Tag Archives: Birdwatching

Birdwatchers Paradise

Birds of the Serrania de Ronda, A Systematic List

Birds of the Serrania de Ronda, A Systematic List also subtitled “A Birdwatcher’s Paradise” produced by a collaboration of Peter Jones and the rural tourism authorities of the Serrania de Ronda is billed as the most complete list of birds commonly and uncommonly seen in the district, with every bird having been confirmed by a panel of experts.

Ronda and the surrounding district is a birdwatchers paradise, being a primarily rural area with three natural parks in the area; Grazalema, Sierra de las Nieves, and Los Alcornacales. As well as being mountainous (the penibaetic range and Sierra Nevada) lending a favourable environment to birds of prey, prevailing wind patterns make the district appealing to migratory birds who are able to rest or follow the wind over the mountains to the flat plains north of the district, or use strong gusts to propel them over the straits of Gibraltar toward Africa.

Terrain in the Serrania ranges from limestone peaks, sandstone outcrops, forests of pine, Spanish fir, cork, oak, as well as grasslands and scrub in the lower reaches. In addition several rivers and tributaries have carved gorges and valleys. With terrain like this it’s easy to see why the Serrania de Ronda is called a birdwatchers paradise.

Birdwatchers Paradise

Amongst the better known birds of the area are: Golden, Bonelli’s, Booted, and Short-toed Eagles; Peregrine Falcon; Lesser Kestrel; Eagle Owl; Griffon and Egyptian Vultures; White-rumped, Alpine, and Pallid Swifts; Blue Rock Thrush and Rock Thrush; Black Wheatear; Black Redstart; Chough; Rock Sparrow; Rock Bunting; and Crossbill.

“Birds of the Serrania de Ronda” lists all of these, and many more, in fact there are 209 birds listed as frequenting the Serrania at various times of the year. The only downside of the systematic list is that a seasonal calendar isn’t provided, with birdwatchers needing to cross reference against other birding books.

Sites of special interest are also listed all of which are reasonably accessible to any birdwatcher who has access to a car. These are the Sierra de Libar, Puerto de las Palomas, Rio Guadiaro, Ronda Tajo, Sierra Blanquilla, Sierra de las Nieves, Genal Valley.

Download “Birds of the Serrania de Ronda, A Systematic List“, and for further information about guided birdwatching tours we recommend Peter Jones of Spanish Nature, the most experienced guide in the district, and an internationally recognised expert.

Alpine-accentor

Andalucia Bird Society Field Trip to Grazalema

The Sierra de Grazalema is one of the most scenically stunning areas in the whole of Spain. It is a diverse UNESCO Biosphere Park containing habitats ranging from mixed oak woodlands, pine forest and upland pastures to high mountains where life clings-on in the extremes of seasonal climate change. Temperatures are wide-ranging throughout the park influenced by altitudes from 400m to 1600m above sea level, as well as the eastern areas benefiting from the Mediterranean climate the western facing slopes are affected by the Atlantic climate. Unsurprisingly such a varied habitat and range of altitudes produces a great diversity in flora and fauna. Our ABS Field Meeting for December visited this important area and gave attending members a chance to marvel at the landscape and, as always, enjoy each others company.

I promised members a relaxed day, an amble through the park and a chance to see some of the very best scenery the park has to offer. We started the day by gathering at the pre-arranged meeting point of the Venta Tropezon, where we enjoyed some local hospitality and some warm beverages before setting off on a slow journey towards Zahara. The lake (reservoir) is the largest surface area of standing water in this region, but as many other man-made reservoirs, the gradients of the shoreline are too steep to support marginal vegetation and hence it has a sterile feel to it’s presence in the park. Despite the lack of any large numbers of birds, we did manage to see some of the fish eating specialists that visit the reservoir, what the lake lacks in birds, it certainly makes up for in fish stocks, so it was we had good views of Cormorant, Great-crested Grebe and Grey Heron. Cattle Egret, Mallard and Coot were about the extent of aquatic species, but around the eastern boundary large finch flocks were feeding and amongst those were small numbers of Rock Sparrow and we also observed an Iberian (Southern) Grey Shrike. Cetti’s and Sardinian Warbler gave good views near the shoreline.

