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Full Tour description
Day 1 -3 El Rocío, in the heart of Coto Doñana
We start at the wetlands of the Coto Donaña national park, based at our hotel close to the National Park.
The Doñana National Park, covers almost half a million acres and is one of the most important wetlands in Europe and is home to an abundance of wildlife, in particular resident and migratory birds. Rare birds such as Spanish Imperial Eagle, Pin-tailed Sandgrouse, Glossy Ibis, Eurasian Spoonbill
and Purple Gallinule
are among some of the species we are hoping to watch.
The diversity of the park allows us to select different habitats where there is normally a large selection of species to see. If winter and early spring rainfall has taken the lagoons, marismas and various ponds and lakes to higher water levels, then we are in for a treat! We would then be in a better position to see such wonderful birds as Black-eared Wheatear, Short-toed and Lesser Short-toed Larks, Red-rumped Swallow, Woodchat Shrike and Azure-winged Magpie, Red-crested Pochard, Marbled Duck, Griffon Vulture, Booted Eagle, Short-toed Eagle, Red and Black Kite, Dartford, Cetti's,
and Sardinian Warblers, Bee-eater and Spotless Starling
. Later we will have time to explore several different areas inside the vast park to look for Spoonbill, Black Stork, Squacco Heron, Night heron, Purple Swamp-hen
and Glossy Ibis
, as well as Greater Flamingo, Avocet, Spotted Crake
and Little Egret.
Other beautiful birds are present such as the very rare Spanish Imperial Eagle and Golden Eagle. Black shouldered Kite too seems to be making a stronghold here in Europe and we have chances of spotting this rare bird as well as possibilities of sightings along The Strait of Gibraltar
Days 4 - 6 El Palomar de la Breña (above Barbate)
After a transfer from Huelva province, we head over to visit Andalucia's other gems in Cadiz province.
Passing the Lagunas of Comisario and Taraje near Jerez de la Frontera we stop off to see what’s present. Marbled
and White-headed duck, Black-necked, Little
and Great-crested Grebe
as well as Greater Flamingo, Black Kite, Marsh Harrier
and Purple Swamphen
can be seen.
At the little known Laguna del Comisario, Bonelli's Eagle
and Red Kite
regularly winter in this most peaceful and diverse birding site.
Our base for the next four days will be in heart of the massive pine forest, that stretches along the cliffs from Barbate to Los Caños de Meca. Here, deep in amongst the Umbrella Pines, lies what was once the largest dovecot in the world, and a 18th century gem in the heart of coastal Cadiz province. Tucked away from the sight of passing pirates, this pigeon-house was first and foremost a gunpowder factory. The "black gold" was produced from the guano of over 17,000 terra cotta nesting "pots" embedded in the numerous walls of the old dovecot. Charcoal burners in the once endemic forest that contained wild-olive, pine and cork-oak produced the second ingredient for gunpowder and sulphur was imported. Fresh meat and eggs were also a secondary consideration in the dovecot and the enterprise contributed to sailing ships food stores bound for the America's. Remaining guano was washed down on top of straw, collected onto carts and spread on the local fields as manure. Nothing was wasted. Barn Owls
now inhabit the old dovecot, which can be seen at the rear of the hotel - with not a domestic pigeon daring to enter the once bustling farm.
This peaceful hotel is the perfect base for the next few days birding and a great place to take our noncompulsory pre-breakfast walks!
From here we’ll explore the beautiful Ojen Valley and surrounding valleys and sierras of the picturesque Alcornocales National park, looking for Short-toed Eagle, Booted as well as Spanish Imperial Eagles. Rock Bunting, Bee-eater, Serin, Red-rumped Swallow, W. Orphean Warbler Black-eared Wheatear and Bee-eater can also be seen. There are also Common Buzzard, Goshawk and Hobby. Other species here include Hawfinch, Black-eared Wheatear. Blue Rock Thrush, Short-toed Treecreeper and Great-spotted Cuckoo.
La Janda was once one of the largest natural freshwater marshlands and lakes in Europe, but has been drained and given over to rice, cotton maize and sunflower fields. Nevertheless the area still attracts huge numbers of resident and migrants alike. Here we can expect to see Purple, Grey
and Night Heron, Cattle
and Little Egret, Crested
and Calandra Lark, Reed Warbler, Montagu’s
and Marsh Harrier, White Stork
and Black Stork
. There is also a large breeding colony of Collared Pratincole that nest near Black-winged Stilt, Green Sandpiper, Yellow Wagtail. Little Owl
are usually present with a chance to see Barn
and Short Eared Owl
too. Earlier in the year there is still the chance to see Little Bustard and Common Crane which over winter.
The lagoons and marismas and military areas of Barbate often reveal Caspian, Sandwich, Black and Little Tern, Great White Egret, Eurasian Spoonbill, Mediterranean and Audouin’s Gull and often a Slender-billed Gull too! Ringed, Little Ringed and Kentish Plover can be seen there with Calandra, Thekla and Short-toed Larks all breed on the drier slopes, while a colony of Collared Pratincoles dance in the air and Black-eared Wheatear, Subalpine Warblers and the well camouflaged Stone Curlew keep watch.
We will do a beach walk along Playa de los Lances near to the town of Tarifa. This is where the Rio Jara flows out on its last leg from the Alcornocales to the Atlantic. We can see almost anything here as the changing weather dictates what stays here for a few days or flies over, westwards or northwards. Caspian Terns
can often be found sitting on sandbars amongst Audouin’s, Mediterranean, Slender-billed. Lesser black-Backed
and Yellow-legged Gull. Grey Plover, Ringed Plover, Little ringed
and Kentish Plover
can be found here too.
Travelling from Tarifa to Barbate we can watch incoming Raptors, Bee-eaters and other passerines crossing the Strait of Gibraltar to the European mainland. No trip would be complete without a visit or two to the Miradors over the Strait of Gibraltar to watch incoming flights of Griffon and Egyptian Vulture, Red and Black Kite and Booted Eagle. Another great viewing point is directly below on the coast at Guadalmesi opposite Morocco. This gives us flexibility to change our viewing positions according to the weather in the Strait.
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