Thursday, May 31, 2012

Birds, mountains and a love affair!

After some heavy duty blogs and writing about such depressing aspects of self-interest among our species i.e. Buzzard culls and unwanted and unsustainable property developments, I needed to cheer myself up a bit and what better way than indulge and immerse myself describing a great love affair of mine, La Serrania de Ronda!

Birding your local patch is a great way of getting to know your area and over a period of time, trends of species visiting and breeding. My ‘patch’ covers a vast area, some 48 10² kilometre grid squares broken down into 1² kilometre tetrads for reference purposes! Of course I am lucky as I lead groups in and around the study zone, so not only do I get to keep a regular eye on my birds, but I also have the enormous pleasure of sharing my knowledge of them with others.

Upland meadows and out of the way places...
It never ceases to amaze me, and others accompanying me, the diversity of habitats within my patch. In just a few minutes you can pass through mountain terrain, woodland and rolling hills, through dramatic landscapes and over soft green hills. My patch is a far cry from what many of the uninitiated perceive or imagine as Spain. The epicentre of such a stunningly beautiful landscape, fauna and flora rich area is the historical town of Ronda, nestling between 2 large UNESCO Biosphere Parks and giving a focal point for visitors and residents alike.

Flowers are another attraction for visitors
The area has become famous with birdwatchers from around the world and it has the added value of being scenically stunning and accessible. This wonderful area of Spain also has the advantage of being easily reached via the many airports close to its heartland i.e. Malaga, Seville, Gibraltar and Jerez. The Serranía, famous for its white villages, culinary delights and historical monuments is certainly one of the friendliest places you will ever visit in Spain, quite apart from being a haven for a rich diversity of wildlife.

Short-toed Eagle one of many raptors present in the area
Throughout the province of Andalucia there are many great expanses of wild places and natural parks, including some of international importance for both flora and fauna. Many readers will already be familiar with nature reserves such as the wetlands of Doñana and the cultural centres of Seville and Granada and yet the Serranía de Ronda provides the most accessible of all wildernesses and cultural areas within the province. The road network throughout is extensive and together with park tracks, much of the interior can be safely explored, in fact the adjoining natural park of the Sierra de Grazalema is also famous for its fauna and flora which gives further reason for any visitor to base themselves in the Ronda area.

Thekla Lark an interesting species here.
Emblematic birds for the area include resident Griffon Vulture and Bonelli’s Eagle, both have populations here that are of international importance, other breeding raptors include Golden, Short-toed and Booted Eagle. In more recent times Egyptian Vulture have declined, but both Black and Rüppell’s Vulture are becoming more frequent, so pay attention when you see those large flocks of Griffons! Many smaller birds are noteworthy such as Black Wheatear, Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush, Rock Bunting, Orphean and Subalpine Warbler, with some good populations here of Olivaceous Warbler and Iberian Chiffchaff. It is a fantastic area and some great birding can be achieved here.

Hopefully such a wealth of scenery and wildlife might tempt you to explore this wilderness, I thoroughly recommend a visit.

Some useful links to the area:

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