IberiaNature A guide to the natural history of Spain
By Nick Lloyd - Home - Contact

Guide to Spain C

cabana de teito : traditional mountain hut with stone walls and thatched roof : (Gal. Ast.)


Cabrera's vole : topillo de Cabrera (Microtus cabrerae)

Canary shrew : musaraña canaria (Crocidura canariensis)

Caldeana: breed of black cow restricted to the county of Castrocaldelas in Ourense, Galicia.

External links:

calf : ternera; jato/a

calandra lark : calandria : Melanocorypha calandra

Canary islands chiffchaff : mosquitero canario : Phylloscopus canariensis

Canary Islands oystercatcher : ostrero negro canario : Haematopus meadewaldoi

Almost certainly extinct. The last sure record was one killed in 1913 with "a long and rather fortunate shot", in the words of the ornithologist who pulled the trigger. There were several reliable sightings since, between 1969 and 1981. (two from Tenerife and two from Senegal) . Its decline was probably due to overharvesting of shellfish and disturbance by people, although rats and cats have also been blamed.

Canary islands stonechat : tarabilla canaria : Saxicola dacotiae

canary : canario : Serinus canaria

cañada : drover's path

Cañadas Reales : the network of drover's paths across Spain. Also known as Vías Pecuarias

  • cordal: cañada measuring 45 varas around 40 metres
  • encañada : drover's road as it passes through a gorge
  • vereda
  • carrerada (Cat.); cañada
  • valgada (Gal.); cañada

External links:

cape : cabo (as in Cabo de Gato); cap (Cat . as in Cap de Creus .)

cabo : cape

Cabo Touriñan in Galicia, the westernmost point of Spain, Canaries aside.

Cap de Creus

capercaillie : urogallo común; gall fer (Cat) (Tetrao urogallus)

Cárdena andaluza: Black, grey cow with large papada from Andalusia. Transport. and meat. Critically endangered. In the early 1990's just 7 breeding females remained. Adapted to dehesa lands. Lives together with the fighting bulls.

External links:

carrerada (Cat.) : drover's path

carrion : carroña

carrion crow : corneja; cornella (Cat) (Corvus corone)

cascades : cascadas; tabayones (Ast.)

casina : breed of Asturian cow with a reddish hide and black rings around its eyes. Also known as Asturiana de la Montaña. Currently endangered. In theory, provides milk for casina cheese.

External links:

Caspian tern : pagaza piquirroja; xatrac gros (Cat) (Sterna caspia)

caterpillar : oruga

As every Spanish child knows, don't even think about handling the hairy caterpillars of the pine processionary moth ( procesionarias in Spanish). If they are touched, their hairs release an extremely nasty allergic skin reaction. Children have been known to go temporarily blind from rubbing their eyes after picking them up. They live in easily identifiable silvery nests in pine trees throughout Mediterranean Spain and get their name from their habit of forming head-to-tail trails as they move across land.

cattle egret : garcilla bueyera; esplugabous (Cat) (Bubulcus ibis)

cave : cueva; cova (Gal.+Cat.) koba (Eus.)

caving : espeleología

cedar : cedro :

centipede : ciempiés


Megarian Banded Centipede: escolopendra (Scolopendra cingulata). Black and yellow centipede growing up to 9cm long. Potent and painful sting. Beware.

Photo of Megarian Banded Centipede kindly sent to me by Clive of Natural Images. Clive runs guided walking tours in the Sierra de Grazalema

Cetti's warbler : ruiseñor bastardo; Rossinyol bord (Cat) (Cettia cetti)

chaffinch : pinzón; blue chaffinch : pinzón azul ( Fringilla teydea) ; common chaffinch : pinzón vulgar ( Fringilla coelebs)

chamois : rebeco; sarrio (Pyrenees) (Rupicapra rupicapra); isard (Cat); gamuza / gamusa ( reg );: rebezo (Gal. + Ast.) robezo (Ast)

The Chamois (or Southern chamois to be precise) is present in two mountainous areas in Spain: the Cordillera Cantábrica, where it is known as a rebeco; and the Pyrenees, where it is known as a sarrio*. The former is the officially accepted name in Castilian, though the two are generally accepted to be separate sub-species: The Cantabrian chamois or rebeco (ssp. R. r. parva ) is the smallest chamois in the world. Its coat is reddish in the summer and tending to light grey in the winter, with a brownish-red tail. The larger, more robust Pyrenean chamois or sarrio (ssp. R. r. pyrenaica ) sports heftier horns. Its hide is yellowish in the summer and darker in winter, with a buff-coloured throat and a black tail. It is slightly smaller than its Alpine cousin.

