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birdwatching

Due to its geographical location (closest point to Morocco on the Straits of Gibraltar), the Tarifa area is well documented for providing a bottleneck for migration in both spring and autumn periods. Indeed, the terrace of El Aguilon often produces sightings of Booted Eagle and Egyptian Vultures.

Egyptian vulture

(Neophron percnopterus)

The smallest of the four European vultures, it is also the most highly migratory, arriving in Europe from sub-Saharan Africa at the end of Feb. It dates back to the late Pleistocene, and yet in a matter of years, we have destroyed what took millions of years to put together as their numbers continue to plummet. We are fortunate to have a nesting pair of these magnificent birds just above El Aguilon.

Ciguena Negra raptor watchpoint is located in the sierras immediately to the east of the town of Tarifa. Clock 2.2km from the 2nd (and final) turn to Tarifa and take the track on the left up to a small satellite station. A late afternoon vigil in early May of no more than an hour often produces Egyptian Vultures, Honey Buzzards, Black Kites, Booted Eagles, Peregrines and Red-rumped Swallows.

Northern bald ibis

(Geronticus eremita)

With less than 500 birds remaining in the wild, worldwide, the Northern Bald Ibis is a bird on the brink. But with a successful reintroduction underway at Barca de la Vejer, one of the world’s most endangered birds is just 25 minutes from El Aguilon.

This iconic site 5 mins from El Aguilon, was once Spain's largest lake before its protracted drainage. One day we might see it recovered to its former glory but even now, the lake basin of La Janda floods in the winter and the place is magical. Take the dirt track on your left, just before Restaurante El Nene. Scan the adjacent plains and farmland and you're likely to spot Calandra Larks and European Bee-eaters and if you're lucky the Little Bustards that occur in the area. Great Reed Warblers sing from the canal side-vegetation. Other birds of interest in this area include Short-toed Snake Eagles and Booted Eagles, Black Kite, Marsh, and Montagu’s Harriers, Egyptian Vulture, and Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Collared Pratincoles, Yellow Wagtails (of the race iberiae) and abundant White Storks. Cattle Egret, Fan-tailed Warbler, Spotless Starling and Crested Lark are all common to this area.

Collared Pratincole

(Glareola pratincola)

Even among waders there are species which mainly feed on flying insects. The agile flight of the Collared Pratincole is in no way inferior to that of swallows. You'll find them in the former wetland area just over the hill from El Aguilon.

Los Lances Beach, at the extreme west end of Tarifa town, can easily be accessed by taking the first Tarifa turn off the N340 (if coming from the west) and following the road around the sports stadium and parking in the car park. This site is a good site for Kentish Plovers and one of the best sites in Spain to see Lesser Crested Tern. The first Ruppell’s Vulture for Europe was found in the pine-woods adjacent to this beach.

Rüppell's vulture

(Gyps rueppelli)

Named in honor of Eduard Rüppell, a 19th-century German explorer, collector, and zoologist. Critically endangered Rüppell's vulture is the highest-flying bird (11,300m/37,000ft) Relatively slow birds, cruising at 35km/hr but flying for 6–7 hrs every day and will fly as far as 150 km from a nest site to find food.

The Jara Valley is another great route for birding which can be found by taking the minor road to the 'Santuario' near the mouth of the Rio Jara just west of Tarifa town. Early evening keep an eye out for low-flying Honey Buzzards, Whinchats, Red-rumped Swallows, Woodchats as well as common species such as Corn Buntings, Stonechats, Goldfinches, Nightingales, Swallows and Swifts.

hoopoe

(Upupa epops)

As you drive down the avenue of palms towards the gates of El Aguilon, keep an eye out for the Hoopoe whose territory is just near the main gate. A migrant from Africa, they appear every year. It's always a pleasure to watch their distinctive flight pattern as they dart away across the horse pasture.

White-rumped Swifts and Little Swifts, Bolonia
Once the spring sun comes up, the White-rumped Swifts and Little Swifts are immediately present and displaying in the skies outside the cave. You might also see: Golden Oriole, Blue Rock Thrush, Rock Buntings, Red-legged Partridges, Stonechats, Sardinian Warblers and Spotless Starlings.

Follow the road past the entrance to the Roman Ruins of Bolonia, then continue for a further 2.8km, until you reach a couple of signs ‘prohibido el paso zona militar’ and ‘aviso esta carretera no communica con zahara de los atunes’. 2.0km beyond these signs, and after heading uphill, park in the lay-by on the right opposite a sign on the hillside ‘coto deportivo de caza’ and view the obvious cave with railings around it on the hillside to your left.

 

hoopoe

(Upupa epops)

Lastly, as you drive down the avenue of palms towards the gates of El Aguilon, keep an eye out for the Hoopoe whose territory is just near the main gate. A migrant from Africa, they appear every year. It's always a pleasure to watch their distinctive flight pattern as they dart away across the horse pasture.

Northern bald ibis

(Geronticus eremita)

With less than 500 birds remaining in the wild, worldwide, the Northern Bald Ibis is a bird on the brink. But with a successful reintroduction underway at Barca de la Vejer, one of the world’s most endangered birds is just 25 minutes from El Aguilon.