This natural area at the north end of Galicia is very popular with birdwatchers. Why? A simple visit to Estaca de Bares with north or northwest winds between late August and early December is enough to see thousands of seabirds in migration. Another fine idea is stopping at the beaches of Cariño in winter to look for rare gulls. 

The best watchtowers in Galicia for bird migration

Or simply stroll along the Ría de Ortigueira between November and February, and enjoy the abounding flocks of ducks and waders. Birds can be watched in four distinct areas: the Serra da Capelada, the Ría de Ortigueira, Cariño and Estaca de Bares and the sea facing the entire area.

The first point, the Serra da Capelada, has a steep profile, particularly in the northwest, with the highest cliffs in southern Europe (Garita da Herbeira) and a predominance of flat scrubland. The estuary is winding, with many inlets, canals and meadows of plants adapted to the changing tide; in the outer area, there are large beaches. Estaca de Bares is a large rocky outcrop which is the northernmost point of the Iberian Peninsula and has rugged cliffs, low lying gorse and heather vegetation, with a wetland area with reeds in its most sheltered point and tree crops elsewhere. The sea facing this area is an unrivalled point in Galicia (and the largest in Europe) to observe the movement of seabirds. Also, it is a feeding ground for many birds that breed in the area.

The routes
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“Gavia” route by car

BEST TIME

From late October to mid-February

DISTANCE

37 km

DURATION

All morning or afternoon. It is best at mid tide and while the tide is lowering

DIFFICULTY

None

COUNCILS

Cariño, Ortigueira

PATH

Port of Espasante - Ladrido - port of Ortigueira - A Senra - Mera - Sismundi quay - Figueroa - Fornos beach

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Key points on the route:

  1. The port of Espasante (1) provides grounds to see the murre, the great northern loon and the great black-backed gull.
  2. From the quay in Ladrido (2), at high tide watchers can spot resting waders and ducks mallard, grey plover, eurasian curlew).
  3. In the town of Ortigueira (3), head to the port at mid or low tide and look for groups of eurasian wigeon, northern pintail, european whimbrel and spotted redshank.
  4. Further south, from the A Senra tidal mill (4), it is possible to get a closer look at groups of ducks and spot, with some luck, the great egret.
  5. After passing San Claudio, and in front of the "A Ría" hotel complex (5), there is an excellent view of the Mera river estuary (where there are ducks and common greenshanks).
  6. From the Sismundi quay (6) in almost any tide, you can see great northern loons, black-throated loons, horned grebes and black-necked grebes.
  7. Before reaching the village of Cariño, turn right towards Figueroa, Figueiras and Fornos beach (7), where we see scoters and loons.

 

"Morinellus" route by car

BEST TIME

From late September to early May

DISTANCE

21 Km

DURATION

All morning or afternoon

DIFFICULTY

None

COUNCILS

Cariño, Cedeira

PATH

Santo Andrés de Teixido - Garita da Herbeira - Cariño - Porto de Cariño - Cabo Ortegal

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Key points on the route:

  1. From the chapel of Santo Andrés de Teixido (1) where (where ravens and bullfinches can be seen), drive up to O Teixidelo and Meizoso (2), where you can see the water pipit, eurasian siskin or yellowhammer.
  2. In the spring in A Herbeira (3), near the wind farm and the hut, there are ring ouzels and, in the winter, snow buntings. The water pipit is present throughout the year.
  3. On the descent to Cariño (4) there is an area of meadows where european golden plover and eurasian skylark spend the winter. Up next, there is a strip of old pine trees (5) where the eurasian siskin breeds and the european pied flycatcher passes through. The eurasian woodcock winters there.
  4. In the centre of Cariño, a visit to the beaches of A Abasteira (6) and Cariño (7) allows watchers to observe the common gull, the european herring gull and the great black-backed gull. The port has purple sandpipers, eurasian rock pipits and auks.
  5. At Cabo Ortegal we may see european shags, peregrine falcons, blue rock thrushes and, in certain winters, alpine accentors.

