NEW_Europe_Spain_IntroSpain is one of the best places in Europe for birdwatching with well over 500 species recorded and includes more than 270 that breed here, with European-threatened species such as dupont’s lark, purple gallinule, white-headed duck, marbled teal, lammergeier, golden eagle and the endemic Spanish imperial eagle. The variety of birds is due in no small measure to its geographical location between Europe and Africa, straddling the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, with its relief forming an impressive range of habitats and climates. Although we tour most areas in Spain, we have tended to concentrate on the most southerly region Andalusia.

Andalusia is one of the last remaining wildernesses in Europe and deserves more attention from the travelling naturalist. It is a province rich in wildlife diversity, history and culture from the Phoenicians to the Spanish Civil War. It is the home of flamenco and bull fighting traditions and was the most favoured area in Spain for such characters as Hemingway and Orson Welles. Due to an extremely pleasant climate, its natural beauty, as well as exquisite cuisine, Andalusia is one of the most attractive areas on the Mediterranean.

However, all of these great assets pale in comparison to some of the richest and most diverse natural areas in the Paleartic. As a meeting point of Europe and Africa, Andalusia offers a very impressive variety of unusual fauna and flora. Here the normally mild Mediterranean clashes, in the famous Strait of Gibraltar, with the wild and unpredictable Atlantic Ocean forming large salty lagoons and wide rivers. Extensive forests, open cultivated plains, olive trees, oaks, pinsapo (Spanish) firs, high cliffs, secluded beaches and the most important sand dunes and marshes in Europe can be found in this region. The highest mountain ranges in all of Iberia are also found here, climbing to more than 12,000 feet above sea level.

For the bird watcher the southern reaches of Andalusia hold the most fantastic opportunities to witness one of life’s natural wonders ‘bird migration’. Europe and Africa are separated by only 14kms of ocean at the Strait of Gibraltar’s narrowest point and for millions of years this has served as a short and natural crossing point for thousands of birds during autumn and spring migration periods. Most impressive of the birds crossing the Straits are thousands of raptors including Short-toed and Booted Eagles who are joined by Egyptian and Griffon Vultures, with Honey Buzzard and White Stork also flocking in their thousands. It is an exciting spectacle that all should see once in their lifetime.