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The Andalucia Bird Society  |  ABS Birding forum  |  Your Local Patch  |  Topic: Serrania de Ronda and Sierra de Grazalema « previous next »
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Author Topic: Serrania de Ronda and Sierra de Grazalema  (Read 34657 times)
TonyB
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« Reply #15 on: November 12, 2009, 03:10:32 pm »

Peter, besides the informative nature of your latest post (8 November), this is a beautiful piece of writing.  It really is an inspirational piece.  It has made me take up birdwatching :D
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« Reply #16 on: November 17, 2009, 11:10:48 am »

Now stop this Tony I am going all red in the cheeks! Thanks and pleased someone is reading this thread.

Peter  :D
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« Reply #17 on: November 23, 2009, 03:43:41 pm »

Right now 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. And yet.........

During a period when the excitement of autumn migration subsides, I visit my regular haunts seeking the first of our wintering birds. Even now there are large numbers of birds passing through in search of their favoured wintering grounds. As I write this article, Black Redstarts, Chiffchaff, Ring Ouzel and Meadow Pipit are here in ever increasing numbers, some will stay, but a great many will slowly make their way ever southwards. Recent visits to 'my local patch', Llanos de Libar, have been rewarded with some winter regulars and Water Pipit is now busy chasing its cousin, Meadow Pipit, away from the small pools in the higher meadows.

Redwing, Song Thrush and Ring Ouzel are now in the lower area of the Libar valley, feasting on the abundant harvest of Hawthorn. Alpine Accentor, so difficult on occasions, can be seen dancing around scree slopes beneath the high bluffs and the odd bird showing well framed by blue skies on the clifftops. Was it my imagination, or did I hear Wallcreeper above the dense Hawthorns? Pretty sure I did and this will consign me to more visits, creeking my old neck to scan the high cliffs, suffer now I must for my art! My gentle strolls through my local Olive grove are now accompanied by the constant chastening 'tut tuts' of Blackcaps, whilst Song Thrush are increasing almost daily and most recently I saw my first Siskins of the winter, always a great pleasure to observe.

The Society will be holding a field meeting at the lagoon of Fuente de Piedra on December 12th and I will certainly be going along hoping for some decent views of Common Crane. I can remember seeing over 1300 of them at this location some four years ago, so hope springs eternal. The surrounding area can also be interesting, with Stone Curlew somewhere around and in very large numbers, whilst the lagoons should have some waders and duck species within easy viewing distance from the new hides. Some raptors that can be found here during the winter are Red Kite, Hen Harrier, Bonelli's Eagle and Peregrine Falcon, so the day promises to be worth attending.

Peter
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« Reply #18 on: February 20, 2010, 11:58:59 pm »

A Winter's Tale

And so retribution has been cruelly dealt for having basked in unashamed glory during the autumn past! Golden sunlit days and balmy temperatures seem but distant memories as our mountains were plunged into the heaviest and most prolonged period of rainfall on record. Low temperatures, flooding and landslides conspired to keep any sane birder well locked-up in their nests, whilst optimism and unfounded faith in the law of averages soon waned with the sheer number of wet and grey days. Needless to say wading up to your neck in muck and water had a profound affect in curtailing the enthusiasm of an old warrior, who also had the cast iron alibi that leading tours to Gambia, Senegal and Costa Rica meant birding for the period could be achieved without any self inflicted hardship! Lame excuse for such behaviour, but then again you shouldn’t believe everything you read and also being birdwatchers yourselves, then you know very well what total idiots we can be by venturing out in the most appalling conditions. And so armed with soggy telescope, binoculars and clothing I put my best and most stupid foot forward and sallied forth into the grey murky mountains of the Serranía de Ronda.

