Birding at El Torcal
El Torcal de Antequera Nature Reserve is one of the most impressive karst landscapes in Europe. Located at just 1 h drive from Malaga city, offers one of the best landscape and wildlife photography experiences in southern Spain. Looking for birds and Ibex through its prehistoric alleys is a truly unique experience.
Close to El Torcal is the city of Antequera, recently awarded Uneso Site for the Torcal, the Dolmens and the "face-looking" Rock -Peña de los Enamorados-. Our guide, Álvaro Peral, was once based in Antequera and shows a special love for this territory. He's guided the first ornithological tour organized by its visitors' centre (trip report here).
ITINERARY: We will start at the base of the magnificient cliffs of the Sierra del Torcal, from where we may be able to see Málaga and the coast if it's not misty. Then we'll continue and walk deep into the limestone alleys, where some rock birds such as Blue Rock Thrush and Black Redstarts will welcome us to the very heart of El Torcal.
The focus of the day will be looking for a variety of rock birds, Melodious Warblers, Stonechats, Thekla Larks, etc. We should see some Iberian Ibex nearby, and subject to the time of year a variety of sylvia warblers. El Torcal homes iconic wild flowers in spring, such as wild peonies -best in May-and some orchids -february to June-. The Torcal counts with a fully equiped visitor centre, with friendly staff and facilites such as caffeteria, shop and toilets.
PACE: Birding at El Torcal means hiking. The paths in the Torcal are stony and treacherous although not steep. We only recommend this tour if you are used to walking on rocky terrain!
TIMING: Tour duration is 4,5 h if we leave from Antequera. Likewise, the tour duration is 7-8 h if leaving from Ronda. In the latter case we will take some time to stop at a local bar for lunch.
If a visit to see the flamingos at the nearby Fuente de Piedra lagoon is included, the tour duration increaseses a bit. In this case, it'd be of 9h from/to Ronda or 7 to 8h if we start in Antequera.
SEASONALITY: This is a year round trip. Spring is always the best time to visit the Torcal, being at its very best from mid April to mid June. Summer months will make necessary an early start. Winter is only recommended when the weather forecast indicates clear sky. This nature reserve is prone to high and localized fog. In spring it is advisable to avoid weekends.
MEETING: Meeting can be arranged in Antequera and in Ronda.
BASED IN MALAGA? : If you are based in Málaga, we propose you taking a quick train to "Antequera Santa Ana", where we can also meet you. The trip takes just 23 min and return tickets cost from 8,70 eur. Train info here. We recommend the following:
Take the 08:35 train in Málaga María Zambrano and meet us at Antequera Santa Ana station at 08:56. After the trip you will be on time at Antequera Santa Ana station to catch the 14:17 train that will get you back in Málaga at 14:45.
- Transportation (for free)
- Hiking guide fluent in English
- Use of binoculars and scope
- Birdguides anc checklists
- Accidents insurance
- All taxes
WHAT'S NOT INCLUDED
- Meals and drinks
WHY CHOSE THIS TRIP
- Impressive karst formations
- Amazing landscape photography
- Scenic views throughout the hike
- Great chances to photograph Iberian Ibex
- +2 species of fossils
- Proximity to Málaga and Antequera
- Can be linked with Fuente de Piedra
- Nice visitor centre with restaurant
TIPS FOR A TRIP TO EL TORCAL
- A good pair of boots or old shoes will be of a great value
- If you'd like us to provide you with a hiking pole, please let us know
Want some flamingos?
Very often we have requests for adding a visit to the nearby Fuentepiedra lagoon. This is the biggest lagoon in Andalucía and is also considered the largest Greater Flamingo colony in Spain. With all this, how not to be interested in doing both sites on the same trip?
A visit to this Ramsar site will add a couple of hours to the trip and for sure an nice array of birds. Some of the birds that can be seen here are White-headed duck (year round), Common Crane (winter) and Lesser Kestrel (summer). More info about birding in Fuente de Piedra lagoon.
OUR FARES (TORCAL)
- 1 person: 200 €
- 2 to 3 people: 250 €
- 4 to 7 people: 300 €
OUR FARES (TORCAL + FLAMINGO LAGOON)
- 1 person: 250 €
- 2 to 3 people: 280 €
- 4 to 7 people: 330 €
Birds to see in El Torcal
Year round: Black Redstart, Black Wheatear, Blackbird, Blackcap, Blue Rock Thrush, Blue Tit, Bonelli’s Eagle, Chaffinch, Chough, Cirl Bunting, Collared Dove, Corn Bunting, Crag Martin, Dartford Warbler, Eagle Owl, Goldfinch, Great Tit, Greenfinch, Griffon Vulture, Hoopoe, House Sparrow, Iberian Grey Shrike, Kestrel, Linnet, Little Owl, Peregrine Falcon, Raven, Red-legged Partridge, Rock Bunting, Rock Dove, Rock Sparrow, Sardinian Warbler, Serin, Short-toed Treecreeper, Sparrowhawk, Spotless Starling, Stonechat, Thekla Lark, Wren.
Winter birds: Alpine Accentor, Chiffchaff, Dunnock, Meadow Pipit, Ring Ouzel, Robin, Redwing, Song Thrush, White Wagtail.
Summer birds: Alpine Swift, Orphean Warbler, Barn Swallow, Bee-eater, Black-eared Wheatear, Booted Eagle, Melodious Warbler, Pallid Swift, Quail, Red-rumped Swallow, Scops Owl, Short-toed Eagle, Subalpine Warbler, Alpine Swift, Turtle Dove, Western Bonelli’s Warbler, Woodchat Shrike, Rock Thrush.
On migration: Ring Ouzel, Redstart, Wheatear, Spotted Flycatcher, Honey Buzzard, Bee-eater.
Mammals: the Spanish Ibex (hispanica subspecies) is the most remarkable mammal at El Torcal. Wild Boar is nocturnal and overpopulated due to the lack of predators. Red Fox can be found at dusk. There is a small population of Badger, Weasel and Rabbit.
Reptiles: the most common reptiles are Large Psammodromus and Iberian Wall Lizard. And the most remarkable species is without any doubt the Ocellated Green Lizard, that can be found widely at the most undisturbed locations. Snakes are active in summer and represented by Horseshoe Whip, Montpellier's and Ladder snakes besides the very unlikely Lataste's Viper.
Plants: not less than 600 species inhabit El Torcal. The endemic Linaria Anticaria is very much sought by visiting naturalists.