Migration Watching – Tarifa, early April 17

The Straits of Gibraltar are well known for the spectacle of migrating birds either leaving Europe for Africa in Autumn or returning in Spring. We ran a trip to the area in early April. Arriving around mid-morning we started at a watchpoint overlooking the Straits just east of the coastal town of Tarifa.  As soon as the scopes were up we were finding Great Skuas passing through in good numbers with occasional Razorbills and Puffins. Gannets and Sandwich Terns were commonplace.  More exciting were two Arctic Skuas and several Balearic and Cory’s Shearwaters!

However, we had really come for the raptor migration and as midday approached we began to notice raptors crossing but well to our east so we decided to change location.  We moved east to a Mirador looking out to sea and this paid off immediately. Black Kites and Booted Eagles were crossing in large numbers along with Short-toed Eagles, Griffon Vultures and two Egyptian Vultures.  A flock of eleven White Storks passed overhead and a little later we watched a single Black Stork drift by.

Sparrowhawks were also making the trip into Europe and an Osprey crossed in the afternoon.  A single Lesser Kestrel was seen and a couple of Marsh Harriers plus two European Bee-eaters.  At times the birds were either really close to or below the viewpoint so excellent details of their plumage were visible.  By about 5pm things started to quieten down and we had lost count of the numbers of some species! Time for a cold drink and a rest and a chance to discuss a truly memorable day with the group.

A friend who was watching well to the west reported ‘clouds’ of Honey Buzzards crossing but strangely we didn’t see a single one.  The unpredictable nature of birding!

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