Thursday, April 10, 2014

Wildlife of the Serranía de Ronda

The glorious Spanish Festoon 
The Serranía de Ronda and the Sierra de Grazalema are arguably among the most important areas for wildlife in Spain. The diversity of habitats makes the area a natural wonder for all who are fortunate enough to gaze upon its obvious beauty and splendour. The diversity of habitats is reflected by an equal and staggering diversity in the area's wildlife. Parque Naturals Sierra de las Nieves and Sierra de Grazalema are two major national parks, both declared UNESCO Biosphere reserves, and are contained within our boundaries. The reserves are of international importance.

European Bee-eater
Mammals are well represented and the picture further down the page shows a young male Ibex Capra hircus pyrenaica which occur commonly throughout the area. Fallow Deer Dama dama, Red Deer Cervus elaphus and Roe Deer Capreolus capreolus are all native residents with the wild sheep Mouflon Ovis aries having been introduced into the Sierra de las Nieves park area. With river systems that flow all year round, the scarce but magnificent Otter Lutra lutra can still be encountered, especially on the Rio Guadiaro and its tributaries. Genet Genetta genetta, Beech or Stone Martin Martes foina and Mongoose Herpestes ichneumon also add to the impressive array of mammals here.

Woodchat Shrike
Of course the local variety and the list of rare birds using the area are now world renowned. Whatever the time of year, then the area is a 'must' visit location for all who appreciate birds. One of the most notable claims to fame is the highest 'known' breeding density in the world for Bonelli's Eagle Hieraaetus fasciatus and with over 400 breeding pairs of Griffon Vulture Gyps fulvus, the area has much to reward the visitor. Raptors are further represented by breeding Golden Eagle Aquila chrysaetos, Booted Eagle Hieraaetus pennatus, Short-toed Eagle Circaetus gallicus and wintering Imperial Eagle Aquila adalberti.

Sawfly Orchid
The picture further down this page shows an Ocellated Lizard Timon lepidus which can grow to enormous proportions and is a veracious predator of ground nesting bird's eggs and young in addition to other small lizards! The variety of reptiles will surprise many and thrill all!

Large Tortoiseshell
With over 2,000 species of plant in the area and several endemics, the area is without doubt hugely important to the Iberian Peninsula and Europe. There are now over 43 species of orchid listed, 164 vetch species, 24 campion and 27 species of thistle, just to name a few and wet the appetite for visiting botanists. A very comprehensive listing of the plants can be found by following the flower link below and is highly recommended for those planning to visit this remarkable area. From late October through to early June can be very rewarding for the enthusiast, with the spring show being the most spectacular during May. Of course the months of April and May also correspond to spring migration for birds, so these months can be an ideal time to plan a visit if you have the dual interests in both flowers and birds.

Ibex (male)
Currently our Butterfly species list has just exceeded 80! Obviously with so many plant species in our area, then the number of butterfly can be expected to be correspondingly high. The picture at the header of this blog illustrates one of our more common species the Spanish Festoon Zerynthia rumina and it has the rather charming local name of Arlequin.

Ocellated Lizard Timon lepidus
A small photo gallery of wildlife in the Serranía, I hope you like it?












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

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Morocco, Birds and things!

Common Bulbul joins us for breakfast!
Just arrived back home from guiding/leading yet another tour and what a contrast Morocco is from the last 2 tours in Costa Rica. I am always amazed at the diversity of this North African country, from the plains of the Atlantic Coast and northern interior, to the High Atlas Mountians and their snow covered peaks and then a descent to the rock and sand deserts that form the Moroccan Sahara. Staggering scenery, wonderful nature, superb accommodation and culinary delights to please the most discerning of tastes, makes me hungry just thinking about the food! I am posting up a few photographs to give you a feel for the country, not just the nature, but also scenery. The winter scenes in the High Atlas contrast sharply with the desert sands and their heat, so I hope you enjoy this offering, whilst a full trip report will follow at some point in the near future (famous last words).

Erg Chebbi dune complex
Our route in the High Atlas Mountains - breathtaking!
Spotted Sandgrouse entertained us in the southern deserts
Mountains were a feature of the eastern desert landscape
House Bunting (male) was an ever-present and cheerful companion
Roaming Camels file across the stone deserts beneath the Sahara Mountains
Staggering rock formations found in the Gorges de Dades
Ruddy Shelduck took advantage of temporary stands of water
The Palmeries near to Zagora held diverse birdlife
The High Atlas Mountains dusted with late snowfalls
Atlas Horned Lark seemed at home in the snow
I hope you enjoyed this brief, but varied, look at the journey we made into the middle and southern reaches of Morocco? Please do comment and why not consider joining me next March (2015)? The link to our next Safari Tour HERE

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

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Costa Rica – A birder’s dream!



