flora and fauna
Alhama is surrounded by simply wonderful countryside teaming with wildlife - you can spot a huge variety of birds as we are on a main migratory route between Africa and Europe as well as lots of different birds found only on the Iberian Peninsula or the Mediterranean area. You can explore a wide range of habitats very closeby - lakes and reservoirs, rivers, cliffs, coniferous and oak woods, open fields and orchards, scrub and agricultural land. Also close, an hour south is the coast and the famous Fuente de Piedra salt lake with a huge colony of greater flamingos.
When my friend Grace comes to stay I have a great time going out and about bird watching with her and here are some of my favourite sightings (her full list is further down this page) …… Alhama itself is home of swifts, house martens, swallows, white wagtails and spotless starlings and strolling in the evening you can hear scops owls and nightingales. The bats are fun to watch at dusk and it’s always good to hear the toads and cicadas. Alongside the town, in or above the gorge, you’ll find blue rock thrushes, golden orioles, red rumped swallows, eagle owls, european serin and hoopoes …. In oak woods you should find the elusive azure winged magpie (we can tell you where to go!) and at our two local lakes we’ve seen great cormorants, european bee-eaters (dozens of them!), a colony of night heron, black winged stilts, little ringed plover and egyptian geese. In the open country and hill tops we’ve seen booted eagles, lesser kestrels, great spotted cuckoos, griffon vultures, little owls and egyptian vultures.
And in 11 years of living here the land and tree-based creatures we’ve seen include wild boar, one badger, foxes, hares and rabbits, iberian mountain goats, fallow deer, spanish ibex, pine martens, and red and grey squirrels … and if you travel a little further afield you could spot iberian lynx and, of course, the barbary macaque. This area is also incredibly rich in lacewings, dragonflies, butterflies and moths as well as lizards and geckos - for more information please check this lovely website: sierra de loja
If anyone has any other sightings, please do let us know and we'll add to this page!
From Sandy and Annabel's stay in Alhama in March 2016:In the gorgeand along the river were an interesting selection of birds, 30 species included Buzzard, Little Owl, Hoopoe, Blue Rock Thrush, Sardinian Warbler, Chiffchaff, Cetti's Warbler, Black Redstart, Grey and White Wagtails, Great-spotted Woodpecker, Crag Martin, Serin, Short-toed Treecreeper and Long-tailed Tit.
Several Pipistrelle Bats were flying about in sunlight, perhaps just out of hibernation, we also saw several Red Squirrels. A good selection of butterflies were flying, these included Small Tortoiseshell, Red Admiral, Painted Lady, Large and Small Whites, Bath White, Morrocan Orange Tip, Small Copper, Small Heath, Brimstone, Clouded Yellow, Speckled Wood and Small Copper. We also saw a Hummingbird Hawkmoth.
The only reptile seen was a Wall Lizard. At the Presa de Alhama there was a selection of waterfowl, these included Mallard, Pochard, Shoveler and a single Pintail, also Coots and Moorhens. Swallows, House and Sand Martins were feeding over the water. In the woods around the Presa, Jays and Great-spotted Woodpeckers were calling and another Red Squirrel was seen.
We made two visits to the Embalse de Los Bermejales (20 min drive), including cycling around the reservoir with bikes hired from the Bermejana campsite. 38 species of birds were noted including a displaying pair of Bonelli's Eagle watched while sitting outside a cafe, distant views of Griffin Vultures, a pair of Egyptain Goose, Black-winged Stilt, a colony of Grey Herons, Cormorant, Alpine Swift, Crag Martin, Hoopoe, Crested Lark, Firecrest, Crested Tit, Black Redstart, Short-toed Treecreeper and Spotless Starling.
