Sotogrande is a rather sprawling residential development lying just inside Cadíz province, placed roughly half-way between the town of Estepona and Gibraltar, at the western end of the Costa del Sol and fronting onto the Mediterranean. The ‘heart’ of the urbanisation is built around the estuary of the Río Guadiaro and on its north-eastern bank is Puerto Sotogrande, the first port on the Mediterranean after leaving the Straits of Gibraltar. The residential area surrounding the port is composed mainly of low-rise apartment buildings, marinas, business premises, bars and restaurants. The south-west of the river, although developed, is much more open and there is a golf course, tennis club, beach club, polo fields and private villas with mature gardens set back from tree-lined roads predominate the area.
Despite the construction that has taken place, the area maintains some permanent and seasonally wet sites that are important to many species of birds. Placed closely to the main migration routes to and from Africa, the area may benefit from many passing species during the main passage periods and over the years many scarcities and European rarities have been recorded here.
My garden & locality
I lived in Sotogrande from 2004-2010/11 in a villa located in one of the older and more mature zones of the development, surrounded by mature gardens. To one side of us was a ‘vacant plot’ of land populated only by ten cork oak trees of varying sizes. The front of the property had open views across to the newer development of Sotogrande ‘alto’ which incorporated no less than four golf courses wholly or partly in its area, one of them being the famed Valderrama.
Just beyond the the south-west boundary of the urbanisation is an unbroken belt of cork oak woodland which in its width extends down to the marshy ground behind the Sotogrande – Alcaidesa stretch of beach.
The neighbouring roads are all lined with shrubs and trees, including some beautiful large Canary Pines (pinus canariensis), which I hope will survive the virulent beetle attack that had already begun to take its toll before I left. Many of the gardens have well-watered lawn areas, so the whole area is well populated with most of the locally occurring woodland birds all year round and plays host to a number of other species that spend the breeding season here or arrive to overwinter. There is a good mix of other wildlife too, lizards, geckos, tree frogs, pool frogs and common toads are all resident and there are plenty of insects attracted to the trees and miscellaneous flowering to support them all.
Within the boundaries of the development are several sites that have been preserved as natural areas as well as lengths of beach and the river, all of which I visited on a fairly regular basis and came to know well and from which I learnt so much.