Skirting the lake we wound our way to the impressive village of Zahara, a striking example of the local white villages to be found throughout the area. I admit to an ulterior motive for a stop here, having been primed by my wife that the ladies in the group might welcome a browse around a local craft market being held on the premises of the premiere restaurant El Largo. It also gave the men an opportunity to tuck-in to homemade mince tarts whilst scanning for birds! Black Redstarts were plentiful and it wasn’t long before we had a large flock of Chough wheeling and playing in the distance, on the slopes below our vantage point we saw Red-legged Partridge, Blue Rock Thrush, Rock Dove and a solitary Mistle Thrush among the olive groves. A contingent of the local Jackdaws passed in front and a few Greenfinch fed on the remains of the year’s crop of thistle plants. The ladies curiosity and the men’s stomachs satiated, we made our way upwards on the mountain road towards Grazalema. A Little Owl graced the journey, while finches and thrushes accompanied our passing. We stopped briefly at a mirador at a halfway point to watch large concentrations of Griffon Vulture floating on thermals and up draughts, I was telling everyone to always look above these gatherings of vultures, as very often eagle species would be circling above them. Within a few seconds there were cries of eagle above the vultures! It was a Bonelli’s Eagle cruising the thermal and in bright sunlight showing the underside markings for all and enabling them to clearly identify this fine raptor.

Although the sun was shining, the wind at higher altitude was biting our ears and any exposed parts, so we were all keen to proceed to the high pass, Puerto de las Palomas and see if we could escape the bitter wind. Pulling into the car park area we were straight the way confronted by a fine male Ring Ouzel, although not all of us were able to get good views. It was a target species for many on the day, so we set about listening, looking and anticipating sightings of this elusive thrush. Next to the car park and slightly below there is a drinking trough for cattle, this was attracting many species of small bird including another scarce winter visitor the Dunnock. With so many species coming to drink we decided to concentrate our efforts on the trough and the slope below. It wasn’t long before we saw Ring Ouzel making their way towards us. Eventually, accustomed to our presence, both males and females gave great views as they perched on nearby trees and even better, on the side of the drinking trough. I’m sure some members will have taken some great close-up photographs of these super birds. Although the winds were still biting and causing eyes to water, everyone was too distracted by the Ring Ouzels to complain. Black Wheatear and Blue Rock Thrush were also seen here and a few members laid claim to another target bird for the day, Alpine Accentor. All of this as Griffon Vulture cruised close overhead, hardly noticed by many in our excitement.

Well, cold winds, exciting birding all conspired to build appetites for our scheduled lunch stop in the village of Grazalema. It was fortuitous we made decisions to take our lunch when we did. It seemed half of Spain had decided to descend on the local ventas and free dining space was at a premium. A few members wandered around the local ‘hole-in-the-wall’ shops for preserves and other goodies, whilst a group of us headed to the favoured lunch stop, La Posadilla, to reserve enough tables and seating. Great food, reasonable prices and lots of chit chat made for a welcome break in our day, before we again headed out to look for some other local birds, well mostly Water Pipit with a few other, as yet not seen species. As a birder, you have to question your sanity sometimes and as you all know, a sewerage farm can be ‘bird’ productive, smelly yes, but capable of producing a bird or two. We were in luck; the first bird to be spotted was the target, Water Pipit. From the pungent scent of the sewerage farm we carried-on further into the valley and a water meadow area next to the source of the Rio Guadalete. We spent time just watching bird activity around bushes next to the river and in the fields either side of the valley. Here we managed Corn Bunting, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, Stonechat, Song Thrush, Serin, Chiffchaff, Blackcap and a host of other species. I kept gazing above us as this is a good area for hunting Long-legged Buzzard, but try as I might the effort was unrewarded. Still we managed a very good number of species on our day and had a great time to boot. Now for the serious business of preparing for the Chairman’s Report to be presented at our next meeting, being held in the visitor’s centre at Fuente de Piedra 21st January 2012, I’d rather go birding!

