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  • Photograph of Iberian Lynx

    Iberian Lynx in Southern Spain by Chris Townend.

    SOUTHERN SPAIN

    Best Wildlife in Southern Spain

    Mammals
    A good chance of Iberian Lynx, Killer (mostly mid-Aug to early Sep) and (Long-finned) Pilot Whales, Bottlenose, Common and Striped Dolphins, Spanish Ibex, Wild Boar and Red Deer. Also Barbary Macaque (on Gibraltar, where possibly introduced) and a chance of Mouflon and Egyptian Mongoose.

    Birds
    The birds listed here are usually present during September. White Stork, (Eurasian) Black, Griffon and Egyptian Vultures, Spanish, Golden, Short-toed and Booted Eagles, (European) Honey Buzzard, Montagu’s Harrier, Black-shouldered Kite, Greater Flamingo, 'Iberian' Azure-winged Magpie, Purple Swamphen, Marbled and White-headed Ducks, Audouin’s Gull, Barbary Partridge, Red-knobbed Coot, Spotless Starling, and Balearic and Cory’s (Scopoli’s) Shearwaters, as well as Red-crested Pochard, Red-legged Partridge, Black-necked (Eared) Grebe, (Northern) Gannet, (Black-crowned) Night, Purple and Squacco Herons, Little Bittern, Glossy Ibis, Eurasian Spoonbill, Black and Red Kites, Lesser Kestrel, (Pied) Avocet, Black-winged Stilt, Slender-billed Gull, Black and Whiskered Terns, Little Owl, Alpine and Pallid Swifts, (European) Bee-eater, (Eurasian) Hoopoe, Southern Grey Shrike, Calandra, Greater Short-toed, Lesser Short-toed and Thekla Larks, (Eurasian) Crag Martin, Crested, Long-tailed and Penduline Tits, Firecrest, Zitting Cisticola (Fan-tailed Warbler), Sardinian Warbler, Black Wheatear, Blue Rock Thrush, Rock Bunting, and Rock and Spanish Sparrows. Summer visitors which may have left by September include Collared Pratincole, Woodchat Shrike, Red-rumped Swallow, Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin (Rufous Bush Chat), Iberian Chiffchaff, and (Western) Bonelli's, Great Reed, Melodious, (Western) Olivaceous, Savi's and Spectacled Warblers. Also a chance of Western Reef Egret, Black Stork, Bonelli’s Eagle, Ruppell’s (Griffon) Vulture, Gull-billed Tern, (Eurasian) Eagle Owl, Red-necked Nightjar, Pin-tailed Sandgrouse, Little and White-rumped Swifts, (Iberian/Sharpe’s) Green Woodpecker, and, in winter, Common Crane and Wallcreeper. Around Barbate on the south coast (Northern) Bald Ibis is being reintroduced.

    Reptiles, Amphibians and Fish
    Mediterranean Chameleon, Moorish Gecko, Large and Spanish Psammodromuses, and Ocellated and Spiny-footed Lizards.

    Invertebrates
    The many butterflies include Monarch and Two-tailed Pasha.

    Plants
    There are over 2300 vascular plant species in Andalucia alone and the flora is particularly rich around Ronda where there are many orchids, narcissi, fritillaries, saxifrages and toadflaxes.

    Other Natural Wonders in Southern Spain

    Cueva de la Pileta
    This cave near Benaojan has some superb stalactites and stalagmites, as well as some impressive Palaeolithic cave paintings.

    Best Sites for Wildlife in Southern Spain

    Best Times for Wildlife in Southern Spain

    Early September is one of the best times to visit Southern Spain, because (i) the beginning of September is normally the time when the greatest numbers and variety of storks and raptors migrate over the Strait of Gibraltar; (ii) Killer Whales are most likely to occur from mid-August to early September; and (iii) it is almost as good a time as any to look for Iberian Lynx (the best being late September to March (the peak time for spring flowers), especially December-March, possibly because the breeding season usually starts in December-January and the cats are more active).

    The spring migration of birds through Southern Spain usually peaks between mid-April and early May, when the Coto Donana is arguably at its best. After dry summers the marismas of this wonderful wetland may be almost dry.

    Recommended Books etc. for Southern Spain

    Collins Bird Guide by L Svensson et al. Collins, 2010 (Second Edition).

