Monday, October 28, 2013

Sunday Driver - Serranía de Ronda

After some long overdue rain, not much to be fair, the sun came out; deep blue adorned the skies, whilst not a single cloud dared appear. Well, what did you expect I might do on such a day? Yep, of course you are right, I headed out to survey my local patch, my realm, the Serranía de Ronda, that most magnificent of areas with such a diverse range of habitats, it simply is the most wonderful of regions to live and explore. Birds, animals, flowers, scenery, culture and great food, what a combination to ensure you never get bored.

Not unnaturally the good turn in the weather brought out the locals in force, walkers joined the mushroom hunters and families were picnicking in the local natural parks, whilst I joined the many Sunday drivers, at least until I left the main roads and went on my beloved track to Llanos de Libar, the starting point of my route. There were plenty of birds around, made flighty by the number of walkers in the area, but I did manage a few peaceful moments and photograph a couple of species. Some winter visitors made their first appearance for me, 3 Alpine Accentors hopping around on the track, whilst a female Ring Ouzel joined the throngs of Spotless Starlings feeding on haws in the Hawthorn cluster near to the beginnings of the track.

Southern Autumn Crocus
At a much higher altitude Southern Autumn Crocus provided an opportunity to attempt some arty approach with my toy camera! Huge mixed finch flocks were around the cultivated halfway mark along the track and these were joined by large parties of both White Wagtail and Meadow Pipit, both winter visitors to the area. Thekla Lark proved very obliging for a change, they obviously didn’t realise I had my camera with me, so managed some half decent photos, examples of which appear on this blog. Northern Wheatear are still passing through and a new one for me this season, a male Merlin, made an unsuccessful swoop at one of the wheatears.

White Wagtail (immature male) fresh from a bath
The highest reaches of the track was to prove disappointing due to the number of mushroom hunters walking around scouring the meadows for their bounty. Aren’t these important fungi protected in this UNESCO Biosphere Park? If not why not, they are an important food source for insect and animal alike. Judging by the harvest, some of the collectors must have been gathering for commercial gain too! Probably me being grumpy due to the disturbance these folk created and only managed a few scenery shots before departing.

Black Redstart - large numbers in the area and increasing
The change in weather, now warm with clear skies, accounted for the number of Griffon Vulture in the skies, such large gatherings riding the thermals and up draughts, there were literally hundreds around the valleys and mountain tops. The influx of Black Redstarts continued apace with good numbers all along the track, they will soon peak and settle to a lesser number for the winter. Blue Rock Thrush and Black Wheatear were singing and enjoying the sunshine, whilst Rock Buntings continued to tease my efforts to get a decent photograph, little blighters!

Upper meadows of Llanos de Libar very quiet due to many mushroom pickers!
The end of my day was spent around the higher reaches of the Rio Guadiaro, where things were remarkably quiet for such a warm day. One thing that struck me was the lack of large numbers for Chiffchaff, they are normally abundant by now, but then again maybe they are more widely distributed due to the warm weather, seeking the sanctuary of the river in harsher conditions. Still, bent the old duffer’s back and took an upshot of the river and generally enjoyed wandering on the river bank.

Rio Guadiaro - got down low for this, but trouble getting back up, age!!
More photos of the day below.

Griffon Vulture - so many riding the thermals and up draughts.
Lower area of the Libar track
Thekla Lark - didn't spot the camera this time!
A Loosestrife? Not too sure about this one.. must look it up.
The ancient Oak Forest of the upper Llanos de Libar

For more information on the Serrania de Ronda and Sierra de Grazalema please visit our website HERE

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jtbear47 said...

Always love your photos Peter...also jealous of your location to so much birdlife.
It's not lacking up here in the Pyrenees but have noticed a lack of Bullfinches this year!

Peter Jones said...

Thanks and I do feel very privileged living here! If it makes you feel any better, Bullfinch is very rare winter visitor here... Peter