Birds seen on the day:
Red-legged Partridge, Mallard, Great-crested Grebe, Grey Heron, Cattle Egret, Great Cormorant, Griffon Vulture, Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Bonelli’s Eagle, Common Kestrel, Coot, Rock Dove, Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Little Owl, Southern Grey Shrike, Jay, Chough, Jackdaw, Coal Tit, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Crested Lark, Woodlark, Cetti’s Warbler, Common Chiffchaff, Eurasian Blackcap, Sardinian Warbler, Spotless Starling, Ring Ouzel, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush, Robin, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Blue Rock Thrush, House Sparrow, Rock Sparrow, Alpine Accentor, Dunnock, White Wagtail, Water Pipit, Chaffinch, Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Linnet, Corn Bunting.

Article by and leader for the day Peter Jones – Chairman of Andalucia Bird Society
Peter is also a wildlife guide and see a link to his services HERE

Photographs: Spanish Nature .com

For a bird list of the Sierra de Grazalema see HERE

Ronda Bonelli's Eagle

Bonelli’s Eagle, Icon of the Serranía

Ronda Bonelli's Eagle

Bonelli's Eagle in the Serranía

Bonelli’s Eagle (Hieraaetus fasciatus) master of our skies.

If you were to search for an emblematic species which would define the importance of the Serranía de Ronda for wildlife, then the Bonelli’s Eagle (Hieraaetus fasciatus) would be the definitive and unequivocal choice.

Among the rarest species of raptor in Europe, the Bonelli’s Eagle has perhaps, for the moment, its highest breeding density in the world right here in the Serranía de Ronda!

With a wingspan of up to 1.8 meters the Bonelli is a medium sized eagle and although it is known to sometimes nest in trees, in the Serranía its preference is for rocky crags and faces. The pairs form lifelong and all year round partnerships staying in or close to their breeding territories throughout the year.

Usually nests are re-furbished during late December and early January. During this period pairs can be witnessed indulging in flight-play with one, normally the male, dropping a stick and the other retrieving it before it reaches the ground! The first egg is laid during February and although a clutch of 3 is possible the most usual is for 1 to 2 eggs.

Incubation normally takes around 40 days and usually a single young is fledged after a further 60/65 days, exceptions where 2 young are fledged normally relate to older and more experienced adults, these older birds seemed to have learnt to supply more food for the successful rearing of all their offspring.

These eagles are extremely agile flyers and one of the most aggressive. Protection of the nest site during the breeding season is a spectacle that can provide the fortunate observer with a life time experience. The male will often pursue and sometimes inflict fatal injuries on much larger birds such as Griffon Vultures who venture too close to the nest. I have often seen unfortunate Griffons retreat from areas minus a few feathers!

Unlike many other eagle species, the Bonelli’s are capable of flying-down their prey and over long distances. Most large raptors avoid long distance pursuit in order to save energy, but these eagles, once giving chase, will continue to fly-down prey over considerable distances. Hare, Rabbit, Partridge and other large birds form the largest part of their diet, although some reptiles are also taken.

The current status of this magnificent and spectacular eagle is officially listed as being under danger of extinction. So it is essential we afford them the highest possible protection. Although some of their nesting sites are close to populated areas, they remain intolerant of human disturbance, so close observation should be avoided at all times.

Also they tend to have defined hunting routes and are sometimes seen daily on these routes, so not only do their nest sites need urgent protection, but also their feeding areas. Their continued presence in the area depends on us and our willingness to afford them the special protection they need and deserve. Our skies would be the poorer without them.

It has been estimated that an annual total exceeding 15,000 birdwatchers visit the Serranía and without doubt this eagle is a star attraction. So the Bonelli’s Eagle is important to the local economy! Any unwanted or unsustainable developments that adversely impact on the numbers of this threatened species of eagle i.e. Los Merinos Golf, will by definition have a very real and negative affect on the area’s tourism, economy and people.

If you would like a guide day tour of the Serranía de Ronda to see Bonelli’s Eagle, Griffon Vulture, and other bird species of the Serranía, we recommend Peter Jones from Spanish Nature. Some locations of Bonelli’s Eagle may be difficult to reach, and for ecological reasons many locations are a closely guarded secret. Contact Peter beforehand for advice on health requirements for walkers. Twitchers wanting to see particular birds are very welcome.

rondatoday-fuentedepiedra05

Fuente de Piedra, Flamingoes, and the Andalucian Bird Society

Last Saturday the 24th April, an enthusiastic group of 21 members and guests from the Andalucían Bird Society met at Fuente de Piedra, near to Campillos for their monthly field meeting.

