English Field Notes

Tailor-made excursion to watch Orcas in the Strait of Gibraltar

July and August are the best months to see orcas in the Strait of Gibraltar, as they are associated with the migration of Tuna

Last weekend we organized a tailor-made trip to watch orcas with a group of ten people from the European Commission. We used an inflatable speedboat that allowed us to be faster while having a safe and fun navigation. On this occasion we were fortunate to count with Juanma Salazar as skipper, as he has a tremendous amount of experience navigating and looking for cetaceans all around the world, and his knowledge on the waters of the Strait of Gibraltar is extensive.

We planned the day and time to set sail from Tarifa, according to the best tides and wind. Although the conditions were good in the early afternoon, we waited a little bit more for the wind to drop so we could have the most enjoyable experience as possible. This ended up being a great decision as the wind and waves were minimal and the navigation proved to be comfortable… but adventurous at the same time!

Once we reached a good spot for the orcas, we reduced the speed and started looking for black fins on the surface. We saw a few shearwaters, including Scopoli’s Shearwater and Balearic shearwater, which is considered to be Critically Endangered by the IUCN, but no marine mammals for some time. Then, when we approached a whale-watching boat nearby, we saw them. First a few blows in the distance, then, the tips of the fins surfacing, and a few seconds later, a pod of five orcas that were heading west at 5 knots.


We followed them, along with other whale-watching boats, but at a distance, being very respectful with their behavior, and waiting for a chance to seeing them closer in case they happened to approach us. Suddenly, they broke the surface just a few meters behind us, Juanma stopped the engine, and they swiftly but gently moved closer, just a few meters from us, and two of them actually passing below our boat! It was one of those moments with wildlife when everyone present freezes and exclamates: “Wow!” or “Aaahh” or “Ooooooooh” with full delight.

We had very close observations!

We had really close views of this pod of Orcas!
We had really close views of this pod of Orcas!

Even though it’s difficult to predict how a trip like this is going to be, in the end we were very lucky and the decision making proved to be the best. The observations of the orcas were superb and everyone enjoyed an adventurous trip. Thanks to everyone who participated for being so friendly and cooperative!

The group after the arrival to the port. Everyone was happy!
The group after the arrival to the port. Everyone was happy!
English Field Notes

We will giving a talk during the #Birdfair – Saturday 22nd, 4PM See you at @TheBirdfair


Once again, we will be attending to the Birdfair in Rutland Water Nature Reserve, next August. We are specially happy this time as we will be giving a talk about the Strait of Gibraltar and the province of Cadiz as members of 14KM. We will be showing a selection of some of our best wildlife pictures taken in the province over the last years. In addition to the spectacluar raptor migration in the Strait of Gibraltar, the talk will focus on some other least know but equally outstanding natural wonders, including some of the rarest bird species of the continent, endemic dragonflies, orcas and sperm-whales, and some of the best and most varied landscapes from all the natural parks of the región. Our talk will take place at the Anglian Water Birdwatching Centre on Saturday 22nd at 4:00 PM. We would be happy to see you there!

The theme for this year’s edition of the Birdfair is #StopTheSlaughter in the Eastern Mediterranean, the goal being to reduce the impact of illegal killing of migratory birds, and to improve protection and laws throughout the region. This photography depicts a Turtle Dove, declared bird of the year by SEO Birdlife and one of the species that has decreased enormously over the last decades due to uncontrolled hunting during their migration and wintering grounds, and because of changes on agricultural practices. The Strait of Gibraltar still holds an important number of this species and they can be seen both when migrating and during the breeding season.

English Field Notes

Birding in Tarifa and the Strait of Gibraltar in June

In June, when the bulk of the spring raptor migration is coming to its end, the birding opportunities around Tarifa, far from decreasing, are excellent. This time, hundreds of Griffons return to Spain after their quest in Africa. Among them, Rüppell’s Vultures arrive. Indeed, this week four of them have been observed at a carcass in the Moroccan side, just ready to cross to Europe.

The sea is full of life, including the Sperm Whales that visit the area in June looking for squid. The passage of Balearic Shearwater peaks in early June. Nonetheless, the counts carried out from Tarifa in previous years has unveiled that the global population of these endangered species is significantly larger than previously estimated.

The famous Bulbuls from Tarifa, the only known pair in the continent, have bred for the third year in a row and the noisy family group is well visible around. Besides, the reintroduced breeding colony of Northern Bald Ibis is full of live. The first chicks of 2015 have already fledged and a new (third) breeding area is being consolidated.

