Thursday, August 13, 2015

Bird Photography Serrania de Ronda

Ever sat inside a spyglass photography hide? I hadn’t until recently, that was until I had a couple of sessions in a purpose built bird photography hide, situated in the midst of an old and yet typical Mediterranean Oak Woodland. The site, Algaba in the Serrania de Ronda, just changed my perspective on these types of outings. I was totally spellbound by the constant flow of birds, several species and all so enchanting I almost forgot to take photos. It was such a privilege to see so many special birds so close, totally at ease with their surroundings, blissfully unaware of my presence, bathing, feeding and interacting with each other. It was all too easy to while away so much time watching this spectacle and forget the purpose of my visits.

The normally shy and elusive Jay, blissfully unaware of my presence
Of course, in the hotter regions of southern Spain, the greatest attraction you can give to encourage avian visitors is water. Putting various seeds and food items will work too, but water is definitely the key for the gaining a diverse selection of species. My normal forays with the camera entails field trips and very much relying on a little luck to capture some diary shots of targeted species. So hide photography, and specifically this hide, is certainly my newfound luxury, a lazy man’s approach to getting reasonable photos of some pretty difficult subjects i.e. Nightingale, Bonelli’s, Melodious and Subalpine Warbler to name just a few. Add a few raptors and 3 regular woodpecker species, including Wryneck and you get the idea on how much I was enjoying my visits here.

Wryneck juvenile accompanied adults to drink and bathe
Right now I am planning a few more sorties to the hide and must admit to not a little excitement on what autumn migration might bring along to view through the spyglass. The water feature is a natural looking pool and we currently have Booted Eagle coming to drink and bathe, but with so many birds toing and froing from the surrounding vegetation to drink, it is sure to attract migrants to the pool. Bee eaters certainly have been attracted to the clearing by the volume of other birds and of course insects buzzing over the water. Although I haven’t totted up the total number of species visiting the site, it must be pretty impressive already and will only get better as it becomes more established. Anyways, enough of my ramblings, I think you get the picture, which leads me on nicely to introduce you to some recent and selected photographs from the hide, I hope you like them and perhaps they may encourage you to visit?

Booted Eagle landing..
Subalpine Warbler
Nightingale
Great-spotted Woodpecker juvenile
Green Woodpecker
Bonelli's Warbler
Long-tailed Tit
Griffon Vulture
Common Buzzard
Firecrest
Melodious Warbler

Well just a taster, but lots of other very attractive species await me and perhaps you? If you need more information, please do contact me

Black Wheatear female - Day Tour in the Serrania de Ronda
Of course you could always combine a day in the hide and another with a day tour to grab those elusive mountain birds in the surrounding mountains here!

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Fuente de Piedra – Andalucia, Spain

The lagoon of Fuente de Piedra is located in the north of the province of Malaga, Spain. It is 50km from the Mediterranean coast and 410m above sea level. The lagoon is a seasonal salt lake with high salinity in winter and a salt shell in summer. The lake has a maximum width of 2.5km and a length of 6.5km, the maximum water surface area reaches up to 14km².

Fuente de Piedra - A view across the lagoon to the village
Forming one of many wader hotspots in southern Spain, the lagoon is perhaps best known for being the largest breeding site for Greater Flamingo Pheonicopterus rubber in Spain; in fact it has been since Roman times! The importance of this lake and the surrounding marshlands was recognised and listed as RAMSAR site in 1982, the listing triggered further steps to protect the area with the Andalucia Parliament pronouncing it a ‘Integral Reserve’ in 1984, followed by planning as a ‘Nature Reserve’ in 1989. In addition the EU selected it as a Special Protection Area under the Bird Directive of the EEC during 1988. The nature reserve occupies 1,554 hectares and its Peripheral Protection Zone covers an area of 6,689 hectares.

