As an offshoot from an interest in birding you become acutely aware of the changes in the seasons. Subtle changes to dramatic sudden change, from the dry summer here in Andalucia to an absolute deluge which produced 10 inches of rain in 2 hours (Sierra de las Nieves).
Of course the onset of autumn also means a change to our local avifauna, not least the southward migration of so many much loved birds, whose absence is mourned and a longing for their return burns ever brighter as autumn progresses and slowly ebbs into winter.
It is a difficult time to go birding here in my mountains (Serranía de Ronda), a kind of transitory period with so many summer residents departed for
Africa and a wait for
winter birds to arrive. Taking people around the area can be tough, as we
struggle to find remnants of migration, still late birds including Whinchat,
Tawny Pipit and the occasional Short-toed or Booted Eagle help to give spice to
our days. Some magnificent birds remain all year as residents such as Bonelli’s
Eagle, Black Wheatear and the constant songster the Blue Rock Thrush, but
things definitely quieten down for a few weeks during October.
Quite apart from looking forward to winter arriving birds, now is time for drawing breath and reflecting on a very hot and dry summer. As mentioned in previous blogs/articles, the breeding season has been hard for many birds, especially insectivores; with the late flowering of many plants having effects on insects appearing much later than normal and in reduced numbers. Warblers, Bee eaters and many others found life hard, but the emergence of late insects eventually led to successful broods being raised during the late summer. Other species such as Bonelli’s Eagle had a great year with most nests producing 2 fledged young. Not such a bad summer after all.
Now, as I ponder late autumn, winter birds are just about starting to make an appearance, my fig tree is currently being ravaged by hordes of Blackcap and Spotless Starling with the occasional late migrant such as Garden Warbler joining in the feast. Chiffchaff are starting to arrive along with a few early White Wagtail, soon I am expecting large numbers of Ring Ouzel to feast on the plentiful fruits of local Hawthorn, these were well below normal last winter due to the lack of hawthorn berries, so I am expecting thrushes aplenty this winter. Alpine Accentors should arrive very soon as snows fall on higher mountain ranges and I guess the big question for me is will we be graced with Wallcreeper this winter? Richard’s Pipit sometimes accompanies the large winter contingent of Meadow and Water Pipit, so plenty to look forward to!
Seasonal changes to the weather offer exciting opportunities for birding here and not least the winter months, when large numbers of our avian friends choose to spend their time here in the temperate climbs of Andalucia. Common Crane will arrive in their thousands, whilst local populations of Little Bustard and Great Bustard will flock together making observation easier. Stone Curlews too gather into huge wintering flocks that can number in excess of 1000, so spectacles as well as thrills await the winter birder!
Peter is an associate of Andalucia Wildlife Guides, why not join him this winter on a winter holiday in the mountains, steppe and wetlands of Andalucia? For more details on his winter programme of short breaks see here, for day tours also read more here.