The newsletter of the IberiaNature website
A guide to the environment, geography, climate, wildlife, natural history and landscape of Spain

  Number 1 September 2005
Written + designed by Nick Lloyd- Contact -



Welcome to the first newsletter. I hope to tidy things up a bit better with number 2. Drought and fire and fire and drought, good and bad news for bears and generally bad for lynx. A trip to the Costa da Morte. which at first sight seems to have almost recovered from the Prestige disaster, seabirds aside. I don't know how mush the biodiversity has been affected but the biomass is back.

Iberian lynx news

Iberian Lynx News here on iberianature

Lynx won't be saved by just captive breeding. Astrid Vargas, head of the captive breeding programme of the Iberian lynx, claims that the lynx will only be saved by introducing all possible measures to reintroduce the animal in its natural habitat. It is essential to increase rabbit populations, and prevent deaths from cars and snares. Vargas hopes there will be 19 lynxes by the end of the year, five more than last year. Second lynx in a week found dead A second lynx has been found dead in Doñana. The autopsy has revealed that the animal died in July but the advanced state of mummification due to the summer heat means it is impossible to determine the cause of death, though some ecologist groups claim it was shot. WWF/Adena demands a "final solution" for Doñana's roads which avoids the death of lynxes, noting:" the fragmentation and isolation of habitat due to the existence -without any planning- of a dense network of road infrastructure, represents one of the greatest threats for conservation in Doñana· ". This makes 33 lynxes run over in Doñana since 1995 . Dead lynx found in Doñana. A dead adult lynx has been found in Doñana by the road between Hinojos and El Rocio. An autopsy shows that it was probably run over some three months ago, possibly the second in a year, once again highlighting the need to control traffic in the Doñana area. The area is next to the area with the highest density of lynxes in Doñana. Wildlife groups have denounced that while huge sums are being spent on raising lynxes in captivity, local government shows permissiveness towards illegal roads, quads and recreational driving.

Brown bear news

Spanish Bear News

Second bear found dead in a month was shot. According to the Veterinary Faculty of the University of León , a bear found by hikers on 25th Sept in Palencia died from "traumatic injuries" caused by gun cartridges. Killing a bear in Spain is punished with up to 4 years in prison. The animal was a male of some 15 years, and formed part of the fragile 'eastern' population of 25-30 individuals. The president of the Fundación Oso Pardo, Guillermo Palomero, noted that the death of one of the area's 6-7 females would have been much worse. Investigators are still unsure of the cause of death of the first bear found in Palencia in early September, though it appears not to have been shot. I am unaware as to when the last bear in Spain (as opposed to France ) was shot. "Record" number of bear cubs born in Eastern Cordillera Cantabrica Six cubs have been born this year in the Eastern Cordillera Cantabrica, the highest number in at least 20 years. The bears here were on the edge extinction on the early 1990's. 11 bears have raised cubs this year in the Western section, adding to probably more than 100 bears in this area. France agrees to delay release of new bears At the request of Aragon , Navarra & Catalonia , France to release bears next spring instead of this autumn. Spanish representatives want to first promote awareness among Pyrenean residents and the guarantee adequate funding. And: Bear spotted in Ordesa , burying dead sheep.


Most forest destroyed by fire in last 10 years. As of 11th September 2005, 153,000 hectares have been burnt of all land types, 26% more than in 2004 and the highest in the last 10 years, aside from the year 2000. The figure of 66,054 of tree cover is the highest for 10 years, and double the average for this period. Of the burnt forest, 42.60% were in the North-west, 40.72 in the centre and 12.94% in The Med. region. A depressing disaster, but a contentious word on the figure for the North-west and especially Galicia. Much of the forest burnt was planted eucalyptus forest (see below). Yes, this is bad news for the owners and the people who live in the area. One might call it an industrial disaster, but hardly bad news ecologically. If there was anything more than token policy for reintroducing autochthonous species, one might even say it was a good thing, but as it is, reforestation in this damp corner of Spain will be swift. Eucalyptus is highly combustible but also regenerates incredibly quickly afterwards. There are hundreds of fires along Galicia 's coast of year, yet all along the Rias Bajas and Altas there is an almost continuous mono-crop swathe of these Australian trees. This birdless green desert is the true disaster of Galicia 's coast. Worst year for fire in last 10 years From 1st January to 21st August there have been 20,952 fires and burning 129.438,6 ha. 33 big fires (more than 500ha) have been declared. 62% have occurred in the wetter north-west ( Galicia , Asturias , Cantabria, País Vasco and the provinces of León and Zamora ) . See Fire in Spain


