Thursday, November 27, 2008

Birds in spring for Serrania de Ronda & Sierra de Grazalema 2008

Spring Arrives!

Our winter here has been extremely dry and the locals have welcomed recent heavy rains fearing the prospect of poor annual cereal and fruit harvests. Of course the early April rains were also important for the area’s wildlife. With some 6” inches falling in just over a week, the flowers are giving wonderful displays and many promise a flourish during May.

Wintering birds seemed to have fared well in the dry and mild conditions with a few very notable and welcome increases. Lesser Kestrels were more numerous than in previous years and Alpine Accentor continues to be discovered at more and more sites throughout the area. The later has probably been more widespread than previously thought and increased observer coverage may well have accounted for these new sites. Lesser Kestrels are divided into two main populations, those that migrate south for the winter and those which remain in the area all year round. With the succession of mild winters, the mortality rate among young Lesser Kestrel remaining here can reasonably be considered to have improved and I think this may explain recent population increases. It was also a good year for Siskin and Brambling, the former being particularly widespread and in large numbers. Wintering numbers of Griffon Vulture also continue to increase and perhaps reflect the continued availability of food at various feeding stations in the area. During recent years these large numbers of Griffons have also attracted Rüppell’s Vulture, Black Vulture and Red Kite.

Spring migration started early this year with arrivals of both Swallow and Pallid Swift during February. Bee Eater were back in late March (as opposed to late April in 2007) and the wonderful song of Nightingales could be heard in the river valleys during the final week in March. Raptor migration was poor this spring in comparison to other years, but we believe easterly and southerly winds most likely pushed most towards the plains in the West. Most notable an early bird this year was the male Whinchat seen on 30th March! The few early birds gave rise to a certain amount of expectancy for other species to also arrive a little ahead of their normal timescale, but the season proved to be a real mixed and strange one. Orphean Warbler and Bonelli’s Warbler both arrived late and Olivaceous Warbler has only now made its appearance. Another notable species for arriving late this year is Golden Oriole, males only recently being heard and rarely seen! Short-toed and Booted Eagle plus Black Kites are still passing through and on the 24th April Honey Buzzard were seen for the first time in reasonable numbers. I had my earliest ever White-rumped Swift on the 25th April, so the season has been a real mixed bag.

Each day has had its thrills and I guess the very good numbers of Wryneck seen this spring can be counted amongst my year’s highlights. Spectacled, Sub-alpine and Bonelli’s Warbler all appear to have arrived in good numbers and add to the chorus of newly arrived male birds proclaiming and establishing territories. Dippers are breeding again near to the Molino Del Santo hotel, so all seems well in my world!!! We have recently been updating our picture gallery for the birds of the area and these can be viewed by following this link:

Of possible interest to those with an interest in the flora of this stunning area, then we now do full day flower tours. More info on this link:

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