Lake Sanabria on a stormy day in April. This is the largest glacial lake in Spain formed during the last Ice Age though the local legend claims a more colourful origin.
On a cold wintery day, a man arrived at the village of Valverde de Lucerna. He was starving and asked for something to eat, but the menfolk told him to be gone. They did not want his kind in their village. Some women baking bread though took pity on him and gave a few crusts. He bade the women to take to the hills, and then he took his staff and drove into the ground commanding water to rise from the hole. Out it gushed, flooding the village and drowning all the men. The waters continued to rise until the lake was formed. All that remained of the village was the roof tip of the bakery, which now forms the little island in the centre of the lake.
As the Tablas de Daimiel struggle desperately to survive the underground peat fires and dessication, and with just 1% remaining of this once world-class wetland, I thought it was worth remembering how they were seen one hundred years ago by Chapman and Buck in their classic hunting travelogue Unexplored Spain.
Isolated thus, a mere speck of water in the midst of the arid table-lands of central Spain, yet these lagoons of Daimiel constitute not only one of the chief wildfowl resorts of Spain, but possibly of all Europe. Upon these waters there occur from time to time every species of aquatic game that is known in this Peninsula, while in autumn the duck-tribe in countless hosts congregate in nearly all their European varieties. Read Complete text of Chapman and Buck – Unexplored Spain 1910
Listen also to Érase un vez – a soundscape of Daimiel. Photo by Greenpeace.
Interesting documentary narrating the tragic events of 9th January 1949 when a dam upstream of Lake Sanabria, the largest in lake in Spain, burst. A wall of water swept down the Tera Valley and engulfed the village of Ribadelago. Around 100 people were killed. The Francoist authorities covered up the report on the defective construction of the dam.
More on Sanabria including contemporary news report by Time Magazine (iberianature) “One night last week all was quiet in Ribadelago. In the tavern men were playing cards. At the church Father Plácido Esteban-Gonzalez had just arrived on his motor scooter from the provincial capital of Zamora. An electrician named Rey was working late in his shop. Shortly after midnight the lights in the village flickered out. At the tavern, irritated cardplayers lit candles, went on with their game. Suddenly, a distant, muffled roar was heard..Read
Spain is struggling to deal with the worst drought since the 1940s: reservoirs stand at 46 per cent of capacity and rainfall over the past 18 months has been 40 per cent below average. After months of low rainfall, parched Catalonia has had to appeal to Madrid for help – and now ecologists fear the costs of a long-term solution. The Guardian
“Dr Astrid Vargas, famous for her work to save the lynx in Spain, shows me the control centre where they are monitored.
The lynx is like a domestic cat… with the hint of a tiger
To my disappointment, I am not allowed to see the animals in the flesh: there is the risk of them catching diseases and becoming unsettled if there’s a stream of visitors.
But it’s entrancing enough watching them on the monitors, as Astrid tries to find the cubs by panning cameras and switching between angles.
Two cubs are out for a morning walk but eventually join their brother in their den. They cuff each other, bite and play.
A three-year-old is about the size of a cocker spaniel, and they have wonderful faces, a little like a domestic cat, but then the hint of tiger flashes through. There is something both fey and ancient about their faces, it’s probably the tufted ears and pointed beard that does it.
They are at risk partly because disease has killed their main prey, rabbits. But environmentalists say what really threatens them is that the wetlands of this national park are drying out.
“Encroachment by humans has been brutal. If we do not protect the lynx’s habitat, there’s no point in having them in captivity – the purpose of this programme is to re-introduce them into the wild,” Astrid says.
“The reason the lynx is going extinct is because of our pressure. The Mediterranean maquis is shrinking fast, the natural vegetation is slowly but surely being changed.”
Several environmental groups (Ecologistas en Acción, WWF/Adena, Greenpeace and SEO/BirdLife)have called removal of protection of Las Tablas de Daimiel and Los Humedales de La Mancha faced with the utter failure of protection measures to save this once great Spanish wetland. They note that 60% of the wetlands of the Alto Guadiana have dried out and that the Tablas de Daimiel themselves, once covered 2,000 ha in summer and now down to 26. At clear fault is the Junta de Castilla-La Mancha which with EU money, and to the benefit of a few rich farmers, continues to permit over-use of the area’s aquifers, making it impossible for the wetlands to recover. (El Mundo – but why is this paper always silent, have you noticed, about criticisms of PP-led regions?)
Rains have brought respite for the Tablas de Daimiel and now the flooded area covers 68ha up from just 20ha at its lowest point several weeks ago. National Government has also agreed to “transfer” water from El Tajo. At its peak the marshes cover 1,600ha.. (El Pais ). Level of flooded area here of Tablas de Damiel
It’s a worldwide phenomenon – whether bears investigating trash cans in the US, coyotes roaming New York, or boars exploring Barcelona – wildlife and human territories are increasingly overlapping. Near Vallvidrera railway station, on the outskirts of Barcelona, a mother boar availed herself of the contents of a litter bin in broad daylight. While two […]