Organised by Peter Jones, the birding group met in the car park near the visitor centre, and with scopes and cameras in hand, made their way through the lagoon walking tracks to watch the magnificent greater flamingoes that nest at Fuente de Piedra every year.

As recently as 2008 a major drought in the area saw nesting flamingoes plummet to just a few handful, but this year Peter told Ronda Today the numbers are back up to their highest levels, in excess of 30,000 birds, and in many places they can be viewed close to the edge of the lagoon which is almost full after the rains of 2010.

The Fuente de Piedra lagoon is an area of major natural significance, and has recently undergone significant renovations with a new visitor centre, carpark, and walking tracks, as well as fencing to keep people and dogs away from the birds; all in all a birders paradise.

The lagoon itself is saline, at its deepest not more than a metre deep, and is fed by fresh water springs, however the water passes through mineral salt deposits, giving the lake a low salt index. In Roman times the townsfolk from Antequera (20km away) were known to visit the lagoon to bathe and recuperate, whilst in the 16th century the city of Antequera built a renal spa on its shores.

Migratory birds frequently stop at Fuente de Piedra, including the greater flamingo for which the lagoon is the largest breeding ground in Iberia. Each year hundreds of young flamingoes are ringed as part of global conservation efforts.

Here’s the list of species seen on the day by ABS members;
Wood Sandpiper, Black winged stilt, Marsh Harrier, House sparrow, Greater Flamingo, Barn swallow, Little Stint, Little Ringed Plover, Ringed Plover, Cm Sandpiper, Spotless Starling, Mallard, Gull-billed Tern, Pochard, Moorhen, Avocet, Mongrel duck, Yellow wagtail, Coot, Ruff, Squacco Heron, Gadwall, Gt Spotted Cuckoo, Crested Lark, Sand Martin, Gt Crested Grebe, Spanish Sparrow, Lssr Kestrel, Goldfinch, Red Crested Pochard, Green Sandpiper, Reed Warbler, Little Grebe, Stonechat, Kentish Plover, Lssr Black-backed Gull, Yellow legged Gull, Black Headed Gull, Purple Heron, Montague’s Harrier (m), Little Egret, Black necked Grebe, Garganey, Bee Eater, Turtle Dove, Cm Swift, Pallid Swift, House Martin, Red-rumped Swallow, Collared Dove, Corn Bunting, Shoveller, Woodchat Shrike, Greenfinch, Serin, Lapwing, Whiskered Tern, Black Tern, White Wagtail, Short Toed Eagle.

Please help support conservation and promote birdwatching in Andalucia by joining the Andalucía Bird Society

rondawalk-dehesa10

Ronda Walk Pine Forest Dehesa del Mercadillo

The park Dehesa del Mercadillo is a pine forest just outside Ronda on the Ronda-Sevilla road, and is very easy to get to, however the direct route doesn’t take in any of the valley below Ronda, but using the industrial area of Ronda as a starting point passes through some gorgeous countryside with mountains on the horizon, along farm roads with numerous horse studs before finally entering the forest from the north.

We start the walk in the industrial estate, follow signs pointing to the Poligono, and look for the hotel Berlanga which is very close to the Día supermarket. Directly across from the hotel Calle Genal, which looks industrial, but after 100m begins to descend out of the city to the railway line.

If you keep going straight ahead on this road you’ll come to some olive groves around 150-200 metres from the hotel, and then a little further you’ll cross the railway line before reaching an overpass for the highway. After the overpass, turn immediately left and then immediately right.

You are now on the old Ronda-Setenil road and will continue going down hill for a kilometre or thereabouts. As you descend you’ll come across a small fuente known as Don Pedro, and shortly after this, the road naturally veers to the left.

At this point you are now on the European walking track, the E-4, also known on some maps as the GR-7 and is a walk that commences in Tarifa, and terminates in Athens. You continue on this road which bends to the right near some horse stables, and then continues toward the forest park.

