Terrific Tarifa

This is my last birding blog before the ‘Big Ride’ and is another extract from my back catalogue. This time some pictures from a couple of recent GPOG long weekends to Tarifa, at the extreme southern tip of Spain. Any time between late August and early October can be good for migration but if you are going to ‘max out’ on the raptors you need a period of rain or over-cast weather, followed by fine conditions and light southerlies. We’ve been lucky enough to encounter such conditions on a couple of occasions over the last few autumns.

Getting there is easy – we fly to Jerez from Stansted, hire a car/bus and stay at one of a number of good hotel/hostels in the town of Tarifa – it’s a journey of about one and a half hours. The ‘old town’ is excellent for eating out with plenty of cafes and restaurants in the many side streets and picturesque squares.  On the days when there’s no serious raptor passage you can amuse yourself by visiting a number of excellent birding sites within a 100k radius. Here is a taste of what the region has to offer.

A typical ‘cloud’ of raptors over one of the watch-points north of the town. Mostly Booted Eagle with a few Honey Buzzard, Sparrow Hawk and Black Kite mixed in.

Booted Eagle, three pale and one dark phase

Booted Eagle, dark phase


Honey Buzzard

Red Kite with Booted Eagle, pale phase

a low ‘pass’ by an adult Short-toed Eagle

Amongst the commoner species there is the occasional surprise

This Bonelli’s Eagle was a welcome addition to the ‘trip list’ in 2011.

But the real prize at Tarifa, over the past decade, has been the appearance of Ruppell’s (Griffon) Vulture – a sub-Saharan species which occurs in one’s and two’s amongst Griffon Vulture flocks from August through the autumn

Ruppell’s Vulture are never easy to pick out amongst the large numbers (<500) of Griffon Vultures which can gather along the coast at this time, but their overall size – about 20% smaller, chocolate brown colouration, with a prominent white bar along the leading edge of the under wing and seven visible primaries means that the identification can, eventually, be confirmed with confidence!

A few of the lads enjoying a ‘lifer’ moment!

The nearby wetlands of La Handa can also produce some excellent birding, both migrants and post-breeders

Black-shouldered Kite, breed in small numbers in the area


Purple Heron

Glossy Ibis, and

European Bee-Eater.

Along the coast, towards Cadiz there are a number of sites for two rare Swifts – Little and White-rumped

This Little Swift was one of a small number breeding in the fishing resort of Chipiona. Meanwhile there is always plenty of local interest on the reserve at Tarifa beach

This flock of Calandra Lark appear to be a regular autumn feature

Kingfisher are regular along the coast in autumn and winter

and small flocks of Audouin’s Gull are guaranteed.

Depending on the timing of your return flight, you can explore the lower reaches of the Guadalquivir – head for the village of Bonanza, the salt works, woods and river levees all provide excellent birding with White-headed and Marbled Duck, Azure-winged Magpie and Red-necked Nightjar being the target species along with a whole host of waders. Or alternatively you can try the reserve at Laguna Medina for marsh terns, Purple Swamphen, the aforementioned ducks and just possibly Red-knobbed Coot. Here are a few pictures taken at these sites over recent years.

Greater Flamingo, regular at Medina and in large numbers at Bonanza. We have had a Lesser Flamingo at the latter site on one occasion.

Purple Swampen – look in the reeds in front of the hide or from the approach track, Penduline Tits also breed in this locality.

Whiskered Tern. All three marsh terns occur on passage at Medina.

White-headed Duck – can be seen at Medina or the small lagoon at the entrance to the woods at Bonanza, but numbers vary significantly.

To conclude, a nice shot of Black-tailed Godwits at the salt pans. A little reminder of home (Nene Washes) and abroad!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this brief resume of the delights of a Tarifa autumn.

Please do visit our e-giving web site and show support for our upcoming ‘Big Ride’

This entry was posted in Birding.

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