27th Sept Drought worst since records began. Environment heads predict lowest rainfall for October-October rain year for 120 years, or since reliable records began. Worst hit has been dry farming, extensive livestock and forests through fire. Predictions for autumn winter seem to offer little repsite. 7th Sept 2005 20% of Spanish Med reservoirs now hold only sludge and undrinkable water. While in Spain as a whole levels are still at 41.4% (lowest since 1995-the END rather than the START of a drought cycle), those of the Med are down to 32%, part of which is unusable. Driest rain year in Spain since records began in 1947. September 2004-Aug 2005 with 411 litres over 613 average. Almost all of Spain affected. Possibly worst drought since 1887. Previous droughts 1941-44, 1979-82+ 1990-95. Linked to Azores High but explanation unclear. Rainfall has been above average for the Canaries. More on Drought in Spain


Other news

Spain and Asian bird flu

There appears to be little risk of wild birds migrating to Spain infecting farm birds with Asian bird flu. The vast majority of species here migrate north-south from areas unaffected rather than east-west. There are however a few species in very small numbers which do arrive. Despite the extremely low risk, SEO/BirdLife have issued a number of conclusions. Read full story on iberianature. Or see Birds in Spain

  • Rabbit+partridge population recovering in Andalusia . The latest census reveals rabbit and partridge population are recovering in Andalusia depsite the drought. This is good news for many predators, but above all for the Spanish Imperial Eagle, and for the Iberian lynx
    in the hyperthetical case that it managed to spread out from its last two enclaves. (andalucia24horas)

  • Tiger Mosquitoes reach Barcelona several people bitten on outskirts. The Catalan Health Authority has detected the presence of the Tiger Mosquito in Can Baró in Barcelona, after several people complained of painful mosuito bites. Leaflets are to be distributed throughout the city. See tiger mosquito in Spain on iberianature.

  • Five Giant lizards of Gomera born in incubator . (Consumer) There are now 49 of these highly-endangered reptiles at the breeding centre. All about these lizards here (Canarian Gov in English). Species was discovered in 2000 ( BBC news "cats see the lizards as a real delicacy, prying them out of their cliff-top shelters like oysters from a shell" )

I've also added a number of new photos including:


Starfish from the Costa da Morte in Galicia. which at first sight seems to have almost recovered from the Prestige disaster, seabirds aside..I don't know how mush the biodiversity has been affected but the biomass is back (crabs, carpets of mussels and percebes -pedunculate barnacle???- all along, great snorkling, and more starfish than I've seen. Jim Greenfield over at wild-spain identified these starfish for me:

The two above are Marthasterias glacialis commonly called the Spiny Starfish. Like many things marine, there can be significant colour variation within the specie. The two colours here are typical of Marthasterias. I think the one below is Asterias rubens otherwise called the Common Starfish. Usually it is a lighter colour - brown/yellow with a touch of red is typical but it is also found in violet as here. It really is a very common beast and can occur in colossal numbers at times.



Like most things from the sea around Spain, barnacles ( Pollicipes cornucopiae ) are eaten here. They are found solely on Northern Spain 's Atlantic coasts, principally in Galicia and to a much lesser extent along the Cantabrian strip, and eaten, moderately, throughout the country. They are collected by perceberos ( percebeiros in Galician), surely one of the most dangerous jobs in Europe. Their collection is regulated by several regional boards governing when and how they can be picked.Spanish barnacle buffs distinguish two types: the highly prized "de sol", which grow on sunny and wave-beaten rocks and which are distinguished by their short, fat peduncle (foot); and the less prized "de sombra" or "aguarones" (shaders or grippers), which spend more time below water and have a slenderer and longer body and a higher water content. Demand is high and many of the barnacles in Spain and even in Galicia here are actually shipped in from Portugal, Morocco and Canada, which have no tradition of consuming them. This leads to astonomical prices being charged at certain times of the year.

The Spanish tradition appears to relatively new, dating back to the 18th century. The Galician barnacle industry has for a number of years been concerned about falling productivity levels. This worsened as a result of the Prestige oil spill (November 2002) which decimated much of its rocky coastline, though the resulting lull in collection appears to have allowed the barnaclces to recover. The extreme difficulty in studying their biology in situ due to the hazardous environment they live in means there is a paucity of biological studies which provide solutions to their low productivity.
They are prepared always fresh by boiling them in salty (or better still salt) water for five minutes or as the Gallegos say " auga a ferver, percebes botar, auga a ferver percebes sacar". In Galicia they are eaten hot and the Basque Country cold. In parts of Galicia they are served with potatoes ( cachelos ) cooked in the same water as the barnacles. We ate huge platters on them and had a few fresh uncooked straight off the rocks and totally delicious. More on Barnacles in Spain here




Hórreos are raised granaries found throughout north-east Spain, though particularly in Asturias and Galicia. Galician horreos I have to say lack the hunky charm of their Asturian-Cantabrian cousins, though this one is not unattractive.
More here on horreos

Cabo Touriñan in Galicia, the westernmost point of Spain, Canaries aside. And a eucalyptus-free stretch of coast.


cruceiro: roadside cross found throughout Galicia. Traditionally seen as a gateway to the much populated Galician underworld

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