When you reach the next intersection you’ll see a sign pointing to the Hotel Molino de Arco. You could detour here and travel back through the Llano de la Cruz to Arriate or to Ronda Viejo and then onto Acinipo, however for this Ronda walk we are going to continue straight ahead.

Very soon you’ll pass the municipal riding school and some other stables, and immeditately after that the intersection with the Ronda-Sevilla highway. You’ll know you’ve reached the highway because on the right is a large sign showing the route of the GR-7 walk as it crosses the Serranía de Ronda.

Turn left, but avoid the highway, instead follow the dirt track for safety reasons, and then enter the park via a wide entrance. You are now at the end of the walk and have two options; the first is to follow the dirt road inside the park past the forest fire service, or take the more scenic approach and walk from the picnic and play area you find across a small fence into the forest proper.

Once in the forest take a moment to enjoy listening to the birds, their song is fantastic and definitely a highlight of this walk. Birdwatchers and nature lovers might find the forest a little pedestrian, but if you don’t have a lot of time, or only fancy a gentle stroll you won’t be disappointed.

To get back to Ronda, continue through the forest and then follow Avenida de la Legion into town. Here are a few photos of the walk, and if you enjoy this walk please return and leave a comment below for other visitors to Ronda.

Map of Route

Málaga Provincial Gov Approves Road Improvements

A series of road in the Genal Valley will get a much needed boost in investment over the coming months with the approval today of extra funding from the provincial highway authority.

The MA-7306 road from Cartajima to the A-397, and the MA-7303 Cartajima to Júzcar will receive a total of 150,000€ each for improvements and resurfacing.

100,000€ each will also be spent on the MA-8302, MA-7400, and MA-8307, with specific projects being improvements to the MA-8302 to Ma-8301 road at Genalguacil.

In addition, 100,000€ will see the Arriate MA-700 to Ronda road resurfaced with new tar, and problem areas where potholes are a perennial problem fixed.

In tourism news, Benarrabá will get a new birdwatching area, described as the best in Andalucía, and 103,000€ will be spent creating a new museum in Gaucín at the castle, with a special exhibit honouring Spain’s War of Independence from France in 1812.

Griffon Vulture Soaring

Griffon Vulture of the Serranía

A colossus in our mountains! With a wingspan of 2.8 metres and weighing 8 kilos, that’s 9 foot and 17lbs in old money, Griffon Vultures Gyps fulvus is our largest resident raptor here in the Serranía de Ronda and Sierra de Grazalema.

Essentially a specialist carrion eater, this enormous bird is spectacular and the most easily seen raptor in our mountains. Throughout Spain, this species has increased steadily over the past 15 years by the provision of feeding stations, the last official census carried out to ascertain the number of breeding birds put the population at 17,000 pairs.

EU legislation threatened the status quo with the banning of artificial feeding stations. With the advent of mad cow disease (BSE), legislation was introduced requiring all dead carcases to be incinerated limiting the possibility of any further cross-contamination of this disease.

The affect upon many areas was a disaster for Griffon Vulture populations and other carrion eating birds. In fact, some Griffon Vultures, normally a placid bird, took to attacking livestock where feeding stations were closed! Happily, due to pressure from various conservation and agricultural organisations, feeding stations are now to be permitted again and will be regulated to include fenced off compounds sited more than 500 metres away from human habitation. Of course all carcases will have to have been tested negative for BSE!!!

Many visitors (and possibly those living in the area) find identification of raptors difficult and confusing. With 4 breeding species of eagle and other large raptors in the area, then I think this is not surprising! However, as far as our Griffon Vultures are concerned, identification is made less difficult if we take account of its unique flight silhouette. Next time you see this bird in flight, either at close quarters or in the distance, make a note of the almost total lack of tail in relation to overall size.

The depth of wing (leading to trailing edge) is very much greater than tail length. In many other raptors the tail is as long as the depth of wing. You could say, when in the air, Griffon Vultures look rather like a huge flying moustache!

Our local breeding population of circa 600 pairs and probably as many non-breeding birds, make this area one of the most important in Europe for Griffon Vultures. Perhaps not the best looking of birds, whilst perched or feeding, seeing these birds in flight is a natural wonder. They are among the best aviators in the bird world, using up-draughts and thermals to perfection.

