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.
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!
With the winter now upon the Ronda and Grazalema bird scene, visiting birders to this part of Andalucia, need to keep a sharp eye out for the increasing numbers of Long-legged Buzzards that winter here. Quite apart from Alpine Accentors, Ring Ouzel and even Wallcreeper, these buzzards certainly add to the reasons for visiting. Of course, with Steppe Buzzard also seen ocassionally in Andalucia, identification can get a little tricky. I have included a photo comparison for those birders who will be coming to the Ronda area (or Andalucia) and hope this might be helpful.
Photographic comparative guide to Steppe Buzzard and Long-legged Buzzard.
Bird 1. Left - Steppe Buzzard
Bird 2. Long-legged Buzzard
Bird 3. Steppe Buzzard
Note more 'orange' tail to Long-legged and also paler breast contrasting more sharply with darker underbelly. Normally 10/9/8/7th primaries more heavily barred on Steppe. Juveniles of both species have non-descript colour to tail with barring and are much paler on undersides. BOTH species can be variable in plumage but above a useful reference.
Accompany Peter on one his famous Birding Day Tours in the Ronda area see the links below:
Serrania de Ronda and the mountains
Link to Serrania de Ronda
Fuente de Piedra and the Lagunas de Campillos
Link to La Lagunas
The Steppe and Lagunas of the Osuna area
Link to The Steppe Country
Birding Holidays and Tours in Spain
Link to Tours in Spain