Monday, December 30, 2013

2013 – Peter through the looking glass!

Well not quite a magic looking glass, but certainly seems like it sometimes through a camera lens! One the greatest things about photography is the preservation of memories, the ability of a photograph to remind you of good, or bad, days or occasions. Compiling memories of 2013 through photographs I wanted also to make a kind of mini-statement, oh no I hear you say, something that the year has made more important for me. The idea started when I had been introduced to the ‘Best Birder / Birdwatcher’ in the World! I am sure the very idea must have embarrassed the poor person, as all they had was the world’s largest ‘seen’ list of birds. And so this led me to consider the world of the ‘Lister’, particularly the ones who do it competitively and not just for fun.

Thekla Lark
The person with the largest List, the person who has seen the most rarities, the person who has spent the most money chasing down numbers of species, the one who beats the magic number of birds seen in a Big Year! Do these people believe that birding (birdwatching) is a number’s game, that somehow they will be judged as being somewhat superior for having seen more species than the next birder or birdwatcher? My goodness me, get a life and learn just to enjoy nature or go back to collecting things such as stamps or something similar. By all means do things for fun, which is not my point. The fact that there are birdwatchers (birders) who genuinely believe they are better for having seen more species than the next person is frankly very sad and delusional.

Mirror Orchid
And so to my blog and I’d like to convey to you my celebration of the everyday birds or animals that fill my life with so much joy. To show every bird, flower and animal that just makes me so happy with nature is impossible, so here I concentrated on my local fauna, things that encourage my love and interest in the natural world. I live, I breath nature, I do not chase rarities, I do not keep public lists to compete with anyone, what I do is share a passion and something that I consider so important to the wellbeing of the people in our world. So here it is, a photo collection, in part, of the most common and beautiful in my life locally, I hope you might enjoy this small collection. Thank you for your support and I wish you and your families a Very Healthy and Peaceful New Year!

Red Deer
Corn Bunting
Mistle Thrush
Broad-leafed Iris
Perez's Frog
Eurasian Jay
Dartford Warbler - male
Marbled White
Crested Tit
Azure-winged Magpie
Poppy Field
Spanish Imperial Eagle
Ibex - male
Red-veined Darter
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

World Bird Wednesday

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Happy Christmas to Me!

Before the onslaught of Christmas festivities and duties, it was great to take some pre-Christmas time out and indulge a little, whilst ignoring the fact that I still have some presents to buy for my nearest and dearest!

Brenda and I had arranged to meet good friends for lunch as a way of an impromptu Christmas celebration, great food, lively conversation and just plain lovely to share time with friends. The day was made complete by our journey to and from Gaucin high in the Serranía de Ronda, we took our time and managed to capture some of the wonders of our home via our cameras. 

I hope you enjoy my pictorial and take this opportunity to wish you and your families a Very Merry Xmas!

In the hills.

Cloud, cloud inversion and smoke rising from Sweet Chestnut brashings.

The speck to the right and above the cloud is a high flying Griffon Vulture!

Gaucin one of our famous White Villages
Along the way.

Stonechat (male)

Green Sandpiper - Totally relaxed!

White Wagtail looking into the sun

Chiffchaff - these busy warblers are abundant in our winters

A Very Merry Xmas - Enjoy yourselves and stay safe this holiday!

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

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Griffon Vulture - Málaga and Cádiz

A colossus in our mountains! With a wingspan of 2.8 metres and weighing 8 kilos, that’s 9 foot and 17lbs in old money, Griffon Vultures Gyps fulvus is our largest resident raptor here in the Serranía de Ronda and Sierra de Grazalema. Essentially a specialist carrion eater, this enormous bird is spectacular and the most easily seen raptor in our mountains.

Note: Polytypic. Nominate fulvus, North Africa, south and south-east Europe, south-west Asia south to Sinai, Arabia, and north-west Pakistan, and central Asia from Tadzhikistan to the Altai. Extralimital: fulvescens, from Sind and Kashmir through north and central India to Assam, north to Himalayan foothills.

The feeding frenzy
Status and Fact File: Common resident. Although widespread throughout the province, it can be absent to very scarce in some areas (at least outside of periods for migration). Highest density of breeding birds is in the Cádiz and Málaga provinces. Numbers greatly increased during autumn migration period, as more northerly birds, mostly juveniles, migrate southwards. Some evidence to support local juveniles also migrate to Africa. Population remains artificially high, maintained by various feeding areas. Although relatively widespread, range is somewhat restricted due to the need for high cliffs or mountains for breeding and roosting. The only similar species likely to cause identification difficulties is Rüppell's Vulture Gyps rueppellii, now an annual visitor to the area and certainly in the Serranía de Ronda it has been observed during each month of the year.

Aggression display - territorial dispute
Throughout Spain, this species has increased steadily over the past 15 years by the provision of feeding stations, the last official census carried out to ascertain the number of breeding birds put the population at 17,000 pairs. EU legislation threatened the status quo with the banning of artificial feeding stations. With the advent of mad cow disease (BSE), legislation was introduced requiring all dead carcases to be incinerated limiting the possibility of any further cross-contamination of this disease. The affect upon many areas was a disaster for Griffon Vulture populations and other carrion eating birds. In fact, some Griffon Vultures, normally a placid bird, took to attacking livestock where feeding stations were closed! Happily, due to pressure from various conservation and agricultural organisations, feeding stations are now to permitted again and are regulated to include fenced off compounds sited more than 500 metres away from human habitation. Of course all carcasses will have to have been tested negative for BSE!!!