Well, apologies for the blog being so quiet of late, but your man has been leading a couple of back-to-back tours in Costa Rica. The time away (from the 2nd February to 8th March) was fun filled and jam-packed with birds, butterflies, dragons and damselflies, plus a staggering array of wildlife. At some point I have to get around to producing some trip reports, but my schedule over the next few weeks will not allow more time writing or even access to the internet. Next week for instance will see me leading and guiding my 40th tour in Morocco, does this qualify me as a veteran wildlife guide for that country? I must be getting close. Photo header is a female Great Potoo actually brooding an egg, yep on a bare branch!



Sunbittern - spreads its fabulously patterned wings to sunbathe!
Anyways, just to give folk a taster of some of the wildlife, mostly birds, I thought it would be fun to post a few photos as a sneaky preview of the trip reports that will eventually be posted. I very much hope you enjoy them and maybe consider joining my next tour to Costa Rica in February 2015?

Scarlet Macaw - the noisiest parrot or at least one of them. 
Double-toothed Kite - such a beautiful raptor.
White-throated Mountain-gem - One of almost 50 hummers seen!!
Orange-collared Manakin - One of the most attractive families of birds.
Bare-throated Tiger Heron - riverside stalker!
Black Vulture - seen every single day of my stay in Costa Rica.

Hope you enjoyed this small collection. I have over 2300 photos to process and hopefully will be able to share more here in the future, certainly some will be included in the trip reports when I eventually have time to write them!

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

World Bird Wednesday

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

January birding and things…


Here in the southern most reaches of Spain, January and February can be pretty hit and miss with the weather, so getting out around my high mountain area is always a bit of a lottery at this time of year. Towards the backend of 2013 and now during January, we have had some rain at last, so expectations have risen for a better show of flowers this coming spring. A journey into the hills yesterday provided a taster with Broad-leafed Iris Juno planifolia in abundance, we also enjoyed finding grey and white (hypochromic) varieties, which are locally common, but generally rare, if you see what I mean? A number of flowers have been emerging through the change of weather, where rains have provided the necessary incentive for blooms to appear.



Large Tortoiseshell - Olmera - Nymphalis polychloros

Sunny days brought out several species of butterfly and so far this month my species list has just passed into the twenties, quite amazing and also delightful to see one or two favourites such as Large Tortoiseshell Nymphalis polychloros, to think friend Clive Burrows and I spent all of an April’s day last year trying to find this species in order to get a half decent photograph! The day was planned for a drive around a favoured area with a picnic lunch; I also wanted to check known territories for Golden Eagle occupancy. It was a relief, as has been the case in recent years, to find all pairs present and correct with some already displaying.

Golden Eagle - male and female photo taken from 1km!!

On various scrubby slopes Dartford Warbler were out in force, with little wind birds were more disposed to venture to the tops of broom, gorse and scrub oak bushes. I can’t recall ever seeing so many Dartfords on the same day. Like many warbler species they can be very skulking and often only allow fleeting glimpses, so it was a pleasant change to view them in a leisurely fashion! Echoing around the rocky mastiffs were songs of Blue Rock Thrush and Black Wheatear, though Blue Rock Thrush as ever kept their distance as if knowing my camera was at hand. Cirl and Rock Bunting were also singing with Thekla Lark dispersing and laying claim to breeding territories. Crag Martin tumbled and glided around cliff faces, whilst Swallow and House Martin were absent despite numbers now being seen on the coastal marshes.

Dartford Warbler - abundant on our day in our mountains

Another purpose for my journey yesterday and also some planned excursions this week, is to become more acquainted with the Canon SX50. I am off to Costa Rica leading 2 tours, so I am going to leave heavy camera equipment behind on this occasion and see how things progress with this lightweight point and shoot camera. Photos here demonstrate that it can cope with some conditions, but I will have to wait and see how things work out in Costa Rica, I hope you might pop-in at some point in the future when I have posted the results?

Black Wheatear

Small Gallery from January 2014 – Canon SX50

Common Cormorant
Rock Sparrow
Common Crane
Common Buzzard
Fuente de Piedra
Serrania de Ronda
Broad-leafed Iris Juno planifolia - Grey variant.
Broad-leafed Iris Juno planifolia - typical colouration
Broad-leafed Iris Juno planifolia - White variant - Hypochromic
Red-legged Partridge

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