Cold, wet, hot and sticky! Our senior guide Peter Jones gives his take on wildlfe during June for the Serranía de Ronda. Ronda and its surrounding mountains, woodlands and rivers are among the most important areas for wildlife in Andalusia. Not just a place to visit for wildlife, the Serranía is scenically stunning with the famous white villages attracting tourists from all over the world. Bonelli's Eagle and Black Wheatear as resident birds are perhaps iconic for this region, but the diversity of the birdlife will provide enduring memories to those who visit. Ibex, Mongoose, Genet and many other mammals, plus over 2000 species of plant merely serve to underline the regions importance and the many reasons why you should come visit...
June has certainly been a month of contrasts regarding our local weather, from cold days and thunderstorms to hot days and balmy nights. It has been unusual for the month to be so unsettled. The landscape underwent its normal changes in colour going from vibrant greens, interspersed with dazzling patchworks of multi coloured flowering plants, to dry and crisp browns and beige. Harvest of the cereal crops is well underway and a hush has descended upon the normally vociferous male birds of our mountains. Many adult birds can now be seen foraging in earnest to keep pace with the demands of their broods, whilst any standing water attracts insect and bird to quench a thirst induced by warmer days. It is a time of year when you can feel the urgency in nature to procreate and take full advantage during a time of plenty.
For different people there will have been differing highlights to the month here, but certainly for me the discovery of a fine pair of adult Egyptian Vultures in the higher reaches of Llanos de Libar will remain a moment to treasure. I even had a sub-adult in the same area and it is such a good feeling to know they remain in the area and are hanging-on despite so many pressures on their very existence. The pair of young breeding Golden Eagles seem to have been unsuccessful and I have not seen them in the area of the nest for a couple of weeks now, hopefully with another year’s experience they will try again next year. Whilst both Northern and Black Wheatears seem to be enjoying a good year the very low numbers of Black-eared Wheatear in their normal breeding grounds is cause for concern. Another bird that seems to be down in numbers is Rock Thrush. Birding always seems to produce surprises and this year is no exception, I discovered a new site for the locally very rare Spanish Sparrow and after no early arrivals Western Olivaceous Warbler is back in apparently greater numbers than last year. White-rumped Swifts have obliged me more this year than any other and Lesser Kestrels are showing signs of an increase. It is heartening to be able to report the safe fledging of Bonelli’s Eagle at 4 of the nest sites I kept watch over.
June keeps me pretty busy guiding folk in the area and this year has seen most days spent out and around in my local patch. I am sure most will have enjoyed not only the birds, but also the huge variety of butterflies seen this month. We have also had many a day with good sightings of Ibex, Red Deer and an exceptional view of Mongoose. Friends have had the pleasure on most days of seeing the magnificent Ocellated Lizard, a fearsome reptile that can grow to very large proportions! Colour and high value has figured highly among the birding during the month with Roller, Golden Oriole, Kingfisher and Bee eater providing the Oooo-Aahs among fellow travellers. Elusive or more correctly skulking birds such as Dartford, Sub-alpine and Spectacled Warbler have been very obliging of late and Iberian Chiffchaff seems to be more conspicuous or plentiful this year. Thekla and Woodlark seem to have had a good year with Orphean and Fan-tailed Warblers holding their own. An area full of surprises has been the eastern end of the Zahara reservoir where both Reed Warbler and Whitethroat have colonised the luxuriant growth of Tamarisk, but the greatest surprise has been the sighting of a Rufous Bush Robin.