I guess fortune favours the brave, or in this case a rather wet idiot. Have you noticed, no matter how tight you fasten your waist belt, rain water from your neck races down the recesses of your spinal track and ends up in the most uncomfortable of places? I am not sure why I should continue to be surprised by the fortitude and resilience of our birds, but with such harsh weather I expected to find very little activity among my birds, how daft a notion. The bumper harvest of Hawthorn berries ensured Ring Ouzel, Redwing and Song Thrush remained to squabble with competing Spotless and Common Starling, whilst the local flock of Crag Martins were accompanied by a single and one assumes lost, if not demented, House Martin. Alpine Accentor had, despite atrocious conditions, increased in numbers during December through to February and a single Fieldfare, a rare winter visitor, joined several Mistle Thrush on the scrub slopes of the lower Libar. Blue Rock Thrush were singing their song of spring in defiance of the weather and were constantly being interrupted by the aggressive and highly territorial Black Wheatear. Of course our regular residents and winter visitors appeared unaffected by the gloom and seemed to be present in their usual numbers, the only birds to be displaced were Common and Green Sandpipers, normally seen along the gentle flow of our rivers which by now had become raging torrents and higher than I have ever seen them.

On a very few clear days I managed to visit a few favoured haunts and was rewarded by excellent views of both Golden and Bonelli’s Eagle. Both of these handsome raptors are now adding materials to their nests and getting very excited by the close proximity of their chosen partners, fruity, aroused and copulating are they right now! Where the Bonelli gets very protective of their territory against all who trespass, the Golden Eagle seems remarkably uninterested and almost aloof, especially with the constant harassment from Choughs, but this mood is instantly changed when Ravens appear on the scene. It is hard not to make the larger birds anything other than the stars of my winter show; memorable sightings since December have included Spanish Imperial Eagle, Black Vulture,   Rüppell's Vulture, Goshawk and most recently, admittedly not on my local patch, 18 Great Bustard near to Osuna. So bad as the weather has been, birding still provided highlights to lessen the burden of winter and now migration has already begun with Swallow, Red-rumped Swallow, House Martin and Black Kite passing in large numbers, whilst the odd Booted and Short-toed Eagle have added some extra spice along with Great-spotted Cuckoo.


Peter ;D
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« Reply #19 on: February 28, 2010, 04:02:43 pm »

A break in the weather yesterday saw several good sized flocks of Black Kite passing through and a steady passage of Short-toed Eagle. Near to Canete there were 4 Egyptian Vulture and Red Kite. Black Vulture (juv) is still being seen regularly near to Acinipo (Old Ronda) with a maximum of 3 being seen together. The 1st Pallid Swifts were seen at Cueva de Gato on the 22nd. Both Swallow and House Martin are around in good numbers and the occassional Red-rumped Swallow and Sand Martin are being seen. After an initial flurry of Booted Eagles passing through, I've not seen one all week.

Bonelli's and Golden Eagle are both incubating now as are Griffon Vulture. Seen a few Northern Wheatears during the week and strangely an equal measure of both male and female, normally males dominate early passage.

Wondering how many species might suffer locally, particularly resident birds, through the destruction of marginal vegetation on our rivers - due to high water level and virtual torrents. Many of the riverbanks have collapsed and its difficult to see how some of the vegetation will recover in time for the spring.

Peter  >:(
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« Reply #20 on: March 23, 2010, 11:23:50 am »

Okay, were is 'my' spring??

Whilst raptors and even a few Bee eaters poured into the coastal areas yesterday, up here in my mountains remains fairly slow for migration. Occasional highlights ignite the flame of hope, but apart from small numbers of Short-toed Eagle, Black Kite and a few Booted Eagles, the season is slow getting underway. Of course hirundines are already well established and nesting, together with large flocks passing northwards, I even managed Alpine Swift this week at their breeding sites in Ronda and Cueva de Gato, but generally speaking things are slow. Our Lesser Kestrel are back and in good numbers seemingly having enjoyed a successful winter, certainly numbers appear up on last year at both Setenil and Zahara, principally insectivores, they obviously enjoyed a drier winter than us!  Our Northern Wheatears are on their territories, but Black-eared Wheatears are conspicuous by their absence, although I have seen a few migrant males.

