Archive for the ‘Basque Country’ Category

Asian predatory wasp in Spain

Tuesday, November 5th, 2013

Beekeepers and fruit orchard growers in Spain are facing the serious threat of Asian predatory wasp (vespa velutina nigritorax), which has spread from France. The species was first detected in the Basque Country three years ago from where it has spread to Castilla y León, Cantabria, Asturias and Galicia . In 2013 it was found in La Garrotxa (Girona) in Catalonia having spread from a separate French population. Honeybees make up some 80’% of the wasps diet. Even more worryingly, the wasps also pose a considerable risk to biodiversity in Spain as  many plants are dependent on honeybees for pollination. As far as humans are concerned, people have been hospitalised in France after suffering anaphylactic shock as a result of multiple stings.

More here from El País

Hundreds of specimens of Vespa velutina, a species of hornet known popularly as “the Asian predatory wasp” or “the Asian hornet,” were found last month in the Vall d’en Bas, a valley in the Catalan municipality of La Garrotxa. The find has sent all kinds of alarms ringing among rural officials and local beekeepers, who know time is running out: if the nest is not found and destroyed by November, the females growing within will fly out and start their own colonies elsewhere in the region.

“Before the fall is out, the more than 200 wasp mothers now germinating inside the nest will seek new locations to create new hideouts and hibernate,” explains Josep Vilar, chief of the rural agents of La Garrotxa. Each female can produce over 12,000 offspring.

Basque cave painting of bears

Wednesday, January 5th, 2011


Rather wonderful cave painting from Ekain in the Basque County of two bears. They apparantly represent brown not cave bears. They date from 14,500-10,000 years ago.

More in English and how to visit a nearby replica here. Pictures from here.

Basque horses

Monday, August 2nd, 2010


Pottok horses on Bianditz mountain, in Navarra. Behind lie the Aiako mountains. The Pottok (Wikipedia) is an endangered, semi-feral breed of pony native to the Pyrenees of the Basque Country, Pottoka being the Basque language name for this horse, both north and south of the mountains. This image by Mikel Ortega won an award on Wikipedia here


Shrine to woman killed by wolves

Monday, March 8th, 2010

New one for Places in Spain. A shrine to a woman supposedly devoured by wolves on Mt Gorbea in the Basque Country.

Iberian wolf ecology workshop

Sunday, December 14th, 2008

The Basque Iberian wolf group, Grupo Lobo de Euskadi, is organising a couple of days of talks on the 19th and 20th of December, 2008 in Vitoria. This will be the fourth of these meetings, reuniting wolf experts in Spain, and will be attended by naturalists, biologists, ecologists and farmers as well as being open to members of the public. One of the country’s foremost wolf experts, Carlos Sanz, will be among the contributors and the main focus of this year’s meeting will be given over to the national wolf conservation movements and their opinions on the various wolf management strategies of Spain’s autonomous communties. Previous meetings have included themes such as the biology of the Iberian wolf and problems relating to wolves and livestock. Contact details for applying to attend are included on the link below. It promises to be interesting!

The programme can be downloaded here on pdf.

Iberian wolf by Carlos Sanz

Pheasant Island

Friday, September 5th, 2008

Surfing the Net I came across the tiny Pheasant Island, one the world’s four remaining condominiums. The island is on the River Bidassoa and is under the joint sovereignty of France and Spain, and administered by Irun (in Spain) and Hendaye (in France) for alternating periods of six months. It covers 2,000 m2 and is known as Isla de los Faisanes in Spanish, Île des Faisans, Île de l’hôpital or Île de la Conférence in French and Konpantzia in Basque.

The Treaty of the Pyrenees was signed here in 1659 putting an end the Thirty Years’ War, as shown in the painting below, and the site has been used for numerous exchanges of captives and princesses to be wed.

An interesting piece of trivia for geographical nerds like myself. The rest of you may struggle to find any interest. (more…)

Portuguese man o’war threat in Cantabrian Sea

Sunday, July 20th, 2008

Portuguese man o'war

Photo by Scott Sonnenberg (wikipedia)

In recent weeks the presence of Portuguese man o’war (Sp. carabela portuguesa- Physalia phisalis) has been detected at various points on the coasts of Asturias, Cantabria and the Basque Country. Several people have been stung in beaches in Guipúzcoa (Ondarreta and Zarautz) and in Cantabria (Isla) although nobody has yet been seriously injured. Four years ago, the massive presence of the species forced the closure of several beaches in Asturias. Experts believe that the rise in the temperature of the Cantabrian Sea due to climate change has brought the Portuguese man o’war here with warmer waters. The cooler waters of Galicia have so far been free of the threat. El País. The purple Man-o-war is not a true jellyfish, but a colony of hydrozoan polyps. It can in extreme cases provoke a cardiac arrest and death in particularly sensitive persons.

Note the English and Spanish etymology comes from the creature’s air bladder, which looks similar to the triangular sails of the Portuguese ship (man-of-war) Caravela latina (two- or three-masted lateen-rigged ship caravel), of the 15th and 16th centuries. See Wikipedia

See also: Sharks, weaver fish, jellyfish and other dangerous animals in the seas around Spain

Basque shepherds claim Idiazabal cheese under threat from wolves

Thursday, August 30th, 2007

Shepherds in Alava, in the Basque Country have with remarkable hyperbole claimed that Idiazabal cheese, will disappear if a check is not put on wolves. Idiazabal is made with the Basque breed of latxa (lacha) sheep. Shepherds claim that the recent expansion of wolves in Alava is threatening their survival. (El Correo Digital)

lacha sheep A lacha sheep

Smoked with oak and beach, Idiazabal is one of my favourite Spanish cheeses, though I have many favourite Spanish cheeses. (more…)

The origin of the River Ebro’s name

Thursday, August 30th, 2007

The Ebro’s importance is reflected in the name of the Iberian Peninsula, which almost certainly comes from the river, first known as the Iber and Iberus and Ebro, and not the other way around. It was first used in the 6th century BC by a Greek author in reference to the Iberians, or the people who lived along the Iberus ( Ebro) river. Ultimately the word may well derive from the Basque words ibai (river) and ibar (valley), and these from ur meaning water. Linguists have noted similarities with the names of 200 other European rivers and streams (e.g. Ibar in Serbia, Ebrach and several Eberbach in Germany, Irwell in The UK) giving a tantalising clue as to a form of Basque being once spoken throughout Europe before the arrival of Indo-European tribes and languages.  More on the Ebro

Spanish Caves

Saturday, July 7th, 2007

I’ve put together this short guide to caves in Spain. I will be adding more material soon. Below la Torca del Carlista in the Basque Country, the largest cavern in Europe. Only currently accessible to expert cavers.

Torca del Carlista

Photo of the Torca del Carlista