“Cisticola” route on foot or by bike

BEST TIME

From late August to mid-April

DISTANCE

9 Km

DURATION

4 hours on foot and 2-3 hours by bicycle (including return)

DIFFICULTY

Low

COUNCILS

Ortigueira

PATH

Ortigueira (centre) - San Martiño lagoon - Morouzos beach - Os Casás - Ortigueira

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Key points on the route:

  1. From Ortigueira a stop at the port (1) is recommended to see Anatidae, waders and kingfishers.
  2. Further north, in the San Martiño lagoon (2), it is possible to catch sight of the zitting cisticola, iberian chiffchaff and eurasian bullfinch.
  3. Make your way along the headwaters of Morouzos beach (3) while looking in the pine forest for european crested tit and at night in the summer, the european nightjar. In winter eurasian woodcock can be seen.
  4. At the east end of the beach (4) at high tide, small groups of resting waders can be seen, including grey plovers, eurasian curlews and dunlins.
  5. In winter in Os Casás (5), near the rushes, it is possible to spot the rare jack snipe.

“Pyrrhula” route on foot or by bike

BEST TIME

From late August to mid-April

DISTANCE

16 Km

DURATION

5-6 hours on foot and 3-4 hours by bicycle (including return)

DIFFICULTY

Medium-Low

COUNCILS

Ortigueira

PATH

Port of Espasante - Punta dos Prados castro - village of Espasante - Santo Antonio beach - Os Pumares - Mazorgán - O Sarridal fields and return

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Key points on the route:

  1. From the port of Espasante (1), where gulls and common scoters can be seen, we make our way along a small peninsula with a fascinating castro (2) where is possible to see Sardinian and melodious warblers.
  2. From the village of Espasante make your way down to the beach of Santo Antonio (3) where the european herring gull and northern gannet are frequent.
  3. Between Os Pumares and Mazorgán (4) there are areas with hedges and small woods with willows in which the red-backed shrike, eurasian bullfinch and migrating tree pipit and european pied flycatcher can be seen.
  4. In the fields of O Sarridal (5) during cold spells, it is common to find groups of european golden plovers and northern lapwings, in addition to skylarks.
  5. In front of O Sarridal there are islets on which european shag are present and, if a north wind blows, the movement of seabirds can be seen offshore.

 

“Scolopax” route on foot or by bike

BEST TIME

From late August to mid-April

DISTANCE

10 Km

DURATION

4-5 hours on foot and 2-3 hours by bicycle (including return)

DIFFICULTY

Low

COUNCILS

Mañón

PATH

Porto de Bares - Semáforo de Bares - ornithological station - Vila de Bares - Porto de Bares

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Key points on the route:

  1. From the port of Bares (1), where it is possible to see razorbill and murre, travel up to Semáforo de Bares (2), where we can see the eurasian woodcock and ravens
  2. At Semáforo it is common to see the tree pipit, common redstart and european pied flycatcher in migration.
  3. On the descent to the ornithological station in the reedbed of A Condomiña (3) watchers can note the presence of the common nightingale, bluethroat and sedge warbler.
  4. From the ornithological station (4), with winds from the north and west, migrating seabirds can be seen between August and December, along with settled passerines between August and October.
  5. In Vila de Bares (5) it is common to see whinchat and common redstart in migration, and there are records of sighting long-eared owls.
The birds

Depending on the time of year, in A Capelada we can watch birds as interesting as ring ouzels, breeding eurasian siskins and snow buntings. At Cabo Ortegal rock birds (cliff birds) may be seen and, in winter on the beach and port of Cariño, there are many seabirds. Loons and grebes can be seen from Sismundi, and up the estuary, flocks of ducks (mostly eurasian wigeon and northern pintail) and waders dominate the winter landscape. Larido, with its roosts of waders at high tide, and Espasante, where rare gulls can be seen, are the prelude to the seabird migration observatory par excellence in Galicia: the Estaca de Bares point.

Tips and resources
  • Avoid disturbing the birds on trips in the vicinity of the perches of the wading birds.

  • From Estaca de Bares, Cabo Ortegal, Mera, Ladrido and O Sarridal beach, the use of a telescope to watch the birds is recommended.

  • There is an ornithological station at Estaca de Bares. The key is available from the A Coruña office of Conservación da Natureza (telephone: 981 184 539). The Centro Arqueológico "Federico Maciñeira"-Museo "Ortegalia" centre in Ortigueira includes a permanent exhibition on nature (telephone: 981 402 413). 

Arriba