Spain - bird migration in the Strait of Gibraltar - 14th - 18th September 2018

Published by Pau Lucio (info AT

Participants: Leader: Pau Lucio Guests: Simon H, Christine K. Melani G. and John L.


Photos with this report (click to enlarge)

Lesser crested Tern
Lesser crested Tern
Black Sork
Black Sork
Bald Ibis
Bald Ibis

Day 1. Málaga airport-Tarifa (Birding tour to the Strait of Gibraltar)

It is a beautiful morning in Málaga airport. Pau is waiting for the arriving of the group from Bristol airport.

After greetings, we set off towards the Strait of Gibraltar for birding in the most important migratory bottleneck in West Europe. As we are getting close to Tarifa, we see the Rock of Gibraltar on our side and the Djebel Musa on the African side. Our first stop is in route, in Palmones river mouth where a Lesser Crested Tern was spotted few days before. This vagrant is recorded every autumn in the region. It takes just few minutes to get this beautiful tern in the scope. It stands out in a mix group of Sandwich and Little Terns. Along the muddy shores, we see different waders: Dunlins, Sandernings, Redshanks and Kentish Plover. In addition, there are 4 different species of gulls, including Mediterranean Gulls, Audouin’s and Slender-billed Gulls. On the back of the main lagoon a group of Greater Flamingos rest along egrets and herons.

We continued our journey towards the accommodation to enjoy our first Spanish dinner.

Day 2. Western Doñana (Birding tour to the Strait of Gibraltar)

We have a long day planned and indeed it is! We have an early breakfast at the hotel and set off to the East part of Doñana Natural Park. The first stop of the day is for Bald Ibis, which a sighting of 24 birds feeding along Jackdaw. It is great to see how well they are doing after the reintroduction! After enjoying these weird-looking birds, we make a detour to see Stone Curlew in Barbate. We continue our journey stopping for the Little Swift, with a colony of about 20 pairs. Then, we get to a pond to see White-headed Ducks. While we have lunch in the surroundings of the pond, we get an Iberian Green Woodpecker flying over the woods. The rest of the day is spent in Bonanza saltpans. We scan the reeds in detail and we get good views of Western Purple Swamp-hen, Squacco Heron and Little Bittern. Regarding waterfowl, we find swimming around Red-crested Pochard and a Marbled Teal among others species.

On the saltpans, we see three different species of terns: Gull-billed, Black and Caspian Tern. Furthermore, there are both species of Godwits, Little Stints, Turnstone and other waders.
Finally, we make a stop in the surroundings for Lesser-short toed Lark. As we wait them to show up, we see flying over our first Osprey. It is time to hit the road back to the hotel after a long but a successful birding day in the Strait of Gibraltar.

Day 3. Viewpoints and forest (Birding tour to the Strait of Gibraltar)

In our third day of this exciting birding tour to the Strait of Gibraltar we start the day watching the migration from a viewpoint. During the morning we add Lesser Kestrel, numerous Sparrowhawks and Bee-eaters, which are one of the favorite birds. Then, suddenly the sky is covered by a flock of 120 Black Storks!!! What an amazing and unusual sighting!! As the wind speed up again, we set off to the forest west of Tarifa. Here, sheltered from the wind, there are numerous passerines waiting for the right conditions to migrate. A female Redstart moves from the busses to the Umbrella pines, and in the branches there are Garden Warblers and both flycatchers: Pied and Spotted. In a Pistacia bush there are different warblers feeding on berries which turn out to be Sardenian Warbler and Bonelli’s Warbler. After lunch, we drive towards la Janda, to look for new species. White Storks, Glossy Ibises and Egrets feed on the farmland. We continue driving along the track to find Tree and Spanish sparrows, Yellow wagtail and over 30 Turtle doves. We are very pleased to see so many Turtle Doves together, sadly an unusual sighting nowadays. The day finishes with a stunning pair of Spanish Imperial Eagle perched on a Pilon.

Day 4. Whale watching (Birding tour to the Strait of Gibraltar)

After breakfast we drive for few minutes to our first watchpoint. Winds play an important role in the migration, so depending of the wind direction we will choose a location. Soon, we watch our first raptors of the day: Booted Eagles, Black Kites, Short-toed Eagles and Honey Buzzard. The wind makes them fly a bit higher but the number of raptors is just amazing! We enjoy watching the interaction between birds. Raptors are mobbed by a Peregrine Falcon which ends up diving after a group of feral pigeons. Other interesting raptors include Egyptian Vultures, Bonelli’s Eagle and a Montagu’s Harrier. As the weather has improved today, we decide to take the boat trip hoping to add seabirds and whales. As we wait to jump on the boat, we get a group of Pallid Swifts flying around. Once we are few miles away from Tarifa, we get a single Storm Petrel. About half an hour later, we see a group of 6 Pilot whales swimming right besides us. A fantastic sight! Later, we see a group of Cory’s Shearwaters. We also see two species of dolphins: Common Dolphin and Bottlenose Dolphin

After lunch, we look for birds among the cork oak forest. Here we get Short-toed treecreeper, Crested Tit, Jay, Firecrest, Subalpine Warbler and other forest birds. On the way back we get two “extra” raptors, a fast flying Hobby and a Goshawk. Later we drive back to our accommodation.

