Picos de Europa

Articles in ‘Picos de Europa’

Picos de Europa butterflies

October 28th, 2010 Lovely post by Lisa on butterflies of the Picos de Europa.

Wolves in the Picos de Europa

February 1st, 2010 Lisa has written this well researched article on her excellent Picos de Europa page on the population and status of  wolves in the Picos de Europa, the only national park in Spain where they are present:
…an estimate of 5 packs within the park and its immediate surrounding areas. Of these family groups they estimate that each consists of between 5-9 family members, giving a minimum 25 and maximum of 45 individuals, not including the few probable loners. These figures are far below those claimed by local farmers.

Liébana’s bears

January 4th, 2009

Residents of the village of Caloca, high in the valley of Liébana, Cantabria, had been observing a female Cantabrian brown bear and her cub on the other side of their valley through the first half of December last. Their tranquility was broken however when a boar hunt, followed by the noisy arrival of the frozen fish van, disturbed a young male bear who was forced to find refuge and entered the village. A neighbour walked out of his front door on his way to feed his livestock and was stunned to see the animal just a couple of metres from him on the road. The peaceable young bear just carried on his way while the man quietly stood witness. Once the media got wind of the story however the village has been a hive of activity during the Christmas holidays. Members of the autonomous community’s environmental department, the Picos de Europa National Park and the Fundación Oso Pardo have been kept busy monitoring the traffic flow and ensuring that visitors don’t disturb the plantigrades whilst enjoying the priviledged views of these rare jewels of the Cantabrian mountains which, even though the snow is thick on the ground, are not hibernating and able to find enough nuts and berries to make foraging worthwhile.
Among the happy locals are the owners of the village restaurant who, I’m reliably informed, took more money in a week than they’d taken all year.

See the video here on YouTube

Bears in the snow FOP

More photos here on eldiariomontanes.es

 

Glaciers to disappear in the Pyrenees by 2050

September 6th, 2008

Glaciar de Monteperdido in the Aragonese Pyrenees (El País)

A Spanish study published in The Holocene has concluded that the progressive rise in temperatures since 1890 will lead to the total disappearance of the Pyrenean glaciers by 2050.

Glaciers advanced during the Little Ice Age (LIA) between 1300 and 1860 in the Pyrenees, Picos de Europa and Sierra Nevada. These were most extensive in the Pyrenees (because of altitude and latitude) but today glaciers remain only in the highest peaks. There were six glaciers in the Picos de Europa Massif during the LIA, and one glacier, the southernmost of Europe, in the Sierra Nevada (Pico de Veleta). All of these glaciers have been in continuous retreat since the end of the nineteenth century, 94 have disappeared completely (Veleta in 1913), leaving 29 glaciers in the Pyrenees (10 in Spain, 11 in France), four buried icepatches in the Picos de Europa and one buried icepatch in the Sierra Nevada. The last 15 years has seen a 50-60% reduction in surface area of the largest glaciers.

The Little Ice Age was not a continuous period of cold. These Iberian glaciers expanded most rapidly between 1645 and 1710, and then shrunk between 1750 and the early 19th century but then recovered after a new cold period. Since the end of the 19th century temperatures have risen more sharply by 0.7ºC and 0.9ºC in the mountains in northern Spain in line with global warming. El País

See also

  • Climate guide to Spain
  • The Little Ice Age in Spain
  • Glaciers in Spain (2004) Spanish glaciers melting fast Greenpeace has released a report on the state of Spain’s glaciers. 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.

Saving the Cantabrian Capercaillie from extinction

July 22nd, 2008

A male Capercaillie displaying

As part of the Spanish ornithological society SEO/Birdlife’s campaign, El Sonido del Bosque (Sounds of the Forests), work-camps will begin this August to improve the habitat of the Cantabrian Capercaillie (Tetrao urogallus cantábricus) in the Picos de Europa National Park. Working through to mid-December while the birds are at their most inactive, they hope to help promote the growth of berry-bearing plants and, at the same time, identify the Capercaillie population within the areas where the field-work will be concentrated. The last censuses of the remaining main populations centred in Asturias and León were carried out in 2001 and 1998-2000 respectively and gave a figure of about 400 individuals in total. SEO/Birdlife give a figure of 500, which supposedly takes into account the numbers of Capercaillie in the subspecies’ other habitats of Galicia and Cantabria, a number strongly refuted by the Asturian ornithological society, the Coordinadora Ornitolóxica d’Asturies, who say the total population must now be only about half that number.

