Last Saturday 12th of June we run a new excursion for pelagic birding in Tarifa. This time, our main target was to observe and photograph shearwaters off the Strait of Gibraltar. At 7:30 AM we set sail from the port of Tarifa with very calm sea. Just 10 minutes later we came across a large raft of Cory’s Shearwater. A few Balearic Shearwaters were present too. To the delight of the group, the presence of both species was constant for the next hour and a half.
Ship ahoy! Summer is coming and our Boat Trips to observe and photograph seabirds too!
As you know, this spring we have organized several boat trips to enjoy the Puffin migration in the Strait of Gibraltar. Observing Puffins at close range in breeding plumage (and bill!) in the Iberian Peninsula has been an innovative and great experience. Next year we will be back with Puffin The Strait!
One more year, Birding The Strait has participated in the Global Big Day in Andalucia. This time, we planned a route in the province of Cadiz, from Doñana to the Strait of Gibraltar. We decided to skip the Grazalema mountains in order to reduce the mileage and increase the effective birding time. All in all, it proved to be a most enjoyable day of birding. Moreover, we established a new record of species for the Global Big Day in Andalucia.
Nature conservation in Andalucia is one of our main concerns at Birding The Strait. On this link to our website, you will find more information about the conservation projects we enthusiastically collaborate with.
Given the Covid pandemic, we have not been able to fullfill our scheduled programme of wildlife tours in 2020. This, in turn, has allowed us to increase our participation in different projects for nature conservation in Andalucia. Certainly, this has been a rewarding experience. We can say we are not letting the grass grow under our feet!
As some of you know, October Big Day 2020 is coming! It will be on 17 October 2020 and we have a plan to make the most out of it. This is an initiative of Cornell Lab of Ornithology which basically consists on uploading as many bird lists to eBird as possible in 24 hours. All the data that is collected is of great use for birders, conservationists and scientists to better understand and protect birds.
This year’s October Big Day 2020 is happening during the first Global Bird Weekend. The goal of Global Bird Weekend is to support BirdLife International’s project to end illegal bird trade. We will also participating in the Global bird Weekend and you can sign up too, either as an individual or a team.
We are big supporters of eBird and all related initiatives such as the Global Big day, in which we have participated since 2013.. In fact, we started collaborating with Cornell and conformed the first team of reviewers in Spain. One of our first tasks was translating the list of birds in Spain, so Spanish users would find the platform attractive and useful. Since then, we have partnered with other organisations and built a large team of reviewers to make eBird España a great eBird portal. Thanks to these collaborative efforts, currently Spain occupies the fifth position in the ranking of countries with more lists uploaded to eBird. A great accomplishment thanks to more than 11.000 observers in the country!
Birding The Strait’s October Big Day 2020: Two Teams in two continents
As in previous editions of the Global Big Day and the October Big Day, both Birding The Strait and Whitehawk Birding and Conservation will be participating. Our colleagues on the other side of the Atlantic will be birding in Panama, one of the best birding destinations of the world, being on the top 20 with the largest number of bird species.
As for the Spanish team, we will be birding in the province of Cadiz, one of the best birding regions in Spain. Indeed, Cadiz has the second largest list of bird species in Spain, according to eBird data. However, we will also separate in two groups: one will cover the sea, and the other will cover land.
Birding Team 1: a pelagic trip to enjoy seabirds
On this very special day we have programmed a Pelagic off Chipiona. For the fifth time this season, Javi will be taking a group of adventurous seawatchers to find as many species of seabirds as possible in the Gulf of Cadiz. We will follow the eBird Pelagic Protocol, to make sure that our observations are valuable to the knowledge and conservation of seabirds. If weather conditions are favorable, we expect to see good numbers of Balearic, Cory’s and Scopoli’s Shearwaters, along with Great, Arctic and Pomarine Skuas (or Parasitic and Pomarine Jaegers for our American friends!). Who knows, we might even add the scarce Sabine’s Gull for the province during the October Big Day.
