Rivers and Waters
Parque Natural Sierra de las Nieves is the origin of numerous rivers. One of the most important from the socio-economic point of view is the Turón, which empties its waters into the reservoir of Conde de Guadalhorce, a high quality infrastructure generating electricity and supplying water to the capital of the province.
The “pampering” that the precious liquid receives during the stage of the walk consists in protecting of river banks by planting Aleppo pines, where vines and other crops used to grow. Then there is the succession of dams both upstream and downstream from the pueblo which regulates the river flow trying to avoid excess accumulation of sediment or the river gaining too much momentum. In spite of these actions that alter the river, the views are spectacular, with long and deep pools of turquoise water surrounded by patches of green, providing a stark contrast to the somewhat dry landscape.
If the riparian vegetation is spectacular, with willow, basket willow, black and white poplars and elms wrestling with the masses of oleanders and vines, the fauna doesn´t fall far behind. The Otter is the main predator of the river, thanks to the abundant fish such as barbel, nase and chub. This river also harbours a flourishing population of the native crayfish, since very recently in decline. Terrapins, snakes, kingfi shers and amphibians are easy to observe vertebrates, while damselflies and dragonflies are also abundant in summer.
Dykes and dams which you can see along the walk are called: De La Presa (used by the youths of the town for spectacular jumps), El Azud Largo which feeds a very sizeable irrigation channel and has an area popular with locals for a swim, next is the Del Nacimiento at the foot of the Monument of the Forest ranger and then the Hierbabuena close to a farm with the same name.
The river upstream from the last dams usually dries out in summer. The vegetation that surrounds the watercourse is typically Mediterranean, with Holm Oak, Lentisc, Terebinth, Brambles and Roses among their main species. In the area where you can ford the Turón river, two streams meet: the Arroyo de la Higuera, which is born in the Pinsapar de Cañada de las Animas, and the Lifa stream (or the Sabinal), whose bank you can walk on.
The rest of the walk takes you through limestone mountains, and circulation of water on limestone surface is not possible. You don´t come across water until you reach the plains of Aguaya. When you pass through the last gate and a cattle grid you can hear down below the Arroyo de Lancero, which has its source here, although it had suffered serious damage due to water supply probing.
When you arrive at Ronda fairgrounds you cross over one of the better known streams here, the Arroyo de la Toma, which has a source in the plains of Aguaya and is a tributary of the Guadalevín river, then they enter the famous Tajo de Ronda gorge together.
Stage 23 starts in the centre of El Burgo, and inevitably the first species you see are associated with this type of environment. Within about 300 metros you will encounter Río Turón, which you will be then following for a large portion of Stage 23. The presence of crops on one side and riparian vegetation on the other, results in an interesting mix which translates into a high diversity of species. As you keep walking, the vegetation turns into woodland, and steep slopes start appearing, clearly influencing the type of predominant species. The pine wood will keep you company until the patch of terebinth in Lifa valley. Past the Lifa farmhouse you will be crossing a very interesting low mountain area. The climb comes to an end in a wooded area with holm oaks. This allows you to watch forest species before entering the flat farmland which leads to Ronda.
In El Burgo, the beginning of this demanding Stage is marked by such species as Eurasian Collared Dove, House Martin, Spotless Starling and House Sparrow. However, given the type of the village surroundings, it is not uncommon to see rock-dwelling or forest species flying overhead from the first step you take. At the very beginning you will encounter the river and sizeable riverside vegetation which promotes the presence of quite diverse species at this first section of the walk, such as, for example: Mallard, Hoopoe, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Wryneck, Barn Swallow, House Martin, White and Grey Wagtail, Common Blackbird, Stonechat, Nightingale, Blackcap, Spotless Starling and Short-toed Treecreeper.
The presence of olive groves results in the appearance of such species as Great Tit, Common Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Greenfinch and Serin. From the very beginning of Stage 23 you need to pay attention to the sky looking for bird silhouettes, which could turn out to be Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Northern Goshawk, Common Buzzard, Booted Eagle, Short-toed Eagle and Common Kestrel. Once the path enters a pine wood and is still close to the river, the community of forest birds becomes more evident and such species occur as Mistle Thrush, small flocks of Long-tailed Tit, Nuthatch and Eurasian Jay.
At the same time steep rock faces start taking over the terrain and thus Swifts, Crag Martins and Blue Rock Thrush turn up. An evening walk along this section will allow you to hear at least three nocturnal birds of prey (Eagle Owl, Tawny Owl and Scops Owl. During the day large raptors tend to fly along the Río Turón valley. Such species as Bonelli´s Eagle and Peregrine Falcon find welcoming spots around here and establish their territory, whilst the Griffon Vulture is a frequent visitor.
Once you abandon the track and walk down to the river El Burgo, past a large holm oak the pine wood becomes richer in lentiscs, more holm oaks and first terebinth bushes. This is an area where, amongst some of the already named species, there is a great abundance of birds in the thrush family in winter. There might be up to six different species if you include Common Blackbird and Ring Ouzel. Although it is the Song Thrush which is the most abundant, you can also find Mistle Thrush and Redwing, and even the scarcest of them, the Fieldfare.
Walking past rock faces on your right note the Griffon Vulture roosts which may become breeding spots in the future if the species continues being on the rise. Once you reach the top of the climb, facing the Lifa tower and farmhouse, you will next enter a glen dedicated to farming, where in winter Meadow Pipits and Skylarks are common, with the year round presence of Crested and Thekla Lark, Common Stonechat, Zitting Cisticola, Goldfinch, Common Linnet and Corn Bunting. In the surroundings of the cortijo you will walk through several gates which you should leave as you found them. These gates are used to control livestock and you would not be doing anyone a favour if you forgot to close the gates, closed them incorrectly or decided to close a gate which you had found open (please keep in mind that an open gate is also performing a certain task).
At the farmhouse you will be entering an area of low thorny scrub where, if you take your time, you can end up watching to your heart´s content the Dartford Warbler, sharing the common range with the Sardinian Warbler.
Both species are joined in spring and summer by Spectacled Warbler plus Subalpine Warbler, Garden Warbler and Whitethroat in migration periods. Combined with the fact that Blackcap is frequent in winter and the patches of holm oak in Puerto de Lifa hold breeding Western Orphean Warbler, you could say that this part of Stage 23 harbours practically all of the Sylvia warblers which can be seen in the Spanish Peninsula. A similar situation occurs with wheatears, since the Black and Black-eared Wheatear nest along this section of the path, and Northern Wheatear turns up on migration.
Worth adding to the bird list is the Cuckoo, occurring in the holm oak woods, a bird you will most definitely hear in spring but which can rarely be seen, and the Woodlark with its melodious song, the only representative of the Alaudidae family breeding in forest areas. The forest environment which you encounter before arriving in the Aguaya flatlands brings back the species you have already seen at the beginning of Stage 23.
Entering the farmland immediately translates into the appearance of high numbers of larks, Stonechats, Zitting Cisticolas and Corn Buntings. If you happen to be doing this walk in spring and arrive in Ronda at dusk, you will have a chance to see the crepuscular flights of the Red-necked Nightjar, a bird which has a persistent tendency to settle on the road. As always, the Eurasian Collared Dove, Starlings and Sparrows indicate that you are approaching inhabited areas, in this case Ronda.