BIRD MAN: Meet Ronda nature guide and Secret Serranía contributor Peter Jones

BIRD MAN: Meet Ronda nature guide and Secret Serranía contributor Peter Jones

Peter Jones is an author, naturalist, co-founder of Spanish Nature, Worldwide Birding Tours and currently president of the Andalucia Bird Society. Peter has been involved in a great many environmental projects and has had several works published over many years. Peter has a passion for birds, having also been involved in scientific research into birds for over 45 years, but his many interests also extend to flora and fauna. Peter has lived in Spain since 2003.

Secret Serranía:          So Peter, where are you from originally?

Peter: England and moved around according to the demands of my work.

SS:       Where are you living now?

Peter: My wife and I live in the municipality of Ronda.

SS:       How did you come to decide on your particular location in Spain?

Peter:  The surrounding area i.e., La Serranía de Ronda was a great place to study a particular bird species I’d been asked to investigate.

SS:       What was it in the first place that attracted to you to move to this area?

Peter: We had friends living here and we visited them in the area and just fell in love with both Ronda and the surrounding mountains. Of course, my interests in nature were completely satiated by the abundant wildlife and wild places throughout the region.

SS:       How would you describe your life here in Spain?

Peter:  Hectic, completely self-imposed, and in so many ways idyllic. It has been a wonderful experience on many levels. The friendliness of the Spanish, particularly in this area, has been so refreshing and welcoming. I have found people so very helpful and understanding, plus the local cuisine is a treasure I never expected to find and enjoy so much. The bureaucracy is something I struggle with, but we muddle through and get to where we need to be eventually. So, I guess I’d have to say life here is very good.

SS:       Do you miss anything about home? What would you say are the negatives of living here?

Peter:  Actually, I only miss friends and family from the UK. The only negative has been my failure to become even more conversant with the language, but snail-paced I am slowly getting better. I am not a linguist.

SS:       How do you find the cost of living here compared to back in the UK?

Peter:  So very much more manageable and as a pensioner that is an important reason to stay put and be able to enjoy a good standard of living.

SS:       With the length of time you’ve lived in Spain, your knowledge of the language and your expertise on flora and fauna, particularly birds, I should imagine you’ve found it easier than most to integrate.

Peter:  Well, as mentioned previously, my language skills can still improve, but yes, my work and experience in the natural world introduced me to many wonderful people here; many have become invaluable friends. They are all great at excusing my poor Spanish, in fact they get to laugh at me on a regular basis, perhaps that is why they like my company!

SS:       You are married. Do you have a family?

Peter: Yes, it seems impossible, but Brenda and I have been married now for 49 years. Next year is a big one for us both. We have a daughter and three grandsons living in Italy. The eldest grandson passed his university degree with honours last year and has now taken up residency and work in the UK, poor lad!

SS:       What about day-to-day living, healthcare, etc.?

Peter:  I guess our daily living has taken a knock with lockdowns and lock-ins, much the same as everyone else. We walk most days with our two dogs, enjoy the odd excursion here and there into the surrounding countryside. I am busy writing and also doing lots of work for the Andalucia Bird Society, especially now, as working as a nature guide is curtailed due to the pandemic. We are only recently looking to enrol for Spanish healthcare. Having officially got our residency and Spanish driving licenses, healthcare was next up. The only problem we have encountered to date is we need to renew our S1 certificates as they are more than two years old.

SS:       When you first moved here, do you think you made any mistakes that looking back you can warn/advise others about?

Peter:  The only thing I believe we could have done better was to make a concerted effort to learn a higher level of Spanish before embarking on our adventure. Other than that, I think our planning was spot on. I think the best advice I could give anyone wanting to come and live here is to rent a property in the first instance, give yourself time to explore the region before deciding on where you want to call home.

SS:       What would your advice be to would-be expats looking to relocate to Spain?

Peter:  Do it!

SS:       Finally, do you see yourself ever returning to the UK?

Peter:  Not really, unless my family want to export me in my wooden overcoat!

Short-toed Snake Eagle (Circaetus gallicus) We often more easily see these large eagles perched on a vantage point such as this pylon – Photo: Peter Jones – Andalucia Bird Society

Paul Whitelock

About Paul Whitelock

Paul Whitelock is a retired former languages teacher, school inspector and translator, who emigrated to the Serranía de Ronda in 2008, where he lives with his second wife, Rita, and his dog, Berti. He spends his time between Montejaque and Ronda doing DIY, gardening and writing.