Birding Team 2: a productive and mindful approach
On the other hand, Yeray and a group of fellow local birders will be hitting some of the best birding hotspots in the province. We have designed the shortest route between these productive sites, to get the maximum number of species of birds as possible in one day, while driving the shortest distance and cutting global warming emissions. Luckily, some of the best locations are very close to Tarifa, our hometown: La Janda, the Barbate marshes and the vicinities of Tarifa will be some of the places we will be visit, offering an excellent combination of raptors, shorebirds and both resident and migratory passerines, which are abundant in our area. We will surely look for some of the most charismatic ones too, like the Spanish Imperial Eagle, the Northern Bald Ibis and the Marbled Teal.
Joining forces at night
We intend to make the most out of the day… and night! There are a few nocturnal birds that we will be working to locate, mostly by hearing. October is a good month for owls, as most of them begin to be quite vocal. Also, we might get the first Short-eared Owls that migrate to southern Spain in the winter time. Other owls that we are likely to hear will be Barn Owl, Eurasian Eagle-Owl, Long-eared Owl, Tawny Owl and Little Owl. Hopefully all of them!
What should we expect
We are planing on making our best Global Big Day yet! October is a great time for birding in Cadiz, and we think that we can make a good tally. In fact, October is, without a doubt, the best month to find rarities and scarce birds in the province, all of Andalucia and Spain. Some of the rare birds we have been fortunate to see in previous years in October include: American Golden Plover, Sociable Lapwing, Greater Spotted-Eagle, Steppe Eagle, Citrine Wagtail, Common Rosefinch and Little Bunting, to name just a few!
But the Global Big Day is not about rarities, but about celebrating all birds and sharing them with everyone. We will be posting our sightings in our social networks and using the hashtag #octoberbigday to share via Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. You can also keep an eye on the official October Big Day page by the Cornell Lab.
How you can participate on the October Big Day 2020
Of course, anyone can join on the October Big Day 2020 and make a contribution to bird knowledge. If you are new to eBird, it’s very easy to get an eBird account. You can sign up and find all the information you need here. It’s entirely free and very intuitive to use. However, it’s always good to check out the free eBird Essentials course.
If you have an eBird account and you are familiar with it, you already know how it works. you simply have to watch birds on 17 October. You have 24 hours to see or hear as many birds as possible, count them and marking them on your checklists. Every single list helps!
The October Big Day 2020 it’s a good reason to enjoy a day in the field. Either if you go with your family, a group of friends or on your own, be safe and have fun!
On Tuesday 15th of September, we ran another Birding Boat Trip in Cadiz. It made our third pelagic so far this summer off the Gulf of Cádiz, Andalusia. Our previous pelagics this year took place on the 23rd of July and the 1st of September.
This time we departed at 9:00 am from the port of Chipiona. Here, as we were boarding the vessel, we got to see a few of the local Little Swifts. Sailing conditions and visibility were excellent: low wind, calm sea and very soft light during the first half of the morning.
A good start
Right after we left the port, we noticed a notable feeding activity of Yellow-legged and Lesser Black-Backed Gulls. Among them, we soon found the first Arctic Skuas, Great Skuas and Balearic Shearwaters of the trip. This was, no doubt, a good start!
Next, we continued sailing West into deeper Atlantic waters. Shortly after, the first Northern Gannet showed up. We also found the first raft of Balearic Shearwaters totalling around 20 individuals. We enjoyed great views at close range of this Critically Endangered species. It became evident that adult birds had undertaken a recent body moult in the Atlantic, away from their breeding grounds. We could not detect heavily abrased individuals, as it was the case in our birding boat trip in Cádiz in July. Balearic shearwaters breed between February and June. Next, they move into Atlantic waters, where they complete their moult off Spain, Portugal and the Bay of Biscay. After the moult the majority of them return to the Mediterranean Sea, although large numbers winter off the Spanish Atlantic coast.
Fishing Trawlers Ahoy!
