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Serranía de Ronda 21 – 27 February 2019

Springtime in southern Spain – during our winter

Inland from Málaga, the hills of the Serranía de Ronda offer an attractive mix of white-washed villages, varied landscapes and wildlife. The area’s rich history and gastronomic delights add to the appeal as a late winter destination – with spring well underway in Andalucía.

The Serranía de Ronda combines two areas. Rugged limestone cliffs in the Sierra de Grazalema have vulture colonies and a range of unusual plants, including the rare Spanish fir, within the Natural Park. Parts of the Sierra de las Nieves are snow-covered in winter, as the name suggests, and wild enough for Spanish ibex and mouflon, albeit rarely easy to see. Spanish daffodils grow here and at the edge of the tree line we have an introduction to black redstarts, firecrests, short-toed treecreepers, crested tits and the chance of a golden eagle.

We are also within range of steppes and wetlands. On the plains around Osuna we'll be looking for bustards with a supporting cast of big flocks of wintering skylarks, corn buntings, Spanish sparrows and calandra larks as well as Iberian grey shrike, Dartford warblers, wintering bluethroats, ravens and hoopoes. Rock formations and Osuna’s striking architecture featured in Game of Thrones.

We spend a day in the wetlands at Fuente de Piedra, enjoying the spectacle of thousands of wintering common cranes moving around the farmland. Also there are black-winged kites and purple swamphens with avocets, black-winged stilts, stone-curlews, Kentish plovers among a variety of waders. As well as wintering shelducks, shovelers and teals we will look for red-crested pochards and white-headed ducks.

A leisurely day includes time spent in and around the historic city of Ronda. There are palaces, churches and and a bullring though the dominant sight is the dramatic El Tajo gorge with its three bridges: one Roman, one Moorish and one 18th century. Birdwatchers may get distracted by crag martins and red-billed choughs and crossbills are possible in the town parks.

Gastronomic delights

Our base of Júzcar was one of the pueblos blancos – white villages – until painted blue for a Smurf film, and for now the town has voted to keep its new colour. The charming Hotel-Restaurant Bandolero offers comfort and stunning views of the surrounding mountains but it’s the reputation of the food that is a special draw. Chef Iván worked in top London restaurants before returning to his home area to run this business with his partner. Complementing this theme are Simon and Niki’s picnics, also prepared with local ingredients including home-baked bread.

Júzcar
The former white (now blue) village of Júzcar.

Birds

Birdwatching is the main focus on this holiday. As well as those noted above, wintering ring ouzel and hen harriers are possible here, as well as black wheatears, alpine accentors, rock buntings, Bonelli's eagles, blue rock thrushes, rock sparrows, Thekla and crested larks, cirl buntings, hawfinches, dipper and grey wagtail. Swallows and martins add a springtime feel.

black wheatear Iberian grey shrike rock sparrow
Black wheatear, Iberian grey shrike, rock sparrow (Steve Fletcher).

Flowers

We are here at the start of spring and early orchids are likely, such as giant orchid and sombre bee orchid. We expect paperwhite narcissi, irises and red-berry mistletoe plus more to be discovered.

Other wildlife

Bright days will bring out butterflies and lizards. It’s a surprisingly good time for moths and our leaders plan to run a moth trap. Giant peacock moth is very possible and out in force at this time of year is the elegant-looking Lemonia philopalus.

Lemonia philopalus speckled wood
Lemonia philopalus (c/o lepiwiki); southern speckled wood.

Itinerary

As well as travel days the five full days will be a mountain birdwatching day, a wetlands day, Ronda and around, the plains, and a local day in and around local sweet chestnut and holm oak woods and elsewhere in the limestone Serranía de Ronda.

Holiday details

Price: £1,450 per person in in twin or double room for six nights (Thursday to Wednesday).

Single room supplement: £120

En suite facilities

Flights: Scheduled easyJet flights Gatwick to Málaga.
21 February: EZY 8605 depart London Gatwick 09:30 arrive Málaga 13:25.
27 February: EZY 8606 depart Málaga 14:00 arrive Gatwick 15:55.

Deposit: £300

Maximum number (two leaders): 14

Leaders

Simon Tonkin has worked as an RSPB conservation officer for many years, specialising in the challenging job of stopping the decline of farmland wildlife. He also lectures in ornithology and regularly leads wildlife holidays.

Niki Williamson was a warden at the RSPB’s Ouse Washes nature reserve, then worked on projects for helping farmland birds in the Fens and subsequently managed the RSPB Eastern England’s farm wildlife advisory team. Both are now full-time nature guides, often based at Huerta Grande near Tarifa, father west in Andalucía.

Conservation project

SUPPORTING

Migres monitors bird migration though the Strait of Gibraltar. A key role is measuring the impact of the many wind turbines in the area on migrant birds of prey. This includes advising on when to switch off turbines, when migration is heavy.



For prices, see Holiday Details at the bottom of the page.

travel aware

FCO travel advice for Spain here.

Dartford warbler

Dartford warbler (Steve Fletcher)

Ronda

Ronda, Puente Nueve and El Tajo Gorge (Christopher Down, Wikipedia)

 

 

Griffon vulture

Griffon vulture (Steve Fletcher)

Holiday reports

This is Honeyguide's first holiday in the Serranía de Ronda so there is no previous holiday report.

Other holidays have been based partly or entirely in Andalucía.

Holiday report for Tarifa & Morocco Feb/Mar 2017 here. From our Tarifa & Gibraltar holidays: March 2015 here, March 2014 here, February 2013 here and September 2012 here.
paperwhite narcissus

Paperwhite narcissus

Sombre bee orchid Ophrys fusca

Sombre bee orchid Ophrys fusca

giant peacock moth

Giant peacock moth

Leaders

Simon Tonkin

Simon Tonkin

Niki Williamson

Niki Williamson

Additional web page

Andalusian wall lizard: photos and information about a recently recognised species.

Andalusian wall lizard

Recommended reading from Crossbill Guides:
Andalusian Sierras.

More information on this and other Crossbill Guides here.

Crossbill Guide Andalusian Sierras

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