Those who know me will testify to my being a passionate advocate for nature as a means of enhancing our well being both mentally and physically. Nature can play such an important role in restoring and preserving our mental health, but of course it needs an effort to allow yourself the time to walk in her solace and let her into your life. A good start to winding down from those things that can adversely affect your moods is to go walking in wild places, the choices we have in our region are boundless and many of these wild places surround our urban areas. Our local scenery is stunningly beautiful with many hillsides covered in plantlife framed by a backdrop of impressive mountains and with the ease of access to these areas, coupled with our great weather, it makes exploring these landscapes fun as well as therapeutic. Taking time to notice your surroundings and in particular our fauna and flora adds an interest to any walk. As most people carry a mobile phone with them these days, then you have the perfect piece of equipment to take a photograph or two of perhaps a plant or insect, even a confiding bird, and get to identify these natural wonders when you get back home. The more you learn the greater the interest becomes.
Of course, if you are like me, then you might need motivation to get out into the great outdoors and explore on foot the many routes we have in the region. My main motivation is to observe wildlife, but for others it might well be joining a rambler’s group and make excursions a social occasion where you can make new friends with the prospect of a day each week set aside for a bit of exercise. Walking in a group, that meets one day each week, is more likely to lead you into a regular regime of exercise and make these meetings fun. The Andalucía Bird Society started a rambler’s group recently and meet weekly. So, if you are interested in exploring our beautiful region, enjoy varied routes with others and get yourself into shape mentally as well as physically, then this group could well suit you. The group welcomes members and non-members of the Society and is free to one and all. Usually, these walks are held on a Wednesday morning, in or around the Malaga area, covering distances from 4 to 7km over fairly easy terrain and are led by an experienced member with no-one getting left behind. Well behaved dogs are made welcome. To join the group you can contact the organiser David Pope on +34 632 997 821 or by email at email@example.com they also have a dedicated ABS Ramblers Group on Facebook where you can peruse images from their lovely walks and where members share experiences.
I imagine we all experienced the heavy rains during December, much needed in order to replenish our reservoirs that have become dangerously low, although we need an awful lot more rain to make up for the shortfall. I am hopeful the rainfalls will provide for some visits to lagoons in the region to see good numbers of waterbirds. Such places as Fuente de Piedra should prove fruitful for large numbers of Greater Flamingo, some wading birds and the surrounding areas cultivated for cereals normally welcomes large flocks of that elegant giant of a bird the Common Crane. The reserve at Fuente de Piedra always makes for a special day out with the excellent visitor’s centre providing services and shelter during inclement weather and the local village offering several good options for a deserved lunch. Nearby and on a homeward journey back towards Malaga and near to the market town of Campillos is the Laguna Dulce, an area where the excessive and sometimes illegal extraction of water by local agriculture sees this lagoon drained completely leaving a barren and cracked surface where water should glisten in a celebration of both fauna and flora. I am keeping all things crossed that the recent rains will have provided a respite for the lagoon and allow it to provide a winter home to many wildfowl species and in particular the White-headed Duck. In fact, the lagoon can be a host to both White-headed Duck and Marbled Duck each among the rarest of wildfowl in Europe, so the lagoon also becomes a magnet for the serious birder. I will also take to a few farm tracks that traverse the area behind the lagoon as this cultivated area can hold the declining Little Bustard as well as giving a sometimes-close view (from the car) of Common Crane.
Whatever nature might hold in store for me during my wanderings in January I can always rely on my mountains, now cloaked in lush velvet greens, to provide a few surprises and challenges. I have set myself a few targets for the month and hope to find a few specialist winter visiting birds and also attempt to discover new places for the sometimes elusive Alpine Accentor, a diminutive small and confiding bird that I hope will give me an opportunity for taking some photographs.
Article: Peter Jones
Photographs: Peter Jones and Audrey Houvenaeghel
Note: The views expressed in articles are those of the authors, and are not necessarily those of the Society.