Day 5 Tarifa-Málaga airport (Birding tour to the Strait of Gibraltar)

Today is our last day of the tour and we make the most of the few hours left before heading to Malaga airport. We go back to la Janda and this time we do get Black-shoulder Kite and few more waders: Common Snipe, Wood and Green Sandpiper.

All in all, it has been a successful birding trip with a great diversity of species, including good number of raptors. Thanks everyone for joining this trip.

We will repeat the same itinerary next Spring and Autumn, please visit our website and contact us for more information

Species Lists

1. Little Grebe
2. Cory's Shearwater
3. European Storm-Petrel
4. Northern Gannet
5. Great Cormorant
6. Little Bittern
7. Night Heron
8. Cattle Egret
9. Squacco Heron
10. Little Egret
11. Gray Heron
12. Black Stork
13. White Stork
14. Glossy Ibis
15. Northern Bald Ibis
16. Eurasian Spoonbill
17. Greater Flamingo
18. Gadwall
19. Mallard
20. Northern Shoveler
21. Marbled Duck
22. Red-crested Pochard
23. Common Pochard
24. White-headed Duck
25. Honey Buzzard
26. Black-shouldered Kite
27. Black Kite
28. Egyptian Vulture
29. European Griffon Vulture
30. Short-toed Eagle
31. Marsh Harrier
32. Montagu's Harrier
33. Northern Goshawk
34. Eurasian Sparrowhawk
35. Common Buzzard
36. Booted Eagle
37. Spanish Imperial Eagle
38. Bonelli's Eagle
39. Osprey
40. Lesser Kestrel
41. Common Kestrel
42. Hobby
43. Peregrine
44. Red-legged Partridge
45. Ring-necked Pheasant
46. Common Moorhen
47. Common Coot
48. Red-knobbed Coot
49. Purple Swamp-Hen
50. Eurasian Oystercatcher
51. Black-winged Stilt
52. Pied Avocet
53. Little Ringed Plover
54. Common Ringed Plover
55. Kentish Plover
56. Grey Plover
57. Sanderling
58. Little Stint
59. Temminck's Stint
60. Dunlin
61. Curlew Sandpiper
62. Ruff
63. Common Snipe
64. Black-tailed Godwit
65. Bar-tailed Godwit
66. Whimbrel
67. Common Redshank
68. Spotted Redshank
69. Common Greenshank
70. Common Sandpiper
71. Green Sandpiper
72. Wood Sandpiper
73. Ruddy Turnstone
74. Mediterranean Gull
75. Audouin's Gull
76. Black-headed Gull
77. Slender-billed Gull
78. Lesser Black-backed Gull
79. Yellow-legged Gull
80. Caspian Tern
81. Sandwich Tern
82. Lesser-Crested Tern
83. Little Tern
84. Whiskered Tern
85. Black Tern
86. Rock Pigeon (feral)
87. Woodpigeon
88. Collared-Dove
89. Turtle Dove
90. Red-necked Nightjar
91. Pallid Swift
92. Alpine Swift
93. Little Swift
94. Common Kingfisher
95. European Bee-eater
96. Eurasian Hoopoe
97. Iberian Green Woodpecker
98. Great Spotted Woodpecker
99. Monk Parakeet
100. Lesser-short-toed Lark
101. Short-toed Lark
102. Crested Lark
103. Sand Martin
104. House Martin
105. Barn Swallow
106. Red-rumped Swallow
107. Tawny Pipit
108. White Wagtail
109. Yellow Wagtail
110. Wren (heard)
111. European Robin
112. Common Redstart
113. Whinchat
114. Common Stonechat
115. Northern Wheatear
116. Blue Rock Thrush
117. Blackbird
118. Cetti’s Warbler (heard)
119. Zitting Cisticola
120. European Reed Warbler
121. Western Subalpine Warbler
122. Sardinian Warbler
123. Common Whitethroat
124. Garden Warbler
125. Blackcap
126. Willow Warbler
127. Bonelli’s Warbler
128. Firecrest
129. Spotted Flycatcher
130. Pied Flycatcher
131. Crested Tit
132. Blue Tit
133. Great Tit
134. Nuthatch
135. Short-toed Treecreeper
136. Iberian Shrike
137. Woodchat Shrike
138. Magpie
139. Jay
140. Jackdaw
141. Common Raven
142. Spotless Starling
143. House Sparrow
144. Tree Sparrow
145. Spanish Sparrow
146. Chaffinch
147. European Serin
148. European Greenfinch
149. European Goldfinch
150. Common Linnet
151. Corn Bunting


1. Common Dolphin
2. Bottlenose Dolphin
3. Long-finned Pilot-Whale
4. Sunfish
5. Iberian Bluetail
6. Lesser Emperor