As we were sailing on a working day, we encountered several fishing trawlers. Here, we asked our skipper to make a slight detour and approach a particular one that was followed by a large number of gulls. Among hundreds of Lesser Black-backed Gulls and fewer Yellow-legged Gulls we found a single Mediterranean Gull and up to 4 Audouin’s Gulls.
It wasn’t until we got further offshore that we connected with the first groups of Cory’s Shearwaters. Here, they finally offered a great show, as numerous individuals flew past at very close range. Moreover, we could approach different groups fully engaged in their fishing activities. We could hear their voices, see them immersing their heads to locate fish, and being fiercely chased by Bonxies.
Among the abundant Cory’s, this time we could not positively identify any Scopoli’s. In turn, we observed a single Manx Shearwater and no less than 7 Great Shearwaters. Remarkably, both are considered locally scarce or even rare.
For the delight of the group a juvenile Great Skua patrolled around our boat for a while, at times getting too close for pictures! At the same time numerous Atlantic Gannets and two different Great Shearwaters beautifully displayed for our cameras. We could even see a Great Shearwater diving and disappearing under water!
Probably due to the abundance of food (fish) and the fishing trawlers, the two blocks of frozen chum we used did not attract any storm petrels as in previous occasions. It did bring us, however, a Great Shearwater, offering an excellent opportunity to get flight shots of this target species.
As expected, given the date, the presence of Northern Gannets was notably larger during this boat trip. These were mostly immature individuals, with very variable plumage patterns. The group chiefly enjoyed observing and photographing them around our boat.
Next, we include a selection of our best shots!
In general terms, the journey back to the port was not as rewarding. However, it produced a Pomarine Skua and the only Wilson’s Storm Petrel. Unfortunately, the latter took us much by surprise, at very close range, and not all in the group got to see it.
We reached the port of Chipiona around 15:30 after 36 nautic miles sailing off the Gulf of Cadiz.
Contributing to Citizen Science
All in all, this was another highly satisfying pelagic. We continued learning about the possibilities of pelagic trips off the Andalusian coast. Moreover, we collected interesting data on the abundance and distribution of pelagic seabirds in Andalusia. As usual, we systematically recorded all our sightings using the pelagic protocol provided by eBird. This is part of our commitment with citizen science.
Great Skua: 17
Pomarine Skua: 1
Arctic Skua: 3
Mediterranean Gull: 2
Audouin’s Gull: 4
Yellow-legged Gull: 105
Lesser Black-backed Gull: 60
Yellow-legged / Lesser Black-backed: 1500
Black Tern: 7
Common Tern: 3
Sandwich Tern: 27
Wilson’s Storm Petrel: 1
Cory’s Shearwater: 180
Balearic Shearwater: 57
Northern Gannet: 60
Next Boat Trip in Cadiz
We will definitively keep running more of these pelagic trips later this year and during 2021. Let us know if you are interested and we will sign you up on the waiting list for the next pelagic trip!
Subscribe to our online newsletter if you want to keep updated about our pelagics and other birding trips in Spain, Morocco and beyond.
Last Sunday 26th of July we ran our first Pelagic Birding Trip in Andalucia of 2020. This way, we continued the pelagic trips in the Gulf of Cadiz we started in 2019.
At 7:45 AM the group met at the port of Rota (Cádiz): eight avid Spanish and British birders arrived from Cádiz, Málaga, Granada, Almería and Gibraltar. While the group finished its breakfast, Javi loaded 40kg of fine chum to the boat. A few minutes after 8:00 we set sail West towards the Important Bird Area “Golfo de Cádiz” (Gulf of Cádiz), between the coast of Doñana National Park and the Strait of Gibraltar.
