Málaga, Strait of Gibraltar, La Janda, Los Lances beach, Tarifa, Alcornocales Nature Park, Ronda, Sierra de Andújar (8 days)
Tour leader: Cristian Jensen
Tour members: Colin Freeman, Annette Phillips, Dorothy & Len Nelson, Clive Allen, Joan Suggitt and Bob Stewart
143 bird species recorded
Trip report written by Cristian Jensen Marcet
This tour visited some of the best places for raptors and mammals in Andalucía and Western Europe. The raptor migration impressed all of the participants with thousands of raptors flying over our heads. Groups of several hundred Black Kites, Griffon Vultures, Booted Eagles, Short-toed Eagles, and Black and White Storks were soaring like clouds covering the sky. Other sightings of particular interest were 5 Spanish Imperial Eagles in a single day and a 6th one attacking a Black Vulture; Little Swifts in their first European nesting site, Shearwaters flying over the waves, the roaring of the Red Deers in beautiful sunsets; and the endangered Bald Ibis...
Early Rendezvous in Malaga airport with Annette and Bob; the rest of the group would join later in the afternoon. With Annette and Bob, we went first to have some “tapas” for lunch and some refreshing beers, and then we spent the day at the mouth of the Guadalhorce River. White-headed Ducks were the starlets of this place, along with Greater Flamingo, Black-necked Grebe, Squacco Heron, Osprey, Little Ringed Plover, Black-winged Stilt, Mediterranean Gull, Audouin’s Gull, Little Tern, Monk Parakeet, Red-rumped Swallow, Zitting Cisticola, Sardinian Warbler, Woodchat Shrike, and Spotless Starling, among other birds.
With a slight delay, Colin, Dorothy, Len, Joan and Clive arrived to Malaga airport and we headed for our accommodation in the Strait of Gibraltar.
Before breakfast we saw some birds in the surroundings of the hotel, such as Hawfinch, Chaffinch, Spotless Starling, Wren, Short-toed Treecreper, Crested Tit, Blue Tit, Robin, Firecrest, Cetti’s Warbler, Iberian Chiffchaff, Sardinian Warbler, Bee-eater (one of the favourite birds for Bob, Dorothy and Annette), Alpine Swift, and Pallid Swift. After breakfast we sat at the terrace enjoying the raptors flying over our heads: Egyptian Vultures, Griffon Vultures, Honey Buzzards, Black Kites, Booted Eagles, Short-toed Eagles, and Sparrowhawks. Colin and Annette especially liked the big number of raptors flying over our heads just from the terrace of our accommodation. Apart from all the birds, we had amazing observations of Monarch Butterflies and a Blue Hawker Dragonfly eating a bee.
After seeing so many raptors, we stopped in one of the raptor migration points to see how the migration was at this point. There weren’t many raptors, but we managed to see a group of Black Storks and another group of several thousand White Storks.
We left and instead went to a wetland area where we had our picnic. Among other birds we saw Little and Cattle Egrets, Grey and Squacco Herons, White Stork, Marsh and Montagu’s Harriers, Green Sandpiper, Hoopoe, Zitting Cisticola, Stonechat, Spanish Sparrow, and big groups of Goldfinches, Greenfinches and Corn Buntings. Among the dragonflies we saw Banded Grayling and Red-veined Darter. The Banded Grayling is an African Dragonfly specialised in following the big mammals and catching the insects that are attracted or disturbed by them.
Once back at our accommodation, we had a nice dinner before going to bed.
We had our breakfast and then did a walk in the surrounding cork oak forests. A very well-behaved and showy Firecrest made Colin especially happy, and a Great Spotted Woodpecker perched very close made the joy of Joan. Once we were all ready, we went to the town of Tarifa because some of the participants needed to buy some postcards and stamps. We went to the harbour and did some sea-watching which produced Balearic and Cory’s Shearwaters. Clive really enjoyed them with their magnificent flying skills. Gannet, Audouin’s, Lesser Black-backed and Yellow-legged Gulls were seen meanwhile having our picnic. We drove to the Los Lances Beach, but a big and dense group of several hundred Black Kites and nearly 50 Black Storks, dozens of Short-toed Eagles, Booted Eagles and several Egyptian Vultures made us stop on the way. Colin and Annette were shocked to see these clouds of birds, and this made for one of the most special moments of the trip for them. Once at Los Lances Beach, and surrounded with raptors, we added some shorebirds to our list, like Common Ringed and Kentish Plovers, Ruddy Turnstone, Sanderling, Whimbrel, Bar-tailed Godwit and other birds like Black-headed Gull, Little Tern, Greater Short-toed Lark, and Crested Lark. The last one was found by Joan to be particularly interesting and funny because of their crests. Then we went to Bolonia to have some refreshments and see a little of the Roman Ruins and also some birds like Lesser Kestrel, Thekla Lark, Crag Martin, Blue Rock Thrush, Iberian Green Woodpecker, Alpine, Pallid and the very rare Little Swifts. This particular bird was very special for Colin (lifer!!!), Joan and Clive. Here we also enjoyed a Griffon Vulture sitting on the cliffs, which was a very special moment for Dorothy and Joan.