Temminck's Stint - recorded almost annually in the area
For waders, and many other species of birds, the period from March through to May is a time when there is more intense activity and a time when both wintering and migratory birds show at the same time. Not surprising as the water level and vegetation are most stable during the wet season. Wintering and migratory waders are also joined by breeding birds during this period. Most common breeding waders are Black-winged Stilt, Avocet, Little Ringed and Kentish Plover, with Eurasian Thicknee (Stone Curlew) breeding in the surrounding area. Depending on water levels, springtime migration can be spectacular, particularly for waders in their summer plumage. Collared Pratincole, Curlew Sandpiper, Black-tailed Godwit, Ruff, Ringed Plover, Little Stint and Dunlin pass through in large numbers, whilst Temminck’s Stint is recorded each year. Wood Sandpiper are another that can be common with it’s close relative Green Sandpiper wintering as well as increasing during migration in the spring period. Common Sandpiper is almost ever present, with Lapwing also surprisingly common at times. Other species such as Grey Plover, Spotted Redshank, Greenshank, Sanderling, Bar-tailed Godwit and Whimbrel are regular but scarcer migrants.

Collared Pratincole - A favourite for birders visiting the lagoon
Of course wintering birds, such as Golden Plover, Lapwing, Snipe and odd Turnstone, overlap with migratory waders. Also the area can attract the odd rarity or two with Pectoral Sandpiper, Marsh Sandpiper and others being recorded.

Wood Sandpiper - Common migrant and elegant visitor
So the area is hugely important on a broad basis for not just migration staging, but also wintering and breeding waders. The dramatic decline of many waterbird species throughout Europe can be attributed largely to wetland loss and degradation, with the expansion and irrigation of olive plantations one important reason for this in Andalucia and most likely Spain in general.

Eurasian Thicknee (Stone Curlew) - Breeds in the area and winter visitor
Note. A global biodiversity hotspot, the wetlands around the Mediterranean are important for over 100 species of waterbirds represented in the Paleartic, North Africa and Middle East regions. 150 species of migratory birds are estimated to use these wetlands as seasonal or stopover locations, this represents bird populations of 2 billion (IUCN, 2005)! As part of the most threatened aquatic ecosystems, more than 50% of Mediterranean wetlands have been destroyed by human activities. It needs urgent attention and study to see what impact irrigated crops, and particularly olive plantations, are having on the water level in wetlands.

Fuente de Piedra in Spring - Visitor Centre and walkways
Greater Flamingo is the reason for many to visit the lagoon

Why not join Peter on one his Day Tours? See Links below.

Serranía de Ronda – My Mountains – for further information read HERE

Osuna – Steppe Country – for further information read HERE

Campillos - Mountains to Lagoons - for further information read HERE

Strait of Gibraltar - Migration, wetlands and so much more read HERE

CLICK HERE TO VIEW OUR MAIN WEBSITE

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Birds in April - Serrania de Ronda

Our rivers are in full flow as part of nature’s self sustaining life lines. They are such an enormous asset and valuable resource here in my mountains, and beyond of course. Unfortunately our lagoons are depleted and I really do wonder if illegal extraction for irrigating crops is mostly to blame? There is no doubt water, such a valuable resource for us all, is being used in huge quantities for olive growing. It is of real concern, but more about that in a future blog. Right now I am rejoicing in the gift that is Spring!

Painted Lady is also migrating northwards and stops at a feeding station!
There is nothing, absolutely nothing, on this Earth more precious than nature. And for me at least, Spring is a celebration of our natural heritage, a time of renewal and wonder. Here in Andalucia, I live in a migration bottleneck for birds, where they make their way to and fro on journeys that involve huge efforts between continental Europe and Africa. It is one of life’s spectacles, a time to catch your breath as you witness the arrival of so many different species of bird. A time where you can stand amidst nature and just feel a kind of spiritual sensation that raises the hairs on your neck. As an encore, flowers emerge and grace the landscape with carpets of colour, you can feel the energy being released after a long winter’s slumber.