The chamois is relatively common across its two mountain ranges with densities of between 6 and 21 individuals/km2 where present, and is particularly abundant in the Picos de Europa and the Reserva de Redes, and in Ordesa and Monte Perdido. The species is pushed up into steeper more craggy areas by the presence of domestic cattle, though in winter it will descend to and just below the treeline. Causes of natural deaths include falling off crags (!), avalanches and rockslides, winter starvation, keratoconjunctivitis in the Pyrenees, and sarcoptic mange and wolves in the Cordillera Cantábrica. Foxes and golden eagles may have a residual impact. The recent reappearance of the wolf in the chamois-stronghold of the Sierra de Cadí in the Catalan Pre-Pyrenees may soon add a new cause of mortality for Pyrenean populations (see Return of the Wolf). The chamois is an important hunting trophy for those who like their animals nailed to their living room walls. A license to bag a prize male chamois can fetch 1,200 euros or more, with the slender horns of a Cantabrian rebeco the more highly prized of the two sub-species. In 2003, there were an estimated 15-16,000 chamois in the Cantabrian region between the Reservas de Saja and Muniellos, and a further 53,000 (in 2003) in the Pyrenees between the Garrotxa in Catalonia and Larra in the Valle de Roncal. Despite the threat of keratoconjunctivitis, the species is in clear expansion in the Pyrenees, but mange has kept numbers stagnant in the Cordillera Cantábrica.

*Note the similarity of sarrio to the Basque sarre, and rebeco to the Galician rebezo. The name gamuza shows a common origin with chamois coming from the Late Latin camox.

External links:

chapapote : A colloquial word adopted from Galician to denote the globs of solid fuel washed up on Galicia 's beaches as a result of the Prestige oil spill. Any similar glutinous spills from now on.

Cleaning 'chapapote' off a beach in Galicia.

charcoal : carbón vegetal; charcoal burning : carboneo; charcoal mound/oven : carbonera; charcoal maker : carbonero/a :

chestnut tree : castaño; chestnut : castaña; ourizo (Gal.) : chestnut casings ( from hedgehog in Galician); chestnut plantation : souto (Gal.).

The chestnut was a staple of the Galician diet until MORE TO COME

chick : polluelo; pollo

chiffchaff : mosquitero

  • common chiffchaff : mosquitero común; mosquiter comú (Cat) (Phylloscopus collybita)
  • Iberian chiffchaff : mosquitero ibérico (Phylloscopus brehmii)
  • Canary Islands chiffchaff : mosquitero canario (Phylloscopus canariensis)

Chullo: Chullo (2,609m) in the eastern edge of the Sierra Nevada is the highest peak in the province of Almeria.

churra (lebrijana) : breed of woolly sheep

cierzo : cold dry wind blowing from the north-east from the Pyrenees and along the Ebro Valley . Also known in Zaragoza as Moncayo after the mountain.

cirque : circo

cistern; aljibe

cirl bunting : escribano soteño; gratapalles (Cat) (Emberiza cirlus)

citril finch : verderón serrano; llucarreta (Cat) ( Serinus citrinella)

claw : garra ; talón

clearing (forest) : claro

cleft : hendidura; tajo

cliff : cantil; farallón ; despeñadero; peña ; tajo; derrumbe (off which it is easy to fall) cliff face; pared

climate: clima MORE TO COME

Temperature records

There are a number of official figures in Spain of around 47ºC, including at Écija , also known as the 'sartén or frying pan of Andalucia' in the province of Seville, with 47.0ºC in 1959 and again 1967, and Seville itself in 1946, also with 47ºC, Badajoz: 47.0ºC in August 1964 and Cordoba: with 46.6ºC on 23-7-1995. The highest absolute temperature appears to be Murcia more recently with 47.8°C on 29-7-1976, though weather people suspect that temperatures of 50ºC have been reached at points in the Guadalquivir basin. Many books including the Spanish version of the Guiness Book of Records give the absolute record in Spain as the 51ºC recorded in Seville on 30th July 1876. This, however, is not accepted by experts as it was made using suspect equipment. Doubts also hang over the 48.8ºC recorded in Cazalla (Seville) on 30th August 1926.

