For many years we have extolled the virtues of Cantueso as a base for walking and associated pastimes such as birding or photography, and to aid less experienced walkers we have our own route guides. Below we are pleased to include a report by Derek Polley on his walking and birding in Axarquia following his third stay at Cantueso during April.
Derek had previously been here with another group from Northern Ireland on a couple of occasions and thought it would suit his church walking group, so booked the complete complex. Derek explains: “This is purely a walking group, although walks are planned round lunch, and coffee on the way home. We have been called an eating group which does occasional walks!! My birding just happens as we walk although I have been known to pick a route where I know there will be good birds!”
Birding around Cantueso
As well as the birds which can be seen in or around the site itself, there are also a number of possibilities in the immediate area, and further possibilities if you are prepared to drive for an hour to an hour and a half. There is also the Guadalhorce Reserve in Malaga which is only five minutes from the airport.
The birds seen in and around Cantueso itself have been seen either in April or September. Obviously some of them are summer migrants and will only be seen from April to September, others are resident and can be seen all year round.
Residents include Collared dove, Blackbird, Sardinian warbler, Great tit, Blue tit, Spotless starling House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Serin and Goldfinch. Crested lark is the default lark in the area but do not rule out Thekla’s lark which occurs as well.
Summer visitors include Cuckoo, Swift, Bee-eater, Hoopoe, House Martin, Swallow, Red-rumped swallow, Blackcap, Chiffchaff and Woodchat shrike
In summer it is usual to see eagles and other birds of prey from Cantueso. These occasionally hunt the valleys on either side of the complex. Expect to see Bonelli’s eagle, Short toed eagle, Booted eagle, Buzzard, Sparrowhawk and Kestrel in season. Griffon vulture is a possibility as well.
The walk along the old railway line to Ventas La Zaffaraya can also be productive. As well as common residents you can expect to see Griffon vulture, red-billed chough, black wheatear, stonechat, corn bunting, raven, peregrine, and in spring and autumn migration anything may turn up. I have seen spotted flycatcher, redstart, whitethroat, golden oriole and turtle dove.
Cross the valley to Alcaucin and walk up the valley into the mountains to the nature reserve and you will find many of the above species as well as Jay, Coal tit, Crag martin, Great spotted woodpecker, Alpine accentor and Wood pigeon.
El Torcal is an hour’s drive to the North-west (see also.) As well as spectacular limestone scenery it has a good range of birds including Griffon vulture, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, Rock bunting, Blue rock thrush, Black redstart, Sub-alpine warbler and Melodious warbler. Another thirty minutes North to Antequera brings you close to the breeding flamingo colony at Fuente de Piedra lagoon. A lot of what you will see there depends on time of year and water levels, but it is worth a visit if you are in the area.
If you are flying in and out of Malaga the Guadalhorce reserve is only 5 minutes drive from the airport. It is well worth a couple of hours en route to Periana, or leave early and check it out before you drop the car off. It has a wide variety of wetland species and is a migratory stopover in spring and autumn. The list of species is long and varied and includes White-headed duck, Kingfisher, Marsh harrier, Yellow legged gulls, Black winged stilt, Glossy ibis, herons, egrets, ducks, waders and terns – including Gull billed. The reserve is good for breeding warblers including Zitting cistacolas. In summer it is very hot, there is very little shade, and if water levels are low there will be fewer species. However in April, May and September anything can turn up on migration to and from the Straits of Gibraltar. Google Guadalhorce and you will find a lot of trip reports with a lot of stunning birds, including a feral flock of Monk Parakeets.
All photos courtesy Derek Polley