In desperation for migration I have made forays to areas on the periphery of my patch and although not producing anything like ‘spring migration’ I did manage a single Lesser Flamingo, Gull-billed Tern and 15+ White-headed Duck at Laguna Dolce, while thousands of Greater Flamingo were brought to the shoreline by high waters at Fuente de Piedra. During the visit to Fuente de Piedra it made my day to see large numbers of Pallid Swift (here since the backend of February) joined by reasonable numbers of Common Swift. Red-rumped Swallows glided among the many other hirundines and a few waders, including a staggering 7 Spotted Redshank, kept me amused.

So while I wait for spring to happen, never complete without iconic species such as Bee eater and Nightingale, I will content myself with watching such sights as Bonelli Eagle males bringing food for brooding females and male Golden Eagle calling females away from their labour to enjoy the day’s up draughts and thermals.

Peter
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« Reply #21 on: March 29, 2010, 07:00:44 pm »

Here in Montejaque in the Sierra de Grazalema I've heard (but not seen as yet) Bee-eaters flying overhead a couple of times these last couple of days. Encouraging sign.
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« Reply #22 on: April 02, 2010, 10:10:40 pm »

I had a spectacular raptor morning at Libar today with Egyptian Vulture, Bonelli's, Short-toed, Golden and Booted Eagle, Montagu's Harrier, Peregrine, Lesser & Common Kestrel and a number of Black Kite!! Orphean, Spectacled, Subalpine and Bonelli's Warbler were seen and of course all 3 wheatears, so a very good day. Had around 200+ Alpine Swift by the cave, plus a few smaller groups up behind Montejaque.

Peter  :)
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« Reply #23 on: October 24, 2010, 08:41:32 pm »

As the sun gently lowers itself into a winter’s sky, casting long shadows to soften the rugged mountain landscape surrounding my home I, like so much of my natural world here in Andalusia, settle into a less hectic period and quieten myself into a cosy existence. It is a good time to reflect on the seasons past, namely summer and autumn.

This year in the Serranía de Ronda and Sierra de Grazalema produced yet another great birding experience. Several species were added to our local list for birds in the area and celebrities putting in an appearance were Moussier’s Redstart, near to Grazalema and Yungerra, both Little Swift and Audouin’s Gull (normally a coastal bird) were firsts for here with Alpine Chough making a surprising pit stop in the Llanos de Libar, where it was constantly harassed by the resident and common Red-billed Chough.

An adult Rüppell's Vulture has been seen throughout most of the year and has been joined recently by a juvenile (or two). Although the Rüppell's was the star turn for the area, at least more encouraging was the presence throughout the year of adult (at least 3 individuals) Black Vulture, which was a great bonus for me and went a small way to compensate for yet another disaster for Egyptian Vulture, who yet again suffered from the mindless and monstrous activity of poison baiting. A female and chicks were found dead at the nest near to Teba. The latest bad news was hailed as seeing this fine species of vulture officially disappear as a breeding species for Malaga province, but I know of two successful nest sites for 2010 (one is debatable as some consider it is in Cadiz province), which will now remain secret for fear of disturbance! An Osprey was seen throughout the summer at Zahara reservoir and some encouraging summer sightings were made and breeding suspected for both Spanish Imperial Eagle and Black Stork. Best news comes last, a first breeding record for Long-legged Buzzard was confirmed this year, with another nest also found, by others, not too far from my nest site! Before anyone asks, I will not reveal either the area or even close location/s of these birds. However, winter sightings of this species are now becoming relatively common throughout the Serranía and Sierra.  :-X

Other very good news for the current year has included the good water levels at several lagoons and reservoirs. Perhaps the most encouraging has been the continued high water level at both Fuente de Piedra and Laguna Dulce. In fact I have never seen such high levels in the past 8 years. These high levels of water have had the beneficial effect of seeing several aquatic bird species enjoying a successful breeding season, not least Greater Flamingo with no less than 30,000 individuals present throughout the summer. It was interesting to see several waders, particularly Black-winged Stilts and Avocets, being opportunistic using temporary lagoons, which had appeared for the first time in years, to breed. As I write, the levels at all these lagoons remain high and are full of good birds such as Crested Coot (Red-knobbed), Red-crested Pochard, Marbled Teal and include very high numbers of White-headed Duck (Laguna Dulce – max count 74+). There has also been small numbers of Black Tern floating over the waters and a visit here now is highly recommended!!


