March brings more migratory birds back to their breeding grounds, with large groups of Short-toed and Booted Eagles passing through to the Central and Northern Spain, and then “our” breeding pairs settling back home. This is also the time when you have a good chance to spot the beautiful white and black Egyptian vultures, which are progressively rarer here in the South of Spain. There are a few breeding pairs in the Grazalema Park, however in March good numbers can be observed refuelling and resting on their flight northwards.
Most male birds will be sporting their breeding plumage by now. The spectacular bright Blue Rock Thrush, true to its name turns deep azure colour, the Black Wheatear becomes even more glossy black and displays its fan-like, pure white tail and the humble Linnet starts showing a lovely bright patch on its breast, which, if you are poetically inclined, could be described as a pink heart. One of the most sought-after species by birdwatchers, the Rock Thrush, should be back in place this month, nesting at higher altitudes than the Blue Rock Thrush, but coming down to look for food and obviously, to be admired. The stunning combination of the male´s blue and red plumage makes it a treat to look at. The male Black-eared Wheatear keeps up with its salmon-pink breast and black mask (including a black throat in a second variation) frequently sitting on top of dry-stone walls where it can be easily observed.
Our star mammal species for the area, the Spanish Ibex, are roaming the mountains in search of food; especially the very visibly pregnant females which by now need a lot of nutrition and can be seen at lower altitudes munching on delicate young shoots and sunbathing on flat rocks. They will be returning to high mountains to give birth in April and May.
As the temperatures begin to rise crickets can be heard chirring at night, and to add to that lovely feeling of spring, there are more plants showing their colours. Some are easily seen as they stand tall and strong such as the White Asphodel. In contrast the Barbary-nut iris is dainty and only opens for a few short hours each day. Two narcissi; Narcissus cerrolazae and Narcissus baeticus can create large yellow swathes in a few locations. Spanish bluebells look delicate here in their natural, rugged habitat and the Snakeshead fritillary, a master of camouflage, is always a lovely sight.
The terrestrial orchids can be a highlight for many, whether botanically minded or not. Giant, Sombre bee, Early purple, Bee, Conical and Sawfly orchids are ones which we will look out for.
Of course as there are more flowers opening, there are more butterflies to nectar from them adding that picture perfect decoration. Sporting the same bright yellow and orange colours are the large Cleopatra and the tiny Moroccan orange tip. Intricately patterned Swallowtails drift by whereas Painted Ladies on migration move swiftly on.