A gentle breeze of “poniente” created very agreeable and calm sailing conditions. As usual, the first miles were calm in terms of birding as well. A few distant Audouin’s Gulls and Sandwich Terns made us lift our binoculars for the first time. The warming up continued with the first Balearic Shearwaters of different colour patterns (we will come back to these birds later), an immature Atlantic Gannet and a Pomarine Skua aggressively Kleptoparasiting a group of Cory’s Shearwaters. Curiously, a migrant Hoopoe flying with shearwaters made the anecdote of the day.
We noticed a large concentration of shearwaters on the horizon. Without hesitation we headed towards them. We soon were literally surrounded by hundreds of Cory’s Shearwaters (lato sensu), both in flight and in dense rafts over the water surface. We estimated no less than 400 individuals, many of them at very close range. At this point, it was difficult to fix the target for our cameras. It did not take long for one of our first big targets to show up, a Great Shearwater! Almost simultaneously, a highly unexpected Manx Shearwater took off right in front of us!
Remarkably, both species, specially the later, are scarce in Andalusian waters. Indeed, these might well be among the first records for the species in July in Andalusia. It is important to highlight here that, specially dedicated pelagic birding in Andalucia and scientific surveys in summer period have been carried out only in recent years. Therefore, a more regular presence of these and other pelagic seabirds might have been partially overlooked. Indeed, contributing to filling this gap of knowledge is an added incentive in our pelagic trips off the Gulf of Cádiz.
About one hour and hundreds of pictures later, we decided to keep sailing west into deeper waters. The show had been great so far!
We agreed that, most probably, there were two different Great Shearwaters. We also realised that one of the first Balearic Shearwaters we had photographed could be a Mediterranean Yelkouan. However, the later examination of the picture and exchage of opinions with fellow birders lead us to leave its ID open as P. mauretanicus / yelkouan (see the comments on the picture above).
No two pelagics are alike!
We reached approximately 15 nm offshore. Here, the presence of birds notably decreased. We carefully scrutinized the ocean with the hope of finding petrels, but with no luck. We turned north, towards the Guadalquivir River Mouth. A few Gannets and scattered Balearic Shearwaters, a couple of Great Skuas and a single Pomarine, were the only reward. Unlike in our previous pelagics, the use of chum proved unsuccessful. Remarkably, we found a nearly total absence of gulls throughout the day
At this point, we decided to return to the shearwater’s hotspot. This time, we found the birds dispersed over a broader front, although still providing an excellent show. The presence of important schools of anchovies grabbed bird’s attention, which seemed to ignore our presence. Hundreds of Cory’s were eagerly fishing and disputing the catches. We could see them immersing their heads into the water to locate their prey and even hear their nasal calls.
This was yet another great moment for maximum enjoyment both to observe and photograph large numbers of shearwaters and a few skuas at very close range.
Cory’s Shearwater vs Scopoli’s Shearwater: an identification challenge
Later on, going through the pictures, we were able to see that among the very numerous Cory’s of the borealis type, there were indeed a few typical Scopoli’s diomedea as well. It is important to note here that there are taxonomic issues regarding the split of Scopoli’s Calonectris diomedea, Cory’s C. borealis, and Cape Verde C. edwardsii, shearwaters, which until recently were considered subspecies of C. diomedea.
We got close views of Balearic Shearwaters too. Most of them were adults showing a dreadful plumage state. This was the result of the ongoing moult of flight feathers and the heavy wear in their body feathers. Probably, accessing to their nests in narrow and winding deep burrows leads to extreme wear by the end of the breeding season. As a result, several birds looked strikingly whitish towards the front of their body. Back in 2011, Javi wrote a short note in Dutch Birding describing an aberrant (brown) Balearic seen in the Strait of Gibraltar. He also reviewed other published cases of abnormal colour patterns. That time, the bird in the picture would have been an interesting case study.
Around 13:00 we decided to call it a day and head back to the port. On the way back we still came through a few more Balearics, Gannets and a last Bonxie.
We sat in the shade, weary but satisfied and already planning our next pelagic. The moment was “enlivened” thanks to the carefully selected music playlist of our captain and DJ Pepe, including a great selection of greatest hits from the 70s and 80s!