Back at our accommodation we had our dinner, and once in our rooms panic arose when Dorothy and Clive heard an Eagle Owl!!!! A mega sighting, considering we did it from our rooms. Some people also managed to catch a glimpse of a Tawny Owl. Dorothy thought it was one of the best moments of the trip to have all the owls singing just outside her window.
Before breakfast we did a nice walk and managed to hear Western Bonelli’s Warbler and see a beautiful Short-toed Eagle perched on a post nearby so we could see all the details of this beautiful eagle. Also, a family group of Long-tailed Tits and a Hawfinch, among other birds, were spotted during our walk. After breakfast we did a raptor migration watch and saw Egyptian Vulture, Griffon Vulture, Honey Buzzard, Black Kite, Booted Eagle, Short-toed Eagle, Sparrowhawk, and Marsh Harrier. Then we went to Zahara to see the Bald Ibis, and we saw 8 birds, nicely sitting on the ground!
Later, we went to some marshes to see some waders and we managed to see Common Ringed Plover, Kentish Plover, Ruddy Turnstone, Dunlin, Curlew Sandpiper, Sanderling, Common Sandpiper, Green Sandpiper, Whimbrel, and also Audouin’s Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Black-headed Gull, Common Kingfisher, Bee-eater, vague views of a Calandra Lark, Tawny Pipit, Woodchat Shrike, Zitting Cisticola, and the very common Corn Buntings and Stonechats.
We moved on to visit a farming area with many rice fields, and there we added Purple Heron, Black-shouldered Kite, Hen Harrier, Red-legged Partridge, Spanish Sparrow, and lots of other amazing birds to our daily list.
Today was our transfer day to Andújar, so after breakfast we drove towards this amazing Nature Park. On our way we did some stops. One was at Castellar el Viejo; an amazing fortified village with Moorish remains. The astonishing views towards Gibraltar and the eastern slopes of the Alcornocales Nature Park are breathtaking. Plenty of raptors were seen, and we added the Common Buzzard to our trip list.
The next stop was Ronda, another historical site, with its old and very spectacular bridge across the gorge where Red-billed Choughs and Crag Martins fly around. Some of the people did some shopping, and Joan bought an amazing Flamenco dress for her granddaughter.
Finally we did the last part of our drive to Andújar, where we settled down after a bit of confusion regarding keys etc., and some us went to see some birds and try to see the Iberian Lynx.
After our breakfast at the local restaurant, we went to a beautiful river forest where we saw a Golden Eagle, 5 Spanish Imperial Eagles (!), 2 Goshawks, Black Vultures, Azure Winged Magpies, Iberian Green Woodpeckers, Hawfinches, Red-legged Partridges, Kingfishers, Pied Flycatchers, Great Tits, Nuthatches, and a Cirl Bunting. A special show was performed by one of the adult Spanish Imperial Eagles attacking a Eurasian Black Vulture. This observation was one the best moments for Colin. All the European Martins and Swallows were seen during the morning.
Later we went to enjoy the views and birds from the Sanctuary of Virgen de la Cabeza. We also visited the beautiful church that gathers every year a big Catholic pilgrimage. Then we drove up to the region where a few wolves still live. We saw lots of mammals, like Red Deer stags roaring to attract females , Fallow Deer, Wild Boar (tracks), Badger (tracks), Iberian Lynx (footprints and droppings), Rabbit, etc. The day before, someone had seen a White-rumped Swift by the river, so we tried to look for it at the same time as we were looking for the Lynx.
In the late afternoon, we drove back to the hotel and did some local birding and enjoyed the Azure-winged Magpies in the garden. This was one the most enjoyable observations for Bob.
Our last birding day of the trip. We drove to a reservoir where there were good chances for seeing the Iberian Lynx and great views of astonishing unspoilt dehesa forests. Here we heard Woodlark, and saw Rock Sparrow, Rock Bunting, Egyptian Vulture, Great Cormorant, Black Kite, and had good views of Hoopoe (which made Annette very happy!). Red-rumped Swallows and Crag Martins were flying by very close. Bob and Dorothy specially enjoyed these acrobatic little birds. Clive noticed something very interesting in the river and it was a group of diving Mallards - a thing that he had never observed before. We also saw a Southern Grey Shrike spotted by Joan while hunting little bugs. A Common Nightingale was spotted in the understory, and again many mammals were seen. A new species was the Moufflon, of which several groups were seen, and a butterfly of special interest was the beautiful Two-tailed Pasha.