By year-round average the warmest capitals are Almería with 18.5ºC, Huelva with 18.3ºC and Cadiz with 18.2ºC. Probably the consistently hottest areas are the Vegas Bajas del Guadiana ( Badajoz ) and Guadalquivir Valley (provincies of Seville and Cordoba ).

In the Canaries, average annual temperatures are around 21ºC along the coast and at low altitudes while at the Izaña Observatory (Tenerife) at 2,367 m. high, the average yearly temperature drops to 9.7ºC, lower than the coolest capitals of the Peninsula. Temperature records, while not as high as the Peninsula are around 44.0ºC.

The opposite end of the scale is more complex as altitude, something not lacking in Europe's second highest country, plays such an important role in bringing down the temperature. Forget the clichés of sunny Spain. If you sleep out in Central Spain in January you will probably die. Both Castillas have some 30 odd records of temperatures of under -20. The official record of the lowest temperature in Spain is at Estany Gento in Lerida with -32ºC in 1956, though once again experts suspect that some of the peaks in the Aragonese Pyrenees have fallen as low as -40ºC. Perhaps the coldest land in Spain, if altitude is taken into account, is the relatively low Sistema Ibérico between Zaragoza, Teruel and Guadalajara. Here, at the Calamocha and Molina de Aragón weather stations, records of -28ºC to -30ºC have been recorded. I am reminded of a student I had from Zaragoza who was a lingerie salesman. His car broke down in a blizzard on the road to Teruel. He saved himself by putting on dozens of tights.

The coldest regional capitals in Spain are in Castilla y León ( Burgos yearly of average 9.9ºC, Avila con 10.4ºC and Soria 10.5ºC.)

Figures are taken from 'Climas y tiempos de España' by Javier Martín and Jorge Olcina, 2001 and the Instituto Nacional de Meteorologia at http://www.inm.es/.


Average precipitation for Spain as a whole 1930-1996


Monthly total in mm.


























639.5 mm

Source: Ministerio de Medio Ambiente. www.mma.es

External links

climate change: cambio climático

The Little Ice Age in Spain

The decline in temperatures throughout the world between the15th and 19th centuries, commonly and poetically known as 'the Little Ice Age' is a well documented event supported by copious and extremely diverse scientific and historical evidence, ranging from studies of ice core and tree ring samples to the disappearance of the fledging Viking agricultural colony under Greenland's ice sheets and the prevalence of snowy landscapes in the art of the time. Scientific consensus reckons on a temperature of 1º to 2º C lower than today in Northern Europe, but is there evidence for a cooling in the Mediterranean and Spain?
Read complete article


Pyrenean glaciers melting fast

The glaciers on the Spanish side of the Pyrenees are melting fast.. Total surface area has dropped from 1779 hectares in 1894 to 290 in 2000, representing a fall of 85% in of surface area. 52% of this has occurred in the last 20 years, and 30% between 1991 and 2001. Read complete article


Climate change threat to Sierra Nevada Flora

The unique plant communities of the high Sierra Nevada appear to be under threat from rising temperatures. A rise of 1.2ºC has been detected in the province of Granada over the last 20 years, which although not much in itself has been enough to endanger 65 endemic plants, most of which are only to be found in the highest altitudes of the range. Read complete article


Iberia most affected by climate change

According to a new report by the EEA (European Environment Agency), Spain and Portugal will be most affected within the EU by coming climate change. Storms, floods and droughts are likely to become more and more frequent with a significant rise in temperature expected. The report notes that temperature in Europe has increased 0.95 degrees over the last 100 years. This increase has been greatest in the Iberian Peninsula and Western Russia. Read complete article

climber (animal) : trepador(a)

cloud : nube

cloudiness : nubosidad :