We disembarked at 14:00 in Rota. Overall, we had sailed for six hours in a 40 nm loop. We had certainly achieved our main target: enjoy quality encounters with seabirds. Moreover, we got records of interest, tick some targets, dip out others and had a little fun. This is how pelagics work!
We celebrated the experience around some refreshments at the restaurant of the port and some decided to continue birding in the nearby Bonanza saltpans.
The field identification and taxonomy of Balearic/Mediterranean and Cory’s/Scopoli’s Shearwaters is, to some extent, still unclear. For those of you willing to get deeper into the matter, we recommend the following publications:
- Multimedia Identification Guide to North Atlantic Seabirds: Shearwaters. Boob Flood and Ashley Fisher. July 2020.
- Petrels Night and Day. A Sound Approach Guide. Magnus Robb and Killiam Mularney.
- Plumage variability and field identification of Manx, Yelkouan and Balearic Shearwaters. British Birds. Gil-Velasco et al. September 2015.
- The status of Cory’s Shearwater in the western Mediterranean Sea. Robert Flood and Ricard Gutierrez. Dutch Birding. January 2019.
Given the Covid-19 restrictions, and following our protocol of contingency, this year the number of participants onboard has been reduced to nine, including the crew. In addition to this, we used face masks and hand sanitizers during the whole trip.
Pelagic birding in Andalucia
We have programmed several pelagic birding trips in Andalucia, off the Gulf of Cadiz, during the next months. We have a limited number of spaces. If you want to keep informed please subscribe to our online newsletter and drop us an email.
We look forward to meeting you onboard!
We are very grateful to all the friends who have helped us in different ways: Alex Colorado, Jose Luis Garzón, Rosa Rodríguez, Guillermo Rodríguez, Ricard Gutierrez, Miguel McMinn, Bob Flood and Juankar Andrés.
As mentioned in our Coronavirus Statement last March: The health and safety of our clients and society at large is unquestionably our top priority. This way, during the first period of lockdown in Spain, we have restricted our activity to teleworking and birding at home. However, now it’s the time to start birding in lockdown lifting period.
On the 11th of May, the province of Cádiz in Andalusia, as well as many other regions of Spain, have entered the Phase 1 of lockdown deescalation. The new regulations established by the Spanish government allow the reactivation of Active Tourism activities. Therefore, we can resume our activity, although with important restrictions. So, in order to re-establish our work in a gradual and responsible manner, this morning we have carried out a first excursion in Tarifa on a trial basis. Next, we explain our preliminary experience birding in lockdown lifting period in Tarifa, Andalucia.
New regulations for birding
Remarkably, a significant part of the new regulations introduce practices in line with the philosophy of Birding The Strait. As a result, we were already implementing many them routinely. For instance, we:
- Develop our activity outdoors, always away from congregations (other than avian!).
- Always work with small groups.
- Use hand-sanitizer and gloves for food handling.
- Often have picnic lunches outdoors.
- Provide optic material for individual use.
- Clean our vehicles after every excursion.
In addition to the abovementioned ones, we have implemented the following measurements to fully adapt our activity to the new regulations:
- A minimum distance of 2m between participants.
- Permanent use of masks both while in the field and in the vehicles.
- Frequent disinfestation of the optic gear.
- Limitation in the number of passengers to two per row of seats.
Even though the new regulation limits to 10 the maximum number of participants, we have decided to, temporally, restrict it to 6 participants.
Birding in lockdown lifting period in Cadiz
Currently, our activity is restricted to the province of Cadiz. Here again, we feel lucky. There is no need to get away from Tarifa to enjoy world-class bird migration. Moreover, we have two natural parks at the doorstep, namely: El Estrecho and Los Alcornocales Natural Parks.
In addition, we can now get back birding in La Janda, our quintessential local-patch. And, as if these were not enough, a day trip from Tarifa allows us to go birding in Doñana, La Breña and Barbate Marshes Natural Park and the Bay of Cadiz. For a change, we can also visit the mountains in Grazalema. Not bad!
