A Winter’s Tale

Winter has arrived earlier than I had expected or wanted. As the hand of winter holds my mountains firmly in her grip, she adds to the woe of confinement due to current restrictions on freedom of movement. Recent rains, although welcome, fell as snow on the higher mountains and added the final touch to a winter’s landscape.

The cycle of life continues with the changes in our seasons, rains have provided the stimulus to my local flora as the golden colours of summer have been overtaken by the many hues of green. Many trees stand naked in contrast to the evergreen oaks and conifers, cold winds create a scramble for woollen sweaters and my fleece lined jackets.

White Wagtail
A curious look from a White Wagtail

Birding has become brief forays with my forced labour on daily dog walks and my garden watch through the window or from my terrace as the winter sun warms this wonderful retreat. These days are in stark contrast to the spring lockdown, when so many birds could be seen returning from their northern journey across Africa. Now my garden and surrounds feel like bird crumbs left over from a time of plenty.

And yet, now is the time of welcome to those northern birds who arrive to make our region their own for these winter months. Seeing the first Siskin or Brambling, watching the ever-increasing number of White Wagtail and Meadow Pipit, witnessing the sky dance of finch troupes weave across a crisp blue sky or being thrilled by the flyover of vultures as they defy strong headwinds to reach the promise of fruitful feeding areas, these conspire to make my mountain winters tolerable.

Griffon Vulture
The Serranía de Ronda is home to large numbers of breeding and wintering Griffon Vultures, one of the highest densities in Spain.

Despite everything winter can do to dampen spirits, nature provides an ever-present picture of hope and joy. My mood is lifted by the continual procession of Chiffchaffs flitting in the garden trees and scrub, their squabbles with the local tit flocks that they seem to enjoy disrupting. Blackcaps are also here in big numbers and they too have their amusing habit of chasing the local Sardinian Warblers, before being distracted by passing insects which they then hawk from scrub.

Competition for the local Jays as Woodpigeon show a liking for acorns.

Now is a time when I find myself watching and not chasing birds. It is deeply satisfying to spend time with familiar birds and just enjoy small pieces of behaviour perhaps unnoticed previously. I spend time watching the flocks of Woodpigeon depart from their woodland roost and descend on the fallow valley fields as they search for offerings spilt and left behind after harvest. I watch the constant forays of Jays as they crop acorns from a plentiful supply on the local oak trees. Seeing and being with my common birds provides calm and wonder in equal measure, a time to just enjoy birds enlivening my landscape.

Article: Peter Jones
Photos: Peter Jones

Note: The views expressed in articles are those of the authors, and are not necessarily those of the Society.

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