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

Guide to Spain D

dam; presa; represa

damselfly : caballito del diablo

Daubenton's bat : murciélago ratonero ribereño : (Myotis daubentoni). Not threatened. Throughout Peninsula. More common in the north and rare in arid south-east. absent from the Islands

deer : ciervo; red deer : ciervo rojo : cèrvol (Cat); cervo (Gal); orein (Eus.) (Cervus elaphus)

Photo from here

Spanish red deer are considerably smaller than their Central European counterparts, and within the Peninsula , moving southwards, Andalusian deer are smaller than Cantabrian deer (male average at 140 kg in the Cordillera Cantábrica and just 80 in Doñana). They inhabit diverse habitats from the cool woods and heathlands of the Cantabrian mountains, pine plantations (Montes Universales, Sierra de la Culebra), the sparse dehesa woodland (Montfragüe, El Pardo) and Mediterranean forests, and are expanding everywhere across their range. The red deer once occupied the whole of the Peninsula , but by the end of the 19th century hunting had reduced its distribution to the Sierra Morena, Montes de Toledo, Sierra de San Pedro and Las Villuercas. Consequent reintroductions by game estates have hugely re-extended their range. On occasions, these reintroductions, in an attempt to maximise profits of this prized piece, have led to incredibly dense deer populations and consequently severe degradation of forests such as in Saja in Cantabría. Wolves are its principal predator in Zamora , Somiedo and Riaño. Not threatened.

  • Note: fallow deer (gamo común; daina (Cat) (Dama dama)) were almost certainly introduced by either the Phonecians or the Romans.
    • fallow deer : gamo común; daina (Cat) (Dama dama)
    • venado: stag; red deer; venison
    • cierva : dow
    • cérvola (Cat) : dow
    • cervato : fawn
    • cervatell (Cat) : fawn
    • cornamenta : antlers (set of)
    • asta : antler
    • banyam (Cat): antlers (set of)

dehesa : Sparse wood pasture made up principally of holm and evergreen cork oak, grazed by livestock, and without scrub undergrowth. Unique to Iberia and Morocco.

Huge forests of holm oak or encina, believed to be the climax species of the true Mediterranean forest, once stretched over great swathes of Spain. This virgin forest has long-since disappeared through grazing, charcoal-burning and felling. A few patches of something approaching this vast primeval forest survive on isolated higher slopes and particularly in the Sierra de Guara on the edge of the Aragonese Pyrenees and in the Sierra Morena in Andalucia. Many of these forests grew on poor and arid soils, and when felled these could not support agriculture for long and were soon abandoned to be taken over by maquis and garrigue, which covers much of Spain and the Mediterranean in general today. However, elsewhere in Spain and parts of the Maghreb , instead being felled, huge forests of holm oak were thinned out, creating the sparse pasture parkland known as dehesa, which together with evergreen cork form a unique man-made, managed and bio-diverse ecosystem. These are grazed on by the classic Iberian pigs and to a lesser extent by cows and sheep. Dehesa often combines holm oak with evergreen cork trees, as the latter bears its acorns in winter, providing a staged supply of animal food. A hybrid between the two trees (known as a mesto) bears acorns between the two peaks, giving a constant supply.

Dehesa landscape with free-range Iberian pigs

The holm oak and the dehesa system play an essential role in European bird migration. Dehesa is also vital to the survival of many Spanish bird populations, such as the incredibly endangered Spanish imperial eagle.

The dehesa was beautifully depictured in Mario Camus' "Los Santos Inocentes". The film, set on a cortijo in Alburquerque in Badajoz , is a harrowing indictment of the semi-feudal relations of absentee landowners, estate managers and peasants in 1960's rural Spain . Although we may indeed praise the dehesa as a production system, there should be no nostalgia felt towards the retrograde social system that all too often in the past operated around it. Essential viewing for any dangerous nostagics for the "Real Spain".

Paco Rabal as Zacarías in "Los Santos Inocentes" with his pet 'Milana' - a female kite. The bird is actually an eagle owl.

  • boalar (Arag.) Sparse wood pasture in Aragonese Pyrenees but here grazed by cows. Also known as 'dehesa boyal' (boyal from bueyes - cows/oxen)

delta : delta

Delta de Ebro MORE TO COME

Delta de Llobregat

The tiny, much-maligned yet remarkable Delta de Llobregat Delta de Llobregat lies barely 20km from Barcelona and right under the pathway of Barcelona Airport. It is home to grey, night, squacco and imperial herons, egrets, kingfishers, marsh harriers and 140 odd birds beside. Most notably, several bitterns - there are only 30-40 pairs in the whole of Spain- have been wintering here since 2000, after an absence of 45 years. The Delta's future is uncertain. On the one hand, the reorganisation of space has recently created new natural areas and more hectares of wetland, with the Llobregat River being rerouted from its industries outlet to the edge of the marshes. On the negative side, the current expansion of Barcelona airport seriously threatens some of the most pristine spots of the reserve. The jury is out. MORE TO COME.

den : guarida

depression (geol): depresión, as in Depresión del Ebro; hoya, as in Hoya de Baza; cuenca