In common with many large birds, Griffons save energy by finding airflows which reduce the need for the flapping of their wings. In fact, apart from take-off and landing, it is rare to see these giants of the skies flap their wings. Young birds can take 6 years to mature sufficiently to become breeding birds and this makes their adolescence one of the most protracted of all birds.

Adults can live beyond thirty years and once established in an area will rarely venture far from their home territories. Non-breeding birds however will range over wide areas, with some choosing to venture as far a field as Africa.

This article is provided by Peter Jones as part of Ronda Today’s series of birdwatching articles. Help support bird conservation in Andalucía and join the Andalucían Bird Society.

Hoopoe - Upupa Epops

Hoopoe – Upupa Epops (Abubilla) in the Serranía de Ronda

I guess the first impressions you get from seeing a Hoopoe for the first time is a mixture of the comical as well as the beautiful! With its striking colours and very distinct black and white wing pattern the Hoopoe is a favourite among even the most casual observer.

The Hoopoe is a one-off polytypic species and is distributed widely throughout the Western Paleartic, but is only a resident in southern Spain, northern Africa, Egypt and the Lebanon. It is one of those birds whose presence during the winter months can more than make-up for the cooler temperatures.

In Andalusia we are fortunate to see these beautiful birds all year round and of course during times of bird migration the local birds are joined by those passing through on their way to northern and central Europe. Although a bird essentially of level or gently undulating terrain that has good areas of bare surface i.e. silt, rock and sandy soils, they have taken to the grassed golf courses of the Costas and are a common sight in coastal areas.

They can be seen at varying altitudes within the province ranging from sea level to well over 1400m above. Here Mole-crickets and beetle larvae form the bulk of their diet, although they show a great liking for both larvae and pupae of butterflies and moths. So mostly their diet is insects and almost entirely animal, they are also known to take lizards, frogs, toads and very rarely bird eggs!

It has a long and thin bill which suits probing soft ground and under leaf litter where I have seen it take millipedes and centipedes, but once I saw it grapple with a small scorpion and this makes the bird a friend of mine!!

Hoopoes nest most commonly in the holes of trees, but are also known to use buildings and ground holes. Normally between 5 and 7 eggs are laid and incubation can range from 14 to 20 days. The young, which take anywhere from 26 to 29 days to fledge, are at first brooded almost continuously by the female and are fed by the female until almost ready to fledge when the male, although always the provider in the earlier stages, will also directly help feed the chicks.

It is when the young are over 6 days old that they are able to largely prevent unwanted attentions from predators and of course yours truly. When disturbed they can exude an evil and intolerable smelling fluid from enlarged and modified oil glands and if this wasn’t enough they acquire the dubious ability to forcibly squirt a hatful of liquid faeces and gut contents accurately over a distance of 25 to 30cm. It is a good reason for telling people to pronounce the name Hoopoe as ‘Hoopoo’!!
This article is provided by Peter Jones as part of Ronda Today’s series of birdwatching articles. Help support bird conservation in Andalucía and join the Andalucían Bird Society.

Limestone Mountains, Juzcar

Nature Activities – Juzcar

Deep in the green Genal Valley, but only a few kilometres from Ronda, lies the tiny village of Júzcar, almost invisible as the valley roads twist and turn along the length of the Genal River. Juzcar is small, and easily walked around in less than 30 minutes, you could blink and miss this little inland Andalucia village, but don’t or you’ll really kick yourself later.

Known as Juzcareños, the population of the county is only a little over two hundred, but the history of Juzcar and the wealth of natural wonders located within her borders make a stay in Juzcar something to be recommended. The Hotel Bandolero is a small boutique hotel with 8 rooms in the village that is comfortable, charming, full of character, and has a great restaurant.

The Genal River snakes it’s way through the valley, with numerous tributaries meandering around the village and creating little pools, eddies, or waterfalls at regular intervals. It is the river that is the heart of the Genal Valley, and from which it takes it’s name. Juzcar is in the higher reaches of the valley, known in Spanish as the Alto Genal, and can be reached from both of the main highways running south from Ronda the Ronda-Jimena road via Alpandeire, or the Ronda-San Pedro highway via Cartajima.

