Wednesday, 30 March 2016


I've spent the last two days in the Ronda area and am leaving slightly disappointed but I'm not sure why. It's an absolutely beautiful area and I saw some fantastic birds but struggled to get close to many of them which was a bit frustrating so that's probably it.
I started on Tuesday with Peter Jones who has an unrivalled knowledge of the birds of the Ronda area. He has also studied the Black Wheatear population so there is probably nobody better to show you where they are. We spent most of the day in the Llanos de Liber valley which is a fantastic area with a wide variety of habitats.
Llanos de Liber - the sky really was that blue!

We soon found singing male Black Wheatears but they seem to choose the tops of the valley sides to sing from making it difficult to get close. Black Wheatears only occur in Iberia, Morocco and Libya so have quite a restricted range they are also resident unlike our Northern Wheatear which we also saw along with migrant Black-eared Wheatears which are just returning.
Black Wheatear

A Thekla Lark put on a good show, Thekla's are resident in the valley but Crested Larks are common in the open cultivated areas and around the towns so we were able to make a good comparison. The shorter less curved bill of Thekla Lark is probably the most reliable field characteristic.
Thekla Lark
Crested Lark
Further up the valley we encountered Rock Sparrows, Rock and Cirl Buntings and Dartford Warblers.
Red-billed Chough is very common in the valley but again stick to the higher cliff faces.
Peter then took me on a tour of some of the other good birding spots around Ronda. I managed a photo of the Iberian race of Green Woodpecker (sharpei) which lacks the black around the eye of UK birds. 
Green Woodpecker Picus viridis sharpei
Although I have heard, and glimpsed, Cetti's Warbler at almost every stop in Spain I finally managed a photo by the river Guadiaro.
Cetti's Warbler
This morning I was in a hide set up by Pieter Verheij who runs Spanish Nature with Peter Jones.The hide has a special reflective glass front so the birds are completely oblivious of the photographers present. The glass is also slightly tinted so you loose a little light. 
The Agaba hide at first light with Pieter Verheij putting out the food
I got nice photos of some of the common woodland species which were similar to the UK; Nuthatch, Jay, Blue and Great Tits plus Subalpine Warbler and Serin but some of the other birds the pond attracts such as Bonelli's and Melodious Warblers and Nightingale are only just arriving, Booted Eagles also visit the hide and although I saw them over the tree tops they never came close. I wasn't entirely happy taking photos through the glass although the photos themselves look OK.
Subalpine Warbler - Agaba Hide
Whilst in the Ronda area I visited several Bonelli's Eagle nesting territories but had no luck in seeing them. I guess if the birds have eggs or young chicks the adults may not be that active now.
I considered going back over to the Cadiz area to visit sites like La Janda but have decided to move up the Mediterranean coast tomorrow.
Route so far, looking a little messy in southern Spain

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