Mammals noted included several Red Squirrels and signs of Badgers including a sett and snuffle holes. Butterflies and moths noted there included Large and Small Whites, Painted Lady, Speckled Wood, Clouded Yellow, Southern Grizzled Skipper, Hummingbird Hawkmoth and Ruby Tiger Moth. We made a day trip (1 hr 40 min drive) to the area immediately north of Osuna in Seville provence, an area rich in birdlife including both Great and Little Bustard, it also has some interesting lagoons holding water birds. While having no luck with the bustards we did see a good selection of birds. Birds of prey were very much in evidence along with lots of of rabbits for them to feed on. Red and Black Kites, Kestrel, Buzzards and Booted Eagle were all present. A small colony of White Storks were nesting on pylons. On one lagoon were Greater Flamingo, Avocet, Black-winged Stilt, Dunlin, Little Stint, Kentish and Ringed Plover, Glossy Ibis and Lapwing. Ravens were plentiful in the open country, also Woodchat Shrike, Iberian Green Woodpecker, Hoopoe, Corn Bunting, Stonechat, Crested Lark, Spanish Sparrow, Northern Wheatear, Meadow Pipit and Spotless Starling. Definitely an area worth a visit. On our last day we went down to the coast stopping at Embalse de la Vinuela where 3 Crossbill were flying around a pine plantation. On the coast at Velez-Malaga was a large flock of gulls including Mediterranean, Black-headed, Yellow-legged and Lesser Black-backed Gull. Monk Parakeets were numerous and busy nest building in the sea front palms. On the beach was a Black-eared Wheatear, presumably a newly arrived migrant.
From Glen's stay in Alhama in October 2014:
In and around Alhama, Cacin Valley, and lake Bermajales Rock Dove, Housemartin,Spotless Starling,Magpie, Jackdaw, Carrion Crow,Kestrel,Serin,Crested Lark,Swallow,Sand Martin,Swift,Cettis Warbler( I heard several in the Cacin valley. They are difficult to see but they have an unmistakable call) Corn Bunting,Common Crossbill,White wagtail,Rock Sparrow,Quail,Grey Wagtail,Mallard, Bee eater,Great tit, Coal tit,House Sparrow, Green Finch,Collard Dove, Cormorant,Blackbird,Yellow Legged Gull.
This list was compiled by a total incompetent and any birder worth his salt would comfortably treble this count. I was staring at stuff i'm totally familiar with at home but their Spanish counterparts seemed to have subtle differences causing me to mistrust my judgement. I saw at least three different large raptors in the Cacin Valley that i was unable to identify.In my humble opinion bearing in mind it was not the best time of year the area is superb and you are able to casually spot stuff that you have to work harder to see at home.Also it,s not just the number of different species you can notch up you actually see larger flocks of species common back home. Large flocks of Goldfinches near the canyon, huge flocks of house sparrows coming off the fields to roost in the line of poplar trees in Alhama itself and the nightly aerial displays given by the Martins and Swallows.
from Grace and Grant's stay in March 2011
in the Gorge: eagle owl, cettis warbler, heron, cormorant, robin, wren.
Towards Ventas de Zafarraya: azure winged magpie, corn bunting, red leg partridge, calandra lark.
Sierra Alhama: crested tit, wag tailed tit, tree creeper, fire crest, jay, golden eagle, stone chat, linnet, thekla lark.
El Torcal Natural Park: Griffin Vulture, Rock Bunting, Black Redstart,Goldfinch,Sardinian Warbler, Spotted Flycatcher, Female Blackcap
from Grace and Grant's stay in March 2010:
Alhama: spotless starling, house martin, barn swallow, house sparrow, feral pigeon, collared dove.
In the Gorge: buzzard, kestrel, grey heron, jackdaw, hoopoe, greater spotted woodpecker, blue rock thrush, blackbird, mistle thrush, white wagtail, grey wagtail, feral pigeons, sardinian warbler, orphean warbler, back cap, long tailed tits, great tit, blue tit, robin, wren, crag martin, rock bunting, black redstart, chaffinch, serin, greenfinch, goldfinch.La Presa Reservoir: widgeon, dabchick, coot, jay, green woodpecker, cuckoo, nuthatch, reed warbler, moorhen.
Lake Bermejales: night heron, blackwinged stilt, great spotted cuckoo, magpie, cormorant, mallard, great crested grebe, common sandpiper.