This week has turned out to be excellent for finding Long-legged Buzzards, with no less than 3 different adults in the area, some of them are “Gibraltar Buzzard” types, while others show apparently pure cirtensis phenotype. Will they breed here again? Besides, we are having plenty of fun seeking for dragonflies. Many of the most interesting species of the continent are now on the wing, including: Western Spectre, Pronged Clubtail, Green Hooktail, Orange-spotted Emerald and Splendid Cruiser.

All this and a lot more birding in Tarifa in June!

English Field Notes

Lesser Crested Tern in Merja Zerga (Morocco), May2015.

This weekend, in our visit to the wetlands of Northern Morocco, we had the chance to observe up to 9 Lesser Crested Terns during a boat trip in Merja Zerga.

The Lesser Crested Tern breeds in subtropical coastal parts of the world, mainly from the Red Sea across the Indian Ocean to the western Pacific and Australia, with a single population in the Mediterranean, on two islands off the coast of Libya (Thalasseus bengalensis emigratus).

One of the observed individuals had a white PVC ring evidencing its Libyan origin. This Mediterranean endemic taxa overwinters in the Atlantic coast of North Africa and the Strait of Gibraltar is a regular stopover with most records concentrated in Ceuta and Tarifa, both in spring and autumn. The following link provides a report on the Lesser Crested Tern Libyan ringing scheme, including the picture of a Libyan LC Tern in Tarifa by Yeray Seminario:…

English Field Notes

Seawatching in Tarifa -Isla de las Palomas.

Sperm-whale in Tarifa - Photo by Javi Elorriaga/Birding the Strait.
Sperm-whale in the Strait of Gibraltar.

Isla de las Palomas

Over the last week we have run two guided visits for seawatching in Tarifa. These included the visit to the “Isla de Las Palomas” in Tarifa, the southernmost tip of the continent. Here the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean meet.
The seabirds obervatory at Isla de las Palomas is the best spot to observe seabirds in the Strait of Gibraltar and southern Spain.
The access to this (kinf of) isthmus is restricted and requires specific auhtorization.
In our recent visits we have managed to meet all our targets. These included  Cory’s Shearwater, Balearic Sheawaters, Atlantic Gannets, Great Skuas. Moreover, we have observed a Marsh Harrier on active migration at water level.
Balearic Shearwaters in Tarifa - Photo by Javi Elorriaga / Birding The Strait
The Island of Tarifa is an extraordinary spot to observe the endangered Balearic Shearwater.

Seawatching in Tarifa

Late May and June is the best period to observe Balearic Shearwaters in the Stait of Gibraltar. In turn, late October and November offer the largest variety of species. 
In Birding The Strait we have a permanent authorization to access the Isla de las Palomas. Remarkabely, we often combine these visits with whalewatching boat trips off Tarifa. Sperm Whales are one of the most fascinating cetaceans to be observed!
Contact us if you want to live the experience!

English Field Notes

Birding tour in the southern coast of Morocco

Northern Bald Ibis feeding near Tamri, Morocco. Photography by Javi Elorriaga, Birding The Strait.
Northern Bald Ibis feeding near Tamri, Morocco.

We have spent two rewarding weeks birding in the southern coast of Morocco, including Oualidia, Esaouira, Tamri, Anza-Agadir, Souss-Massa, Goulimine, El Ouatia, Lower Draa, Oued Chebika and the Khiniffis Lagoon in the Atlantic Sahara. The trip has been specially designed to search for overwintering colour ringed gulls and resulted in 660 readings.

In addition, we have spent time observing and photographing the avian specialities of the region. Several close encounters with foraging flocks of Northern Bald Ibises totalling over 100 individuals has been one of the highlights, indeed this is one of the rarest species on earth! The one in the picture showed a special predilection for spiders.

Other great observations have involved 6 Greater Black-backed Gulls in the still poorly explored Khniffis Lagoon, the sneaky Streaked Scrub Warbler, a fierce Glaucous Gull in Esaouira, the display behaviour of Marbled Teals, many Desert and Red-rumped Wheatears, and the loud duet song of the Black-crowned Tchagra. The dramatic landscape in the Saharan oued Chebeika, Ouma Fatma and El Ouaar deserve special mention too.

We are especially grateful to Juan Jose Ramos Melo / Birding Canarias, Rachid El Khamlichi and Mohamed Amezian / Moroccan Birds, and Go-south web for sharing their knowledge on this amazing region.

Further details and pictures will be available soon in our Facebook page and website.

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