Birding and nature trails in Sierra Morena Andalusia



Despeñaperros Pass is an open gateway to any traveller who wishes to e xplore Sierra Morena de Jaén. Across this threshold lie thousands of h ectares of Mediterranean woodland and scrub, Holm-Oak and Cork-Oak woo ds, vast pinewoods, rivers fringed by Oleander bushes and dense ripari an woodland, hills and knolls dotted with round granite outcrops and g ashed by cliffs, dehesas where fighting bulls graze, groves where silv ery-foliaged Olives grow and fertile farmland washed by the great Guad alquivir. This natural scenario of serried sierras, gorges and plains stages a fascinating daily show of life in Mediterranean ecosystems. I n its unspoilt wilderness, far from the madding crowd, the Iberian Lyn x slinks through the undergrowth in search of prey, Spanish Imperial E agles patrol the skies with their barking cries, AndalusiaÆs last ling ering wolf packs prowl, White-Rumped Swifts search out mud nests to hi jack for their own clutch, huge Cinereous Vultures ride the thermals, Iberian Midwife Toads sing in melancholy choirs, Andalusian Barbels sw im up the crystal-clear rivers to reach their spawning grounds, Little Bustards strut with puffed-out necks to woo their mates in crop- and fallow-fields, Great Spotted Cuckoos terrorise their press-ganged Magp ie hosts, endemic plants like Digitalis mariana or Centaurea citricolo r bedeck the ground and banks, Black-Shouldered Kites hover feather-li ght over olive groves and grassland, Purple Swamphens add a dash of co lour to reedmace beds while R The book compiles 15 nature-watching out ings of different types (car drives, hikes, family-friendly strolls an d fixed lookout points) and different degrees of difficulty, designed for expert naturalists or beginning birders. These trails between them will give us a good idea of this surprising district, one of the most species-rich areas in the whole of Iberia.

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