Mountains, Caves, and Rivers near Juzcar

To the north of the village lies Jarastepar, a jurassic limestone peak with outcrops of Upper Cretaceous redbeds that rises 1427m into the heavens, all the more impressive in Juzcar because unlike many of the other Serranía villages, Juzcar is only 600m above sea level. The hills immediately around Juzcar village are green, and filled with chestnut trees, whilst to the south in the valley lie the olive tree orchards.

The road between Juzcar and Cartajima, which is the next village on the way into Ronda, is a terrifying road of narrow sections, tight bends, and fast cars; actually it isn’t that bad but it’s the impression many people have of the road. Take care when approaching traffic that you can stop quickly if the road suddenly narrows.

Limestone Mountains, Juzcar

Limestone Mountains, Juzcar

Looming above and around the road are the massive limestone mountains of the Alto Genal, with some of Andalucía’s most spectacular landscape. The limestone mountains to the north of Juzcar, are every bit as impressive as El Torcal over in the GuadalTeba, but much closer to Ronda, and only a short drive and walk from Juzcar.

One could almost imagine the hills are an alien landscape, they protrude in sharp angular outcrops, but are filled with caves and sinkholes, towering minarets, and other formations that make the Alto Genal a geologically fascinating district. Balancing rocks are found in abundance, and create some interesting shapes. Heavy rain in the distant past washed away all of the top soil and exposed the limestone, which is a soft rock easily sculpted by running water.

Just outside Juzcar village is a small cave entrance known as Cueva de Calderón, hinting at what might be underneath. In fact other than the Hundadero-Gato cave system between Montejaque and Benaojan, the caves in the Alto Genal specifically known as the Sierra del Oreganal between Alpandeire, Juzcar and Cartijima are the most well known and loved by cavers. Potholing is possible, though recommended only for experts, and numerous caves that may have been sanctuaries for paleolithic people surround the valley.

Abseiling and rugged adventure walks in the Genal River and other tributaries such as the Zua River are popular activities in these parts. River rappelling at the Sima del Diablo with 8m and 10m descents can be done with a qualified guide, or alone if you have the experience. Unlike other waterfalls and canyons in Málaga province, the Sima del Diablo is secluded with a thick canopy overhead. The location is dark and moody, more reminiscent of a rain forest than sunny Southern Spain. Further upstream you’ll also encounter the Cueva del Moro, the Moor’s Cave.

Legend tells that when the area was first settled a Moor discovered a cave with a natural spring with the sweetest tasting water in the world, and plugging the river in three places with trees and branches he was able to divert the water to each of the three villages where he had a girlfriend, Juzcar, Pandeire, and Baltasar. Later when he married, the village priest decreed that his dam should be destroyed so that only his bride could taste the beautiful water.

Walks From Juzcar

There are a number of countryside walks around Juzcar ranging from 45 minutes to 1hr 15mins, and most can be extended to several hours if that appeals. All of these walks are only suitable for people who can walk, and are comfortable on flights of steps because they require walking off-road on rocky terrain with occasional steeps slopes.

Starting with a walk to Farajan, a nearby village and the walk is only 45 minutes or 2.8kms, with a difficulty level of medium. The walk starts near Juzcar’s cemetery, and leads on the road to Faraján and Alpandeire for about 1km before going off-road to Faraján. Vegetation along the side of the road will be olive, holm oaks, and wild sumac. This walking route takes you past the Fuente de Trujillo, and the spring which marks the beginning of the River Zua.

The second walk from Juzcar goes to Cartajima, and is 2.85kms, and should take around an hour. This is described as a low difficulty walk, suitable for a relaxing day out in the countryside, perhaps enjoying lunch or tapas in Cartajima before returning to your hotel in Juzcar. You’ll pass Juzcar’s ruined tin factory, the el Romeral dolmen from neolithic times, a copse on ancient oaks, and the fuente de las calenturas, so named because the water is so cold people who drink from it often come down with a fever (calentura).

