Migration watching sites

During the migration seasons there are two main crossing places for northern European birds to access their wintering grounds.  Western Turkey, and the Strait of Gibraltar.
The Strait of Gibraltar is located off the coast of Andalucía in the Province of Cádiz.  It offers the shortest crossing between Europe and Africa being only 16 kms at its narrowest and that helps the broad winged storks and raptors that rely on soaring flight, since thermals and up-drafts are lacking over the sea.
CadizMigr-Strait-of-Gibraltar-(2)CadizMigr-Strait-of-GibraltarHundreds of millions of birds of all shapes and sizes cross the Straits to Africa . Usually the smaller birds cross on cloudless nights to avoid the heat from the sun and the larger ones during the day when they can use thermals.
The migration season is long and  most species migrate north from Africa to Europe between March and May and from Europe to Africa between August and October.  However there are species that migrate earlier or later, so you always have a chance of seeing something.
The key factor is the direction of the wind.  Movement takes place at the downwind end of the Straits and sometimes even a short drive of two kilometers can dramatically change whether or not you see anything.
Anywhere along the N-340 road from Algeciras to Tarifa you can come across raptors and other species.  Unfortunately, the road is narrow and windy and therefore it is almost impossible to stop to watch the migrating birds.  Fortunately, bird observatories have been provide on both sides of the N-340 that can be used for migration watching. A list of these sites and there locations are provided below.
We have not included Gibraltar in the list as all migrating species can be seen perfectly well from the Spanish coast without enduring the difficulties of crossing the border.
Watching the weekly weather reports (www.windguru.cz is an excellent site as it is used by sailors and gives wind strengths and direction in 4 hour blocks) will help you to decide the best days to go as there will be times of unfavourable winds (or lack of any wind) when there can be a substantial build-up of birds waiting to cross.  Then, when the conditions  become favourable for migration, you can see tens of thousands of birds cross the Straits in a few hours.
Without doubt the northerly migration from Africa can be the most spectacular as many birds can struggle over the last few kilometres and arrive exhausted and very low (only a few meters overhead) and are often attacked by gulls and forced into the sea.
Whilst the most spectacular sights are the migrating raptors don’t forget to scan the bushes and undergrowth as most of the smaller birds are either resting after the crossing or feeding up prior to going and anything may turn up.



Site Name: Puerto de Bolonia Bird Observatory
Province: Cádiz
10km Grid Reference: CA83
Map Reference: Latitude: 36°06’03.28″N – Longitude: 5°43’57.98″W
Altitude: 175 metres
Habitat: Farmland
When travelling along the N-340 from Tafira to Vejer del la Frontera take the left turning to Bolonia at km 70.2.  Travel for about 2.8kms and turn right onto a dirt track.  The observatory is about 70 metres from the turning.

Site Name: Santuario Bird Observatory

Province: Cádiz
10km Grid Reference: CA84
Map Reference: Latitude: 36°03’52.23″N – Longitude: 5°38’54.32″W
Altitude: 66 metres.
When travelling along the N-340 from Tarifa to Vejer del la Frontera, turn off on the right-hand side on a paved road that is sign posted “Observatorio Santuario”.  Travel along this road for 1.3kms. The observatory is on the right hand side on a left bend about 200mtrs off the road.  It is a concrete structure and offers shade.  It overlooks the plains down to the hills before the straits and Tarifa beach.  It is in the lee of the Sierra de Fates and situated in scrub land so in autumn birds come over the Sierra gaining height going south and the reverse in spring.

Site Name: Trafico Bird Observatory

Province: Cádiz
10km Grid Reference: CA84
Map Reference: Latitude: 36°0’49.10″N – Longitude: 5°35’20.45″W
Altitude: 35 metres
Habitats: Interior Rocky Terrain, Coast, Scrub
CadizMigr-Trafico-ObservatoryThis observatory can be accessed when travelling eastwards along the N-340 from Tarifa to Algeciras.  The turn off is at km 85 shortly after the second turn-off to Tarifa.  The road to the observatory is paved and can be accessesed with any car. However, beyond the observatory the road becomes a track and not recommended for low-slung cars, a 4+4 is preferable.
This was an old military road and goes down to, and along the coast for over 20kms and for the spring migration offers the best observation places. Once on this road ignore the “prohibited to pass- military zone” signs as they are old and no longer relevant.
When travelling along this road scan the trees and bushes for migrants. After 2.2kms stop by some abandoned low barracks on your right and walk 100 metres to the right to a Migres observatory. The views over the straits and Tarifa are spectacular.
In addition to visiting the Trafico Observatory you can continue driving along the track until you reach a signpost and take the right fork to “Guadalmesi 8.5kms”. Stop whenever you choose, as there are many interesting sites for both sea and land birds.
After another abandoned military block you rejoin a paved road and continue driving upwards until coming to the N340 just before the Mirador Cafe.
For the more adventurous, at the sign-posted fork, take the track to your right that is sign-posted “Guadalmesi 3.1kms”.  Drive until you reach the old “Torre de Guadalmesi” and park as this is another excellent viewing site.  Eventually you reach the coast overlooking Punta Guadalmesi.
At this point you can either return the 3kms to the paved road or continue. If you continue, follow the track across a causeway, which in winter can be forded with care, and away from the beach, inland until you reach a village.  After the village and immediately before the last white-house on the right-hand side, turn right.  After a few kilometres take a right-hand loop and go to the top of a hill (300mtrs) with several windmills on the peak. Here, once again the views of the straits and Gibraltar are spectacular.  Twenty kilometres after leaving the N340 you now rejoin it by the “Parque Natural Centro de Visitantes” and the “Migras Centre” and are in the village of Pelayo, which has several good restaurants.