Our first day birding during the lockdown lifting
Today, to get started, we have spent a lovely morning birding at Los Lances beach, in Tarifa. A large number of Balearic Shearwaters has been one of the most remarkable findings. We have equally enjoyed great views of Audouin’s Gulls. Yellow Wagtails in active migration, the song of the Greater Short-toed Larks and a varied array of waders have been additional highlights.
To end the excursion, we have enjoyed an excellent brunch at a local terrace. It consisted of a toast of brown bread with first quality olive oil and fresh squeezed tomatoes, a tasty local speciality.
We are ready!
From a technical point of view, this has been an excellent opportunity to put into effect the new sanitary measures. We have also tested the personal distancing procedures under different situations.
The birding activity has been developed with agility and uneventfully. There has been no contact with people outside the group. Definitively, the implementation of the new regulations has not affected the overall birding experience.
In Birding The Strait, we are determined to enjoy this spring. Indeed, Tarifa and the whole province of Cadiz do still have a lot to offer this season. We have already scheduled birding trips to Doñana, La Janda and the raptor observatories in the Strait of Gibraltar. Moreover, we will be organizing birding excursion from Tarifa on foot. We will adapt our rates to the current situation, including free of charge activities. Drop us an email and we will keep you updated!
It is time to make birding, ecotourism and sustainability step ahead in our region. And we are ready!
Next Saturday, March 9th, we will participate in the Global Big Day 2020. This initiative, promoted by eBird, aims to gather the maximum number of people birding simultaneously all over the world.
In 2019, over 35.000 persons from 127 countries participated. This joint effort generated over 90.000 checklists, totalling 6.967 species!
The Global Big Day provides real time information on the status of the birds on the planet. Moreover, it strengthens bonds between observers from different regions of the world.
Birding The Strait and Whitehawk Birding
As we do every year, the guides from Birding The Strait will be joining the Global Big Day 2020. Moreover, this year we will do it together with our colleagues in our sister company Whitehawk Birding, from Panama. Our joint Global Big Day will commence on the 9th of May at 00:00 (UTC +2) in Tarifa, Spain; and end at 24:00 on the same day in Los Angeles, USA (UTC -7). This way, we will be birding nonstop for 33 hours, within a single day!
This year, our efforts will be ruled by the Covid-19 restrictions. However, this will not affect our enthusiasm at all. Indeed, given the current lockdown circumstances, the number of submitted checklist will be prioritized over the number of reported species.
Global Big Day 2020 in Spain
At the moment, the three members of Birding The Strait are in Tarifa. For this reason, our Global Big Day will be focused on the birds of the strait of Gibraltar, in Cádiz province.
Rafa, along with Hera, his Andalusian Terrier, will survey the surrounding of the old town of Tarifa. Here, he will search for the famous local Common Bulbul and the colony of Lesser Kestrels breeding at the Castle, among others.
Javi will take a stroll along the sea promenade of Tarifa with his baby son Leo. Here, he expects to find good numbers of Balearic Shearwaters, in addition to great views over the coast of Africa. Wind direction permitting, Honey Buzzards might be on the move too.
Yeray, who lives in the countryside, will work on his lists in El Estrecho Natural Park. Indeed, he will be birding close to Cazalla Bird Observatory, in Tarifa. This is an outstanding location to find migrant species and, perhaps, get to hear an Eagle Owl at night!
Global Big Day 2020 in America
Angel, at his home in Clayton, Panama City, will have good fun birding in his backyard. His bird feeder is regularly visited by Whooping Motmots, Blue-gray Tanagers and, of course, the widespread and urban Clay-colored Thrush. Moreover, his home is not far from Camino de Cruces National Park, thus anything is possible!