The last day only gave us time to do the transfer back to Malaga Airport where we sadly said “hasta la vista” and knew we would all meet again.
There is a saying; "Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but the moments that take our breath away". You certainly provided many of those in Andalusia. I particularly recall watching a Goshawk repeatedly stooping at a Griffon, and Spanish Imperial Eagle stooping at Black Vulture. You came up trumps finding 6 Spanish Imps. and a Golden Eagle (both species in binoculars at the same time together with Black Vulture). The Thekla Lark, Southern Grey Shrike and Firecrest were the best views I have ever had, while the huge flocks of Black Kites and Black Storks darkening the sky were mind boggling.
Thanks again for a wonderful week, I can hardly wait for the Pyrenees.
Words alone cannot begin to describe the incredible week in Andalucia. The accommodation was of good quality and in fabulous locations. Your knowledge of the area and the birds, including your incredible ability to spot and identify so many birds whilst driving as well. From start to finish, everything was first class. As for the birds, well, the vast quantities of raptors passing overhead, excellent views of Bee-eaters, Little Swift, Bald Ibis, Squacco Heron, Black Stork, Spanish Imperial Eagle, and of course can't forget the now no longer ever elusive Hoopoe, just a few of the 43 lifers seen during the week. The only disappointment is that it had to end, but hopefully I'll be back again sometime. I cannot thank you enough and highly recommend your tours to everyone considering booking, they will exceed all expectations. Thank you again.
- 1. Black-necked Grebe - Podiceps nigricollis
- 2. Little Grebe - Tachybaptus ruficollis
- 3. Cory's Shearwater - Calonectris diomedea
- 4. Balearic Shearwater - Puffinus mauretanicus
- 5. Great Cormorant - Phalacrocorax carbo
- 6. Northern Gannet - Morus bassanus
- 7. Grey Heron - Ardea cinerea
- 8. Purple Heron - Ardea purpurea
- 9. Little Egret - Egretta garzetta
- 10. Cattle Egret - Bubulcus ibis
- 11. Squacco Heron - Ardeola ralloides
- 12. White Stork - Ciconia ciconia
- 13. Black Stork - Ciconia nigra
- 14. Greater Flamingo - Phoenicopterus ruber
- 15. Mallard - Anas platyrhynchos
- 16. Gadwall - Anas strepera
- 17. Northern Shoveler - Anas clypeata
- 18. Common Pochard - Aythya ferina
- 19. White-headed Duck - Oxyura leucocephala
- 20. Egyptian Vulture - Neophron percnopterus
- 21. Black Vulture - Aegypius monachus
- 22. Eurasian Griffon Vulture - Gyps fulvus
- 23. Osprey - Pandion haliaetus
- 24. European Honey Buzzard - Pernis apivorus
- 25. Black Kite - Milvus migrans
- 26. Black-shouldered Kite - Elanus caeruleus
- 27. Booted Eagle - Hieraaetus pennatus
- 28. Golden Eagle - Aquila chrysaetos
- 29. Spanish Imperial Eagle - Aquila adalberti
- 30. Short-toed Eagle - Circaetus gallicus
- 31. Northern Goshawk - Accipiter gentilis
- 32. Eurasian Sparrowhawk - Accipiter nisus
- 33. Common Buzzard - Buteo buteo
- 34. Western Marsh Harrier - Circus aeruginosus
- 35. Hen Harrier - Circus cyaneus
- 36. Montagu's Harrier - Circus pygargus
- 37. Peregrine Falcon - Falco peregrinus
- 38. Common Kestrel - Falco tinnunculus
- 39. Lesser Kestrel - Falco naumanni
- 40. Red-legged Partridge - Alectoris rufa
- 41. Common Pheasant - Phasianus colchicus
- 42. Common Coot - Fulica atra
- 43. Common Moorhen - Gallinula chloropus
- 44. Black-winged Stilt - Himantopus himantopus
- 45. Common Ringed Plover - Charadrius hiaticula
- 46. Little Ringed Plover - Charadrius dubius
- 47. Kentish Plover - Charadrius alexandrinus
- 48. Ruddy Turnstone - Arenaria interpres
- 49. Dunlin - Calidris alpina
- 50. Curlew Sandpiper - Calidris ferruginea
- 51. Sanderling - Calidris alba
- 52. Common Greenshank - Tringa nebularia
- 53. Common Sandpiper - Actitis hypoleucos
