Wildlife, Birds and Flora

Almond Reef - Wildlife, Birds and Flora
A Report and Description of the Area - compiled by Andrew M. Allport (February 2013)

Birds

Resident birds around Almond Reef include, Blue Rock Thrush, Rock Sparrow, Black Wheatear, Black Redstart, Spotless Starling, Crag Martins, Little Owls, Serins and Sardinian Warblers and (Iberian) Green Woodpecker all of which can be seen from the garden easily. These are joined in winter by large numbers of Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs, Robins, Siskins and European Starlings and early summering arrivals even in February include Red-rumped and Barn Swallows, House Martins and the occasional Booted Eagle, later to be joined by many of the typical and flamboyant Mediterranean summer migrants. Beeaters, Golden Orioles and nightingales are common. In February we also saw Buzzard, Peregrine, Sparrowhawk and Golden Eagle from the house. The surrounding rural landscape holds Southern Grey Shrikes, Hoopoes and Dartford Warbler all year round as well as good numbers of Thekla and Crested Larks. 

Because of it’s rural location and because it is at the foot of the Sierra de Los Filabres many birds can be seen in the immediate vicinity. Within a few kilometres you could find Rock Bunting, Stone Curlew and if you are very lucky Eagle Owl or Black bellied Sandgrouse amongst many other species.

There are a number of diverse habitats to explore on day trips, within an hour and a half drive away.

The only true desert in Europe, the Desierto de Tabernas, The high mountains of the Sierra Nevada and the amazing and rich and diverse area of Cabo de Gata are just three. At many coastal locations you can find, Audouin’s and Slender-billed Gulls and in the winter months particularly Mediterranean Gulls and Sandwich Terns, Arctic and Great Skuas regularly and Mediterranean (Balearic) Shearwaters when there is an onshore breeze. Cory’s Shearwaters are also common in the summer months. White headed Duck in good numbers were at Rambla Morales in Cabo de Gata park when we visited in February. We also saw lots of Bluethroat, hundreds of Flamingos and a large selection of wading birds as well as some of the dry steppe specialities.

There is no shortage of specialist and rare birds to look for although most do require an effort to track down. Trumpeter Finch, Dupont’s Lark, Eagle Owl, Citril Finch, Little Bustard, Black bellied Sandgrouse and White headed Duck all occur and can be looked for on day trips.

Other wildlife

It is not too difficult to see Spanish Ibex close by, even sometimes on cliffs behind the Almond Reef house. Foxes, Iberian Hare, Algerian Hedgehog and Wild Boar are common, the latter two not always easy to see because of their nocturnal habits. Red Deer are also on the higher parts of the Sierra de los Filabres. Large spotted Genet and Stone Marten, Badgers and Weasels also occur in the area but again are very difficult to see.

Because it is a relatively hot area reptiles are common throughout the area. Cabo de Gata again being a stronghold with fifteen species as well as several amphibians.

Butterflies we saw in February included, Cleopatra, Black-eyed Blue, Common Blue, Long-tailed Blue, Spanish Festoon, Brimstone, Green Hairstreak, Large Wall Brown, Mallow Skipper, Lange’s short tailed Blue, Swallowtail, Red Admiral, Painted Lady, Moroccan Orange Tip, Green striped White amongst others..... and we saw Hummingbird Hawk Moth at a few places on the coast. Species numbers are obviously vastly increased later in the season.

Flora

Andalucia has one of the richest range of plant species in the whole of Spain with very specialist and rare plants and flowers occurring throughout the area. The semi desert like habitat close to Almond Reef by is characterised by Esparto grass and low woody shrubs and herbs most notably Rosemary and Thymes, Lavenders and Brooms but with many hundreds of flower species also making their home here. It is also a great place for orchids and many can be found easily with little effort. Close to Almond Reef and often right next to the road within a couple of kilometres in February we found Giant Orchid, Fan-lipped Orchid, Sombre Bee Orchid and Sawfly Orchid. Many other orchid species occur, flowering a little later in the season.

Further afield the higher mountains, coastal areas and desert hold an amazing array of interesting and showy species.

Cabo de Gata is particularly excellent with over 1000 species of plant and has at least six endemic species that occur nowhere else. The most famous is a small pink Snapdragon which flowers all year round Antirrhinum charidemi known as dragoncillo del Cabo in Spanish. It can be found on only a couple of areas of south facing volcanic cliffs. The sierras of Alhamilla, de los Filabres and the Tabernas desert also hold several species endemic to those areas.

Even in February the flowers were plentiful. As well as the early orchids some of the more interesting species we found included the weird parasitic plant Cynomorium growing in the dunes. Close to Almond Reef we also found the showy parasitic Yellow flowers of Cistanche (C. Phelypaea) as well as stunning Wild Gladiolus and hundreds of White-hooped petticoat Daffodils amongst the hundreds of other species.