eagle has been reintroduced there recently. This is also the best area in Europe and the perfect time of the year to search for a butterfly, Zeller’s skipper.

DAY 3 | The Strait of Gibraltar

The Strait of Gibraltar is the west-southern tip of Europe and a funnel for migrating birds which spend the winter in Africa. It is widely celebrated for being the major migrating route of various raptors and storks in the Palearctic. We will look during the day at the best migration watchpoints to be testimony of one of the most spectacular natural events in Europe. Migration and day planning are very dependent of wind condition and therefore variable. On the invertebrate side, migrants such as Painted Lady or Red Admiral are also on their way to the southern limit of their range. The countryside is usually very dry at this time of the year and we will find relief under the shade of a canuto, a dense gallery woodland along short streams of Andalusia, and a perfect habitat for the giant African Grasshopper. We will stay two nights near Tarifa.

DAY 4 |Whale watching & Los Lances beach

The Strait of Gibraltar divide the Atlantic Ocean from the Mediterranean Sea, a narrow passage which is compulsory to cross for migrating marine fauna such as pelagic birds, tuna fishes, cetaceans (Sperm and Fin whales) … and merchant navy. It is a traffic hotspot for supertankers and whale watching (possibly the best spot in the Iberian Peninsula). We will enjoy a boat trip to look at sea birds and dolphins (5 resident species including the Killer whale), then spend some time at “Los Lances” beach where seabirds and waders will be on passage, and hike along the coastline.

DAY 5 | Los Alcornocales & Monarch butterflies

We will travel from Tarifa and stop at various watchpoints to enjoy the views, the landscapes and the on-going migration (!). Africa is only 14 km away. Nevertheless, we will explore a land of Moorish occupation for seven centuries. Los Alcornocales is a large Cork Oak forest which dominate the countryside between the sea and the mountains. We will make a break near Castellar at a colony of Monarch butterflies, a species which colonized the area from America and is not migrating in Europe. The little known, yet fantastic, Genal Valley will offer wonderful views over the region, and with some luck, butterflies displaying the hill topping behaviour. Accommodation for two nights at the white village of Benarrabá.

DAY 6 | Sierra de Grazalema

The Sierra de Grazalema is part of an impressive and complex range of limestone mountains, home to a rich wildlife which was not present at sea level and is protected by a dense network of natural/national parks. We will search birds such as Black Wheatear, Chough and Blue rock thrush, mammals such as Ibex. September is not a very good season for insects in those dry habitats, although Desert Darter is on the wing. Farewell dinner and Moth trapping for nocturnal insects.

DAY 7 | Transfer to the airport

Early departure to the airport, with a few stops for quick biodiversity checks (we never know)

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INCLUDE

  • A wildlife watching travel lead by local nature guide. Groups 5-8 people.
  • Half board (picnics by the participants).
  • Double rooms (single room supplement).
  • Does not include round-trip flights by plane.

Bonus

A diverse program which allow for plenty of surprises: the wonderfull Monarch butterflies, recently established species in Europe. We will be by historical sites for British history.

Why would you like to travel with me?

I have looked for birds in Andalusia during many hours, especially along the river banks of the Guadalquivir at Cordoba. We published regularly bird reports from this 10 years survey.

As a post graduate, I volunteered repeatidily at S’Albufera project in Mallorca under famous UK birdwatcher Nick Riddiford.

Florent Prunier

G3 Guides