Sunday, March 18, 2012

Ronda – that time of year

How many times do you catch yourself saying “It’s that time of year”? Well, for me at least, it is that time of year, a time of change and hope. Nature here is shaking off the slumbers of winter and the promise of the newborn is just around the corner. Our mountains surround the town of Ronda and reflect the seasons in a way that is obvious and breathtaking. Autumn and Spring produce long and deep shadows across the rock faces and soften the drama of crags and sheer limestone cliffs, but now of course the greens of grasses and cultivated areas are now giving the impressions of velvet drapes enveloping the countryside. Yellow blooms dominate the early spring, but also blushes of pink and white cascade on light winds as almond blossom shakes free from leafy limbs, soon blues will replace the yellows and thereafter carpets of colour will adorn mountain pathways.

Our wildlife now rewards our observations with an array of pure spectacle, from the rapidly changing colours of our landscape to the cranky and amusing spring behaviour of animals indulging in their pre-nuptials. Many of our finches and buntings, after spending most of the winter months in large social and amicable flocks, are now turning on each other as they compete for the attentions of their mate and also to establish their home territories. Crazed males chase and harass encroaching potential upstarts, then retreat to a favoured song-post to advertise themselves with beautiful renditions of proclamation. Winter birds are now slowly departing and those that congregated in prime sites are dispersing, our summer residents are appearing and replacing the void left by those heading northwards. The sadness of losing wintering birds such as Chiffchaff and the amusing antics of White Wagtails is tempered by the chattering and busy swarms of Swallows as they arrive to revisit their traditional nesting sites and promise warmer weather is soon here to stay.

My forays into our surrounding mountains are now punctuated by witnessing the frenzied attack on Griffon Vultures by Bonelli’s Eagle, the pair obviously feel very protective at their nesting site and will also attack any unsuspecting migrant that chances by, such as the unprepared number of Short-toed Eagle passing ever onwards on the northern highway to far away breeding grounds. Scanning the skyline above the dramatic mountain ridges reveals large wheeling flocks of Alpine Swift and migrant Crag Martin as they feed on airborne insect swarms, helplessly taken towards these birds by the up draughts and producing a kind of self service fast food counter for these hungry migrants. Very soon now some of our summer warblers will be appearing and our river valleys will resonate with the song of the common Nightingale. Spectacularly coloured birds too will be making an appearance such as Woodchat Shrike and Bee eater, both a common breeding bird in the area. Other early arrivals are expected in the mountain areas with both the Black-eared Wheatear and Rock Thrush great favourites of mine, colourful, elegant with the Rock Thrush also adding music to an otherwise quiet landscape.

It’s that time of year, the joy of Spring!

Why not join Peter in the Serrania de Ronda, either on a full tour or a day tour?

See here for further details:


Mary Howell Cromer said...

Peter, your words so eloquently spoken, a beautiful introduction to spring coming along nicely in the area where you live and photograph such beauty. Lovely birds. Have a wonderful week~

Peter Jones said...

Thank you Mary. I am off today leading a group in Morocco (Sahara Desert) until the 30th March. Strange because I will see lots of my birds returning whilst I am there, so spring will come early for me and my birds! Have a great week and following your hawk account with great interest. Peter