Comical pose - cautious approach before tackling a carcass
Many visitors (and possibly those living in the area) find identification of raptors difficult and confusing. With 4 breeding species of eagle and other large raptors in the area, then I think this is not surprising! However, as far as our Griffon Vultures are concerned, identification is made less difficult if we take account of its unique flight silhouette. Next time you see this bird in flight, either at close quarters or in the distance, make a note of the almost total lack of tail in relation to overall size. The depth of wing (leading to trailing edge) is very much greater than tail length. In many other raptors the tail is as long as the depth of wing. You could say, when in the air, Griffon Vultures look rather like a huge flying moustache!

Leaving the roost
Our local breeding population of circa.600 pairs and probably as many non-breeding birds, make this area one of the most important in Europe for Griffon Vultures. Perhaps not the best looking of birds, whilst perched or feeding, seeing these birds in flight is a natural wonder. They are among the best aviators in the bird world, using up-draughts and thermals to perfection. In common with many large birds, Griffons save energy by finding airflows which reduce the need for the flapping of their wings. In fact, apart from take-off and landing, it is rare to see these giants of the skies flap their wings. Young birds can take 6 years to mature sufficiently to become breeding birds and this makes their adolescence one of the most protracted of all birds. Adults can live beyond thirty years and once established in an area will rarely venture far from their home territories. Non-breeding birds however will range over wide areas, with some choosing to venture as far a field as Africa.

The gentle giant - beauty is in the eye of the beholder!

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

Wildlife Guides you can trust - Leading you closer to nature

Friday, November 22, 2013

Birds and things of November

With a lousy weather forecast for this weekend and today, I headed out to various parts of my local patch for a couple of days to enjoy reasonable conditions whilst they last. Normally, taken with the photo bug, it is a case of giving yourself opportunities and for that you have to venture forth armed with binos and camera! Half the fun was to just be in the countryside enjoying anything and everything about the scenery and the nature of the Serrania de Ronda and fringe areas such as Olvera. Frustrating too, got up close and personal with a pair of Bonelli’s Eagle and enjoyed the moment so much I forgot to get my camera up and focused until it was too late before they disappeared over a ridge, probably one of the best opportunities I have ever had for decent flight shots, have you ever done that by just enjoying the moment so much?

A Griffon Vulture cruises over nearby trees, take a photo or enjoy the moment?
Of course the time of year makes it difficult to concentrate solely on birds; autumn colours just wash the landscape with their golden yellows and reds. It is mission impossible not to get carried away with the colours and shoot several scenes without regard for flying birds or anything else that should catch the eye. My first day was spent doing a rough loop, striking out towards El Gastor, via old Ronda, then taking a route to the historic town of Olvera, then back again via some off road tracks hoping to see a few raptors and winter finch flocks. It was a journey of rich reward both scenically and for birds. Per chance I happened on a gathering of Griffon Vulture feeding away from my eye line on a high grass slope, I had to wait for them to tumble from the ridge and cruise over my position before being able to photograph them! As you can see from the photo I still haven’t mastered the technique of flight shots with the Canon SX50, it will take time getting the focus and speed connected with my own coordination!

Juzcar - now a bizarre Smurf Blue, framed by autumn Sweet Chestnut trees
Yesterday I visited the high valley of the Rio Genal, one of two rivers in my area that flows all year round. The valley is particularly renowned for its Sweet Chestnuts and at this time of year the tree’s autumn colour is vibrant and spectacular. So the day was spent looking at the scenery, the colours and just enjoying being out and about. In recent years, one of the villages in the valley played host to the Sony movie about Smurfs! In the build-up to this affair, the village was asked to paint itself Smurf Blue and the episode meant a vote by villagers to agree to denigrate themselves for a few bucks. Of course the area is famous for its Pueblos Blancos, white villages, so it was quite a departure from tradition. Anyway, the village is now on the tourist map as locals and natives of the region take their children to see the village and a few glass fibre Smurfs. Keeping the village blue has brought people and money to Juzcar, which in these times has proved life saving for the locals.

Of course what would a blog be here without a Goldfinch photo?
Anyway, enough of my rambling and down to the business of sharing my passion of the area with you, (via a pictorial) showing aspects of the autumn here. Hope you will have enjoyed the show?

The higher reaches of the Genal Valley in autumn.
The historical town of Olvera
One of the Bonelli's Eagle nests I am watching, this show signs of recent activity
Serin (male) comes close to get a drink
The Rio Genal, one of two main rivers that flow all year here
Stonechat (female) uses higher elevations to find ground dwelling insects
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

Wildlife Guides you can trust - Leading you closer to nature

Friday, November 15, 2013

Ronda and her surroundings

The mountain chain that emerges from the deep waters separating Spain from Africa strikes north from Gibraltar rising to the high peaks of the Sierra Nevada (with the highest mountain in Spain) and then disappears under the Mediterranean only to emerge again as the Balearic Islands. The spectacular peaks and rugged landscape of this mountain chain is nowhere more dramatic than in the area known as the Serranía de Ronda. Here is a natural wonder, an area that attracts people from all over the world, many returning again and again. Our wildlife is almost as dramatic as the landscape, certainly as diverse, which also attracts nature lovers from far and wide.

Griffon Vultures line-up to watch us humans rush around all day!
I am currently looking through some photos taken during the first half of this month within my area La Serranía de Ronda, so I thought it would be good to combine my wildlife photos and scenery to give readers a more complete picture of the month in my mountains. As ever I hope you enjoy the fauna, flora and scenery.

Black Redstart continues to build in numbers for the winter
A Pictorial of Life in the Serranía.

Male Ibex

Young Ibex

Female Ibex

Southern Autumn Crocus

Llanos de Libar mid-elevation

Cork Oak Forest

Autumn Shadows are long in the Olive groves

UNESCO Biosphere park Sierra de las Nieves

The view across the Sierra de Grazalema from Ronda

Chiffchaff are an abundant winter visitor

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

Wildlife Guides you can trust - Leading you closer to nature