Wednesday, April 01, 2009


I'm back from four nights in Tarifa, southern Spain. I didn't take as many photos as I wanted, but there are a few nice ones, I hope you'll agree.

Spanish Festoon
Spanish Festoon

We were a bit early for butterflies, I think. There were plenty of (migrant?) Painted Ladies about, and a couple of unidentified whites, but apart from that, we saw a couple of Spanish Festoons, some Wall Browns and a single Large Copper (I think) at Baelo Claudia

The mirador
This mirador (viewpoint) on the main road between Algeciras and Tarifa was a superb place to watch birds of prey and other big things arriving from across the Strait.

On the way from the airport, we stopped awhile and saw dozens of Booted Eagles coming inland, plus Montagu's Harriers, Sparrowhawks and White Storks. I can also recommend the coffee

Storm over the mountains
A thunderstorm over the mountains near La Janda

Lots of wildflowers growing on the roadside

Cattle Egret
A Cattle Egret breeding colony (in Spanish probably called an egreteria or something) was fun to watch

View from Turmares whale-watching boat
We went whale-watching with Turmares in the Strait of Gibraltar

The two-hour trip cost €30 and was money well spent. We sailed out towards from Tarifa towards Morocco and cruised around, looking for cetaceans. We struck gold, and found a total of 15 Pilot Whales, including a calf, and about 10 Bottle-nosed Dolphins.

Seasoned whale-watchers Del and John said the views of the Pilots were the best they'd ever had, as they rode our bow wave (the whales, that is) and breached full-length out of the water in front of us! One of the dolphins in particular was a proper show-off, tail-slapping the surface and sending a jet of water our way.

We'd stationed ourselves right at the front and got a bit wet, but it was nothing short of awesome to watch the whales and dolphins about 10 feet below us. Sometimes the dolphins turned on their sides to have a look at us and the sea shone turquoise on their white stripes.

Flipper, eat your heart out.

It was also pretty special to see migrating birds. As well as the expected Cory's and Balearic Shearwaters, we watched two Montagu's Harriers and a Hen Harrier crossing the Strait. It looked hard work... the birds had to keep flapping or they started to drift seawards...

Unfortunately, no photos cos it was a bit bouncy and I was a) concentrating on enjoying the superb views, and b) hanging onto the side.

Plaza San Martin, Tarifa
I got quite used to having a roof terrace...

We rented an apartment overlooking Plaza San Martin, in Tarifa's old town. A fantastic place to stay, clean, well-equipped, tastefully decorated (in contrast to the others' '70s nightmare fleapit) and handy for all local amenities - shops, seafront, restaurants, bars... I'd definitely stay there again.

Screaming Pallid Swifts and squawking Lesser Kestrels overhead were the icing on the cake.

Pallid Swift
Pallid Swift over said terrace. Took lots of shots, but they were flipping difficult

Griffon Vulture
Griffon Vulture near Bolonia

We made a couple of visits to a mountainside somewhere above Bolonia, on the Atlantic coast. Another good place for watching migration - eagles, harriers and Bee-eaters. Nearby were cliffs with a couple of Griffon Vulture nests, singing Blue Rock Thrushes and the wonderful Spanish Festoon.

Artful graffiti in Tarifa

Roman remains at Baelo Claudia
At Baelo Claudia, the remains of a Roman fish-sauce factory.

Well worth a visit, for the Black-eared Wheatears alone, and it was also quite interesting. And free. Baelo Claudia was famous throughout the ancient world for its garum - the fish sauce that Heston Blumenthal tried to make

More photos are on my Flickr account

photos taken with Canon EOS 30D + EF 300mm f/4L IS USM, or Canon Powershot A640


  1. That Spanish Festoon is simply gorgeous, nice shot.

  2. Looks a superb place documented by some very nice images.

  3. Thanks! I'll definitely be going back.

  4. Great photos Katie, especially the Festoon!
    I'm going there again with work this week but the forecast looks bad :-(
    Never been to Baelo Claudia - should really make the effort.

  5. Yep, Baelo Claudia is worth a wander around. There are some spectacular dunes just down the road, too.

    Someone really should be able to get photos of Black-eared Wheatears singing from Roman ruins or something...