Peter :)
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« Reply #24 on: July 20, 2011, 03:07:02 pm »

Adult Lanner was seen recently near El Gastor and just as surprisingly Little Swift. 2 Lesser Flamingo at Fuente de Piedra 9th July. Great Egret back at Zahara Reservoir and G-C Grebe successfully bred at the reservoir this year, possible first recorded breeding in the Serrania de Ronda. Egyptian Vulture a pair seen through the spring until now around the Montejaque area, but no one has been able to establish the nest area (yet). Long-legged Buzzard a pair has been regular throughout the summer and every sign they bred as 2 pairs did last year! Black Vulture (adults) again present during the summer months and a mystery as to where and if they might be breeding. Rüppell's Vulture noted virtually every month so far this year, but over a wide area, so no particular one site can be recommended for this much sought after bird, although most regularly seen near to Acinipo (Old Ronda), where an adult summered last year.

A little outside the area, but of interest to readers here, Great Bustard successful breeding season near Osuna, 1 female seen earlier in the season with 9 young another with 5.

Hope the above info of interest.

Peter
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« Reply #25 on: August 05, 2011, 06:46:34 pm »

I am pleased to say 1 pair of Egyptian Vulture successfully raised one young in Malaga province during the current breeding season. Site to remain confidential.

Within the area, juvenile Long-legged Buzzards have been seen accompanying adults, pointing to another possibly successful season this summer. Site to remain confidential.

Peter
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« Reply #26 on: October 03, 2011, 08:45:39 pm »

A rare moment - a free day!

It’s been a hectic time leading various tours and day trips so far this year, but what to do on those rare occasions when you have some spare time? I mean time truly on your own, no one else at home or anyone demanding your time! I must admit the temptation is to lay back, relax, read a book or simply do nothing at all, but living where I do, between 2 UNESCO Biosphere parks here in the centre of the Serranía de Ronda, the call of the wild constantly rings in your ears. It’s a calling I am unable and unwilling to resist, so spare time is spent taking-in details of nature without constraints or demands, just strolling through wild places stopping to appreciate the comings and goings of late autumn birds in my favourite surroundings. Time too for reflecting on a hectic schedule and experiences gained over an autumn migration of wonders.

It now seems an age since the door to autumn slowly opened, the sounds of Africa escaped and weaved a spell on our summer resident birds here in Europe. The month of July may sound early for the call to return to Africa but here, near the main crossing point over the Strait of Gibraltar, evidence of migration was overhead and through our valleys. The sheer volume of birds involved in the autumn rush to leave for warmer climes was staggering. For the grand spectacle, then the larger migrants perhaps offered the audience a star attraction, but to see thousands of our smaller passerines, such as Bee eater Merops apiaster, forming colourful clouds as they left our shores was, I think, a sight that all should witness at least once in their lifetime. Here in southern Spain, we are so very fortunate to live so close to areas where we can bear witness to one of the natural wonders of our world.

Now there is a keenest to the air and a bite on the strong winds that sweep our valleys, most of our summer visitors have departed and we await the return of wintering birds. It’s a strange time of year, the lull before the storm, an in-between moment where still there are signs of migration with the fall of birds such as Black Redstart, Common Redstart and both Pied and Spotted Flycatcher, but lengthening shadows support the arrival of an ever shortening day and an air of resignation descends upon a landscape anticipating respite from the blistering heat of a long summer. The red haw berries and rosehips are ripening as leaves change colour, fall and drift across a dry landscape, soon these fruits will provide a banquet for visiting thrushes and fallen seed a feast for Alpine Accentors, truly the arrival of large concentrations of Ring Ouzel will herald a beginning to the end of our autumn.