Picos de Europa to relax BSE laws

June 23rd, 2008

Livestock farmers in the Picos de Europa National Park are soon to be given the option of leaving dead ruminants as carrion instead of the, until now, obligatory and costly removal of cow, sheep and goat corpses due to the EU’s BSE laws. This is excellent news for carrion-feeding birds such as the area’s Griffon vultures (Gyps fulvus) as well as for the future reintroduction programme for the Lammergeier (Gypatus barbatus), due to start now in 2009. It should also positively affect other occasional carrion-eating species such as Cantabrian brown bear (Ursus arctos) and Iberian wolf (Canis lupus signatus).

From elcomerciodigital.com

Follow the topic on Iberianature forum.

New, Stricter Protection Laws for the Cantabrian brown bears

June 16th, 2008

A new draft of the Plan for the Recuperation of the Cantabrian brown bear (Plan para la Recuperación del Oso pardo Cantabrico) has been sent by the Castilla y León Environment Ministry to all the townhalls covering the affected areas within both the National and Regional Parks of the Picos de Europa, the Natural Park of Fuentes Carrionas y Fuente Cobre-Montaña Palentina as well as in all the areas which have been proven to be of vital importance for the bears such as the valleys Naranco and Lechada. Incorporated in the plan will be the monitoring of any possible communication corridors in order to join the two split bear populations and avoid the fragmentation of habitat. Any recreational activity within the protected area will be prohibited and forestry and agricultural use will be controlled. Hunting will be strictly monitored, being banned completely during critical feeding times (autumn) and in areas where bears are spotted by patrols. These new protection laws will be followed until said controlled areas come up with their own environmental management plans. All of which should effectively ensure the future survival of the Cantabrian brown bear and sound the death knell for the San Glorio ski resort project.

News from El Diario de León.

Read all about the San Glorio bears on the forum.

Watch a video of two young Cantabrian brown bears on elmundo.es.

Conservation work camp in the Picos de Europa

May 13th, 2008

The Fundación para la Conservación del Quebrantahuesos is organising a work camp in July with volunteers in the village of Bejes, Cantabria. The camp is centred on helping the maintenance of traditional livestock farming in the Picos de Europa as an essential element in the conservation of the biodiversity and the recovery of the lammergeyer in the Cantabrian Mountains. Volunteers will help in sheering the sheep which are taken up to the high pastures in the summer. The camp involves three days working with the shepherds, two days learning about the fauna and flora of the Picos and one day’s rest. Knowledge of some Spanish is highly recommendable. More information from FCQ.

Innovative breeding techniques for Lammergeier

March 30th, 2008

Lammergeier

Using a technique for the first time with this species, the Foundation for the Reintroduction of the Lammergeier hope to release a bird bred completely isolated from human contact. They’ve built a 6x6m platform at 1,500m in Ordesa which includes a heated nest with a “puppet” adult bird to feed the chick and, next to it, a cage which the chick will be moved into after 80 days to continue the natural imprinting process as in this area of the Pyrenees there is the largest population of the species in Europe. A feeding station next to the cage will provide opportunity for the chick (born in Feb.) to observe and learn natural adult behaviour. After 120 days the young bird will fly for the first time.
They say that this tecnique will be used in the “near future” for the release of three birds in the Picos de Europa, from which I guess will be next year, the only difference being that the birds will be relocated from the Pyrenees two weeks before their first flights in the Picos.

The conservation group are already using another technique of strategically placing caged adult birds in areas in which they hope to encourage the Lammergeier to return.

For more info go to the discussion on Iberianature forum

Posted by Lisa

Dead livestock to be left in Picos

January 27th, 2008

Good news. Dead livestock is to be left uncollected in the Picos de Europa for the first time since 2001 when the EU banned the practice due to Mad Cows’ disease. At present some 20,000 dead animals are removed every year from the Spanish countryside which otherwise would have formed part of the food chain. (Fapas)

I am at present unsure as to whether the dead livestock is to be collected in special areas only for carrion birds, or whether, mammals such as brown bears will also be able to benefit. Attacks by bears on fruit trees and beehives have increased dramatically since the ban as carrion forms an essential part of their diet.

Below a bear in Somiedo tucks into a mule (?), exempt from the Mad Cow rule. (Fapas)

See also archive on BSE and wildlife in Spain