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Despenaperros Pass is an open gateway to any traveller who wishes to explore Sierra Morena de Jaen. Across this threshold lie thousands of hectares of Mediterranean woodland and scrub, holm-oak and cork-oak woods, vast pinewoods, rivers fringed by oleander bushes and dense riparian woodland, hills and knolls dotted with round granite outcrops and gashed by cliffs, dehesas where fighting bulls graze, groves where silvery-foliaged olives grow and fertile farmland washed by the great Guadalquivir.
This natural scenario of serried sierras, gorges and plains stages a fascinating daily show of life in Mediterranean ecosystems. In its unspoilt wilderness, far from the madding crowd, the Iberian lynx slinks through the undergrowth in search of prey, Spanish imperial eagles patrol the skies with their barking cries, Andalusia's last lingering wolf packs prowl, white-rumped swifts search out mud nests to hijack for their own clutch, huge cinereous vultures ride the thermals, Iberian midwife toads sing in melancholy choirs, Andalusian barbels swim 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 magpie hosts, endemic plants like Digitalis mariana or Centaurea citricolor bedeck the ground and banks, black-shouldered kites hover feather-light over olive groves and grassland, purple swamphens add a dash of colour to reedmace beds while rollers add their own blaze of blue to the farmland.
The book compiles 15 nature-watching outings of different types (car drives, hikes, family-friendly strolls and 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.