Edwin will be in downtown of Panama City. Here, he expects to report the locally common species including Crimson-backed Tanager, Ruddy Ground-Dove and Yellow-crowned Euphonia. Hopefully, he might connect with a Zone-tailed Hawk and Ringed Kingfisher. He will be joined by his daughters Sofia and Luana, and his wife Diana. Moreover, he will persuade his nieces and neighbours to join him too, always complying the sanitary guidelines that the current situation requires.
Jenn will be birding at her home in Arraijan, Panama. She will be birding together with her partner, and bird guide as well, Domi, and their 2 years old daughter Bianca. Her backyard is located at a new and open neighbourhood, which attracts nice resident raptors such as Yellow-headed Caracara and American Kestrel. Different species of parakeets and swallows will be additional targets for them.
Finally, Marta will be birding by herself around Burbank, in southern California, along the Los Angeles River. Here, she will get good chances to see Anna’s Hummingbird, California Scrub-Jay and California Thrasher. We do love thrashers!
Follow us during the #GlobalBigDay
We will keep reporting our sightings in real time. You can follow us on Whitehawk and Birding The Strait Facebook and Twitter profiles. Moreover, we will attempt to report live streaming, stay tuned !
Get ready and participate in the largest worldwide birding day: Global Big Day 2020!
We have always said it: The Griffon Vulture migration in Tarifa is one of the greatest spectacles of nature. Every spring and every autumn, we choose the best raptor migration observatories in Tarifa to enjoy the show with our clients. No matter how many hours we have spent enjoying this overlooked wonder, there is always something new to discover. We do never get enough!
We could have never imagined, however, that we would witness a memorable moment of Griffon Vulture migration from home. This can only happen in Tarifa, of course!
Last 7th of April, strong easterly winds were blowing in the strait. Gales reached up 25 knots. Under these circumstances, we wouldn’t expect any raptor migration going on over Tarifa.
At noon, Javi was working on his computer when he heard the alarm call of a Yellow-legged Gull. Instinctively, he grabbed his binoculars and leaned off the window. Much to his surprise, he saw a Griffon at eye level! Next, he hurried to get his camera and ran to the terrace. Over the next 20 minutes he witnesses a steady arrival of Griffons to Europe, after crossing the strait of Gibraltar.
The “levante” wind pushed those vultures to lower altitudes. Some were flying flush water drills, exhausted. Moreover, the wind made them drift west. This way, vultures were forced to fly an increased distance across the ocean. Moreover, some ended up flying over the “Isla de Las Palomas” in Tarifa (the southernmost tip of the continent). Here, there is a large colony of Yellow-legged gulls.
If there is something gulls do not tolerate, is a large raptor around their territory. In addition, gulls seem to have a special ability to detect birds that are struggling.
Flocks totalling over 100 gulls fiercely chased the unprepared Griffons. Certainly, they were not expecting such a hostile reception!
Griffon vulture down
One of the Griffons, notably exhausted after sea-crossing with the strong wind, was attacked with special venom. As a result, the vulture lost its balance and was brought down to the ground. He was forced to an emergency landing in Tarifa. Luckily, the vulture rapidly found shelter in a rock outcrop. About half an hour later, it caught its breath and took off.
The following pictures show some scenes of the Griffon Vulture in active migration above Tarifa, and a dramatic encounter with angry gulls.
This event reminds us of another astonishing Griffon Vulture migration vs gulls we witnessed some years ago: “The Griffon that swam across the Strait of Gibraltar” previously reported on the Birding The Strait Blog.
Griffon Vulture migration in Tarifa
If you want to learn more about the spring migration of Griffon Vultures in the Strait of Gibraltar we recommend this academic paper by our good friends, and fellow vulture enthusiasts, Juan, Pako and Marina.
May and early June in the spring, and late October to mid-November in the Autumn, are the best periods to enjoy the Griffon Vulture migration in Tarifa and the Strait of Gibraltar. For this reason, we organize specially dedicated day trips, tours and photography workshops to the Griffon Vulture migration every year. If you want to keep informed on our forthcoming guided visits drop as an email or subscribe to our newsletter.