When I started planning a trip to Andalucía, I posted a message to BirdForum asking whether my plans were practical. One of the people who replied was John Butler, who, I’ve since discovered, not only runs bird tours there but actually wrote the book on birding in the area. One of the things he said was:
Do not miss Sevilla. It is a beautiful city and well worth visiting for the sights of the city, but there are also lots of birds to be seen. Lesser Kestrels live in large numbers around the cathedral and these will be joined by Pallid Swifts from late March onwards. Lots of good birding can also be done in the Maria Louisa gardens, less than a km from the historic centre of the city.
I can’t tell you how much it made me smile to read that “Lesser Kestrels live in large numbers around the cathedral”. There’s something special about going to a place for the history and architecture, and seeing good birds there. Partially it’s just because it’s double the pleasure, but also the bird makes the place more memorable and the place makes the bird more memorable. And because birds play a large part in my sense of place, they can bring somewhere to life beyond its historical context.
Some examples – White Storks nesting on the top of marble columns in the ruins of Ephesus; a pair of Scops Owls in a tree outside the museum at Corinth; Cirl Bunting at Mycenae, Long-legged Buzzard at Troy. Perhaps the best of the lot – swirling flocks of thousands of Alpine Swifts coming in to roost in the walls of Fez in Morocco.