  • torca : a circular with steep sides due to collapse of land, as in Las Torcas de Cuenca
  • clota (Arag) small depression
  • clot (Cat.) ; small depression, for example in the area of Banyoles

desert : desierto MORE TO COME


The River Deva rises at Fuente Dé in the heart of the Picos de Europa. Fuente Dé is a classic glacial cirque. The ancient tarn has long since filled in and mountain cattle now graze the pasture. The cirque is surrounded on three sides by sheer 700m-high cliffs. A photograph could never do justice to the immensity and oppression of the cliffs. In August, Fuente Dé swarms with tourists, lured by the cable car which will take you from 1,094 metres to 1,847 metres in five terrifying minutes. The river takes its name from a Celtic God of water. Deva has travelled a long way. The word is Sanskrit in origin. To this day, in Hinduism, devas are celestial beings that control forces of nature such as fire, air, and water. The river swells in the spring from the thaw of the Picos. After cutting its way through gorges and ravines it reaches the Atlantic (or the Cantabrian as they call it here) at the Ria de Tinamayor. The estuary serves as the borderline between Asturias and Cantabria. The Deva is 62 kilometres long.

dew : rocío

dipper : mirlo acuático; m erla d'aigua (Cat) (Cinclus cinclus)

ditch : zanja

diver : colimbo

  • black-throated diver : colimbo ártico (Gavia arctica) ;
  • red-throated diver : colimbo chico ; calàbria petita (Cat) (Gavia stellata )
  • great northern diver : colimbo grande; calàbria grossa (Cat) (Gavia immer)

doline : dolina ; celada (Arag.)


External links

  • Doñana National Park (World Heritage Site)

dormouse : lirón ; muscadino;

  • garden dormouse : lirón careto (Eliomys quercinus)
  • edible dormouse : lirón gris (Glis glis)
  • common dormouse : muscadino común (Muscardinus avellanarius)

dotterel : chorlito carambolo; corriol pit-roig (Cat) ( Charadrius morinellus)

dow : cierva; cérvola (Cat)

downpour : chaparrón; tromba de agua; gotellada (Cat)

dragonfly : libélula; libèl·lula (Cat)

drinking hole : aguadero

drinking trough/pool/tank : abrevadero

drizzle : llovizna

    • calabobos (persistent drizzle) -literally idiot-soaker
    • chirimiri
    • plovisqueig (Cat)
    • plugim (Cat)
    • roina (Cat)
    • ruixim (Cat)

drone (insect) : zángano; abellot (Cat)

dropping : cagarruta

drought : sequía MORE TO COME

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

  • 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:

dry-stone wall : pared seca, for example in Menorca

duck : pato; ànec (Cat) MORE TO COME

Ducks in Spain

  • common scoter : negrón común; ànec negre (Cat) ( Melanitta nigra )
  • common shelduck : tarro blanco; ànec blanc (Cat) ( Tadorna tadorna)
  • eurasian wigeon : silbón europeo; ànec xiulaire (Cat) ( Anas Penelope)
  • ferruginous duck : porrón pardo; morell xocolater (Cat) ( Aythya nyroca)
  • gadwall : ánade friso; ànec griset (Cat) ( Anas strepera)
  • long-tailed duck : pato havelda ( Clangula hyemalis)
  • mallard : ánade real or azulón; ànec coll-verd (Cat) ( Anas platyrhynchos)
  • marbled duck : cerceta pardilla; xarxet mabrenc (Cat) ( Marmaronetta angustirostris)
  • northern shoveler : cuchara común; ànec cullerot (Cat) ( Anas clypeata)
  • pintail : ánade rabudo; ànec cuallarg (Cat) ( Anas acuta)
  • ruddy duck : malvasía canela; ànec de Jamaica (Cat) ( Oxyura jamaicensis)
  • ruddy shelduck : tarro canelo; ànec canyella (Cat) ( Tadorna ferruginea)
  • tufted duck : porrón moñudo; morell de plomall (Cat) ( Aythya fuligula)
  • velvet scoter : negrón especulado; ànec fosc (Cat) ( Melanitta fusca)
  • white-headed duck : malvasía cabeciblanca; ànec capblanc (Cat) ( Oxyura leucocephala)


The River Duero (Durius-Latin, Douro-Portuguese) is the third longest and second largest river in the Iberian Peninsula at 765 km . Its source is at "Fuentes del Duero" in the Picos de Urbión in the Sístema Ibérico (Soria, near the border with Burgos and la Rioja). After cutting south-eastwards some 50km and passing through Soria, it turns west and slowly heads through the Northern Meseta , flowing through Almazán, Aranda de Duero, Tordesillas, and Zamora , and into Portugal, where after passing throrough a sparsely populated stretch of narrow canyons, finally empties into the Atlantic at Porto . The Duero watershed in Spain covers 78,954 square km, around 16% of the country, second to the Ebro. MORE TO COME

Strabo on the Duero

  • ...the (River) Durius, which, coming from afar, flows by Numantia and many other settlements of the Celtiberians and Vaccaenas, and is navigable for large boats for a distance of about eight hundred stadia inland. (Note. Eight(?) stadia were equivalent to a mile. The Duero isn't navegable now, except along some Portuguese stretches.
  • The greater part of it (Iberia) in fact is rugged and river-washed; for it is through these regions that the Anas flows, and also the Tagus, and the several rivers next to them, which, rising in Celtiberia, flow down to the western sea. Among these are the Durius, which flows past Numantia and Serguntia....


The Duero as it passed through Arribes de Duero in Salamanca

Tributaries of the Duero in Spain






Between la Serrota and S. de Avila




Fuente Tormella

Villarino de los Aires



Sierra Albas , Puntas Luengas and Peña Labra

Cerca de Simancas



Peña Prieta



dune : duna; médano : dune ridge : cordón dunar

dung : estiércol; fem (Cat); fems (Cat); cuchu (Ast.)

dung beetle : escarabajo pelotero; escarabat piloter (Cat) (Ateuchus sacer)

dunlin : correlimos común; tèrrit variant (Cat) ( Calidris alpine)

dupont's lark : alondra de Dupont; alosa becuda (Cat) (Chersophilus duponti)

dyke : dique