Tour At A Glance





Single Room Supplement:


Tour Code:

Intermediate with one late finish. Easy walking

Group Size:

Seven plus leaders

Melodious Warbler Collared Pratincole Marsh Owl Little Swift Glossy Ibis Long-finned Pilot Whale House Bunting Red-rumped Swallow

Straits of Gibraltar - Spain & Morocco - Spring Migration

Date: 16th - 21st April 2019 - SPACES
Leaders: Javier Elorriaga & Oriole Birding Leader [if numbers dictate]



The tour meets at Luton Airport for the morning flight to Malaga. Upon arrival, we will be met by our guide Javier who will transfer us the 2hr journey west to Tarifa. First we will call at an excellent wetland area near the airport where we should be able to hit the ground running and connect with all the typical Mediterranean birds such as European Bee-eater, Eurasian Hoopoe, Zitting Cisticola, Red-rumped Swallow, Sardinian Warbler and European Serin. The globally threatened White-headed Duck could even be seen here and flocks of Collared Pratincole often pass through the reserve. The journey west to Tarifa will be relatively uneventful, though we will see our first European Griffon Vultures and Short-toed Eagles along the motorway. We aim to reach our hotel about 1800, allowing time for check in before taking a walk into the old town to look at the nesting Lesser Kestrels, which are a real delight. Overnight Huerta Grande Hotel.
After breakfast, we will head for the excellent coastline near Tarifa. Here a network of small fields backing onto the dunes and beach are great for open ground migrants such as wheatears, pipits, larks and wagtails. Pallid Swifts will be arriving overhead and the first raptors of the day should be appearing – this area is very good for Lesser Kestrels and thermalling Short-toed and Booted Eagles. Large flocks of Black Kites and White Storks, often numbering several hundred, often start to arrive late morning. The intertidal area is served by a well placed hide, and from here we can see Audouin’s Gull amongst the assembled Yellow-legged and Mediterranean. Kentish Plover will number among the commoner waders and all the time fresh overhead arrivals such as flocks of European Bee-eaters and Collared Pratincoles will keep us on our toes. After lunch, we visit the superb network of ricefields at La Jande where a combination of slowly driving around the best areas, stopping and scanning with scopes will give us good views of a range of waterbirds. Cattle, Little and Great White Egrets, Black-crowned Night Heron, Squacco Heron, Eurasian Spoonbill and Glossy Ibis are all easily seen, with breeding colonies in the bushes involving many or all of these species. The constant backdrop of calling Black-winged Stilts is often punctuated by the calls of small groups of Common, Green and Wood Sandpipers on migration, while Gull-billed Terns patrol the edges of the pans and surrounding fields. Purple Swamp-Hens stalk the drainage channels and Black-shouldered Kite should be relatively easily seen. Beyond the pans, an area of open country is great for thermalling raptors and during the warmest part of the afternoon we can relax and scan the skies – species such as Montagu’s Harrier, Osprey and Egyptian Vulture can often be picked out from the kites and storks. Overnight Huerta Grande Hotel.
Starting in the hills beyond Tarifa - which itself supports a thriving and photogenic colony of Lesser Kestrels – we will spend some time looking for Black Wheatear and European Eagle Owl at a spot Javier knows for these species. We should keep an eye out for Woodchat Shrikes and Western Subalpine Warblers in the scrub and overhead for visible migration. The beautiful watchpoint at Sierra de la Plata is great for seeing Egyptian Vulture at close quarters and perhaps Blue Rock Thrush and Black-eared Wheatear, while the Green Woodpeckers here are of the distinctive race sharpei. We also hope to spend about half a day raptor watching at one of the watchpoints near Tarifa, depending on the wind direction. There are several well placed vantage points often occupied by other birders from around Europe as well as local experts, scanning the skies for flocks of arriving raptors. This is an excellent experience, and a relaxing one too! The final stop today will be to the West of Tarifa as we visit the newly established breeding colony of the Northern Bald Ibis. Extinct in Europe, and possibly now also in Syria and Turkey, the Moroccan breeding population is the only remnant of this globally threatened species. Here in Spain, a reintroduction scheme hoped to establish a small breeding population on cliffs near the original release site. The birds shirked this, and established their own breeding colony some distance away at La Barca de Vejer where they nest low down on cliffs right beside a road [and rather conveniently, a cafe!]. The birds sometimes even come down to collect nest material from the car park, affording tremendous views, It is hoped that these birds could provide a lifeline for a full scale recolonistaion, so they are well worth seeing even though they are colour ringed. Common Nightingale and Cetti’s Warbler sing from the river scrub here, and we should also watch for flocks of raptors overhead. Returning to Tarifa, we enjoy a meal in the main square before boarding the 2100 ferry to Tangier. Due to the time difference, we actually arrive in Tangier at 2000, allowing time for check in and an early night ahead of a busy day tomorrow!
We take an early breakfast at our hotel and then begin the three hour drive south along the motorway to Merja Zerga, one of the best known birding locations in Morocco. After a coffee and toilet stop at Kenitra, we reach Lac Sidi Bourghaba where we spend the rest of the morning birding. This is a great place for ducks, and from the causeway we should get excellent views of the rare White-headed Duck, as well as plenty of Red Crested Pochards and Ferruginous Ducks. Marbled Teal is also present, completing an impressive range of rare waterbirds which also includes Red-knobbed Coot. In the surrounding Eucalyptus we should be able to find the distinctive races [or species?] of African Chaffinch and African Blue Tit and best of all the superb Moroccan Magpie. After a picnic lunch in the shade overlooking the lake, we head off for Merja Zerga. Our guide Hassan is renowned the world over for taking birders to see the Slender-billed Curlews which wintered here regularly in small numbers up until the late nineties. This bird is now almost certainly extinct, but this amazing place is still well worth a visit! It can get very hot here, but after a quick coffee stop we will board a boat and head up the river mouth and into the estuary. We can navigate around sand bars to closely inspect roosting gulls [Slender-billed, Mediterranean and Audouin’s all occur] and terns [Caspian Terns often fly right alongside us!] and we can moor on small exposed islands to scan the mud for waders. On our 2013 fact finding trip we saw 500 Grey Plover, 300 Pied Avocet, 400 Common Greenshank and 50 Spotted Redshank feeding here! Many other species occur in smaller numbers too, and a variety of herons can be seen including the rare Western Reef Egret. As dusk approaches, we will walk out to a vantage point to watch for emerging Marsh Owls from their daytime roost. The species is in decline and disturbance is a big problem, so we will need good fortune to connect. The scrub can be alive with passerine migranst such as Common Redstart, Whinchat, Pied Flycatcher and Garden Warbler, while we should also see Little Owl and Black-crowned Night Herons emerging to feed. From here it is only a short drive to Larache where we will have a late dinner in the main square about 2200. Overnight Larache.
We will have coffee and a light breakfast in the main square in Larache this morning, and hopefully we may get good views of another two Western Palearctic rarities – House Bunting and Little Swift. The numbers of Pallid Swifts nesting here have to be seen to be believed, but a small colony of Little Swift nests outside the coffee shop! Oued Loukkos will be our main destination for the morning, a quite remarkable wetland area which is sadly threatened by a proposed railway line which will destroy much of the habitat. Not only does this site host an overwintering population of the globally threatened Aquatic Warbler [these have left by the time we visit] but it also hosts a non-migratory undescribed subspecies of Reed Warbler which could yet prove to be a new species! Huge numbers of egrets and herons include Western Reef Egret and scores of Squacco Heron, Glossy Ibis and Eurasian Spoonbill. Purple Heron, Purple Swamp-Hen, Savi’s Warbler, Wood Sandpiper, Collared Pratincole, Gull-billed Tern, Montagu’s Harrier, Black and Caspian Terns, Little Stint, Curlew Sandpiper and Stone Curlew are just some of the species we could expect to see here. Heading North, we will visit the beautiful coastal village of Assilah and have lunch at a local restaurant, and then make the 1hr drive north back to Tangier, from where we will catch the 1830 ferry back to Tarifa arriving at 2030. Dinner will be a snack on the ferry, as we will have had a big lunch. Overnight Tarifa.
This morning we will take a boat trip out into the Straits of Gibraltar from Tarifa in search of cetaceans and seabirds. Common, Bottle-nosed and Striped Dolphins, Fin, Pilot and Sperm Whales are all possible in the strait, with a really good chance of seeing at least some of these species at close quarters. Of course, while at sea, we’ll be keeping an eye out for seabirds too and we may see Cory’s/Scopoli’s Shearwaters, Balearic Shearwater and possibly also terns, skuas and auks. Once back on dry land we will make the 2.5hr transfer back to Malaga where we catch an afternoon flight back to the UK.