Site Name: Cazalla Bird Observatory

Province: Cádiz
10km Grid Reference: CA84
Map Reference: Latitude: 36°01’58.85″N – Longitude: 5°34’35.82″W
Altitude: 158 metres
Habitats: Interior Rocky Terrain, Scrub

CadizMigr-Cazalla-Bird-ObservatoryThis bird observatory, again, is only approachable when travelling, westwards from Algeciras to Tarifa. Take the track at km 87 and follow it for 200 metres up to a building with excellent parking. There is a specially constructed shelter for birders and is one of the main sites on the coast. The views are 360 degrees and cover the plains, beach and straits. Often a notice board shows the numbers of migrants, by species, passing on specific days.
On the other side of the N340 is a Migres observation area.  This consists of a wooden shelter and is used by Migres personnel when they are counting the birds passing on their autumn migration.

Site Name: Cabrito Bird Observatory
Province: Cádiz
10km Grid Reference: CA84
Map Reference: Latitude: 36°03’19.75″N – Longitude: 5°33’12.25″W
Altitude: 330 metres
Habitats: Interior Rocky Terrain, Scrub
This site can be accessed when travelling from Algeciras to Tarifa and after passing the Mirador Del Estrecho.  At km 90.8 turn right onto a track that climbs above the N-340.  Go across a cattle grid, take the second turning right and you will find the open, roofed observatory 200 metres up the hill.  The site provides good views of the surrounding countryside but is very close to large windmills.

Site Name: Mirador Del Estrecho

Province: Cádiz
10km Grid Reference: CA84
Map Reference: Latitude: 36°03’23.45″N – Longitude: 5°32’44.54″W
Altitude: 109 metres.
The Mirador Del Estrecho Café is located on the N340 at km 91.  It is accessible only when driving eastwards, from Tarifa to Algeciras and it is in the centre of the straits observation points. It is a very popular site and has easy parking.  Although it provides excellent views, one of the problems is that it is very popular with travellers in the holiday season.  However, it can still be excellent and especially in the spring.

Site Name: El Algarrobo Bird Observatory

Province: Cádiz
10km Grid Reference: CA85
Map Reference: Latitude: 36°05’25.18″N – Longitude: 5°29’02.22″W
Altitude: 172 metres
Habitats: Interior Rocky Terrain, Scrub
CadizMigr-El-Agarrobo-ObservatoryThis observation point is located on the N-340 road at km 99.1.  It is only accessible when travelling from Algeciras to Tarrifa and has to be approached with care as it’s easy to miss the turning.  An 80km speed sign helps to locate the track. It’s a sharp right turn, then you proceed for 500 metres, passing through gates to the observatory. This concrete structure overlooks the straits and Gibraltar and is better for the spring migration and westerly winds.
Punta Carnero, Punta Secreto and Punta del Acebuche
These are three headlands that are located on the northern shore of the Strait of Gibraltar.  They are excellent sites for the spring migration with raptors passing only meters above your head.  The best time to visit these sites is between February and May for the spring migration and they are best visted when there are calm conditions or when there is a westerly wind blowing.
During the autumn migration the migrating birds pass high over these sites and they are seen better from sites that are at a higher elevation.

Site Name: Punta Carnero

Province: Cádiz
10km Grid Reference: CA86
Map Reference: Latitude: 36°04’37.14″N – Longitude: 5°25’34.26″W
Altitude: 20 metres
Habitats: Coast, Scrub
When travelling from Tarifa on the N-340, at the second roundabout approaching Algeciras, take the CA224 to Getares.  Or coming from Algeciras its the first roundabout after the single road section.  At the next roundabout turn right and follow the road for 5kms.  Park by the lighthouse or on a pull-off on a sharp right-hand bend. The views across to Gibraltar and the bay are stunning.

Site Name: Punta Secreto

Province: Cádiz
10km Grid Reference: CA86
Map Reference: Latitude: 36°04’13.11″N – Longitude: 5°25’53.88″W
Altitude: 15 metres
Habitats: Coast, Scrub

CadizMigr-Punta-SecretaPunta Secreto is a little further on from Punta Carnero.  Follow the road to the village taking the first turning left into the village and bear left at the following fork.  Follow the road until you reach an open parking area, which overlooks Punta Secreto. This site is also a brilliant sea-watching point for anything flying into or out of the Mediterranean.

Site Name: Punta del Acebuche

Province: Cádiz
10km Grid Reference: CA85
Map Reference: Latitude: 36°03’02.68″N – Longitude: 5°27’54.14″W
Altitude: 10 metres
Habitats: Coast, Scrub

A footpath leads westward from the parking area at Punta Secreto for 4kms to Punta del Acebuche and here also scan the scrub for grounded migrants.

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