    Birds of Europe by L Jonsson. Helm, 1999.

    Where to Watch Birds in Southern and Western Spain by E Garcia and A Paterson. Helm, 2008 (Third Edition).

    Where to watch Birds in Donana by F C Moreno and J G Gutierrez. Lynx Edicions, 2006.

    Where to watch Birds in Spain by J A Montero and SEO/Birdlife. Lynx Edicions, 2006.

    Finding Birds in Andalucia by D Gosney. Easybirder, 2009 (book and/or DVD).

    Collins Butterfly Guide by T Tolman and R Lewington. Collins, 2009 (Third Edition).

    Butterflies of Britain and Europe: A Photographic Guide by H Aarnio et al. A & C Black Publishers, 2009.

    Wild Flowers of the Mediterranean by M Blamey and C Grey-Wilson. A & C Black, 2004.

    Mammals of Europe, North Africa and the Middle East by S Aulagnier et al. Helm, 2009.

    Mammals of Britain and Europe by D McDonald and P Barrett. Collins, 2005.

    Portrait of a Wilderness by G Mountfort. Hutchinson, 1958.


    Apps etc.

    Collins Bird Guide.

    Where to watch birds in Europe & Russia by N Wheatley. Helm, 2000.

    Don’t know which country/countries/regions to visit in Europe? Then it may be worth considering taking a look at this book, written by this website’s author. It is many years old of course but it still provides a starting point, an overview and a guiding light to the best birds and the best places to look for them in the region, and could save hours of searching for similar information on the internet. However, it is important to check more up-to-date sources for sites which have been opened up, sites and species which have been discovered, lodges that have been built etc. since the book was published.

    Trip Reports for Southern Spain

    Many trip reports, some for Southern Spain, are posted on the websites listed here. On some of these websites some reports are independent and some are posted by tour companies who organize tours to Southern Spain. These tour companies and others also post their own reports on their websites, which are listed under 'Some Organized Tours to Southern Spain' below.

    Local Guides and Tours in Southern Spain

    The costs of organized tours partly reflect the quality of the tour leaders. Some leaders are certainly better than others and many companies claim their leaders are the best but even the best rely at least to some extent on the exceptional skills of the local guides they employ. If you are travelling independently, employing such local guides will greatly increase your chances of seeing the wildlife you wish to see.

    Accommodation in Southern Spain

    Some Organized Tours to Southern Spain

    There are many tour companies who organize tours to see mammals, birds, other wildlife and other natural wonders. The cost of these tours vary considerably according to such variables as the airlines used, the number of days the tours last, the number of sites visited, the number of people in the group (an important consideration if you wish to see such wildlife as rainforest mammals and birds), the number of tour leaders, the standard of accommodation and transport, and the percentage profit the company hopes to make. Generally, where the number of days tours last and the number of sites visited are similar, the cheapest tours are those that use the cheapest airlines, accommodation and local transport, that have the largest groups with the least number of leaders, and that make the least amount of profit. The most expensive tours tend to be those which are exceptionally long, use the most expensive accommodation (ridiculously lavish in some cases, even for single nights) and which make the most profit. Some tour costs partly reflect the quality of the tour leaders. Some leaders are certainly better than others and many companies claim their leaders are the best but even the best rely at least to some extent on the exceptional skills of the local guides they employ.

    While tour companies organize tours with set itineraries many also organize custom tours for individuals and private groups who instead of taking a tour with a set itinerary want to follow their own itinerary to suit their own personal tastes, whether it be mammals, birds, other wildlife, other natural wonders or even man-made attractions, or a mixture of them all. Many organized tours with set itineraries are also fast-paced and target as many species as possible, whether they are mammals, birds or other wildlife or everything, which usually leaves little time to enjoy the best sites and individual species, but on a custom tour those taking part can specify the pace and the sites and species they wish to concentrate on. Custom tours also suit people who like to travel with people they already know, rather than with a group of strangers, and they are popular with people with partners with different interests. Individuals, partners and small groups will almost certainly have to pay more for a custom tour than an organized tour with a set itinerary but a large group of friends may be able to travel for less than the price quoted for a set tour.

    Tour companies who run organized tours to Southern Spain include the following. Many of these also offer custom tours.