Additional Information


Five nights accommodation, all meals from dinner on day one to lunch on day six, return flights Luton/Malaga, guidance and transport in Spain and Morocco, return ferry crossing Tarifa/Tangier and whale watching trip on day six. 
Transport to/from Luton and any overnight stay that may be required, travel insurance, drinks and any items of a purely personal nature. 
Visas are not required by UK nationals. Passports must have 6 months validity beyond the return travel date. Standard health and innoculation requirements apply for UK nationals, visit to check these and if necessary, download a free health brief to take to a travel appointment at your local medical practice. 


Tour Reports


2014    2016   2017




" A great trip. Excellent leaders, good company and a nice sized group. It sounded excellent from the write up and you fully delivered - we enjoyed the holiday very much! " C & A P Bologna, Italy


" Dear Ashley & Neil - hi there, just to say how much we loved this trip and Javier, TOP MAN and fantastic to be with!!" VR & JL Hertfordshire


" The holiday was a great experience. Nothing was lacking from the pre-tour information, which was very well prepared and enhanced our understanding of the area. Javi could not be beaten as a tour leader; he knew exactly where to locate each species and when to visit each site based on weather condiditon and timing for migrants. His courtesy and consideration of our every need was amazing and the accommodations were first rate " J. A. Arizona, USA