Have you ever had that prickly feeling at the base of your neck, when your hairs stand up and you are in wonder? It is a kind of out of body experience, where your spirit dances with joy and you can feel with your eyes. Something reaches deep inside you, touches you and excites you. It is a warm and wonderful sensation.
Nature sometimes touches me like this, either from a lonely vantage point, where the panorama is simply staggering or I chance upon a circumstance that allows a moment connecting me to nature. You know that time, when you stand still alongside a wild creature that appears as curious of your presence as you are of theirs, unafraid and connected. Nature provides so many wonders, so many joyous moments, so much for free. It is refreshing and a way to release burdens and truly relax. These moments are a regular occurrence for me in the Serranía de Ronda.
Most of those that know me will know I am largely globetrotting leading or guiding tours. My time gets divided between these tours and my home patch, where normally I also lead tours and day trips. The home territory, Andalucía, also includes my backyard, my mountains, the Serranía de Ronda.
The summer has now arrived, after temperate days and earlier in June some rain. It is now days of scorching heat and dry. Despite these high temperatures I plan to make many a foray into my mountains and might even have friends to accompany me, those brave souls are, as always, rewarded with rich avifauna and flora, with the occasional wild animal providing a thrill to cap their day. Most of all, friends accompanying me, are treated to some of the most breathtakingly beautiful scenery to be found anywhere in the world. It surprises so many that such beauty and vast tracts of wilderness remain here in Spain.
Yet, and because of the high daytime temperatures, this summer I will spend several days driving around my own small circuit, well more like office and then a drive around the loop. The amount of wildlife seen on my circuit is diverse and plentiful. It is hard and also a mistake, not to venture outside of the office door without my bridge camera, you really don’t know what can turn-up, what opportunity might be missed by leaving the camera indoors. Critters leaping, scurrying, drinking and fluttering all complimented by the birds in and over my driving route, very much a route of drive, stop and search. Eagles, vultures and swifts are regulars overhead, whilst shrikes, finches and resident owls make sure you aren’t always stretching your neck skywards.
The loop is more or less what folk will experience when or if they attend the July Field Meeting and EGM, due to take place on July 18. First stop will be a drive skirting an old cork oak forest, a stop to search the woodland edge for Bonelli’s, Melodious and Subalpine Warbler, perhaps a glimpse of the local Golden Orioles and if the birding Gods are shining down, then this is also an area for the elusive Goshawk.
Moving on to a brief stop overlooking a defunct dam, built as it was on permeable limestone, it is a true folly, but here we can see Black Wheatear, Blue Rock Thrush, Crag Martin and Red-billed Chough along with other summer birds. The route then leads to an area above Montejaque and raptors are a delight to the eyes here, maybe Bonelli’s Eagle, Peregrine and certainly lots of vultures.
Then the drive descends into the Guadiaro Valley, the river here is one of only 2 rivers that flow all year in the Serranía. Again, raptors are common, but the main attraction is one of Spain’s largest colonies of Alpine Swift, also the river margins provide nesting places for good numbers of Olivaceous Warbler, Nightingale, Spotted Flycatcher and Wryneck among many other species. From here it is a return to the La Venta Vega, where the field meeting will have started out from.
Anyways, I thought dedicating this offering to nature in my summer zone, might just give you a feel of what is possible if you come to the July field meeting.
Author: Peter Jones
Photos: Peter Jones