Peter


* Autumn_thekla-lark1.jpg (15.04 kB, 164x240 - viewed 666 times.)

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« Reply #27 on: December 17, 2011, 10:30:45 am »

Well, what a day around my mountains here in the Serrania de Ronda yesterday, Ring Ouzels, Alpine Accentors, Bonelli's Eagles, of course lots of Griffon Vultures, a really showy Eagle Owl, but the strangest of all a Whinchat, yep on the 16th December! Is this the latest record around these parts ???

Peter
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« Reply #28 on: December 22, 2011, 03:07:02 pm »

Been around the area checking on the occupancy of nest sites for Bonelli's Eagle. Pleased to report these beauties appear to be back at all my 'known' sites and displaying, copulating (surely too cold) and defending their territories with a passion. I have just finished writing an article on this species and today it has been published on the main ABS website, see link below:

http://www.andaluciabirdsociety.org/members-area/members-articles/153-bonellis-eagle-iconic-raptor-of-andalucia.html

I hope you might enjoy the read. Thanks to my friend Juan Luis Muñoz for supplying some great photographs of perched birds (I seem only to have flight shots), not only super pics, but also showing different ages.

Peter
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« Reply #29 on: March 18, 2012, 01:32:07 pm »

Ronda – that time of year

How many times do you catch yourself saying “It’s that time of year”? Well, for me at least, it is that time of year, a time of change and hope. Nature here is shaking off the slumbers of winter and the promise of the newborn is just around the corner. Our mountains surround the town of Ronda and reflect the seasons in a way that is obvious and breathtaking. Autumn and Spring produce long and deep shadows across the rock faces and soften the drama of crags and sheer limestone cliffs, but now of course the greens of grasses and cultivated areas are now giving the impressions of velvet drapes enveloping the countryside. Yellow blooms dominate the early spring, but also blushes of pink and white cascade on light winds as almond blossom shakes free from leafy limbs, soon blues will replace the yellows and thereafter carpets of colour will adorn mountain pathways.

Our wildlife now rewards our observations with an array of pure spectacle, from the rapidly changing colours of our landscape to the cranky and amusing spring behaviour of animals indulging in their pre-nuptials. Many of our finches and buntings, after spending most of the winter months in large social and amicable flocks, are now turning on each other as they compete for the attentions of their mate and also to establish their home territories. Crazed males chase and harass encroaching potential upstarts, then retreat to a favoured song-post to advertise themselves with beautiful renditions of proclamation. Winter birds are now slowly departing and those that congregated in prime sites are dispersing, our summer residents are appearing and replacing the void left by those heading northwards. The sadness of losing wintering birds such as Chiffchaff and the amusing antics of White Wagtails is tempered by the chattering and busy swarms of Swallows as they arrive to revisit their traditional nesting sites and promise warmer weather is soon here to stay.

My forays into our surrounding mountains are now punctuated by witnessing the frenzied attack on Griffon Vultures by Bonelli’s Eagle, the pair obviously feel very protective at their nesting site and will also attack any unsuspecting migrant that chances by, such as the unprepared number of Short-toed Eagle passing ever onwards on the northern highway to far away breeding grounds. Scanning the skyline above the dramatic mountain ridges reveals large wheeling flocks of Alpine Swift and migrant Crag Martin as they feed on airborne insect swarms, helplessly taken towards these birds by the up draughts and producing a kind of self service fast food counter for these hungry migrants. Very soon now some of our summer warblers will be appearing and our river valleys will resonate with the song of the common Nightingale. Spectacularly coloured birds too will be making an appearance such as Woodchat Shrike and Bee eater, both a common breeding bird in the area. Other early arrivals are expected in the mountain areas with both the Black-eared Wheatear and Rock Thrush great favourites of mine, colourful, elegant with the Rock Thrush also adding music to an otherwise quiet landscape.

It’s that time of year, the joy of Spring!

Peter  :)
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