March brings a great joy for lovers of these spectacular birds when yet again they have made it across the Strait of Gibraltar to their breeding grounds in Europe. The first single birds start appearing at the end of February but the massive migration comes in March, when clouds of birds can be seen entering continental Europe.
This Eagle´s appearance and its habits make it a treat to watch, whether you are a seasoned birder, a casual nature lover or a walker who maybe has never seen an eagle before. Once you have spotted this easy-to-identify, pale, graceful silhouette against the blue Andalucían sky, hovering like a kestrel while scanning the limestone rocks and scrub to find prey, you just may become a life-long fan. Continue reading Short-toed Eagles in the natural park of Grazalema
Visible all year in the natural Park of Grazalema this bird is larger than an eagle, with a wingspan of up to 260 cm (8.53 Ft). In flight, their wings are broad, with the primaries (finger-like feathers) usually clearly visible; the tail is short, and the neck retracted. It has buff brown coloured plumage on the back, stomach and the anterior band of the wings, while the rest of the wing feathers and tail are dark brown. The head and long neck are covered with white down and there is a distinctive collar of long feathers. On adults the bill is yellow and collar white, whilst on juveniles the bill is grey and collar pale brown. They feed on carrion, most of the time in a state of decay and at other times in an initial stage (especialy large mammals). The carcasses left out by farmers are also an important part of the diet of these birds. Continue reading The Griffon Vultures of Grazalema (Gyps fulvus, Buitre Leonado)
The wild mountain goats frequently found in herds across the Andalucian mountain ranges are Spanish Ibex. There were until fairly recently, more subspecies spaced around the Iberian peninsular, but now only two exist.These mammals which originate exclusively in the mountains of Iberia are known as Cabra montés in Spanish. They are generally shades of brown around the body with black markings on the chest, flanks and legs in the males, whereas the females are paler. The adult males can reach a weight of 80-100 kg and are approximately double the size of the females. Continue reading Spanish Ibex (Capra pyrenaica hispanica) Cabra montés
The Spanish Fir (Abies pinsapo) is a species of tree which survived the last glaciation. An elegant tree growing to a height of about 25m with a conical shape. Its growth is dense and a rich green, although there are occasional specimens of a blue colouration. The branches generally form rings around the trunk. The roots which are thick and long are sometimes very superficial. The trunk is straight and cylindrical but in some old individuals the shape can be irregular, twisted and contorted with more than one leader. (This is due to beetle damage). The leaves are needle-shaped, rigid and somewhat sharp, these needles living up to 15 years, the maximum age among all gymnosperms. They need high humidity and shady slopes or soils that retain a certain amount of water. These trees have both sexes in the same individual, but to avoid inbreeding the female cones are on the top of the tree and the male in the middle. Continue reading The Spanish Fir (Abies pinsapo) in the Sierra Grazalema
The temperature begins to cool and, if we have had rain, then the ground will soften, giving way from dried straw colours to a soft green as plants sprout anew after their summer dormancy. Some of the flowers we can see now are Round-leaved fluellin, Common ivy, Fennel, Rosemary, White asparagus, Apple mint and Maritime squill. A range of fruits and berries begin to ripen, which can add a surprising splash of colour; Sloe, Blackberry, Hawthorn, Laurustinus, Peony, Turpentine Tree and Strawberry tree. Continue reading September – EARLY AUTUMN SUNSHINE – Southerly bird migration, a good time to watch Bee-eaters, Short-toed eagles and Booted eagles.
Fields turn golden as the heat steps up a notch, or two! We will be looking out for the wildlife when it is most active – before the midday heat. Earlier morning starts and choosing walks with mature trees for shade, ensures that we get the most of our day, followed by a relaxed afternoon. Narrow leaves are an asset, so thistle type plants do very well such as; the Spanish white Artichoke, Branched carline thistle, Eryngium, Stemless thistle, and those covered with a resinous secretion – Sticky inula, or which inhabit damp sites – Pennyroyal. Continue reading August – HEAT OF THE SUMMER – Vultures, dragonflies, butterflies and other insects, reptiles and terrapins.