Friday, October 24, 2014

High Mountains, Long Shadows

It’s amazing just how quickly time seems to flyby. It seemed as if it was only yesterday when summer’s visit painted our skies in the deepest of blue and softened the rough hues of our mountains with shimmering haze. It was only yesterday when Black Kite, Honey Buzzard wheeled high in their thousands gathering to make their southwards pilgrimage to Africa. But now our autumn has abruptly cast her door wide open and the days are becoming shorter, trees are baring their skeletal shapes, where once they had been adorned in many hues of green. It’s a time where nature takes a rest, where life seems to move along at a leisurely pace and prepare itself for the harshness of winter.

A lazy sun casts deep shadows on the hills and mountains of my landscape giving a velvet texture to the high slopes, but Bonelli’s Eagle are already pledging themselves to their partners, ignoring the message of winter and preparing already to reaffirm their bonds of parents to be. Late departing Barn Swallows still chatter and busy themselves over our local river, whilst newly arrived Chiffchaff hawk insects from every vantage point aligning the river’s edge. It is here where winter will first be felt with the cooling waters spreading their mist and clinging to all that are unable to escape its reach. Green Sandpiper and Common Sandpiper use this river as a highway to warmer climes, but some are attracted to spend winter here and lend character to a day’s foray by birders, their constant bobbing and strutting combining to perform a dance to entertain the observer, a performance enhanced by a watery reflection.

In the higher reaches of the surrounding mountains, Ring Ouzel have at last arrived in good numbers and are busy raiding the horde of Hawthorn berries that are so bountiful this year. Song Thrush and an occasional Redwing join the harvest, whilst Alpine Accentor put in brief appearances before vanishing behind the rock strewn slopes beneath high mountain crags. A Mistle Thrush performs a forlorn defense of its chosen fruit tree and is distracted; overwhelmed by sheer numbers of marauding Ring Ouzel, whilst large flocks of Spotless Starling join-in the sacking of the bird’s chosen cache. And all played out beneath the ever watchful eye of a Sparrowhawk, that has taken to the valley as a likely winter’s retreat. Crag Martin skip the rock face and mock the Sparrowhawk with twists and turns unmatched by their would-be foe. In the high grasslands, Meadow Pipits tiptoe and are joined by ever increasing numbers of White Wagtail, where Water Pipit have recently arrived to feast on various larva in the soft grounds surrounding small pools of the Llanos de Libar.

With an optimistic gaze, my eyes are always drawn skywards for autumn and winter raptors. The area can have an attraction, even a mystical lure, not just for me, but for the wanderings of such species as Black Vulture and Imperial Spanish Eagle. For the most part, these scarce birds tend to be juveniles, displaced by the sudden chastening of their parents. Lost souls searching for their place in an unforgiving world, they must find a niche and wander far on a journey of discovery. Merlin and Hen Harrier put in fleeting appearances, whilst individuals can also take-up winter residence. Small populations of resident Lesser Kestrel inhabit the rocky crags of the Serrania de Ronda and their numbers appear to have increased, no doubt milder winters having assisted them with finding food. Golden Eagle is another species increasing and often rewards my diligence, whilst scrutinising the circling clusters of Griffon Vulture, a practice regularly enacted when looking for raptors, many birds of prey seem attracted by circling Griffon Vultures and normally these take the high space above these large and apparently intimidating giants of my skies.

And so onto a pictorial of the current season here in my mountains, I very much hope you enjoy the view and do let me know if the read and viewing was a pleasant experience!

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

Strait of Gibraltar - Migration - also wetlands and so much more read HERE

1 comment:

Margaret Adamson said...

HI Peter

Readng about all the birds you are seeing in your neck of the woods reminds me often of the day you took Michael and myself out from Ronda I have etempted with the Costa Rica trip however on looking into the flights, it seems a bit of a nightmare to tying in with the schedule. I have thought of phoning you for advise but I don't know if that is possible. I did see a number on your web site, would that get you?