Our third walk from Juzcar goes to Pujerra, another of the Genal Valley villages. This walk is suitable for walking or cycling, and is 3.6kms or around 1hr 15mins, and is described as being a medium difficulty. The walk departs on the Cartajina road, but quickly goes off-road into a small forest of holm and oaks. At the bottom of the valley we cross the Genal river near a small chestnut forest, and then pass the old flour mills that until the mid 20th century provided most of the employment in Juzcar.

Juzcar Birdwatching

Bee-eater near Juzcar

Bee-eater near Juzcar

The entire Serranía de Ronda is a birdwatchers paradise, but Juzcar is special, not for the huge variety of birds to be seen, but for the range of terrain within the county. From the mountains descend the raptors, soaring high above looking for food, whilst down in the forest and riverbed smaller birds pick and fuss.

The forests surrounding Juzcar are filled with pine and chestnut trees, creating a leaf covered forest floor that teams with worms, grubs and insects. This is a bird’s heaven, plentiful food and cover from the watching eyes of birds of prey above. The trees and mountain cliffs provide wonderful nesting locations, one never has to walk very far during the nesting season if birdwatching is your passion.

Here’s our list of ten common birds you’ll see during the year in Juzcar;

English Name Latin Name Spanish Name
Griffon Vulture Gyps fulvus Buitre Leonado
Short-toed Eagle Circaetus gallicus Culebrera Europea
Common Buzzard Buteo buteo Busardo Ratonero
Booted Eagle Aquila pennata Aguililla Calzada
Red-legged Partridge Alectoris rufa Perdiz Roja
Eagle Owl Bubo bubo Buho Real
Bee-eater Merops apiaster Abejaruco Europeo
Blue Rock-Thrush Monticola solitarius Roquero Solitario
Western Bonelli’s Warbler Phylloscopus bonelli Mosquitero sombrío
Cirl Bunting Emberiza cirlus Escribano Soteño
Blue-Rockthrush

Birdwatching in Ronda’s El Tajo

The El Tajo gorge offers a wealth of bird species to watch, in fact many tourists book rooms in hotels overlooking the gorge specifically to setup their binoculars on hotel terraces away from the crowds.

The area between the Puente Nuevo and the Jardines del Cuenca is a deep almost enclosed part of the gorge that buzzes with life, from flying insects to spiders, lizards and geckos, and of course the many birds that nest in the gorge or hunt for food here.

The El Tajo gorge isn’t the only spot to watch birds, the valley below Ronda and the cliffs and walls surrounding the city are also home to some lovely species. A full day or two will be needed in Ronda to see all of the birds that can be seen.

Places in Ronda where birdwatching can be accomplished, Paseo de los Ingleses, Alameda Park, the lookout in Blas Infante garden, viewing platform at Santo Domingo Convent, Plaza Maria Auxiliadora, Puente Viejo and Puente Romano. For guided birdwatching tours of Ronda and the Serranía, contact Peter at Spanish Nature.

Common Birds Seen near the Puente Nuevo

English Name Spanish Name Scientific Name
Honey buzzard Aberjero europeo Pernis apivorus
Black kite Milano negro Milvus migrans
Booted eagle Aguililla calzada Hieraaetus pennatus
Bonelli’s eagle Águila-azor perdicera Hieraaetus fasciatus
Blue rockthrush Roquero solitario Monticola solitarius
Lesser kestrel Cernícalo Primilla Falco naumanni
Peregrine Falcon Halcón peregrino Falco peregrinus
Pallid swift Vencejo pálido Apus pallidus
Alpine swift Vencejo real Apus melba
Crag martin Avión roquero Ptyonoprogne rupestris
Chough Chova piquirroja Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax
Rock sparrow Gorrión chillón Petronia petronia
Join the ABS and Encourage Birding

Join the ABS and Encourage Birding

Ronda Today is a proud supported of the Andalucian Bird Society, a not for profit organisation whose aims are to;

  • To record and study wild birds in Andalucia
  • To assist in the preservation of wild birds in Spain
  • To encourage by use of meetings, outings, books and other ways:
  • The study of birds in the field and ornithological science in general.
  • The education of the general public and its members in ornithological science and the need for the protection of wild birds and their habitats.

Membership of the Andalucian Bird Society costs just 25€ per year, and discounts are available for children, students, and visitors to Andalucia.