Tarifa Trip – Les Daubney

posted in: Birders Reports | 0

Days with the CBBC are always a mixture of good company, good food and good birding. This trip to Tarifa had all three in abundance. Meeting at Hotel Meson de Sancho for an evening meal with the whole group, we were presented with an impressive list of choices for our three course dinner and were warned by the first group that the portions were generous. This was good advice, but the quality of the food was excellent.

The next morning the early risers discovered that the birding in the hotel grounds was pretty good, with a range of Flycatchers, Warblers and Goldcrests easily found. Over breakfast on the Terrace, we were able to see the first of the days raptors approaching their crossing point.

Our first sight of the morning was El Cabrito, high up amongst the wind turbines on the birds approach to the straits. The weather was not kind as cloud descended and we found ourselves in a  heavy mist from which Griffon Vultures eerily appeared from and disappeared back into the mist. It was apparent that if we were going to see any birds we needed to move below the cloud and so descended to Cazalla, where there were already a number of other birders with scopes and binoculars trained on the hills and skies to spot approaching migrants looking to cross the straits. With so many eyes, it was unlikely we would miss anything and were soon treated to the sight of a large number of Egyptian Vultures, both adults and juveniles, looking to gain height to make their crossing. Over the next hour or so, the vultures were joined by Booted and Short-toed Eagles, Sparrowhawks and Honey Buzzards.

Following another hearty dinner and extensive breakfast we followed the same itinerary on our second morning. As the cloud again descended, so did the birds at El Cabrito, so were treated to excellent views of a Short-toed Eagle sat on a rock patiently waiting for conditions to improve. This morning at Cazalla, there were at least two large parties of 25+ Black Storks climbing steadily over Tarifa before making their crossing to Africa. Again with many sharp and knowledgable eyes scanning the skies we were made aware that amongst the Griffon Vultures there was one Ruppell’s Vulture. These African Vultures occasionally travel with the young Griffon Vultures as they return to Europe. Later a solitary Osprey was spotted, making a very determined and direct beeline for Africa.  Of course there were good number of Booted, Short-toed Eagles and Honey Buzzards making the crossing. At times there were hundreds of birds gaining height on the thermals from relatively low altitudes all the way up to the cloud base.

Watching soaring taptors and Storks on migration is one of the great spectacles of European birding but there are other sites worth visiting around Tarifa. Over our two days we visited La Janda, a low lying area that has been used for rice cultivation and is criss crossed with irrigation channels. Our evening visit produced a large number of White Storks which often drop in, feed up and spend the night before crossing the straits. We were also treated to good views of a Black-winged Kite, several Marsh Harriers and a solitary Female Montagu’s Harrier. Also worth a visit are the tidal pools along La Playa de los Lances, as these pools fill and empty with the tide, a good range of waders are pushed in and move out and, of course, migrating waders can turn up at any time. On our visit there were a good range of species amongst which were plenty of Plovers, Bar Tailed Godwits, a solitary Whimbrel and a single Kingfisher. On another day almost anything could drop in.

Had we had more than our two days in the area we know from our guide Peter, and from our own experience, that there are plenty of good birding sites in the area to make a trip down to Tarifa and the Straits well worth while. We hope this short piece gives you a flavour of great birding in the area and perhaps encorages you to make your own journey down there. This was our second visit to the area and we are sure it will not be our last.