The migratory orchestra has been warming up here in the Straits for some weeks now, with steady trickles of hirundines, storks and black kites coming through, but today the opening chords were struck in earnest and the show was underway!
It’s been raining on and off for two days solid here, with unfavourable winds undoubtedly causing a bottleneck of impatient birds around the northern coast of Morocco.
But today the south-westerly winds provided the perfect lift and tailwinds for our performers waiting in the wings, and the dance began!
The winds swept away most of the last of the wet weather and – like a cork had been popped from a bottle of joyous raptor champagne – the birds began to surge across the Straits!
We were looking out over our usual patch neighbouring our base at Huerta Grande, admiring Crag Martins, Cirl Buntings and the stunning view across to Morocco’s Jebel Musa mountain, when we noticed the first two Egyptian vultures, already safely across the sea. It was just moments till we saw the towering kettle of 30 or more black kites, also just about to reach our shores.
At last, it was time to give the trusty Inglorious Bustards raptor-watching chairs their first proper outing of 2017!
We spent a lush couple of hours watching the migratory waltz unfold, yielding Egyptian Vultures, Black Storks, a brookei Peregrine Falcon, crossing Sparrowhawks and Lesser Kestrels, four early but absolutely gorgeous Short-toed Eagles and an impressive 109 Black Kites, powering across the sea like the cool, scary bit in a paso doble.
And this is just the beginning! This spectacle will build and build as the East Atlantic Flyway’s migratory raptors move north to breed, coalescing and descending on this tiny strip of sea called the Straits of Gibraltar. For us, experiencing this powerful event has led to a life-long fascination with avian migration.
It’s no accident that we have chosen our base to be here at Huerta Grande Eco-lodge. Our location between Gibraltar and Tarifa puts us right at centre stage of birding in the Straits and, from a migrating raptor’s point of view, we must surely also be at the centre of the world!