Griffon Vulture finding a thermal. Always look above them for other raptors
As a flock of Bee eater fly overhead, their merry calls great you and you really feel their joyful sound is one of relief, having successfully navigated the amazing migration from the southern reaches of Africa, crossing the Sahara Desert and finally making it home. Others such as Short-toed Eagle greet each other and make excited honking calls as if to celebrate being home, I suspect too that some of these are already paired before arriving here, which would give a different meaning to these excited exchanges! Name a bird and it seems it is on migration over my mountains at the moment, sheer numbers add to the joy.

Blue Tit. Of course not to overlook common resident birds at this busy time!
Enough waxing lyrical and left alone I could fill several pages to describe my mountains at this time of year. Onwards with another pictorial and this time from being out and about during this early part of April. I hope you might enjoy some of these happy snaps.

By the rivers.

Green Sandpiper. Rio Grande - Good numbers are passing through along with Common Sandpiper, both heading North. Feeding was particularly hard for these birds on the river, as newly established territories by Little Ringed Plover meant the male of this species attacked and harassed these migrants. Good fun to watch though!
Little-ringed Plover the main antagonist for migrant waders on our rivers.
Common Sandpiper not given a moments peace by LRPs as they feed
Yellow Wagtail have arrived and are currently battling for territories

And there's more

Black-eared Wheatear males arrive before the females and set-up shop waiting for the ladies!
Water Pipit feed along the riversides alongside both Meadow and Tree Pipit
Woodchat Shrike are one of our early arrivals
Bee eater is perhaps a symbol of Spring for me
Of course what would Spring be without some Bonelli's Eagle watching?
Red-rumped Swallow are already nest building

Why not join Peter on one his Day Tours? See Links below.

Serranía de Ronda – My Mountains – for further information read HERE

Osuna
 – Steppe Country – for further information read HERE

Campillos
 - Mountains to Lagoons - for further information read HERE

Strait of Gibraltar - Migration, wetlands and so much more read HERE

CLICK HERE TO VIEW OUR MAIN WEBSITE



Sunday, March 29, 2015

When its Spring again I’ll sing again…

Flowers from the Serrania de Ronda! Yep, it’s that time of year again and don’t you just love it. My mountains are coming into bloom, colours everywhere and some fine orchids already reaching for the sky (Photo: Sawfly Orchid). We recently had rains and now there is glorious sunshine, warm temperatures and lush greens carpeting the valleys. Toss in arriving migrant summer resident birds, migrating raptors cruising overhead and you have just about the most intoxicating mix of wildlife you can imagine. Welcome to my backyard!

Laneria sp.
The area is so rich in plant life and birds, of course butterflies, dragon and damselflies, that a visit to this veritable wonderland is an absolute must. With the euro now at a low against the US Dollar and British Pound it is also an attractive economical proposition too! Been here already, thought about coming? Then now is the perfect moment, good accommodation is plentiful in the area and should you need a recommendation just contact me.

Ophyrs fusca - so many orchids!
Anyways onwards with a few photographs taken in the last couple of weeks to entice you. If you can’t make it to the Serrania de Ronda, just keep an eye to this blog for fairly regular postings of what graces this wonderfully scenic part of Andalucia. Hope you enjoy this latest pictorial?

Wonderful scenery - Serrania de Ronda
Fan Lipped Orchid
Bumble Bee Orchid
Yellow Bee Orchid
Sub.species - Ophyrs fusca bilunulata
Lizard Orchid (from last year and coming soon!)
Another Ophyrs fusca such a variable orchid, in fact downright confusing!
Another O.fusca see what I mean?
Early Purple Orchid
Italian Man Orchid
Woodcock Orchid
Mirror Orchid
Did I mention there are other flowers too?
So many orchid species to show, so many birds, dragonflies, butterflies, reptiles there just isn't time to show you them all. Why not join me on a guided tour in the mountains of the Serrania de Ronda?

Why not join Peter on one his Day Tours? See Links below.

Serranía de Ronda – My Mountains – for further information read HERE

Osuna – Steppe Country – for further information read HERE

Campillos - Mountains to Lagoons - for further information read HERE

Strait of Gibraltar - Migration, wetlands and so much more read HERE

CLICK HERE TO VIEW OUR MAIN WEBSITE