- 54. Green Sandpiper - Tringa ochropus
- 55. Whimbrel - Numenius phaeopus
- 56. Bar-tailed Godwit - Limosa lapponica
- 57. Black-headed Gull - Larus ridibundus
- 58. Mediterranean Gull - Larus melanocephalus
- 59. Yellow-legged Gull - Larus michahellis
- 60. Lesser Black-backed Gull - Larus fuscus
- 61. Audouin's Gull - Larus audouinii
- 62. Sandwich Tern - Sterna sandvicensis
- 63. Common Tern - Sterna hirundo
- 64. Little Tern - Sterna albifrons
- 65. Black Tern - Chlidonias niger
- 66. Feral Pigeon - Columba livia feral
- 67. Common Wood Pigeon - Columba palumbus
- 68. Eurasian Collared Dove - Streptopelia decaocto
- 69. European Turtle Dove - Streptopelia turtur
- 70. Monk Parakeet - Myiopsitta monachus
- 71. Eurasian Eagle Owl - Bubo bubo
- 72. Little Owl - Athene noctua
- 73. Tawny Owl - Strix aluco
- 74. Common Swift - Apus apus
- 75. Pallid Swift - Apus pallidus
- 76. Little Swift - Apus affinis
- 77. Alpine Swift - Apus melba
- 78. Common Kingfisher - Alcedo atthis
- 79. European Bee-eater - Merops apiaster
- 80. Hoopoe - Upupa epops
- 81. Great Spotted Woodpecker - Dendrocopos major
- 82. Green Woodpecker - Picus viridis sharpei
- 83. Calandra Lark - Melanocorypha calandra
- 84. Woodlark - Lullula arborea
- 85. Crested Lark - Galerida cristata
- 86. Thekla Lark - Galerida theklae
- 87. Greater Short-toed Lark - Calandrella brachydactyla
- 88. Eurasian Crag Martin - Hirundo rupestris
- 89. Barn Swallow - Hirundo rustica
- 90. Red-rumped Swallow - Hirundo daurica
- 91. Northern House Martin - Delichon urbica
- 92. Sand Martin - Riparia riparia
- 93. Tawny Pipit - Anthus campestris
- 94. White Wagtail - Motacilla alba alba
- 95. Yellow Wagtail - Motacilla flava
- 96. Grey Wagtail - Motacilla cinerea
- 97. Woodchat Shrike - Lanius senator
- 98. Southern Grey Shrike - Lanius meridionalis
- 99. Eurasian Reed Warbler - Acrocephalus scirpaceus
- 100. Zitting Cisticola - Cisticola juncidis
- 101. Cetti's Warbler - Cettia cetti
- 102. Melodious Warbler - Hippolais polyglotta
- 103. Blackcap - Sylvia atricapilla
- 104. Sardinian Warbler - Sylvia melanocephala
- 105. Western Bonelli's Warbler - Phylloscopus bonelli
- 106. Willow Warbler - Phylloscopus trochilus
- 107. Iberian Chiffchaff - Phylloscopus ibericus
- 108. Firecrest - Regulus ignicapillus
- 109. European Pied Flycatcher - Ficedula hypoleuca
- 110. Spotted Flycatcher - Muscicapa striata
- 111. Whinchat - Saxicola rubetra
- 112. Common Stonechat - Saxicola rubicola
- 113. Blue Rock Thrush - Monticola solitarius
- 114. Northern Wheatear - Oenanthe oenanthe
- 115. Black-eared Wheatear - Oenanthe hispanica
- 116. European Robin - Erithacus rubecula
- 117. Mistle Thrush - Turdus viscivorus
- 118. Blackbird - Turdus merula
- 119. Long-tailed Tit - Aegithalos caudatus
- 120. Crested Tit - Parus cristatus
- 121. European Blue Tit - Parus caeruleus
- 122. Great Tit - Parus major
- 123. Eurasian Nuthatch - Sitta europaea caesia
- 124. Short-toed Treecreeper - Certhia brachydactyla
- 125. Winter Wren - Troglodytes troglodytes
- 126. Eurasian Jay - Garrulus glandarius
- 127. Eurasian Magpie - Pica pica
- 128. Azure-winged Magpie - Cyanopica cyana
- 129. Northern Raven - Corvus corax
- 130. Eurasian Jackdaw - Corvus monedula
- 131. Red-billed Chough - Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax
- 132. House Sparrow - Passer domesticus
- 133. Spanish Sparrow - Passer hispaniolensis
- 134. Spotless Starling - Sturnus unicolor
- 135. Chaffinch - Fringilla coelebs
- 136. European Goldfinch - Carduelis carduelis
- 137. European Greenfinch - Carduelis chloris
- 138. Eurasian Linnet - Carduelis cannabina
- 139. Hawfinch - Coccothraustes coccothraustes
- 140. Rock Sparrow - Petronia petronia
- 141. Corn Bunting - Miliaria calandra
- 142. Cirl Bunting - Emberiza cirlus
- 143. Rock Bunting - Emberiza cia
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